Body Image: Fat Shaming vs Skinny Shaming

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Image from https://chscommunicator.com/42373/opinion/2014/11/skinny-shaming-vs-fat-shaming/

When the “Black lives matter” campaign was a hot topic, white people came on to say that white lives matter too. When feminism campaigns were at their peak, a few men came up to say that the boy child had been neglected. When fat people spoke against fat-shaming, skinny people came up to say that skinny shaming is a thing as well.

It almost seems as though the struggle is romanticized in our world today, such that we always want to prove that we have been through worse experiences than our counterparts. The irony is that most times we haven’t lived both lives to make an informed decision on the matter. Sometimes struggle can be so silent, and the fact that it isn’t spoken of as much does not make it insignificant.

On our family Whatsapp group chat, a cousin of mine once posted a picture of herself on vacation. My aunties and uncles all went up in uproar. “Umekonda! Kwani hukuli?” which loosely translates to “You have lost a lot of weight. Are you not eating?”

My cousin had visited us for Christmas two to three months earlier, and the reaction had been the complete opposite. The very same family, including her nuclear family, had commented that she had added an awful amount of weight and needed to do something about it.

So when they commented that she had lost weight, she was irritated. “When you saw me last you said I was too fat. Now that I have lost weight you’re saying I’m too skinny. What do you want from me?”

A fat person may argue that they are denied basic facilities such as transport when they are asked to pay for two seats in a matatu. A skinny person would counter this argument saying they have been forced to squeeze on one seat with someone else because they are small and they end up paying as though they had a whole seat to themselves. What I’m trying to say is, we cannot quantify a struggle. Every struggle can be justified and magnified.

At an event sometime in October, I was walking with a friend who happens to be plus-sized. I am skinny. We walked past a group of people who were speaking among themselves and we couldn’t help but eavesdrop.

Unafikirianga wewe ni mkubwa, ona huyu (You normally think you’re big, look at this one)

Halafu anatembea na msichana mkonde, ata inakaa worse. (And then she’s walking with a skinny girl, it even looks worse)

Lakini afadhali kukuwa mkubwa. Huyu anakaa sijui aje. (But it’s better to be big. This one looks terrible)

Looking back now, I realize that this is a classic example to portray that the struggle goes both ways. At the end of the day, their sense of entitlement and need to objectify us in that manner left us heartbroken.

I would say, let’s just learn to respect everyone without fighting for hierarchy in the struggle. It’s not the hardest thing. Someone once said “I know what my body looks like, I see it every day. You don’t have to point it out to me.”

The world will always pressurize us to attain ridiculous levels of perfection, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to be at peace with your current state.

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