Why Women Should Stop Using ‘Skinny’ As A Compliment
As women, the crux of our upbringing is to be good and strong people second, caregivers and providers first.
We were raised to be the silent majority, cradling the world atop our shoulders, effortlessly balancing both the office and the house, making pick ups and drop offs look like a breeze all while seasoning and preparing the perfect roast. We were raised not to be feminists, but to be feminine in a culture that foolishly celebrates and condemns women who strive to be both, to be satisfied with standing idly by.
We were raised to be thin, never fat, to pore over skinniness with the same fascinations we're expected to pore into wedding dresses and venues, cake designs and tastes. We were raised to reward thin hips, narrow shoulders and flat tummies. We were taught to idolize “skinny.” We were wrong.
As a society, we were wrong for celebrating skinny. We ignored the implications it would have on young girls, so susceptible to the whims and wants of media and the industry. We were wrong to Photoshop cover after cover, to shine a celebrated light on the thigh gap. We turned a blind eye to how it would affect our futures; how branding a generation of “skinny girls” was much more terrifying than letting us define ourselves. We were wrong to strive for skinny, to compliment and lionize it. We were wrong.
We shouldn't teach our women (and ourselves) to agonize over skinny. We shouldn't strive for skinny. We shouldn't want to be “skinny.” We shouldn't wait, with bated breath, to hear friends and strangers tell us, “You're so skinny!” at first glance. We shouldn't work toward that. The problem with skinny is the image it conjures.
I think of skinny and I think of a Skeletal Model gracing the cover of Vogue or Us; I think of Tori Spelling on the cover of a tabloid, flaunting her 45-pound weight loss just five weeks after her fourth baby arrived; I think of an emaciated body, clinging to the perfection that skinny demands.
In our culture, skinny means that you've proudly sacrificed meals for a size 00 waist; that you've forgone the sweet delicious goodness that comes with a bowl of macaroni and cheese and opted for a glass-half-empty of distilled water, one lemon, no limes.
Months after Tori Spelling was hailed for her dramatic weight loss, the reality star came clean, revealing that she didn't get to skinny by eating shakes and smoothies and swimming laps. No, she starved herself – and then lied about it. As if it were the media's fault for twisting her story (it wasn't), she confessed, “I took off my weight the old-fashioned way. I like to call it the Just Keep Your F*cking Mouth Shut and Eat Air Diet. It’s all the rage.
Women didn’t want to know that I had lost weight through dieting, not exercising. I didn’t want to be the assh*le who didn’t work for it.” Do we see the problem with skinny yet? It breeds an unhealthy following of girls and women who are eager and willing to eat air over a meal or run to the bathroom to wash the stain of a steak down the toilet; of girls and women who reward surviving on Saltines with yet another day of the same meal plan. Tori Spelling, and countless others, were okay with eating air. As long as it brought them to the pinnacle of perfect: skinny.
The problem is that she’s got it all wrong. Women do want to know the truth. Our society demonizes fat – and even chubby — women, shaming them at every turn. Love handles. Muffin tops. Cankles. Belly boobs. Tire swing. Double waves. Thunder thighs. Double chins.
These terms trickle down and settle on us, heavy and insulting while we are aching for those stories of positivity and acceptance. Tori's a smart woman and an even smarter business woman. She knew better.
But our cultural fixation on skinny applauds lies and mistruths. We lauded her for her time spent in the pool, eating low-calorie meals of fish, veggies and unappetizing and unappealing rice cakes. Women deserve the truth. And when blaming the cover story didn't work, Tori blamed her publicist.
Kate Moss, one of the most prolific supermodels of our generation, actually told fans, believers and impressionable youth that, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” We should know better than to place such blind faith in skinny. When I see a friend, or a stranger, that physically looks great, the first sentence I reach for is to tell her “how skinny” I think she is.
It's wrong and I know it – and though it's not an excuse, it's what I've been taught to do, it's the compliment I've been taught to give, the one I've learned to wait for. I'm knowingly feeding the buffet that gave birth to the body-image problem in the first place.
Skinny isn't a compliment. It's insulting. When you say, “You're so skinny,” it's a backhand way of skirting around the implication that you were “fat before.”
It's just as judgmental as calling someone fat. You would never say, “You're so fat!” and mean it as a compliment, so why should the inverse be reated with such adoration? For women, it's degrading.
Maybe you aren't skinny by choice. Maybe it's a battle for you to gain just an ounce, so you eat pizza after pizza, hoping the numbers of the scale will rise little by little. Naturally, you've become your food. Friends (and strangers) want to know what you eat, how you eat it, where you buy it, how you prepare it, how many times you chew before you swallow.
They want to know how often you use the restroom, if kale is really as good as everyone says it is and what your stance on juicing is. Your body becomes the axis of their lives. How much sleep do you get? Have you tried Paleo? Do you eat several small meals a day or just fast until dinner? How long has it been since you've tasted carbs?
Maybe you don't want to be skinny. Maybe you've risen above the ashes of our disengenuine cultural norms and are more proud of your body and your shape than ever. Maybe you like the way you look. Your body is not food for someone else's thought, or a falsification of the love and respect you treat yourself with.
You are much more than abs and hips and waist, cup sizes and busts, Apple Bottom jeans and crop tops. Your body is yours and your mind is a manifestation of the intelligent, smart, feminist and feminine you have learned and experienced.
Maybe you slave away at the gym, hours and hours of your life dedicated to crafting a meticiously fit body that is strong and brave, powerful and cut. Maybe strong is your new skinny. You were raised to be a champion, to treat your body as a temple, filling it with nuts and nutrients and proteins, sweating out that last rep and feeling the sweet taste of personal success every time you drop the 15-pound barbell. You are an athlete, an activist. You refuse to sit idly by.
The culture of skinny shames even the skinny. You can't lose weight; you're already thin. You can eat that meatball, but only when no one is looking. You can join the gym but not the one your “fat” friend goes to. Because you're skinny, you've sacrificed your right to want something better from your body.
It’s time to take back our bodies. To hold society and ourselves at a higher standards. To fight back against skinny. To fight for healthy.
Photo via Tumblr