Posted by: Andrea | July 31, 2008

A slightly weightier issue

I have a wonderful friend here in Glasgow that I’ve known for quite a few years.  She’s witty and funny and incredibly smart.  She’s a bit scatter brained but she’s always been there for me and she’s constantly telling me how beautiful and gorgeous I am and how men flirt with me constantly (categorically not true but as always, the ego boost is appreciated!).  She’s endlessly supportive of her friends and always encouraging us about our appearances.  She is also probably the skinniest person I know in real life and constantly calls herself fat.  Sometimes I think all she does is think about her weight and how it affects her life.  About six months ago she gained (she says) 25 pounds.  Now to be honest, all it looked like to me was that her clothes got a little bit tight and her boobs got GINORMOUS.  She was in no way ‘fat.’  She was still an extremely thin person, she just now had bigger boobs and a few more curves.  If by ‘curves’ you mean she went from a pencil to a slightly bigger pencil.  With big boobs.

Now, as a woman who has curves that are actually CURVY, I got so sick and tired of hearing her complain about how fat she was.  And it bothered me too, because of the obvious fact that if the skinniest woman I know was saying she was fat, what does that make me?  It especially bothered me because this friend is probably the most ardent feminist that I know.  She refuses to be called a ‘girl’ (she’s a WOMAN, got it?!) and we once got into a huge fight about whether or not she should allow anyone else to call themselves a girl either.  She’s all about empowering women and social change and making the world better, but she became depressed because her clothes got tight.

She eventually lost the weight and is back to being skinnier than ever, which I refuse to congratulate her on because I honestly thought she looked better before.  I know I can be a bit flippant with her sometimes.  I get frustrated with her and annoyed about her constant need to discuss her weight.  Instead of being supportive I just throw out a ‘shut up, you’re the skinniest woman I know.  Seriously, shut up.’   I know this isn’t helpful.  But I honestly don’t know how to be supportive to someone who thinks about her body in this way.  And I find that the more I DO listen, the more my own self-esteem is damaged.  That’s not the type of mud slinging I want to join.

It took me a long time, but I’ve come to appreciate and even love my body.  That journey is the subject for another blog post (must too long to get into here) but it’s been a very hard-won battle for me.  I’m not perfect, there are times when I moan about my thighs just like every other woman.  But I don’t like it and I recognize that it’s not helping me.  No, I don’t have a perfect body.  Far from it.  But it’s MINE and for that reason alone I’m determined to treat it with respect.  After the many years of treating it like my enemy, if my body had a mind of its own it would have a serious inferiority complex.

I know that women talk a lot of shit about their bodies.  There’s probably not a single ‘girl’s night out’ that occurs without at least one mention of appearance.  Someone will say how fat they feel or how ugly they look.  Then the other woman will tell them they’re being ridiculous and then weigh in with a complaint about themselves.  Women often feel compelled to complain about their bodies, even if they don’t actually feel this way!  Why do we do this?

After thinking about this a lot, I don’t really have an answer.  All I know is that I wish we’d stop.  I can’t make everyone in the world stop putting themselves down, but I can actively try not to put myself down.  At least that’s something.

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Responses

  1. I wrote my MA thesis on the media and body issues probably to make myself feel better about my own body. I don’t look like a 12 year-old boy. I don’t wear size 6 jeans and only sometimes wear size 8. My jaw line won’t slice anything open and my abs will never resemble a 6-pack (believe me, I’ve tried; doing 500 sit ups a day for 6 months and nothing). I monitor my clothing closely and always look for ways to hide certain bits.

    But you know why? I know that men like girls with more weight on them (my research data proved that); but I read magazines congratulating actresses from going from a fat size 6 to a more attractive size 2 just kills me. Thank the lord no one is taking pictures of my ass and printing them on the cover of any tabloid. I think I’d die.

  2. I think it’s a constant struggle because as much as we logically know that the majority of women just can’t be like celebrities (and don’t want to!) that pressure to look like that is still there. There was an actress here who lost a ton of weight (went from a size 10 to a size 4) and publicly talked about how hard it was for her to keep that body. She was on a strict diet and had to work out for 2 hours every day. What kind of a life is that? It just makes me sad.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have bad days too, but I actively try to keep from thinking that way. It’s definitely hard! But I bet you’d look awesome on the cover of a magazine 🙂


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