When Zendaya (left) was presented with the Kids’ Choice Awards prize for Favorite Female TV star on Saturday, she was clearly thrilled.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I do it for you guys,” the beaming Disney Channel star, 19, said. “I just want you to know that doing and making positive programming for young people is so important to me, and I will keep doing it. To all the parents out there, thank you for allowing me to be a role model for your children.”
But her pride was quickly tempered by a single, snippy tweet from comedian Julie Klausner (top right), who posted Zendaya’s “role model” comment and added: “And thinspo model for your impressionable tweens.” (“Thinspo,” for the uninitiated, is short for “thinspiration” and refers to skinny celebs that followers of pro-ana, or anorexia, sites, look to for inspiration to keep on starving.)
Klausner went on from there, also tweeting, “Zendaya’s ultimate retort to Giuliana Rancic is starving herself down to the size of one of her elbowz” (apparently referring to the time Rancic criticized Zendaya’s dreadlocks as looking “really heavy”). To that, Zendaya replied, “Do you find this funny? I will write another paragraph to educate you as well,” and then went on to tweet, “Now… everyone go look in the mirror at their beautiful body, and love that s*** #thickgirlswinning #skinnygirlswinning #weallwinning.”
Zendaya on the orange carpet Saturday. (Photo: Getty Images)
While Zendaya stopped the back-and-forth there and let her supporters take over, Klausner went on, noting, “You don’t have to have an eating disorder to attend the Kids’ Choice Awards… but it helps!” and “I will never stop criticizing celebs who perpetuate dangerous beauty standards for a generation of girls who grow up thinking they’re fat,” among other things.
Sigh. Where to even begin to unpack this Twitter tit for tat?
For starters, with a question: Why are women’s bodies still fair game in public conversations?
“It’s time make body shaming of all kinds off limits,” Dr. Robyn Silverman, a parenting and body-image expert and author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat tells Yahoo Beauty. “Shaming does not lead to progress but, rather, to regression. By putting the focus on body size rather than on character, contribution, accomplishments, and strengths, we tell girls that body size takes precedence over all other qualities.”
That said, just for the record, here’s a little background on the situation: Zendaya actually has been #thinspo fodder (at no fault of her own) for plenty of girls, who have posted her image along with the hashtag, plus moony comments like “THIS is my ultimate thinspo,” “my girl,” and “I’m watching Disney & Zendaya is such a thinspo & she’s so tall & pretty I’m crying.”
Second, Klausner is a comedian in the old-school tradition of Joan Rivers, for whom no topic was off-limits. (And it became clear that Klausner was feeling lonely in her comedic aesthetic over the weekend, as she tweeted, after a few more choice words for Zendaya, “I wish Joan Rivers weren’t dead.”)
Third, there are some who hold the belief, mistaken or not, that “thin shaming” is not quite equal to “fat shaming.” As a recent Bustle essay noted, “When it comes to thin shaming, the sufferers usually walk away with their thin privilege intact. They’ll step aside from an insult and into a society and media that celebrate their body. Although that doesn’t mean the insult doesn’t hurt, it does means the insult doesn’t usually stick in the same way.” That piece, in turn, referred to this one, from Everyday Feminism: “Can a thin person have body image struggles? Can a thin person be at war with their self-image? Can a thin person hate to look in the mirror? Absolutely. And does that suck? Absolutely,” it noted. “But the difference between these negative feelings and fatphobia is this: The only person worrying about whether or not I’m meeting beauty standards is me. And that’s not the same for fat folk.”
Still, particulars like these need to be swept aside, says Silverman, for the sake of those young, impressionable girls everywhere. “When it comes to body-related messages, girls would benefit by learning that health, wellbeing, and strength of a body is more important that size, shape, and appearance,” she says, adding that it’s time to stop perpetuating the idea “that body size, whether thin or plus-size, is gossip-worthy.”
And even Klausner, it seems, might be kind okay to get with that that. “I won’t apologize, non-apologize, delete tweets, backpedal or refuse to own my shit,” she tweeted on Sunday. “BUT- I will be more thoughtful going forward. /end.”