What you see above are pictures of me–my belly (top left), and as full-body a picture as I could get (top right). These are unedited, not only because I have no skill with Photoshopping, but because this post is about real bodies–like yours, and like mine. My body, while not being society’s ideal, is still a real body, with its own story, its own weaknesses, and its own beauty. But many people, including me, are made to believe every day that they are abnormal, ugly, and abhorrent because of the reality of their bodies. I believe we in today’s society are still operating with a good bit of weight prejudice (the hatred, fear, and shaming of another’s body based on weight).
My Experience with Weight Gain and Weight Prejudice
As I have written about many times before (in October 2011 most notably), I have been a “big woman” since I turned 11 years old and puberty began in earnest. My body’s general shape has not changed much since then–my belly has been strangling itself against the waistline of all my pants for 16 years, and my hips and butt are still just as big as ever. It’s been hard to accept my body as being “good enough,” because I was made to feel horrible about myself, not only from advertisements but the kids I went to school with. For years, they hurled verbal and physical abuse, plus tried a few tactics that those in the military would probably call “hazing.”
Why “Fat-Shaming” and “Skinny-Shaming” Should Be Called “Weight Prejudice”
The horrible social treatment I endured, which still affects me to this day, is not the only form of weight-shaming that goes on, however. As I have grown older, I have seen how thinner women are shamed for their bodies, too–called out for their “chicken legs” and “mosquito-bite boobs” on occasion, but more often hated by bigger women because they are supposedly closer to society’s beauty ideal. Thinness carries with it its own set of health problems, too, especially if the thinness is brought on by anorexia or bulimia.
My question is: “WHY do we care so much what ANOTHER PERSON’S BODY looks like?”
Think about that for a minute. We don’t live in another person’s body. We don’t have to wash it, feed it, dress it, etc. We don’t even have to look at it if we don’t want to. So WHY is someone else’s appearance so darned important to us?
My answer: because almost all of society is infected with a prejudice about weight. We get mad when someone else’s body doesn’t look like ours, or doesn’t look like we think bodies should. Thus, we shame the person, to make sure they conform to society’s standard. It’s an old psychological trick, and it works every time, especially when the victim of such shaming is a child/adolescent or otherwise emotionally fragile.
This is the very definition of prejudice: judging someone else to be inferior because they look different. So why is weight prejudice so difficult to accept as fact? After all, it can even affect whether or not you can get a job, because employers sometimes view thin people as being “too flighty” and fat people as being “too lazy.” If that’s not discrimination, I don’t know what is.
Why This Has To STOP
Some people, by looking at my pictures, might just assume I’m another fat chick whining about being treated fairly, when what I really need to do is get off the couch and quit eating Twinkies. (This has actually been said to me, so I know people think idiotic stuff like this.) The truth is, we cannot tell much about another person’s lifestyle from their body shape. In some cases, weight packs on due to sedentary living; in other cases, weight packs on or stays on no matter how often you starve yourself or how often you exercise, because of genetics. (Skinny people can endure the same kind of frustration in reverse, not being able to gain weight no matter how much they eat.)
For those who claim they are “only concerned about someone else’s fitness” when they judge on weight: WEIGHT IS NOT THE ONLY MEASURE OF FITNESS! (Can I get an AMEN?!) Things like vital organ functions, muscle strength and flexibility, joint/tendon health, blood pressure, lymph node health, thyroid hormone levels, etc., all play into fitness. Being skinny does not mean you’re healthy, and being fat doesn’t mean you’re not healthy. (This is why shows like The Biggest Loser are so dangerous–they proclaim people “winners” for losing the most weight, when in truth “losing weight” is only one small part of the fitness process.)
We cannot keep hating on each other and judging each other when we don’t even know what other people are going through. If we do, we are simply arguing from ignorance, and we prove our social stupidity with every hateful thought and word. (I’m saying “we” here because I include myself; I have also been guilty of envying others–usually skinny women–based on their bodies.) Remember, all living bodies are in progress; you might think someone else is fat, but they might have just lost 60 pounds and be living better than they ever have. Would you want someone else to judge you like that, after having made such progress?
Bottom line: when you look at a stranger’s body, you are not seeing their medical history, and you are not their personal doctor. Thus, you have NO RIGHT to tell them that they should change their lifestyle just because you happen to be offended by their body. Fat, skinny, or in-between, there is NO REASON that we should shame each other because of weight. Quite simply, it’s not our business what someone else’s body looks like.
To explore the issue of weight prejudice further:
This is what a real yoga body looks like
Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege