Sunday, June 10, 2007

things I shouldn't let inside my head

I always check out the "What's Up in Weight-Blog Land" section of Elastic Waist, mainly because a lot of the bloggers I read and admire are featured there. Last night, I read a post on Big Fat Blog about a nasty article in Salon that focused on the "unhealthy" body types favored by a lot of Black men -- basically, along with Sir Mix-A-Lot, they "like big butts and [they] cannot lie."

I agree with the writers at Big Fat Blog that this article is hardly worth discussing. But it's hard to ignore the fact that every few weeks, it seems there is some big brouhaha about how this image in the media or that is responsible for all of us being too accepting of the overweight, which is what's wrong with this country, apparently. Fat people are so beloved and revered that we all want to be chubby. Ha! I actually can't wait to see if MeMe Roth tees off at Christmastime on how Santa not only brings toys to children, he also brings diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol with his vision of jolly unhealth.

I do want to point out that there is a difference between body size and body shape. Diet and exercise (or lack thereof) can alter your body size to some extent, but it's hard to change your body's basic shape. You can't put on fat selectively in one place and keep a teeny waist, or millions of flat-chested women would suddenly look like Pamela Anderson. The subject of Dickerson's scorn could not possibly have achieved a body like that by sitting around and eating junk food. It's also possible to have a muscular lower body without being overweight at all.

I would like Debra Dickerson to go to a track meet sometime and see if she would like to talk to some of the world-class sprinters about how they are courting disaster with their "fat" butts. Most of them weigh less than 120 pounds and their lower bodies are still are round enough to give Dickerson heart palpitations. Sure, many sprinters are known to use performance-enhancing drugs or at least suspected of taking steroids, which is a terribly unhealthy thing to do, but no one is suggesting that it is competing with smoking for status as public health enemy number one. I'm not saying that there are no health risks associated with being overweight. But all this hysteria doesn't seem to be contributing to a solution, does it? Sometimes I get nostalgic for the days when people just called fat people ugly, instead of pretending to have a concern for their health.

Sure, fetish photography is distateful. Women are not Kentucky Fried Chicken -- most of us don't want to be just a collection of thighs, legs, and breasts. We are more than the sum of our parts. But how is objectification of thinness, and especially the current "ideal" of extreme thinness with large, balloon-like implants, any better? I think it's interesting that even though there is much more variety in the bodies of male celebrities than in women stars', no one freaks out when Vince Vaughn puts on a few pounds. I don't think it's because extra weight is less of a health problem for men than it is for women. Men don't expect to be judged solely on the basis of their looks, and it would be kind of nice of women could have that same kind of freedom.

None of us got to choose our bodies from a catalog. If we did, I'm sure most women would have chosen to look like Barbie, and things would be pretty dull. I'm sure that the MeMe Roths and Debra Dickersons of the world would have found something to complain about, even in a world like that.

Personally, though, I've given this kind of insanity free rent inside my brain for too long already. It took me most of my life to figure out that attaining the kind of thin, hipless body featured on the cover of Fitness every month is as unlikely for me as becoming a natural blonde. I think that along with reducing physical clutter in my life, it's time for me to start giving mental clutter like this the heave-ho.


  1. I think that chart is kind of hysterical the way everyone gets to a certain level of fatness and their knees splay apart in that riDONKulous way. Charts just don't do us justice.

  2. You know, I didn't notice that. I really don't remember where I got that chart... maybe they're trying to tell us chubby girls to keep our knees together...


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07