The Skinny on Miss Universe Skinny-ism

The Daily Beast” posted a video today of Australian pageant contestant Stephanie Naumoska talking with Diane Sawyer about audience reactions to her physique (which is quite thin). Is it skinny-ism? Is that even a thing? Watch the video and let’s discuss:
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Is Naumoska a victim? Or is this just the Miss-Universe-contestant pot calling the kettle too judgmental? (Does that even make sense?)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I myself have never been skinny and am therefore biased in this situation and probably not as sensitive to Naumoska’s plight as a thinner woman might be. She doesn’t deserve to be criticized for her natural physique any more than a woman (or a man) who outweighs her by 100 pounds does, and the fact that she feels attacked for her thinness is a shame.

However, Naumoska appeared on national television as a contender for Australia’s Miss Universe, the purpose of which is to find the most conventionally beautiful woman in the universe (although I think only earth-based women are allowed to compete – take that, Martians!). Naumoska’s very presence on the stage in this contest is evidence of the privilege that a tall, thin, white, conventionally attractive young woman like her is able to enjoy. Were she a larger or less traditionally beautiful woman, she wouldn’t have been allowed to compete in the Miss Universe pageant (presumably for cash and prizes) in the first place.

Though Naumoska claims to be upset that she was judged for her thinness by people who “didn’t know anything about her,” part of me wants to say that she signed up for that kind of judgment and therefore shouldn’t act so hurt and surprised. This, of course, is the same part of me that wants to grab the Miss Universe creators by their (most likely fake) hair and shake some sense into them though, so you might want to take my opinion with a grain of salt.

I know that there are many thin women out there who are unfairly judged because of their looks, just as there are many people of all types who are unfairly judged for their looks all the time. I guess I just don’t see a Miss Universe contestant (someone who is attempting to make a living being judged for her looks) as their best bet for a spokesperson. What would her slogan be? “Don’t judge me because I’m thin, judge me because I’m beautiful?” How about we just don’t judge her at all?

What do you think? Does skinny-ism exist? Is Naumoska a victim, or a participant?

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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19 Comments Have Been Posted

Completely agree with Kelsey

Completely agree with Kelsey Wallace on this. You signed up for a competition in which you are being judged for these same physical attributes that you are now feeling unjustly criticized for. I'm sorry but it is hard for me to feel sympathic for something that with their own free will, gave full access to be judged by. Just because you were expecting to be honored for it but were rather criticized for it is something that comes with the territory. It has no reflection of my feelings towards the way women are portrayed but more of an irritation with allowing Naumoska to victimize herself and then lean to us for sympathy.

You be the judge

I am going to leave this intentionally vague for now.

Recently I was walking down the street in a fairly form-fitting outfit. Upon walking past a couple, the man yelled out something negative about my size. It's happened all my life. But this one seemed exceptionally cruel, as it didn't end with one comment, and the man continued to yell things for a block. Usually I have a snarky comment. But this time I tried to shoot him an intentionally dirty and disgusted look. To me, this one went too far. But, honestly, I think even the briefest comment does.

So now I'm curious. While reading this, did anyone picture me overweight? Or did you picture me thin? What about the couple? Did you picture anything at all and just think the man rude? Or me deserving of it for the possibly revealing outfit I wore? How many of you immediately thought that the man, despite all possible details, was out of line for saying anything about my size?

Does any of what you thought change when I tell you I am of slim/athletic build? I was wearing tights and a shirt to run in. The man, and the woman he was with (who remained completely silent), was overweight and did not have the athletic ability to stay on the skateboard he finally just carried in his hand. Do I automatically lose sympathy because I am thin? Does he gain any for being big? What if I told you I have never had health problems, so according to reason that should make me healthy? What if I told you I shouted something back about his weight? Or that of his partner? What if I told you the man I'm dating is thinner than I am, and also a runner? Would you believe me that he does not get public shouts about his weight? Would you judge him?

How many times is it that when a judgment is spoken, the real trouble begins? Maybe Naumoska did set herself up for judgment. But do we all simply by going out and being in the public eye?

We live in a time when it's more acceptable to judge someone for being thin, even if that thin is also healthy. Maybe I am too thin. And maybe you are too fat.

But I have never abused anyone by saying so.

Wow, what a condescending

Wow, what a condescending exercise.

I want to say: "Wow, what a

I want to say: "Wow, what a judgmental reply." Because, well, it is. But then, I turn my thoughts inward, because, well, that's what I do.

What was it about the "exercise" (what? you mean running?!) that makes it condescending. I said nothing different from many of the other posts, yet because I put it in a form that asked people to look at things without the presupposition of size, it's condescending. Is it condescending to ask people to think outside some silly little "news"cast put on by marionettes that call themselves journalists? (Now that was condescending. And I stand by the statement.) I started to just blurt out my story. But then I realized that it would just be another story of just another "naturally skinny" girl. So I went a different route. Apparently a route that failed.

What I had hoped was that posting the tale in a slightly different way might get people to think about how unfair it is for ANYONE to have to be judged like that. That maybe we should be looking at the fact that it's men who seem comfortable judging women. And that women seem to get the brunt of the judgment.

I asked questions because I wasn't interested in my thoughts. I was interested in others'. I had hoped to provoke thought. Instead, I seem to have stunted it.

If not "condescending"...

...then perhaps "presumptuous." But I too felt the tone, if not the line of questioning itself, was condescending.

Interestingly, you titled your comment "You be the judge"...and well, your comment was judged, just as you appeared to make some pre-judgments (as evidenced, imo, by the questions you posed and how you posed them) about those of us who would read it.

By the time I read the 2nd line of what you wrote, I suspected that you were going to "reveal" that you were not overweight, fwiw. Plus I'm not biased in the way you seem to presume readers might be, so none of your questions led me to any kind of a-ha moment about "how unfair it is for ANYONE to have to be judged like that."

Besides, who among us haven't had the experience of being judged, unfairly at that? We didn't need an exercise to show us what that feels like. But despite the universal experience of being judged, some women will be able to empathize or sympathize with this pageant contest; others won't. There are, I believe, factors at play beyond lack of empathy that might influence opinions about this. The pageant environment and concept, for example. (That said, I agree with the poster here who said, "Well, she just showed up with her natural shape.")

And yes, I too interpreted your comment as an attempt at an "instructive" exercise, and your subsequent comment--"I had hoped was that posting the tale in a slightly different way might get people to think..." and " ask people to think outside some silly little 'news' cast'"--solidifies my perception.

"Exercises" in and of themselves aren't a bad thing. But presumption and/or condescension towards those to whom the exercise is given will likely overshadow the point of the exercise. I'm not sure what you mean by "stunting" thought (I assume everyone reading here is still thinking), but I can tell you that most adults I know don't find a heavily didactic approach to be thought-provoking.

Without any additional details, we can only conjecture at the meaning of the silence on the part of the female companion of the rude guy you encountered. For all we know, she could have been secretly gloating at his putting you down; maybe it made her feel better about herself; or she could have been terrified because she knew he was a violent guy; or...who knows?

The size of the three of you have no bearing on my interpretation of the situation. He was an ass. She didn't say anything. How would that be different if you were different sizes? Your line of questioning seemed to presume that some/most/many of us reading would empathize/sympathize if you were overweight, but less so or not at all if you were slim. Or that we'd be "mad" if you told us that you insulted the man or his partner? For those of us who aren't biased in this way, that does feel presumptuous/condescending. Maybe I misinterpreted your tale, but that's how it came across to me.

"We live in a time when it's

"We live in a time when it's more acceptable to judge someone for being thin, even if that thin is also healthy. " .. Actually, no. This might be what you personaly experiance, as a slim person, but if you look at playgrounds, at schools, the children that get bully are the ones preceived as overwheight. There is a big difference between being bullied as a child and being told as an adult that you are too skinny. While i do not wish to take away from your feeling of insult, which is valid and legitimate, being bullied as a child is much more dangourous and damaging than being critisized as an adult.
Critisizing this young women did not happen in a vacume. Yes, she might be naturally skinny. There arn't many like her. Letting her represent the standard of beauty is just one more message to women, most of whome are not skinny or overwheight naturally, that this is what they should look like. In a perfect world, she would have been an example of just one of the many ways a women can be. In our world, where we are told skinny is good, she is just one more reason for a teenage girl to starve herself.

What a statement! I guess

What a statement! I guess all of my suicidal thoughts as an adult being "bullied" for being skinny wouldn't matter to you because I am not a child huh? Suck it up, because I am grown? Get out of here!!

"Beauty Pageant Participant Shocked by Being Judged"

is Onion material


I LOVE that she says that people judged her when they didn't know anything about her. Sister, you're walking on stage in a beauty pageant. In a bikini. What was it that you wanted people to know?

I agree that this woman

I agree that this woman signed up to be judged in a certain way, and so she shouldn't be surprised when people judge her. However, I have been very skinny my entire life because that is the way I am naturally built, and I get A LOT of criticism for it. I constantly have people telling me eat more, telling me I'm anorexic (I'm not and never have been). I eat normally, and I'm healthy at this weight, but that doesn't stop anyone -- from my friends to complete strangers -- from telling me how "unhealthy" my weight is. It's hurtful, and I don't think people really take criticism of naturally skinny people as a serious issue (it's usually just jokes about anorexic bitches). "Skinny-ism" definitely exists, and it's something I've been dealing with my entire life.

I think this is really

I think this is really unfair and backwards to be attacking this woman. I used to be very (naturally) thin and when someone calls you anorexic I believe it's just as hurtful as being called fat, you're being criticised on both your looks -and- your personality.

While I don't personally agree with beauty pageants, this woman wasn't passing judgement on anyone else by just showing up in her natural shape.

If we want to have a place for all body sizes within the realm of "normal" beauty, then criticising skinny women is not progress at all.

Naturally Thin

I think it's interesting that everyone posting about how they are now or used to be thin has to preface it with "naturally".

Also, calling someone anorexic is not a criticism of their personality. Anorexia is not some personality defect, it is a disease that people fight for their entire lives.

I find the most disturbing issue here to be the stigma against anorexia. When people just bandy about a word like that whenever they see someone who they think may be too skinny, that's not good. And assuming that anorexia has something to do with personality is not good.

I know anorexia is an

I know anorexia is an illness, but it's used as an insult, like being called a fag, nothing wrong with being gay, but it's still an insult.

By saying that I was naturally thin I was pointing out that a lot of people are naturally thin, why look down on someone for the body type they were born with? I'm sick of skinny women being portrayed as vain and obsessive. It's the same when fat people are seen as lazy.

I think anorexia has far more coverage than it deserves, yes it's a terrible disease, but far more people have health problems due to being overweight. It's somehow acceptable to tell someone to eat more, but you can't tell someone to put down a big mac.

I totally agree with you about the stigma against anorexia, but it's still hurtful when you're accused of it. I wanna say we should all forget about weight, but it's a big health problem. Sigh. :-(

You can't really compare the

You can't really compare the two pictures, one is photoshopped and one is not. It's easy for a graphic designer to make a sickly thin girl look healthy.

I'm not sure that Jennifer

I'm not sure that Jennifer Hawkins sends a particularly good message about what Australians think is healthy and beautiful either. It's still a very narrow image of beauty/health.

On Weight-Based Discrimination

I totally agree that women (or men) should not be judged based on weight. However, I don't think a Miss Universe contestant whose "very presence on the stage in this contest is evidence of the privilege that a tall, thin, white, conventionally attractive young woman like her is able to enjoy" is necessarily a great voice for women who are unfairly judged by their looks.

Also, I call bullshit on the claim (coming from some commenters here and on several other weight-related blog posts I've seen) that it is just as hard to be skinny as it is to be fat. I don't want to discount any individual woman's experiences of being judged based on thinness, but I think it's rather presumptuous to try and compare experiences of 'skinny-ism' with those of bigger women's experiences of fat-phobia, which is pretty darn rampant in our society. Media representations of female 'beauty' almost always depict thin women, from popular movies to television shows to men's and women's magazines and on and on. Of course, you can come up with the rare instances in which 'average' or fat women are featured, but they are few and far between. Aside from being rendered invisible in the media, fat women face (extra) discrimination in the workplace and sometimes as customers (i.e. airlines considering implementing a 'fat tax'). Additionally, it seems that society at large cannot grasp that being fat does equate to being unhealthy, just as being skinny does not equate to being healthy.

I'm thin and I always have been. I've been 'accused' of being anorexic and I've had coworkers and friends tell me to eat more, but I've experienced much more 'thin-privilege' than 'skinny-ism.' What's more, I believe that in most cases in our society, a thin woman claiming weight-based discrimination is akin to a white person claiming race-based discrimination. Of course, both thin and white people may be discriminated against based on weight and race, respectively, but as members of the accepted and represented normative group in our society, this type of discrimination is far less common than that against fat people and/or people of color. Weight- or race-based discrimination is always wrong, but I don't really think we need a spokesperson or a movement specifically to protect thin people from criticism or 'skinny-ism,' just as we don't need to focus on protecting white people from racism.

Nail on head

This is exactly what I was thinking.
Additionally, I don't know why folks are conflating questioning Naumoska's stance with "attacking" thin women.

You know what ? You are

You know what ? You are frickin right as hell.God bless sane people.

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