Thank goodness for my Women and the Media class and for the many reasons it gives me to blog.
Our discussion this week was concerning the different privileges that we experience. For instance, female privilege could be getting the door held open for you, a boy bringing you flowers on a first date, or receiving free drinks at a bar. There are many other different examples of privilege, (economic, educational, racial, etc;) and none of them are mutually exclusive.
I read an article a few days ago that was pretty relevant to this discussion, as well as to my life. It’s about skinny privilege, and you can find it here.
Growing up, I was not a skinny lady. Err, I was made to believe that I was not a skinny lady. I constantly looked in the mirror and wished away my belly fat, and whether it’s a by-product of long term habit, or if it’s genuine, I sometimes still do. I was called fat multiple times in middle school, and one guy even asked me if I had, “gained weight over the weekend.” [Junior high is cruel.]
Anyway, I lived with a negative image of my body all the way up until high school. My senior year, I began frequenting the gym every day so as to prepare myself for life in Missouri, when I could create a new identity with my skinny body that guys would want to date. I stopped eating sweets-all of them, save the occasional frosting binge on my living room couch-and would sometimes refer to an apple and peanut butter as a full meal. But it didn’t matter, because I was thin! I was beautiful! I had arrived! I wouldn’t say that I had an eating disorder per se, but I was definitely living in fear of feeling like I was once again the girl whose body said things about her before her words even had a chance.
This article talks about how even though ‘skinny’ women can still feel just as horrible about their bodies as ‘fat’ women, and how even though their feelings are just as valid and important, they still have ‘skinny privilege’. The majority of the country believes that ‘skinny’ women are the beautiful norm, while ‘fat’ women should just try harder harder to be ‘skinny’ women. Basically, you can hate yourself no matter what your size, but so long as you’re skinny (but not too skinny, because then you’re ‘anorexic,’ and that’s a whole different thing that it’s apparently okay to attack women about), people admire, praise and envy you.
Looking back at my ‘skinny’ year, I was dumb. I was good at getting off of my butt and going to the gym, but I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons. I was a broken girl with hurt feelings who thought a six pack would make me everything I wanted to be. Surprise surprise, it didn’t. I was just a broken girl (still no six pack, though) who got a lot of attention from people who saw me for my body. The only difference was this time, the attention was positive and my body seemed to make it easier for people to like me.
I’m not writing this so that people will affirm me. I think we have established that other human beings are not the best place to gather our worth. I am writing this because I have been on both sides of the spectrum (albeit pretty mildly) and neither one is all that hot. Women, as well as men, need to learn that they are so much more important than their aesthetics. Almost as importantly, we need to learn that other people are worth so much more than their aesthetics, and stop treating each other according to how valuable their physical appearance makes them to us.
Basically, everyone has their own stuff already. By the time we get to be adults, we’re already carrying around decades of stuff, all unique to our body types/financial status/upbringing/relationships/a lot of other stuff. I am 21 years old, but I will probably never forget when that 7th grade football player made me cry about my size. (Even more, I’ll never forget my mom approaching his dad in the parking lot after school, informing him of the situation, and receiving an apologetic phone call from the boy that evening. What a woman!)
Let’s just stop adding to peoples’ stuff, okay? It’s hard and negates every way society has taught us to think, but it is good.
“If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” -Conan O’ Brien