Practice What We Preach

Published March 9, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Yesterday was International Women’s Day in case you didn’t know.  If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know, I’m sure.  Because I didn’t shut up about it all day.  But this is because it’s really important to me.

Not just for the big, obvious reasons, like the fact that gendercide is still happening all around the world, and because women suffer 70% of the world’s extreme poverty.  But also for smaller, more personal reasons, reasons of body image.

I probably don’t have to tell you that there is a far higher expectation of women than men, as far as physical appearance is concerned.  Men are not under the massive level of body pressure that we women are.  Men do not have to alter their bodies to a shape that is almost totally unattainable by adults.  Men are not expected to starve, surgically alter and work their bodies to look like pre-teens with breasts.  Men do not have to remove every trace of body hair.   Men are valued for their brains, their ability, their personalities rather than how pleasing they are to the eye.

This isn’t just perpetrated BY men either.  As well as being International Women’s Day yesterday, the Oscars were on.  Everyone loves a good frock up, myself included.  But I couldn’t believe my eyes on Twitter, Facebook etc to see women who consider themselves feminists bitching and snarking about the actresses at the Oscars.

Critique of the clothes is of course what we’re watching for.  What a hideous dress.  What the hell is that suit *actor* is wearing?  For me it was the rosettes on Charlize Theron’s bustline that had me scratching my head this year.  Clothes at a big event like that are out there to be seen and talked about.

But the bitchiness I saw was about how skinny actresses are, how ugly their hair is, what shape their eyebrows are, how their boobs looked in a dress.

From women that were demanding that Mo’nique and Gabourey Sidibe be treated with respect and celebrated for the talented actresses they are, came the most venomous body criticism of them all, only for women that represent the opposite of Mo’nique and Gabby.  It was like these women that represent what the rest of us cannot be must not be “real” women.  It seems because the criticism was about THIN actresses, that it’s ok for women to join in to.

But I don’t believe that.  If we’re going to demand that the world treat fat women with respect, dignity and fairness, then we have to practice what we preach.  We can’t criticise other people’s physical appearance if we’re demanding that nobody criticises ours.

We need to live the message we’re putting across.  Feminism isn’t about  forgoing makeup and pretty clothes and sexy shoes and getting your nails and hair done.  It’s about treating women with respect, valuing them and not expecting them to live up to some impossible ideal, especially not with the goal of being pleasing to the eye.  Be that the male eye or those of our fellow females.

If we want our not-fat sisters to a) join us in the positive body image fight for all women and b) support us in our quest to be allowed to live happily as the fat women that nature has made us, then we have to live what we’re asking of others.

I know it’s not easy when we’ve been on the receiving end of a ton of hate and snark ourselves, but I very strongly believe that two wrongs do not make a right.

It just makes for hypocrisy.

2 comments on “Practice What We Preach

  • Hear, hear. Yes. I see this crop up in so many threads and forums and discussions that claim to be body-positive. Bashing on thin women, or women that adhere closer to that Mythical Standard than they do, is par for the course. And I was there once, I did that, once. And I’ve tried to eliminate that sort of hatefulness from myself and my vocabulary and my internal chatter.

    I know where the feeling comes from. It’s from a place of hurt, a place of rejection. When you’ve spent so long being kicked down, when you’re first given some space to stand up, it’s easy to lash back out. It’s natural to be angry with who you perceive as having oppressed you. But it helps no one to rant about the “skinny bitches”. We’re all real women, real people, and we all need to lay the hell off of all this judgement.

    Personal anecdote time! A friend and I, both fat ladies, were out shopping together. We were picking through the sale racks of a place we’d never normally shop at, as they don’t size in our, um, size. Mostly to marvel at the scary things covered in sequins, ha ha, yes, sequins are hillarious. But then my friend found a rack full of stuff that, while meant to be floaty and free on someone much smaller, worked as close-fitting clothing on her. She gasped and exclaimed excitedly, “Oh my God I’ve found something that fits at the Skinny Bitch Store!” ..exact words. Um. One of the sales clerks was behind us. I looked at her, the poor girl made this “D:” sort of face, my friend and I were mortified, and my friend apologized profusely. My friend’s reflexive wording had come crashing right up against the perfectly nice human being next to us. Oops.

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