I’m Sick Of Being Skinny Bashed Like Taylor Swift

I'm Sick Of Being Skinny Bashed Like Taylor Swift


by Emily Phillips |
Published on

As the Twitter spat between Lorde and EDM producer Diplo over his 'Get Taylor Swift a booty campaign' continues, Kate Wills, 29, describes why slim shaming is the ‘last socially acceptable form of discrimination.’

‘Hollow legs’ – that’s the lame gag I normally reel out when I’m asked yet again how I can eat so much but stay a size 6-thin. Usually because I’m bored of explaining I just have a high metabolism before eating anything containing a carbohydrate. That’s not enough for most people, though, they’re convinced there must be some ‘secret’ to looking the way I do. And when I tell them I’ve never set foot in a gym in my life, they halfjokingly say they hate me or give me a suspicious look. I doubt they’d ask an overweight woman wolfing down a salad how she stayed so fat, but that’s just the double standard of skinny.

Wallis Simpson famously quipped, ‘You can never be too rich or too thin’ and while I wouldn’t know about the former, I can definitely attest that it is possible to be the wrong side of slim.

I’ve had a lifetime of being thinner than I’d like to be and it’s a lonely place. No one gives you sympathy for being skinny, they just call you out on a humble brag. Growing up I was always skinny. Whether that was down to genes or playing sport until my lungs hurt I don’t know, but when I hit 14 I had a major growth spurt and my already lanky frame was stretched to 5ft 10in. Suddenly, I was ‘all skin and bones’, as every elderly relative liked to tell me before trying to stuff cream cakes down my neck.

‘Skeletor’, ‘Matchstick legs’, ‘Olive Oyl’, ‘Anorexic’ – my nicknames at school ranged from hurtful to humorous – but no matter how many McDonald’s I ate (and I really did eat) I couldn’t put any weight on. I remember tucking into a massive jacket potato in the school canteen, only for a girl I thought I was friends with to quiz me about whether I was bulimic.

The idea that I couldn’t even eat lunch without someone thinking I was about to regurgitate it made me blush. I spent the rest of the lunch hour crying in the loos. It was a concerned phone call from a teacher that made my mum drag me to the doctor. I’m not surprised – eating disorders were rife at my all-girls’ school – but after quizzing me about my diet, and telling me my BMI was worryingly low, the GP merely suggested I start putting sugar in my tea and drinking protein shakes to help me pile on the calories. Meanwhile, girls in my class (let’s call them feeders) thought it was hilarious to raid the vending machines and watch me demolish four chocolate bars in one sitting, or (even grosser) see how many of those small sachets of butter I could eat, while remaining resolutely rake-like.

Things didn’t improve at university. There were two of us called Kate in my halls so obviously I became ‘Skinny Kate’ (the other Kate was just Kate). I later found out girls avoided being friends with me because I looked like ‘a skinny bitch’. Talking about dieting and exercise is a real bonding exercise between women that I can’t be part of. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to stay mute while colleagues discuss the 5:2 diet.

Just as Hilary Mantel wrote that ‘when you get fat you get a new personality… strangers ascribe it to you’, being thin comes with in-built judgements too.

Kate Wills
Kate Wills

You’re high-maintenance, a control freak, mean, not maternal – all because you happen to have a thigh gap. I’ve had all these things assumed about me at one time or another and truly believe that making judgements about someone based on their small size is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination. Our culture has very narrow ideas of what healthy looks like and slagging off skinny people is somehow seen as fair game. Lots of my mates think nothing of pointing out how ‘painfully thin’ Alexa Chung looks or joking that Keira Knightley needs to eat a sandwich, when they wouldn’t dream of calling Beth Ditto unhealthy.

Yes, most fashion models might be thin, but from Marilyn Monroe to Kim Kardashian, having curves has always been the womanly ideal. When I was a teenager, boys had Pamela Anderson on their walls, not Kate Moss. Lots of men will announce they ‘hate skinny women’ or ‘want something to grab on to’ – the message being thinness isn’t sexy. And going through puberty, I longed for boobs and a bum.

I know most women would kill to eat what they like and stay slim, but don’t confuse that with not worrying about my weight.

For me, it’s constantly on my mind. I weigh eight stone with a BMI of 16 and while my metabolism may have slowed a little bit, any change in my diet – like accidentally skipping a meal or getting food poisoning – sends me right back to looking emaciated. So I do worry about my weight, just not in the same way as other people. And while it’s great that more high-street stores are launching plus-size ranges, it’s frustrating when most shops don’t go down to a size 6. Yes, I can buy my clothes in kids’ departments, although the reminder that I have the body of a 12-year-old girl negates the buzz of any money I’ve saved.

After years of being teased and feeling anxious about how I look, I am starting to be at peace with the body I’ve got – which is lucky as no amount of eating or working out will give me a bum like J-Lo’s. But being thin still defines me in the eyes of others. Recently I told some friends that I was going to try out a vegan lifestyle, but one of them guffawed and said if I did ‘I’d turn sideways and disappear!’ She didn’t mean to offend, but I felt humiliated.

There’s no escaping the fact we live in a world that’s obsessed with women’s body image, and in the scheme of things I’d rather be underweight than overweight.

I just think it’s important to realise there are issues at the other end of the spectrum too. So next time you’re going to make a comment about how ‘scary thin’ someone looks, or go up to a slim person enjoying her lunch and ask what her ‘secret’ is, be aware you’re increasing the pressure for us all to look a certain way and being a skinny bitch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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