This picture has been making the rounds on Facebook again (thanks Natasha for bringing it to my attention!) It’s an extra-disturbing iteration of the idea that there is a thin person inside every fat person. In this case it used to advertise someone’s fitness/weight loss business with the quote “Your TRUE potential is hidden deep within. It takes a lot of hard work and diligence to sculpt a masterpiece. But once you unmask it, it will last forever…” There are a number of ways in which this is super disturbing (I’ve intentionally made the image small, you can click to enlarge it or just skip over it.)
First, any fitness professional who suggests that they can guarantee you a body of a certain size, or a body that looks a certain way is straight up lying to you. Body size, type, musculature, and even athletic potential are all complicated things, multifaceted, and not entirely within our control. They can’t even guarantee long term weight loss under the most basic definition, let alone control how many tendonis intersections cross your rectus abdominus, how uniform they are, and whether or not that can be seen (ie: having a four or six or eight pack.)
Next, it reinforces the social construct that bodies of some sizes are inherently better than bodies of other sizes and that fat people should be willing to (literally in this case) carve away at ourselves until we meet some social standard of beauty.This can take the form of dangerous dieting, taking pills that can kill us, getting our healthy organs amputated, and not focusing on, or being expected to have, any accomplishment other than weight loss. (Even if you believe, for example, that being fat is less healthy than being thin, if you think it therefore follows that thin bodies are better than fat bodies, then you are engaging in healthism. Maybe work on that.)
It reinforces the idea that – knowing of course that fitness isn’t an obligation, or barometer of worthiness – the only “good” or “right” outcome for for those who choose to be involved in fitness is to become thinner or getting closer to the stereotype of beauty. This, in turn, leads to the further stigmatization and bullying of fat athletes as if our bodies are an indictment against our fitness/athletics/movement programs.
The idea that manipulating our body to be closer to our current social stereotype constitutes finding our “TRUE potential” is super messed up and indicative of a culture absolutely obsessed with thinness. The idea that “it will last forever” is completely laughable when we’re talking about weight loss, especially since most people gain any weight they lost back withing 2-5 years. The one thing for certain is that our bodies will change over time, and when we suggest that looking a certain way is our “TRUE potential” set ourselves up to come crashing down when we find out that societies stereotype of beauty is completely unattainable to us, or if they are unattainable they are not maintainable.
People are allowed to believe whatever they want about manipulating body size. People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including attempting to manipulate their bodies to look a certain way for whatever reason they want. What’s not ok is anyone who suggests that the choice to try to lose weight, or any success someone might have makes those people or their bodies, better than people who make difference choices or get different results. What’s not ok is people who suggest that anyone who doesn’t pursue thinness is wrong, inferior, or “making excuses.”
What’s wrong is telling fat people that we should think of ourselves as thin people covered in fat, a before picture, a perpetual potential future thin person, anything but a fully realized authentic person. I’m not a thin person covered in fat, just like I’m not a blonde covered in brown hair, or straight-haired person covered in curls, or a green eyed person covered in hazel, or clinically under-tall – I’m a brunette, curly-haired, hazel-eyed, short, fat woman, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What’s not ok is the suggestion that fat people who see a graphic of a woman literally hammering away at herself with a hammer and chisel, should find it to be inspirational or motivational, rather than seeing it as a clear sign that our cultural ideas about bodies are fucked up in very serious ways.
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34 thoughts on “The “Thin Woman Inside” Lie”
Reblogged this on I think you'll find I can and commented:
“People are allowed to believe whatever they want about manipulating body size. People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including attempting to manipulate their bodies to look a certain way for whatever reason they want. What’s not ok is anyone who suggests that the choice to try to lose weight, or any success someone might have makes those people or their bodies, better than people who make difference choices or get different results. What’s not ok is people who suggest that anyone who doesn’t pursue thinness is wrong, inferior, or “making excuses.”
What’s wrong is telling fat people that we should think of ourselves as thin people covered in fat, a before picture, a perpetual potential future thin person, anything but a fully realized authentic person. I’m not a thin person covered in fat, just like I’m not a blonde covered in brown, or straight-haired person covered in curls, or a green eyed person covered in hazel, or clinically under-tall – I’m a brunette, curly-haired, hazel-eyed, short, fat woman, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
A million times yes. Ragen nails it again.
Heather M. Ramirez Medina
I’ve often felt I could be thinner…but I’ve never seen myself as thin. I come from generations of people some of whom were fat. There’s a common myth that somehow no one before about 1990 was fat. Nope.
England’s George IV was fat. That’s early 1800’s, by the way.
He was a womanizer, and he preferred fat women. Fat older women.
But I guess the monarch of a major world power is allowed to buck the system and admit attraction to people who don’t fit the conventional ideal.
Point being, fat people have been around. And it used to be, they weren’t hated for it.
I’m really wondering where that myth came from, in the first place? Probably the diet industry.
Test. Trying to post.
Will this work?
Yes, and George was ridiculed in the newspapers at the time for his partying. Social media alive and well 200 yrs ago.
Also, I saw somewhere that Elizabeth I may have been fat. The paintings of her were all done as her youthful self, except the last ones, including her tomb. But that long ago it is hard to tell for sure since the painters want to gussy up the subjects, and clothes enhance or hide so much.
Queen Charlotte in the 1700s was fat too. She may have had PCOS (like Mary Tudor?), and died in her early 30s. Mary (1513-1558) may have had PCOS, and Katherine of Aragon had pregnancy troubles too. I’m currently reading a bio of Mary Tudor, written in 2009.
I feel sorry for Mary Tudor. Yes, she did awful things, and earned her sobriquet, and I don’t deny that.
Still, I feel sorry for the horrible way her father treated her. I think he was actually a worse father than he was a husband, and that’s saying something!
Wow, what a horrifying image. I can’t help but take it literally, which makes it gory and beyond grotesque.
And PS: youthful beauty doesn’t last forever, nor does fitness. There’s nothing much wrong with the quote, provided we’re talking about a literal sculpture, but it’s very very wonky if applied to a human body. It’s also telling that the sculpture in the picture is female and apparently very young.
I try to take care of my body the same way I try to take care of my house–so it’s a healthy and comfortable place to live. Being obsessive about housekeeping can have the same drawbacks as being obsessive about diet and fitness: it can get to where it leaves you no time for anything else, stuff that can serve you when you’re no longer young, when your knees or hips or feet or whatever won’t let you keep up that frenetic workout routine.
People don’t owe other people prettiness. Fuckability is also not a barometer of social worthiness. The idea that thinness is an ideal to be chased at ALL costs is actually a social sickness which begets personal sicknesses, and one symptom is that people will push everyone not up to a perfect social standard of thinness (which apparently has nothing real to do with actual rather than perceived health) to lose weight despite the most frequent result of weight loss being greater weight regain.
That’s insane. Many people can improve their health with dietary changes (not “dieting”) and/or exercise, sure, but to suggest that everyone MUST adhere to rigid standards off prettiness is just… Plain… Nuts.
Oh, I’m SO with you on this, especially since fat children trying to “liberate their inner thin person” with literal knives is something that really happens with alarming frequency. This is a horrifyingly accurate depiction of the cognitive dissonance that allows fatphobic thin people to abuse fat people and still think of themselves as just and good – they don’t think they’re hurting a fat person, they think they’re breaking a fat cocoon to liberate the beautiful thin butterfly inside. And depictions like this conveniently leave out the fact that if you take a chisel to that “cocoon,” it will BLEED, and what you find underneath it is not going to be a beautiful thin butterfly, but the battered and bloody skeleton of the person you just killed.
Also, Old Spice used a masculine version for some ads once, and it was disgusting and unfunny then, too.
Also, according to this sculpture, weight loss makes you significantly shorter. That’s neither good nor bad, but people should be aware of the risk before they undertake a weight loss program. 🙂
Yes she is quite a bit shorter. I also think that the bone structure decreases as well.
I’ve noticed before that bigness and fatness seem to be conflated. A plus-sized model–Emme IIRC–was “awarded” a photo shoot in a straight magazine and ended up being paired with a little person who was a bodybuilder, the two of them posed like freaks on exhibit. Hundreds of years of art featuring gorgeous fat women they could have referenced and that was all they could think of. Because women who take up space, just like little people who thin of themselves as strong, are freaks.
“But once you unmask it, it will last forever…”
I don’t know how they said that with a straight face.
Right? I didn’t know we live forever! I must have missed that memo…
That sculpture feels extremely violent.
“it reinforces the social construct that bodies of some sizes are inherently better than bodies of other sizes and that fat people should be willing to (literally in this case) carve away at ourselves until we meet some social standard of beauty.”
Brilliant observation. As always, you’re a big ol’ breath of fresh air in an increasingly stifling world.
The thin woman in the image looks weak, unable to effectively hew stone.
Not that long ago I watched an interview with the woman from Buns of Steel (old exercise video) where she admitted that she got the job because of the way her ‘buns’ looked and that if you weren’t born with that shape bum you probably wouldn’t be able to get it no matter how many times you did the video. On the one hand it was nice to see someone involved admit that the idea of changing your shape was bullshit, on the other hand, she made her money from these videos and only admitted it was bullshit over a decade later on some small late night thing, where it could be lost in obscurity.
Also, buns of steel are useless. I like the ones made out of dough 😀
In High School I once got a Christmas Card from a girl that said, “Inside every fat person is a thin one screaming to be let out. I hope you let her out soon” – I have never forgotten that. Strangely enough I did not remain friends with that girl hahaha.
They actually make cards like that???
No, she had written it inside a beautiful Christmas Card. There was some inspirational quote about becoming your best self as well.
Which goes back to what Ragen said about fatphobes not being able to comprehend that a person’s “best self” or “true self” might be fat.
As for the “There’s a thin person inside you screaming to get out!” line, I’m just *waiting* for someone to spring it on me in person so I can respond, “Is it Freddy Krueger or Sephiroth?” If they don’t get it, that’d just make it funnier.
These days I have little time for people like that girl. I might get upset about it later because getting bullied is never fun, but I am a lot older, stronger and wiser now too 🙂 I usually assume that they must have a very sad life if they have to spend their time trying to diminish others fabulousness and move on 🙂
Oh, my goodness! I can’t…
I just really want to punch something right now. Seriously, this is maddening.
Yeah it was and heartbreaking to a teen who thought the girl was her friend. Just goes to show that bullying leaves lifelong scars. She was not a very nice person.
Uh, Merry Christmas to you too…? 😛
I know right?! Hahaha. She must have been a very unhappy person to be so cruel.
It seems that the larger part of the statue is a size 40, if the thin part is a size 10-12.
Quite awful to look at big, but I couldn’t make out what was actually in the picture.
Is it just my imagination, or is that fat body in the sculpture actually the body of a ten-foot-tall woman? Because I don’t think the feet and leg-length fit with the torso on top.
Also, “It will last forever”?! No. No, it really won’t. Even without the whole 95% regain statistic, the masterpiece-sculpture wouldn’t last forever, because old age, accidents, illness, and life, in general, all collude to making people change and gradually degenerate until they die. That’s nature. A stone sculpture will last a long time, but a human body will last maybe a century, if you’re lucky.
OK, off to read the rest of the article, now.
Yep, everything Ragen said.
Also, OW! Hammering at yourself with a chisel? It reminds me too much of cutting and other forms of self-harm.
Right?! It’s basically just annoying that anyone thought this sculpture needed to be made, and carried through with it, without ever going, “Wait, nah, this is just ugly and kinda gross.”
My wife used to joke, “Inside every fat person is a thin one screaming to get out, but I can usually shut her up with a cookie.”
I recently read a blog post titled, “I’m fat and I have sex with hot strangers.” She wrote about being told by her father when she was a teen that she needed to lose weight, or else no man would even want to hold hands with her. She went through the struggles with image, and finally learned to accept and love her body as it is. She makes no secrets about it nor couches her description online in euphemistic terms, yet has no problems finding people that find her physically attractive and enjoy making love with her.
Kind of flies in the face of the whole premise that fat is unattractive.
I think one of the most attractive things in the world is someone who is happy and knows how to enjoy life.