Why “Fat Shaming” Kendall Jenner hurts women (and men)


I normally don’t comment much on pop culture issues, but after reading a feature on an article printed in Australian magazine Famous about Kendall Jenner being “too fat for runway” (including photoshopping cellulite in specific places when she has none to begin with), I had to make a post about this issue.

According to the Famous feature, modeling agents are pressuring 18-year-old Kendall to lose 8 kilograms (approx. 17 pounds in US measurements) when she’s already thin…but apparently not by modeling or society’s warped standards.

Here is an article excerpt on how the media’s unrealistic views of how women’s bodies should be can have an overall negative effect on women:

Sarah Jackson, a psychologist at University College London and a researcher for a recent fat-shaming study, tells Yahoo Style that weight-related teasing and stigmatization have been shown to have negative effects on well-being and can lead to psychological distress. She notes that Jenner is clearly very thin, and “calling her fat sends out a strong message to impressionable young readers that might inspire unhealthy aspirations for thinness and extreme dieting.” She explains that rather than the humiliating commentary acting as a form of encouragement to eat less and slim down, this type of conduct might actually have the opposite effect, with the targeted person comfort-eating as a way of coping with feelings of inadequacy.

Jason Seacat, a psychologist at Western New England University specializing in female weight stigmatization, agrees and says that “weight shaming also clearly sends a public message that overweight and obese individuals are less deserving of fair treatment and essentially gives the public permission to discriminate against these individuals”.

He tells Yahoo Style that Famous’s mistreatment of Jenner also calls attention to the issue within the fashion industry that models are largely underweight and their public presence and adoration can negatively influence people’s perceptions of themselves. “Young women (and increasingly young men) are subject to brushed up, significantly modified, and unrealistic images and then become convinced that these are the ideal body standards in society,” Seacat says. “Striving to attain these thin standards is not at all healthy! Prominent media outlets need to be more responsible about the images they promote and counter these images with clear messaging that seeks to empower individuals to healthy lifestyles and not simply seek to shame them into submission.”

Additional details on the topic can be read here.

Though women are often the target of such body shaming, men have also been subjected to being pushed into specific “cookie cutter” images. Problem is, we don’t hear about the male struggle as often, but men’s body shaming does exist.

It’s appalling what our society’s become in terms of body image issues that are clearly out of reach, considering the average American woman is five feet, four inches and wears a size 14. It’s been speculated that actress Marilyn Monroe wore a 16, but such body types during her era were considered sexy.

There was a time when “fat” was a symbol of wealth and prosperity; Renaissance art portrayed larger women in elegant, beautiful paintings. Plus size and big/tall fashion have become a billion-dollar industries, yet about as much money is wasted per year on diet pills, diet food, gym memberships, and surgery, but 78.6 million people (about one third) of people in the US are still overweight or obese. Pressure from both society and the media to fit into the mold they’ve deemed “perfect” also resulted in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia rising to an all-time high.

We need to be role models in the lives of daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, and friends that aiming to look like the models and Hollywood celebrities we read about is not the norm in our actual lives . If someone is perfectly healthy, why fix what isn’t broken? When did being an individual and accepting oneself as they are become such horrible traits?

Don’t get me started on “but being plus size is unhealthy.” Bollocks. One can eat healthy, exercise, and still be a size 14.  Another myth shot down.

You are reading a post by someone with near-optimum blood pressure, an A1C reading (one test used to determine the presence of diabetes) of 4.9, overall cholesterol level of 177 with LDL at 97 and HDL being 62, triglyceride reading of 92, average O2 saturation between 97 and 99 percent…who stands five feet, two inches and currently wears a US size 18-22.

While we’re on the subject, contrary to popular beliefs and stereotypes, so-called “thin” people can also get cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. These are just a few examples of illnesses that don’t discriminate on gender, age, or body types.

On a positive note, it’s good to see body-positive and size acceptance blogs/web sites rising to prominence.  Perhaps their purposes will someday overshadow media and/or societal pressures to achieve a practically unattainable “beauty standard,” but there are still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done before such a day arrives.

Meanwhile, if anyone still aims to lose weight, if they’re doing it for health reasons or to suit themselves, great! If dieting despite already being in great health in order to fit in with the “in crowd” or living up to someone’s shallow perspective of what we should be, then STOP!

Whether you’re a size 0 or 22, the fact remains you’ll always be the same person inside. Looks will eventually fade, but sparkling personalities and intelligence will accompany us to the grave. If other people don’t like you being you, they can look the other way.

Isn’t it time for us to focus on what really counts?



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