Argh, wtf happened to the internet this week?! Usually when I go on Facebook or wherever I am able to procrastinate over adorable pictures of cats and/or Dumbledore and/or whatever, but good Lord, it’s apparently National Body-Shaming Week, and so I’m hoppin’ mad instead of mildly entertained. Ugghhh.
I guess people celebrate National Body-Shaming Week in a few exciting ways: If you’re a layperson, you post offensive memes about women’s bodies whereupon women of one size and shape are exulted for their attractiveness and women of another are shamed for theirs; if you’re a medical professional, it seems you celebrate by deciding to spend your money by putting up stupid-ass billboards featuring disembodied people with guts or, heaven forfend, cellulite, whilst alleging dubious claims about diet! Argh, no, please to stop?
So yeah, Infuriating Body-Shaming Piece of Utter Bullshit Number One is the meme to the right. I’ve seen a couple different of these, all with pictures of some random skinny girl I would probably recognize if I read more magazines, and then Marilyn Monroe or Bettie Page, with the general theme of “When did [modern generally-unattainable beauty ideal] become more attractive than [generally-unattainable beauty ideal from days of yore]?”
Now, I get the sentiment behind this one. A certain ideal of tallness, slenderness, and fitness has put pressure on women of all sizes for years and years, put forward by the fashion/entertainment industry. It can be a toxic world out there if you don’t fit in to what people (allegedly) find popularly attractive: Larger women get used as examples of “what [some group of people] don’t want all the time, it can be hard if not impossible to shop for trendy, fashionable clothing if you’re bigger lady, getting adequate medical care can be super-difficult, the list goes on. Hell, it seems the best roles non-skinny actresses can land are either the super-depressing tragic kind, or the “good-natured but sassy friend” or whatever [see: Gilmore Girls, and like, I dunno, every other show. Even Parks & Rec, my current fave show is guilty of this to a point, though to be fair, everyone is ridiculous in his or her own way on that show, not just my girl Donna). It sucks. But it also sucks to promote some redonk "real women have curves" nonsense* by way of responding to this, because it's feeding the same fire. First up: it's still alleging that women are only valuable if [some group] finds them physically attractive. Second: it’s not okay to pit women against each other, especially over their bodies. Women get the message all the time that we are constantly in some sort of Darwinian cage match against one another, over men, over jobs, over being considered most fashionable/in shape/successful/whatever. It’s dumb and untrue, and it makes the world a lot scarier if one’s perception of sisterhood is believing the woman hugging you with one arm has a stiletto held behind her back with the other.
Now, I’m not 100% down with the fat-posi/health at any size movement–in fact, I disagree with a lot of what I’ve read of that group’s writings–but I do believe 100% in body-positivity (to be fair there is a lot of overlap). It’s healthy to love yourself, natch, whatever you look like. More on that later, though. I’m only mentioning the fat-posi/HAAS communities because I think the best thing they’ve managed to get out there is the stone-cold fact that you can’t know anything about a person’s health just by looking at him or her. I mean, my dad is the best example of this. He’s had pancreatic cancer for close to two goddamn years now, and still looks fantastic. You would never think he had anything wrong with him, and yet he’s been in beastly chemo since his diagnosis. Christ, he went to the gym yesterday and did weight lifting. I can’t get to the gym when I have a hangover. The point is, you can’t simply look at any person out there, fat or thin, and claim to know how healthy he or she really is. It’s true that obesity can up your risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc. but it’s also true that there are women out there every day who are in the overweight/obese category who eat right, exercise like total maniacs, and are perfectly healthy. By the same token–and here I am looking right goddamn at you moveon.org, you cannot look at a random skinny girl and decide she is anorexic. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK. How body-negative, judgmental, and icky. And how dubious a conclusion to reach based on A FACEBOOK MEME, amiright? Because unless we’re going to diagnose every cat in the world with dyslexia … you know, I’m not even going to engage further with this, it is too ridiculous. But other bloggers have, and much more articulately than me, so, good.
But, argh, wtf, it’s just too bad for common sense and kindness this week because even goddamn doctors are celebrating National Body-Shaming Week, too! See Infuriating Body-Shaming Piece of Utter Bullshit Number Two, to the left.
Behold: The PCRM, a group I usually like, has released the dumbest billboards this side of PETA, no small honor there. Every bit as bad as the “Save the Whales” campaign of whenever ago, the PCRM has erected the billboards to the left in Albany, NY, as some sort of … I dunno, anti-cheese-eating effort? AAAAHHHHWHAT. I know Americans eat a totally gross amount of cheese, which as I have noted more than once, is made from milk—a substance intended to turn tiny baby cows and sheep and goats into large cows and sheep and goats, meaning those dairy-industry claims that cheese will help you lose weight are REDONKULARIOUS—but this sort of body-shaming is a stupid, ineffective, and nasty way to try to motivate folks to cut back on the brie. First up: there are plenty of fat people who don’t eat cheese. Like, um, me? I was 40 lbs heavier this time last year and I hadn’t eaten cheese in five years. And guess what–now that I’m 40 lbs lighter, can run (knee permitting), hike up mountains, do unassisted pull-ups as of today, rock over 100 push ups at a stretch, lift heavy weights, and pretty much do any physical activity I want to … and, uh, I still have cellulite. OH NOES OMG PUT UP A PICTURE OF MY THIGHS TO SHAME THE MASSES.
Really, PCRM?! No one food makes anyone overweight; for some people, no amount of health eating and exercise will give them bodies that fit into the narrow range of acceptable/attractive in every way. That is some junk science right there.
And furthermore, how this repulsive fat-shaming fit into any of your stated goals? I just don’t get it: The message here is not one of “eat well and exercise as preventative medicine!” which is what I though the PCRM was all about according to their own, you know, “about” page. It says right there in black-on-white text that they are all about, allegedly, providing “vital information to tens of thousands of people” What is the vital information provided via those horrid billboards: “fat people are gross?” Gee, thanks!! That’s some truly revolutionary “bringing the message to the masses,” there. OMFG.
Maybe the worst part of this whole debacle is that waaaaay more motivated folks than me emailed the PCRM and are all getting the same stock response. My favorite parts have been these:
Thanks for being in touch. You’re making a good point, that people with weight problems might not be especially pleased about seeing obesity depicted on a billboard.
Um, I don’t have weight problems and … never mind.
Certainly, many people have enough self-esteem issues as it is. But that raises the question, what do we do to attack the problem of obesity?
Dude, y’all are supposed to be doctors or something. Even I know shame and fear are the worst motivators for long-term weight loss. Anyways hold onto your (cellulite-riddled, no doubt) butts, because here’s my favorite part of their form letter:
So how do we wake people up? Our ads are designed, not as any sort of “shaming” or falsified depiction of obesity, but rather simply as a view of ordinary obesity exactly as it is. If you thought “fat is beautiful” as some cultures have in the past, you would probably find the images attractive. Take another look, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
I took another look, and OMG that’s so true! See?
I totally see your point now, PCRM! The warm, loving colors, attractive posing, and non-disembodiment featured in your billboard totalllllllly highlights human beauty if you’re just into fat chicks and dudes!
Anyways. ANYWAYS. Fat-shaming is super-gross, and scare tactics instead of science is a reprehensible approach for a medical group. Just sayin’. Stunts like this are annoying, ineffective, and make vegans look like judgmental crazy people (which, sadly, some are). They also do nothing to inform the public. Ugghhh. There’s so much better stuff out there to talk about with obesity and dietary concerns regarding the Standard American Diet and really pernicious foods like bacon and sausage and I don’t even know what else. But I guess this is dumber and easier, so yay!
Anyways. ARGH! Can we just be kinder to one another? Can we make a vow to celebrate beauty without a compare/contrast attitude that puts people falsely into opposition? Or—even better—not hold up arbitrary standards of physical attractiveness as any determinant of the worthwhileness of an individual, male or female? While we’re at it, can we also please work together to learn about how to make healthy, positive choices for our bodies and the planet? I know it’s hard, but I betcha it’ll be worth it in the end!
*What is a real woman? What is a curve? How do we define either of these terms? Is a FTM transexual like Buck Angel a “real woman?” He was born female, and he does have some curves: His enormous biceps are super-curvy (and sexxxy), but he identifies as a man/male. Anyways. The point is, it’s a stupid adage because real women come in all shapes and sizes, and anyways it’s crappy to assign concepts of “realness” or “fakeness” to something as nebulous and undefinable as being a woman.