A mothers view of Fat and the indoctrinated beauty standard

This blog entry came to me just as I was about to go to sleep last night. I sat bolt upright, grabbed a pad and began scribbling. I’m aware that my blog entries often sound like the kind of speeches you get at rallies, so forgive me if it’s a bit ‘POWER TO THE PEOPLE’ sounding ;-)

Fat.

Oh my gosh fat is a dangerous and loaded word.

Three little letters, that’s all it is. F-A-T. Fat, a word that is used to control and shame a large portion of the female population.

With a few exceptions, fat is generally a word that inspires fear in most women. Nearly every woman you meet will dread this word. None of them want to be told that they are fat.

To be fat is to be slovenly, slothful, greedy – at least that’s the connotation in this culture anyway. We are surrounded by mixed push/pull messages. We are sold horrendously unhealthy junk foods by the medium of intense advertising and then dismissed as unattractive if we dare to indulge in them and become fat. To be fat is to not fit into the beauty mould.

To be fat is to show that we are people. Being fat reminds men that we are not dolls. Being fat shows that we are not suppressing our natural urges as we should. We are not supposed to be fat, we are not supposed to be horny. If you dare to commit the double sin of being fat and having a sex drive, you can expect to be an object of ridicule and disgust to many men..

Our thunder thighs, our cankles, our bootylicious cans, our jelly bellies, our spare tyres, we are hated by men for these because when we allow the extra flab to cushion our bodies we are denying male control.

It has been quite obvious to me since I was a youngling – I was raised by a fat mother who was always dieting, ALWAYS – that fat isn’t the simple descriptor it should be. It’s a frame of mind, it’s an abject horror.

Of course, women come in all shapes and sizes, many are naturally thin and I’m not denying that. There are precious few women that I know however, that accept their natural shape. Most of the women that I know are either fat women trying to become thin or thin women who think they are fat. So warped is our self perception that we constantly aspire to thinness and then rarely recognise it when we achieve it.

To be thin against your will, against your natural urge is to be controlled. Patriarchal society wants to keep this issue at the forefront of our minds because it keeps us servile. As long as we are constantly worried about our fat, we continue to be corporate whores, to be media slaves. When we are consumed with worrying about our fat, we don’t notice half the things going on around us. We don’t call out the misogynists on the things they should be called out on.

Hollywood is a great example of this fact. A lot of female actors in Hollywood are considered by the industry and indeed some of the public, to be little more than highly paid, well dressed prostitutes. More often that not they are treated as trophies, arm candy for their less attractive male counterparts. If female actors want to make money and succeed in their career field, the most important thing they have to do (besides scotch tape their flimsy dresses to their breasts and simulate sex on camera) is TO BE THIN. When female actors ‘let themselves go’ – in other words become fat – they become a joke. They don’t get work. As the recessions hits many areas of the Western World this ideal becomes more marked and apparent. As the amount of film roles goes down and the amount of competing female actors goes up, the average size of the female actors goes down. The more you need work, the thinner you need to be, to the point of looking emaciated and ill.

What this shows us is that in this society, if you are not a thin beautiful woman, you have nothing to offer. At first glance we’re quite fucked because you KNOW, you just know, that saying ‘fuck you, I’ll eat what I want and let myself get fat’ isn’t going to effect massive changes overnight. Being fat and not bothering with the beauty faff won’t make men suddenly take us seriously or treat us as people. If we are not thin, we have no worth to men, we will simply disappear off the radar. If men don’t consider us attractive enough to want to have sex with, we cease to be noticed by them.

The most insidious thing about the fat phobic society in which we live is that it is self perpetuated. Women know that if they are not thin and beautiful, they will simply be dismissed and ignored by men. Ergo, women become this way on PURPOSE to get male attention, just so they can get by. Being in a patriarchal society doesn’t just mean we are almost constantly surrounded by misogynistic assholes. It means that every aspect of our lives are controlled by men. Therefore to do something that completely removes you from the equation can really make it difficult to survive in any real sense. If you are female and fat, a few men will take you seriously.

It’s not women that are the problem though, you can’t blame men. Most of the time, we are victims of circumstance, of the shitty lot we have thrust upon us. I won’t attack women for exposing their breasts for a living, it takes advantage of a fundamental male weakness and capitulates on their disgust for us and their need to keep us under the thumb. To do all that and earn money seems like a good days work to me. I strongly believe that the women who do this job are unfortunately seldom doing it for that exact reason – but that’s a WHOLE OTHER rant.

My basic approach to the injustice of beauty and fat fear that I see evidence of daily, is threefold.

Firstly, I think we should radically alter the way we are socialising our children from birth. How many times have you heard somebody exclaim over a bassinet/crib/stroller/pram ‘AWW ISN’T HE/SHE SO CUTE!’ This aggravates me intensely and sets my teeth on edge. I think most people deeper than a shallow puddle understand and agree that with adults, it’s generally not a good idea to rate people solely based on their attractiveness. So why is it acceptable to do it to our children? Many progressive thinkers and feminists find it abhorrent to treat women this way, but when we do it to children, both male and female, we are ensuring the cycle continues.

We are teaching them from birth that our physical attractiveness is thing that gets us noticed, the most important thing. We are, in a nutshell, teaching them to only value their bodies and ensuring that our daughters end up struggling in the same way that we do. I don’t think that in decades time, we really want our daughters to be putting up with sizeist men. Ironically enough we often consider fatness in our babies to make them attractive. I wonder what it is that so radically changes as a child ages? What suddenly makes us so afraid of the fat?

My incredibly simplistic suggestion is this: STOP IT. I want to praise children when they smile and giggle and burp and walk and talk. I don’t want my children to be indoctrinated into the cult of beauty. I don’t want to punish male children by inadvertently forcing them to uphold this standard. I tell my son regularly (daily, constantly) how wonderful I think he is, how intelligent, how funny, how sociable. I think he’s gorgeous (probably because I carried him in my body for 42 weeks and birthed him) but I certainly don’t act like this is the only thing about him that is important. I don’t want him to be programmed from infancy to hate being fat or only want his female consorts to be slim.

Secondly, start using the word fat for what it is. Not a sin, not a crime, a descriptor. Words like curvy and voluptuous might seem more flattering, but they just don’t cut it. If you’re fat, you’re fat. It’s just an adjective. Meditate for a while and ponder the question, independently of other people, of whether you are even fat at all. Locate the bits of you that are fat and learn to love them.

You know how we stand in the mirror, sucking in our stomachs and cheeks, poking our midriffs, and plotting ways to be less fat? Do we really want our children to be doing that in the years to come?

If you’re thin because you’ve dieted, LET YOURSELF GO. Radically evaluate why you are the way you are. Do you want to be happy or slim? Can you be both? Is it possible to be fat and happy? (It is – I’m happy to say that I am.)

Lastly, activism. Read Joy’s Nashs fat rants (dear Goddess she is gorgeous). Join websites/fora such as fatshionista. Let women and men know that lots of different types of people are attractive, including the fat ones. You can be fat, happy and gorgeous.

Fat is just a word. It’s subjective. It will mean whatever you let it mean.

I hope one day we learn to live with our fat and love it, not only for us and the sake of our physical and mental health. Also for our children and my desperate hope for a better, happier, healthier more equal future.

2 Responses to “A mothers view of Fat and the indoctrinated beauty standard”

  1. Spilt Milk Says:

    Interesting post.

    You know, I wonder how much the cult of thin is really about what men want. And I mean individual men, not The Patriarchy – I’m with you on the link between dieting and servility. I guess what I’m saying is that men – at least many of them – seem to rather like sex with women who feel soft and squishy, or at least, have parts that feel soft and squishy. The idea that thin is where it’s at aesthetically doesn’t really translate into what human beings might be into, um, texturally. So really we’re all of us being duped.

    *goes to eat some more cake*

  2. SteveStevenson Says:

    You know, at first before actually skimming about I thought I might agree ,but once reaching the bottom I realized I didn’t. Appearance does matter, its always matter, and will always matter unless a wave of blindness hits. Visual stimulation is almost always the first type of stimulation received. Next, Fat doesn’t really mean whatever, between several professionals in nutrition and dieting “Fat, obese,overweight” are synonymous as a state of having a specific percentage of body fat. Pretty much if your percentage is off you have allowed a decadent lifestyle to consume to much of you. I know several people who are slim, yet are fat due to there body mass index which is important. Being overweight is unhealthy for anyone.


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