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Body Shaming: Two Ends of the Spectrum

Body shaming is an ugly reality in our social media-saturated culture. Evidence of women’s bodies being picked apart constantly surrounds us to the point in which it has just become the norm.

“Fat shaming”––the concept of intentionally causing overweight individuals to feel bad about themselves––is perhaps the most obvious form of body shaming. In an effort to make beauty standards more inclusive, Cosmopolitan even elected body positivity activist and model Tess Holliday as the featured cover model of the U.K. October issue.

Holliday is a key figure in the pro-obesity movement. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Body Mass Index calculator, Holliday would fall under the most severe category of obesity.

Recently, the model created the #EffYourBeautyStandards campaign on Instagram.

“I created [the campaign] out of frustration,” Holliday said. “I was angry and sad that people kept commenting on my pictures saying, ‘You’re too fat to wear that!’ or ‘Cover up! No one wants to see that!’”

It is easy to assume perhaps thin public figures have it much easier than Holliday. Surely, they do not face such mean-spirited critics.

But, they do.

Kendall Jenner, a member of the infamous Kardashian family is one of the many victims of yet another phenomenon: skinny shaming.

Jenner’s social media is chalked full of evidence: individuals make comments on Jenner’s photos, calling her “too skinny” and scrutinizing her body in derogatory ways. One photo Jenner’s sister, Kourtney Kardashian, posted included more startling comments.

Kourtney’s photo included herself, Jenner and a few friends wearing bikinis. Skinny-shaming flooded the comments, including, “Where are the curves on Kendall?”; “Kendall needs to eat a cheeseburger stat”; “How gross I can see Kendall’s ribs.”

Jenner’s sister Khloe Kardashian said Jenner used to get bullied constantly for her figure.

“It’s a myth that thin women have it easy,” Sarah Pederson, a communications professor at Robert Gordon University said. “Thin women are judged as being slavish victims, who are taken in by the media and self-hatred of themselves. While fat women are judged for not being in control, thin women are judged for trying to live up to unhealthy and artificial norms. They’re victimized.”

On both ends of this spectrum, women are bashed over the size of their bodies for reasons relating to both their physical appearance and their health. Just as individuals have said Holliday should not be praised for setting a pro-obesity standard, they also say figures such as Jenner promote anorexic behaviors.

Editor-in-chief of Self magazine, Carolyn Kylstra said this type of behavior does not help anyone.

“You should know that concern trolling––using a person’s perceived health to justify making them feel bad about themselves––isn’t just counterproductive, it’s abusive,” Kylstra said.

It is no secret both overweight individuals and starving individuals are at risk for a variety of serious health issues, but it is not the public’s job to label overweight individuals as “unhealthy” and underweight individuals as “anorexic.” Someone else’s body really is no concern of ours.

Obesity and anorexia, along with other eating disorders, are serious issues. Individuals who are struggling should never be afraid to seek help and counsel. However, we cannot bash anyone into a healthier lifestyle. Instead of being cruel, we should focus on creating an all-inclusive society.

Not only so, but perhaps the largest underlying issue of body shaming is the fact women’s bodies have always been under the microscope. It does not matter what a woman’s profession is––model, politician, journalist, doctor––the female body is treated like a piece of meat.

Perhaps instead of worrying who a magazine chooses to feature on its cover or how much someone else is eating, we should just stop talking about other women’s bodies and start focusing on the person underneath the skin.

By further propelling the acceptance of body shaming we are giving into the shallow notion women can be defined by what they look like, when in reality, women are so much more than their bodies.

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