Mar. 21st, 2009

mordwen: (Default)
My Dad used to have a book with this title... I have no idea what the content was, as I never read it, but while 'fat' is obviously something that occurs in both the male and female population, I have to agree with the sentiment that fat is an issue that feminists need to address. These days, we'd call it body image. Unless you're writing a blog for The Age, in which case you clearly call it fat. I'm not actually going to go into the backward-mindedness of this woman who thinks a size 14 is fat, but I do want to examine something [ profile] nihilla  said to me the other day, which is "do you really mean it when you say you think you're too thin?" (I'd just asked her to take the seven bags of spearmint Suga lollies left over from [ profile] raven_'s bonbonnieres away from me as I'd just eaten a whole bag).

Cut for far too much detail )

When I say I'm too thin, I mean, "I'm 67kg, and that's a kilo under my regular weight but I'm carrying all this extra saggy belly fat right now, which I assume is about 2kg worth. I want to lose that which I'll do slowly through exercise, but that means I'm 'really' around 65kg right now. My arms look very thin right now. My face is a little more angular than usual. I definitely need to eat healthily and heartily to make sure I keep my weight up, especially as I'm breastfeeding." I don't mean, "Oh wow, I'm so skinny I can eat whatever I want!" and I don't think there should be a wildly swinging relationship with fats and sugars anyway (that is, I think "I'm skinny! I can eat chocolate and sugar and cake!" and "I'm fat! I have to diet and avoid chocolate and sugar and cake!" are pretty unhelpful thought patterns). I also don't mean, "I think my shape is perfect and I don't need to do any exercise".

Now, back to the feminist aspect of all this. First is the question of whether my weight and my attitude to it would be so carefully scrutinised if I were male. The answer depends on the culture: these days, rather than succeeding in removing body shape/weight from the public agenda, gender equality has simply transferred body image concerns onto some men as well. The multinational companies that depend on lack of self-esteem had to engineer that transition or they would have gone out of business. I don't think people tell men they "look good" depending on their weight so much though. People constantly said to me, shortly after Harper's birth, that I "looked amazing". I think this partly related to how "skinny" I looked given that many new mothers still have a lot of pregnancy weight on. I also think it related a little to the fact that I sleep very well so I didn't look as haggard as I might otherwise. I'm often told I look good when I've lost weight and I don't get those comments when I put on a little. The comments mostly come from other women. I think that's a problematic thing, not only the reinforcement of thin=beautiful, but also the fact that it's women, the policing of each other's bodies that we're encouraged to do.

Saying out loud that I think I'm too thin when I am is partly about giving Harper a good sense of body image. It's a delicate line to walk, between anorexia/bulimia on one side and obesity on the other. Both affect women more than men, I believe. And there are all the stories of nine year olds on diets and the rising issues of diabetes and obesity in our children. I fight self-image all the time, because I was brought up in this consumer magazine culture reading Dolly as a teenager just like anyone else, even though by Uni I was a honking feminist and have never read adult women's magazines in anything other than a critical context. I'd love it if she doesn't have to.


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