Lately in the media and on my Facebook newsfeed, there’s so much talk about how women should be comfortable in our own bodies and how women were so much more attractive in the 1950s because we were less skinny and curvier. It is apparently supposed to boost our confidence when men post pictures of a skinny girl next to a larger one with the words “remember when this was more attractive?”
Every time I see this, I want to scream and run for the feminist hills. How is telling a healthy skinny woman, or even an unhealthy skinny woman, that she’s not as attractive as a curvy woman going to make things better for all women? And how is the idea that men should dictate what kind of women are beautiful helping either? It’s time that all women are seen as beautiful, not just thin ones and not just thick ones, and not because a man told them they are, but because they believe they are.
The solution to the widespread low self-esteem among women is not to dictate what anyone’s body should be like, including a thin person’s. That doesn’t mean encourage anorexia, it does mean stop telling a 15-year-old girl who has an extremely high metabolism that she is “too skinny” and accuse her of anorexia or throwing up her food between classes even though she eats 1500 calories a day. There are millions of very healthy women who wear between a size 0 and 4. For those of us who are shorter than 5’4”, don’t have a lot of muscle, but also eat a lot of vegetables and little to no high-fat foods like meat, our weight is perfectly healthy and normal between 100 and 120 pounds and gaining weight would be more stress on our bodies than it would ever help us.
I understand that women who are larger are insulted much more often than skinny women, and I recognize the term fat oppression. However, this is pure sexism. It is still placing demands on women to be what society says men want, and that’s not okay. Telling me to be skinny because potential partners will like me more is just as bad as telling me to gain weight because people don’t like women as skinny as me.
I want to shift now to the opposite of bulimia, anorexia and other weight-loss centered eating disorders. There are people who binge-eat junk food to gain weight. If we shift to hating on skinny bodies, we might put a hold on the weight-loss craze, but we’re going to start a new pressure on women similar to men’s reaction to patriarchal ideas of their bodies—to bulk up. “You’re too skinny” is just as insulting as “you’re too fat.” I’m incredibly offended when someone says I’m too skinny, just as much as I was offended when I was chubbier in 7th grade and was insulted for that. No matter what we do, women are always doing something wrong. When will we just be told that any size, small, medium, large, or extra-large are all acceptable?
People who post these pictures and tell their curvy girlfriends that they’re more beautiful than the skinny girl next door mean well, and they probably don’t intentionally disrespect the women in their lives, and this is not an attack on those individuals, but enough is enough. If you are trying to make larger women feel better about their bodies by attacking skinny women, you are not helping. You might make one woman feel better, but you are hindering all women’s liberation from those same beauty standards.