Guest Post: Body Image

by AmyPH

Amy is a Mormon mother of three from Massachusetts.

Looking around, I felt like I had emerged into a Roman Bacchanalian scene. Women of all shapes and sizes walked, strutted, and, in one case, even pranced around the communal Korean bathhouse completely nude. I quickly discovered my arms are way too skinny to provide adequate coverage and endeavored to use the scant spa towel to greatest effect while I strove to see only the faces of the women around me. Given that I was in a sunken spa, this was rather fruitless. As the minutes wore on and the warm water mellowed me a bit, I noticed something about the women around me and myself: their nakedness did not bother them and mine did.

Lest the above statement give you the wrong impression, I have to confess here and now that I am a skinny bitch. Science, magazine polls, and my mother have all informed me of this from an early age. I am thin; therefore, I am a bitch. Just as A follows B, 2 plus 2 equals 4, and Boston is the best city in the world, it is universally known and accepted. I became aware of this truth earlier than most because, aside from being precocious, I do not share the same body type as the other women in my family. They did not say it to me outright, but I could see it in their faces when we went bathing suit shopping or anytime desserts came around. Seeing my body made them feel worse about theirs, and I felt guilty.

As an adult, someone came up to me and said, “You know all women hate you as soon as they look at you.” I knew it was true. It was not until recently that I realized just how much I took that and other comments to heart. I caught myself bending my knees and slouching to make myself shorter than other women when I converse. I noticed how habitually I make fun of my body in an effort to signal, “See! You don’t need to hate me–I don’t think I’m that great either!” I accepted negative comments about my body–always about my breasts–as my just desserts and tried not to take offense. In high school, one friend without any preamble gave me the lookdown with a raised eyebrow, informed me, “My breasts are bigger than yours,” and flounced away. Considering she’s a C cup, and I’m an A on a good day, I don’t think anyone in school HADN’T noticed that fact.

This all crystallized when Meghan Trainor came out with “All about That Bass.” Not having heard the whole song and intrigued by it, I looked up the music video on YouTube. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it includes models without makeup throwing aside pictures of themselves with makeup. I loved the message of accepting and loving our bodies as they are . . . right until she began singing about “skinny bitches.” I couldn’t escape it; the two just go together.

This brings me back to the bathhouse. There I sat, trying to cover myself with my arms when it hit me: I was only concerned about covering my breasts. I wanted to protect my little bosoms from derision because I knew that A. Women hate me when they see me and B. Women who hate me make fun of my breasts. Amidst these women baring their all, I sat there trying to shield my poor little boobies who’d been trying, and failing, to reach their divine potential since puberty (Mormon garments leave a LOT of room for breasts, which I assume means that all women are busty in Heaven). Abandoning the pretext of trying to see only faces, I examined some of the bodies around me. All shapes were on display: tall, short, thin, fat, and all of them were beautiful in their own way.Categories

Once, as I ran at the gym, I kept passing the same girl over and over on the track. She was about average-sized except for a generous, fabulous booty. As I took in her red, determined face, it struck me that she might be running this track round and round trying to run away from that booty–trying to replace it with a smaller, more socially acceptable version. I fought the desire to run over and reassure her she had a fabulous booty and encourage her to love and cherish it. Maybe I was wrong, but I didn’t think she’d appreciate hearing that from me, a skinny bitch.

Now, at the spa, I decided I probably was wrong–just not in the way you might think. I assumed her butt embarrassed her just like some women assume I am selfish and vain because I am skinny. If I want women to see me for who I am, I need to try to see them for who they are. I gritted my teeth a little and let the towel fall from my chest. I may still be a skinny bitch to some people; I cannot help that, but I also cannot treat others as though they are bitches enough to accept character stereotypes based on body type.

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9 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Love this essay, Amy. You are so right — stereotypes based on body types (and any stereotypes really) are damaging and unfair. I had never before thought about the type of cruelty and stereotyping (“skinny bitch”) slender women sometimes face. Awful.

  2. Amy Sorensen says:

    I love this. Why, why, why do we do that to each other? Assume that body size makes our personality a certain way? I am not really a skinny bitch, but I’m also not really overweight, but I’ve had some mean things said to me throughout my life, too. I just don’t get it!

  3. Heather says:

    Thank you for this. I am another “skinny bitch” and have always had a complex about being too skinny, wishing I had curves. But no-one wants to hear that and not a week goes by that another woman doesn’t comment on how my body should – or shouldn’t – look.

  4. LH says:

    Women can be so cruel when comparing their bodies to other women. I have been thin, average, and (right now), heavy. Admittedly, it has been really difficult to deal with my new, large body. When I was thin, people saw me and didn’t assume I had some moral failing. Men in particular were much more willing to interact with me. We humans (at least in America) are pretty ruthless when it comes to appearances. I certainly don’t hate my thin friends or sisters but I do envy them sometimes. However, this post is a good reminder to try and see people as people, whether they are beautiful or homely. It is challenging to do (especially in our appearance-obsessed society) but it’s what we all want.

  5. Nicole says:

    Oh, this hurts my soul. I can’t help but think the body and intelligence-level shaming we all receive only serve to further isolate us from one another, making it difficult for women and girls to trust, help, and love each other. The truly baffling and tragic thing is that we seem to be astoundingly good at doing this ourselves. Why?! Why?! It’s also depressing how each of us is capable of taking the off-handed, cruel statements from a relative few and applying them to everyone. The statement that ALL women see skinny women as bitches is clearly an exaggeration, but the feeling that it is *everyone* is such a real experience! That feeling of being watched critically is damningly effective because it doesn’t take long before whatever it is that makes each one of us a “bitch” (whether it’s an “arrogant bitch” or a “stupid bitch” or a “skinny/fat/smug/blonde/black/white/ugly/ etc./etc. bitch”) becomes the thing we feel we must hate most about ourselves.

  6. Elizabeth Hammond says:

    I have wanted to write a blog about going to a jimjilbang – I think all western women should experience it. Let’s be real and acknowledge that Korean is very image conscience – they have scales in hallway at high schools and the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world – but the nude bathouse is a cultural gem. What impressed me was the Scars – the missing breasts, the C-sections, the obvious surgeries. Also, the young girls who were nude with their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, scrubbing each other’s backs. It is beautiful thing, and one of the best experiences of my life (I went every day for a few months when we lived in Korea). I lobbied to have our Relief Society go as an activity – you can imagine the response (clue: we did not go). To come to peace wtih your body, there is nothing better than being naked with 200 strangers, soaking in warmth, getting the cleanest you’ll ever be, and looking – really looking – for as long as you want. Great post!!

  7. Glenn Thigpen says:

    Oops. I ducked into the wrong room. Sorry.

  8. Danna says:

    Yes! Yes! I’ve been that “skinny girl” all my life yet at home my mom and sister have always teased me about being the “curvy one” in the house. This causes so many body issues I can not even figure it all out myself. Thank you for your words. ❤️

  9. Kristine says:

    “Mormon garments leave a LOT of room for breasts, which I assume means that all women are busty in Heaven”

    I thought I was the only one nursing this hope! 🙂

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