Monday, January 3, 2011

Oh Yeah?! Well, You're Fat!

A really common feminist discussion piece is body image, and how much it sucks. I thought I'd give my take on it, as I've had my own share of troubles, as have my friends, and I recently read this article discussing when we women first started having our body insecurities. I noticed the article itself rather made a stereotype, something any well-meaning feminist tries to avoid--it mainly pinned this on men, asking commenters to tell stories of the first man who made them feel like crap. But in reading the comments, I noticed that it was mainly women who imparted body issues on other women, be it mothers, stepmothers, sisters, aunts, or grandmothers. How can this be? Shouldn't we all be in this together?

Apparently not. Think about the first insults a woman will use on another woman--bitch, fat-ass, slut, skank, etc. In my experience, the words 'fat' are often paired with these insults, as if a fat bitch, a fat slut, a fat husband-stealer somehow makes it infinitely worse. Is fat really the worst thing you can be? And who decides what 'fat' even means anyway?

All things considered, I've been pretty lucky. The women in my life have NEVER made me feel insecure how I look. From the time I was born, my mother has always impressed on me that I am beautiful, talented, and highly intelligent. Even when I didn't brush my hair when a little girl, even when I stopped showering in middle school, my mother has never said anything to me except that I was beautiful and the daughter she's always wanted.

My father has generally been the same way--I can only recall two instances where he's ever made me feel bad about myself. The first was when I was twelve, and my father told me that I was pretty, but not pretty enough to be noticed in a bad way by bad people. I don't think it meant in a mean way, but as an insecure twelve-year-old, it still stung. The third was about a year ago, when my father jokingly commented on me gaining a little weight (which wasn't true). I don't think he meant it--two weeks later, I explained that it hurt me, and he didn't even remember what he said. He apologized to me though. But the fact is, that night I skipped dinner.

As for the rest of the world...that's another story. Boys are very vindictive in middle school, and I suffered a lot of name-calling. Girls were nearly just as bad, but rather than saying things to my face, comments on my personal hygiene were whispered and gossiped about--somehow, I think that's even worse than direct assault.

I have a friend who is a talented writer, intelligent and social, and beautiful in nearly every way. And yet, this doesn't seem to be enough. The females of her family insist on deriding and belittling her because she isn't what they consider thin or attractive enough. I have another friend who was picked on because her fellow classmates felt her boobs were too big, and she was drawing unwanted attention on herself (as if this was her fault.) I also have a friend who nearly developed an eating disorder because of the pressures to be classically thin.

What is it about girls that make us vivisect each other on the way we look? If she's slim, she's a skinny bitch. If she's curvy, she's a fat slut. If she's blonde, she's a dumb bimbo. If she dates a lot of guys, she's a slut, if she doesn't want to have sex till she's married, she's a prude. What is it about our personal habits and appearance that makes us easy targets? Shouldn't we be more concerned if a woman is cruel or rude? Or vindictive and mean? And if they are, why is our first automatic insult about the woman's looks rather than her personality?

J.K Rowling, one of my favorite writers, summed it all up nicely. "I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don't want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny--a thousand things before 'thin'...Let my girls be Hermiones rather than Pansy Parkinsons."

Amen, Ms. Rowling. C'mon girls, let's stop the shaming. Let's be Hermiones, not Pansy Parkinsons.

1 comment:

  1. Hear hear! You have no idea how much this means to me :) And I noticed my reference in there, darling :) Excellent point!