When I was in college, my ex used to try to make me feel better about my body in order to “recover” from my bulimia. He would tell me how horrible it was, refuse to kiss me, discuss the image issues people face because of the fashion, film and beauty industries, repeatedly told me that my weight didn’t matter, that he didn’t notice weight, and so on. All of these things were fairly ineffective because I was attached to my disorder quite firmly, but still he tried. Then, early one morning, he sent me the link to a porn video with a message saying, “Jerked off to this last night. Sometimes a girl with some meat on her bones is a good thing.”
While I appreciated his, uhm, effort, I absolutely hate the phrase “meat on her bones.” I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It’s uncomfortable, inappropriate and not a remotely consoling thing to say to somebody who already thinks of her body fat as being this horrifying excess that taunts as it swings from her own own figure (at least, that was the fucked up way I viewed it until I got better).
Rather than make me feel good about myself, it just made me feel confused. So, my weight doesn’t matter and he doesn’t notice weight, but “sometimes” a female with body fat is all right? What about the rest of the time? But that’s just my own peeve with his individual phrasing surrounding my main dislike in this sense: “meat on her bones.”
There have been plenty of other men I’ve met who use the same phrase, often in one of two ways: (1) In an attempt to make a woman feel “better” about being heavier than a standard model or (2) to sound as though he’s “open-minded” and “not like other guys.” Look, the whole “most guys are dicks but I’m totally not” thing is a worn-out identity card to play as it is. And if you compare women’s bodies to animal flesh consumed by human beings, I am fairly certain you are not different from the people you wish to set yourself apart from.
The thing about men using this phrase that bothers me is not just that it draws parallels between female body types and BBQ dishes, it’s that it categorizes women’s bodies at all. When was the last time you saw a feature in a magazine that told men what to wear in accordance with their body shape? There are tall, thin, heavy, thick and short men. There are men with broad shoulders. There are men with wide ribcages. There are men with ample hips and narrower torsos — otherwise known as “pear-shaped” for women, but would that ever be declared for men? Of course not, because men look good regardless of body type and women look good only when dressing specifically for our own, according to the general fashion industry. For fuck’s sake, we’re supposed to worry about how fat our purses make us look. Spectacular, right?
It’s as though we are our own species that must live and look according to our genetics. Like show cats!
It also bothers me when people use any sort of phrase that declares one body type as being somehow superior to another. Almost every time I’ve ever witnessed a man say he “loves curves” or has tried to reassure me that I’m not fat — I am a size 10/12 and totally cool with it, so I am admittedly not sure why they still insist on doing so — they follow it up with something insulting thin women. It typically goes along the lines of, “I like a girl with some meat on her bones. Skinny girls are gross.”
It’s not that having a body type you are most attracted to is an inherently bad thing. While I personally don’t have a shape I’m most into — actually, there isn’t a single appearance quality that I favor over another except good hygiene over bad, besides duh — I absolutely understand that people can be into tall, thin folks and others are into larger figures and some may only wanna date eerily pale people with big hair and chipped nail polish (if so, call me!). It’s the way that these preferences often get described that bothers me, as though whatever one prefers is better than another type. I’ve seen women do it, too, but much less so. While fat shaming is absolutely still a thing, thin shaming definitely exists and it is equally hurtful, and equally stupid.
Yes, I realize that this is partially just me being rather sensitive about phrasing and word choice, but I can’t help it. I think it’s obnoxious say something that makes it sound like women should be fattening themselves up, waiting to be cooked and devoured (paging cannibal cop). Look, it’s not that this is somehow the worst thing in the world to say about women’s bodies. I just think that it wouldn’t hurt anybody to just stop talking about them in this better vs. worse manner at all, particularly by means of comparisons to meat…and even more so by comparison to one another. Is that too much to ask?