Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I have an essay for you all that's about half-done.

It's about the politics of weight, especially from a feminist view point.

I am very conflicted about this topic. I am a feminist. I am a woman. I am also what most people would term "skinny," though this time last year, I was not.

I decided I was unhappy with myself, joined Weight Watchers, and lost 20lbs.

I have been successful at keeping at least 15 of that 20 off.

I try to work out at least three times a week.

Why? Because I want an athlete's body.

I don't know if it's society or my own preferences that makes me want that, but, I know that it's something I want.

When I read feminism blogs and feminism/weight politics blogs, I feel like a traitor.

I feel like I drank the Kool-Aid offered by the cults I speak against in all other situations.

But then I remember how I felt the first Pilates class I successfully did 60 pushups.

But then I remember how I felt the first time I put on the jeans I had to stop wearing at the age of 19 because I'd gained weight.

But then I remember how I felt when I saw pictures of myself from the summer of 2003, 25lbs and a really bad haircut ago.

And I feel even more conflicted because my choices were for me, but there's an army of voices who tell me I never needed to change.

I know how I like myself. I just wish acheiveing that didn't include the guilt of betraying a cause I actually do agree with.


Dr. Fardook said...

Everyone has their own brand of kool aid. It just depends on what flavor you want (try the new refreshing taste of cherry arsenic!)

You're not the first person who has decided that they didn't like where their body and their state of health was at and decided to do something about it. Plus you were successful about doing it long term. I really fail to see where you're betraying women everywhere by making good choices regarding your health and body image.

Yes, I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that it was a good choice. Eating better and getting consistant exercise is only going to benefit you long term.

Telling people to be happy with their body doesn't mean you should ignore that carrying around extra weight isn't being dishonest, its just good health advice. If you're going to be happy with your body, you've got to take care of it.

Irene said...

oh blah. GOOD for YOU, I say. anyone who would deride your desire to have a fit, healthy attractive body is not a feminist, but a reactionary or a nincompoop. the problems come in defining "attractive" in a way counter to your health or slavishly trying to match beauty standards you feel forced by others to match. I am a feminist--I think that women should be free to make their own choices. apparently, you chose a healthy and active lifestyle. cool.

Sharon said...

This is one of the reasons so many women are loathe to call themselves feminist.

I have gotten into so many dustups. I shave my body hair. I like makeup. And skirts! And attracting men. I even like to diet and exercise. Does that mean I don't deserve equal protection under law, and the same rights and privleges men enjoy?

My mom got crap for wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, too. Apparently wanting to be home to teach me and my sister how to be independent and strong-willed is not feminist.

This, to me, is simply anti-diet-industry backlash taken to extremes. Yes, there's an industry devoted to making people feel badly about themselves, but that doesn't mean taking an interest in one's health is anti-anything.

I don't bother with feminist blogs/message boards any more because I got completely tired of picking the issues out of the neuroses.

Feminism is supposed to be about choice, and not about falling under a particular dogma.

Don said...

I'm with Sharon on this one. If part of being happy with yourself is looking at yourself in a mirror after you get done doing 60 pushups and thinking "Damn, I look good and I feel great!" Then who is anyone to tell you that you're doing something wrong?

It's complete bullshit. You have to decide what's good for you, and as long as it's YOUR choice to live your life that way and it isn't actually hurting someone else then it's wrong to tell you you should do anything different.

CottonFluff said...

Okay, I don't know anything about Feminism, but I am pro-size acceptance.

That being said...

"I decided I was unhappy with myself, joined Weight Watchers, and lost 20lbs." ...

"Why? Because I want an athlete's body. "

And the problem is? This doesn't seem like a feminist issue, if anything it might be a larger, societal one, and not necessarily a negative one.

Ask yourself: What do you want the athlete's body for? If it's to gain acceptance as a woman from Somebody Else, (which is highly unlikely, as it's not a very feminine ideal, unless this is some sort of irony thing.) then yeah, you've probably betrayed your feminist roots.

If you did it because you were tired of being tired or feeling not as strong as you could be, then where's the problem? You wouldn't be able to do the fencing class if you hadn't done the other stuff, would you?

Or is that too phallic for your feminist peers?

"When I read feminism blogs and feminism/weight politics blogs, I feel like a traitor."

If you got your teeth cleaned/capped/straightened, a skin treatment, or even cut your hair, would that be anti-feminist?

Does the feminist way of thinking only favor natural selection; where those people born svelte are allowed to be that way- as long as they can do so without exercise?

"And I feel even more conflicted because my choices were for me, but there's an army of voices who tell me I never needed to change."

You'd be surprised at what you can live with/through, or what you really "need" to do to continue living. You might not have "needed" to change, and speaking as literally as possible ,you didn't.

At the same time, in order to continue living, you probably don't need a lot of the things that the feminist ideal calls for.

However, living well is another thing entirely. The voices will get used to the new you. If they can't, perhaps they are intimidated by the fact that you were willing to go out and get what you wanted.

Because nobody likes an assertive woman.

Allie said...

I'd be really interested in reading said essay, when it gets finished.

I have sort of the reverse experience you do: for several years in high school I was anorexic and deeply unhappy with my body. Now that I'm, er, a little on the plump side, every time I want to lose weight, or think about exercise, or compare myself to a fashion model, I have to wonder if it's because I want to be healthy, or if I want to be *skinny*, the way I used to. It's a really difficult thing to untangle, and I'm still not sure what of my motives are from myself and what are from some kind of social pressure or other issue.

Tlönista said...

Got here from Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday. Have you read gennimcmahon's post on self-conflict? She describes the same feelings you do.

I think any feminist who says they don't do supposedly "unfeminist" things...is lying. Maybe this is just an aspect of women feeling pressured to be perfect.

Kristina said...

Have you read Susie Orbach's "Fat is a Feminist Issue?" Her point was not that wanting to be thin is unfeminist, but that some women gained weight as a subconscious response to the pressure in our society to be thin. Also, many women fear the attention that they think being thin would cause, and they see their fat as protection against the world.

The feminism part applies by NOT telling women, "It's all in your head, honey," (which about every self-help book I've ever read does) but by recognizing those pressures and learning to deal with them in groups. Women who learn to cope with their fears lose weight naturally.

So, you don't have this problem. Good for you! But please reconsider beating up on the feminist blogs. They are just trying to work through their feelings, same as you. I found a lot of help on those blogs.

Red Stapler said...

But please reconsider beating up on the feminist blogs. They are just trying to work through their feelings, same as you. I found a lot of help on those blogs.

I wasn't trying to beat up on them. :)

I love them and enjoy them, but just as we have to question societal pressures, I think it's important to question the pressures we're placing on each other.

Those pressures haven't made me not want to go to the gym or maintain the weight I'm happy at. They've just made me wonder about those actions.

alphabitch said...

This issue is a tricky one because you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Either course of action can and probably will be interepreted by somebody, somewhere, as making some kind of statement -- often one that is not entirely in line with what your intentions. You haven't made a "statement" though, so much as you've made a choice that pleases you. Doing so doesn't invalidate the other choices you could have made, nor should it be used to discredit others' choices. Don't beat yourself up about it. You're not selling out feminism by choosing how you want to live in your body.

Megan said...

I'm in the process of trying to drop about the same amount of weight as you. And the desire comes from wanting to be healthy, and have more energy, and be able to *do* more things (like not getting worn out hiking). I must admit, being able to wear what I want without feeling self-conscious about my thighs is a big one--going swimming this summer might be nice--but I figure you do what you need to do to be happy. My sister who is, granted, six feet tall, weighs nearly twice what I do and is happy as a clam with it.

The freedom to do what makes you happy *is* part of feminism. I'm happy to have the freedom to wear tuxedos if I want to and halter tops if I want to--and I wear both. If being a feminist means you have to fit into someone's mold and follow ideas as dogma...I don't want any part of it.

Megan said...

And in case the above is misinterpreted...broadly, I see feminism=freedom, and I don't want that burdened down with dogma and someone else telling me "this is feminist, this is not feminist and stay away".

Which will still probably get misinterpreted, but what the hell.