Monday, December 19, 2005

Thin Women: Privileged or Objectified?

I'd really like to know. There's so much double-speak on this issue, from both feminists and non-feminists, that I would just like a final answer. That way I know if I should be wearing my victim hat or my "haha, you hog!" hat.

Are those the only two choices?

As a single male that supports feminism, I try to appreciate what a woman has to offer in terms of intellect, personality, etc. rather than to make an arbitrary assessment of the outward appearance. However…testosterone is a bitch, which means that achieving that particular goal is a constant struggle. So, speaking only for myself, I’d say that a nice thin figure is a privilege, even though Neanderthals may tend to objectify thin women.
It sucks that in our society there is only one type of beauty affirmed. I think that's changing though. I've been fat and thin and as far as social reactions go, there are good and bad on both sides. Just for me, I'd rather be healthy. (And Robert..ew.)
I was asking the question sarcastically. I don't really see things in black in white. I'm neither a victim nor a thin-elitist.

It just makes me wonder how some people think I'm so oppressed and yet so privileged at the same time. How can both of those things be true? Like braidwood said, there are good and bad things about being slim (although I can't think of anything good about being way too skinny). But there are good and bad things about LOTS of things in life.

Also, I don't think it's bad for Robert to have preferences based on physical attractiveness. People think that's easy for me to say because I'm skinny, but believe me -- I've had plenty of men tell me they like cushion for the pushin' and that I am too skinny for their tastes.

If I ever have time, I'm going to write a long post about being "too skinny". Before I had my son, I looked like Kate Moss or Calista Flockhart. Now I look more like Heidi Klum (who is still too skinny, but more filled out). Moss and Flockhart are two of the most-hated women in America for the sin of being too skinny. Men find them unattractive and women are just hateful. There are no advantages to being that thin, in my opinion.
To me, the thin thing is about health and inner strength (or discipline, if you like). Though there are exceptions, there is a point beyond which someone's weight tells people some very real things about them. If they're morbidly obese, chances are the person has serious emotional issues, not to mention the obvious health issues. And though it doesn't get mentioned often, the same is basically true when it comes to being too skinny. Very few folks have the metabolism to be Flockhart skinny without having an eating disorder. So when I see someone that thin, I'm suspicious, and I look for other warning signs.

But don't get me wrong, the caveman in me loves a thin woman, especially an obviously svelt one. Not only does that appeal to my genes, it appeals to my rational brain, which appreciates people who take care of themselves and care about how they look.

BTW - I'm back to blogging, and the focus is a bit more practical - relationships are the topic du jour. Do drop in.
Enlightened caveman,
I don't feel like you're that enlightened when it comes to this issue. Our society and era have us trained to believe that fat is bad and thin is good. Even when we step back from that and recognize the inherent fallacy in such a blanket statement, it is possible to retain some of society's twisted thinking. For instance, you said that you like thin women, not just for aesthetic reasons, "but b/c they appeal to your rational brain which appreciates people who take care of themselves and care about how they look." By your statement, then, non-thin women do not "take care of themselves" or "care about how they look." I think that is a false blanket statement. Actually, I think that is an insulting, hurtful, distructive, false blanket statement that only reinforces the negative sterotypes about non-thin women in society. There is nothing wrong with the fact that you find thin women more visually pleasing and sexually stimulating. What is wrong is to assume that these same women are somehow better or different from the women you don't find pleasing or sexually stimulating. Despite what you may think, fat people are healthy, have inner strength and discipline. Fat people are not sick or diseased, they just have different bodies. Yes, some fat people have weight related illnesses, but, as you yourself noticed, some thin people have weight related illnesses as well.

Be yourself and be attracted to whomever you please, but please do not base that attraction on some sort of "health" or "emotional" reasoning. What you are actually doing is discriminating.
"By your statement, then, non-thin women do not "take care of themselves" or "care about how they look.""

Let me revise a bit. I'll define thin as not having a BMI that would cause your doctor to tell you to lose weight. For some people, that means a curvy appearance is OK; for others, it doesn't allow that much latitude.

"Despite what you may think, fat people are healthy, have inner strength and discipline."

Sorry - fat people are not healthy. Being too heavy is bad for everything from blood sugar (i.e. leading to diabetes) to musculoskeletal health (which prevents the ability to do many cardiovascular exercises). Ask any decent doctor what the two biggest risk factors for health problems are and they'll tell you smoking and being overweight.

"Fat people are not sick or diseased, they just have different bodies."

Look, you obviously need to believe this dribble, but the fact is that MOST fat people are fat because they consume considerably more calories than they expend. They're not born to be fat; they make themselves that way. Furthermore, in this modern world where most people don't have to do manual labor or walk (or ride a bike) everywhere they go, and where junk food of all kinds is within arms reach almost everywhere, the people who are thin are thin because they CHOOSE to be thin, and they have the DISCIPLINE to carry through with their choices. That appeals to me because I COULD be fat, but I take actions that, though the alternatives are often more attractive in the short term, keep me from gaining weight - I eat less or I exercise more or both. I want someone who is at least as disciplined as I am - about the important stuff - like health.

I'll concede that there are some people who have either fast or slow metabolisms that cause them to be either thin or fat despite the actions they take to go the other direction. But these are few and far between.

"What you are actually doing is discriminating."

Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing. Because we're talking in generalizations. I'm willing to give every fat person I meet the benefit of the doubt - maybe they have thyroid problems, or maybe they used to be much heavier and they are still losing weight (which deserves much more admiration that simply staying thin all your life, in my book). Whatever. But the fact remains that MOST fat people are fat because they made themselves fat, and being fat is a major health risk.

I'm sorry that this aspect of reality is unpleasant for you. I'm just the messenger.
I've been fat and thin and as far as social reactions go, there are good and bad on both sides. Just for me, I'd rather be healthy. (And Robert..ew.)

I would fight and die to protect your right to freely express your opinion; but I can’t imagine why my comment would elicit an “ew”. Look, if the truth is hurtful…deal with it.
How can both of those things be true?

You seem to be treating 'privilege' as an absolute, not relative. Being the favorite pet doesn't free you from being a pet. Having the 'ideal' female body type does not erase the fact that you live in a society where women are valued first on how visually attractive they are to men.

And yes, own up here--it is easy for you to say that because you're thin. The fact that a few men have told you they have different preferences is really beside the point; when you walk into the grocery store and every women's magazine is plastered with articles about 'How to put more junk in your trunk!' and 'Put on the pounds he loves!' then get back to me.
Myth, why would a magazine say that when MOST women are not too skinny? You and I both know fashion mags cater to the masses. Most women weigh over 115 lbs. These mags are trying to hammer into your head that you should weigh 105-125, depending on your height. They are NOT trying to tell you to weigh 90 lbs.

I've noticed these mags will have articles chiding those evil Flockhart-thin women. People Magazine posted a pic of Lara Flynn Boyle in her bikini, which they deemed "scary" because of her skeleton-like bod. That's where the hypocrisy comes in. They have articles vilifying thin women, yet they choose only thin women to grace their covers. Clever, eh? (Not really.)

I will concede that I have the "ideal" body type now. But for most of my life I have been too skinny for ANYONE to find attractive. Not long ago I had to date only the fattest, ugliest boys who would have me. And you know what's funny? I was a model then.

I'm not saying privilege is an absolute. I'm just curious - do you think thin women are "objectified" more than heavier women (say, on magazine covers)? If so, do you consider that objectification a privilege? Do want MORE women to have the "opportunity" to be the favorite pet?

If images of women were portrayed differently, THEN I think a valid feminist argument could be made for expanding the definition of beauty. But I don't understand the current desire for equal representation in shallow bimboland.
Oops, I meant do YOU want more women to have the opportunity.
Not quite following you here, redneck, because you're mixing up objectfication and privilege. Women are objectified when men's assessment of their physical attractiveness is their primary (and perhaps most important) feature, in a way the reverse certainly isn't for men. The more you conform to that standard, the more privilege you get.

Where I'm disagreeing with you is the notion that because both "thin" and "fat" women (talk about undefined terms!) are subjected to this scrutiny, that privilege is kind of unimportant and "thin" women don't really have much of it.

"Too thin" may subject you to more harassment than "just right," but I'd be willing to be that as a scrawny model, you were treated a hell of a lot better than if you'd been obese.

Women's magazines go on and on about diet, exercise, and losing weight; you aren't often going to see one that tells women to gain weight. If both too thin and too fat were equally bad, then why are perfectly normal-sized women only being pushed toward one extreme?
Average-size women are being pushed to be thinner because of what I said above. They want you to be 105-125 lbs. That's their narrow view. Very few women are below 105 lbs. so the mags don't bother to address them unless they're teasing someone like Flockhart.

But I do agree that the privilege of thin women is rather unimportant. Maybe that's what I should have said all along. I just get tired of hearing how privileged I am by *some* women, including some feminists.

I was a model in high school. The obese girls at my school didn't get teased - that was considered rude. But they were certainly invisible, as if they didn't matter at all. It was perfectly ok to tease me, though. Perhaps I was a reminder of just how "fat" the other girls thought they were.

So my dumb self ran off to the fashion industry for validation. That was a big mistake, but I guess I learned from it.
They want you to be 105-125 lbs. That's their narrow view.

Exactly. Why don't they want you to be 125-140 lbs? Why don't they also address the too-skinny readership from time to time?

Perhaps I was a reminder of just how "fat" the other girls thought they were.

Probably. And I wonder if those obese girls didn't get harassed after all; you sound like you are talking about the behavior of the female students only.
"... some people think I'm so oppressed"

Oppressed? People actually talk like that about physical appearance? Sounds a bit too tightly wound, but then that's just me.

Is it my imagination or are “looks” and what they “mean” an obsession on websites that feature themselves as Feminist?

Do you think it’s more fun and satisfying to write about body weight issues when you are thin or when you are fat? The answer to that question actually answers all the others.
I don't know, Richard. I read lots of feminist blogs, and all I find are writings on being overweight. I am the only one, to my knowledge, that writes from the underweight perspective. However, some "feminists" have literally said that thin women are evil. I understand their frustration, but I don't appreciate the insult. If they're so feminist, why do they hate thin women and not thin men? Why is it just assumed that a guy is naturally skinny, but a woman is starving herself to be a pawn of the patriarchy?

Also, I'm not sure how familiar you are with my blog. Anytime I use the words "oppressed" and "patriarchy" I am being sarcastic. I do not believe that I am oppressed or living in a patriarchy*. Have I been discriminated against or unfairly stereotyped solely because of my gender? Yes. That is why I'm a feminist.

*I think a patriarchy (or matriarchy) can exist in private households, but not in the public sphere. Private patriarchies are a voluntary choice and not my problem.
And YEAH, when my bod is no longer an obsession to everyone else (catcallers and sneering ladies -- I'm talking to YOU!) then I suspect I won't think about it much either.

You could say it's an obsession on feminist blogs. But HELLO have you ever picked up a non-feminist "women's magazine"? Obsession, indeed.
However, some "feminists" have literally said that thin women are evil.

Who said this?
A few couple women on Bitch Magazine's S(h)itlist said it. It's the "Israel says: Let's pad the clothes hangers a little" thread. Now that I revisit it, the exact wording is "Skinny Women Are Evil" and there is even a "feminist" book with that title. But that wasn't even the worst of the slams. I'd say names like bone bags, vulture food, ribs you can play the xylophone on, anorexia accusations, etc... are all worse than saying we're evil.

I should point out that not all the feminists on that blog hurled insults, and some even openly dissented. I just don't think we should openly insult women based on their bods, unless we're talking about Charlotte Allen. (In her case, I'm doing her a favor because she hates being treated as a human.) And like I said above, I hate the double standard regarding thin men.

Maybe this URL will work. If not, just scroll down to the bottom or check the July archives.
"...bone bags, vulture food, ribs you can play the xylophone on, anorexia accusations"

Um, yeah. That was all me. And I'm a thin girl, too (very thin! like you!) so people just assumed I was some nasty fat girl, or an anti-feminist. I'm neither.

As for the "anorexia accusations", no-one was accusing anyone of being anorexic--the comments to which you allude were based on my experience of seeing firsthand what the modelling industry did to a couple of friends. Broke not just their bodies, but also their spirits. And you know what the worst thing was? They'd say to me, "Oooh, wish I was naturally thin like YOU" (*shudders*).

Bearing that in mind, I never really identified with the whole 'skinny chicks are so oppressed' thing. I mean, back in my high school health ed class, when we were talking about discrimination based on body types, one (skinny) girl raised her hand and said that she thought thin girls have it just as bad as fat ones, and then began to expound on why this was so. She then looked around at the other three petite girls in the room, all of whom obliged her by nodding their heads in solidarity. Then she looked at me. I suppose I upset her by simply looking confused. If she was expecting agreement, then she wasn't going to get it from a girl who'd spent most of her life being reviled as hideous--and as an "ugly chick", I identified more with the unpopular fat girls than with girls I could trade clothes with (very few of these).

Still, having reflected on my comments, I realise I was being an arsehole and that my vitriol (though self-deprecating) was unwarranted (and yeah, anti-feminist as well). So, please don't blame the other girls for shit that I said. And the "Skinny Women Are Evil" book title was brought up by a poster called strychnine siren (another thin girl, who only mentioned the book to bag it and, like 99% of the other posters on Bitch, was dead against skinny epithets.)

I didn't come to your blog to excoriate you (actually, came via twisty's blog. Was curious to know what a "redneck feminist" was). I just wanted to say that not all (in fact, very few) feminists I know have anything against naturally thin girls--I've never had another feminist call me anorexic before, so it might be hard for me to empathise with you in that regard. But I have been called anorexic before by *non* feminists (mostly guys); my response is to laugh it off. Now I've realised that response isn't everyone's cup of tea, I can understand why you were so pissed. But don't blame the group for the actions of one person. The Bitch posters have almost always defended girls of all sizes (not to mention ideological positions!) And that's the truth.

BTW: I don't think anyone (aside from the wacky singer Mo'Nique, author of said book) *honestly* thinks thin women are evil.
Okay, I only read the title, and not really interested in hearing any other opinion because I know this for a fact. A pretty girl with long hair, smile, and tight body get go farther than a homely fat girl. I've proven this to my friends from something as trivial as getting store clerks to open cashout lanes just for me, getting out of traffic tickets (I made an ilegal u-turn less than a hundred feet before an intersection and the police officer just yelled until he saw me, then his tone totally changed).... my looks got me to cut in on a long line of other less-attractive girls to win my internship that got me a full time scholarship to any college I wanted... so I went to Yale, because Harvard has too many ugly feminist. During a loan application, the president of the bank introduced himself to me, and helped my loan officer get a really god rate. I could go on and on and on. Being young, pretty, and a girl is the most powerful thing in the universe!
I really think that thin women are objectified and vilified by OTHER WOMEN. (Men like women of all sizes and personalities, so it's the women who are obsessed with size.) I am naturally thin (5'7" and 107 - 112 lbs). I have been my whole adult life. Guys tend to like me because I have a decent personality and I'm not bad looking, but not because I'm thin. But I have had to endure questions and comments from women with weight issues of their own who assume that I don't eat enough. My husband has had to assure some of our female acquaintances and friends (who happen to be bigger than me) that I eat ALL THE TIME and more than he does, and no, I don't diet. I never have. In fact I have to eat every 2 hours or I get irritable and can't think straight. These same women have said that I look "sick" to them and I should put on weight. I don't have much of a chest, which is a pain when looking for swimwear, but I have no problems with how I look. I think that other women, no matter what size... as long as they are healthy, should stop obsessing with weight. And stop criticizing women who they think are "thinner" or "prettier" in order to make themselves feel better. There is no normal weight and height. Forget the BMI index. You are who you are, and some silly index just serves to make people feel inadequate. Women need to learn to be okay with themselves, and stop objectifying and vilifying those that they consider thinner than they are. There are women that are naturally thin (I thank my grandmother for that), and we have to endure stares and condescending remarks about our frame/weight from OTHER women. Including feminists.
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