Friday, 12 February 2016

Thoughts: Skinny Shaming

Cheryl Cole is a successful singer. After finding fame with Girls Aloud on Popstars, she has quite impressively managed to carve out a very successful solo career, with four albums under her belt, as well as a contract with L'Oreal, fashion and makeup credentials.

She came back on The X Factor judging panel after months of speculation and attended an audition in Manchester a few months ago. She popped a photo of herself wearing a black crop top and trousers on Instagram at the time and received a furore of abuse, being called a 'bag of bones' and what not.
Naturally, Cheryl could not help but respond in her usual fiery Geordie demeanor. I've attached a screengrab of her reply on Instagram for you to check out.

Cheryl did look slim, but hasn't she always? I'm not her biggest fan, but I personally thought her outfit was very cute and suited her, and I loved her hair and makeup.

But most importantly, Cheryl's reply - other than being a source of entertainment for tabloids to gossip about - got me thinking about the whole issue around "skinny shaming" - where women are critised for their slim physiques. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just plus sized women who are being body shamed and made feel ashamed of their body figures. I felt it was a personal issue for me as I am slim, too - probably even slimmer than Cheryl.

So often, people think they are paying me some kind of inverse compliment by saying I look thin.

"You have it easy" is the one comment I hear a lot, along with "You're so lucky, you don't need to go to the gym." I respond to these comments by asking firstly, "what do you define as having it easy?" Do you define it as not going to the gym? Yes, I do go to the gym, but because from studying health and fitness at college I realise the importance of keeping fit and healthy and the enormous benefits it brings to my heart, bones and muscles.Yes, I'm well aware that many people go to the gym for the intention to lose some excess weight, but plenty of people like myself go to the gym to simply get fit and get the heart rate pumping. I don't see it as a chore like many people do either, or that it's "hard work". I see it as something necessary for my health, like taking a shower, or brushing my teeth, that not only improves my mood and freshens my mind short term but may help to prevent some health issues further down the line too, so while people may say I'm "lucky" for "not having" to go, I think otherwise.

People struggle to understand that as a slim person, you may have insecurities too. The notion is completely foreign to many of them. It may come as a surprise, but many actually do have a lot of insecurities, many of these about our bodies, like pretty much every other human being on the planet. When I was a teenager, thanks to the influence of the media and the rise of "team curvy", I did feel quite insecure about the way I looked. These days, at the age of 23, after recognising that self-loathing really doesn't help and after a lot of growing up and realisation to do, I think I've started to finally accept my body shape the way it is. Don't get me wrong - there are some days I'd love a better bust or an arse to rival the Kardashians, if only to fit into string and strapless dresses, but I try to focus on the positive aspects of my body, and forget the rest. Having said that though, it isn't always the easiest thing to do, and it's something I'm continually working on.

The genes that I inherited from my mother's side mean that I have an incredibly fast metabolism; my mother was the same when she was my age. I went through a massive growth spurt when I was twelve that has just kept on going and has also contributed to keeping my weight at a constant slim level. I don't diet, no, but I do like to eat a balanced diet. With university and work, that isn't always possible - there are some weeks where I live off pasta and pizza and I am addicted to Haribos Starmix sweets - but generally I make an effort to prepare salads or a healthy stirfry as I can really see the benefits in my skin, hair, nails and overall health and have tons more energy (to get these pesky essays done!). I disagree with the use of "diets" anyways. I firmly believe eating little and often, with a good selection of food groups, drinking plenty of water and trying to avoid the bits like chocolate, sweets, pizza and alcohol till once a week, does a better job with both maintaining your weight and works wonders for your health too, rather than these stupid diets, many of which have been proven inconclusive and damaging to not only your physical but your mental health.

I realise that people are people, and by nature, have opinions. I would even go as far as to say that I'm a very opinionated person. But everything I have an opinion on is backed up by cold, hard facts. Even when I wrote about my thoughts on women's rights and abortion debate in my home country Ireland, I wrote about it in a very objective way, keen not to take one side or another side and to not insult anyone that may disagree or agree with the use of abortion, because after all, I don't want anyone to become insulted by what I write. I know it may not appear so, but why I write these "thoughts" blog posts is not to rant, trust me.

But what I can't handle is the way people can be so very forward with their opinions, especially on social media, and for the most part, it's not always in a nice way and completely lacking some kind of facts or concrete evidence. They often feel it's their duty to tell slim people they don't really know (like the person who didn't know Cheryl), to "fatten up and eat a burger" or that they look "sick and ill".

I feel like saying to these people who tell slim people to "fatten up" - "thanks for the concern", but who or what made you their personal nutritionist or mother?

It's even more appaling for me when someone says these things to me, because I wouldn't dare tell someone to "stop eating" or to "go to the gym" or say they are "ill" because frankly - IT IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS!

There seems to be an abundance of people who seem to want to attack "skinny bitches", and the sad thing - like Cheryl said - is that it's mostly women on other women. Whatever happened to "girl power" and supporting others in a feminist act? Clearly that disappeared with Christina Aguilera and leather chaps in 2004 if my daily Instagram feed is anything to go by.

I'm quite active on Instagram as I promote my blog heavily on there, and I constantly read these thin-shaming posts posted by other women: "Real men like curves, only dogs go for bones".

Eh, what?

I'm no expert in the world of relationships, but I'd assume that if a guy is making an effort to go out with you and wants to be your boyfriend, the pivotal thing is that he should be attracted to your body shape. A "real" man or woman is someone who accepts people the way they are, and doesn't try to change them, and while I'm not saying you should go for someone you're simply not attracted to, surely apparance is a minor issue when it comes to choosing a mate, maybe even 10%? I feel a caring nature and a solid personality is much more important and are personally the things I would value the most in a potential boyfriend. If someone didn't want to be with me based on my body shape, I would just tell them what to do with themselves (that's a nice way of saying it!), there's more fish in the sea, etc etc. Plus, I find the term "dog" more than bit insulting and cannot believe in 2016 that this is even allowed to be printed as some sort of justification for skinny shaming and - worse still - used as an insult between women.

Whilst doing some research for this post, I came across this charming statement that basically implied that because women have a thigh gap it means they are promiscuous. Needless to say that that statement is complete and utter bullshit.

There's no denying that Meghan Trainor's 2014 hit All About That Bass was catchy as hell, but a closer listen to the lyrics showed that it involved some skinny shaming. Again, it's similar to what I've mentioned above about relationships and guys not finding girls that are slim appealing: "boys like a little booty to hold at night", but also constantly referring to slim women as "skinny bitches". Yes, it's quite right to disagree with the use of photo-shop to slim down women into an unrealistic body shape like is the norm in many "celebrity" magazines, but "bitches" is a bit too much in my opinion, and in case many of you may have forgotton, is actually an insult. This is a very concerning notion for me as young people are very influenced by music and lyrics and may believe that this is a true reflection of society, hence adding more fuel to the already burning out of control attack on slim women. I can't help but feel slightly uncomfortable on a drunken night out when this is played and everyone sings it loudly (though quite badly!) around me.

Another image I found online, from the drivel that is "Some E Cards", is the image you will see on the right. Well, where to start with this one?! I'm speechless to say the very least. I felt so angry at this incredibly warped notion that I actually sent a very strongly worded email to this company, whose E Cards I previously did think were humerous - I think it's absolutely beyond the realms of stupidity. The idea that slim women don't make good mothers is absolutely such a ridiculous concept that I'm not going to even expand on how it's all sorts of wrong! Also, to mention the Holocaust in these sort of greeting cards just adds further insult to injury. Girls such as myself being metabolically and genetically slim naturally is completely different to a sadistic event that claimed the lives of innocent million Jews, homeosexuals and disabled people across Europe and I find it horrendous that this company would state that they are similar. And I like to think when I do have a child someday, that I will be slim, not from "starving to death", but rather from working my arse off day and night to make sure they are provided with everything they might require!

I'd just like to clarify that this blogpost is really not an attack on any plus sized women, or any other woman in general. I'm really glad that plus sized women (and men!) are being treated equally in terms of working, fashion and society in general, like it should be. I'd also like to make it very clear that this is not a pro-anorexia blogpost; there is a difference between a girl who is naturally slim and someone who has a psychological disorder and intentionally restricts calories. But these preconceived idiotic notions and negative attitudes towards body figures really need to stop. We need to appreciate that every body is beautiful. Eat healthily, do some exercise if you want or have a pizza and slob on the couch if you want - whatever makes you happy. Just be happy in your own body, because when you're happy in your own skin, you don't have reason to hate on others, and that to me, is what truly makes you beautiful.

Hope you enjoyed this blogpost - thanks for reading! xx


  1. I feel so much with this too! I can't help being thin yet I feel I can't wear certain things without people going God your skinny, I can't help it! Love this post glad to know we are in the same boat!

  2. Love the post and the well thought out opinion. Its a very interesting subject. Mostly agree with what you have said but I don't think a thin person can really understand how it is for someone of more than average weight in our skinny obsessed world. I am skinny myself and get irritated about some of the same stuff you mention but in day to day life I don't think we can even understand the issues.

  3. This post is really amazing and everybody should read it! It is so sad that people think they can point their fingers on people and just say what "wrong" with their body is. I think too that nobody should do that and say what the "perfect girl" is or beauty. Everybody should decide for themselves how they want to look and what they want to do with their bodies. It should be only healthy. I go also to the gym but to be fit like you. Thank you for this post! Hopefully it will open some eyes :)
    Even if I am not skinny I understand this problem.