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Slim shaming; it is a thing and it is equally bad as fat-shaming

Like its ugly cousin fat-shaming, the ultimate goal herein is to make someone feel bad about the body they were born with and to use social pressure to make them conform to what people think they “should” look like

I didn’t grow up in a fully West African family, but I spent most of my conscious years in one and you are liable to be teased about every damn thing that you do — and are. It’s just how things work.

Not once have I had a problem with that, I was purposely born with a thick skin and an over-the-board sense of humor. I was the one to be looking for the comic perspective in ANYTHING even when I was the butt of the joke.

At age 12, I was very slim — and short — something that earned me quite some nicknames. Looking back, most were derogatory, but I knew my aunts and uncles didn’t hate me, I usually just laughed along.

Like its ugly cousin fat-shaming, the ultimate goal herein is to make someone feel bad about the body they were born with and to use social pressure to make them conform to what people think they “should” look like

After 20, these family members were not joking anymore. My family was constantly asking me to gain weight. Time after time, they would get me to drink whatever concoction they thought would supposedly make me gain a voracious appetite and loosen my “fattening” cells a bit. But nothing seems to work [‘seems’ because even as I write this, my aunt hasn’t given up in her goal to fatten me up]

I’m not terribly skinny or anorexic, and granted I do eat. A lot!!! But I just won’t grow any bigger. It’s a feeling that I share with one Frances Chan — a (now former) student of Yale University who was nearly expelled for being too thin. In December 2013, she had gone into the student health clinic to get a lump in her breast checked out, but was, instead, accused of being anorexic and threatened with suspension unless she gained weight.

While people with weight problems wished they had the problem of being able to eat everything and not gain weight, Chan and I are evidence of a new trend: slim shaming.

Like its ugly cousin fat-shaming, the ultimate goal herein is to make someone feel bad about the body they were born with and to use social pressure to make them conform to what people think they “should” look like.

Real African men like curves, not skin and bones.

This is a phrase passed among my friends anytime I am around. I am African and I don’t like “curves”, for as far back as I can remember I have had a thing for the smaller women, and according to my mother, it might be because I am just more inclined to someone of the same build at myself.

I understand that the supposed goal of “real men like curves” is to promote an era of body positivity, well, that is unless your body does not look like theirs.

In other words, in this era of body positivity, some will only accept body types that resemble ours, and will ostracize all others. That is not body positivity — that is an in-group bias, where you show favouritism for one’s own group over any other.

Body positivity is not where you show favoritism for one’s own group over others.

To be clear, I am not trying to say that fat-shaming and slim shaming are the same thing — the research has clearly shown that people who are overweight are discriminated against exponentially more than their super skinny peers and also have to endure negative assumptions about their character, not just their health.

We seem to have forgotten the fundamental right each person has to his or her own body. Use it or abuse it, love it or lose it, we get to choose what we do with our bodies and it’s not up for a public vote.

In addition, whether someone is overweight or underweight, we simply cannot tell someone’s health by looking at him or her from the outside. Public scrutiny doesn’t take into account the matters of age, race, genetics, underlying health conditions, environment and socioeconomic status among other things that factor into a person’s build.

It is not society’s responsibility to tell you that you’re too fat, just as it is not society’s responsibility to tell me that I am too skinny.

Before someone completely obliterates that sentence, the key takeaway is society’s responsibility. In no way does my words promote ridicule for anyone, regardless which side of the spectrum they fall on the weight scale.

Whatever weight works for you is your business. On an individual basis, you should be able to tell yourself.

No one should force you to be an ideal weight. I will even go as far and say, society is not forcing you to be an ideal weight.


Originally published at roiskid.com on February 5, 2016.

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