Lady Bird star Beanie Feldstein wants people to stop commenting on her size.
Beanie Feldstein has written a powerful essay in which she explains why we should resist the urge to comment on other people’s bodies – even if we think we’re being complimentary.
The 24-year-old actress, who can soon be seen starring alongside Saoirse Ronan in hit indie film Lady Bird, writes in an op-ed for Refinery29 that she struggled with body image issues for most of her adolescence.
“My family, doctors, and society at large were constantly telling me that I was too heavy, that I needed to exercise more, that I should be smaller,” she says.
“I despised trying to lose weight and I resented everyone that made me feel like I had to.”
Feldstein, who plays Ronan’s best friend in Lady Bird (which recently became the best-reviewed film of all time), says she was only able to start feeling good about herself once she accepted that no amount of dieting could change her core body type.
“I realised that once I stopped trying to get closer to what our society deems ideal, I felt free,” she says. “I was so far from the norm that I felt no pressure to get anywhere close to it.”
However, in October 2016 Feldstein was cast in the Broadway production of musical Hello, Dolly!, and started to lose weight as a result of dancing onstage every night. And suddenly, she says, people started commenting on her body.
“I have to be honest: it really messed with my head,” she says. “After years of pain, I had finally found such a beautiful peace, one that most people, no matter what size they are, don’t have. And all of those ‘compliments’ took that away from me.”
Feldstein says she “[imagines] those that have been telling me that I look thin think they are being kind… The act of getting smaller is considered an achievement, and therefore they feel subliminal permission to comment on it.
“But here’s the issue: when everyone started telling me I looked smaller, I lost my beautiful mindset that took decades to find.”
Feldstein adds that her weight loss was not a decision, simply the side-effect of dancing “eight times a week”.
“I am not thinner because I was trying to be, or because I felt the need to be. Just because my body changed, doesn’t mean I wanted it to.”
Ultimately, the actress says, women who want to lose weight have the right to do so, and should be supported. But that doesn’t mean that a smaller body should suddenly become public property.
“A person’s body changing is simply not clearance for you to talk about it,” she says. “I know that nothing will truly change until we as a society are able to unravel the ingrained notion that thinness is ideal.
“However, I do hope that on a more interpersonal level, we can attempt to stop commenting on each other’s bodies.”
Feldstein isn’t the first famous woman to point out why commenting on someone’s weight can be problematic. When asked in an interview earlier this year how she stayed so slim, Mary Berry said that she lost a significant amount of weight after her son died in a car crash.
“I’ve got smaller,” she said. “[Because] sadly, we lost a son. William died and I lost a stone and a half and I never put it on again.”
Holly Willoughby has also said that she refuses to talk about her weight in public, because of the risk that it could has a negative influence on people with eating disorders.
“I actually avoid talking about my diet and exercise regime because I have interviewed so many people affected by eating disorders,” she said in December 2016. “I know that some people in chat rooms can really fixate on other people’s diets.
“I just can’t contribute to that.”
Feldstein’s piece can be found in full here.
Images: Rex Features