Monday, August 9th, 2010
Yep, I’m watching Oprah again. And yep, her show is the catalyst for another post. I’m watching an episode where Oprah talks to Geneen Roth, author of the book “Women, Food and God”. Oh man, this episode has some hardcore mixed messages. As a disclaimer, I have not read this book, I’ve only perused excerpts on the web.
Look, Geneen Roth’s book is probably pretty accurate as to how a lot of people feel when they eat. Our society has attached moral value to food that I find truly bizarre. That it’s bad to eat cake, it’s good to eat vegetables, that kind of thing. And then when we eat the “bad” foods, we shame ourselves. When they read excerpts from the book, I fully agreed with it. Fat people (any people, actually) need to stop equating their self-worth with how much they weigh, and/or what foods they eat. Everyone needs to stop judging themselves as ugly, bad, or not the ideal.
It was actually a comment by Oprah that make me want to punch the TV. “Any time you better yourself, whether it’s losing weight, or getting a job or improving yourself in any way, and the people around you are not happy for that. It is their self loathing, it is their insecurity, it is their dislike and disrespect of themselves that they are reflecting out to you. It has nothing to do with you.”
I say this to you, Oprah. Any time you equate being thinner with improving oneself, you are perpetuating that same culture of self loathing, shame, and hatred over your appearance. It belittles the hard work people put into improving their self esteem. My appearance is not an indicator of my health or wellbeing and especially not my worth as a human being. We need to stop beating ourselves up. We need to stop the shaming. This is completely irrespective of weight.
I don’t understand this episode. First they say that you should love and respect yourself, and look past all your “flaws” and see the real you. And then it’s all brought back to losing weight. How are you loving yourself as you are if you’re still trying to change the way you look?
So conflicted. Have you seen this episode? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Thursday, October 15th, 2009
I’ve seen a lot of the body image stuff that’s been happening recently in the media (magazines, news, tv) and haven’t really commented on any of it anywhere. Sometimes it’s nice to digest developments instead of bashing out an immediate response on my keyboard.
I’m very happy that body image is getting more and more play in the mainstream media, because Maude knows we’ve been talking about it online for years. The tricky thing about mainstream media is that instead of getting a bunch of like-minded people discussing the topic rationally (like in our fat-o-sphere vacuum, maybe), every person gets access to the topic and has the right to bash out an opinion even if they’ve never really thought about it before. It sounds kind of condescending, but many people don’t actually question their conditioning and resort to those pre-formed notions when talking about weight, body image, fashion and health. Let me illustrate this: a magazine hires a plus size stylist to write a column about her plus-size fashion experience and many people outside the body acceptance vacuum hammer out knee jerk opinions: What about her health? Blah blah blah health insurance! Fat people are TOTES GROCE! The hoi polloi aren’t even commenting on the actual topic: fashion. Instead they are falling back on the “go to” reaction to a fat person made visible.
So we have all this cultural conditioning, but the people outside the vacuum aren’t really aware that they have it. I’m trying to figure out if the awareness campaigns are genuine attempts to make people aware of their body image conditioning or if they’re just paying lip service to those inside the vacuum. I’m actually starting to think that the media is appealing to the masses, and limiting the scope of “acceptance” in order for people to deal with such a revolutionary notion. And that’s hurtful.
I’ve noticed that many stories on body image and acceptance also have this glaring caveat: it’s a wonderful thing to love your body, but not if you’re too fat. When Ellen had an army of plus size models on her show she bought into this notion and I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. So, as a “deathfatty” I’m supposed to hate myself into an acceptable weight range and it’s only then that I can love myself? I don’t think it works that way Ellen! Not on a practical or academic level. It’s so arbitrary too, do I get a hand written invitation from some “deathfat” panel once I cross the threshold of acceptable body type? I will not, because as it stands no one can agree on that – well they can agree that slender is acceptable but where’s the line in the sand?
It sounds a lot like many stories in the media are aiming this body image talk at women who are at a “typical” body weight and are aiming thinner. Are fat people totally co-opting this body acceptance talk? If we are, I don’t think it’s an intrusion. There’s this awareness campaign I’ve been seeing here and there called “End Fat Talk” and while I totally agree with it, I get the impression it’s not aimed at people of my size, it’s aimed at people who think they’re fat. I don’t mind co-opting this message. Actually I don’t mind co-opting any body acceptance message. We have a great privilege as blog authors, internet connection users and people who can communicate ideas and as part of that privilege I get to discuss these things that matter to me, with you.
We can’t exclude anyone from the body talk, I don’t think that’s fair. It’s the reason why many in the FA movement reject the notion of the “Real Woman” and thin woman as enemy. We’re all in this together.