On “The Perfect Body” and “Skinny Privilege”


“She looks anorexic”

Being skinny is a Privilege
One I’ve genetically inherited
One that is awkward at many times
Glamorous in very few

It’s a privilege in that:
Skinny is currently, and has been for a while, a society wide embraced standard of beauty lauded as something we should all desire and strive to achieve, and if we are not, we are simply not that beautiful.

I am privileged in that:
My size is assumed to be appropriate and is readily available commercially. The “bigger” women have been less designed for, have found pickings slim, unless they shop in speciality stores. I am the norm, these women are not. And who falls into “these” women varies across brands and borders.

I am privileged in that:
Everywhere I turn, I will find advertisements that though in no way reflect what any actual human beauty looks like, at least more resemble my body type (to some degree of general perception).

I am privileged and unprivileged in that:
My body is equated with health. Privileged because when health is discussed, almost always the “fat” are being scoffed at, and I am being praised. I am not privileged in that for most of my life, people discouraged and discourage me from exercising, to avoid losing weight (the true marker of health as society perceives it). I have been told to ignore my health, to maintain my appearance to the liking of others.

It is not a privilege in that:
I do not perceive it to be a standard of beauty, or something to be desired, or something that people need to be.  Meaning, I’m not so “lucky” I’m skinny because it’s so beautiful and what we should all want to be, and here I am, just being it, my bitchy, bitchy skinny self. (Do you hear the darkness, the self loathing in that sarcasm? Does it sound familiar?)

I am not privileged in that:
People often assume that I must not, as almost every woman (and person) does, struggle with body image issues in the face of a culture that constructs a standard of beauty that is physically impossible to achieve.

I am not privileged in that:
I have been on the receiving end most of my life of daily, daily, point blank criticism and attention-drawn to my weight in the first two minutes of a majority of conversations since the beginnings of childhood and to this day; as normal as discussing the weather, as normal as asking, how are you.

I am not privileged in that:
I have been the victim of people’s insecurities of their own weight being projected on to me, calling me skinny, questioning my health, implying an eating disorder, implying that my parents or husband starve me or don’t take care of me, and generally praising a physical aspect they hold highly in their minds and reducing my value to an aspect of myself of which I have little control, objectifying me because it’s deemed acceptable.

I do not have “the perfect body.” The “perfect body” has bigger breasts, a smaller waist, curvier hips, even smaller thighs. “The perfect body” has no skin pores, no blemishes, no wrinkles, no stretch marks hidden beneath clothes. “The perfect body” isn’t slightly cross-eyed from birth, doesn’t have a secret “undesirable” and “inconvenient” birth mark, and has less bony knees. “The perfect body” isn’t marked with accidental scar tissue from childhood adventures, doesn’t have cuticles, and has much whiter teeth. “The perfect body” is not covered with hair that must be bleached or shaved or waxed or tweezed and has much thicker locks that never falls (or stays) flat most of the time. “The perfect body” doesn’t have sideburns and body odors that must be fought at any given moment. “The perfect body” smells like rainbows, has the slender frame of a nine-year-old boy, breast and butt implants, lip enhancements, and is always ready to be photographed. “The perfect body” makes me cry, hurts me inside, because I knew for how long I thought that this is what I needed to be, and this is what I am not, and this is what I’ll never be, and I will never be beautiful.

I do not have “the perfect body”. Many women have squirmed into, harmed themselves to achieve, “the perfect body” that they, you, I will never have. “The perfect body” is a mythical construction.

I have… a beautiful body. A vessel into which my soul was poured. In the morning, as I brush my teeth, I see me, but I never truly see me. I am taught to not look, to not gaze into my eyes, to not gaze into my soul, and to see me – vibrant shining through, triumphant over, at peace with my vessel. I  am only taught to look sheepishly away as I see my “imperfect” vessel from the corners of my eyes.

In my mind though. I dare to ask myself to see me in a different light.

To those who react by shaming some women to elevate others: Fuck you for having a fuck you attitude, and at the same time, I understand, and yet could not possibly understand the depth of your experience. At the same time, all I ask is to be seen as a human, a vulnerable human that has in past been sent into spirals of darkness and disillusion, for being picked on, picked apart, and stripped of dignity for how I am perceived by the many eyes that behold me.

You desire the slenderness of my thighs for your own Image

Consequently, you reinforce that I should prize my thighs not for my health, for their function, but for how you perceive them
I begin to perceive what you perceive
Then, I strive to maintain this perception in reality
Now I too strive to keep my thighs exactly as you and I together perceive them: desirable. Just like the photo captured from the perspective of the male gaze. Teaching men and women what to want. Before (it’s too late and) they have gotten to know what is. The doing is done, and difficult to be undone.

I do not need you to ‘behold’ my beauty for me to know what I am, who I am.

How I see you, is a reflection of the maladies and seeds of beauty in my mind. These maladies of mine often ravage the roots of these seedlings and make it difficult for beauty, for beautiful thoughts, to grow. But every day, I try, I am trying, to see you and I in a different light – as we are. As we were meant to be. As we would be if we did not tear each other down. If we did not hurt one another.

3 thoughts on “On “The Perfect Body” and “Skinny Privilege”

Leave a Reply