Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why is it always about "women and girls"?

A family member told me on Facebook to "stop playing the victim" and "leave the pity party" when I said the media is too critical of women's bodies. He said "Why is it always about women and girls? Boys feel the pressure too."

For the record- it is not "always" women and girls. Men and boys feel pressure too. But I absolutely will not shut up about the pressure women and girls face because it is enormous. 

I blocked him and moved on and honestly thought that was the end of it. 

Turns out it's not. 

Hours later, I'm still fuming. Why is it always about "women and girls" when we talk about body image? Do you really want to know why? I'll tell you why. 

Because I was 11 the first time I lied about my weight. 

Because when I lied about my weight, I could tell by the other girls' reactions that the fake number I had given was still too high. These 11-year-old girls were well aware of what an "acceptable" weight was. 

Because I was twelve when I started skipping meals until I passed out. 

Because I was taught that every calorie had to be earned. "You ate it, now negate it" was bouncing around in my head every time I ate or exercised. 

Because I grew up watching my mother yo-yo diet. Her advice to me was always, "It's better to never gain weight than to try to lose it."

Because I have friends who have genuinely done celebrity "cleanses"- drinking that cayenne pepper and lemon water mix for days at a time. 

Because, up until two years ago, I had a mental list of all the things I hated about my body. It was 51 items long. 

Because I know a woman who says she has "hideous earlobes". She wants to have surgery to change her earlobes. EAR. EFFING. LOBES.

Because a friend posted on Facebook a summary of all the miles she ran one month (hundreds) along with a picture and every single comment on that post  was about how she looked. 

Because when a friend's daughter was called "fat" by her peers, the mother's friends all jumped in to emphatically say "YOU ARE NOT FAT!!!" as if "fat" was the absolute worst thing she could be and THANK GOD she wasn't. 

Because when I posted a picture of my baby bump more than one woman used it as a chance to insult her own looks.  ("I don't even look that good and I'm not pregnant" or similar) 

Because when the pregnancy made me so sick that I didn't gain any weight until my third trimester, people congratulated me

Because a friend scolded me for being too harsh on myself and then immediately turned around and complimented another woman for losing a lot of weight and "getting so skinny all of a sudden!" 

Because I own Spanx and my husband has never considered such a thing. 

Because even before I owned Spanx, I owned control top pantyhose and slimming jeans and yoga pants. 

Because a house guest saw my wedding photo hanging on the wall and said to my husband, "Boy. She pulled a real bait n switch on you, eh? That baby weight sticks around."

Because I know a woman who wants to get a "feather lift" — which is a kind of facelift that doesn't look like you've had a facelift because you can't age but you can't look like you're trying not to age. 

Because Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, a professional athlete at the top of her sport, was criticized for having TOO SMALL of a butt. 

Because female athletes are consistently criticized for having too small of breasts. 

Because Sarah Palin was photographed in booty shorts for a running magazine and you know not one person has ever thought of asking President Obama to pose shirtless. (Yes, the paparazzi photographed him shirtless, which is disgusting in its own way)

Because I know a woman who won't wear sandals, here in Phoenix where is it over 100 degrees for more than 100 days each year, because she says her feet are too ugly. 

Because actresses proudly declare that they wear multiple pairs of Spanx under ther evening gowns. 

Because when Kate Hudson had a baby, she bragged about spending the entire day on a stationary bike (while her baby was...?) so she could get back to her prebaby weight quickly. And I was impressed. 

Because Heidi Klum is expected to walk a runway in her underwear only a few weeks after giving birth and then people have the nerve to complain that the costume she wore blocked her lower abdomen so we couldn't really see what was happening down there. 

Because when I talk to other women about exercise, many of them refuse to do it because they don't want visible muscles. 

Because my 6-year-old, who can't read, saw a tabloid with Kim Kardashian on the cover and said "She has a really big butt" 

Because when you visit plasticsurgery.org, 47 procedures are aimed at women. Five are aimed at men. 

Because 92% of cosmetic surgery procedures are performed on women. 

Because 85% of people with eating disorders are female, and 95% of those report that they started their unhealthy habits before age 20. 

Because more than half of teenaged girls in America use unhealthy methods to keep their weight low (skipping meals, purging, etc). 

Because 40% of 10-year-old girls think they are fat. By the time those girls are fifteen, that number doubles. 

Because Heidi Klum saved her son from drowning and the media commented on her breast that was momentarily exposed. 

Because beauty pageants are still very much a thing. 

Because Victoria's Secret sells padded DD size bras. Because DD sized breasts aren't big enough. 

Because every spring, I see hundreds of articles about getting ready to wear a bathing suit, how to buy a flattering bathing suit, and how to cover up your unflattering bathing suit. Every single one of them is about women in bathing suits.

Because I know more than five women who have not worn a bathing suit in the last decade because they're too embarrassed to do so. 

Because I've stood in my closet and cried because I couldn't find anything to wear. I "needed" something that covered my breasts, minimized my tummy, flattered my hips, slimmed my thighs, emphasized my butt, and somehow made it look like I wasn't trying to do any of those things. 

Because when I was in high school, the boys created a list of features of "the perfect girl". Kristen's feet. Tara's hands. Kelly's hair. Katy's hair color. The list was two columns on the front of a 8.5X11 page and another column and a half on the back. That's approximately 100 items on their list. Breast shape. Breast size. Calves. Teeth. Lips. Nose. Fingernails.  And we were all flattered to be included. 

Because it's a small, personal problem and it's a huge, global problem. 

That's why.

That's why it's always "women and girls" when we talk about body image. 


6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. It's taken me 33 years, childbirth, and two amazing books (Intuitive Eating and Health at Any Size) to finally be able to release the programming around my weight and figure. In the past, I've heard women say that they've "accepted" their bodies. But let me tell you something--I haven't accepted sh**. I have VIOLENTLY REJECTED the media's lies and fabrications around dieting and the need for an unattainable standard of beauty.

    And not a moment too soon. I don't want my daughter growing up to experience what you did, or even what I did, though it was mild compared to a lot of women's struggles. And that's the thing. I was pretty well-adjusted about weight on the Bell curve of women's body issues, yet I still went on the roller coaster of dieting and body hatred.

    Fact: Our bodies are designed to gain weight after restricting calories (in the past called "famine," now called "dieting"), as a defense mechanism. So why do we do it? Because corporations make big money off it.

    Your uncle is an idiot. Good for you for blocking him. Family doesn't get a free pass to spew ignorance.

    (Sorry, my previous comment was logged under the wrong account!)

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  3. This post. I don't even have words. I am so sad to see so much of that in writing, because I smiled glumly and nodded along with well over half of that. I'm getting there. I understand the bullshit in my life, but it hasn't completely sunk in yet. The 33 years and childbirth Samantha mentioned helped hugely (though, if we're being honest, incredible depression pushed me to lose more weight than I should have six months post-partum. But. That was also a good lesson, so I'll own it, too), but it's a slippery freaking slope.

    Thank you for writing this. Hugely. Pinning it right now, for all kinds of future reference.

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  4. GINA! This is nothing short of amazing. Thank you.

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  5. I want to post this on my FB page now! Awesome and sadly very true!

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  6. I saw that comment and really had to fight not to write something mean! Also, I could add to this list which is sad.

    I try really hard to refrain from talking about weight or complaining about myself around my girls. But it still is seeping into them. Sydney asked me why I still look pregnant once. I just told her because I have had children and they stretched my stomach and it was WORTH IT. She also asked me when I ordered something healthy at a restaurant (to, you know, be healthy) if I was ordering it to lose weight. She's 8. I couldn't believe it.

    So yeah, this post is spot on.

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