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I do a lot of crafty things, and some of those crafty things involve making and altering clothing, and spending time on forums full of other people who like to do crafty things like making and altering clothing. Online, when you finish a project, you present it by posting a picture, and since we're talking about clothing here, it's typical for someone to be wearing your project in the picture. Some people keep it simple and photograph just the project and nothing else, but a lot of people take a full-body shot.

Now, the entire point of this is to have people look at it and tell you what they think of your project. Even though people ask for critiques, generally, in craft forums, people are outrageously positive and pretty much bleed compliments. The thing is, when the piece of clothing (say it's a dress) is on someone with a cute and/or slim figure, the comments about appearance will refer exclusively to the dress: "So cute!" "Wow, that looks professional!" "Did you design it yourself?" "How did you do the back like that?" But when the photo is of someone very clearly overweight or obese, the comments almost always include a compliment to the person herself: "So cute! And I love your hair!" "Wow, that looks professional! And so good on you, too!" "Did you design it yourself? By the way you have the cutest smile!" "How did you do the back like that? It's so flattering on you!"

As a society, we generally agree that obesity is unattractive, and therefore, we tend to assume that people who are overweight must also feel unattractive. These overflowing compliments - and I should add, the implication here is that the person in the photo is not particularly shapely, that the dress is no more flattering than it would be on someone of a smaller size, that their hair and smile, while they may be nice, are not striking, but average - seem to me to be our way of reconciling with ourselves the fact that we find these things unattractive. We give overdoses of compliments where elsewhere we wouldn't think twice, just because we feel a little pity. Certainly there are people who give these comments genuinely, regardless of weight, but I suspect that there are quite a few people who dole them out simply because they assume that someone who is overweight needs to hear that they look good.

Maybe there is truth in this assumption. Maybe the skinny little girls already know they look good, whether or not anyone tells them that not only is their dress cute, but they are too. But I think it's unfair to assume this. I know quite a few thin people who are very insecure about their appearance, and quite a few heavy people who are confident and sure of themselves, whether or not anyone feeds them compliments. It's the same phenomenon that allows society to accidentally overlook eating disorders when they occur in people who don't actually have weight problems: we inherently assume that people who look good already know it and don't need to be told, so we go overboard giving out compliments when someone is less attractive. It's a little shocking when slender women have trouble with their appearances and heavy women aren't fazed.

I should mention, however, that I'm not protesting this phenomenon, just observing it. I do believe that everyone could use a compliment, no matter what their body type, and that it's unfair to decide whether or not to compliment someone based on whether or not we think they need it. However, I also think that decision is often made subconsciously. This node was simply meant to be an observation.

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