These days, social media is full of people championing the bodies of “real women” – women who wear a size 10 or more.
Are women who wear a size 6 not “real women”? Should skinny girls and women be made to feel inadequate? Like they are less of a woman than those with lots of curves and padding? It’s great that females with fuller figures are being taught to love their bodies. But does that have to come at a price for those of us on the other end of the scale? It seems to me that people who claim to be promoting positive body images for young women are, in fact, shaming skinny girls. And, whether intentional or not, that is not okay. Making someone feel badly about how they look, when those aspects of their appearance are completely beyond their control (ie: being skinny, having red hair, having freckles, being flat-chested, being tall, being short…) is never okay.
I’ve always been thin by most people’s standards. As a teenager, I was underweight. There were lots of days in high school when I would come home from school and cry. I wanted to look like my classmates. I’d sit down in front of the television with a big bag of chips, eating as many as I could before supper, desperate to gain weight. My mother use to make me hot chocolate using cream instead of water or milk, to give me the extra fat.
I remember one day in high school, I was standing on a chair to erase the top of the chalkboard for the teacher. As I finished, and jumped down to the floor, one of my classmates shouted, “Timber!”
When I was about fifteen, an adult male family member asked me if I used Band Aids for a bra. And at the end of my first year in university, a few of the more popular girls in my dorm did up a little presentation for everyone on our floor. They said something funny or cute about each of us. When they got to me, they said, “What exactly do you put in a double A Cup anyway?” Everyone laughed. Everyone but me.
No woman should ever be shamed into thinking she is less of a woman just because she’s not curvy and doesn’t have big breasts.
Mother Nature got her jabs in, too, because puberty comes late for extra skinny girls. For me, it was three long years after it hit all my friends and classmates. It’s hard to relate to your peers when they’re all having periods and going on dates and growing breasts, and you still have the body of a ten-year-old girl.
Now that I’m middle-aged, the tables have turned. Watching as my peers struggle to lose the extra weight they gained as they aged, I can finally see my high metabolism as a gift. But that was a long time coming and the road getting here was full of steep hills and deep potholes. And just as everyone’s metabolism slowed with age, so did mine, it’s just that mine is now where theirs used to be. I can no longer eat entire bags of potato chips and not gain weight. And it’s more than a little irritating when people say to me, “You’re so lucky, you can eat whatever you want.” As a teenage girl, I tried desperately to gain weight so that I wouldn’t be teased. And now, as a middle-aged woman, I very closely watch what I put into my body, so that I don’t gain a lot of weight. There’s nothing lucky about any of that.
So please, if you want to jump on the positive body image band wagon, let’s be sure we’re promoting the importance of a natural, healthy body, whatever the size.