Culture Yells Me Things

Society teaches women that our value lies primarily in how fuckable we are to men, and most of us can’t help but internalize that message. We’re bludgeoned by it all the time. You Tube personality Jay Smooth hilariously searches for a list of everything women are supposed to do and not do so they can qualify for having their humanity respected. It’s awesome. 

The one he left out though is don’t be fat. That is the number one rule. Just. Don’t. Be. Fat. This message is everywhere. In popular media, in casual discrimination, in overt discrimination, and in medical discrimination and the way the BMI somehow is supposed to represent the one/only true measurement of our overall health.

With Fat=Terrible firmly established in our psyches, we’re also bludgeoned with the message that men, collectively, All The Men Ever, don’t like fat women. (And old. But especially fat.) Do not want. Would not bang.

The only way to be a fully human female, or sexual, or attractive, or most importantly-to give men erections, is to look like this:

And to be totally plucked, and primped, and made up, and coiffed with long, cascading hair, and fake tanned. Like this child:

It’s bullshit, of course, but there is a vast and endless diet and beauty industry out there making obscene bank on how terrible women feel about how they look. Self-esteem, and even morality, is all kinds of wrapped up in how we look, and that’s a habit of mind that’s difficult to break.

From Brown University:

In one study of college students, 74.4% of the normal-weight women stated that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.” 

It’s ridiculous that I have to even say this out loud, but a woman’s value as a human being is not dependent on how fuckable she is. We can collectively learn to to appreciate women’s attributes like intelligence or personality, but we also need to evaluate and expand our standards of beauty.

As an example, I find intelligence and sense of humor hella sexy. Looks that match my quirky, subjective preferences are icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

In addition to just, you know, valuing all women as human beings independent of how fuckable or not men are supposed to find us, we should ratchet down the fatism. One way to do this is by exposing ourselves to body diversity.

To that end, the Militant Baker has launched a body diversity photography project. It's called Expose: Shedding Light on Collective Beauty, and it is gloriously NSFW.

Lots of different women took their clothes off in front of the camera. The images are gorgeous. Lots of women who do not look like women we see in magazines and movies and beauty pageants look gorgeous in their own skin. It’s inspiring. The Militant Baker explains:

So much of the female body that we see is pushed up. Pinned down. Sucked in, tucked in, and airbrushed. It's only presentable state is when it's altered, and so when we look at ourselves in the mirror (naked, untucked, and vulnerable) we say "My body must be wrong."

Your body ain't wrong girlfriend.

Preach, Sister. I know all kinds of awesome women who are all kinds of sizes, and ages, and skin colors, and so on. The women I admire are smart and funny. Their beauty shines out from the inside, and they are gorgeous in their own skin whatever that looks like.

And here’s where I expose my hypocrisy.

I secretly love it when guys politely check me out. It’s validating in our sexist, patriarchal society. It’s a pleasant surprise. I look nothing like Barbie. I am strong and amazing. Fast. Smart and funny. I have killer legs. Gorgeous breasts. Cute, short hair. Friendly eyes. A BMI of 20. What I focus on in the mirror are the wrinkles. The grey hair. And especially the way I get a spare tire if I don’t stand up absolutely straight and breathe in. I can’t even imagine participating in a photo project like this. I would pass out from not being able to exhale!

I rail against the ridiculousness of Beauty Standards for other women and then I go on to privately self-shame. It’s completely fucked up, and most women I know do this.

It’s not even limited to women. I hang out with conventionally attractive men in lycra all the time. Athletes. In lycra. Healthy and strong. For whatever it's worth, I think they look amazing. And almost all of them are spectacularly fun to ride with. Easily two thirds of them are openly self-critical about age and/or weight. In the context of riding faster, but it's still self-shaming. We all need to knock it off.

Spend some time on the Militant Baker's site. Expose yourself to diversity, and focus on the internal attributes that make people interesting and diverse human beings regardless of what they look like. And if you're insecure like me, try focusing on your strengths. Stay positive about yourself. Acknowledge that societal standards of beauty are bullshit, and then let it go. Self-validate and indulge in some self-love. Seriously. Celebrate yourself and your body.

Here's a song to warm us up. (The video is not at all body-diverse, unfortunately, but the lyrics are spectacular.)


Disclaimer: I realize that not all thin people are healthy, and not all overweight people are unhealthy, and that BMI is not the only measurement of health. That said, BMI can be an indicator of health risks. And I'm aware of all the societal costs that go along with that. But that's not a reason to discriminate.