From Our Readers

Misunderstanding The ‘Say No To Size Zero Campaign'

Last week I read several articles calling upon us, as women, to say no to the ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign.’ The argument being, that we should not be judging any women just because of their pants size. In fact, most of the articles I read (including one on HelloGiggles and one on XO Jane) say this campaign is about weight discrimination.

But is it really?

First let me state that, yes I know some women are naturally thin. There are even healthy women who have a very low BMI, which would be considered unhealthy on paper. And yet, these women are healthy in real life. Their metabolisms are just different, as all of our metabolisms are.

The ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign’ is not about those women. It isn’t even necessarily directed to us “regular” women at all. It’s directed to the fashion industry and the media that continue to push for unhealthy women as their models.

These women just aren’t unhealthy on paper; they are unhealthy in real life too as they aren’t simply maintaining strict diets (which is unhealthy in its own right). They either teeter close to eating disorders or are already suffering from them.

Eating disorders have serious health consequences for those suffering from them and when we glorify that image in the media, it has psychological consequences for the rest of us. In the U.S. alone 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some time in their life. A more accurate number is hard to come by as many of these disorders go unreported.

The primary contributor to such large numbers of sufferers comes from body dissatisfaction. Just think: girls begin to worry about their weight or shape at the age of six! Also, 40 – 60% of elementary school girls are concerned about their weight or becoming too fat, a concern that follows them through life.

And this is not just about girls that are already thin and who are striving to maintain what they believe to be a perfect body. Girls who are not even overweight are reporting that they are dieting! Also, this is no longer a disease prevalent to females, or even Caucasian females. More and more men and people of different ethnicity are suffering from eating disorders.

While there are many psychological, personal factors and maybe even biological factors that contribute to one’s eating disorder, we cannot overlook the fact that there are social ones too. And it’s not just our glorification of the ultra-thin or certain definitions of beauty. It’s the cultural norms the modeling industry, media and even us “regular” women continue to push, such as valuing physical appearance rather than personalities.

What we glean from the media is extremely important, especially today when we are so saturated with advertisements featuring unhealthy models. And, this body type is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females. So the arguments on HelloGiggles and XO Jane don’t really have any teeth.

I’m not saying we should shun the 5% of American women who do naturally have this body type. However, we also shouldn’t reject the ‘Say No to Size Zero Campaign’ because of them. The reality is the rest of us, in fact 95% of us, look nothing like the models we see in the media today and for us to try to look that way is incredibly unhealthy and dangerous.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder: 4% of those suffering with anorexia will die, 3.9% of those suffering with bulimia will die and another 5.2% of those suffering with an eating disorder will die, including from other complications such as heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or even suicide. You can find even more sobering information in this article, which details the lives of five models that died from eating disorders back-to-back in 2006.

The scariest part of it is all that 47% of girls in 5th–12th grade report wanting to lose weight because of magazine ads and 69% of girls in 5th–12th grade say that magazines influence their idea of a perfect body shape. This is a serious problem and this is what Katie Green’s campaign is all about.

It’s not about body snarking women who are naturally thin or healthy or pushing for heavier, curvier women as the new “perfect” body image. This campaign is about “how uncomfortable even healthy women and girls can be made to feel” and the “fashion designers and clothing brands [that] target young impressionable teenage girls and make them feel uncomfortable about their weight” which “can often lead to eating disorders,” as Katie Green’s website clearly states.

This is a campaign we all can and should get behind, whether you’re a natural size zero or natural size 12.

You can read more from Ashley Strain on her blog.

Featured image via.

  • Tasha Oxner

    Maybe this is an issue of semantics, but when I was a very thin teenager I probably would have taken the name of this campaign to heart and been even more self-conscious of how gangly and awkward I felt I looked. A ‘Say No To Size Twenty Campaign’ against unhealthy eating on the other end of the spectrum would hardly be considered acceptable. This conversation would be unnecessary with more size-neutral, pro-health nomenclature for this very noble campaign.

    • Xandra Rose

      Yeah I agree with you Tasha. To me it sounds disingenuous to claim that a movement isn’t about shaming a particular size when I particular size is right there in its name.

    • Rose Eda

      I agree with you too. I know this campaign has every good intention, but I can see young, naturally thin girls taking this the wrong way. I don’t think it’s right to purposely make those girls feel horrible about their bodies, even if there’s only 5% of them in the population. There are other ways to get this message out, in my opinion. Other ways that will promote health and love for our bodies, no matter what size.

    • Tracey White

      I agree, they should have thought out the name better.

    • Melody Lam

      Agreed. I’m thin, size 0 depending on the brand (especially for brands like Gap that use size vanity and my only option is a size 0 or XS). Glorifying one size to represent all of us does not cover the entire spectrum of sizes that women may have. Instead of declaring a campaign against featuring women who are thin (naturally or not), why not embrace women to have a healthy size with respect to their genetics and what their body would allow in order to properly function like Dove does? That way instead of encouraging women to be complacent with their unhealthy body weights, you are encouraging them to be healthy in the way they can best be healthy.

    • Debra Lewis

      I completely agree Tasha. I had enough trouble being a naturally very small frame growing up without a campaign saying that my size was unhealthy for most. I can’t even remember how many times I heard someone say I had to be bulimic or anorexic to be that small, stuff like that hurts… How about a “Get Healthy” campaign that helps people find ways to eat and live healthily at any natural size?

    • Lily Wonka

      I think there should be a Say No to size 20 campaign!
      However I disagree with this general complain that seems to be “the title is mean” because the problem is not in the title but in the people that stop there and start judging instead of actually using their brains and look into it to understand. At the end of the day it is not about how you look, it is about being healthy and very few people seem to get that!
      We should definitely stop judging a book by its cover, a girl by her looks….. and a campaign by its title!

      • Melissa Wiebe

        What about those of us who are size 20 or above? Seems a bit disingenuous to those of us who are.

  • Lauren Alberda

    This topic is extremely interesting because it affects all of us, woman and man, thin and fat, black and white, young and old. We get to see 3000 images of ‘ideal’ beauty and what is soppose to be a perfect lifestyle every day and only 3% works in our conscious mind. Did you see the reading by Jean Kilbourne? It’s named Killing us softly 3 and I believe every woman, especially teens should see it.
    Here is a link to the trailer but make sure you get to see the whole thing, because it can really change your ways!

  • Madeleine Rowe

    I would rather see a movement to get the focus off of praising size at all, rather than moving from one size to another. In either case, you are saying “this is most beautiful, and beauty is extremely important.” So there is no win-win if you insist on glorifying physical beauty with one standard – small or big – you’re going to hurt someone either way.

  • Ilham Tamimi

    I think its offensive. Zero is still a size and I feel like women who are a size zero are now getting the awful treatment and they don’t deserve it.

  • Stephanie Guest

    As a healthy woman that also happens to be 5’8″ and a size zero, the slogan of this campaign is hurtful and frustrating. I already get substantial amounts of criticism from coworkers, family, and friends because I’m thin. I know I’m in the minority here, but people already assume and are totally comfortable telling me that I must have an eating disorder because I’m thin. It’s is extremely hurtful. It’s horrible that being thin is associated with such devastating disorders, especially when I work considerably hard to be healthy (and I just happen to be this size). Like many of the other comments below, I feel like the Campaign needs to focus on being healthy, whatever size that is.

  • Tabitha Beckner

    I agree with one of the commenters about how women who are a size zero get being treated poorly now. Eating healthy (and I actually mean fruits and vegetables, moderate fats, and protein, and carbs) not tons of junk, and still being a size 12 is beautiful. However, there are those of us who eat very healthy and are a size 0 like myself. I dont starve myself. I don’t have an eating disorder, I just chose not to eat tons of junk. It’s bad for your body and should be eaten in moderation- moderation is not once daily! It’s maybe once or twice weekly! That being said, I think that if we stop focusing on size and just focus on what we put in our mouth, it won’t matter what size we are.

  • Carpenter Foreman

    Yes it seems that any person who doesn’t understand the concept of genetics being a determining factor in appearance isn’t worthy of consideration, recognition or respect. That being said, this is all void.

  • Emily Ashley

    As I am a size 0-3 depending on the clothing brand and when I first saw the name of this, I took offense like other people have said below me. I understand the intent of the campaign was not to offend skinnier girls, but without a detailed description, the immediate thought of the title is offensive. I’ve been trying since I was young to put on weight. Every time I go to the doctor they tell me that I’m underweight, but there’s nothing I can do. I eat healthy (quite a lot, actually) and work out daily, some people are just naturally skinny. I know people who are models/ballet dancers etc, and are just naturally skinny but eat healthy. I agree that the name could have been put differently because I personally can’t say no to my size. I’m petit and proud of it.

  • Emily Schrader

    As a naturally petite size zero, I also don’t agree with the title of this campaign. I have just as difficult a time finding clothes that fit me as those who wear larger size, and still have body issues (I would gladly give up my size 0 for some boobs!) I feel that this campaign insinuates that those feelings are invalid because of the number of my size.
    I am in no way saying that eating disorders are not an issue, they are, and can be extremely devastating. They are psychiatric issues that need to be treated properly.
    However, I feel that obesity is a much greater problem in our society. 23.9 million children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese and 154.7 million adults are overweight or obese. Obesity is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, bringing along their own set of problems that cause exponentially more deaths than anorexia. I am currently a medical student, and I will be treating these diseases for the rest of my life. I think this campaign should focus on a healthy weight (BMI) rather than a clothing size. Controlling what you eat (aka dieting), if done properly, is necessary for all of us (kids included!) to maintain a healthy body weight and therefore a long, healthy life!

    • Bethany Larson

      Thank you for bringing up the numbers on obesity. Anorexia and bulimia truly are horrible things but when you bring up that obesity is also very detrimental to health and many more people suffer further health issues from it, it seems to be taboo to talk about.

  • Megan King Silva

    How about, instead of a “Say No to Size __ Campaign”, we start a “Say No to Defining Yourself Based on Arbitrary Societal Standards Campaign”, where we encourage ourselves and others to stop looking to our society, culture, and media to inform us of who we are and what we’re worth. Anyone?

    • Tatiana Daugherty

      Yes! I totally agree. Once we, as individuals, decide to stop letting societal standards dictate how we live our lives, we’ll be happier. If you’re naturally a size 0, then that’s awesome. However, that’s not what this article is about – its about not letting the media dictate what is beautiful, and the media has been championing thinness for decades now. I, as a size 16 woman, am not represented by the models in any ads, or by the actresses we see in commercials or on our favorite tv shows. If there is a show that includes a heavier woman, there are often jokes made at his expense. This us not okay, and I believe that’s the basis if the campaign.

      • Tatiana Daugherty

        Is and of. My phone hates me.

  • Judith Drexhage

    It is ridiculous even if you see that the models we are trying to be like don’t even look like that for real cause a lot is photoshopped.
    The sizes are also getting smaller to compete with the french industry. We woman are always critical of the way we look.
    We should learn more to be okay with ourselves and embrace the figure that you have cause it makes you .
    Fashion makes a lot of victims cause well a lot of models have died from being anorexic and getting thinner for the clothes, even the fashion now has issues with it at some points

  • Tracy Alls

    They should call it something like “Say Yes to Healthy” that’s more of a positive and encouraging title that ALLOWS you to do things rather than an atmosphere of RESTRICTING you from things and could get us to focus more on the healthy eating and could include pics of ALL WOMEN OF ALL SIZES EVEN 0 to show you can be any size (within reason) if you eat healthy,that’s what matters. Yes, there are 145lb women that go into modeling and are immediately told the MUST lose 20+ lbs. Considering the average model is 5’8″+ that is unhealthy and often forces them into unhealthy lifestyles to keep their dream alive. So, I vote for “Say Yes to Healthy”

  • Bethany Larson

    This article states that we shouldn’t shun those that are thin but we shouldn’t kick the campaign just because of them, because most of “us” are bigger. But in supporting this campaign that’s exactly what you’re doing. I was very thin in middle school and often got teased about being anorexic and was laughed at. It didn’t make me feel good to know I was a small size, I felt horrible about myself. Size shaming, no matter the size, is wrong. This campaign should have been named something different to build confidence in every woman, big or small, as long as their ultimate goal is being healthy. The models they should choose should be all over the board with different sizes, not just throwing out the skinny ones in favor of larger ones. That’s not fixing a problem, it’s creating a new one.

  • Emily Rose Chudy

    I am a size 6 (which would be 2 or 0 in American sizes I think) and I personally am not offended at all my this campaign – I think it’s a significant issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not about body shaming, every woman’s body is beautiful, it’s about ensuring that healthy women don’t feel constant pressure from the media to lose weight unnecessarily. As a recovered anorexic, I think people need to prioritise health over the fact that they are “offended” by this campaign, and support the fact that 95% of women are not a size 0, and deserve to be represented in magazines too. I do agree with the name change though, “say yes to healthy” sounds better.

  • Charity Blaine

    Maybe it’s because I’m not a zero, but I’m pretty sure this campaign isn’t a discrimination against naturally small people. Ignorant people pester naturally thin people whether they’re a size 0 or not, just the same as they pester naturally larger people. The issue is, that at a size 6… I’m made to feel fat. Even at a 4 I wanted to be smaller. I was okay with being a 2. It’s hard to look at magazines and be told those women are beautiful, even though you know they’re photoshopped, because you know that is society’s perception and standard for beauty. Let’s stop nit picking each politically incorrect term and fight against the larger underlying issues. We, as a culture, are obsessed with being thin, not necessarily healthy, thin… Although, sometimes so obsessed with “health” we give ourselves health problems.
    Beauty, if its only about appearance, is shallow. What about inner beauty? . When mental health issues are in the rise, because women are increasingly bogged down by everyday life pressures… Shouldn’t that be part of health, not just eating habits? Priorities people.

  • Sophia Rasmusson

    I am a size 3 and I absolutely hate it when people are like, you’re so tiny or you’re so skinny, they might not realize it but it’s almost the same thing as saying you’re fat or you’re large. Why don’t they instead say you’re beautiful or not say anything at all! I think it’s ridiculous that people care about what size they are (that might be because I’ve always been close to a zero). The headline for the campaign “say no to size zero” can be offending, but I agree that girls and women shouldn’t strive to be a size zero, they should thrive to be beautiful on the inside where it really counts (but of course keep a healthy diet, if you treat your body well, it treats you back better).

  • Lyz Robson

    There should just be a “Love Your Body” campaign instead of calling something “real” or uplifting “curvy” girls or “skinny” girls…. There’s no need to call a socially acceptable thin girl in her underwear a slut while calling a, now *almost* socially acceptable heavy girl in her underwear an inspiration. I am not a size 0. I never will be. My bone structure alone doesn’t support it, much less my natural metabolism. We spend so much time as women taking down other women to make us feel better. “Oh, well that girl is so skinny… I bet she doesn’t enjoy pizza like I do!” “Oh, well that girl is so fat… I bet she doesn’t enjoy exercise like I do!” That shit needs to stop. Because we also need to realize that other people’s eating and exercising habits are none of our damn business. It doesn’t affect us in any way, so why shun someone because of it?
    There should be a “Don’t Be A Sh***y Human Being” campaign more than a “Say No To Zero” campaign. Even the Dove one doesn’t really accept all shapes and sizes, just the socially acceptable range of skinny to curvy. Support each other no matter what you look like. Eight year olds don’t need to go on diets…. Neither do many 30 year olds. If you feel a need to change, then look into healthy ways. If you’re happy with your weight, light or heavy, then stay there. It’s okay to love who you are.

    • Erin Dawson Hagins

      Preach it!

    • Lyz Robson

      I’m not even sure there should be a “Be Healthy!” campaign because it begins to look into other societal matters outside of weight… like finances. Sure, a bag of salad is between $2-4. But that’s just the bag of lettuce. You want to put anything on that will stick with you a few hours, it’s now $10-15. For a salad. You can get a full meal with McDonalds for $5 that will stick with you for a while. What we need to do, if you want people to be healthy, is to look at the food price inequality, then not judge some people for being overweight.
      Also… if someone is overweight and eating pizza, you shouldn’t judge them. Maybe they haven’t eaten pizza for a month and this is their treat because they’ve been eating nothing but veggies for a while. The fact is, you don’t know. You aren’t in their kitchen. You don’t know what health issues people are dealing with…
      So maybe… Don’t judge people so harshly. We need to love ourselves… but we need to not judge other people for loving themselves as well.
      And quick side note: Weight does not define us. This campaign continues to define women as beautiful based on their weight, not on their merit as human beings, as pointed out by previous people.

    • Jade Corong

      Agree! I’m naturally thin and people keep telling me to gain weight so I could have boobs. I think the problem is people can also be too harsh on skinny people. I’m a real woman and I am naturally thin. Being thin doesn’t make me any less real.

  • Erin Dawson Hagins

    They probably should’ve named it something else then.

    • Charlotte Watkins

      I totally agree with this! Something that has a positive call to action that includes all people rather than the current negative call to action which excludes some shapes and sizes.

  • Lisi Drioane

    While I agree that media portrayals are not what they should be, I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that we should accept the say no to size zero campaign. This is simply due to that fact that there are ways to accomplish the same thing without using language that excludes. If what we want is representations of all kinds of bodies- we cannot say no to any size. What about the Yes to all sizes campaign?
    As someone who is naturally a size zero, I can attest to the fact that rhetoric of exclusion has negative affects of thin women. I feel hurt every time I see “real women have curves.” I have been asked if I am anorexic, and been told to go eat something when I have trouble finding pants that fit. Life isn’t fun on either extreme. Ask any man I have dated, I don’t feel sexy, beautiful, or womanly- and I know for fact it has everything to do with being told that size zero isn’t valid or acceptable. I am not real- even the number zero feels belittling when I see it on my jeans.
    Now that I think about it- how about a campaign to label clothes by actual measurements instead of arbitrary numbers?

  • Tessa Frey

    While I agree that the intent behind this campaign is very good, and that the media is awful in its portrayals of women, I think that if the creators of this campaign want that message to come across in a unifying way, they need to change the name. Saying no to size zero IS negative to those who are naturally smaller, whether it was intended to be offensive or not.

    I am naturally a size 2, and I get so much crap for it now. It makes me feel awful for being myself. I like to eat in reasonably healthy way and exercise so that I can be my best self and live a long and strong life, but I by no means starve myself or overexercise. I love food! I just have a really fast metabolism, that’s how I was born. And yet people look down on me when I order a salad for lunch instead of a burger, or when they see me in the gym. It’s really awful. I went through a period where I overate in high school because of comments my peers made about my skinniness and my small boobs. I wanted a curvier figure so badly, yet I didn’t even gain much weight, I only made myself sluggish and unhealthy. Now I have come to terms with my body, but I still get crap from others for it. People don’t realize that discrimination is directed at all sorts of body types, not just those larger than a size 3, and it is just as hurtful.

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