10 WAYS WE BODY SHAME WITHOUT REALIZING IT:
1. Saying Things Like, “She Would Be So Pretty If…”
Have you ever uttered anything along the lines of, “But she has such a gorgeous face” or “She would be more beautiful if she put on a few pounds”? You are limiting your idea of beauty to a cultural stereotype. Beauty is not conditional. If you can’t say anything nice, maybe it’s time to learn how.
2. Judging Other People’s Clothes
While it’s fine for you to choose clothes any way you want, nobody else is required to adhere to your style. The person wearing that outfit is, in fact, pulling it off, even if you think she’s too flat chested, big chested, short, tall, fat or thin. And fat people don’t have to confine themselves to dark colors and vertical stripes, no matter who prefers it. And spandex? It’s a right, not a privilege.
3. Making It an ‘Us vs. Them’ Thing
The phrase “Real Women Have Curves” is highly problematic. Developed as a response to the tremendous body shaming that fat women face, it still amounts to doing the same thing in the opposite direction. The road to high self-esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy. Equally problematic is the phrase “boyish figure” as if a lack of curves makes us somehow less womanly. The idea that there is only so much beauty, only so much self-esteem to go around is a lie. Real women come in all shapes and sizes, no curves required.
4. Avoiding the Word “Fat”
Dancing around the word fat is an insinuation that it’s so horrible that it can’t even be said. The only thing worse than calling fat people “big boned” or “fluffy” is using euphemisms that suggest body size indicates the state of our health or whether we take care of ourselves. As part of a resolution to end body shaming, try nixing phrases like “she looks healthy,” or “she looks like she is taking care of herself,” and “she looks like she is starving” when what you actually mean is a woman is thin.
5. Making Up Body Parts
We could all lead very full lives if we never heard the words cankles, muffin top, apple shaped, pear shaped or apple butt ever again. We are not food.
6. Congratulating People for Losing Weight
You don’t know a person’s circumstances. Maybe she lost weight because of an illness. You also don’t know if she’ll gain the weight back (about 95 percent of people do), in which case earlier praise might feel like criticism. If someone points out that a person has lost weight, consider adding something like, “You’ve always been beautiful. I’m happy if you are happy.” But if a person doesn’t mention her weight loss, then you shouldn’t mention it either. Think of something else you can compliment.
7. Using Pretend Compliments
“You’re really brave to wear that.” By the way, wearing a sleeveless top or bikini does not take bravery. “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful.” These things are not mutually exclusive — a person can be fat and beautiful. “You can afford to eat that, you’re thin.” You don’t know if someone has an eating disorder or something else; there is no need to comment on someone’s body or food intake. “You’re not that fat” or “You’re not fat, you workout,” need to be struck from your vocabulary. Suggesting that looking fat is a bad thing is also insulting.
8. Thinking of Women as Baby-Making Machines
One of my readers mentioned that her gynecologist called her “good breeding stock.” Also awful: “baby making hips.” Worst of all is when people ask fat people when they are due. As has famously been said, unless you can see the baby crowning, do not assume that someone is pregnant.
9. Sticking Your Nose in Other People’s Exercise Routines
A subtle form of body shaming occurs when people make assumptions or suggestions about someone’s exercise habits based on their size. Don’t ask a fat person, “Have you tried walking?” Don’t tell a thin person, “You must spend all day in the gym.” I have had people at the gym congratulate me for starting a workout program when, in fact, I started working out at age 12 and never stopped. I had a thin friend who started a weight-lifting program and someone said to her, “Be careful, you don’t want to bulk up.” How about not completely over-stepping your boundaries and being rude and inappropriate?
10. Playing Dietitian
If you have no idea how much a person eats or exercises, you shouldn’t tell her to eat less and move more or suggest she put more meat on her bones. (Even if you do know what she eats, don’t do it). How do you know she’s looking for nutritional advice from you or the newest weight-loss tip you saw on Dr. Oz?
Written by: Ragen Chastain