the value of women: body image on the other side of the revolution
October 6, 2011 4 Comments
“While, fat is a feminist issue, it’s true,” said G, a member of my feminist meetup group, “but our country has a serious overweight problem, and that is because people don’t eat right and exercise.”
I cringed. The group members spent the next ten minutes talking about how they “just feel better” at a certain weight, and how G’s mom has lost X amount of pounds, and how M’s body changed when she stopped running cross country, etc.
I attempted to steer the conversation towards developing a different standard of health that is outside of body shape and refers to blood pressure, blood sugar levels, etc. I also pointed out that 95% of people who try to lose weight regain it (and then some!) over the next five years.
I brought up that I don’t wear makeup anymore, and was told, “And you still look beautiful!” as if I were fishing for compliments. See, the woman who told me that still believes that looking beautiful is an important value. I was trying to opt out of the beauty mandate, and she was trying to measure me by it.
We finally switched topics, but not before I felt my self esteem drop several points. I was caught off guard to hear these feminists talking about food choices, fat, and appearance in this way!
This meeting was a reminder to me that emphasizing body/fat acceptance is exceptionally important in my own life.
It is an easy lesson to forget.
But “acceptance” is not radical. It’s negotiating within the current system. Which, (as FCM has pointed out), is a harm reduction strategy, but not a radical one.
This has got me thinking: what would the world look like after the revolution with respect to bodies?
For starters, women’s bodies are currently the most shamed, because they are objectified. In this culture, your worth is equal to your looks. If you fail to look beautiful, you fail to be valuable.
When value is contingent on approval from men, it is impossible to experience true self esteem. This type of self worth can be taken away at any time which is why it is a dead end to pursue. Additionally, we “all lose our charms in the end” anyway.
My mom used to tell me these truths, but I got conflicting messages. For example, she wouldn’t go to the grocery store without makeup on. Grandma had a facelift, and great grandma had breast implants in the 60s (they began to slide shortly after). I heard that my appearance was not important, but the water I swam in told a different story.
After the revolution, all women will know that their true value comes from themselves. Yes. Their value does not come from any external hand-outs from men.
But here we are, struggling. We say, “But you look great!” as if looking great matters.
Radical feminists recognize that once the patriarchy is overthrown, these concerns will seem so, so very silly.