I knew what was coming – I blame it on years of conditioning – the not-at-all subtle head-to-toe once over was so blatantly obvious that I wonder if women realize how transparent they are. “You skinny bitch.”
It left me speechless as usual. If anyone called me a straight-out bitch, I’d have words for her. But for some reason, when you throw in the word, “skinny,” I’m thrown for a loop. Women seem to be in the habit of putting each other down. Body, breast or bum: It doesn’t seem to matter what it is, but if it is bigger, smaller or outside the norm of the day, it is ripe for ridicule.
Our society is obsessed with weight. Tabloids revel in revealing shots of celebrity fat: Shameful bikini and post baby bodies, close-ups of cellulite that should never grace the frames of Hollywood royalty and weight gains all warrant front page news. The same magazines and television programs praise those who shed baby weight in inhumanly fast fashion or give kudos to those with long lean bodies, upholding their diet and exercise regimes like sacred text, whether healthy or not. In the same breath, feature stories label others as too thin and dissect their bodies under the same microscope. It seems like women can’t win; where does the happy medium lie on the weight scale? What is the magic number that we need to reach to be mock free?
I have spent my life defined by my weight. Some might say I sit on the more positive side of the spectrum, but neither side truly lends itself to positivity. My internal dialogue developed into, “I am skinny. This is my worth. This is what makes me special.” It became the praise I wanted to hear and something of which I became proud. As an adult, I realize that this wasn’t pride, but my young self latching onto the most common praise I received. Being praised for something over which I have little control doesn’t have much value. As a child, I did not exercise or maintain a healthy diet. I did not achieve anything beyond being born into this body that others seemed to value over my words, thoughts, or personality.
Over the years, I have learned the hard way that thin people are not allowed to talk about their weight. It’s odd because, as women, we all have our insecurities – and body image typically tops the list. And while I would never comment on someone’s weight, people always seem to feel free to comment on mine. I don’t think anyone should have that liberty. If we overheard a husband point out his wife’s weight, we may take immediate offence, telling him how damaging his words are. So why do we, as women, seemingly get a free pass? What is so different in saying “you are so skinny” versus “you are so fat” when the result is the same: Your weight becomes your worth.
The figure of women has dominated culture for centuries. The female silhouette has graced many an artist’s canvass as muse, beauty or temptress. Religion shares the fascination – from the virtuous Virgin Mary to Mother Earth who keeps balance in nature. Literature has explored the depths of the female gender – and the comic book genre has given women super-human strength, magical lassos, and va va voom proportions. Industries have been built to accentuate the female form: Makeup makes lashes longer and lips more luscious, while the clothing industry makes our hips smaller and our busts bigger. The diet industry adds another dynamic that promises real results through herbs, meat, or the anointed vegetable of the day. Cosmetic surgery staples our stomachs, carves our noses, and rearranges any offending body part through the hands of a surgeon or at the receiving end of a needle.
But the beauty of it all is that we do not have to be by-products of our culture. We can decide for ourselves what matters most. And perhaps that is the most deciding factor of all. The value we see in others is a reflection of our own character: I’d like to think women run a little deeper than the surface.
I have begun spreading the word about skinny bitches, fat bitches, average bitches, and every shape and size of bitch out there: Women will always be one size fits all. No one should be defined by his or her weight, no matter what the scale says. There is no magic number. As women, we need to rise above the scale and not use the number as a weapon to wound each other.
Whether it’s being a ‘skinny bitch’ or a ‘fat bitch;’ being told you can afford to eat that doughnut or being judged for eating one at all. Our weight is just a number: It’s not who we are, and it’s not what defines us as individuals. Our worth carries far more weight than what we weigh.
But you might not want to take my word for it: After all, I am just a ‘skinny bitch.’