By Leslie Ferrell
As I walked into Kroger with my mom, I heard a man say under his breath, “Wow, you’re way too skinny.” It was only one of many times I’ve heard comments about my size. It was the first day, though, that I realized that statements like those don’t always come across as complimentary.
I’ve weighed below average my entire life — not due to my own choice, but because that’s just how fast my metabolism naturally is. Honestly, I’ve gotten used to people telling me that I should eat more and put some meat on my bones. And I do have to admit that sometimes it makes me feel good about myself because I can sit on my couch and eat a bag of barbecue chips without worrying about how many calories I’m taking in.
Many times, though, hearing things like that doesn’t make me feel entirely great about myself.
I’ve often wished that I just looked normal and not like a flimsy twig that could be blown away in the wind. I’ve never been completely secure with the way I look, so whenever anyone notices anything about my appearance I immediately feel self-conscious, even if it was a compliment. Obviously, this is just me dealing with an insecurity, but it has made me begin to think about body image, the emphasis that is put on appearance in our society and the quick judgments we make on people, sometimes without realizing it, just by looking at them.
Of course, I’m not the first one to ever broach this topic. Neither is Jennifer Lawrence, though she is one of the most outspoken actresses on the subject of body image in recent interviews.
In an interview with Barbara Walters last year, Lawrence said, “I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV.” She has also spoken up about the effect the media has on women, especially younger girls who are more easily influenced by the things they see on TV, and the importance of being aware of the messages they are receiving. Lawrence has been touched by the negative effects of Hollywood and the media also — she was asked to lose weight for her role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, and she was photoshopped on the cover of Flare magazine in 2011.
Weight is often an issue in the media, most often because someone is considered overweight based on industry standards. However, I think we should also look at the other end of the spectrum, at those who may be considered underweight.
Though there is clearly not as much of a negative connation with being skinny as there is with being overweight, and being thin is usually the image magazines and brands are looking for, people make harsh judgments about these people as well. Katie Couric said, in an interview regarding Kate Middleton in 2012, “I think she needs to eat more because she’s so thin.”
I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard similar comments made to me, but it’s enough to know that they can be just as negative and degrading as if someone came up to me and told me I needed to eat less because I was too fat.
I’ll admit it can be easy to judge someone who appears to be “skin and bones,” as they say, and wonder if they have suffered from some kind of eating disorder. Just because someone may seem to have the body image that Hollywood has convinced our society is the best does not mean that they never feel self-conscious or that they never concern themselves with what people think of them. And it also doesn’t mean that they’ve had to starve themselves to look that way.
Lawrence was quoted in an interview in 2012 as saying, “I’d rather look chubby on screen and like a person in real life.” While I’m pretty sure I understand her point, her statement also begs the question: Am I not considered a person because I’m skinny? Is there a certain weight you have to meet on the scale before you’re considered a normal “person?”
This appears to be a double standard in some ways. Are we going to be judged and criticized for not being thin enough, and then judged and criticized if we’re a little too thin? Living up to the ideal seems impossible.
Realistically, and in many ways because of our human nature, criticism of other people’s appearances will never end. It doesn’t matter if that person is considered too skinny, too fat or somewhere in between. No one will ever live up to the ideal that we have created on our own.
Even celebrities and models who appear on the covers of magazines are photoshopped and airbrushed and never considered “perfect” on their own.
Every person has been concerned with his or her body image at one time or another. I don’t want this to sound like another cliché beauty campaign, but I honestly think it is an important issue to keep in mind as it is one that affects all women, and men, no matter what their size.
Calling someone too skinny is the same as calling someone too fat. It may not appear as damaging or rude on the surface, but it can still have a negative impact on that person’s confidence and self-image. So let’s stop antagonizing skinny.