Fat Women and Short Men

I might have missed the bandwagon on this but a while ago (a week? a month? who knows?!) but this clip (see below)  from Louie was making the rounds on the internet to the applause of feminists everywhere. (That’s feminists in the broadest sense, by the way, i.e. anyone who thinks men and women should be equal.)

And it got me thinking. You see, I’m lucky to have a good figure (and in my case it is luck – I inherited my dad’s fast metabolism so I can eat whatever I want and never exercise and still be pretty slim) and a positive body image so I’ve never really thought much about body image and the pressure women feel to have a certain body and what it is like to be a fat woman.

I’ve got to say, typing the word ‘fat’ made me feel pretty uncomfortable back there. And I think that’s because, like Sarah Baker says in the clip, we’re not really allowed to talk about it. To even acknowledge that some women are fat feels like a huge taboo. It’s like you’re insulting thousands, maybe even millions, of women in one fell swoop by admitting they exist. Well I’m gonna come out and say it. Some women are fat. Some girls are fat. And you know what, as long as they’re relatively healthy, that’s OK. Or it would be if everyone else thought it was. If men didn’t, as she said, ‘hate us all’. If other women didn’t. If we as a society didn’t.

Now, of course, I don’t consciously hate fat women. But I do find myself judging them in a way that I rarely do with men. I see an overweight woman and I think ‘Wow – she’s fat’. I see an overweight man and, unless he’s very overweight, I won’t think a thing about it.

And worse than that, I feel superior to them. I feel thankful for not being fat. And a little bit smug for not having to work for my figure. I also feel that maybe they’ll look at me and hate me because I have something they don’t – I have the body women are supposed to have. OK, my boob’s aren’t quite big enough, and I have a pear shape rather than the hourglass/noodle (whichever we’re meant to be right now – I lose track but it’s always one of the two) but all that is just detail (and I’ve managed to stop caring about it, now). The main thing is I’m not fat.

And it doesn’t matter that I’m not healthy. That I rarely exercise and eat crap because that’s not what the fat issue is about. It’s about looking like a woman should.

So yes, I feel pretty ashamed of myself right now. Because I’m part of the problem. But it’s hard not to be with all the bullshit we get bombarded with from early childhood on a daily basis. I have a theory that we all carry a lot of bullshit in our subconscious that we don’t even know about. Maybe one day we’ll be free of it. Or at least able to look it in the eye and say I know you’re there and I call bullshit.

Now, there’s one place I intended to go from the start but haven’t yet. And that’s the counter argument. You’ll probably have heard this one. It’s the one when feminists are arguing against the pressure on women to have a certain body and complaining that men reject them if they don’t (i.e. if they’re fat) and non-feminists, usually men, pipe up with something like, ‘What about short men? If a man rejects a woman because of her body he’s a monster but it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to reject a man for his because he’s short.’

And then they sit back and fold their arms with a really smug look on their face because they think they’ve got you. They’ve caught you out by revealing the hypocrisy in feminism.

The thing is, though, that’s as much a feminist issue as women being accused of being fat. In fact, they stem from the same problem:

Men are supposed to be taller than women and women are supposed to be slim. Why?

Because (and I might be going out on a limb, here) men are supposed to be the strong ones and women are supposed to be…well, weak. Delicate, if you prefer. We’re meant to be petite, right? So we can feel safe when he’s holding us in his strong arms. So he can carry us out of burning buildings. A short man can’t carry a fat woman. Well, actually, I read somewhere that short people are in fact stronger than tall people but, you know, we’re talking aesthetics, here. It looks wrong. Short men seem less…powerful. Hence the ‘short man’ syndrome – it’s compensation for that.

And you know what? You, with your arms still folded but your smug look slipping, I agree with you. I agree that women shouldn’t judge men for being short any more than men should judge women for being fat. Because either way it’s bullshit.


Happy Birthday, Simone de Beauvoir!

Of course, I’m talking about Simone de Beauvoir because of google. And I’m not the only one. Several of the main newspapers have published articles online about her/google today, including the Guardian, which I had a quick read of in my lunch break. While doing so, it’s ‘more on this story’ links caught my eye – especially Feminism is on a high – but it needs a strong intellectual voice.

It’s an interesting read, and something I’ve been vaguely pondering for a while. There does seem to be a new wave of feminism – I’ve noticed it over the last year or so – but it’s not that good at picking its battles. You could argue feminists shouldn’t pick their battles but fight them all – and maybe that’s true – but maybe the less important battles distract from the more significant ones. The ones we really need to win.

Then again, maybe they are all so interwoven and connected that to win one you have to fight them all.

Take abuse, for example. It seems to me that abuse stems from a negative view of women, as a whole – that women are worth less than men, somehow – something an individual may have picked up from their childhood or absorbed from the media or deduced from the sex trade. If objectification is OK, and it’s OK to see women as sexual objects, is it therefore OK to treat women as objects – to be used as the user wants – to be abused? In short, does objectification lead to abuse? If it does, to win the fight against abuse, we need to win the fight against objectification and of negative views of women as a whole. Any view that women are in some way less than man is potentially dangerous, then, even a view which causes ‘chivalry’ – giving up a seat on a bus, for example.

Then again, to say that ‘chivalry’ is as big a problem is abuse is absurd, right?

I don’t know. It’s very confusing being a feminist in this day and age. And I think the reason for that is we have no clear goal. All the other waves had one. First wave: the right to vote; second wave: the right to work; third wave: now, I’m not sure about that one – it seemed more a continuation of the second to me, but I’ve never studied feminism, I just identify as one. Hang on a minute, which wave are we even in? Why is feminism so confusing?! And why does it matter? What I’m I even talking about? Oh yeah – no clear goal.

Much like this blog post, the current ‘wave’ or whatever it is lacks focus. What do we want? EVERYTHING!!! Obviously, we want equality and because we’ve made progress in the most obvious areas of inequality – i.e. working and the vote, it’s difficult to know which one issue to fight for now. We could go for equality of pay but that’s just not as sexy as fighting the sex trade and objectification. We could fight for the rights of women in countries which haven’t progressed – countries where women are expected to throw themselves into the flames of their husband’s funeral pyre or aren’t allowed to drive because it’s ‘bad for them’ (a symptom of a much deeper problem) but then what would we do about Robin Thicke and the like?

I know I’m having a go but be assured I am also having a go at myself. I frequently catch myself nit-picking about stupid little things and the problem with it is it opens you up to ridicule. It confirms the false view that we don’t need feminism anymore because if we did we wouldn’t be bothering about these little issues but would be standing up to fight the one big problem.

But maybe all these little things are the problem. Because the problem is one big, all-engulfing monster, and really, it always was. Maybe our generation is just so fed up with putting up with the crap that we don’t want to put up with any crap from now on. So, yeah, we’re gonna fight about everything because everything adds to the problem. YEAH.

Or maybe, we need to pick something – anything – and focus on that.

It’s confusing being a feminist in this day and age.

But I do think that the central problem – the inequality – does still exist and does still need to be fought. Because, despite all the progress we’ve made, the following is still true:

Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male

But maybe that’s a topic for another post.

For now, I’ll leave you with this link to the Guardian’s 10 key Simone quotes.

And a confession.

I have never read The Second Sex.

I want to. It’s been on my Goodreads ‘to read’ ‘shelf’ for a while. I just…haven’t got round to it but I will soon. I’ve requested a copy from the library so it should be ready for collection in a couple of days.

Until then…

…I’ve got no follow up. Sorry but I’m kind of frazzled right now.


On Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines

So. A lot of fellow feminists have been saying the ‘blurred lines’ in this song are those between a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ in terms of sexual consent and the lyrics promote rape culture. And it’s easy to see why when the line ‘I know you want it’ is repeated several times. And when you take certain lyrics out of context and compare them to things rapists have said, the similarities are worrying.

Thing is, though, in context, the ‘I know you want it’ line is actually about the fact that this other man doesn’t know ‘you’ want it because he has a stereotypical view of ‘you’, thinking that as ‘you’re’ a ‘good girl’ ‘you’ don’t want to have sex, which is why he ‘tried to domesticate you’.

Now, I agree with Robin Thicke in that women want to have sex. And I agree that men shouldn’t try to domesticate women (or vice versa, for that matter). If a woman is domesticated by choice/nature that’s great – I’m happy for her that she knows what she wants. But if a man assumes all women want that or that’s how women should be, we have a problem. So, in terms of ‘blurred lines’ of gender roles – yes, I hate them, too.

Thing is, though, I’m not so sure about the need for the ‘good girl’ label. It’s creepy and, worse for me, patronising, especially when he applies it to his wife, as he did when ‘justifying’ the song by talking about her:

“Even very good girls have a little bad side. You just have to know how to pull it out of them.”

That is a worrying statement. This is a statement that promotes rape culture. It’s worse than the lyrics. In fact, if it weren’t for Robin Thicke’s attempts at justifying this song I’d be much more inclined to see it as a misguided attempt at empowering women and overcoming gender stereotypes. Misguided because, yes, a lot of the lyrics are questionable but, more importantly to me, it is patronising.

Before we get on to the patronising nature of this song, let’s take a look at some of the questionable lyrics. We’ve covered ‘I know you want it’ but what about ‘The way you grab me/ Must wanna get nasty’. For me, it’s more of the same. Why? because it’s followed by ‘Go ahead, get at me’ rather than anything about him getting at her. If a guy grabbed me I’d assume he wanted to have sex. Does that mean I’d force him into it? Of course not. Can that not go both ways? Is it possible for a woman to be a tease? Yes. Is this acceptable behaviour? No. It’s not fair to the guy. Does that mean she’s asking for rape, that it’s OK to rape her or that if she were to be raped itwould be in any way her fault? No. But does Robin Thicke suggest he’s going to force her if she doesn’t give consent? I don’t think he does.

What he does suggest is that the ‘good girl’ secretly likes it rough. Which happens. Some women do like it rough. And maybe that’s his point. In which case, it is more of the overcoming gender stereotypes thing. However, while we hear a lot about what he ‘knows’ she wants, we don’t know whether or not he’s right. I guess the rape culture interpretation of this song works on the basis that he’s lying. And, in fact, I’d be inclined to believe that what he says she wants is actually what he wants and therefore wants her to want. Good on him for wanting her to want it, rather than just taking what he wants, but it’s still really about what he wants. I mean, whose fantasies are these? His fantasy of the ‘good girl gone bad’ or hers of the sex she’s always dreamed of but never managed to get?

Either way, I have a problem with this song. You see, what really pisses me off is the fact that all the way through he’s telling her what she wants and that she can get that with him. It’s beyond patronising. At one point, he offers to liberate her. Wow, thank you, Robin Thicke, I’d never be able to liberate myself! I need a man to do that for me!

Honestly, to me this song sounds like one long chat-up con: I want to have rough sex with you so I’m planting that idea in your head with the suggestion that rough sex is empowering because it’s against gender stereotypes while  calling you a ‘good girl’, which serves to both flatter and enforce the empowerment concept by reminding you of how patronising those gender stereotypes really are, and painting myself as your sexual liberator/hero. You’re welcome!

(Or: I see women as girls I can control and it turns me on to turn ‘good’ girls into ‘bad’).

Overall, Blurred Lines is disrespectful because it’s patronising, and the fact that he tries to dress it up as empowering – maybe he even believes it is – makes it even worse because that’s manipulation. And his other claim that it’s pointing out the ridiculous, laughable nature of rape culture? Really? Come on. It’s too blurred a line for that joke to work and you know it. Makes you think it might be deliberate. After all, I’m sure all the controversy hasn’t harmed the sales.

Oh, and one more thing. Nobody wants their ass torn in two – they’d need immediate medical attention. They’d probably bleed to death in excruciating pain, and can you imagine the mess? Can you?? That’s just a terrible idea. Not hot. If you tried the whole con in this song on me, which might have a slight chance at success if I was drunk and single, that line would definitely make me come to my senses.