Why is “skinny” a compliment?

A girl loves to hear: “Wow, you’re so skinny!”  Popular culture nowadays has shaped people to  place a heavy emphasis on body types in determining attractiveness.

Magazines are filled with towering 5-foot-10-inch girls with perfect skin, defined collarbones, flat stomachs and long legs. These companies showcase these girls to increase consumer attention in the products they are advertising. In reality, the photos of these girls are actually airbrushed and photoshopped to smooth their skin, lengthen their legs and slim their waists. Teenage girls who read these magazines then aspire to look like the models on the page, failing to realize that they are chasing false images of advertisement.

Today, social media is flooded with aesthetic photos of posing thin girls, from models to singers to bloggers. This constant display of the same thin body type has led girls to believe that the only way to look attractive is to be skinny. Girls will engage in military diets, juice cleanses and detoxes and rigorous exercise just to obtain that thigh gap and “attractive” hip-to-waist ratio.

However, everyone has a different body type. While some girls can achieve the “perfect” thin body type portrayed by social media, most girls cannot because of genetics. For example, weight loss might show significantly on one girl’s body but might be masked on another’s. All girls have different metabolisms, body shapes and frame sizes that will determine the number on the scale. Girls should not judge themselves by how skinny they are or if they can fit into that size zero pair of jeans, but should rather value keeping their weight within a healthy range for their height and body type.

Even when girls have reached a healthy target weight range, they do not see themselves as fit and healthy in the mirror. Rather, they still see all the flaws with their body: the slight double chin, the not-big-enough thigh gap, the too muscular calves, etc. Society’s unrealistic portrayal of thin girls as attractive leads every girl to believe that looking exactly like the girl on the magazine cover will ensure happiness.

While social media had focused so heavily on a thin body type in the past, many companies are now reforming to include plus size models to encompass all the female body types. Companies such as Aerie and Dove are careful to incorporate models of different body sizes in their ad campaigns. This inclusion of different body types shows girls today that any body type, thin or not, is attractive and should be appreciated. This type of positive body image enforcement has led to an increase in confidence and self-expression.

There is not only one definition of beauty or attractiveness. While the seemingly perfect thin body type on the cover of Vogue may be attractive to many, it does not automatically dictate that all other body types and images are less than perfect. Societal and peer pressure has convinced girls into believing that the key to success is a bust-waist-hip ratio of 34-24-34.

Thus, when a girl hears someone say she is skinny, it’s the ultimate compliment. But it’s important to keep in mind that while there is nothing wrong with a pursuit of attractiveness, understanding where to draw the line is the key to maintaining happiness and a healthy lifestyle.

By Irene Zhou, Staff writer
Editorial cartoon by Richard Zhang