I May Wear a Size Double Zero, But I’m Not the Invisible Woman

GlockomaGlockoma“Real women have curves.” Do elbows and knees count? Jokes aside, that’s a loaded, unchallenged statement, and it needs to be analyzed to expose its anti-feminist messages. At first glance, it seems harmless, but I’m going to tell you why I think it needs to be revised, and why this statement is a big “Glock You!” to women everywhere.

My opinion may not be commonly held, but sometimes it’s important to stand up for something you feel strongly about regardless if you have support or not.

The problem I have with the widely-accepted statement is that it makes a myriad of sweeping assumptions and commits the same crime it condemns. (Don’t worry. I’m going to unpack these thoughts and wrap them in red bows.)

We live in a weight-conscious world with sensationalist (not sensational) shows like The Biggest Loser and More to Love. Many women are unfortunately disappointed with the way they look and feel that they need to go on diets.

Sadly, these yo-yo, rollercoaster diets are nothing more than money-making schemes that prey upon the vulnerable and leave them feeling worse off.

Glockoma“Real women have curves” is supposed to empower women to love their bodies in all their overweight glory even if they don’t resemble the rail-thin supermodels on the catwalk.

Most women in North America aren’t a size 2 like your typical model. I did some online research (and while there is some debate over the exact number), the most-commonly reported average is size 12.

While I’m all for bolstering the fragile ego, we are forgetting something here: some women are naturally thin, some are a size zero, some are scrawny, some are flat-chested, some have boyish hips, and yes, some are also suffering from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

GlockomaBut are they not all (real) women, too?

To shut out this important demographic is a slap in the face that rests on the assumption that women are to be defined merely by the shape of their bodies. And in this case, a ‘real woman’ must have boobage, hips, and a bootylicious behind.

People are often quick to make the following assumptions, too. Thin women:

  • are generally healthier compared to those who are overweight
  • hit the gym regularly
  • count calories, watch what they eat, or have ‘issues with food’

GlockomaTime to glock an assumption right now. Thin people aren’t necessarily healthier than bigger individuals. It’s more about proportion and lipid distribution. I’ve read about super-skinny people having loads of fat around their vital organs. And there are definitely a lot of larger people who don’t stuff their face and who do have very active lifestyles. You can’t necessarily extrapolate an individual’s health by the number on the bathroom scale alone unless you only consider extreme cases like the 50-lb. woman or the 1-ton man.

Having been slender my entire life, I have first-hand experience of people asking me how I stay slim. It’s pretty amusing when they find out that I don’t actually exercise as much as they think, and that I eat whatever I want whenever I want. To their dismay, they realize that my body type is due to my high metabolism and genetics.

And when people find out that I’m a vegetarian, fuck, they just have a field day with that! “Eat a hamburger to fatten yourself up”, “Plants have feelings, too”, or “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you like the taste of meat?” Then they attribute my thinness to vegetarianism and have a Eureka Moment that makes them feel smart for a few nanoseconds.

Not so fast, slugger.

I’ve been a vegetarian now for over two years, but I’ve been thin my whole life. Don’t believe me? I have my school pictures to prove it. (And just to get this out in the open, I loved eating meat…until I watched this documentary called Earthlings. Also, it’s funny, but I eat more now as a vegetarian than I ever did when I enjoyed meat. One more ball I’d like to hit out of the park is that vegetarians don’t actually just eat vegetables – we’d starve. But I suppose that’s another rant about misconceptions for another entry.)

GlockomaOnce a co-worker saw me going for my second slice of cake at the company potluck and said something like, “Where does all the food go to with those hollow legs?”

He wasn’t meaning to be rude, and it was actually his way of showing that he was impressed with how I could pack so much food into this tiny body without growing sideways, but still…it stung pretty badly. Nobody likes being called a toothpick just like he wouldn’t appreciate it if I likened him to Shamu or commented on his thunder thighs.

GlockomaWhy the double standard?

But I really hate it when people comment on my weight because it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I’m very self-conscious by nature. When I was a child, relatives (who I was never close with) would seem to make it a point to tell me at every single family gathering in front of everyone that I was skinny. They didn’t say it like it was a good thing – more like telling me that I was a bag of bones and Skeletor had company.

Commenting on someone’s weight is plain rude – unless you’re a doctor…well, then you’re allowed to do a lot of atypical things (like shoving a gloved finger up someone’s anus!). I’ve actually made it a point to never bring up someone’s weight unless a) they specifically ask me about it or b) it becomes a severe medical concern.

I sometimes wondered if my relatives ever thought about what they were saying and what kind of effect it would have on me later on in life. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so self-conscious about my weight if they learned to zip it on occasion.

Calling a thin person skinny can be equivalent to calling an overweight person fat. Nobody likes to be singled out for their weight – I certainly didn’t.

Alas, I digress. Going back to the “real women have curves” mantra: while it looks so nice and glossy on the surface by telling curvy gals to love what they look like, at the same time it’s ostracizing skinny and underweight women who may struggle with similar social and media pressures. Yet if we flip the coin and change the mantra to “real women are a size zero”, imagine the outcries that would follow – we’d be stoned to death by their scowls alone!

GlockomaWriting a book on this topic would be all too easy – think volume 1 through 20! So I’m going to conclude here. We need to modify “real women have curves” to “real women have brains” because after everything we’ve done to fight for our rights, I believe that we should be judged (and commended!) on our intellect, wit, and skills rather than how easily we can zip up a tight Versace dress.

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14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Vanessa on August 14, 2009 at 2:22 PM

    Thank you for this! I could not agree more. I am a 25 year old 90 lb woman (I have actually gained weight…I was 84 lbs for years and years). I feel constantly harrassed about my weight. STRANGERS tell me to eat, think I’m a child etc. I had a boyfriend once tell me I needed to gain an inch all over. And he was rail thin! Skinnier than me! People say terrible things about me having chicken legs, being flat chested, and having no butt. I agreed with them for years and despised my body. Now, I am a woman (not a horribly self consious teenager) and I adore the way I look. I am thin and healthy. I don’t have cellulite or a gut or enormous, pendulous, sagging breasts. I look great. It took me years to feel even halfway decent about myself and that is bullshit. Thank you society. I look back and realize I was an attractive teenager and young woman. I really was. The people who said such mean things to me either were jealous or had no clue what they were doing to my self esteem. I feel like it’s GOOD for us skinny women to realize we are sexy and beautiful too!

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on August 15, 2009 at 10:45 AM

      No problem! I’ve been wanting to write about that topic for a very long time because I feel that a lot of people are blind to the struggles that naturally-thin (or skinny) people face. It’s not to ignore the concerns that overweight people have, but it does seem like the general messages out there are to love your body if you’re curvy. Skinny people (especially women) need to learn to love their body type, too.

      I completely understand the frustration you went through about how rude strangers can be, telling you to eat. It’s funny because back when I was a teen, my best friend’s mom used to say, “You’re too thin! You need to eat!” But every single time, I always ate more than my friend who was waaaay taller and twice as wide as me. It has nothing to do with how much you eat – that’s a misconception that so many people assume is correct. The same thing goes for overweight people – lots of onlookers think that they’re overweight because they eat too much, don’t exercise, and are lazy. And those may not be necessarily true!

      What bothers me about this whole issue even today is that skinny and short women are underrepresented in retail stores. There are too many ‘vanity sizes’ (i.e. labels with numbers that play more into the psychology of making women feel that they’re a smaller size than they actually are). Years ago, I fit into a size 5, and my waist was about a 24. Today, I fit into a size 00, and my waist is STILL a 24! The number 00 makes me look like I lost weight, but I didn’t. It’s so that people who were a size 12 years ago now can say, “Oh, look how wonderful it is! I’m a size 6!” Kinda messed up. They should just make blank labels on garments so that people can write down whatever number they like! I’m more concerned about the fit than the number. But it seems like there are more XXL, and XXXL sizes than there are XXS, and XXXS sizes.

      In any case, I really could go on forever…hehe…Thanks for stopping by and supporting me on this – I appreciate it!

      Reply

  2. Thank you for this post! I’m 5’7″ and 100 pounds, and I also eat a lot. People, including my doctor, assume I’m anorexic. I get a lot of crap for my thin-ness, but nobody gives overweight people crap, at least to their face. I eat much more than a lot of my friends, and they’re all about 3 inches shorter and 30 pounds heavier. Sometimes I like being thin, because I don’t have cellulite, my stomach is flat, and I do have curves, but they’re from bone structure, not fat. Then someone will go and say something mean. It’s hard for me to find clothes sometimes, because shirt sleeves are too wide for my arms, pants are too short, boots are too wide.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on December 23, 2009 at 9:20 PM

      Yep, I hear ya! It seems like it’s definitely more socially acceptable to ridicule thin people than it is to make fun of those who are overweight. It shouldn’t be this way, but hopefully people like you and I can educate others to see things from the other side and realize that even thin people have their cross to bear, too.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope you come back soon.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Chanice on January 6, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    Ah, thanks for this post. My entire immediate family are very, very skinny and it is natural. It is soooo embarrassing when strangers intercept me in a supermarket or mall just to tell me to eat more. Because of this double standard, I hate meeting new people because the first thing they say to me is ‘Oh my God, you are so skinny!’ and dating is sooooo hard because men don’t want a woman who, to put it simply, don’t have curves. Clothes shopping is horrible and I find myself wishing that I was three sizes bigger so I could actually fit the clothes that I want to buy. My friends refuse to believe that I have a difficult time shopping and meeting men because of my figure. Argh!

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on January 31, 2010 at 12:35 AM

      It’s interesting how so many people think that skinny women have it good – we struggle with similar issues that overweight people do. And yes, I’ve also got comments from rude strangers who tell me to “go eat a hamburger”. Sometimes people don’t think before opening their mouths. And the funny thing is that I DO eat quite a lot (as long as the food is prepared well, of course).

      I’m glad that you appreciated my post. I don’t think this topic gets enough coverage, and it’s important to get the message out that there are all different types of silhouettes. And we ALL deserve respect.

      Reply

  4. God bless you! I have the same ‘problem’ with people accusing me of being thin. I am 40, thin my entire life, work out to keep tight and can’t gain weight no matter what I eat. I never minded it till a lover told me I was ‘bony’. Would you walk up to a fat girl and tell her she was a load? It’s even worse now as there is an increasing percentage of fat or obese people today so we thin girls look ever more out of place. But I am very healthy, have born two healthy children and breast-fed successfully. So what is wrong with being naturally thin? Must we be accused? Most men find me attractive to look at, but I still feel the ‘jab’ or insult when a lover says I’m bony or that I should gain weight. It is hurtful. I can’t help it.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on February 15, 2010 at 10:42 PM

      When I wrote that blog entry, I thought I might get bashed for having voiced opinions about thin women that are usually kept quiet. Your comments, and the comments from the others above have been a pleasant surprise and have helped me realize that I’m not alone.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Amanda on March 1, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    So, as the first fat person to comment, I’m going to speak for all of us and say it’s jealousy. Overweight women are threatened by skinny women. They remind us of something that we often consider a personal failure and feel bad about. Of course this is totally not the fault of the thin person–it’s our own issue! But that’s where the “real women have curves” thing comes from, defensiveness.

    This relates to your other post about dealing with prejudice because you’re vegetarian, actually. It’s the same kind of syndrome. People feel defensive because you remind them of something they’re not doing, but they know, deep down, that it’s the right thing to do. It’s not your issue; it’s theirs.

    I’m also vegetarian and there is plenty of fatty vegetarian food out there! Vegetarians are often more health conscious, but you can be quite indulgent without eating meat–just like you were saying about the multiple slices of cake: Hello, dessert!

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on March 13, 2010 at 10:57 AM

      You bring to light many interesting points that I didn’t think about, Amanda. I applaud you for being real and for having the guts to say what you really feel. It was brave of you to label yourself a “fat person”, especially when all the people who commented before you said they were all thin. It’s always tough being in the minority, but it’s an important voice that we all need to hear.

      It’s a shame that some people become so defensive and build up walls around themselves. It’s more beneficial to redirect the energy into more positive things and strive to become healthier. I can’t imagine that holding toxic prejudices contributes to better health.

      And although I didn’t address it in my blog post, I want to mention that some thin people love to ‘show off’ their weight and rub it in others’ faces, whether it’s through snippy remarks or general snobbery. I can see how overweight people might cope by becoming defensive.

      The problem isn’t only with overweight individuals. Like they say, it takes two to tango. Everyone needs to learn to be more sensitive by not flaunting themselves and making others feel bad. And in turn, others will learn not to be so defensive and to invest energy in striving to reach their personal weight goals.

      Reply

  6. Posted by LATOYA on July 16, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    HI! I AM A 28 YEAR OLD MOTHER OF 3 KIDS. I AM 5FT 3IN AND I WEIGH 85 POUNDS. I CAN REMEMBER BEING IN HIGH SCHOOL, I WISHED NOTHING MORE THAN TO GAIN WEIGHT. I DIDN’T HAVE ANY BOYFRIENDS IN HIGH SCHOOL AT ALL. I AM A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN AND WAS A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LADY IN HIGH SCHOOL. WHILE I WAS PREGNANT WITH MY THIRD CHILD I GAINED ALOT IF WEIGHT. NEEDLESS TO SAY AFTER MY SON WAS BORN THE WEIGHT THAT I GAINED WENT GOODBYE. WHEN MY SON WAS 3 MONTHS OLD I WENT TO SEE AN INTERNAL MEDICINE DOCTOR. DR. BEAN RAN EVERY TEST THAT YOU COULD THINK OF. THE TESTS CAME BACK NORMAL. DR. BEAN CONIRMED THAT I WAS JUST A NATURALLY THIN WOMAN. AFTER THE CONFIRMATION MY SELF ESTEEM BOOSTED AT LEAST TEN NOTCHES.

    I AM SMALLER THAN WHAT I WAS DOING MY HIGH SCHOOL DAYS. THE SAME GUYS THAT IGNORED ME IN HIGH SCHOOL ARE THE SAME GUYS THAT ARE WANTING TO TAKE ME OUT ON DATES NOW. THE HIGH SCHOOL CURVY GIRLS ARE NOW FAT WOMEN. THEIR ARE ALOT OF MEN WHO ARE ATTRACTED TO SKINNY WOMEN BUT ARE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT SOCIETY WILL THINK. I LOVE MY SIZE NOW. IT TOOK ME YEARS TO ACCEPT MY SIZE AND THE GUYS THAT IGNORED ME IN HIGH SCHOOL WILL NEVER HAVE A CHANCE WITH ME!

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on July 27, 2010 at 8:55 PM

      Hey Latoya! Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s just as difficult for skinny women to achieve inner peace as overweight women. I hope that your story and mine will provide some comfort to others.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Sher2008 on September 8, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    I love your post. I’m 20, 5’4 and I weigh 80 pounds. My Ma sisters and brothers never picked on my weight because my Ma use to be my size. But my cousins can’t leave my weight alone. On my dad side of family they make my weight the joke of the day. It hurts so bad to hear what they have to say. I just laugh with them until I get home and cry about it. They just don’t understand what I have to go other. When I was in high school, I was always got picked on but it was by friends. I would always get jacked up and turned upside down lol but that never bothered me. Like I was saying before I love your post!! I really needed to hear that 🙂

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Shaw on September 9, 2010 at 11:13 PM

      Sorry to hear that you had it so rough in high school. But things like that make you a stronger person today.

      Reply

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