Too Thin to Be Beautiful? What France Doesn’t Understand about Beauty

“Skinny shaming” seems to be the new “fat shaming.”

I don’t know about you, but both are still shaming.

Don’t get me wrong, society has made some great strides toward embracing authentic beauty.

We’ve become more critical of Photoshop use: check.

We’re more critical of the lack of diversity depicted in media: check.

We’ve thrown out the one-size-fits-all standard: check.

Marketers are embracing models that are plus-size: check.

Overall, women are standing up for embracing beauty in all shapes and sizes: wonderful.

France’s recent step to ban thin models (specifically those who fall below a BMI of 18) on the runway: not so good.


This ban is saying, “It’s not okay to be thin. Everyone below an 18, you’re not okay.”

As a culture, we’re generally moving away from the extreme of “fat shaming,” which is good. We’ve moved away from identifying with numbers there. But what’s happened in this shift away from “fat shaming” is we’ve hit the opposite extreme — now, we’re “skinny shaming.” France just used the very thing we’ve been trying to get away from.

Putting a number on what we’ll associate with beauty doesn’t solve any issues. Reductionism of the whole person to just a body with a high or low number still perpetuates the same problem: making beauty all about the number.

How often do you hear people criticized in tabloids, or even daily life, that they’re “too thin?”

“She needs to eat a sandwich.”

“That girl looks unhealthy.”

“Look at those legs!”

“She makes the rest of us look bad.”

“You can eat whatever you want, you can afford it.”

“Why are you working out, you don’t need it.”

(Those last two: Actually, no, eating well and exercising is just basic health, everyone should do it.)

Believe it or not, people, just like there are women who are beautifully and naturally curvy, there are women who are naturally thin.

I’m one of those naturally thin women.

I, too, was ridiculed for my weight growing up. If I were a model in France, I’d fall into the category of “underweight” and I wouldn’t get hired: but I’m perfectly healthy. There’s nothing wrong with my body size or weight.

I truly don’t say this in pity-party fashion. I say it to show that no woman has escaped the body image issue.

And I’m not arguing to encourage anorexia, that people should aim to be thin, or that people should be obsessed with weight at all.

What I’m saying is this: let’s encourage good health. If our health is good, it doesn’t matter what size, shape or weight we are.

I believe that the “body shaming,” no matter what kind, needs to stop all together. Shame on both ends is not the goal. We’re still tearing down people who don’t fit what we think is the beauty standard. The goal should be to embrace whatever shape we are and move beyond our shallow focus of size to the person.

Even if someone does struggle with something like anorexia or, on the opposite extreme, obesity: it’s none of our business to point that out and ridicule them for it. Is that going to help? Nope. Support and encouragement will. And either way, we’re still shaming.

Here’s the most important thing: let’s take our focus off the body. Let’s not be superficial. The focus needs to shift away from the sizes and numbers to the unique beauty of the whole person — which goes beyond merely the body. The world tells us that as women, our bodies are the most important thing, simply by all the attention that media gives it. We women are so much more than our bodies! We are persons with bodies, souls, interests, opinions, skills, dreams and desires.

So fat or skinny, curvy or slender, let’s take our focus off everyone’s bodies and just appreciate the person.

Let our words as women build and uplift one another. As women, our gift is to give life. Give life in your words to one another.

No numbers can ever undermine that.

Therese Bussen
Therese Bussen
Therese lives in glorious Denver, Colorado and grew up in the high desert area of Southern California (and knows what the Israelites felt like waiting in the desert to get to the Promised Land). She graduated from Benedictine College with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Art. When she's not hanging out with friends, Therese enjoys reading, writing, painting, drawing, designing (basically any kind of art), and dancing awkwardly on purpose. She also loves surprising people with her love of shotgun shooting and cigars. Also, a glass of wine is her favorite thing.

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