The Skinny on Skinny-Shaming

·News Editor
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One of Yahoo Style’s editors has a girl crush on model Issa Lish. Dora Fung professed this obsession with the Mexican-Japanese Vogue Italia cover girl in an article detailing the 18-year-old’s impressive résumé. But instead of readers feeling similarly to Fung, writing of Lish’s recent accomplishments in a tough industry to stand out in, instead they critiqued the young woman’s body. 

“Eat a hamburger for Gods sake,” Anna Vanderwalker wrote on Facebook. “She’s portraying a woman role model. This is not idealistic in any way shape or form. She’s a model. There’s NOTHING natural about that in today’s society. Give me a break.” Another commenter, Debby Laprade, accused Lish of being “anorexic all the way,” and Cie Reynolds thought it was “so sad” that someone “paid her for looking so bony.” Of the 25 posts in the thread, more than half took a negative view of Lish’s look. Of course, snarky comments are everywhere on the internet, but this photo touched a nerve and added fuel to the seemingly neverending debate over body image.

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Vanderwalker’s controversial comments soon set off a debate on size, not only about the largely unhealthy and rigorous standards that professional models are held to, but also about women and girls who are naturally thin. “Perhaps you could try to accept that some women are naturally skinny,” Josie Witt wrote. “Every woman is different and should be lifted up. We are doing a disservice to our daughters when we judge and body shame one another.” 

The idea of “body snarking,” which, according to Claire Mysko, Director of Programs at the National Eating Disorder Association, is basically embarrassing someone for their figure, as Witt noted, isn’t simply restricted to those that are overweight or obese. Women and girls who are slim oftentimes receive similar verbal abuse, such as the “eat a burger” comment, and talk such as this is prevalent, especially in the media.

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Tara Reid recently received similar treatment as Lish from commenters after posting a snap on Instagram over the weekend. The 38-year-old shared a pic of her bottom half, which was quickly removed following comments such as “You should eat something!” and “You look anorexic” started populating her feed. 

U.K. singer and producer Natalia Kills recently tweeted how lyrics in Nicki Minaj’s hit Anaconda  (“Yeah, this one is for my bitches with a fat ass in the f***ing club / F*** those skinny bitches.”) glorify plus size while disgracing thin bodies. “Why are we publicly deemed “skinny BITCHES” if we’re naturally smaller than sz 6? Horrified i’m considered a bitch for not being overweight,” she wrote. “Larger framed women need to stop bullying/victimizing girls with small frames, less voluptuous figures as if they’re unattractive/anorexic.” Meghan Trainor’s hit song All About That Bass has also received backlash for hating on “skinny bitches.” While her smash hit on the surface sings as a body-positive anthem, its message is actually pretty limited. 

Kendall Jenner’s appearance has been an ongoing topic of conversation. Last month, a tabloid claimed that the 18-year-old was being told she was “too fat for runway,” and needed to lose 8 kilograms, or about 17 pounds. The Keeping Up With the Kardashians star has also received the opposite kind of analysis. Multiple reports have accused Jenner of having an eating disorder and for being too thin. “What people don’t understand is that calling someone too skinny is the same as calling someone too fat,” she told Harpers Bazaar Arabia. “It’s not a nice feeling.” 

Just because someone is slender doesn’t necessarily mean that they have an eating disorder and accusing them of so is still damaging and hurtful. “You never know what someone is dealing with just by looking at their body size,” Mysko tells Yahoo Style. Additionally, people who struggle with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and stigmatizing the illness in this way is disrespectful to those who are actually sick.

But while judging and belittling someone based in their weight, in general, is intolerable, the practice is especially damaging for people of larger sizes. Mysko explains that one of the main differences between fat shaming and skinny shaming is that there is a cultural stigma associated with being fat that is not associated with being thin. People of larger sizes face actual discrimination (but that fact doesn’t excuse the practice of skinny shaming). “It really doesn’t help anyone to shame them because of their appearance,” she says. “Making fun of someone is never OK — regardless of that person’s size.”