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Skinny Shaming and the Politics of Body Positivity

The body positivity movement seems to be gainig momentum – I don’t know about you, but my instagram has been blowing up with posts about accepting one’s stomach rolls and hip dips; about taking pride in one’s curviness. But what if you don’t have curves? As somewone with the body type of a pencil, I don’t seem to have a home in that movement, which appears to assume that skinny women are represented in mainstream media anyways and therefore can’t possibly be told that their bodies aren’t enough.

Well (surprise, surprise), this is completely wrong (although, admittedly, you do face less and different discrimination as a woman when you’re on the slimmer side). Few slim women have the rock-hard abs of a VS angel while simultaneously rocking a D-cup – biology just almost never works in a way where it “gifts” us with body fat exclusively in the areas patriarchy want us to have it. And even the women who do have both of those things are constantly told they could do even “better” – be it by gyms, constant diet tips that seem to be a ritual of womanhood and by being encouraged to engage in a cultural practice of judging women (and sometimes other people, too) on their looks, which in turn teaches them to be incredibly careful about their own.

Now, much has been said about the effects of social media concerning this issue, but I don’t think most of the points raised take it far enough. Social media – like most other types of media – are ultimately a tool for making money and spreading one’s interests. Conventional influencers are essentially only partaking in an aesthetic that generates income for their sponsors. Want to sell your “fit” tea? Make influencers talk about how it suppresses their appetite. Want to attract customers to your plastic surgery clinic? Make a person who was beautiful to start with talk about how she feels even more beautiful with lip injections. And if someone’s already skinny with plump lips? Well, just promote an hourglass body type as well and she’ll buy your booty-growing workout bands and push-up bras. In short: no matter which end of the stick you get, women can’t win.

Notice what underlying element keeps making money for all of these companies? Exactly – women’s unhappiness about their physical shells (although the economy of making men unhappy about that is being discovered, too – cue protein shake commercial here). If all of us woke up happy about our looks tomorrow, only companies that actually make us feel good would survive. Basically, moisturizers would still be sold, but not diet pills.

It’s a cruel system of marketing that has people develop body dysmorphia just to sell a product. The body positivity movement is a powerful tool against this dynamic, but if it doesn’t just want to shift conventional beauty standards to a curvier body type, it really needs to start including everyone.

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