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Guest Blog: Fan Art - Skinny Washing

This blog was contributed to Fat Girls in Fiction by Author Alexis Maness! See our interview with Alexis!


Skinny-Washing in the Book Art Community


There’s a disturbing trend in the book art community that’s becoming more and more apparent—artists are insistent on skinny-washing canonically mid-size and fat characters. And not only that, but fans are encouraging them with praise, likes, and even coming to their defense when the plus-size community speaks up. So, what’s the deal? Why is everyone so desperate to portray every book character as skinny? There’s two main factors at play here—internalized and blatant fatphobia—and both need to be addressed.


Who’s Being Skinny-Washed?


As a fellow fat, you can probably easily guess which characters are the victims of skinny-washing since there are so few. But if you’re not familiar, the main three characters that I see people doing this over and over again with are Poppy from From Blood and Ash, Nina from Six of Crows, and Bryce from Crescent City. I’m sure there are others I’m not aware of, but since these books are such heavy hitters in the fantasy community, it’s easy to see when these constantly come up on my feed.


What’s the Harm of Skinny-Washing?


It sucks, but is it really that big of a deal? Personally, I’ve been asked this a few times by my non-reader friends when they see me get up in arms about this on my socials. And I’ll tell you what I tell them—YES, it really is that big of a deal.


When artists skinny-wash characters, they’re effectively saying that the only way they can be worthy of art and praise is if they fit the beauty standard. Which in turn, tells us fat readers that we’re not beautiful or worthy as we are. Not only that, but these characters are SO few and far between that when you erase them, you erase us from the space completely.


Plus, it’s actively going against the author’s wishes. If they wrote that character as mid-size or fat, it’s because they wanted that representation. And to the artists who insist on doing this, KNOWING the character is fat, I ask you, what gives you the right? Authors’ representation should be respected and preserved at all times. It’s extremely rude and dismissive to change their vision. There’s interpretation and then there’s erasure, plain and simple. Sure, interpret the design of their gown, but when it comes to marginalized bodies, it’s unacceptable to chalk that up to misinterpretation.


There are so many layers to how harmful the act itself is, but I think the worst part is how the artists and their fans respond when anyone speaks up.


Let’s Talk Artist Reactions to Being Called Out


Many book content creators, including myself, have been trying to call out artists—especially those with large accounts—asking them to please consider drawing the characters as they are supposed to be moving forward. And when we ask nicely, you know what we get?


That’s just my interpretation.


I wasn’t aware that character was supposed to be larger.


If you don’t like it, find another artist who draws her the way you want.


And to top it off, our comments are usually deleted.


All in all, it’s a mess and people refuse to take credibility. However, as long as fans keep supporting them and telling them how PERFECT these depictions are, it’ll keep happening. Especially, when authors don’t put their foot down to protect their character’s identity.


So, What Can We Do?


There are a few things we can do to try to improve the book art community and hold artists to higher standards:


  1. As a reader: Call it out when you see it. And I don’t necessarily mean blasting them. Personally, I like to try to reach out to them and make it a growth opportunity first. But if I’m met with hostility, or if it’s a repeat offender, then I probably will call in the community for backup.
  2. As an author: Give clear descriptions in your books. The defense too often is something along the lines of “curvy could mean anything” or “they didn’t say she was plus size”, even when there are clear context clues. So, please try to be more forward for your readers and for the rep we desperately need. And if you can afford it, commission your own character art and display it prominently so people know what they look like. And lastly, if someone skinny-washes your character, say something.
  3. As an artist: It’s time to step up to the plate and diversify your art. Thin bodies aren’t the only ones that exist in the real world or in books. Let’s start celebrating different bodies and respecting the rep in the books we love. You have no idea how much of an impact it can make if you take the initiative.
  4. As a fan: Support artists who draw fat bodies and diverse characters. Here are a few accounts on Instagram to start with:


If you wanna talk more about this topic and see more fat art rep, follow me on Instagram, I share a lot! @authoralexiscmaness


I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and look forward to seeing how we can all help push book art to be more inclusive, because we’re all worthy of being works of art!

Beautiful femme with light brown skin and long hair, radiant smile.
An illustrated fat femme looks sad as she thinks of her perception of characters as thin masculine person and fat femme, the book cover has a muscular masculine chest, and the fan art has two thin people holding hands.