Sunday 25 January 2015

CULTURETAS: Stop Fat-phobia

Photo: The Procrastinator (some) Times.

Some time ago, in an article I wrote for, I confessed having been all my life obsessed with my body and its dimensions. The confession came into place because I can hardly admit an obsession that makes me feel conceited.

I always thought that vanity is the worst value. I remember reading Simone de Beauvoir, I think in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, saying that she met another lover of Sartre´s and, when they met for the first time, the woman was looking at herself in the mirror behind de Beauvoir for a long time. That story reinforced a value that was already part of me. The problem is that, the fear of feeling conceited was more annoying than the problem itself. So here I want to shape the subject without worrying about my shame.

According to an article in the Times, 70% of Hispanic women refer to themselves in derogatory terms. We refer to ourselves as fat cows and other insults. The problem is not being a cow, which is hardly an insult, but what we mean by the contempt with which we say so.

On Facebook there is a group, Stop gordofobia ("fat-phobia" in English), that has been sharing texts, videos and everything they find on the subject of fat phobia, and the problems that culture have with the human body, especially the female body . When I hear about feminism, I remember texts in which it´s said that the dildo is the new penis, that the vagina doesn´t exist and things that, honestly, I do not feel identified with. They are so abstract that sometimes I don´t know if they refer to something that is in space and time.

Stop gordofobia is not a feminist website. I think it's a place where women and men can share and review our notions about the body. I recently read a comment from someone that considered the page was promoting obesity. It occurs to me that we can´t expect simple people to think about complex issues. But still, I will try to explain to those people the difference between obesity / health problems and establishing a good relationship with a body that is healthy, but most people reject for not being a skeleton.

Our culture bombards us with constant messages about how women have to be thin. It's hard not to feel inappropriate when there´s no rest from those messages. As Jean Kilbourne says in Killing us softly, we think, like many people, we are special and have the magical power of ignoring advertising messages, but we don´t know or don´t want to admit that we inevitably hear these messages.

I won´t talk about this issue and devote paragraph after paragraph to talk about photoshop. I refuse to think of myself as a victim. Mainly because that´s an attitude that´s paralyzing. But I think it´s important to recognize that it´s not easy. Having a body is not easy.

I think that the initiatives we've been seeing our friends posting on their facebooks about acceptance of one's body are absolutely necessary. Dove´s campaigns are excellent. Usually beauty products companies make us feel like shit and therefore we think we need their products. They make things up, like for example, cellulite. So we look at ourselves in the mirror and feel disgusted.

It´s true that one of those campaigns seems to indicate that some features are ugly and other beautiful. But I prefer to interpret it as though women don´t know how to see themselves. It´s hard for us and the responsibility is partly of the people who want to make money at the expense of our inclination to insecurity.

The problem of the mirror is not that we are vain and want to look beautiful because we are hysterical and depend on other people´s perspective to feel good. Okay, there's something to that, I admit. But mostly the problem is that we live in a society (pardon the clich√©) where the value of women is determined by their beauty or lack thereof.

Let's review our reactions to seeing women on television. We feel we're on the right to criticize them merely because they are women, well, and also because they are on T.V. Let us hear our criticisms. "She looked better with makeup", "Old age is not good on her". You're probably one of those people that doesn´t accept having these thoughts. I think it's better to admit our shit and then deal with it than to put it under the rug and spend our lives trying to ignore its presence, while our unconscious reveals them in the form of self-destruction.

These problems with the ideals are not at all unique to women. Men also deal with enforcement. In some cultures they have to have many women, in others it´s unacceptable for them to drink small glasses of beer. 

This makes me think about a related topic, which is what is feminine and what masculine. I wouldn´t say that these categories don´t exist just because I don´t want them to exist. I would say, however, that there´s no recipe that dictates which quantities of femininity or masculinity a person must have. I think the difficulty of having a body is closely linked to the difficulty, at least in my case, to understand the ideals of a gender, to admit myself a woman. To admit oneself a woman means entering that game culture forces on us from the moment we begin to grow tits. A game that is also introduced by nature, a game too cruel for a little girl: the game of desire.

The article Ariana Basciani wrote a few months ago on this page spoke about these issues too. In it, Ariana invites us to reconsider our prejudices, to stop rejecting what we don´t know. I think that´s what I want to say. Our brain makes us tend to simplifications, but this inevitably leads to intolerance. It´s true that it´s not easy to challenge our nature, but we should use our heads for more than just bullshit.

This is written by the part of me that still has hope in humanity, a 0.1% of me.


This article was originally published (in Spanish) in Culturetas, culture with boobs, a great website situated at the intersection of culture and feminity. Culturetas are our new contributors and we are delighted to have them. Have a look and say hello to them!

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