She was far more understanding and kinder to the photographer than I suspect I would have been, especially since she’d already said, Do Not Do This. And also especially since there’s nothing that needs “fixing” in those before photos, and I’m outraged that someone thought there was.
Body image is a topic I can rant and rant about. In fact, I’ve had a rant on the subject sitting on my hard drive forever, which I’ve been holding off on because it feels … well, ranty. But this seems a good time to go ahead and post it.
It sometimes seems every woman I know is at least a little bit obsessed with her weight, in a way that gives it–well, much more weight than all the many other aspects of their lives.
I watch beautiful women apologize for pictures of themselves because they’re not skinny–or refuse pictures altogether–because they can only see beauty through the filter of size. I watch women who otherwise enjoy life feel guilty as they eat lunch, afraid to finish the food on their plates, and feel guiltier still if they even contemplate desert. I watch women refuse themselves new clothing because they’re not entitled to it unless they reach some ideal target weight (yet they all agree of course they’d find the budget for those clothes if they lost weight too fast instead–that’s somehow a completely different matter). I hear women apologize for their very existence, for taking up too much space in the world. I hear them admit that not a day goes by they don’t think about the number on the scale or whether they can feel that roll of skin above the waistband of their jeans.
When pressed, the women I talk to will actually admit that other not-skinny women are indeed beautiful. I ask them about this sometimes, because with all that hatred of their own imperfect bodies, I wonder if they hate me and all the other imperfect people they share the world with just as much. But they’ll tell me it’s different for them–they look particularly unattractive when overweight, they feel particularly not-right on account of it, they have that one particular health problem that means for them, the rules are different than for the rest of the world and that for them, anything less than being thin is unacceptable. Every woman, it seems some days, thinks she’s the special case, the particular woman for whom any extra weight is flat-out not okay.
Very few women I know would fall under the clinical guidelines for eating disorders. But sometimes it seems that almost every woman I know has food–and body image–issues, and this makes me incredibly sad.
Because weight is only one small piece of a larger health–and life–picture. We all have the right to love ourselves, our bodies, and our lives, regardless of the number on a scale, or what we ate for lunch, or how last year’s jeans fit. None of these things are who were are, none of these things are what make us attractive or worthwhile.
Yet watching so many of the women I know deny themselves some part–sometimes a large part–of life and joy because of this; feeling those twinges and that subtle pressure that mean I have to consciously choose, again and again, not to do the same, rather than being able to take doing so for granted–it makes me angry, and I’m not even sure who to be angry at. This is a huge issue, and our whole society is designed to support it rather than to fight it, in a million subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
And that makes me angry, too.