Nothing is the New Skinny

WTFI got an e-mail from blog reader asking me what I think about “strong is the new skinny” and  “healthy is the new skinny” campaigns.  I’ve seen these phrases on everything from t-shirts to websites.  I think it’s total crap.

Strong, healthy, and skinny have different meanings and priorities for different people and none of them are entirely within our control.

I’ve seen at a lot of so-called “fitspiration” sites that claim “strong is the new skinny” and what I’ve seen is a whole lot of bodies that all look the same.  Cheryl Haworth is almost 300 pounds and is an Olympic medalist who was once the third strongest woman in the world, but I’ve never seen her, or anyone who looks like her, on a “strong is the new skinny” website, the sentiment seems to be much more “skinny with muscles” is the new “skinny.” It’s not that there’s something wrong with skinny bodies, or skinny muscular bodies or any other bodies – there’s not – it’s just that none of those bodies are any better or worse than other bodies.

The pervasive myth that thin is healthy and fat is unhealthy means that “healthy is the new skinny” is often code for “skinny, but not too skinny, (whatever the hell that means) is the new skinny.” It’s also healthist and often be ableist – people have many different health conditions for many different reasons and nobody should be judged for their health.  Besides making sure that everyone has access to the healthcare they want and is accommodated, people’s health is nobody else’s business.(and if you’re about to whip yourself up into a “but muh tax dollars” frenzy, head on over to this post.)

At the end of the day, this is basically about giving women the message that we should all try to be “This!” which is the new “That!” which will make us worthy/good/socially acceptable/fuckable or whatever.  It’s like climbing out of one hole, falling into another hole, and then celebrating that we’re in a different hole.

It’s also really unkind to women who identify as skinny who are told that their body is somehow “out” and that they need to look like, or be, something else. I believe that all bodies are amazing and I’m absolutely against the idea of trying to feel better about ourselves but insisting that our bodies are better than other people’s bodies.

How about we stay away from the message that skinny used to be the thing that everyone should want to be, but now there’s a new thing that everyone should want to be?  New boss, same as the old boss. I think the message we’re looking for is “we shouldn’t measure our worth based on a standard of beauty” not “we should measure our worth by a different standard of beauty.”

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17 thoughts on “Nothing is the New Skinny

  1. Somehow when I see a campaign like that, all I can think of is the film Josie and the Pussycats and teenage girls screaming about ‘Orange is the new Pink!’ or ‘Coke Zero is the new Pepsi Lite!’ because (SPOILER!) they’ve been brainwashed.

    Thin is thin. Muscular is muscular. Orange is orange and pink is pink. Every one of these things has its own positives and negatives.

    Me? I’m not remotely thin and not particularly muscular. I adore orange and have little time for pink.

    You? That’s up to you, your biology, and your personal tastes.

    1. And when someone called them on it, it was code “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

      In my opinion, that movie is a fantastic example of satire, filled with so much wit. Nobody needs to be, wear, or do the “new” anything. Just be yourselves.

      “Du jour means seatbelts!”

      1. Yay! Someone else knows the wonder of Josie and the Pussycats!

        Uh oh! You caught the subtle message!

        I sure hope you know the words to Enter Sandman.

  2. I was getting some face cream and noticed the slogan “Healthy is Beautiful” and thought, “Wow, for anybody who has crappy health, that must make them feel even more like shit.”

    Thanks for helping me be more aware of stuff like this.

    1. Good call. I think part of the problem is that beautiful is always aspirational…it may be more or less within grasp, but whatever it is, you’re not there yet, and will need to spend some money to get there. Maybe it boils down to “liking yourself is beautiful.” And everything else is bullshit.

      1. Yeah. Love is beautiful – both self-love and love of others. If you love someone (including yourself), you see them as beautiful, no matter what their actual physical appearance.

        And that’s where character comes in. The old phrase, “Beauty is as beauty does” has more truth in it than people want to admit, because that would mean they’d have to examine their own characters.

        Besides, how can a fashion magazine make money selling good character? Much easier to sell cosmetics and fancy clothes.

  3. My father had a saying to describe this type of situation “Same dog, different leg action”. It might look like a different and more empowering or positive message, but it’s still the same dog and the same basic action of peeing all over you.

  4. I’ma let this new funnel cloud of ridiculousness spin right past me and get on with what I do best…which is being utterly fabulous without having to justify or quantify it with a label or a banner.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. One size does not fit all, no matter what that size is. These images although on the surface appear to be a more positive spin on this saying, still tell women they should all look a certain way in order to attain success. Complete crap. We still have such a long way to go, sigh.

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