Paprika has like, Legionnaire’s disease or something, and I am pretty sure I have the strep-throat-of-the-apocalypse so, we haven’t been bloggerific, the two of us. You know what? My husband, who smokes I don’t even god damn know many a day is compeletly healthy. I personally credit his African childhood for this, but it could be his god damned burnished cheek o’ health smugness (it won’t isulate you forever, Mr. Lee Hales. There will come a time, and that time will be a head cold. I know that sentence makes no fucking sense shut up, tylenol.)
Anyway. I want to work out some thoughts about food, bodies, shame and policing as I write, so, warning cause this will most likely ramble.
Over at feministe, http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/09/06/shameful-behaviour/ went up, which I urge everyone to read because it’s awesome.
So I’ve been thinking, before that went up, and certainly after, about my own journey as feminist into wide open nod-alonging with the fat acceptance movement. I have a shit-load of thin white cis het middle class appearing educated talkin’ woman privilege. So, there is that. I have to acknowledge that privilege, because not acknowledging it is how things stay fucked up and miserable for people who aren’t me.
I also needed to make the slut shaming/ fat shaming analogy in my head. I was quite maliciously slut shamed as a young woman, and that slut shaming was a catalyst for my whole hearted rejection of the kyriarchy. I don’t want to do that to anyone else. Bodies, as I’ve said, are not ever public property.
But I have also thought about the roots of fat shaming in our culture, and I want to keep thinking about that, because I need to mentally see the foundations to really tear down the tower, you know?
First of all, I abso-fucking-lutely believe that fat-shaming and body policing are feminist concerns, because these issues disproportionately affect women who cannot or choose not to conform. This is not to say that it doesn’t affect boys and men too, it does, but women’s bodies are still social objects in a way that mens aren’t so, yeah.
The roots of this stuff are intersecting, binding and touching on all your other favorite isms as they go. Racism, sexism, classism, religious thought, scientism, social darwinism… Oh the delightful list.
So lets go back to ye olden tymes, and racism, because you have the thin, moral white white woman, (preferably blonde, because the Victorians were terrified of any hint of miscegenation, or ladies breathing from the sternum, but I digress) contrasted to the “thick” lascivious non white woman. And that woman’s body has another awful connotation cast on it, because that woman’s body is considered open for rape, and this is part of our American cultural landscape, and should never be forgotten. The thin white woman is pure, and Christian, she has the will power to escape and avoid sex, and food is sex sublimated and made visible in this awful labyrinth of history and femininity that we find ourselves lost in. The white woman with the 18 inch waist and the pinned up hair, well, she can also look down on the working class woman whose stays are loose, because she is heaving and lifting and walking and carrying and bending and grunting and gasping for breath all day, and when she walks home in her her short skirts, she may need to run a little because her body is also always threatened with rape. And these women, women of color, white women who are working class, they eat cheap starches and grains, they must eat what they can eat when they can eat because there is almost never enough.
This is magical thinking, this is the idea that if you just cinch your waist small enough, if you just play by the rules and do the patriarchy right, it will do your right in exchange. It doesn’t, of course, and no amount of self immolation on its altar will ever make it so. This is also where we get the narrative that a womans true power ultimately always lies in her beauty, which is not really a fair exchange for respect. But thats another post.
And then there is the fascination with asceticism as a holy act, abstinence from the pleasures of life in pursuit of a higher knowledge. This is really the only explanation for the injuctions we see against gluttony, because seriously, in ye olden olden tymes, the people being converted to the newly minted Christian church (prostitutes, beggars etc) probably didn’t have enough to be terribly concerned about over-eating. Maybe the church was worried that their farthing would be spent on wine.
But mostly, I think we really do have this odd cultural equation that associates starvation with holiness (maybe because starving can lead to hallucinations?) and food with sin. If you have the moral fibre to be thin, it says, you are made of the right stuff, you are a good person, you are in control, you are closer to god, and your inner beauty is shining through.
I think this reveals a profound fear of being embodied, of the vulnerability of having a body that is subject to constant change, that is, on many levels, uncontrollable.
There is always the way that food is sex made visible, because it is so intimate, and so public all at the same time. Because it is communal and necessary.
And so, here we are. Food is still a moral issue, even though food has no moral component. It is starting be seen as backwards and gauche to slut-shame, even in the guise of “OMG HER HEALTH THOUGH!”
We have an upper class that can afford to work out 7 days a week, and eat the best possible foods, and have lipo, and binge on coke, and take adderall, and be very thin.
We have a lower class that is blocked access to the best foods, and told to grow a fucking garden, because WHO HAS TIME? Or chickens. But nobody is going to start reorganizing our whole stupid food system to make good food available because INDIVIDUAL CHOICES!
And beyond this, in the middle somewhere, we have people who could afford better food, and choose not to, and god damnit, here is your guilt parade you guys!
Except, of course, its not always about what food someone chooses to eat, sometimes its just the way that their body is, and wow is it not really any of my business. And sometimes it is about what they choose to eat, but it’s still none of my fucking business.
Life is a risk, and we all know how it ends. Some of the freaking out and shaming of fat people, sounds a whole lot like “stop reminding me that we all die by having a body! STOPSTOPSTOP LA LA LA LA LA I WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BAD SO I FEEL BETTER AAAAAAAH SWEET SCHADENFREUD!”
There is, I think, this idea that you can bargain with the universe by making sure you always, always appear outwardly healthy and appropriately fuckable, that it will say, I am valued, so don’t rape me, I will be missed if you dissappear me, I have access to money, I am important, and ohmygod I have this temple of a body so I will not die an unfortunate death.
And of course, it is often times just a nasty minded competitiveness. Because we aren’t allowed to do any fucking competitive thing without it being sexualized, as women, we compete for fuckability, for virtuousness, to show our mental and physical strength, our moral fibre. And our self hatred shines right on through, because the game was rigged from the start. We could never win. So I, for one, am trying to win by not playing.
The solution to this shit is to stop concern trolling about the health of people whose bodies aren’t yours, and start working together to figure out how to correct the real gaping food inequities that the world faces.
What say you, readers?