Size stigmas

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Women obsess over size. Weight, height – what have you – it’s like we’ve been conditioned to demand this unobtainable idea of size perfection the split second we’re born. And while there appears to be this gung-ho feminist/girl power movement cropping up all over the world with cheers of acceptance to those who don’t “meet” society’s idea of “attractive size,” I’m sitting over here thinking.. well, wait a minute. This is all fine and dandy, but what about girls like me? Dove’s “Love Your Body” campaign sounds inspirational and empowering, but it seems hyper-focused on the idea that there is such a thing as too skinny, and if you fall under that category, there’s something wrong with you. Real women have curves, right? Actress Sophia Bush struck up a campaign declaring that “zero is not a size” a few years ago too. And while I sit here, staring at a pile of jeans with tags that read “0,” I’m feeling rather insulted. Women are encouraged to accept their curves and rejoice over them because being rail thin is unhealthy. While in some cases, I can fully stand behind this idea (thinness caused or brought on by eating disorders or self-inflicted harm is obviously not good), those of us healthy women who are naturally petite shouldn’t feel so scrutinized! Why are “plus sized” women getting high fives while petite women are getting concerned looks?

I have always been petite. My family jokes that I was the runt of the litter, but it’s quite honestly accurate. I stand 5’2″ and hover between 90 and 100 pounds. My entire life, I’ve always had people make jokes about my size, pick me up against my will just to see how light I was, analyze my meals, hold things up high so I couldn’t reach them.. childish things that they may have thought were funny, but 20 some years later, the jokes get old. I’d even argue that I am made fun of for my size more often than someone who may be overweight. Why? Because it’s less likely for someone to feel brave enough to pick on an adult because they are overweight than to pick on someone who’s tiny. It can’t be insulting if you’re not calling them fat, right? Wrong. And it’s not only peers who chime in. I avoid seeing doctors as often as possible partly because I know they’ll accuse me of having an eating disorder. I do not have a disorder, but when people point out my perceived deficiencies, I’ll admit that it’s hard not to dwell on them. I recently started a new job that requires lifting and traveling with fairly heavy camera equipment. It never fails that on any given day, someone, whether it be a coworker or stranger who sees me on the street, makes a comment about how it looks like I’m struggling and laughs. Usually, I’m not struggling in the slightest because I’ve learned how to adjust with my small body. I believe, for my size, that I’m strong. But if you compare me to an average woman my age, you’re setting me up to fail. I am not average, and on most days, I’m happy about that. But not always.

Certain things in life are harder to handle when you’re “abnormally” small. For instance, shopping instantly becomes a nightmare. Trying on clothes that overwhelm my small figure is a blow to my ego. There are certain articles of clothing that I’ve simply had to give up on because there’s no way I can ever wear something like that unless I get it custom made. Wearing heels draws attention to my very thin legs. Wearing short sleeves exposes my scarily thin arms. Midriff-bearing tops direct all eyes to my very profound ribcage. My every outfit decision is based around the question, “do I look like an adult?” because I am so often teased for looking much younger than I am and I want it to stop. Bathing suits are a topic I can’t even delve into. I’m paranoid when I go out drinking with friends because I worry that I’ll be accused of underage drinking even with two forms of ID. I avoid eating in front of other people as much as possible because I worry they are judging not only what I’m eating, but how much I wind up eating. This makes going out to eat with friends much more stressful than it should be. I can’t reach a lot of things that most average-sized women can reach. I’ve walked away from many things that I wanted simply because I couldn’t reach it on my own and I was too embarrassed to ask for help. And while many things are merely inconveniences, a fair portion of the problems associated with my size are the mental blows to my psyche thanks to the negative stigma attached to small size.

Recently, I’ve been trying to shop for a wedding dress. While most girls get over-the-moon excited for this process, I was honestly dreading it. Most wedding dress designers don’t make gowns that would comfortably fit my frame. It’s a fair estimate to say that the smallest available size tends to be a size 2. You slip that on my body, and I’ll be swimming in it! And while I understand the fact that every gown is altered to fit the bride, tailoring costs extra the more you need done. And I’d need a lot of work! But I told myself to ignore the fact that every dress I try on will be gigantic and to envision how the final product will look. Now, if you’ve never tried to do this, let me tell you one thing: it’s really freaking hard to do. Especially when the majority of the gown is smushed up and pulled back and completely distorted from its original silhouette. It’s not easy to convince yourself that you look beautiful when you feel like your body is corrupting the whole image.

So my point is this: although I’m all for empowering women, I think we need to focus more on individuality rather than targeting certain groups and trying to lift them up over others. Acceptance, above all else, should be the focus. Plus sized women shouldn’t be cheered on if it means stomping on thin girls in the process. We need to support one another to encourage mentally and physically healthy women. And we also need to learn to accept ourselves. I have good days and I also have days where I could use encouragement. I’ve learned to put the perks of being petite above the pitfalls. And overall, I wouldn’t change who I am or how I am, but it’d be nice to feel like my size doesn’t immediately stigmatize me in society. That would be a movement I can get behind.

Once you accept your “flaws,” no one can use them against you.

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