Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Book Club

In writing her memoir, Fat Girl, Judith Moore makes clear her agenda: “I am not a fat activist. This is not about the need for acceptance of fat people, although I would prefer that thinner people not find me disgusting.” She goes on to say:
I know, from being thin and listening to thin people talk about fat people, that thin people often denigrate fat people. At best, they feel sorry for them. I know too that when a thin person looks at a fat person, the thin person considers the fat person less virtuous than he. The fat person lacks willpower, pride, this wretched attitude, “self-esteem,” and does not care about friends or family because if he or she did care about friends or family, he or she would not wander the earth looking like a repulsive sow, rhinoceros, hippo, elephant, general wide-mawed flesh-flopping flabby monster.

Despite the dichotomy created here (i.e., “fat person” vs. “thin person,”) Moore generally steers clear of politicizing the issue of weight. This is, more than anything, a personal story about one woman’s struggle with her emotions, her experiences, and her weight. But, Moore’s writing above provides a window into the socio-political context of fat: Why would thin people ascribe low willpower/self-esteem/pride to their heftier counterparts when, oftentimes, these are the very issues they’re struggling with themselves? It seems that projection is sometimes easier than introspection.

Moore continues:
I am on a diet. I am almost always on a diet. I am trying to get rid of pounds of my waddling self. I am always trying to get rid of pounds of myself. . . . I hate myself. I have almost always hated myself, but it’s not for bad things I’ve done. I do not hate myself for betrayals, for going behind the back of someone who trusted me. I hate myself because I am not beautiful. I hate myself because I am fat.

Yes, Moore happens to be fat, but it wasn’t until I read this quote a second time (out of the context of the story itself), that I realized it could apply to anyone at any size. It really doesn’t matter what Moore weighs. This could be the lament of the fat or the thin, the grossly overweight or frighteningly underweight (whatever those terms mean, exactly). It could also be written by someone with a beautiful figure, because as you know, just as it’s not about someone else’s body, it’s also really not about yours.


PalmTreeChick said...

That last sentence may provoke some thoughts for many people. Shame on you drstacey!! (just kidding).

Another good post.

Kristi said...

I have more to write on this, and have been meaning to on my blog, but I totally agree. I have been very skinny (aah, the anorexic college years) and have been not-so-skinny, and at both weights, I've always felt too fat, too ugly. That's why I've come to the conclusion that I'm not sure it's dieting and losing weight that will ever change how I feel. I think it's going to have to come from changing the way I look at and think of myself, and it has to come from a more loving, caring place.

wading through recovery said...

I agree with the last thought.

I could have written/thought the last paragraph by Moore at most points and (even some days still) since I was about 15.

allisonsky said...

That was a great analogy.... And written very well. I really enjoyed reading it.

HaileySqueek said...

I just found your blog today. Actually, I was referred to it on -of all places- a Weight Watchers message board. I just cancelled my Weight Watchers online membership I'm tired of dieting, and I'm not going to do it anymore. Thanks for making such a great blog.

Beth said...

Yes, thin people often unkindly dismiss or feel sorry for fat people. I can generally say that I think fat people are mentally weak and not as smart as their(only if equal in all other areas)thinner peers. Years ago, when I first began dieting and lost a few pounds, I wondered how anyone could remain overweight when counting calories or making sacrifices was so simple. After years of weight gains and loss, and now having a life controlled by food, I know that simplicity is only the numbers. Calories and our weight are simple in a quantitative sense. When these issues, along with food, flood anyone's thoughts, they impose a state of mental weakness. If this is the case for a thin person struggling to maintain their figure, a bulimic obsessed with eating, or a fat person, they are all on an equal level inadequacy. The beautiful, enviable ones are not the fat who preach fat acceptance or the thin who live for dieting, but the average (whatever their weight) who are guided by family, god, learning, joy, and purpose.

drstaceyny said...

Kristi--I like what you write, and it'll be interesting to see where you go from here (we'll stay tuned on your blog!)
Thanks for the feedback, PTC, WTR, and AS.

HS--welcome and thank you (for the compliment and the dose of irony) ; )

Beth--so, as you imply, it's really not about the calories or the weight (that IS pretty simple, when it comes down to it). There is, beneath the simplicity many deeper, more difficult issues.

littlem said...

Dr. Stacey -

Nail, hammer, bang.

I thought on first reading that it was just important in an ancillary way that Judith Moore was fat; this was a woman who just hated herself.

Do you notice that even though she has (well, had, before she passed) a family of her own and a fairly flourishing career, she rarely talked about those?
I had a similar experience to Kristi; I'm "NYC/Hollywood fat" now (I wear size 10 or 12; I'm really careful not to say I AM one or the other), but I was an anorexic dancer in college -- having been told by the dance company director that I moved well, but I just had to take off some weight before she could let me in the company -- and I was a fat little kid.

I didn't feel ANY DIFFERENT at any weight. The only thing that really changed is other people's reactions (except my doctors; I've been tired since I was 12 and they really don't seem to give a damn other than chalking it up to "overachiever" exhaustion.)

"It could also be written by someone with a beautiful figure, because as you know, just as it’s not about someone else’s body, it’s also really not about yours."

This is way too profound. I'm going to be thinking about this for days. If it's not about our bodies, what IS it about?

drstaceyny said...

m--you actually just alerted me that she had died. I didn't know. . . .

No, no, nothing too profound in my last statement--I'm just saying that b/c it's really abt self-acceptance/hatred, which seems to remain fairly constant (at any weight, as you and Kristi note), it's really NOT abt the body.

littlem said...

Here is one of Judith Moore’s obits, Dr. Stacey