Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whoda' thunk? Jeanne as Rebel

"Fashion's influence on the standards of femininity keeps us anxious, uncertain, and dependent. Sexism in fashion is dictatorial and unforgiving of individual variations in body shape and weight, or personal preference. It takes on a tone of "fashism," unapologetically sapping women's freedom, creativity, self-esteem, health and wallets." page 187 of The Body Myth by Margo Maine and Joe Kelly


I was in the fitness class that's offered at work today. As we were all crunching our abs into knots, one woman told us about her trip to Jamaica, and how gross so many women looked in bikinis on the beach.

"They shouldn't make bikinis in sizes larger than 12!" The other women agreed.

And while I do identify with their overall chagrin at many clothing choices made by people of all ages and sizes (most quite unflattering, all in the name of "fashion,") I said (something like,) "But you have to admire the fact that those women are obviously comfortable in their own skins."

And I was resoundedly booed.

Okay, so no actual boos were issued, but more descriptions followed about the sagging this and the bulging that in tones of utter disgust.

I tried.

[sigh] Failed miserably.

But I did try.

Somedays it seems like everyone is obsessed with weights and sizes. The instructor for class wouldn't take off her T-shirt because she had "gained five pounds." WHERE??? I think I even asked her.

I mean if this remarkable mid-thirties woman can't even be comfortable in her body that helped to win her second place in a figure competition, what hope do any of us have???

It's days like this that I wonder if being a rebel is worth the effort.

But then I think about how miserable I was - counting calories in and burned, weighing myself, worrying for days about what to order at a celebratory dinner with my family to the point where I would plan every detail - restaurant, menu choice, quanity ahead of time thus missing out on the joy of serendipitous restaurant finds, denying myself the pleasure of a scoop of chocolate hazelnut gelato in Little Italy ...

Rebelling is definitely worth the effort.


lauren said...

I totally agree, rebel jeanne rocks, don't change that for anyone!!! Especially the ones who are so uncomfortable with themselves that they feel they have the right to bag on other!!! Major props to those women who are comfortable to sport a bikini, god knows I'm to scared to and they proved exactly why!
xoxo Lauren

æ said...

It definitely is worth the effort.

It is worth it for ourselves and it is worth it to make the statement. I love knowing that other women out there risk the boos, Jeanne. We'll take back the right to love our bodies one person at a time.


hayley said...

hell yeh! rebelling is worth the effort!. I'm still not sure whether I need to try argue every time someone says something as body hating (and women hating) as the bikini comment, but I do at least, try to use it as a way of reminding myself how awful the alternative to recovery is. I really don't know why people feel alright saying such things. Today, at work, they were talking about diets and I said "I'm not interested in that stuff" and walked off. Sure probably no one noticed, too busy squaring about calories (which were wrong, oh those amateurs!)but it felt good. I don't want to be around that rubbish.


hayley said...

Amen ae

carrie said...

I shall enlist in your rebellion.

I, too, don't like many fashions. But it's the clothing, not the people in them that I really don't care for.

Yay for speaking up! More of us need to do that. I think the women making those comments were really uncomfortable in their own bodies AND/OR saw thinness as some sort of superiority. Like, "How dare those normal-sized women wear clothes reserved for people who are thin???


Faith said...

Thank you Jeanne for speaking up. This kind of thing makes me cry. Why do so many people feel it is ok to judge another by their body size/clothing choices. My mother used to and probably still does this. I'm fairly certain the daughters of these women internalize this crap and take it out on their own bodies. It is creating a whole new generation of eating disordered girls (and boys) for AE to have as clients...

Thank you.

Joe said...

Thanks for rebelling--and bringing reaility into the lives of women living crippled under the inlfuence of the Body Myth. We need more like you!!!
- Joe Kelly, co-author of The Body Myth

Jeanne said...

Lauren -
Don't worry - I won't change. 8-)
I try really, really hard not to think about what other people will say. I try not to care. I don't always succeed, but it's worth the effort.
Someday, I want to be comfortable enough with my body to wear a real bikini again. (My favorite bikini was a purple and hot pink one I wore when I was 5. I loved that suit.)

ae -
One person at a time! I'm working hard on loving my body. ;-)

hayley -
Good for you for speaking up and walking off!!! WOOHOO! I know how much courage that took and I'm proud of you.
I don't always speak up, depends on my mood, but yesterday I had to say "when." It's one thing when one person talks to another, but when a whole class is getting in on the body hating comments, I couldn't take it anymore.

carrie -
Awesome! The more, the merrier in this rebellion!
Those women were definitely uncomfortable in their own bodies – one normal looking woman in her forties remarked in horror, “I would never wear a bikini.”
So sad.

faith –
My mom always did and still does judge people by their body covers. (Sorry, librarian analogy. lol) I have a hard time standing up to her. I see speaking up to the women I work with to be the first steps towards standing up to my mom about body image.
And you’re right, the daughters of those women are probably internalizing the judgements. I did.

Joe –
WOW! I am truly honored and touched that you stopped my blog.
I’ve almost completed the Body Myth. It’s one of the best comprehensive books on eating disorders I’ve read – touching on society and culture, history and physiology, while also giving a run-down of the many paths on recovery road.
Thank you for writing it with Dr. Maine!
And I will keep rebelling against the Body Myth!

lauren said...

SO love the little bit bikinis, mine was bright pink and I usually wore it without the top, hahah go figure! YOu will wear it again as I will also I have to believe I can totally love me!
xoxo Lauren

Sarah said...

you're fantastic! good for you. how many times have I wanted to say something, but haven't because I cared too much about what "they" would think. we hurt ourselves and others so casually. it's so sad.

Jen said...

Hurray for rebelliousness, Jeanne! We need more people like you in the world and less like the woman judging others in their bathing suits. Kudos to you for standing your ground.

Jeanne said...

Lauren -
We definitely can learn to totally love ourselves again! I believe it, too - I've come so far as it is (more about that in a future post!)

sarah -
It is very sad at how casually humans hurt each other.

Jen -
Thank you! The world does need more people to fight against the Body Myth. And we each are doing it - as we struggled to become whole and healthy and at peace with our bodies.