‘You’re really going to eat that?’ ‘Careful, you might blow away.’ ‘Sorry, we don’t carry plus sizes.’ ‘You’d look so much better if you had some meat on your bones.’ ‘Do you need a booster seat to drive?’ ‘You’re like a big, tall string bean.’
These are common phrases that are hurtful toward various body types. Not all human beings are created the same. We are all subject to judgment and criticism. This often falls under body shaming.
“Body shaming is making someone feel inadequate just because of their body type,” Caitlin Ohnoutka, senior in animal sciences and industry, said. “This could be because they are thin, fat, small chested, broad shouldered or any more reasons.”
Ohnoutka described her body as athletic. She said she thought she has a little extra in her hips and thighs, but she sees herself as in shape and muscular.
“Society makes fun of all body types — big, small, lean, tall, fat, skinny,” Casey Adams, junior in finance, said. “If there is a difference, society pokes fun at it.”
Adams described her body type as muscular and strong-statured. She said she has experienced body shaming when people told her that her butt was big or her shoulders were too broad, and she has also seen body shaming happen to other people.
“One of my friends is really skinny, but she eats more than anyone I know,” Adams said. “People always talk down to her about her weight. She’s beautiful but you can tell it really wears on her confidence.”
Ohnoutka said that although she doesn’t think she has experienced it personally, body shaming is something she has been aware of for several years.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been body shamed,” Ohnoutka said. “However, especially in high school, I wasn’t ever considered one of the thin and pretty girls that were idolized at that time. I think that I subconsciously shamed myself.”
She said she has made several lifestyle changes to help her feel better about herself.
“In college, I put on weight and that was tough looking back on pictures,” Ohnoutka said. “I decided to make a change. Now I’m more aware of what I eat and try to work out daily. I do this more for a health standpoint; however, I have seen the changes in my body, ultimately giving me confidence that I’ve never felt before.”
Spencer Scotten, graduate student in animal science, said he would describe himself as having an average build.
“Not an Abercrombie model build, but not bad,” Scotten said.
He said he doesn’t think body shaming is focused toward a specific physical build.
“I think society makes fun of many different body types, mainly the extremes, if somebody is very heavy or very skinny,” Scotten said. “I’ve never had to worry about my eating habits affecting my body; however, that is not the case for everyone.”
Mary Matthews, instructor of journalism and mass communications, said body image affects her children differently.
“My son is over six foot and very, very slender,” Matthews said. “He will never look like a football player. He’s a musician, but people think that since he’s tall he should be an athlete.”
Matthews said she thinks society puts more of an emphasis on how women are supposed to look and that women are therefore more susceptible to body shaming.
“My 10-year-old daughter came home with her school photos and told me her shoulders looked fat,” Matthews said.
She said she thinks her daughter has picked up on that through what she sees in the media, and also she does not think it’s an issue specific to women and girls.
“I think body shaming affects different genders the same way,” Matthews said. “Girls are just more emotional and more expressive with their feelings than guys. An insult is an insult no matter what gender you are.”
Mathews said she hopes that if a student needs help with body shaming they contact the school counseling center or a professor.
“That is what we are here for, to help make sure nothing is hindering your learning,” she said.
Scotten said he thinks that everyone has feelings about their body and that it isn’t specific to gender. He said that as a male, he is comfortable in his own skin but realizes that not everyone has that confidence.
“I think guys hide their feelings about their bodies more than girls because girls can talk to their friends about that stuff, and it seems a little too awkward for guys to talk about their bodies with each other,” Scotten said.
According to Adams, people should not make assumptions about people’s health or eating habits based on looks alone, regardless of gender or size.
“Don’t make assumptions about a man or woman’s health or eating habits based on his or her looks alone, regardless of their size,” Adams said. “Almost all of society could stand to be kinder to ourselves about our appearances, and to other women about theirs.”