Us Vs. Them (and a Little Bit of Mean Girls)
When I first got involved with the body positive movement, I encountered a lot of blogs that told me ‘real men’ like curves, so I really didn’t have to worry about how big my hips were (HA. TAKE THAT, DIETS).
People liked to push the idea that all men (all real men), would apparently love every inch of my body, despite the size. As a teenager with low self esteem, that was exciting. I was super happy to see that the internet thought men (and not just ANY men, but real men), would pick the chubby chick over the ‘gross’ skinny girls.
Growing up, I was constantly told that being fat, or ‘bigger’, was unattractive. Because of this, a part of me was always envious of thin girls.
I mean, thin girls had it so easy.
I thought they didn’t have to worry about what they wore, because everything fit. I thought they didn’t have to be self-conscious about their appearance, because they ALWAYS effortlessly looked good. Thin girls didn’t have to worry about being judged when they were eating, and thin girls could go into any store they wanted and their size would be available. Thin girls could shop for bras in stores at the mall (plus, thin girls didn’t have to worry about someone pretending their bra cup was an astronaut’s helmet).
Messages like, “Real men love curves, only the dogs like bones“, and “Once you go big, you never go twig“, were simple enough to remember when I felt the sting of jealousy. I’d dramatically roll my eyes at skinny bodies. I’d pause, then audibly groan, because, “They should eat a burger”. I’d point out when someone was ‘too skinny’, and then cruelly pick apart their physical appearance. I never forgot to add how ‘repulsive’ it was to be that thin. I was very insecure, and very judgmental.
You know that scene in Mean Girls: that scene where Cady Heron has a very moving epihpany while facing off against Miss Caroline Krafft? In the scene, Cady realizes that making fun of someone will not make her a happier person. At the end of her speech, she adds, “All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you”. When I re-watched Mean Girls for the billionth time a few years ago (I watch Mean Girls at least 14 times a year), that scene helped me work out an epiphany of my own:
Body acceptance does not mean accepting your body, and rejecting others. Body acceptance means admiring the differences in other people’s appearances, and accepting the version of themselves they choose to present. Being fat does not give you permission to critique a thin person’s appearance, eating habits, or lifestyle. Being thin does not give you permission to critique a fat person’s appearance, eating habits or lifestyle.
Do not waste your time and energy trying to love yourself if you are unable to value other bodies around you. If you feel like commenting on someone’s physical appearance, or if you are offended by someone’s body, ask yourself: Is this body causing me harm in any way? No. Is this body ruining my life in any way? No. Is this body mine? No? Then why do you care.
If someone is happy being thin, let them be thin. If someone is happy being fat, let them be fat. If someone is happy being a triangular prism, cylinder, oval, heptagon, or cuboid, let them be whatever shape they want to be. It’s not your body. It’s not your call. Do not make body acceptance an us vs. them thing, where only one body type will reign supreme.
As for the ‘real men love curves’, business, I gave up on that forever ago.
Just because someone is attracted to one body type and not another, does not make them any less of a person. Insulting someone because of their preferences, and demeaning them because they like apples more than oranges, is rude. The only time someone is not a ‘real’ person, or ‘real’ man, is when they go out of their way to attack your body/physical appearance.
I deal with these judgmental people by walking away.