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.


Why I’ve Signed the ‘No More Page 3’ Petition.

For all those international readers, The Sun is a British newspaper which publishes a feature known as Page 3. Page 3 consists of a photo of a woman with ‘her tits out’. This feature has been running for 42 years, today. To mark this anniversary, protestors around the UK have been running campaigns to gather support for a No More Page 3 petition. I have just signed the petition, which you can find here. So, I thought I’d take the liberty of writing a brief post about why I have signed and why I think Page 3 is wrong.

Firstly, The Sun is a newspaper, supposedly, not a soft-porn magazine. What on earth do topless women have to do with the news? If someone wants to look at topless women, fine, but a newspaper should not be the first place to look. It’s irrelevant content and could be replaced with, I don’t know, actual news.

Similarly, as a popular national newspaper, The Sun tends to be found lying around in public. On trains, on buses, in pubs and cafes, it’s easy to get hold of. What sort of message are we sending to children who could easily pick up this ‘newspaper’ and flick through to page 3? That topless women are news, somehow? That looking at topless women is normal/everyday/to be expected? A right? That this is all women are? If The Sun added a page 4 with a sexy, mostly naked man, at least we’d have equality, but I don’t think the objectification of either sex is something we should be promoting in a newspaper. As a child, page 3 made me incredibly uncomfortable. To be honest, it still does, but to a lesser extent.

Why does it exist? What purpose does it serve? Other than giving men something to leer at in an acceptable and easily available form. Porn exists and it’s easy to get hold of but it’s not acceptable to look at in public because it might offend people or children might see. Guess what, the same applies to page 3. OK, it’s soft-core, but it’s still pornographic. My point is, there’s a time and a place for looking at naked/semi-naked women and it’s not on the bus on your way to town or in the staffroom on your lunchbreak.

It was created in the 70s. We’ve moved on from then. We’ve progressed. Sexual harassment of women at work is no longer commonplace or acceptable, so why is it acceptable to publish topless photos of women in a newspaper which can be found lying around offices and staff rooms all over the country? It was created in the 70s and it belongs in the 70s, not the 21st century.

You can argue that it’s not hurting anyone. Actually, I think it is hurting people, it makes many people extremely uncomfortable and it encourages leeriness. But let’s say it doesn’t physically hurt anyone. Would removing it physically hurt anyone? Would anyone suffer as a result? No. Maybe the leery old men wouldn’t be able to leer in public but I can’t say I see that as a bad thing. Also, The Sun’s sales might suffer. Again, I can’t say I see that as a bad thing.

If you agree with this point of view, please sign the petition by clicking here and filling in the form on the right hand side. Thank you.

It’s OK to Say ‘Yes’

I’ve come across a few posts arguing that we should be teaching ‘our daughters’ that it’s OK to say ‘no’. Now, I understand that such posts come from mothers worried about the sexualisation of children and the idea is that girls agree to do things (e.g. sex) they’re not really ready for because the boy pushes them into it. The thing is, though, if the problem is that boys are too sexual and pushy, why not teach them to not do that – to respect a girl’s feelings and her right to make up her own mind without being cajoled? By focusing on teaching the girl what to do in that situation, you’re suggesting it’s her fault. As though the boy is blameless because he can’t help it – that’s just the way boys are. And if boys are naturally pushy when it comes to sex – does that mean they can’t help it when things get a little out of control – when the girl does say no?

It also suggests that all girls really want to say no but can’t because they’re, what, weak? Afraid? Too influence by peer pressure? I find that pretty patronising. Besides, if girls are being peer pressured into having sex, imagine the pressure on boys, who are supposed to want it all the time and are almost encouraged to try to trick a girl into sleeping with them. And what if the girl wants to? Oh, wait, that could never happen – a girl could not possibly make a rational, informed decision that she wants to have sex because girls aren’t as into it as boys – unless, of course, the girl’s a slut.

It all comes down to this archaic myth that women don’t have sex drives. We do. And while it’s true that most men want to have sex more often than women, this isn’t always the case. Newsflash: some women have higher sex drives than some men. And there’s no evidence that women enjoy sex less than men. In fact, it makes sense that they enjoy it more because they can orgasm more times.

So why teach all girls to say no? Why not teach them to make their own decision, without outside influence, and then have the dignity and strength to say, ‘this is what I want and you’re not going to change my mind.’

And while we’re at it, why not tell boys that it’s OK for them to not want to, too. The only thing that’s not OK is trying to force someone else into it when they don’t want to – that is unacceptable. That is the behaviour we need to stamp out, not girls saying yes.

Pimp My Ride – It’s a Jaguar!

That title is not altogether accurate. It refers to this week’s amazing episode of Mad Men (aka the best hour of TV, ever) which raises the issue of prostitution. If you don’t watch the show, here’s a brief summary of the storyline in question: the advertising agency that Mad Men is about are trying to get Jaguar to sign as one of their clients. During drinks, one of the representatives of Jaguar mentions how much he likes Joan and suggests that spending the night with her would help get their business. Joan does this and is made voting partner with 5% shares per her request. Now, this is why the title for this blog post is inaccurate – it implies Joan is the ride/Jaguar, right? ‘Pimp my ride’ suggests ‘pimp out my ride’ but it could also mean ‘pimp to my ride’ since a pimp sells the product to someone. But ‘pimp my ride’ suggests ‘out’ not ‘to’. Why? Because the focus is on what he’s pimping not to who. A prostitute is being pimped to…a man. The thing is, I can’t think of the word for ‘man who uses a prostitute’. I strongly suspect the reason for this is there isn’t a word. Other than something generic like customer. Even if there is, it’s not commonly used but why is this?

My theory, and this is something I’ve thought about before, is that it’s because society doesn’t see the customer or buyer or employer or whatever you want to call him as in the wrong. He doesn’t need a label to define him as a prostitute-user because he’s not the one at fault. He’s just paying for a service. The service may be immoral but that’s not his fault.

Of course, it is his fault. If there was no demand for prostitutes, there would be no supply. It seems unfair to me that a woman who sells herself gets called a variety of derogatory names: whore, call-girl, tart, street-walker, pro, harlot, fallen woman, woman of ill repute, hooker, slut, etc, etc but the man ordering another human being for sex like she’s a pizza is just a man paying for something.

So yes, perhaps we are disappointed with Joan for going through with it and yes, Pete Campbell is definitely a slimey git for putting the offer to her but you know who the real bastard is? Herb.

P.S. Anyone else notice how when Joan was trying to explain to Pete what he was asking of her, she said ‘Imagine how you would feel if they asked this of Trudy’ not ‘of you’. Yeah, I know…

Flash Fiction: Housekeeping

‘I just hate how it’s always left to me, you know?’ Sarah placed a plate on the drainer and began to wash another.

‘I know what you mean. It’s the same with me and Dan.’ Liz took the plate and started drying it.

‘I don’t mean he never does anything. He will if I ask him to but -.’

‘You’re lucky, then. Sometimes I’ll ask Dan to do something while I’m out and I’ll get home and-.’ Liz waved the dry plate.

‘Oh, plates go in that cupboard.’

‘Right.’ Liz put the plate away and reached for the next. ‘And he just says he forgot. I mean, come on.’

‘What pisses me off is the fact that we need to ask at all. It’s like it’s our responsibility or something. Because we’re women.’ Sarah scrubbed at the scrambled egg stuck to the pan.

‘I know. But it’s the way they were brought up, isn’t it. You know I went to Dan’s for Christmas?’

Sarah paused scrubbing to tuck her hair behind her ears. ‘Yeah?’

‘Well…’ Liz watched her friend battle with the pan. ‘Do you want me to have a go?’

‘No, it’s OK.’ Sarah scrubbed so hard she splashed some water. Liz raised her eyebrows. ‘No, really. It’s getting there, now. What happened at Christmas?’

Liz settled her back against the counter and told Sarah about how Dan’s mum had done everything and no-one had offered to help. Except for Liz herself, of course. ‘And she didn’t seem to mind. I just don’t get it.’

‘It’s disgusting.’ Sarah placed the last pan on the drainer and told Liz to leave it when she reached for it. She’d need it in a minute to start the dinner. ‘John’ll want it ready when he gets home.’



Flash Fiction: In the Summertime…

Smiles bask beneath sunglasses. Laughter floats in the air, and skin sighs as the warm breeze strokes it.

Jenny takes a gulp from her cider then leans back and picks up the conversation with her friends.

A woman walks past, the strappy top barely able to contain her large breasts.

Her friends glance at each other and begin to chuckle. Making comments about her ‘nice pair’.

Jenny raises an eyebrow and casts her eyes around the beer garden. She sees a man, his shorts pulled tight by his seated position.

She nods her head in the direction of his bulge. ‘Nice cock. I’d tap that.’