The real difference between skinny shaming and fat shaming lies in one key term: privilege
It's hard to believe Gigi Hadid would ever get body shamed. She is, after all, a frequent Vogue cover model, standing at a modelesque 5-foot-10 without any visible lumps, bumps or obvious imperfections.
But last week, people found a flaw when she posted a picture of her reflection in a window: She was getting too thin.
"It's called growing up," she rebutted on Instagram. "Bodies change as girls become women."
Months earlier, it was hard to believe that Zendaya too would ever get body shamed. She is, after all, a successful actress due to star as the next Mary Jane in yet another Spider-Man reboot, and has already been refuting internet trolls who find issue with her hair or her parents.
But comedian Julie Klausner thought she was too thin, and, for no obvious reason, decided to talk about it on Twitter, alluding to the idea that Zendaya might have an eating disorder.
"Do you find this funny?" Zendaya fired back, before tweeting, "Now... everyone go look in the mirror at their beautiful body, and love that shit."
In March, Portia de Rossi was also called out for being too thin, and in November, it was Ariana Grande. Even women who aren't celebrities are dealing with skinny shaming now, like fitness vlogger Amanda Russell, who was repeatedly told she should "eat a sandwich," and Instagram model Sjana Elise Earp, who was accused in February of promoting anorexia.
For some reason, 2016 has given rise to skinny shaming, or the shaming of women who are too thin, according to a few people on the internet who really want you to know their opinion.
When media outlets have reported on Hadid's or Zendaya's harassment, they've often compared it to fat shaming. In many ways, it does mirror fat shaming, or the shaming of women who are deemed not of adequate size according to a few people, but it doesn't exactly compare to fat shaming. So, can the two really be equated? Is that really fair?
The commonalities: The most obvious similarities between the two, besides both being wholly unnecessary, is the normalization of people policing the way a woman should and shouldn't look.
"What they have in common is that it's still focused on body types and it's showing you that you should be unhappy with who you are as a person," Liz Black, a writer and blogger for P.S. It's Fashion, said in an interview. "It's definitely a bad thing.
"People should be able to live their lives. It's really no one else's business in the world whether they're happy in the size they are."
And yet, to those who are body shaming these women, they somehow think it is their business. According to Black, it's the same type of people who are on Twitter or Instagram shaming women, both for being too skinny to their standards, or too fat.
"I personally think hurt people hurt people — it doesn't matter what your size is," Black said. "If someone's attacking you on something as one-dimensional as your body, rest assured that you have nothing to worry about. They see you being happy and thriving, and they want to take away part of your happiness. If you love yourself and are happy, you have no desire to take down others."
In addition, people on the internet and the media tend to react to these stories similarly, cheering on the woman who've been shamed when she does inevitably clap back. "Gigi Hadid responds to skinny shamers in an epic way," Yahoo wrote of Hadid's exchange. On HelloGiggles, it was more like, "Gigi Hadid responded so elegantly to someone on Instagram who skinny shamed her."
For the famous women who've been fat shamed, headlines read similarly. "Here's how model Iskra Lawrence perfectly shut down body shamers," Refinery29 once wrote. Even when women who aren't famous have been shamed for not being skinny speak up, their stories tend to go viral, like Brynne Huffman's Facebook post in June about being shamed for wearing shorts. It's been shared more than 81,000 times.
However, there are some differences between fat shaming and skinny shaming, and those differences matter as they may be the key to why some women have a hard time equating fat shaming with skinny shaming.
The differences: The first and perhaps most important difference between the two forms of shaming is that fat shaming is nearly inescapable. It is not self-contained in the comment section of Instagram or on Twitter. It is everywhere, from people on the street to people in clothing stores.
Within this past year, there have been roves of men handing fat-shaming cards to women on the subway in London, and a 13-year-old girl from Kansas was told she should wear Spanx in a Dillard's while trying on dresses.
"The thing with fat shaming is that it can become pervasive in your everyday experience," Black said. "When you are thin, even if you are getting skinny shamed, chances are it's not coming into your day-to-day actual life. Chances are, it's really just being secluded to your social presence."
According to Black, it's as though social media has given rise to skinny shaming or, at the very least, given these people a platform.
"Skinny shaming only showed up when social media showed up," Black said. "Fat shaming was always around. Before the internet, it happened. I never heard anyone talk about skinny shaming, even among my friends growing up who were thin, until really now. Social media gives you the platform to talk about when you're being harassed. 'Is it happening to you? Let's talk about it?'"
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does highlight the difference between the two distinct types of shaming, because fat shaming can be done and has been done on every platform imaginable, whether it be in person or not. It's woven into our culture.
The problem with privilege: Therefore, not living in fear of being handed a fat-shaming card or being chided by a store employee becomes a privilege, which means that in our society, whether we like it or not, size and privilege are inherently linked.
Take shopping, for instance. Women who are smaller than a size 12 or 14 or what have you can walk into a store and, you know, shop.
"A thin person has privilege," Black said. "If you are under a size 14, you can shop in standard-size stores. You can walk into a store, get clothes for your body and walk out."
That doesn't make skinny shaming OK, but it is one of the examples of the privilege thin women have, one women who are considered fat definitely do not. It's one of the differences between thin women and women who dress in plus sizes in general that would feel erased or at least veiled if we were to equate skinny shaming and fat shaming.
There's also the fact that some of these thin women (like Hadid) who have spoken up on body shaming are successful because their bodies conform to our current social standards, and that's certainly not the case for women who are considered fat.
"It's challenging to feel as much sympathy for someone that is considered to not just have all the European aesthetics that we're supposed to be keen to, but are being paid millions of dollars on their looks," Black said of Hadid. "It's hard to feel bad for them when that's how they're making their living."
Additionally, there's even privilege now in how people respond to mere images of thin women's bodies versus a woman like plus-size model Tess Holliday. In May, Facebook removed a photo of Holliday wearing a bikini because it promoted "an idealized physical image."
But it's not like the women themselves have control over how people act. It's not like Hadid is in any way at fault for not being banned or for making millions on her looks. It's just a signifier that, as a Medium essay by Lesley Kinzel noted, fat shaming is a cultural problem that is only growing, especially because most American women are now a size 14 or larger.
So yes, skinny shaming exists and is entirely unnecessary, just like fat shaming, but it is different than fat shaming because of this existence of privilege in so many facets of a thin person's life.
"I think it's fair [to equate them] to a degree, in that both things are about body shaming. Both things are unnecessary," Black said. "It's still body shaming, but it's just that those skinny people still have a level of privilege where it doesn't pervade anything outside of their lives outside of their online presence."
By equating the two, in Black's opinion, it's erasing the experiences and hardships of hundreds of millions of women around the world. Although they both exist and they are both quite annoying, they're not the same thing.
Now that that's settled, let's all go look in the mirror and, as Zendaya said, love that shit and make the world catch up to us.