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#1 Edited by T0MBraider (34 posts) -

I have always wondered why it's socially acceptable to call someone skinny, but not acceptable to call someone fat. It's not that I hate people calling me skinny, it's more I hate not being able to call them "fat" without them getting extremely offended. It just seems like a bizarre double standard to me. I would love to get the community's thoughts on this.

#2 Posted by Dixavd (1359 posts) -

I don't like it when people bring up appearance in general whether or not the implied sub-text is positive or negative (fin instance, "skinny" can be a good or a bad thing depending on the person). I'm generally okay with being brought up if the person has clearly done something different (like try on an outfit that's a completely new style or changed their hair-cut) or if the two haven't seen each other in a very long time so they look strikingly different from what they remember. Otherwise, it just seems too prone to hit on social issues that you might not have even noticed yet (especially with the increased rates of eating disorders). I don't want any of my comments, no matter how positive or unimportant, to possibly go towards making someone not feel welcome or feel insecure.

#3 Edited by JeffGoldblum (3707 posts) -

Ok to call someone <SOMETHING GOOD>, but not ok to call someone <SOMETHING BAD>?

#4 Edited by shenstra (164 posts) -

While these words are roughly each other's opposite, they carry very different emotional and social implications. The word "skinny" (as far as I can tell) generally isn't meant in a bad way. Unlike, say, "scrawny". When people are called "fat", 99.9% of the time, there's an implied "too" in front of it, often accompanied by a thinly veiled disgust and an expectation to do something about already.

You hate not being able to call people "fat" without them getting offended. Maybe you should consider why people get so offended? I've dealt with other peoples' judgements about my appearance all my life. When you call me "fat", you remind me of a lot of pain and disappointment I've had to deal with. Is it so hard to use a different word which doesn't carry the same hurt? There's plenty of words to choose from, most of which won't offend fatties like me. Overweight, chubby, portly, heavyset, etc.

#5 Posted by SomeJerk (3304 posts) -

Sure there are people with a nutty metabolism struggling to not be so skinny that they're not allowed outdoors during windy days, but fat is just a bad word. "Huge" is better, but that's if someone is honest to god huge with muscle mass and bone structure looking like they're ready for the royal rumble.

Jeff for example, is huge.

Your mom though, is fat.

#6 Posted by TruthTellah (9318 posts) -

@t0mbraider: They're words with completely different connotations, as the other commenters noted. If someone is calling you -too- skinny, I can understand taking issue with it as people do with being called "fat", because "fat" is generally used to refer to being -too- big. It's most often a negative and not simply an observation.

So, when someone says you're skinny, they're usually saying it as an observation or even a compliment, but fat is not the same way. If you take issue with people calling you skinny(as some people do use skinny in a derogatory manner), then make sure to tell them that you don't appreciate it, but if you're fine with people calling you skinny, please understand that it is very different from when people call someone fat.

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#7 Posted by TheHT (11521 posts) -

If it makes you feel any better, don't call people either.

#8 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (5801 posts) -

Skinny implies you're in good shape, well adjusted in your weight and take care of your body.

Fat implies you've let yourself go. You consume more than you work off in a day and are lazy.

The difference obviously being is one is viewed as positive statement and the other is viewed as a negative statement. They each convey an immediately understood assessment of your body and lifestyle. Now that doesn't mean being called skinny can't be a negative term in the same way being called fat is (For instance in the case of disease, the starving of your body or even simply being a scrawny individual naturally), but for the most part it's superficially considered a compliment.

#9 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@jeffgoldblum:

He's asking for the logic that makes them good and bad in the first place.

#10 Posted by rethla (616 posts) -

I call people fat and skinny all the time both as friendly teasing them and also as to poke them "hey you should do something about that". I feel theres nothing wrong with either. I live in sweden btw.

#11 Edited by Sanj (2456 posts) -

People who are fat wish they were healthy enough to be skinny, not the other way around.

#12 Posted by JasonR86 (9742 posts) -

@jeffgoldblum:

That's not necessarily the case. When I first started losing weight my family at first got on me for being 'too skinny' stating that I almost looked sickly. I'm 6' and now weigh 185. When I weighed 250 I never heard anything about my weight. But if I heard then that I was to overweight it would have hurt me as much as hearing I was to underweight.

#13 Posted by h0lgr (909 posts) -

People who call me skinny usually get to hear their own physical "faults" back at them: it's not a problem if you don't let it.

#14 Posted by Brendan (7843 posts) -

@jasonr86: Could your family be described as slightly over healthy weight in general? Only asking because I'm around 6' and 185, and I see myself as a person with enough muscle on himself to be considered "in shape", and far from rail thin or anything.

#15 Edited by HatKing (6025 posts) -

Because our culture glorifies being as inhumanly thin as you can be and chastises those who aren't. We have body image issues on an epidemic level, which has gotten to such a level that actual disorders have spawned from it. Our media edits our models to an unachievable standard. The people we strive to be like aren't even like themselves. Heavy people probably don't like being reminded that people think less of them for something so superficial.

#16 Posted by Patman99 (1609 posts) -

@shenstra said:

While these words are roughly each other's opposite, they carry very different emotional and social implications. The word "skinny" (as far as I can tell) generally isn't meant in a bad way. Unlike, say, "scrawny". When people are called "fat", 99.9% of the time, there's an implied "too" in front of it, often accompanied by a thinly veiled disgust and an expectation to do something about already.

You hate not being able to call people "fat" without them getting offended. Maybe you should consider why people get so offended? I've dealt with other peoples' judgements about my appearance all my life. When you call me "fat", you remind me of a lot of pain and disappointment I've had to deal with. Is it so hard to use a different word which doesn't carry the same hurt? There's plenty of words to choose from, most of which won't offend fatties like me. Overweight, chubby, portly, heavyset, etc.

This is basically the right answer. "Fat" is generally considered offensive because it is. There aren't too many other words you can use that are worse than "fat" for describing an overweight person without getting overly wordy. There are plenty of worse words you could use to describe a small person than "skinny". That's why people find "fat" offensive.

It's not a double standard at all. There are plenty of contexts where describing someone as skinny can be positive while there are almost no contexts where describing someone as fat can be anything but negative. Those are just the constraints our society and culture has placed on those words.

If you have to make a note about someone's physical appearance, it's probably best to use simple words like "big" or "small" or "light". Those are not offensive and describe the person without going into too much detail.

#17 Posted by SupberUber (314 posts) -

This isn't math, dude.

#18 Posted by Viking_Funeral (1817 posts) -

Why is it socially acceptable to call someone TALL, but not to call someone SHORT?

I know I have to duck to enter your apartment; no I don't want the front seat; yes planes are very uncomfortable. Leave me alone!! [crying intensifies]

#19 Posted by McHampton (65 posts) -

@viking_funeral: Is it not socially acceptable to call people short? Uh oh...

#20 Posted by LordAndrew (14426 posts) -

I would not call someone someone skinny either. It's not nice.

#21 Posted by Turtlebird95 (2491 posts) -

Most people would probably take it as a compliment, based on society's standards. Personally though I think calling someone either is kinda rude.

#22 Posted by EpicSteve (6492 posts) -

Because the U.S. has a 60% obesity rate and you look awesome compared to the average person.

But being skinny sucks. However it can be a compliment. Getting skinnier is a goal for a lot of people. You never hear about someone trying to get fat. There is the reality of too skinny also being unattractive and some a lot of people wish they could gain some weight.

#23 Posted by Humanity (9595 posts) -

and music is like a bunch of soundwaves, why do people like it so much?

#24 Posted by Amafi (876 posts) -

@epicsteve: Ah, the mythical hard gainer. If someone wants to gain weight it's pretty simple, eat everything you see and do your squats.

#25 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (2894 posts) -

I have always wondered why it's socially acceptable to call someone skinny, but not acceptable to call someone fat. It's not that I hate people calling me skinny, it's more I hate not being able to call them "fat" without them getting extremely offended. It just seems like a bizarre double standard to me. I would love to get the community's thoughts on this.

Go ahead call them fat.....do you feel better? I bet you don't. That's the thing, you CAN think, "Well, I just don't think that person weight is good for them" but just don't say it. Because they are probably thinking, 'wow, that person looks too skinny' and you certainly don't like that.

I think this whole too skinny too fat debate is okay. It is okay when asked (or when you know the person well) to say, "Come on...what you're doing is not good, right?" We should talk about weight, but we should talk about it rationally and like we would any medical issues with tact and privacy.


The science is pretty clear that too many people are obese, that it isn't good for them. There is not 'big boned', there is not 'my metabolism', and there is a HUGE difference between not fitting a BMI by a few points and being off the damn scale. The only people BMI doesn't work for are people over 6' 7", or people who are legitimate athletes. If you are a typical person...sorry that BMI is correct...or you're missing a limb.

#26 Posted by JasonR86 (9742 posts) -

@brendan:

They are and I'm not too skinny. I look average to muscular and am still trying to add muscle. But even though I knew they were wrong calling me to skinny it still didn't feel good.

#27 Edited by probablytuna (3730 posts) -

Ok to call someone beautiful but not ok to call someone ugly? Works pretty much the same.

#28 Posted by EpicSteve (6492 posts) -

@amafi said:

@epicsteve: Ah, the mythical hard gainer. If someone wants to gain weight it's pretty simple, eat everything you see and do your squats.

That's a real thing. Metabolisms and caloric deficits vary between people. Plus, getting fat isn't the answer to gaining weight.

#29 Posted by wjb (1675 posts) -

I try not to say either, honestly.

I don't particularly believe skinny people to be any more desirable than overweight people.

#30 Posted by shenstra (164 posts) -

The science is pretty clear that too many people are obese, that it isn't good for them. There is not 'big boned', there is not 'my metabolism', and there is a HUGE difference between not fitting a BMI by a few points and being off the damn scale. The only people BMI doesn't work for are people over 6' 7", or people who are legitimate athletes. If you are a typical person...sorry that BMI is correct...or you're missing a limb.

There may not be such a thing as "big boned", but people do have different builds. Some people are tall, skinny and perfectly healthy with a BMI that would classify them as underweight. I'm fat, but I also have decent muscle mass. If I were to lose every single gram of fat on my body (not exactly healthy), my BMI would still classify me as overweight.

BMI is a gross simplification of body shapes. It may work for people with average bodies, but for some (on both ends of the spectrum) it does more harm then good. There are far better methods of determining whether someone has too much fat, like measuring their body fat percentage.

And people do have different metabolic rates. You can estimate your basal metabolic rate with various formulas based on weight, height, lean body mass and age, but there's still a large non-explained factor that, as far as we know, just comes down to luck/genetics. Quoth Wikipedia:

For instance, one study reported an extreme case where two individuals with the same lean body mass of 43 kg had BMRs of 1075 kcal/day (4.5 MJ/day) and 1790 kcal/day (7.5 MJ/day). This difference of 715 kcal/day (67%) is equivalent to one of the individuals completing a 10 kilometer run every day.

The mere fact that people like to use their build and metabolism as simple excuses for their weight problems doesn't mean they're not actual, legitimate factors.

#31 Edited by SomeJerk (3304 posts) -

Bone density is a thing. Low in birds, they fly because they're so light. High in me, when I was 90 kilograms I was weak and starved with visible ribs and muswcles but still had this big frame, never broken a bone and I should be pretty damn dead after every fall tumble and roll I've made with and without vehicles in childhood and teenage years, I've got plenty of scars from my adventures and lemme tell you 'bout pulling keys out of my thigh. Low in weak frail friends you may remember from school who regularly broke bones and got injured.

Masseur's like "damn that's a lot of muscle", chiropractor's like "damn that's a lot of bone". I am medicinally verified as having a naturally huge-ass build with these things. I by all means, can be called huge.

But don't call me fat unless you want to trade youmom-jokes.

#32 Posted by Evilsbane (4649 posts) -

Hey solution to everyone's problem unless they are asking you advice or your trying to help a family member or SO, Don't Talk About Physical Appearance Its Rude.

#33 Posted by Hunter5024 (5809 posts) -

There are about ten more polite ways to call someone overweight. I don't think people usually mean "skinny" in a bad way, and even if they did, there are fewer negative connotations associated with it, so it still wouldn't be as bad.

#34 Posted by seveword (177 posts) -

I've lost a lot of weight over the last two years and the majority of my relatives and siblings are overweight. I've heard "skinny", "stick figure", and (seriously) "Holocaust survivor" thrown around here and there. Given that I am eating healthy and working out regularly, I kind of took exception to the fact that they were calling me skinny when I'm only thin by comparison.

I also called a legitimately fat guy fat once. He didn't say anything and walked past me in complete silence on his way to the vending machine, where he grabbed two bags of chips and a cookie.

There's really no point to any of this.

#35 Posted by pyromagnestir (4326 posts) -

@jeffgoldblum:

He's asking for the logic that makes them good and bad in the first place.

Generally people want to be skinny and don't want to be fat. That's the logic.

Of course some individuals don't want to be skinny, and thus wouldn't feel good if someone called them skinny and doing so is perhaps every bit as hurtful as calling someone fat, but you're probably less likely to come across such people because there's fewer of them.

There's probably people out there who don't want to be called handsome or pretty, strong, smart (I know I don't particularly like that one), and all sorts of things most people would take as a compliment, but the difference is usually intent. When you say something most people see as a compliment you don't intend to cause harm, whereas if you say someone's fat you can be pretty sure it's a hurtful thing to say.

#36 Posted by Skyfire543 (713 posts) -

I don't think it's nice to call someone either. Skinny and fat both have negative connotations to people. A complementary way to call someone skinny could be 'fit', or something along those lines, and a more observational way to call someone fat could be 'heavy' or 'large'. I know as someone who has been called 'fat' that it really sucks. I would much rather hear large. It's more polite, and (to me at least) doesn't carry those negative connotations.

#37 Posted by Amafi (876 posts) -

@amafi said:

@epicsteve: Ah, the mythical hard gainer. If someone wants to gain weight it's pretty simple, eat everything you see and do your squats.

That's a real thing. Metabolisms and caloric deficits vary between people. Plus, getting fat isn't the answer to gaining weight.

Of course it varies. It's not easy to eat enough for everyone, but it IS simple Just like losing weight is simple. Eat more and lift weights to gain weight, eat less and run or swim to lose it.

Again, not easy, but pretty simple. And of course, some people have legit stuff going on with their bodies that needs medical attention, but for a majority of people it really is that simple.

Also, outside of noob gains for the first 6 months of lifting you are not going to be able to gain strength and muscle mass without gaining fat. Luckily, losing the fat afterwards is simple.

#38 Edited by JadeGL (912 posts) -

Why can't you just say someone looks nice? I always say something like "So-and-so, you look fabulous in that dress!" or "Wow, those shoes make your legs look five miles long!" and not that they look skinny or whatever in it. I find just saying someone is fat or skinny to be pretty weird, even tactless. It's better to say they look good and not focus on something that could be a sensitive topic.

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#39 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@jadegl said:

It's better to say they look good and not focus on something that could be a sensitive topic.

What if they want specifics?

#40 Posted by s10129107 (1184 posts) -

A lot of men resent being called skinny, especially when they have a hard time building muscle. OP has a point, it's not necessarily a good thing to be skinny male or female. I think the safe thing to do is not comment on anybody's weight unless they're quite obviously in fantastic shape.

I think the reason for this double standard is because of how media has conveyed beauty for the last 30 years. I think it's changing now, but when I was a kid all models were severely malnourished. Maybe it's changing because of the diminishing prevalence of magazines, or then again maybe it's not. Who knows.

#41 Edited by Zeik (2538 posts) -

If someone calls me skinny I don't see it as a compliment, because I've never been overweight, so the only implication is that I'm TOO skinny. And considering being underweight is something I worry about on occasion, it does have similar connotations to being called fat.

I think the TC has a reasonably valid point, but I don't think that means I should be able to call people fat, nor do I want to. That just sounds like looking for an excuse to be a dick.

#42 Posted by punkxblaze (2990 posts) -

@rethla said:

I call people fat and skinny all the time both as friendly teasing them and also as to poke them "hey you should do something about that". I feel theres nothing wrong with either. I live in sweden btw.

I like you, Sweden. You seem to make sense.

#43 Posted by Riotisonfire (123 posts) -

I honestly think it should be okay, just like we say it's okay to tell someone to stop smoking, we should be able to tell them to stop eating. I am normally not a very fat individual, but I did gain a lot of weight one year and my friends just started calling me fat. Of course that made me feel bad but that is what motivated me to lose all that weight (which I have). So of course feelings are going to be hurt. It is all up the individual person how they will take it.

#44 Edited by tourgen (4542 posts) -

Call them fat. What? Like they could even catch you no matter how mad you make them.

#45 Posted by ripelivejam (4295 posts) -

social morays

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#46 Edited by JadeGL (912 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@jadegl said:

It's better to say they look good and not focus on something that could be a sensitive topic.

What if they want specifics?

Well most people outside of sitcoms don't say "Does this make me look fat?" so I would say asking for specifics is super rare, at least in my experience. If it happens, you have the green light for saying specifics, just don't be upset if someone thinks you're being a jerk, depending on what you say and how you say it. You can say skinny of fat without those words. It's being polite while still trying to be honest. I work in an office full of women my age and older. It's way of speaking I've learned over time and I find it quite helpful for not coming off like an asshole to those I have to work with day in and day out. Plus, you get honest but intelligent comments in return when needed. Win win.

Moderator
#47 Edited by Oddballs (152 posts) -

It's equally as lame to comment on any aspect of someone's physical appearance.

#48 Edited by Brendan (7843 posts) -

@jasonr86: For sure, I don't exactly like being called "scrawny" at times either, because I spend time exercising regularly to maintain a decent build. Not that I'm an expert but it sounds like you get a bit of a ribbing for being where others wish they could be.

#49 Posted by ZolRoyce (730 posts) -

I find it kind of funny that I have this one friend who will actively attempt to not call me fat. I have literally told him to call me fat, for I am fat, and he'll always go "Oh nooo noo you aren't fat at all!" And it can get aggravating. Sometimes an honest jerk is better then a dishonest nice person.

If you are fat, and it insults you sooooooooo much to be labeled fat, how about you try not to be fat. I'm fat, but I'm not as fat as I was a year ago, and a year from now hopefully I'll be less fat as well, but for now I am what I am so go ahead and call me it.

#50 Edited by Draugen (672 posts) -

Can't we instead agree that it's not ok to be a dick, whatever words you choose to use?