Why women must stop worrying about their size

The other night I was Facebook, and was fascinated by an invitation to participate in a discussion about Jennifer Aniston, the perfect size and being comfortable in your skin. As you can see, nearly 100 people commented.  Views ranged from just be happy with yourself regardless of the size to anyone over size 12 is a loser to you can be big but also healthy.  I couldn’t help myself. I had to comment.

And this is what I said:

This is just another insidious way that society tries to control women. Think about it. If we are using all our energy squabbling amongst ourselves about what size we should be, then we (as in women in general) are not going to be really worried about progressing “real” issues like equal pay, equal representation in the boardrooms, maternity leave, sexual harassment, domestic violence etc. etc. It’s a red herring designed to distract us from making any real headway. And it’s working.

Sadly, no one picked up on this idea. The nearest anyone came was to blame the media. And while the media draws attention and focuses on the issue – as well as selling magazines! – it is just a tool or conduit. No more, no less.

For centuries our society has sought to control women. A hundred or so years ago, corsets were the control mechanism du jour. Corsets (which interestingly have now been adopted as a glamour item, or symbol of raunch) constrained women: they couldn’t eat or breathe while they were being worn. Ribs were even broken while they were being pulled tight. In recent years, however, society has become much more adept at controlling women via “internally constructed” mechanisms like diet (often resulting in eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia nervosa), body image and obsession over the perfect size. Even Marie Claire got on the body image band wagon with its recent Jennifer Hawkins UnPhotoshopped edition (which I thought was a cynical ploy designed to sell magazines rather than contribute to discussion about the real issue in any meaningful way).

So what IS the real issue? It is this: we live in a society where the dominant culture is white and male. A dominant culture always look to maintain its advantage. And they do this by any means, but control is usually the best option. Unfortunately a little blip on the radar (The Women’s Movement) meant that the dominant advantage took a bit of a hammering as women started to empower their lives via better opportunities and choices: education, marriages, birth control, work, finances etc. However, the rise and rise mass media around this time was a serendipitous occurrence that has worked to the advantage of the dominant culture in their effort to reassert its position.

Because what better way to control women than to reflect to them how they should be. It’s insidious, but it works because it’s conveniently tied up in ideals, striving for perfection, expectations, aspirations and insecurities (to name a few). Internal controls work so much better than external ones, which can be shaken off at any time by pesky blips on the radar like the Women’s Movement. Much better to have women bickering amongst themselves about what the perfect size is and how they can attain it and maintain it, or not, as the case may be (other bicker-worthy items include breastfeeding in public, and the working vs stay-at-home mother).

I remember reading Fat is a Feminist issue way back when in my Uni days. And while I think some things have changed for the better (being a single parent without social stigma, for example, of which I am one) I would firmly assert that fat is still a feminist issue.  Anything else is a red herring.

Which is why we have to stop worrying about our size, and start talking about the real issue: how can we wrest back power when power won’t be so easily given.

0 thoughts on “Why women must stop worrying about their size

  1. Well, the issue here, as with most sociological problems, is a reinforcing double whammy: society tells us normal women are fat and then also tells us that women’s weight matters more than it does for men.

    Yes, a lot of people get so caught up in dispelling the myth about normal women being fat that they forget that judgments about weight shouldn’t matter that much in the first place. Nevertheless, the idea that women are judged by their weight more than men are is also worth fighting for.

  2. How refreshing to find a stunning photo of a nude woman on the cover of Marie Claire. V. beautiful. I am going to depart from my convention of only searching for Marie Claire in waiting rooms & libraries & buy one.

    It is a sad thing that the sacrifices some of us made in the 60s taking our clothes off in public places & getting arrested & our lives disrupted so valuable art works e.g. could be brought out of basements & revealed in our galleries has left you in chains that you feel concern a magazine will be rewarded by readers or heaven forbid voyeurs purchasing a classy photograph regardless for so little money of a beautiful woman like Jennifer – without any airbrushing – no mirrors .

    A conspiracy theory suggesting someone or something called ‘society’ was creating a distraction from ‘the real issues’ would unlikely appeal to everybody in that circumstance because, for some women, whatever the issue “is” that had been originally presented for discussion was THAT agenda’s ‘real issue’… to which somebody had replied, & then the squabbling had begun INCLUDING your announcing the original subject of ‘size’ was not ‘a real issue’.

    Who said? You? It was supposed to be a discussion allowing some scope for Bright & Not So Bright & Dumb & Dumber, because it is an online DISCUSSION not a pontifical receptacle for either conspiracy theories or absolutes or any more labelling than has already been designed to shut women up, isolate them, cause them to be fearful, alienate them from telling it like it is, especially between sisters & besides that stuff is so pat, ideological it is no wonder that so many young women wander off in dismay from alleged environments of caring sisterhood. You tell me nothing new. It is soulless.

    Your comment that “sadly no-one responded to this idea” reminded me that a virtue of an online discussion is sometimes when it gets too pressing it is essential to go to the toilet, or to attend to the nose & needs for cuddles of a crying child, or an ill relative & it is possible to just leave, without having to negotiate a truce … it is desireably possible … the emergent dialogue in online environments is a very important one for the security of entire communities some of whom are trapped having to perform responsibilities they WILL get immediately called to … it is essential for the success of these discussions to leave openings for later discussion & further discussion, for anybody who wants to speak their mind about “the” demmed “issue” they were talking about before you decide that is not “a real issue”… & still, regardless no-one took you up on the angle you presented at the time – complete with a conspiracy theory – you have pushed your barrow into a blog outside of that forum.

    Is your blog public?

    You write too well to waste your skill by not thinking through your presentation with astute care.

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