I got an e-mail from blog reader Angie today 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. All too often these campaigns use these words as euphemisms for a specific “look”.
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.” There’s nothing wrong with skinny bodies, or skinny muscular bodies or any other bodies but there should not be a “preferable” body.
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 can be ableist – people have many different health conditions for many different reasons and nobody should be judged by 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.
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 whatever. It’s like climbing out of one hole, falling into another one, 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 happen to believe that all bodies are amazing.
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 an arbitrary standard” not “we should measure our worth by a different arbitrary standard.”
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