Growing up in America, I had “thin privilege.” Because I was skinny, I was never teased or bullied for my weight during recess. I was never told that I looked like a cow or that I should abstain from eating ice cream in the cafeteria.
But whenever I went back to mainland China, my distant relatives and family friends would all comment on my weight — that I was too skinny or that I needed to eat more — when in fact, I was eating normally and even unhealthily.
I expected it every year, every visit and every dinner. It had become part of their greeting to me, the first words out of their mouth as if my worth was based on my weight and appearance. A part of me dreaded going back to China because I would definitely be picked apart.
In this way, America was my safe haven. With my skinny privilege, I was never criticized for how my body looked.
So it’s alarming for me to see skinny-shaming become normalized in Western culture. Recently, I’ve noticed not-so-friendly comments on TikTok videos. If you’re familiar with the application, you probably also noticed the popularity of pretty creators, such as @charlidamelio. Even TikTok users have started to skinny shame these same creators by guilt tripping them.
While I usually find TikTok enjoyable, I also can’t ignore the torrent of rude, body shaming comments. In one of user @mads.yo videos, comments read “it’s ok [to] breathe” and “ Ur [multiple door emoji],” shaming her body image for being flat like a door.
In response to these types of comments, creators have expressed discomfort and disabled the comment section of their posts in an effort to stop them. The 15-year-old influencer was even pushed to tweet about TikTok’s body shaming.
To make matters worse, TikTok’s skinny-shaming culture extends beyond outright offensive comments. There’s also a phenomenon of surprisingly barbed, so-called compliments, such as: “Guess i’m not eating tonight”, and “Wish I had that problem [of being skinny].”
In popular user @avani’s video of her, @mads.yo and @charlidamelio dancing is a good example of this. With the exception of a few positive comments, the majority read, “self esteem went down the drain,” “ wow I thought I wasn’t fat,” “that’s it I’m not eating anymore” and “ if I had any body confidence it’d be taken away by this video.”
In order to achieve the ideal body, it is implied that girls need to starve or hold their breath. This is beyond harmful and promotes eating disorders on a platform for impressionable teenagers.
Anorexia and bulimia are not body types. Users saying they will starve themselves to achieve the internet’s ideal body type is not a compliment — it’s a guilt trap.
This odd phenomenon has even spread to duets, or reactionary posts. Instead of commenting, there are TikTok users who record a video of them pausing mid-bite next to the video of the skinny girl with the underlying message of not eating.
In a @simply_anaxo video duet with @tinanatall, the former is about to eat when she sees the latter dancing. She immediately throws away her food and eats ice and water instead. The caption reads, “I’m not hungry!! YOU ARE!!!”
The video is supposed to be comedic, making fun of their own insecurities and the “perfect” skinny body of the original creator. However, the end result only cements the problematic message for everyone who sees the duet.
In order to truly promote body positivity, we need to stop commenting on other people’s bodies. I don’t mean that we can’t have open dialogue about eating disorders and body image, but to shame someone else for their body is both disrespectful and hurtful.
Unless warranted, commenting on someone else’s body is never a good idea. Instead, I recommend talking about anything else: their aesthetics and style, taste in music, or passion. Social media, populated by young and impressionable teens, needs to break the current cycle of beauty standards and revolutionize a new standard for self-worth.