A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I was called out for thin-shaming.
I wrote about an experience I had in an awesome yoga for round bodies class, framing it around a photo (a woman in a bikini doing a backbend on a beach) that had kept popping up in my Facebook feed and how it made me feel. I noted the model’s rib cage and hip bones, calling her body “too thin” and “emaciated.”
Somebody on Twitter called me out for it. The exchange was uncomfortable and left me feeling attacked. The caller-outer called me “hypocritical” for “preaching” body positivity while thin-shaming another woman’s body.
A little harsh, but she had a point. And the thing is, I hadn’t realized what I was doing. At the time, writing about my reaction to an image that repeatedly came up on my Facebook feed seemed like a good entry point into my experience. I had no intention of thin-shaming anyone, but clearly I hold biases towards thin bodies.
This is not okay. I’m not about to make excuses for my actions. However, I feel like my response is a culturally conditioned response to women’s bodies. We are taught to judge and assess women’s bodies.
“Thin-shaming and fat-shaming are not separate, opposing issues—they are stratifications of the same issue: Patriarchal culture’s need to demoralize, distract, and pit women against one another,” writes Lindy West on Jezebel. “To keep women shackled by shame and hunger. To keep us obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential. To get our money.”
As much energy as I’ve put into challenging my assumptions, I still have a long way to go. The only way to take ownership over this is to own my assumptions. And I’m full of them.
Since this was called out to me on Twitter, I’ve been able to catch myself when I think thin-shaming thoughts and try to change my patterns. I’ve tried to appreciate images of women’s bodies (because let’s face it, they’re everywhere) without judging them. I’ve noticed that I’m not at all as critical of the bodies of the real women around me as I am of the images. This is because I think that all humans are beautiful. But I’ve noticed that I still take note of the real women around me, and assess (e.g., when people lose/gain weight, or wear something that has a certain effect on how their body looks).
Commentors on the post (who also called out my thin-shaming, although in more constructive manner than the caller-outer from Twitter) brought to my attention that within the body positive yoga scene, there is an undercurrent of thin-shaming. “I am all for body-positive messages in the yoga community,” wrote Valerie. ‘I truly believe that yoga is for everyone. However, lately it seems like many of the should-be-empowering messages come with a reverse shaming of the “typical” yogi.”
I haven’t really noticed this, but apparently I’m complicit with it, so I guess I wouldn’t. If anything, in yoga culture I notice an excess of thin privilege and elevation of thin as “the body beautiful.” As in the rest of our culture, thin flexible able white bodies are the norm in yoga culture – but somehow it feels more intensified, perhaps because the playing field is smaller but more likely because it’s a body-centred practice that develops awareness of our own bodies and those around us.
I own my words, but I also believe that taking responsibility is proactive, not retroactive. I will do my best not to thin-shame women on this blog when I am encouraging body positivity and self-love. I subscribe to the HAES philosophy – health at any size. And that includes small sizes.
What I want to see, truly and sincerely, is a world where all bodies are loved and accepted for who they are. Body shaming – fat or thin or anywhere in between – will get us nowhere.