Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thin Is a Moving Target

Editor's note: The post below comes courtesy of little m (you may recognize the name from her periodic comments). lm has graciously agreed to guest post for me from time to time. Let us know what you think. . .

Lots of you all might have seen in the comments here that I’ve mused that my personal physique is such that whether I’m “too thin” or “too fat” depends on where I am in the country. What that finally told me – after much mulling – is that THIN and FAT are COMPARATIVE CONSTRUCTS, not absolutes, and that they depend a great deal on WHAT people think and WHY they think that.

In our culture, we have been conditioned to believe that, especially for women, THIN IS BETTER NO MATTER WHAT.

Another absolute. And it has potentially deadly consequences when taken to the extremes – as Dr. Stacey is showing us.

So one of the things I started to do when confronted with “THIN IS BETTER NO MATTER WHAT” is to shout back – if only in my head –

“WHY?” and

“WHO SAYS?”

Those questions and others like them -- critically deconstructing messages that their creators hope we’ll absorb without thinking about them -- work for me in counteracting that never-ending assault. It’s an assault that sets the concept up based on imagery so manufactured that the people used to manufacture the standard don’t even meet it.

Dr. Stacey thought it would be cool for me to share them, and other related stuff, for readers to create their own files of coping skills – since we all deal with this same issue, but it manifests in different ways in our lives.

This will probably be one of my most serious posts. Principally because I believe so much in what Dr. S is doing and want to show her and her subject material proper respect.

Additionally (and with her approval) because I believe that when a disempowering, unhealthy, tyrannical standard has its grip on your life and lifestyle, that poking relentless fun at it helps put it in its place.

Humor is a power tool.

There may be a lot of things that I say that are not going to help everybody.

For example, these days a lot of eating disorders start when girls are pre-teens and teenagers.

I’m neither one anymore, so even though I remember what it felt like to have being thinner matter more than anything – more than energy to make good grades, more than some adult telling me it wasn’t healthy not to eat all day (what did they know, anyway?), MORE THAN ANYTHING – I’m not actually in that space anymore. So those of you still in that space might feel like I don’t have much to say to you.

On a different level, a lot of the questions I ask (like “WHO SAYS?”) depend on challenging outside norms, on challenging the status quo. And for a lot of reasons, a lot of people don’t feel like they can do that. Or that they’re not ready to do it yet.

All I would say is, if you find something here that you think will help you deal, then use it. And then come back and tell us about it.

So to begin:

The “WHO SAYS?” position in my own head got a big boost when I read an article that helped me crystallize that thought that maybe – just maybe – something OTHER THAN my body size was the REAL problem.

So I love this article very much.

Thoughts?

9 comments:

Icie said...

Great point... and article! I have always been a very cynical, doubt-filled person who questions authority and asks why for so many issues... and weight is the one area I forget to question on a regular basis. And even when I DO question the standard, I still feel like I want to live up to it, I feel I've internalized it that it is a part of me.I can logically see and understand the way the current standard corners women into a no win situation, yet I can't bring myself to disagree, much less eradicate it from my mind. Heart vs. head.

Anonymous said...

I'm far from a teenager or even college student, so you're getting a jaded perspective. Lots of what is pointed out in the article is old news... we women have been subjected to different, conflicting, standards for a long time. I think the only way to fight it is to do so within ourselves- reject the exacting, conflicting, riduculous standards. Maybe just growing older can help a lot of women- I know it has helped me. I no longer worry about the standards so much- certainly not about being thin. And I don't watch much of the TV where the stick-figure stars show up (I watch sports and Book TV), so I don't have much opportunity to see a man suggest that they "eat a cookie". In fact, on some radio programs I hear men ridiculing as "fat" women that I know to be perfectly average, or even thinner than average. They want stick figures with fake boobs. So unfortunately, men are getting poisoned with the "thinner is always better" mindset too. It's gotten to the point where my own husband will tell me certain foods are "fattening" (and this is not about me, it's foods that HE is thinking of eating). I just brush it off and tell him everything is fattening if you eat too much of it.

PalmTreeChick said...

Great post, littlem. I am so all over the HUMOR thing!! YEAH!!

twincats said...

That bit about having the energy to make good grades reminded me of my moment of truth!!

I was nominally thin up till age 34 when a bad relationship (same sex friendship gone wrong, not a failed romance) tipped me over to the fat side. I moved across the country and waited out the year to establish residency so I could re-enroll in school.

I "ate less and exercised more" during that year (and spent a lot of time and effort at it.) I lost maybe 10 lbs. and when time to register for classes came around, I realized I had a choice: Study or exercise a lot and obsess about food.

My GPA is 3.85

My pant size is 24

I think I made the right decision.

Deb said...

Good points in this article, and while it is humorous it is also the black and white thinking that the majority of us suffer from. There are many shades of gray!

Nicole said...

I'm an aggressive, ball-busting bitch at work. And it makes me smille when I hear someone has called me that. So I guess it's all about perspective.

Anonymous said...

Man , I just find the typing IN ALL CAPS so off-putting . A small thing to focus on in a otherwise fine post, but I had trouble getting through the YELL-TALKING .

Christi Nielsen said...

Just a few thoughts...

most recent anonymous - focusing on a few words in CAPS is a way of escaping the message. I can't speak to lm's intent on screaming, but with my own work, you bet I'm screaming... finally!

first anonymous - I have quite a jaded perspective as well. And the fact that old news still isn't resolved gives me inspiration to keep presenting it. It's interesting that most older women do come to terms with the issue. But I still recognize that my wake up call was a cheating husband, a divorce, and my independence by way of thinking for myself. I'd like to think that those circumstances would have led me there regardless of age. Perhaps that's a bit idealistic.

twincats - your comment reminds me of a piece I did regarding our acceptance of numbers/measurements as identity. I call it Labeled.

I can't wait to keep reading this blog because this sort of dialogue is so important.

drstaceyny said...

icie--it's so easy to internalize the standard. It requires a lot of work to challenge.

anon--good points.

ptc--the humor is important, I agree.

tc--obsessing abt food and weight can interfere with other goals.

deb--absolutely.

nicole--it is! Thanks for reminding us of this.

anon--sometimes it can be distracting, but it seems like lm used the caps purposefully.

cn--thanks for reading and responding to the comments above.