Yesterday, I re-read, This One’s For My Skinny Sisters, an article by Janne Robinson that is one of the top ten most popular articles of all time ever published on elephant journal.
The article has received over 1 million views—at least five of those views have been mine.
Not only did I read this article several times, I read the pages upon pages of comments that it generated.
Why have I, and so many other readers, responded to this piece so strongly?
The message comes from a naturally thin woman who enjoys eating anything she wants, but does not enjoy the idea that it’s okay to openly judge her body just because she is thin. She cites countless rude comments made about her physique, comparing them directly to fat shaming and asks only that she be loved and accepted for who she is, promising that she will do the same in return.
It is well-written and the author makes an excellent point. No one should feel free to deride anyone based on their appearance. Everyone struggles to find a place of self love, matter how they look, so we should instead offer our compassion regardless of whether they are big or small.
As she says, “More love—and less of everything else.”
But (respectfully) something didn’t sit right with me.
As a fellow relatively thin (white, middle class, American) woman I feel compelled to point out, like several readers on the comment board, that being derided for being thin and living as a thin person in our society is not at all like the prejudice that overweight people experience.
It may suck, but it’s not the same.
Because our culture idealizes thinness to the point of obsession, the negative comments directed toward thin people come from an altogether different place than do the negative comments toward fat people.
The former is born of jealousy, the latter, from disgust. While these are both destructive motives, they affect us very differently.
To be the object of jealousy means we possess something coveted, which has a different impact on our psyche than to be the object of disgust, which means we represent something repellent.
There is an undeniable “thin privilege” at work in our society, and as the privileged, we have a responsibility to acknowledge it.
I will compare this dynamic to race, gender and age inequality, as it is precisely the same.
To say, as a white person, that being called a “cracker” has the same impact that being called a “n*gger” has on a black person is absurd to the point of being insulting.
Similarly, when women are called “c*nts” it is a more damaging and profound affair than when men are called “d*cks,” simply because, again, historically the first is reviled while the second is admired.
And young people, for whom I can’t even think of a particularly derogatory name except “punk” (a compliment in many circles) could never be as hurt by any slur or action against their youth as an older person who is ignored and demoralized simply because of the number of years they have spent on this planet.
My point is, hurtful is hurtful—but there are degrees.
Saying thin shaming is exactly the same as fat shaming is like saying being sick with the flu is exactly the same as having cancer. They’re both illnesses, right?
At the end of the day, I agree with Robinson. We should “all get on the damn bus together and build a world that isn’t measured by the width of our hips.” But those of us who get to sit in the front of the bus should appreciate the value of our seats, and remember that the ride is much more bumpy in the back.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: ashleyrosex at Flickr