More recently I’ve heartedly written about bigger subjects such as the pressures of being summer body ready and my disappointments with the media’s lack of care when addressing mental health. I’ve previously touched on how upsetting I’ve found unsolicited acne advice over the years but although I have plenty to say on this topic I’ve shied away from it. That was until I put up a poll on my Instagram stories asking anyone of a slimmer build if they’d experienced skinny shaming and whether or not it bothered them. I received an unexpected high number of messages in response with some real horror stories that I really related to. This encouraged me and gave me the confidence to speak up about all the reasons why I hate skinny shaming.
I have some horror stories of my own. In my early twenties I reluctantly, and somewhat self consciously, visited a popular high street chain for a bra fitting. Upon the sales assistant’s arrival into the cubicle I was met with chuckling and inappropriate jokes about how I was so thin she’d need to find a miniature tape measure because hers would mummify me by wrapping around me several times over. I was lightly poked in the ribs to emphasise how bony I was when my band size was being measured. For the record, I wear a band size 32. It was utterly humiliating, I don’t know how I didn’t burst into tears but underneath all of that I was angry because I couldn’t imagine being treated the same way had I been someone with a more curvaceous figure. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I still can’t envision someone being told they’d need an extra large tape measure because it wouldn’t wrap around them, or poked and called doughy which is essentially the higher weight equivalent of what I was told. Either way it’s grossly inappropriate and sadly I have so many stories similar to this from over the years.
One reason I’ve always felt uncomfortable in bra fittings is that being slim can go hand in hand with comments about not being feminine enough or being less of a girl due to lack of curves. At school there was horrible taunt that went around that the B of B cup of bra sizing stood for “barely” which I’ve since learnt is nonsense but this negatively stayed with me throughout my most body-conscious teen years. To this day I won’t wear V necked clothing and at present I feel most comfortable with my collarbones firmly hidden behind higher necklines. One response I received via my Instagram stories was that someone’s male partner had been subjected to comments that they weren’t manly or built enough due to their figure so it seems neither gender is immune.
In the last couple of months in my workplace I experienced one comment in particular about my figure which left me lost for words and unsure how to respond. It’s a comment that yet again I think you’d never get away with if addressing someone with a larger build to their face yet I still seem to publicly be on the receiving end of weight comments like the butt of a sour joke. There’s regularly cake available in our staff room. A woman I can’t recall ever speaking to and who I doubt even knows my name took a pop at my weight resulting in me feeling exasperated. She was offered a slice of cake, the same as I was holding, and declined saying all she had to do was look at it for it go straight to her thighs. This was finished off with pointing at me stating how “we can’t all look like that, and have it as easy as her”. Whilst the first half of this statement could be taken as a backhanded compliment it was the latter half that bothered me because this woman knows nothing of my circumstances yet made this flippant comment. It seems I’m not alone with feeling this way about such comments as again via my Instagram inbox I received messages stating frustrations about these assumptions when individuals had struggles of their own such as physical and mental health conditions including IBS and anxiety to name a few examples. Another thing that rubs me up the wrong way about comments like this woman’s is that being slim doesn’t always equate to being healthy or feeling comfortable in your own skin. Equally it isn’t always “easy” to gain weight or as simple as eating more.
Then there’s the food comments that inevitably come which can leave me feeling unsettled. If you don’t eat that’s noted, often with raised eyebrows as if this explains everything, and if you do you can expect quips about where on earth you put it all. I don’t like comments relating to food or weight regardless of people’s size, I think it’s a really sensitive topic with the potential to cause a lot of upset. Growing up as a skinny teenager who had a major growth spurt one summer leaving me all arms and legs until I filled out, I received comments like “you’re so anorexic” as though this was a trivial compliment which I think is horrendously dangerous. Talk about skating on thin ice, what if I had actually been struggling with an eating disorder, how on earth would this have made me feel any better?
My conclusion will come as no surprise. I wish we’d all stick to the same rules, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all and let’s stop making assumptions based on people’s appearances without knowing their stories. If it’s a comment about a person’s appearance that could be taken negatively that they can’t fix in less than 15 seconds I don’t think it should be said. After all, we are all so much more than what we look like so it can’t be that hard to find something nice to say instead.
Sensitive Comments Welcome