Thursday, February 28, 2008

Guest Post from Down Under: Size doesn't matter

From Jes, in Melbourne, a good friend of mine on livejournal (by the way, Jes, if you want me to publish your username, I will be happy to edit this to do so; I didn't want to link to you and get you bombarded with trolls):

You know what I'm really over? People thinking they're something special because of what they look like.

No, seriously. It's stupid.

I mean, fine, yay, have body confidence, look after yourself, take a bit of pride in your appearance if it makes you feel good, keep up with the personal hygiene thing because that's a good idea-- but beyond that-- so what? Once you've slapped on some makeup and gotten some surgery, there's going to be a truth remaining-- whatever you are on the inside is still you. Same stuff that's going to be there as if you're several dress sizes larger or not wearing any makeup.

I'm sick of the "weight debate." I'm sick of the hysteria crisis about ZOMG Childhood obeeesity!OHNOEZ! I'm sick of being spammed for weight loss drugs whenever I open my email. I'm sick to fucking death of people who don't fall into the conventional standards of attractive not buying into the bullshit hate-your-body machine and then being paid out for it. I'm sick of watching people be bullied and shamed about food on The Biggest Loser, and then seeing the whole thing hailed as "healthy" and "inspirational."

I'm also sick of the misguided notion that being a certain size frees you from ridicule from the general public and internet trolls. I'm sick of seeing activists assume that unless you're over a certain size, you've never experienced crap about what size you are. I'm sick of the idea that only some people have been conditioned to hate their bodies. I'm sick of someone posting a rage about fat hatred and then some skinny person nosing in going, "Don't hate on skinny people," when it wasn't anything to DO with skinny people, but to do with discrimination and hatred. Thinking that larger people deserve to be treated like human beings, and raging about when they're not does not equal hating on skinny people.

And you know what else I'm sick of? Smugness about body size. Believe it or not, your body size does not define who you are. It says nothing about how much intelligence you have, what your feel passionately about, who you love, how you treat people, what you do for a living or how your family is. It doesn't define your worth as a human being. It isn't something to be proud of, just like being tall or white or a blonde isn't something to be proud of.

I mean, every time I hear someone smugly point out that they're some conventionally-revered body size, I think, "Congratulations! You fall into the socially-acceptable guidelines either because you conformed and dieted, or because you were blessed with genetics which no one had any control over! GO YOU!" I mean, really. Boasting about conforming doesn't make you anything special, and boasting about your luck in the genetic lottery is just stupid. It's like the idiotic little snobby fuckers who I went to school with who used to brag about their parents' cars, like those cars were their achievements.

So yeah, I see "Look at me, I'm a size two!" following a bunch of insults levelled at larger people a completely petty comment. Why show off about your size like it matters? Evidently, if you're leaving rude comments on someone's blog because they dare question the mindset of a society which rewards you for being a size two to the detriment of others, you've already proven yourself to have a pretty pathetic personality. And no diet, or genetic luck, is going to get rid of that.

And no, it's not about body pride. It's one thing to say, "I'm a size two and I like my body and I feel good," it's another thing to use it like it's some sort of insult or leveller after paying out larger people. It doesn't strike me as the behaviour of someone who feels good about themselves to do that shit, either... generally people with confidence don't go out of their way to find people to bully.

I think it's, that, for a lot of people, "size two" is all they have. They can be ugly or stupid or dislike themselves a lot, but if they're a size two, that's their inch, their piece of power in a world that they don't hold many cards in. Why shouldn't it be-- look how revered the size two body is.

And the thing is, if fat people start liking their bodies and feeling okay about themselves and not caving into the diet/hate-yourself industries, what happens? Suddenly size doesn't matter anymore. Suddenly your being a size two doesn't count for shit. It's just another body size, nothing special, you're not a unique and beautiful snowflake and all the rest of it.

And no, this isn't an attack on people who are size twos. (What is that, anyway? ...That's a six in Australian sizes, right? I'm currently in size eight Aussie clothing. And if I was a size two, I'd still feel the same way, btw.) It's an attack on people who think that "I'm a size two!" is a wonderful way to put someone else in their place, and that it makes them more worthwhile than someone who isn't a size two. It's an attack on "body pride" that only comes with insulting other people about the size of their bodies, as though being thin rocks because there are people bigger than you and you get to pick on them.

It's body size. Unless you're living in a society which tells you yours is wrong, wrong wrong, or you're a professional athlete or a bodybuilder or something, what is there to be proud of? (I can totally understand people who have the body pride thing in spite of being ostracised for what they look like, in the same way I can understand, say, gay pride. It's having pride in who you are in a world that doesn't want you to. I think that's cool.) But-- and this isn't an attack on thin people-- we need Thin Pride just like we need White History Month and The Penis Monologues and the Miss Able-Bodied Pageant.

Jes is responding to some comments I received from a troll, comments that I will leave up so that people can see just how cruel and disgusting our detractors can be. The troll had mentioned being a size two, as if that actually makes him/her/it superior. I'm sorry to say that a size two friend was upset when Jes mentioned that being a size two wasn't something to be proud of. Her intention was not to say that thin people are bad, but that your size doesn't mean that you are better than someone else, just like being white, able-bodied, or male shouldn't be a point of pride. It's especially offensive when a person is proud of the trait that puts them in the privileged class. To that person, I apologize that you misunderstood her intention, and I want you to know that I do not think ill of thin people--and I will be covering that subject in a future post.


Equality on the plains... said...

Very nice.

Though I don't personally agree with the "Pride" concept. I might have interpreted it wrong, however.
I believe that most people (And I say that because of exceptions, i.e. "I'm proud to be a murderer!")is entitled to pride, which is surely bad in excess, but in itself doesn't have anything to do with others.

For example, I have flags tattooed on both of my arms. They are symbols of my heritage. I don't wear them because I think the two groups are better are best, but I do because it's my story. Someone might ask, and then I might give some background information about my family, the ethnic groups, et cetera.

When it comes to ethnic groups that others belong to, I believe they are entitled to pride as well, but not supremacy of course. This goes for the groups I belong to as well.

As for weight: The only thing I can be proud of is the fact that through puberty (Because my habits haven't changed much in eight years) I lost a bit of weight, and instead of becoming a diet evangelical, I went the other direction! Body autonomy! Haha!!! ^_^

Thanks for this great post. I can't say how many activists are pro "Acceptance for all," but I would wager that most are, if not more than the opposite.

Kira said...

Arrghh, sorry you're dealing with trolls like that. That was a great post, particularly coming from someone who sounds like she fits within the societally privileged group (being Aussie size 8). Jes rocks!

The only possible reason I could see a thin person justifying being proud of their thinness (and bear with me here) is if they had really worked hard to lose the weight, fighting their genes. Now, before I get flamed for that statement, I'm not saying *I* think it's acceptable or passing any judgment with that statement, just presenting the state of mind of some people. I'm saying that in the disordered mind of someone who's still in the dieting game and hasn't learned to accept themselves as they are, they've put in a lot of effort to reach that point. I know I've felt proud of my efforts to starve myself, back in the days when I thought I needed to do that. I wouldn't anymore, but I did then.

But to feel proud of being born skinny and with a fast metabolism? Ridiculous! That's called luck. There's no reason for pride over effortlessly possessed privileged traits. Now, if the traits under discussion are ones that keep you out of the privileged group (e.g., non-white, GLBT, disabled) then I absolutely think pride is justified, as a way to reclaim equality in society's eyes. But what pride is there in being born white, or male, or rich, or thin?

Jen said...

There definately needs to be a Penis Monologues. *nodnod*

Anonymous said...

You don't have to deal with trolls, especially on your personal blog.