Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Tall Tale of Fat and Thin

In Fat Is a Feminist Issue, Susie Orbach elucidates our collective drive toward thinness:

We know that every woman wants to be thin. Our images of womanhood are almost synonymous with thinness. If we are thin we shall feel healthier, lighter and less restricted. Our sex lives will be easier and more satisfying. We shall have more energy and vigor. We shall be able to buy nice clothes and decorate our bodies, winning approval from our lovers, families, and friends. We shall be the woman in the advertisements who lives the good life; we shall be able to project a variety of images—athletic, sexy or elegant. We shall set a good example to our children. No doctors will ever again yell at us to take off the excess weight. We shall be admired. We shall be beautiful. We shall never have to be ashamed about our bodies, at the beach, in a store trying to buy clothes or in a tightly packed automobile. We shall be light enough to sit on someone’s knee and lithe enough to dance. If we stand out in a crowd it will be because we are lovely, not “repulsive.” We shall sit down in any position comfortably, not worrying where the flab shows. We shall sweat less and smell nicer. We shall feel good going to parties. We shall be able to eat in public without courting disfavor. We shall not have to make excuses for liking food.

Who, given this, wouldn’t want to be thin? It’s not surprising that, barring those who are naturally thin, every woman does have an eating disorder. But, what Orbach conveys with sarcasm and what likely any thin woman can tell you, is how little of this is true. Thin women are still concerned with how they look and smell; the images they project; approval from friends, family, and strangers; still feel tired, sexually dissatisfied, and ashamed of their bodies. And, they certainly, as they are culturally instructed to do, make excuses for their eating.


lujie said...

I don't like thin because i am too thin. i want to become a little fat. ~~haha~~
welcome to my blog and give some comments:
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

The horrible paradox, whether naturally thin or taking measures to be that way, is that being thin solves nothing. It fulfills none of the promises we're convinced it'll give us if we just try hard enough. And yet it's those promises that keep women trying over and over in an endless cycle. Now that's repulsive. :P

Anonymous said...

I'm naturally thin (or at least always was) and still developed an eating disorder. People always told me "you can't eat like that forever" so I started purging to prevent getting fat. 10 years later - I'm recovered, but I have no idea if I'm still "naturally" thin. I'm thin, but I feel fat. And I'm sure I've ruined my metabolism along the way...

Stepherz said...

My excuse for eating? Fat girls gotta eat too.

I think most people my age do feel as though being thin will fix everything. I think most girls my age want a boyfriend, and the only way is for their to perfection in their body. Girls and boys can be so catty when people aren't perfect, but is there really such a thing as perfection?

littlem said...

Charlynn nailed the thought that the problems we're often "trying to solve" by dieting, or by getting thinner, don't change or go away.

The only difference I ever felt -- physical or mental -- between wearing a size 6 and a size 16 was that it hurts my butt-bones when I'm thinner when I sit down fast on something hard.

(I will says that if I'm working out regularly, the better shape I'm in, the later into the workout I sweat, but I'm guessing that has way more to do with cardiovascular condition than body size.)

So I think it has a lot to do with the cultural messages we take in. Someone or something, some conditioning, has made us think that things are going to be different - AND always, always, better. What's that about???

And Stepherz, I don't know what age you are, but I don't think the wanting a boyfriend/husband/significant other thing ever changes from when you're 13 or so to when you're 83 or so.

What's really interesting about what you said is that thought loop that says, "IF I have a so-called perfect body, THEN I'll get a boyfriend".

Guys may drool over the babes with the culturally-approved bods, but that doesn't mean they'll have the guts to ask them out -- or (if you'll permit a minute of snark) that those are the guys we really want to ask us out if they do. I know when I'm littler, the "approaching jerk" quotient goes waaaaaay up.

(And that's a whole other piece of food for thought, pun intended. It's NOT just us. WHAT makes them DO that???)

I've seen guys chase my model friends for days, but as for the quality of men that come out of the woodwork -- we never know what the proportion is of good guys to sickos, weirdos, mean jerks, and other losers.

It's often heavily weighted to the latter categories ...

I guess all I'm trying to say is thinner in our culture isn't always "better". Sometimes it's exactly the same, and sometimes it creates more problems than it solves. And NO ONE is telling us that. Why????

WifeMomChocoholic said...

I hate to disagree, but most of this was totally 100% true for me two years ago (and 33 pounds thinner).

"If we are thin we shall feel healthier, lighter and less restricted." -- yes totally

"Our sex lives will be easier and more satisfying." -- yes, absolutely

"We shall have more energy and vigor." -- yep

"We shall be able to buy nice clothes and decorate our bodies, winning approval from our lovers, families, and friends." -- well, I buy as many clothes now as I did then -- more, actually because I'm unhappy with the way everything looks on me. I definitely got more approval from all, though they still love me now

"We shall never have to be ashamed about our bodies... We shall sit down in any position comfortably, not worrying where the flab shows." -- OH, YES

"We shall sweat less and smell nicer. We shall feel good going to parties." -- well, I've never been sweaty, even at my heaviest, but I did enjoy not having my thighs rub together in shorts. And yes, I greatly enjoyed going to parties.

Now you could argue that the only reason all of the above was true for me then was because my self esteem is so pitiful that I can't be happy if I'm overweight. That may be. I don't hate myself and I still think I'm attractive now -- I just liked my body and the way I felt a whole lot better then.

Anonymous said...

littlem, no one is telling us the truth because they want us to keep buying their diet foods and "weight loss services" and diet books and magazines.

drstaceyny said...

Lujie--thanks for reading/writing. I'll check out your blog.


anon--it's interesting all the contributors to e.d.'s. I'm glad that you've recovered.

stepherz--I think most ppl of many ages believe that.

lm--interesting comments on men and weight. There's already _The Diet Myth_. Wanna write _The Thin Myth_?

wmc--I think your last paragraph is right. But, I'd argue that liking your body thinner is culturally derived and that it's possible to do everything listed above at a heavier weight if we fight individually and collectively.

anon--possibly so.