Trigger warning for discussion of eating disorders.
“She really should not be wearing that.”
How many times have you heard someone say that?
Next, think about how many times you have heard it said about a guy?
Rarely (if ever) will you hear anyone comment about how a man “shouldn’t” be wearing a certain type of clothing, regardless of their size. But when it comes to women? Society will rip a girl apart based on what she’s wearing. I’ve heard it from my guy friends talking about girls, my girl friends talking about other girls, and my family members talking about me. Apparently, the leggings, the bikinis, and the skinny jeans are only for the “skinny” people, and they made sure I knew it.
Everywhere we turn, young girls and women see what our bodies are supposedly supposed to look like. Magazines, movies, television and the people in a woman’s life can influence how a woman looks at her body and what she sees as “not good enough” based on standards set by society.
While men also suffer from eating disorders, according to information provided by the National Eating Disorders Association, as many as twice as many women than men have suffered from an eating disorder at one point in their lifetime. Girls as young as six years old begin to worry about their weight and body shape, which leads to a lifelong struggle.
Before I continue I must make this clear: I have no problem with skinny girls. We can all agree that women are beautiful in every size, and size shouldn’t mean anything when it comes to a woman’s worth. That being said, I do have a problem with girls being made to feel the need to be skinny, or being told that they should be skinny. My sister is naturally skinny, and I am not. Growing up, I was always referred to as the “thicker” sister.
In middle school I was a size 11. My sister, younger by two years, was blessed with the faster metabolism and was always thinner than me. The whole family boasted about how my sister should be a model, but when it came to me? “Those jeans don’t look right on you; you really shouldn’t be wearing that. Skinny jeans are for skinny girls.”
Having my family, the people who are closest to me, comment that I didn’t look right and that I wasn’t model material when my sister was was hurtful, and it contributed to the eating disorder I developed when I was thirteen years old.
My weight has fluctuated since middle school. In seventh grade, I was counting calories, looking up crash diets, and weighing myself multiple times a day. I was doing sit-ups late into the night and measuring my waist circumference, as well as around my biceps and quadriceps. Even though I shrank to a size five in junior high because I was playing soccer at a more intense level, my sister was still a size two, and at least three inches taller than me (she got the height genes, too). I liked having wide hips and a full chest, but when we attended family reunions, I was constantly reminded about how that still was just not good enough.
I have a very full chest; even at my thinnest I was still special ordering my bras off of Victoria’s Secrets’ website. I also have wide hips and a butt, and I’m proud to say, I rock it. However, for a long time, dresses and skirts and low-cut shirts were off limits to me. Being a full-figured gal, my dad tried to downplay my sexuality. So while my sister was strutting her stuff and getting positive attention for showing off her body, I was told to keep mine covered. Not just because I wasn’t “skinny” enough to wear those outfits, but because I had boobs and a butt, and showing that off just wasn’t appropriate. My natural shape wasn’t appropriate. A “thick” girl trying to do what girls do on the runway wasn’t appropriate.
At a size five, I was still not model thin. But why did I have to be told that? And more importantly, why did it matter if I was thin or not? Let’s forget the fact that I played soccer or was a good student! Please, let’s just talk about who is prettier. But that’s a problem as well, isn’t it? Since when is skinny synonymous with pretty? Does anything bigger than a size two mean ugly? Who came up with this ridiculous scale?
During those family gatherings, rarely were my actual accomplishments discussed. No one referred to me as the soccer player or the writer or even the fact that I was well on my way to becoming a first-generation college student. I was simply the “thicker” sister.
Right now, I’m a size eight. I’m in college, I’m working hard, and I’m still not fit to be a model. The girl I was in middle school has spilled over into the woman that I have grown up to be. I am recovering from my eating disorder. Anyone who has had one will tell you that it’s a constant battle. It’s getting easier for me to wear shorts in public; before, even on the hottest days, I didn’t. I’m working on wearing tighter shirts again and showing off my figure.
It’s a song we’ve sung over and over: stop telling women, especially young girls, what their bodies are supposed to look like. Stop telling them what size they should be and what they should and should not wear and whether or not they are model material. Limiting a woman to her looks is degrading and destructive; it tells young girls that they are only valuable based on appearance. Girls, forget your wits or talent, as long as your jean size can be counted on one hand, then you’re worth it!
Between my sister and me, both of our accomplishments were overlooked. She’s a smart girl too, but no one ever mentioned it. A woman does not lose value when she gains weight, nor does she gain it when she loses weight. We are wonderful and powerful and beautiful because of our ambitions and our brains. Can we talk about those, for a change?
Written by Laila Corbeau
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