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.