Tag Archives: appearance

The Fat Pejorative

You really want to insult a woman? Make her feel like she’s nothing? Let her know that no matter what she’s accomplished in her life, the only thing that matters about her is her outward appearance?

It’s surprisingly easy. Just tell her she’s fat.

Here are a few other ways to cement the idea that she is fat, and therefore not really worthy of any other consideration in life:

  • Question her every time she eats -“Are you eating again?”  “Are you really going to eat that?”  “Should you really be eating that?”  “Try an apple instead.”
  • Giver her unsolicited food or exercise advice.
  • Talk to her only about her weight, the food she eats, whether or not she exercises, or her “health”.
  • Take pictures of her eating and put it on the internet with what you view as funny, albeit mean slogans.

What brought this on today, you ask?

An old high school friend of mine posted this picture of Michelle Obama on Facebook.

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Now, this is not a political blog, and I do not wish to delve into politics here. Certainly, anyone is free to disagree with the president or any politician of any persuasion at any time for any reason. That is a right that is protected by the constitution. This picture is also protected speech, however repugnant it may be.

That said, I was outraged by this picture. The politics of it are inconsequential. What has me angry is the message it sends about women, food, fat, and shame. It says that no matter what a woman has accomplished in her life, that her outward appearance matters more than anything.

She can’t be caught doing anything unattractive, certainly nothing as unattractive as eating. Heaven forbid. That is immediate grounds for mockery of the highest order.

This whole episode has started me thinking about the use of the word “fat” as a pejorative. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been called “fat” as an insult, even during times in my life when I was clearly not fat. And it has clearly had a deleterious effect on my life.

What bothers me now is not how being called fat or being mocked because of food affects me, because I’ve learned more constructive ways of dealing with that. I am worried about the message it sends to young girls. Young girls are bombarded with wildly inappropriate images of unattainable airbrushed beauty. They are sent contradictory messages from the food and diet industries…consume, diet, consume, diet. Eating disorders are on the rise. Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels. All of this worries me.

I have a 6-year-old niece who seemingly knows nothing about food issues apart from her allergies. Here is what she knows. When she’s hungry, she eats. She does not worry about the number of calories in something. She doesn’t worry that it will make her fat. She just eats when she’s hungry. When she’s not, she doesn’t. Furthermore, as far as I can tell she has no self-esteem issues whatsoever. This is the kind of life and self-image I want for all girls.

I never want to see her change. In fact, I do not ever want any girl to ever go through what I have been through. It makes me sick to think that society will push her into obsessing over food, what she eats, how much and how often, and basing her value solely on her appearance.

I can assure you, it is no way to live. Mocking pictures like the one above, only perpetuates the notion that eating and being fat are the worst possible crimes a woman can commit.

Until we change that notion, being fat can and will always be used as a pejorative to bring and keep women down by people who are not smart enough to disagree with you more intelligently. We need to recognize that food is for nourishment and everybody eats. We need to recognize obesity as a medical condition and treat it as such. We need to recognize that women have value because they are people and as such deserve respect.

But mostly, We need to stop giving the trolls the power to control how we see ourselves by using fat as a pejorative. That is truly the only way things will change for young girls in the future.

Feeling Pretty

It has been a long time since I have felt pretty.  Not that I ever felt very pretty very often.  I always thought that I was fat even when I was not.  I never really liked how I looked.  I was too short.  I never liked my nose.  My smile was never big enough.  My chest was too big too early in life for me to feel comfortable.  I never liked my hair.  I could go on forever, as could just about every woman I have ever met. 

I can think of a small handful of times that I actually felt pretty.  One, I was in kindergarten.  I had the most adorable Winnie the Pooh dress.  I loved that dress.  I felt really cute wearing it, too.  I was 5.  Who isn’t cute at 5?  I would have worn it every day too had my mother allowed it.  I think we agreed on once a week.  When first grade rolled around, I pulled the dress out of my closet to put it on so that I could wear it my first day of school.  My mother told me that I had grown and it no longer fit me, but I was determined.  Try as I might, I could not make it fit.  I was crushed and cried at the loss of my favorite dress. 

The next time I remember feeling truly pretty, I was a junior in high school.  I went to the homecoming dance with my brother’s best friend.  I had a gorgeous purple and white dress.  I spent days looking for just the right shoes.  I spent hours doing my hair and make-up.  I felt good and I thought I looked pretty good.  There was a photographer at the dance taking pictures of all of the couples, which he then sold as packages.  As we stood in line waiting to get our picture taken, the photographer came up to me and whispered in my ear, “I love the way you are poured into that dress.” 

OK, he was a creep and I immediately backed away from him.  Nonetheless, that did reinforce the idea in my mind that I was looking pretty that night.

Regrettably, I no longer have a picture from that dance.  I lost my copy over the years.  I think my mother has a copy, but I’m not sure.  I know my date does, at least he did a few years ago.  I’m still friends with him.  I just need to remember to ask him if I can borrow the picture and scan it.  (Mental note to self)

My most recent encounter with feeling pretty was this Easter.  I decided to wear a dress to dinner.  I had not worn a dress in a very long time.  I have two dresses from forever ago when I weighed about what I weigh now.  I felt pretty good that I could fit back into them.  My brother and his wife picked me up from my place so that we could all go to the in-laws for dinner.  When I got into the car, my five-year old niece told me that I looked pretty in a dress. 

She has commented on my appearance before.  One time she told me my clothes are getting too small, (she really meant too big), and asked, “What are we going to do with you?”  She knows that I was in the hospital, and that I have a tummy boo-boo, but apart from that, I do not think she really understands my weight loss.  Still, I love that she comments on my appearance changes. 

I know that I still have a long way to go in my weight loss journey.  And I could sit here all day and tell you what is wrong with my body and what I’d like to fix.  But nothing in a very long time has made me feel so good as to have my niece tell me I look pretty in a dress. 

(Sorry…had to cover up the kids.  I do not have their parents’ permission to share their images.)

 

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I have decided that I like wearing dresses.  I have another dress that I am wearing today.  I feel good wearing it too, which surprises me.  I have pretty much decided that for the summer I am going to wear more dresses.  It will be easier to deal with than pants and I can wear them longer as I lose weight. 

The only problem with this plan is that I only have two dresses.  I went to Macy’s last night to see what they had.  Nothing good.  Well, that’s not entirely true.   That had lots of nice clothes, but I’m not spending $79 on a dress I am only going to wear for a month or two.  I tried to order a dress from Kohls, but they never sent it to me.  I ended up cancelling the order and fighting with them over who would pay for the shipping charges.  So, I’m going to do some more looking around to see if I can pick up a handful of nice summery dresses to get me through the next couple of months.