Body shaming comes in just as many shapes and sizes as bodies do. Most of us have probably experienced, witnessed, or even participated in body shaming at some point. The brand of body shaming I have personally experienced is skinny shaming – and yes it counts and yes it is just as hurtful to girls and women as other types of body shaming.
As a little girl, I was aware of being skinny. While my friends got their new summer clothes, I was able to fit into the same shorts and t-shirts year after year – my lanky arms and legs just stretching out further each summer. It didn’t bother me. Until it did. It started to become a negative feeling once other people suggested that my thin frame was a problem.
In sixth grade, my class was all lined up for a quick health screening at school. We each had to be weighed, with no privacy. I stepped on the scale and the kids behind me in line saw the number that was significantly lower than the others. Then it was time for this fancy scale to measure my body fat percentage. It said “error.” Again and again, the adult in charge made me step on and off the scale to try to get a reading. She finally gave up and announced that I was just “too skinny.” The other kids made comments that didn’t end that day. I was so embarrassed. From then on, I spent much of my time at school trying to be invisible or wearing multiple layers of clothes to appear bigger. Neither helped my damaged self-esteem, which only continued to erode throughout adolescence.
I could tell dozens of other stories about people making unwelcome and unhelpful comments about my size. From the boy who announced to my entire high school Spanish class that I looked “emaciated,” to the strangers at work who have told me to eat more cheeseburgers or cookies, all of these encounters whittled away at my confidence for years. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I started to reframe my mindset. Yes, I was still “skinny” and people still made degrading comments, but I chose to focus on the amazing things my body is capable of. Slowly, I have started removing those extra layers (metaphorical and literal) that I built up to protect myself.
Body shaming should have no place in a girl’s life. We all have bodies, they are all unique, and each of us should be able to grow up with a focus on our own physical and mental health, whatever that may look like for us. Girls should be able to celebrate their bodies, talents, minds, and hearts, without fearing that someone might criticize something out of their control at any moment. Let’s act to end body shaming in all of its shapes and sizes.
-Hillary Hanel Rose
Girl Museum Inc.