Skinny girls: Less than human?

24 Oct

I recently wrote an article for xoJane about leggings. A fairly innocuous topic, right? Sure, people have strong opinions about fashion. And leggings are a particularly polarizing issue: Of those that give a crap, half think they’re god’s gift to comfiness, and the other half think they’re an abomination to butts everywhere. So while I was expecting some fallout of the “those aren’t pants, dumbass!” variety, I wasn’t prepared for the body-shaming that I got.

My favorite remark came from commenter Maggie Wessel, who had this to add about my worthiness as a human being:

“… I kind of hate the author’s claim of [having] “jiggly” legs. YOU DO NOT. Shut up, stop trying to become more human by deciding you’re a fat girl just like us.

Also, go buy real pants.”

Ms. Wessel can excoriate my legwear choices all she wants. But her claim that I am less than human because I don’t fit some arbitrary definition of “fat” is total, complete bullshit. “Stop trying to become more human by deciding you’re a fat girl”? Wait, what?

This sounds like a familiar argument. Oh, right: It’s that message we’ve been hearing our whole lives: “You are less than if you do not conform to my exacting standards of beauty. And you will never conform ENOUGH.” Don’t we ladyfolk have to deal with enough shit about our bodies, no matter what size or shape or color we are, without adding yet more criteria? Thin enough to conform, but fat enough to be human? No. Just, no.

Turning our anger on “skinny” chicks is counterproductive. Eloquent Mags isn’t pissed at ME, she’s pissed at THE PATRIARCHY. She’s pissed that a woman’s self-worth always, always boils down to her body and its fuckability quotient. And you know what? I’m pissed too. But instead of farting all over the internet about how chunky women are better than skinny women, or curvy ladies are better than not-curvy ladies, or willowy betches are better than round squishy betches, let’s all focus our attention on judging women for their actual human qualities. Sound like a plan?

Furthermore, let’s stop posting this shit all over Facebook:

Ah, yes. Here we are protesting the way we judge women’s bodies by… JUDGING WOMEN’S BODIES.

The way to get people to stop judging women’s bodies is to STOP JUDGING WOMEN’S BODIES. Not to switch WHICH particular body type we deem superior and which we deem inferior. This whole “real women have curves” nonsense is bullshit, and anyone with half a brain cell who takes half a minute to think about it knows it.

What does that make me, a FAKE woman? Last time I checked I had two X chromosomes just like most of these other betches. And I could even go out and acquire myself a Y chromosome and STILL BE A WOMAN. Mind-blowing, I know. I could even have been born a man and still consider myself a woman. Or not have any gender at all, or be triangular or trapezoidal or spherical and STILL BE A FOR-REALLY-REALS HUMAN BEING.

I don’t need jiggly thighs to be considered human. Nor do I need to have thin thighs. Or big boobs. Or two kidneys, or two legs, or eyeballs, even! It’s amazing, the beautiful rainbow of body types human beings of all genders come in. And whether or not anyone considers our body types attractive should have very little to do with how we stack up as human beings.

So Maggie Wessel, I respectfully disagree. However, you’ll be happy to know I have bought several pairs of real pants. Because unlike women, there is actually a distinction between “real” pants and “not real” pants. Because pants, unlike women, are objects that can easily be sorted into categories based on their physical characteristics. You see the difference?

14 Responses to “Skinny girls: Less than human?”

  1. Jo October 24, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Props.

    What are some techniques we can use to counteract judging women’s bodies?

  2. Lydia October 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Great post, Sarah.

    Jo, I’m curious about the answer to that question as well. I have a family member who is incredibly, breathtakingly negative about the bodies of anyone who isn’t a size 0. She can turn any conversation into a monologue on why I/you/he/she is so fat and what they should be doing to lose weight.

    She doesn’t take polite disagreement well and does not always “get” stuff like awkward silences or why others suddenly switch to new conversations.

    There are other issues going on with her as well that are beyond the scope of this conversation, of course, but I’d love to find a kind way to chop up this topic into tiny little pieces, feed it to a roaring fire and then scatter the ashes to the four winds. ;)

    • Sarah October 24, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      Man, ladies. I sure wish I had some answers for you! My only suggestion would be to 1) Self-police, and 2) Call out other people when they pass judgment on women’s bodies. I say self-police because a lot of times we harbor all kinds of prejudices without even knowing it.

      And calling out meanie-heads, to me, is the best way to get them to realize they are not behaving well. A lot of times they only say horrible body-negative things because they’re socially rewarded for doing so – with laughter and acceptance, etc. So it’s important for them to receive some negative feedback for their behavior, since stony silence can easily be mistaken for quiet agreement.

  3. Jenni October 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    I whole -heartedly agree and found myself having to leave some FB group not too long ago for posting shit like that. Because I, as a fat woman, have been on the other side of that shit and saying my body type is better is no better than saying skinny woman are better.

    However.

    May I offer a bit of a defense of Miss Pissypants commenter: We fat women grew up being bullied, picked on, and generally made miserable not so much by the faceless “patriarchy” but by skinny girls. We have come to our hatred or avoidance of them by experience, often painful experience. I can well understand why she had it set in her mind that skinny women are less than real people. I don’t still hold that mindset myself but it took a long time. There was a time we (Sarah and I) would not have been friends because I would have been convinced that no skinny girl could be my friend for real, that you were just playing a trick of some sort. Because of my experience with them. It took time and courage to learn that the bitches that went to school with us fat chicks aren’t representative of all skinny women everywhere. Perhaps this lady commenter has not had that time yet, perhaps she is even being bullied now and took it out on someone in a safe direction. I’m not saying that makes it right, but I am suggesting compassion is in order in spite of her lack of it. Hopefully given time she will learn that the Patriarchy is the system that manipulates it all and keeps the pressure on us all fat and skinny alike and that it is that system we should focus our hatred and anger on not our fellow women.

    Until then may I say you rock both as a blogger and a friend and I love the article!

    • Sarah October 24, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

      Oh for sure. Large ladies suffer FAR more at the hands of the P than the skinnies. But the solution is never to turn the haterade hose on the other half, it’s to stop drinking the stuff in the first place.

      I totally get it, though – for a long time I thought I could never really be friends with the pretty skinny girls because they were all evil and mean. Til I realized that everyone’s human. Some of us, of course, are more awesome than others – fat and thin alike, there are a*holes and rad people of all sizes.

    • Katie October 29, 2012 at 4:54 am #

      You might be able to see where it comes from, but this in no way excuses the behavior. Say I went to an urban public school and got picked on for being white. NOT an excuse for racism and I wouldn’t expect anybody to take it easier on me because they could see where it came from.

  4. rosettesandrevolution October 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    I love this like whoa. Past-me was definitely guilty of some girl-on-girl body-shaming back in the day. Luckily, a concerned friend alerted me that I was perpetuating some TOTAL FUCKING BULLSHIT and brought me to my senses. And when I stopped bashing skinny bodies, it just made me love my own (curvy) body even more. So for all you skinnies, out there, I’m sorry. I was way out of line. And for all you curvies, fatties, willowies, shorties,skinnies, tallies (sure, I’m going with it) and everything else-ies, your bodies are lovely and amazing. And more than that, they are your own fucking business.

    • Sarah October 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      “Tallies,” I love it! I’ve been a tallie my whole life and, at various times, a fatty, a skinny, a flatty and a busty. At each size and shape, you better believe someone had something negative to say about it. Even positive comments can be a little shady at times, so when in doubt, I say – don’t comment on people’s bodies. Like you say, your body is your own business. Unless someone is really truly hurting themselves and you really truly think you can help them, we should all just talk about the weather until the urge to make comments like “She should eat a sandwich,” or “She should lay off the Cheetos” subsides.

      For the benefit of the other commenters here, would you mind sharing how your friend approached you? I think we’d all love to see how a conversation like that went – hopefully it was diplomatic and friendly. I could easily see how something like that could be misconstrued or taken the wrong way. A lot of folks, myself included, struggle with how to call out body-shaming in social situations. No one wants to rock the boat or be seen as a loud-mouthed over-sensitive type.

      • rosettesandrevolution October 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

        Totally. It was over Facebook (not the best medium, but we’re all doing what we can). I had posted something similar to what you have above. A bunch of people had liked it and written positive comments, which made what my friend did even braver. She left a comment along the lines of “hey, I know you mean well but this really isn’t cool. Replacing one kind of “bad” body with another kind of “bad” body isn’t the way to go. Until all bodies are ok, no bodies are ok.” I tried to defend myself at first–“in American society fat women have suffered more institutional shame about their bodies than skinny women, blah blah blah.” But I knew she was right, and I never posted another one of those things again.

        Strangely, that was when I started reading about and getting interested in the Fat Acceptance movement. The Fat Acceptance movement is really, really positive about skinny bodies. Because it’s not just Fat Acceptance–it’s Body Acceptance. And, on a personal note, it made me feel way better about my own body. I used to be extremely jealous of tall, willowy girls, and I needed posts like the one above to make me feel like my body was ok, too. I had to feel superior in order to feel equal. But that’s changed now. Now I can look at a willowy body with admiration but without envy. She has hers and I have mine and we’re both ok.

        I’m working on a post about the policing of women’s bodies and I’m linking to this post–hope that’s ok!

        • rosettesandrevolution October 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

          Also, I just realized that part of my last response came off as glib (“fat women have suffered more institutional shame about their bodies than skinny women, blah blah blah”). This is true, and I didn’t mean to be dismissive of it. Only that my defense was weak–because ALL body shaming is harmful, not just fat-shaming. Ok. Carry on.

          • Sarah October 29, 2012 at 3:52 am #

            It didn’t come off as glib at all. :) I have had a similar experience with the FA movement – even though it’s called “fat acceptance,” it’s really more about body acceptance, like you say. I feel very at home in the FA (and ED recovery) communities even though I may not qualify for official membership to some.

  5. SWBVR October 29, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    love.

  6. Cindy January 19, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    There’s nothing quite like a false dichotomy is there? Thank you for writing this post, Sarah.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Declaring War on the War on Women. « Rosettes and Revolution - October 26, 2012

    [...] there’s the continued body shaming of women, discussed here, here, and [...]

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