No, Skinny Shaming And Fat Shaming Are Not The Same

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 

Trigger warning: disordered eating, anorexia, fatphobia

Real talk: I was clinically obese. Then I became anorexic, and eventually, I looked classically anorexic. Believe me, it sucks to shop for a size 2x, and it sucks to shop for a size 2. I’ve seen rolls and I’ve seen ribs. I’ve hiked up a mountain comfortably (while fat) and cried because I couldn’t (while skinny), proving that body size isn’t an indication of ability (chew on that, ableist assholes). And I know body shaming. I’ve been body shamed while fat and body shamed while skinny. But as I dropped pounds, I learned something: there’s a difference between fat shaming and skinny shaming.

Skinny Shaming v. Fat Shaming

People give me shit sometimes. I weigh exactly as much as my German Shepherd — who is admittedly a large dog, but still a dog. I’ve been told to eat more. I’ve been told, “You looked gaunt.” When I mentioned offhandedly that I gained weight but lost it again when I got sick, my entire family glared me down until I wanted to crawl under the dinner table. They remind me that my (young) nephew outweighs me.

This skinny shaming is laughable. This is a few uncomfortable moments. When I check out at Target, the clerk smiles. When I walk through downtown, guys on the sidewalk eye me up. Men hold doors. Doctors listen carefully. When I say that I’m tired all the time, they check my iron and thyroid levels because I am small. No one presses their lips together when I order dessert. Of course I need the calories.

When I was fat, no one smiled. If you’re not fat, you don’t fucking get it. Fat people might as well be furniture. If you’ve never been fat, you don’t understand the pervasive, slow-moving humiliation society throws at you. Walk through downtown as a fat person. People do not meet your eyes, or they look away as if you’re some kind of embarrassment simply because you’re taking up space. Doors hit you in the face. Doctors attribute everything to your weight. Tired? You’re fat. Achy? You’re fat. Depressed? Of course you’re depressed, you’re fat. How else could a fat person possibly feel? Fat people hate ordering dessert. Most of the time, some Judgy McJudgerson is throwing side-eye while we try to enjoy our food.

See the privilege? I am small now. So, society says I am more worthy of everything, from smiles to adequate medical care, than fat people. When someone skinny shames me, I feel shitty. But then I remember that the world is literally built for thin, able-bodied people.

When someone fat shamed me, I felt shitty — then walked out into a world that saw me as furniture and felt shittier.

There is no comparison between fat shaming and skinny shaming.

Dear Skinny People: STFU

Fat shaming sucks. No one should feel uncomfortable in their own skin, and no one should ever criticize another person’s body size, shape, or ability. Skinny people of the world, there are proper responses to fat shaming. They include sympathy, sorrow, rage, and most of all, affirmation of said shamed body: a reminder that no one has the right to make a person feel that way, and every body is a good body.

It is not okay to follow a story of fat shaming with: “I know how you feel,” and rattle off a story of being skinny shamed. Skinny shaming is not equivalent to being fat shamed. Both may be body shaming. Both may make a person feel shitty. But skinny people play romantic leads. Fat people most often play sidekicks. Society elevates one and relegates the other to second-class status.

Skinny people have thin privilege. If you are skinny, you have unlocked some fucked-up societal achievement: who hasn’t heard about weight-loss goals? Skinny people are New Year’s resolutions. Their bodies are on our screens. Fat people fight to fly on fucking airplanes. They generate entire genres of jokes; they are codes for excess, laziness, and blame. They are de-sexed.

Call someone skinny and they might say thank you. Call someone fat and they’re probably insulted. That, right there, is the difference between fat shaming and skinny shaming. I hesitate to share my stories of skinny shaming because they sound like bragging. Compare: “Eat a cheeseburger, skinny-minnie,” with “Stop eating, you’re fat.” Both police eating habits. Both shame body size. But they are not equivalent.

Fat people do not want to hear about your skinny shaming.

Body Shaming Sucks

While all body shaming blows, all body shaming is not equivalent. Our society praises some sizes more than others, and that privilege changes the stigma inherent in body shaming.

Do you want to bitch about being skinny shamed? There’s space for that. It’s not in the middle of a fat shaming discussion. Find your own space. Skinny shaming is real; skinny shaming sucks. I feel ugly when someone tells me I look like a vampire and they clearly don’t mean the sparkly kind. That’s okay. It’s okay to complain about it, too. But it’s not okay for me to pretend it hurts as much as fat shaming did. I can slip away from that skinny shaming. Fat people can’t escape the shame society affixes to their bodies.

Every body is a good body.

All body shaming is bad.

But skinny people, when fat people complain about body shaming, don’t compare.

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