28 September 2009

How Do I Say This...?

I've noticed a new trend in Feminist writings (and, remember, I am one with a capital F), that I find rather concerning. Of course, talking about it will surely make me unpopular. But, so what? Popularity has never been a concern of mine.

There seems to be a new wave of encouraging women to feel good about being heavy, while condemning other women for being thin. Some of the encouragement I've read borders on bullying. It doesn't make sense to me. The assumption is that heavy is normal, while thin is forced. As a woman, I find that somewhat offensive. We are still attacking each other, still trying to define what is right and wrong. After all this time, is this where Feminism has gotten us?

Let's be honest: People who are severely overweight typically don't feel good, physically or emotionally. Ask someone who's lost a lot of weight. I get being supportive of women accepting themselves for who and how they are. I get being against the rail-thin models and the airbrushed magazine covers. What I don't get is the fact that we aren't talking about being our best, about caring and respecting ourselves enough to eat well and exercise, not because Madison Avenue or Hollywood says we should, but because it's good for us.

You know I'm a big proponent of health care reform. But I know that starts in our shopping carts. Let's start pointing the finger at how we eat instead of what we see on TV, magazines or on film. Back in the 80s, we were made aware of anorexia and bulemia and how widespread they were. Those are terrible eating disorders. But so is constant bingeing on sweets and processed, high-fat unnatural foods. Overeating is as dangerous and deadly, yet we are silently accepting it as "normal".

Somehow, it's acceptable to say, "Ick. You can't expect me to eat rabbit food my whole life," like fruits and vegetables are the enemy. Or "Exercise? I don't want to get all sweaty," like it's cute to be that much of a princess. But it's not acceptable to say, "I'd like to lose ten pounds." Immediately, you are diagnosed with either an eating disorder or a poor self-image, obviously warped by some gossip weekly. Because, somehow, women still can't make up their own minds. We are so weak that we are easily guided by glossies. We see a starlet who is a size 0 and we must be a size zero, too. Or, we are thin because we want to live up to some male fantasy. Skip the bread basket and you are accused of being a carbophobe instead of getting a back-pat for avoiding white flour. To me, it's nonsensical.

As women, we should be at a point in society where we have the right to accept who we are, or change who we are, as it suits us. Hopefully, that acceptance or change will always be in a healthy manner. Of course, sometimes it's not. Sometimes we are trying to live up to a fantasy. Sometimes we are starving ourselves to death. Sometimes we are eating ourselves to death. But the fact that we are still being told what is "normal" is nutty.

This rallying cry to celebrate obesity is as dangerous as championing anorexia. Yet, why don't we see that as such? Whether the medical issues are showing or not, we know being severely overweight is not healthy for the body. And there are a lot of unhealthy people dealing with this. Weight gain and loss is just simple math. But, for it to be blown out of proportion in either direction, that speaks of issues deeper than one too many pieces of pizza. It's easier to stay as we are than it is to change, but that doesn't mean "acceptance" is the answer. I would rather women respect and care for themselves enough to be the best they can be than accept where they are. Shouldn't we care enough to feed our bodies the healthiest foods out there, move our bodies so they stay nimble and strong, and look inside to find out what makes us tick than to merely accept things as they are? To paraphrase the Serenity Prayer: Change what we can, accept what we can't and have the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

It's not society that makes us feel bad about ourselves. Media is not to blame for a poor self-image. Women aren't that weak. This is 2009, after all. We are in charge. Everyday, we make choices. Some are good for us, some are not. Each day, we get to make new choices. We can repeat our mistakes or go a different route. The only thing we should utterly accept is responsibility. There are always reasons for why things are the way they are, but we should know by now that if we want a happy ending, we need to write it ourselves. And, when it doubt, edit.


Dana said...

I understand the point you're trying to make, but I just want to say that not all of us "heavy" people have success at losing weight. I have a medical condition that makes weight loss a challenge. I have to work closely with my doctor, and take a medication for insulin resistance which is part of my struggle.

I don't think anorexia or obesity should be celebrated. They are both dangerous to the health and lives of those who struggle with these conditions.

RUAWAKE said...

Thank you for your comment, Dana. Medical conditions, economic issues, time constraints and emotions can keep us all from being who, where and what we'd like to be. (Some of the reasons I'm such a proponent of health care reform and a public option.) This is where we need to accept the circumstances or obstacles we are challenged by and find ways to still give ourselves the care we deserve. Eating organic isn't cheap, but that's where portion control comes into play. Gym memberships are costly, but walking only requires a pair of shoes. Push-ups, lunges and jumping jacks are free. Taking a moment to meditate or jot thoughts down in a journal is priceless. But we aren't talking about those simple acts.

This post isn't a judgment about size. It's a questioning of the current dialogue and what isn't being said. Americans are unhealthy as a whole. Our weight has skyrocketed while our health and quality of life has hit the skids. I don't think we should accept that. I think we should expect more and strive for what is best for us. xo