It’s not ok to publicly tell skinny people to eat more. It’s not ok to publicly tell bigger people to eat less.

I’m not going to sit here and claim that as a proud member of the size 8 club, that I am subject to the same societal disdain and ridicule as larger ladies. I am not the butt (pardon the pun), of many comedian’s jokes. Other kids didn’t poke my rolls in primary school, and I don’t walk into Topshop and sigh because I KNOW that their skinny jeans will make me look anything but. Society definitely has a long way it go when it comes to accepting people of all body types as beautiful. Me complaining about any slim girl bullying may seem to be almost the same as men complaining about sexism or white people complaining about reverse racism -like the tooth fairy to 5 year olds, it’s probably a bit of a figment of their imagination, and in real world terms, probably doesn’t have any en masse effect. I get it, the media in general is pretty much celebratory of figures like mine.  Howweevvverrr….

There are cultures within cultures, and there is media within media. I inhabit 2 cultures at the same time, tis the beauty of being so called ‘Black British’. In the mainstream British culture, I’m probably seen to have the ideal figure to a lot of people. I’m slim, but not straight -my Jamaican ancestry has blessed me with some extra blessings. My indigenous English friends usually tell me how lucky I am to have the perfect figure, that I can wear ‘aaanyyting’ that ‘your bum sort of looks like Beyonce’s!’ etc. Despite that, as I came into my early 20’s I started to become a bit insecure about my body. Now that’s weird for me, because I’ve always been quite confident about my figure. Compared to the many things about my face that I’ve complained about and wanted to change, my figure had always been the thing that I’d look at in the mirror and felt quite good about. Until, I started getting little verbal jabs from people – ‘You’re so bony’..’You need to eat more’..’Gosh, you’re so thin’..’You’re not anorexic are you?’..’Shade’s lost weight again…’. I would look in the mirror and examine myself – maybe they were right? Maybe I was too thin? But I ate quite a lot. In fact, there was an empty jar of hazelnut chocolate spread that would stand up and testify on my behalf.

“Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this skinny girl has a secret Precious lurking on the inside – please see exhibit A, my empty insides. Please also see exhibit B, the loaf of bread that was one loaf yesterday, and is now half a loaf today. Note also exhibit C, a dodgy looking receipt from the local Indian takeaway. Also see Figure A, which states the amount of calories in a vegetable korma. Members of the jury ask yourself, with this plethora of evidence before you, how could we convict this innocent upstanding member of the Sainsbury’s Nectar card network of under eating?”. Maybe I DID need to eat more though. So I started on a quest to put on weight. Which most my white friends were completely baffled at, after all, they spent their time eating low carbs, no carbs, half carbs, the fork diet, the 3/5 diet, Atkins, name it.

Then I realised, it’s not just me. And it’s not just Jamaican culture. There are white girls who are naturally skinny who also get ridiculed for being their natural size. I’m sure there are girls from all culture who do, although the threshold might be different. We all know the Caribbean/African idea of a big bum and the Western European version are about 5 inches apart, but still, people who are seen to be too skinny can be made to feel insecure in both cultures.

It’s seen as extremely gauche in any respectable society to hint at someone who is a bit larger to lose weight in PUBLIC. (Although actually, I have witnessed some of the older ladies at church calling one of my friends fat to her face. Weirdly, they meant well. But it didn’t end well.) No one who is vaguely polite would say in front of a room of people to their overweight friend ‘Goodness, what have you been eating, why do you look so big?’. But somehow, it’s ok to say to a slim person in a room full of people ‘Goodness, haven’t you been eating,why do you look so skinny?’

Women already face enough scrutiny about heir bodies from all aspects of society. The last thing they need is for the people around them to be another set of critics. Having said that, my little skinny insecurities are NOTHING compared to what plus sized ladies experience on a regular basis. If anything, it’s made me more certain that we need to pressure media to represent plus sized women in magazines, on billboards etc. It’s ridiculous that even someone with my figure, a size 8 , wouldn’t be able to fit into most of the standard  clothes for runways simply because of my shape. At least when people make little comments about my weight, I can sit smug in the knowledge that I can fit into pretty much any outfit at any store, and pick up a magazine and have a girl a similar size to me on the front cover.How have we allowed the industry that is meant to be for women to tell us that the majority of women aren’t good enough?

I’m pretty sure men face this – in fact I’m sure they do, because I’ve done it myself. I’ve ridiculed men for being too skinny! Which now that I think about it, makes me quite ashamed. They have feelings too (even if they appear to be cold hearted at times), and I’m sure there are some men who feel insecure about their size  because they don’t fall into the acceptable weight range – they’re too fat or too skinny.

SO this is a public service announcement to all those who feel that it is their duty to comment on other people’s weight loss or gain. Despite my astigmatism and long-standing relationship with Vision Express, I am very capable of viewing and analysing my own collarbones. Likewise my thighs, or any other part of my body that you have deemed to have expanded or shrunk in the period of time we have been absent from each other. If you really are truly concerned about someone else’s weight loss or gain, then take them aside and gently ask them if everything is ok. If they’re sensible, and you’re a friend, they’ll appreciate the concern.

What do you guys think? Has anyone ever made public comments about your weight (big or small), that have made you uncomfortable? Have you ever made comments about someone else’s weight? (I know I have in the past, I think only men though). Has body appreciation got out of control? Should people who are too fat or skinny be made to feel uncomfortable? And what is too fat or too skinny?


1 Comment

  1. October 28, 2013 / 4:15 pm

    Body negativity/criticism is always touchy. Some people may think that commenting on another being underweight is neutral or a compliment, but in reality it can be just as offensive as being called overweight. At 5’8″, I have never weighed more than 126 lbs, and I’ve often gotten criticized for being underweight. People have tried getting me to eat more or stop being vegetarian, when in reality I’ve almost always had a healthy appetite. There was a time when I was having difficulty eating because of an illness, and there were well-meaning people misdiagnosing me as anorexic or bulimic, which I of course found very offensive. Moral of the story: keep your opinions to yourself regarding a person’s weight unless you are a personal trainer!

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