?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
She's a perfect 10, but she wears a 12 - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
j4
j4
She's a perfect 10, but she wears a 12
Body image is a strange thing. Just been chatting to simonb in real life, and then read his latest journal entry. It always amazes me how many of the gorgeous people I know have such a low opinion of their own bodies (Um, those who don't have body-image issues, this doesn't mean that I don't think you're attractive! -- just so's you know).

I've answered Simes's poll, but what I really wanted to do was say "Simes, you're gorgeous. Stop being such a muppet." On the other hand, I don't think I have much right to tell him he's being daft, when (as I just told him) I have the same problem.



I think of myself as "short and fat", and have done ever since I was a teenager. Okay, so at 5'1" I don't have much problem with being described as "short". But fat? Well, when I acquired this body-image that I have, I was about a size 16. Sure, that's not fat, but it's chubbier than I wanted to be at the time, and at my height I can't carry excess weight very well; and it did make my face look awfully round and babyish, which made me awfully insecure -- it's hard to feel grown-up when people keep asking you your age for 15-rated films. Most of my friends were happily getting served in bars at the age of 14 (I'm not addressing the issue of whether or not I think that's a good thing; it's just what was happening); I couldn't see over the bar. The combination of this and the feeling that I wasn't trusted with very much independence at home (in retrospect, I can see a lot of the reasons for this a lot better than I could then) made me feel like I was a bit of a baby compared to my peers. But more importantly, the fact that I didn't seem to be able to be attractive to the people I most wanted to attract at the time -- tall, slender women -- seemed, to my teenaged logic, to be the fault of my features being the opposite of what I considered to be desirable. The fact that most of the tall, slender women I knew were a) teenagers in an all-girls school, where admitting to fancying women was social suicide, b) as insecure as I was, and c) probably straight anyway, never seemed to enter into the equation.

Anyway. Currently I weigh somewhere between 9 and 9.5 stone (we don't have any scales; I was 9.5 stone at Christmas, but I did eat a lot more than usual over the Christmas period), and my stats are something like 36-27-35. There's no way anybody could call that "fat"; I'm never going to be skinny, but that's partly because of my chest, which (to be quite honest) I don't want to get any smaller. ;-) But bits of my body still look huge and ugly to me -- maybe it is all muscle, but unless I'm actually flexing my pecs my upper arms look (to my biased eyes) like big saggy bags of lard. Ditto my thighs, and to a lesser extent my calves (they don't look fat, but they do look bulgy -- perhaps I should just cut my losses and buy a gym-skirt, and remind myself that some people really go for that Phys. Ed. teacher look...).

The main problem isn't in my body, though, but in my head. The little bit of my mind that automatically says "short and fat" when asked for a description of me would probably still be saying that if I was a size 8 and could miraculously add an extra 6 inches onto my height.

People who are trying to lose weight often find it really offensive that I should have issues about my weight. Thin people aren't allowed to have body-image issues -- after all, thin == happy, right? It's a Well-Known Fact(tm) that all women's problems -- and some men's problems -- could be solved if they could only do up the buttons on that size 10 skirt from Monsoon.

Who said "Beauty Myth" at the back there? Clever man. You win the china horses and the cuddly toy.

I'm not going to go into the cultural history of body image -- I'm not going to sing the praises of the cultures where excess body-weight is a coveted sign of prosperity and fertility, or equate foot-binding with the REPRESSIVE PHALLIC COMPETITIVENESS OF THE PATRIARCHY ("smaller == less of a threat"). For one thing, as you can see, I'd be unable to finish a sentence without descending into self-parody. But I do worry where it's all going to end. We may think we're in an enlightened age where women no longer have to wear elaborately engineered constructions of corsetry in order to be considered a worthy marriage-prospect, but in reality very little has changed. It's still a rare occasion to see a woman bigger than a size 12 in a mainstream magazine (unless she's being exhibited as an overweight freak), and now men seem to have bought into the beauty myth wholesale as well. In fact, men seem to have an even more difficult line to walk, between the muscularity that's required of them to prove their masculinity, and the health-consciously slim image that the New Man has to display.

(Yes, we're into the realm of gross generalisations. But you only have to glance at any aspect of mainstream culture to realise that they're not unfounded, and they're not even that much of an exaggeration.)

The problem is, the discrimination has become more insidious. Everyone is quick to say that "fat is beautiful", even as they wrap that size 8 Versace jacket a little closer around them. "Fat is great... I just, you know, prefer to be thin." And the trump card these days is health -- "I'm not saying that being fat is ugly, just that it's unhealthy." The problem is, health depends on a lot of other factors which we can't see -- BMI is only part of the picture. For one thing, the girl whose ribs stick out further than her tits is just as much at risk of high cholesterol as a voluptuous size 24; and that's even before you get into the issue of how much muscles (which most people would agree aren't a bad thing) can affect body weight. (Not that the perpetrators of the Beauty Myth are interested in muscles on women -- they're probably "unfeminine" or at best "tomboyish", and therefore outside the remit of Female Beauty.)

Then, of course, as previously mentioned, there's the backlash. The eternally-slim are often vilified by the supposedly egalitarian Anti-Beauty-Myth contingent because they are perceived as conforming to mainstream ideas of beauty -- ironic, really, as we're quick to shout that some people can't help being "big-boned", but conveniently forget that some people can't help being, well, small-boned. Let's get this straight: it's just as objectionable to criticise somebody for being too thin as it is to criticise them for being too fat; and it's just as objectionable to criticise them for wanting to change their shape as it is to criticise them for not wanting to change it. Live and let live. Every Person, as we never seem to tire of saying in some corners of netnews (usually just before we insist that our own way is the One True Way...), Is Different. Repeat the mantra often enough, and we might believe the implications of it -- that our shape, whatever it is, is just as valid as anybody else's; and whether we want to change it or not is (or at least should be) a matter for our own personal choice.

The bottom line (does my bottom line look big in this?) is that, in the words of the Beautiful South, "we live our lives in different sizes". Or, as the Smiths more bluntly put it, "Some girls are bigger than others; some girls' mothers are bigger than other girls' mothers." That's not to say that none of us can -- or should -- change the size that we are. Many people want to lose weight for a variety of reasons, and there's nothing wrong with that provided they do so in a controlled way and don't compromise their health; many people want to gain weight for a variety of different reasons, and there's nothing wrong with that, provided they do so in a controlled way and (where have you heard this before?) don't compromise their health. However, everybody's idea of an "ideal weight" is different, and everybody's idea of "beauty" is different. What one person considers "overweight" may be "just right" for another; technically, I'm overweight according to BMI charts (although of course they don't take muscle into consideration), but I'm considered "far too thin" to be attractive by at least one of my acquaintances. That's before even beginning to address the fact that for most people, personality is a lot more important than vital statistics.

I think I've ranted enough on this subject now. I'm sure I'll get shouted at from both sides; I'm sure I've trodden on toes of all shapes and sizes. Still, if it gets someone thinking -- whatever their shape or size, everybody needs to exercise their brain! -- then I guess it's all worthwhile.

Read 17 | Write
Comments
emperor From: emperor Date: January 19th, 2003 10:52 am (UTC) (Link)
But bits of my body still look huge and ugly to me

FWIW, I think you have a fine body (witness the New-Year outfit). And no, I'm not just saying that :)
lnr From: lnr Date: January 19th, 2003 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
A lot of that makes an awful lot of sense to me.

As a teenager I always thought of myself as really fat, and I was really only half a stone or so heavier than I am now. And at the moment I have lots of strange mood swings between being able to look at myself in the mirror and see the difference 4 stone has made and go wow, and then back to looking down at myself (oddly particularly bad when sitting on the loo) and still thinking I'm grossly fat. I really want to try not to do the latter though, but I think it'll be a while before it wears off, if ever. Just got to be careful not to turn myself anorexic trying continually to get thinner and thinner.

And if you hadn't worked out I think you're gorgeous you really haven't been paying attention love. But I do understand. And I'm absolutely with you on the whole letting people be the size they want to be thing. People who have a go at others for being too thin make me cringe lots now, just as much as the opposite.
From: ex_lark_asc Date: January 20th, 2003 04:51 am (UTC) (Link)
It actually dawned on me a while ago that I'd be faintly annoyed to lose my saggy tummy because it's so useful for wedging my dressing gown under so it doesn't trail in all the d00m behind our loo at home. </tmi>

I mostly think I'm losing weight for fairly healthy reasons - improving my PCO, saving money on clothes and achieving thighs with which I can wear a skirt and no tights without them chafing. Though I do have some problems with my appearance, mostly the PCO symptoms (mmm, excess hair), and the frequent swing between 'curvy is good' and 'omigod my arse is enormous'.
simonb From: simonb Date: January 19th, 2003 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Simes, you're gorgeous. Stop being such a muppet

blush thanks. I just have to beat this into my head now... I mean I know that my figure is definately getting there on an intellectual level, but on an emotional level its another matter.

Personally I think that you've got a really good figure - the catsuit with corset you wore at NYE was stunning and its an outfit which someone can only get away with if you've got the right figure for it. Which you have.

*hugs*
simonb From: simonb Date: January 19th, 2003 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've just thought of one thing you could do.... if you're wondering about how fit you are and if the BMI system is wrong for you (which is probably is) then you could always go along to a gym like the Atrium and ask them how much it would cost for them to just do a fitness test on you and work out your body fat percentage.

Just a thought *hugs*
j4 From: j4 Date: January 20th, 2003 09:28 am (UTC) (Link)
To be honest gyms just scare me. It's partly a body-image thing -- just can't help feeling that the sort of people who go to the gym are the sort of terrifyingly fit people who'll do 100 pressups and go for a ten-mile jog before breakfast, and that they'd just laugh at me if I even tried to squeeze my body into lycra get-fit outfits, let alone tried to actually do exercise... and it's partly just that I really loathe the type of "exercise" (torture, more like) that people do at gyms. Weights and running and rowing-thingies... brrrr. Horrible. Even worse than being forced to do athletics at school. And the idea of having to do all that while being tested to see just how horrendously unfit I am...

Actually, I don't want to think about it any more, I feel ill just at the thought of it. Sorry. :-(
simonb From: simonb Date: January 20th, 2003 04:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
*hugs*

I had similar body image things going on in my head about going to a gym - its one reason why it took so long for me to get around to joining one. However I found that I'm of average build for the gym.

From looking around this evening I'd say that you were above the average of the ladies who were there.

*hugs*
From: kaet Date: January 19th, 2003 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't laugh at me: but one of the problems I have that makes me depressed is that I oscillate between getting tarted up and acting slutty because people (strnagers, really) do act more friendly toward you then, and realising that much of my feeling of loneliness come through a Lukácsesque Marxist link between alienation and objectification (I said you'd laugh), so it makes me happier in the short-term but sadder in the long-term -- the problem being that life can be considered as a sequence of short-terms and that I am dealing with a finite resource, be it alopecia, spread, cellulite, wrinkles or heart-failure that get to me first.

I do consider myself fat, basically in the back of my head everything that raises the central abdomen area above the peripheral abdomen (in my case, roughly to the height of the rib cage) I consider as excess baggage and would happily do away with. It's somehting that I'm so convinced of that I'd devalue people's opinions rather than believe them, which is why I hated my doctor and my mother telling me so much that I was underweight.

It's strange because I don't notice how other people look, really (to the extent that other people think me rude for not mentioning things) that I should really hate mine; I know it's irrational, but it doesn't stop me doing it.

Well done for posting something. I've been meaning to post something about SW recently, but I've been scared off by so many people being advocates or haters that I'm sure if I say something neither-one-way-nor-the-other that I'm going to offend virtually everyone.
From: ex_lark_asc Date: January 20th, 2003 05:29 am (UTC) (Link)
*nods* I think that's something I did myself when younger, and certainly saw an awful lot of other girls go through; it seems to take a while to work out ways of getting people's favour which are more subtle than sex and also more long-term.

As for postig about SW, I may advocate it but I'm not a zealot - I'd be interested to hear your opinions :)
From: kaet Date: January 20th, 2003 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I guess it's not something I really thought of doing until I was 'liberated' from the whole 'manly' thing, ironically. I don't think it helps that I'm naturally of the 'wallflower' persuasion.

I've certainly seen other people do it, sleeping with people to gain favour with them (and something I've worried about a lot recently). It's not something I do myself, but unless you get tarted up in lots of places you're ignored in the sense that strangers don't even talk to you, as well. I don't know if it's because people don't, in general, have conversations for pleasure, and only really as part of chatting up for mating, or if that's too disingenuous but it's how it seems sometimes. At places that are über-trendy meatmarkets that's kind of par for the course I suppose, but at geek/goth things unless you turn up with the right badges (for whichever group), you're dismissed by a lot of people before you open your mouth. It's starting to remind me of America with the Jocks and the Nerds and stuff.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 20th, 2003 09:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure I get so much of the "turn up with the right badges" (just typoed that as "badgers", giggle) thing at goth clubs etc., but then I so rarely bother going to the Calling any more that I probably can't really comment. IKWYM in general I think though. There's a whole rant (that I think I've done too many times...) about how limiting and repressive even the most alternative and supposedly-open-minded "communities" can be. More about that another time maybe.

[I need some kind of meta-tag with which I can mark stuff that I want to come back to at another point, so I can search through for it ... oh, but there's no search facility anyway, so scrap that idea. Ho hum.]

I seem to go through phases of dressing according to various stereotypical images, and goth offers so many such images to choose from... but then my personality is just the chaotic thing that it is, and it doesn't conform to any of those images except in fleeting moments here and there. I think this is a feature. :-)

I don't know which "group" I fit into, but then it doesn't matter because I always end up just talking to the same handful of people, and dancing to the same handful of tracks that I know, and avoiding the same irritating people, and ... this is why I don't bother going much any more. Well, that and chronic tiredness not combining well with 3am bedtimes. :-/
j4 From: j4 Date: January 20th, 2003 09:47 am (UTC) (Link)
one of the problems I have that makes me depressed is that I oscillate between getting tarted up and acting slutty because people (strnagers, really) do act more friendly toward you then

I know what you mean (I think), but I find that too much of that sort of "friendliness" just leaves me feeling really empty and miserable.

I often flirt with people because basically it's the only way I know how to interact with strangers -- I guess probably because I learned pretty much as soon as I hit my teens that giving out "available" signals instantly transforms me from ugly freak into Available Woman with REAL BREASTS, and therefore Object Of Desire ("object" being the key word) -- but at the moment I have a very very low sex drive so I feel guilty flirting with people, because I feel like I'm leading them on, pretending to be a Real Sexual Being but actually more likely to just go "um, can we just hug?" when it comes to the point where a normal person would expect some vaguely bed-oriented shenanigans. So I still flirt, but then I inexplicably (from other people's point of view, anyway) go all wibbly and want to hide in a corner.

and realising that much of my feeling of loneliness come through a Lukácsesque Marxist link between alienation and objectification (I said you'd laugh)

I didn't laugh, because I think I know what you're getting at & if so then I sympathise, but I don't know much about Marxism and have no idea about Lukács, so I think I'm missing some of your cultural reference-points.

the problem being that life can be considered as a sequence of short-terms

Is that a problem? I think life is a sequence of short-terms. In a lot of ways we're not the same people all the way through our lives, so the narrative continuity is a construct with which we attempt to impose order on something that's fundamentally chaotic. The problem is that too much of this results in something a bit like "The X-Files" -- it started out as a really good series of single stand-alone episodes which were really enjoyable and satisfying in and of themselves, but as soon as they tried to tie it all into one vast overarching plot, the individual episodes rather lost their way, and became less satisfying in the short term -- but, because they want to make as many series as possible, the long-term resolution/unification is endlessly deferred (oh, god, I'm turning into a parody of myself now -- all together now, with animal noises) in a Derridaesque dance of the divided self. MOOOOO.

But seriously.

I do consider myself fat [...] It's somehting that I'm so convinced of that I'd devalue people's opinions rather than believe them, which is why I hated my doctor and my mother telling me so much that I was underweight.

I know this probably won't have any effect, but: I don't think you're fat, and I don't think you're underweight. I honestly think you're a lovely shape and size. I hope you're not upset/offended by my saying that, I don't mean to make things worse, I just think you look great. To be honest I wouldn't be able to guess what dress-size you are or anything, but I know that when I look at you, you look... well... in proportion. I mean, nothing leaps out at me and says "ooooh, too thin there!" or "gosh, needs to lose a few pounds there" or anything.

Argh. "When in hole, stop digging." Please ignore as much as you like of the above.

I've been meaning to post something about SW recently, but I've been scared off by so many people being advocates or haters that I'm sure if I say something neither-one-way-nor-the-other that I'm going to offend virtually everyone.

I know what you mean... I'm very uncomfortable about some aspects of SW, but on the other hand it's obviously worked really well for some people. I think it's just that I worry about the effect it might have on people who are less clueful & less strong-minded than the people I know for whom it's worked, if you see what I mean. ... Anyway, you're unlikely to offend me by posting about it, so that's one person less to worry about offending. :-)
From: kaet Date: January 21st, 2003 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry, I just had a weird trajectory as a kid with upbringing. The Lukács thing was just the first place I came across the idea of objectification. I suppose I would be expected to have come across it first in a feminist theory, or something like that. What he said was that the working man (for it is they) feel objectified by being treated as exchangable quantities and deserving salaries, I'm worth L100UKP an hour, and so on, what's it called these days? -- a flexible labour market. And that as a result of that, workers feel objectified and that objectificaiton leads to loneliness and alienation in the workplace, accompanied by a change in seeing your value in terms of what people need to what you can be exchanged for (use-value to exchange-value) something like share prices becoming what you can buy and sell a share for rather than the dividends you expect, reflected in the price to earnings ratio, and so on.

I guess it's just a bit of a tortuous analogy these days, but it's how I tend to think of things because it's what I leanrt first.
simonb From: simonb Date: January 21st, 2003 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about S/W. Whilst its a diet I do follow, I only follow it as it works for me. And whilst some of the rules of the diet are a little strange (fruit is okay until you juice it.... the rational behind this, whilst plausable, is a little thin) its less of a diet and more of a long-term life style change thing.

However it isn't going to work for everyone.
violetsrose From: violetsrose Date: January 20th, 2003 05:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I spent much of my teenage years with people following me to the loo worrying that I was about to throw up everything I'd just eaten as I was sooooo skinny - ribs sticking out everywhere but it was a totally natural thing and just the way I was and I ate like a horse - just never put any weight on - 15 years later and of course that has all changed and I'd like to lose some now... - however I don't really care enough to do anything about it.
I do feel sad for people who value body shape as a defining element of whether they fancy someone or not - I have always found that I am attracted to PEOPLE as a whole package, not the fact that they are thin - beauty and attractiveness is about the whole person, personality and body included - thus recent objects of lust for me have ranged from 5'3" to 6'4" and from incredibly thin to what some people would consider to be very fat - didn't matter to me - they were all beautiful.
Its always good to remember that even the most perfect example of a human being is going to end up very lonely if they're a really nasty person underneath and no matter what your body is like (fat thin disabled etc) - people will like you if you're a nice person.
(Just my 2 pennies - ignore me - I'm off on rants today - *trying hard to resist commenting on what is goth*)
ewx From: ewx Date: January 23rd, 2003 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)

I don't think of you use fat, and I don't think I ever have.

olithered From: olithered Date: January 26th, 2003 09:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think I know ((m)any of) you well enough to add anything of value, but it was an interesting read. Thankyou.
Read 17 | Write