America’s Next Bill Clinton!

Women willing to go to jail to lose weight

Because one of the classes I am taking this semester is “Women’s Ways of Knowing” (A class on feminist epistemology and women’s experiences), I am focusing a lot of the notes on body image issues – at least for the next few days anyway.

I ran into this story just reading the news last night, and realized that weight issues and body image is another one of my male privileges – and what’s a male privilege is also a check for women’s plight. The summary of the article is below.

Nearly a quarter (23%) would spend a week in jail; 23% would shave their head; 22% would wear a bikini on TV; and 21% would trade 10 years of life, according to the survey of 1,000 women 18 and older. Most (85%) would rather have an extra toe than 50 extra pounds.

How is it that women have gone through such great lengths just to look the way they’re “supposed” to? Health issues aside – this has nothing to do with health, but rather, the media representation of what a woman is supposed to look like, and it bothers me.

Rather than focusing on healthy lifestyles, women are made out to be Wonder People who are supposed to be everything that’s of the male fantasy. Companies are selling diet pills, gym memberships, and alternative foods just so women could lose weight – and are these women’s health ever taken into account? – of course not. Their goal is to firstly make money off these women, and secondly, setting unrealistic standards for women – standards that few will ever meet. Both the corporations and the media are responsible for this.

What bothers me even more about this article is the fact that one of the survey questions finds that women would rather be the “friendly chubby girl” than the “pretty witch.”

What the hell does that even mean? Why was the question even asked? As if women have to fall into one or the other category. I tell you what it does – it divides women. It divides them into “thin little bitches”, and “fat housewives.” That bothers me, too, because it pits women against one another and the solidarity of the feminist movement and puts it at a stall.

The fact is I know plenty of women – both thin and heavy, whose significant others love them, and who are my dearest friends. The worth of a woman is not based on her weight.

Of course, we ask how the women surveyed could ever got to the point that they’d be willing to lose these things to lose weight …the answer? The patriarchy. One you’ve been socialized that your body is all you’re worth, it kind of feels that way after a while.

It gets to the point where it’s sickening – that no matter how a woman looks, she suffers from it. Ever since they are little girls, pretty women have been sexualized and in some cases, assaulted. “Ugly” women, though, are seen as the outcasts of the world and are forced to go through diets and bizarre ways of losing weight.

In short, they’re fucked either way. If you’re pretty, you get treated/viewed as a slut and piece of meat, and if you’re not, you’re treated like you’re not worth anything …

I once dated a girl who said for a period of time in her life, she gained a lot of weight because she didn’t want to risk being sexually assaulted – but then she was known as the fat bitch.

That’s not a fair trade. Being human and loving one’s body shouldn’t be a trade.

13 Comments so far
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This is something I really grapple with. On the one hand, I am so fed up with gorgeous, beautiful, perfectly healthy women looking at their bodies as their enemy, thinking they’re too fat when they are in fact healthy and nearly perfect. I would love all women to come to terms with their bodies and imperfections, and love the way they look.

On the other hand, to ignore the health impact of being overweight also does us all a disservice. An extra 50lbs would put most of us into the overweight (if not obese) category and that’s just plain not good for you. I get frustrated watching my overweight mother-in-law eating crap foods not because I think she should be skinny to conform with beauty standards, but b/ the extra weight exacerbates health issues like her bad knees and sleep apnea, which greatly decrease her over-all quality of life.

And so while the impact of the media and its pressure on women to be thin and beautiful is definitely significant, something I still has a very negative and harmful impact on women and young girls. But at the same time the health effects of being over (or under)weight should also not be ignored.

Comment by Marcy

Marcy, even women who are not gorgeous deserve to accept their bodies. Fat women should be shamed & attacked no more than slim women.

It’s disingenuous to suggest that all the hand-wringing about women’s weight is about health. It’s disgust disguised as concern.

Most women who obsess about their weight are not obsessing because of health concerns. 21% would trade 10 years of life to be slimmer!

If we, as a society, gave a crap about women’s health, there’d be more “concern” about the health risks of smoking. But pics of celebrities holding cigarettes don’t garner anywhere near the level of attention pics of celebrities with body fat do.

Comment by SarahMC

SarahMC I agree with you. I never meant to suggest that the ONLY reason people worry about weight is for health reasons, I realize most of it these days is still just b/c we’re trying to conform to unrealistic standards of beauty. My point, which I guess I didn’t make a good job of expressing, is that I think it’s dangerous to then go to the other extreme and tell women (and men) that being 50lbs overweight is “ok.” We should work towards helping people find a healthy weight.

The attacks on celebrities with a few extra pounds is ridiculous, but at least there’s now more attention also paid to when they go too far when losing weight, as with all the attention paid to Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, etc when they were looking skeletal. I also was very pleased to see all the backlash against the comments made recently about Jennifer Love Hewitt. It’s nice to see the media backing up a woman with a healthy-looking body once in a while, and hopefully we’ll see more of this.

Comment by Marcy

This reminds me of a documentary I watched on anorexia once. There was a lady who said she joined the army to keep her weight down. Sadly, I understood where she was coming from.

Comment by panik257

Hell, I’d sacrifice a year of life if I could be 120 lbs. forever. Even feminists aren’t immune to the pressure to be thin & beautiful.

Comment by SarahMC

“…but at least there’s now more attention also paid to when they go too far when losing weight, as with all the attention paid to Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, etc when they were looking skeletal.”

How far is going too far, Marcy? How fat or thin does a woman need to be for it to be right to critique her weight? How “normal” does a woman have to be for it to be wrong to critique her weight? Am I getting close to that magic number? How about after I eat another cheeseburger or skip another meal? Or have I gone too far? Are the comments on my body now ok? What if they’re couched as “concern” for my health? After all, no one ever mentions my vitamin D levels.

Being 50 or 100 lbs overweight (whatever that means) IS ok. It’s FINE. It’s nobody’s business. Sure, there could be a negative health impact. I don’t think there is a single soul in my country (US) who doesn’t know that being very heavy or very thin carries health risks. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to remind them of that over and over. And, attacks on celebrities or ANYONE with “a few extra pounds” or a LOT of extra pounds are unacceptable. By the same token, it is also unacceptable to vilify or shame celebrities or anyone else when they “go too far” and start “looking skeletal.”

Our bodies are not up for discussion. Ever.

Comment by Glump

Glump – I am with you on this. There’s clearly a difference between truly caring about women’s health and lives, and using their bodies as a way to sell magazines.

I was just at the store a few minutes ago, and it struck me as I was looking through the magazine section that most of them have women on the cover. Look at celebrity magazines, as an example, all of the “candid” shots of celebrities’ bodies and faces, without make-up, are always those of women.

Celebrity or not, women oughtn’t be commodified like that.

Comment by profeministmale

Great points, Glump. It is NOT feminist to pick apart the bodies of very thin women.
The line between “too thin” and “too fat” is practically non-existant. For so many of us, the difference is about 5 lbs.

And to add to my previous point, being unhealthy is not a moral failure. It’s not “wrong” to be overweight.

Comment by SarahMC

No, it is not ok to judge and critique women’s bodies as a form of entertainment, but I for one am at least encouraged by seeing a shift towards magazines, etc, supporting a more healthy-looking image. It’s baby steps, but still positive ones.

And why is it ok to talk openly and have big campaigns about the negative health effects of smoking, drugs, drinking too much, tanning, etc etc etc but even mentioning how being over- (or under-)weight is bad for you is considered so taboo? Again, I realize the critiques on women’s bodies in magazines, advertising, etc have little to do with concerns about their health. But I still think it’s dangerous to instead tell people that it’s ok to ignore being obese just so they can feel better about themselves.

Comment by Marcy

You are setting up a false dichotomy, Marcy.

Nobody has suggested that one must either delight in tearing women’s bodies apart or be ambivalent about people’s health.

But you know what? Fat people know they’re fat. And what I am opposed to is positioning obesity as a moral failure.

Comment by SarahMC

Marcy, you should check out some fat-acceptance blogs. My personal favorite is Shapely Prose at On her site, she has a page titled But Don’t You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy? that I highly recommend starting with. Being fat isn’t necessarily as unhealthy as the mainstream media makes it seem. Another blogger at Junkfood Science, a nutritionist, debunks a lot of the myths that MSM perpetuates about fat and health that effectively oppress people who are fat.

Comment by L

Your blog is a bit creepy..stop stamping on your own bollox for a bunch of feminists Man, it’s actually painfull to watch.

I know you probably think if you work out what this bunch of fugly Dworkin slobberers wants from you then you will have unlocked the key to the wonderfull world of women but seriously…NO!

The irony is the feminists ideas are less compatible with there own gender than your average bloke, if you don’t believe then ask a woman or two or three or a hundred what they think of Dworkin and some of the other loons to crawl out of the woodwork proclaiming to speak on behalf of an entire gender during the last 30 years.

Give yourself a break, enjoy some less distressed and bitter women, have a beer, have a wank or ring your mum and stop worrying about the views of a very tiny proportion of women who will always be sitting on the fringe.

Comment by Rook

I was an early developer and got touched up age ten by classmates. Until i was 17 i then covered myself up in masculine and baggy clothing.

“Distressed and bitter” – the only thing that makes me distressed and bitter is people like you Rook. Feminism helps me, makes me feel happy, helps me recognise my own achievements, which my lovers, colleagues and parents and men like you all seem to want to take away from me.

Comment by Helen

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