Body Dysmorphia and The Legend of The Pretty Fat Girl
By annieneimand on 08/1/2012 | Read more from annieneimand
No Comments | Post a Comment | Permalink | Print This Post
| « Previous Post - Next Post »
When I was in high school, a few of my friends and I created the “pretty fat girl club.” I hadn’t thought about it in years, until one of the girls tagged me in a post about it on Facebook. I was at first embarrassed that anyone would see this on my Facebook. This is probably because, like many girls, I have struggled to accept my body, and to be reminded that at one point I was a “pretty fat girl” puts me back into that state of mind, of needing that club. (Mind you, most of us were not even fat; it should have been called Body Dysmorphia Club.) Anyway, some mega-douche decided to comment, “you mean Oxymoron Club.” At this point all of my ego was pushed aside, and I got down and dirty into some real thought and analysis as to why “pretty” and “fat” can’t mean the same thing in this society, and what the role of keeping those things separate could possibly be.
Coincidentally, I was recently at my Grandma’s house watching Dr. Oz (for the first time) and everything was geared toward “you’re not healthy if you’re fat, so buy this chocolate that makes you skinny”. The women, including me, all silently sighed ‘Ohh’ and ‘Ahh, I need that,’ and ‘I need to exercise.’ Similarly, when I was floating in my Grandma’s community pool in her retirement community, I found myself terrified of all the grandma bodies. I kept saying to myself ‘I have to exercise– I don’t want to be THAT.’ As a gender, body, and identity scholar, that really bothered me. Why am I, and all of us, so afraid of fat?
From a sociological perceptive, I would argue that we are socialized into the idea that fat = ugly. Rather than some bullshit argument about primitive drives and procreation, I like to think we are more advanced– advanced enough to teach all of our society that fat is not pretty. From a sociological perspective, we would argue that we are constructed to see fat like this. We learn this from different groups in our lives. There are obvious ones like family, peers, and media, but there are other ones like schools, religious affiliations, and anything where you interact with people and observe.
At the beginning of my post, the formation of that club, or some assface telling us fat and pretty are not possible, is an example of peer socialization. In both cases, the idea of either needing to create the club or a comment like that provides more evidence that those two words are not synonymous. Or take the Kathy Klein Bus incident; those kids bullied that woman, telling her she was fat and ugly. Not only was that completely sad for the woman, but all those kids (who applauded or not–silence is powerful) internalized what those boys were saying. They called her fat because they understood it to mean something unpowerful, unwanted, and that is beauty. Fucking assholes.
I also read somewhere that 80% of 10 year-old American girls have been on a diet, and that girls 11-17 said their one wish would be to be thinner. Really! Not like a Barbie house, or Taylor Hanson for your boyfriend? Thinner?! Obviously this is reinforced by their peers (and media), but these girls are probably also seeing their mothers, sisters, aunts etc. struggle with similar issues. I remember learning fat was bad because my older sister had a hard time with her body. I remember my mom being on diets all the time, and I remember my grandpa “jokingly” tell me I was fat and needed to stop eating so much challah bread. The point being, I again learned that being my mom’s size was wrong, that being my sister’s size was sad, and that I would be called out if I too was that size.
So I don’t, I mean I do, mean to point fingers, but I think Media is the bully in this whole fat misunderstanding. Media is really good at pointing out what we should and shouldn’t want, and we all internalize that (family and peers). Media representation of fat is a big joke. They make all the fat actresses joke about their weight, or de-feminize them. Think Bridesmaids, or that new movie about Glee club, or that Jack Black movie, or The Nutty Professor, or any other movie/TV show where there is a woman not a size 4. They make them the butt of all the jokes, because they have made it such an easy shot. (“They,” by the way, is the collective people in power making decisions about who and what they want in their films, usually white rich men, or anybody who has grown up in this environment.) But really, fat shaming is everywhere in the media. I could go on forever about diet commercials with celebrities, or magazines, or anything, but you already know this. We all do, and we internalize it.
To call someone fat is not to just say they are bigger than someone else, or a statement specific to their BMI. It is a way to call them ugly and dehumanize them. It is a way to take away their power, and make them afraid to, I don’t know, swim in a pool, go on a date, live their lives. I mean watch any episode of What Not to Wear; all the women are hiding because they think they are fat and associate it with ugly. Assholes have been using fat as a weapon for years. Take for instance anti-feminists– by calling feminists fat, it discredits the title, and keeps women away from the cause. Obviously, this is a way to take away feminists’ authority and power. I mean, who wants to be associated with ugly?
So what needs to change? Well obviously a lot, but definitely this idea that fat cannot be beautiful. There are a lot of women working (within organizations and in their daily lives) against the myth that fat can’t be beautiful. Really, we all need to give a big fuck you to media, bullies, and anything else adding to this myth. The really effective work will come in our day-to-day lives. We need to re-socialize ourselves to not see fat that way. Let the assholes be assholes. Who wants to hang with them anyway?
For me I have fought this; when I have a thought, I analyze why and try to rationalize myself back to reality. I don’t buy or support any media outlets that promote this idea, and when some ass-clown says something, I tell them what’s up. If we can relearn, stand up for ourselves, and voice our opinions, (either to non-believers or some other outlet), then maybe we in our day-to-day lives can change this hostile environment. Because really, fat is definitely not ugly. Women are more powerful than the words used to keep them hiding.
You may also be interested in:- Juliana Tyson’s Story-Driven Campaign For A Woman’s Right To Choose
- Top 5 Feminist TV Shows of 2012
- Theater and panel highlights with Jessica LeRoy about grieving the loss of family members over the holidays