I am white, middle class and a comfortable size 12 (UK size). I know that I am incredibly privileged. Likewise my husband and children are white, middle class and skinny. Recently my super skinny youngest son has started to make comments about how he doesn’t want to be fat. He pinches his skin and worries that he should lose weight. I have no idea why he has this obsession, but we keep insisting that he is skinny and shouldn’t worry. (He has since stopped talking, so it could just have been a phase.)
This did make me think, though. If an 8 year old already worries about his weight, how much is this message of “skinny is better” embedded in society? My 8 year old made a remark on my weight a while ago which I took as an opportunity to explain different body sizes to him. But kids have been calling him “fat” at school, like it is an insult.
This shouldn’t surprise me. Our society treats fat people as if they are lesser humans. Fatphobia is real, as is hatred aimed at fat people. But being skinny is not a virtue. I used to be a (UK) size 6, which, while not necessarily extremely skinny, is still skinnier than I am now. Does the fact that I have grown two sizes mean I am a slightly worse person than when I was a size 6?
The worth of an individual does not depend on their weight. If it did, I would argue that fat people should be worth more, as there is more of them to love, adore and admire. The only reason why we as a society value skinny people more is because for decades the media has manipulated us into thinking that skinny was better. More beautiful. And we all know that those who are beautiful in the specific way that society prescribes are better than anyone else.
I know I am crying in the wilderness. I am hardly the first person who writes an article like this, nor will I be the last. I just want to add my voice to the chorus and hope that it will make a little bit of a difference. We are all human beings. Beauty is very, very subjective and we should not let the media – which is controlled by corporations with their own agendas – dictate what we can and cannot find attractive. Why are we all such sheep? Why do we all value the same “ideal”? Can we not think for ourselves anymore? Can we not choose our own ideals?
Being skinny is not only not a virtue, but it is also not healthy for everyone. The myth that being overweight makes you more susceptible to a lot of illnesses has been debunked already. For some people, being overweight may increase their already genetic disposition to heart disease, for example. But it is not inherently unhealthy to carry a few (or lots of) extra pounds.
You know what is unhealthy though? The way society caters to only skinny people. Why are the seats on airlines so narrow? Why can’t airlines make wider seats? We shouldn’t shame people for not being able to fit into an airline seat, we should shame the airline corporations for not making wider seats. When my very tall husband is unable to fit in a seat as he doesn’t have legroom, no one shames him for being tall. People commiserate with him and complain that the airline shouldn’t skimp on legroom so much. Why can’t we do the same with fat people? The airline is just being cheap – they want to cram as much of us into the plane as possible so they can make a few more bucks. But in order to deflect the guilt off themselves, they point to fat people and tell them they are to blame for being fat. Too tall to be able to fit in a seat without your legs spreading towards your neighbours? Totally the airline’s fault. Too fat to be able to fit comfortably into your seat? Totally your own fault for being fat. See how unreasonable that is?
I digressed a bit, but that’s why this is a rant. Fat people are people. No one needs to justify why they are the shape they are. We should be accepting of everyone. Tall, short, fat, thin, what does it matter? And just like you wouldn’t tell a tall person it’s their fault for being so tall, so we shouldn’t tell a fat person it’s their fault for being fat. There is no “fault” here. There are only cheap corporations in whose interest it is that we all blame fat people for the corporation’s shortcomings. As long as we point the finger at each other, we won’t point the finger at who is really to blame. And corporations like that just fine.
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