Category Archives: Body Image

Reminder: You Are an Actual Person

It’s been a hell of a week. I don’t need to link to any of what’s been going on because, well, if you don’t already know you must be a mermaid living in King Triton’s undersea realm who is too busy trying to trade your voice to a sea witch in order to marry a random human prince to pay attention to Land News(TM), in which case, good luck with that.

If you identify as a woman, you are probably having a lot of feelings right now. Anger. Sadness. Fear. Defiance. High Priestess Michelle Obama–First of her name, Mother of Dragons and Malia and Sasha,Harvester of Organic Vegetables–summed it all up pretty well, I think.

If you identify as a woman this week, you’re probably also experiencing flashbacks. Flashbacks to the time your classmate reached down your shirt and groped at your (still flat) chest during story time when you were six and said this meant you were his girlfriend. To the time when your middle school teacher looked a little too long at your bare, white, unshaven thirteen-year-old legs on the first warm May day in seventh grade and remarked that he was “grateful it was shorts season.” To the time when your roommate came home crying because a boy tried to pressure her into sex before she was ready and called her a tease for refusing. To the time your heart was pounding in your chest as you walked down the dark New York street at nine p.m., worried that the strange man on the corner, angry at having his catcalls ignored, would follow through on his threats to “fucking rape and kill you, you ugly fat bitch.”

To all the times you were made to feel like nothing more than a receptacle for men’s feelings, from lust to disgust to rage to impulses of violence. To all the times you were reduced to body parts: boobs and butts and legs and hair and midriffs and arms and feet (yes, even feet). To all the times on the sidewalk you were told, unprompted, to smile.

To all the times you were made to feel like less than human. Like less than a person.

One definition of feminism is “the radical notion that women are people.”

A reminder for you, because I’ve needed to remind myself so often this week: you are an actual person. A human being. A soul. You are more than the meat on your bones. More than a number on a scale of attractiveness or weight or both. More than a reflection of what some men (and women) hate about themselves and the state of a scary and changing world.

I am an actual person. You are an actual person, too.

I love you.

Good night.

Fatass (A-Z Challenge)

One evening about three years ago, I left my apartment in the Haight in San Francisco to go meet some friends for dinner (or maybe it was just wine? Lol it was usually just wine.) at their place, which was about a three minute walk away. I reached a crosswalk at a four-way stop sign intersection, where there was a white pickup truck stopped across the street. I began crossing the street, and the truck suddenly lunged forward; I thought it was going to kill me. I jumped back, shaken and panicked, the truck stopped about a foot away from me. The driver, a white dude around age 30, stared at me angrily, as if it were my fault that he’d almost run me over. Still shaken, I yelled something along the lines of, “You almost killed me, you asshole!” He revved his engine and sped past me, yelling out the window, “Watch where you’re going, you fatass!”

I stood stunned in the intersection for about five seconds, and then I started walking–and crying.

I cried all the way to my friends’ apartment–heaving, sweaty sobs that wouldn’t let up despite all efforts to control myself. I think I frightened every hipster in Cole Valley as I staggered unsteadily down Cole street, but through a combination of muscle memory and luck I somehow managed to make it to my friends’ place and rang the doorbell. They buzzed me up, where I immediately collapsed on the couch, wailing and saying I wished I was dead. And in that moment, I truly meant it. I wanted to die, because some asshole in a pickup truck almost killed me, and, more importantly, called me a fatass. Let that sink in. A dude called me fat, so I wanted to die. I almost wished he’d hit me.

My friends (a married couple, two of my best friends) were bewildered. They obviously agreed that the dude was an asshole, and they consoled me, calling me beautiful and a good person and all the great things friends say, and they were wonderful. I was so lucky that I was with them that night, because I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I’d been home alone. I don’t remember too much after finally calming down, presumably because I got really drunk. The next day I went to work as usual, if a bit hungover, (I was still at Google then) and tried to forget all about it.

I failed.

That moment occupied my thoughts for weeks, making me cry repeatedly. Even now, from time to time, I still replay that incident in my mind, and feel a huge combination of shame and anger. Ashamed that I was apparently fat enough to invite insult from a stranger who almost ran me over; angry that he’d insulted me; ashamed that I’d broken down like that and said such horrible (if true) things about suicidal ideation in front of my friends; angry that I let this guy get to me and couldn’t just brush it off. Sometimes I go weeks without thinking about it; sometimes months, but at least three to four times a year, I remember that guy and it’s like I’m standing in Cole Valley crying my heart out all over again.

Lately, I’ve been reading more and more about the body positivity movement. I think it’s a great thing, but it’s been really hard for me to internalize its messaging. The images that surround us and the expectations that are forced on us (“us” meaning mostly women, but men get this shit, too) regarding body shape, weight, and general beauty standards are out of control and pervasive. I get this. I also know, from my own experience and from #Science, that no matter how much I diet I will never be anything below a size 8, and that would be pushing it, so loving myself the way I am is the right way to go. I also know that I am not a repulsive-looking human to most people. I know that my physical health is good. I know that we are all perfect the way we are. I’ve read the blogs and watched the vlogs and am a regular commenter on feminist sites to the chagrin of bros everywhere. I know that I will be happier if I can let go of my body issues, eat well and exercise, and just let my body be what it is. I know that this will be a wonderful thing.

So why, three years later, am I still so upset about what one asshole with sub-par driving skills had to say about my body that I let it screw with my head–and my eating habits? Why does the word “fatass” still fill me with self-loathing and the urge to throw up or binge? Why do I sometimes conjure up an image of his face (though I never really got a good look at him; my subconscious has filled in the details, I guess) in my head and feel so much rage that I imagine inflicting serious physical harm on him? Seriously, I’m not kidding. I fantasize about punching him in the head, kicking him in the balls, stabbing him in the chest with a knife, shooting him between the eyes with a gun. I hate this stranger so much because he made (who am I kidding, he still makes) it easier for me to hate myself, and then I give into his words and hate myself some more. I call myself a “fatass,” and not in an affectionate, self-deprecating way. I look in the mirror at my thighs and my stomach (and this is after losing some weight over the past few years, ironically!) and cry at how much of me there is.

There are many reasons why I do this, I suppose: society is a bitch, my depression and anxiety are shitty, being a perfectionist is the worst, a history of hearing fat-phobic and sexist comments from people (men and women, but in my case especially men) my whole life has not helped. I also carry guilt for having, thinking, and once or twice even expressing similar sentiments about fat people in the past. What right do I have to let go of my feelings about this one-time incident when I’ve thought equally mean things about other people, even if it was years ago?

I wish I could overcome these barriers to self-love, but where I stand right now, even with all the reading and self-educating and therapy and life changes that I have experienced in the past three years, it is still really fucking hard. Some days, it feels impossible. For every time I eat a piece of cake and don’t care, there are four instances when I cry out of guilt over eating a piece of bread. The bad days still far outnumber the good days.

So, you may be thinking, what the fuck is even the point of this post, Jackie? Just to depress us? No. I think the point is to acknowledge, in writing, where I am and who I am right now in the “journey” of self-love. I am a girl who is still thinks that being fat is the worst thing I could be. I am a girl who sometimes eats cake and doesn’t care. I am a girl who sometimes cuts carbs and feels great about it. I am a girl who reads body positivity blogs and loves the shit out of them. I am a girl who looks in the mirror and hates herself. I am a girl who puts on my favorite black dress and thinks back to that asshole on in the white pickup truck and thinks, “He wishes he could get a piece of this fat ass!” I am the girl who still imagines punching that asshole in the stomach.

Maybe by talking about this and telling you all that I want to punch him in the stomach, I’ll be able to let some of that anger go. I don’t know; we’ll see if it works.

think, I hope, I want that my progress to date will be enough for now. I know that when I die, no one is going to give a shit about the size on my pants, or what I weighed, or whether people thought I was hot or not. No graveyard ever sports headstones reading, “She died thin!”

I will try to remember that. I will try to remember that I am enough. I hope you remember that, too.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments. xo

Ten Things the “Dear Fat People” Vlogger Could Do Instead of Recording Boring, Hateful Videos

So, I finally broke down and watched the viral “Dear Fat People” video (not going to link, if you want to watch it you can find it easily), and, honestly, there’s nothing new to be said about it that hasn’t already been eloquently expressed by a gazillion other people, notably Lindy West at the Guardian and Whitney Thore on YouTube.  All I’ll share in terms of direct commentary on the video is my facial expression while watching it.  Enjoy:

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You’ll note that while I look disgusted, I am also bored.  If this girl wanted to truly shock anyone with fat-shaming, she could have at least been more original about it.  Like, I don’t know, she could have straight up beat a fat person on camera, maybe?  Oh, God, wait, I shouldn’t give her any ideas…if you’re reading this, hate vlogger person, THAT WAS A JOKE!  DON’T DO IT; IT IS A FELONY TO BEAT PEOPLE!

So instead of providing further commentary on the video itself, I present to you, dear readers, my list of Ten Things the “Dear Fat People” Vlogger Could Do Instead of Recording Boring, Hateful Videos:

10. Take a comedy class: This person is allegedly a “comedian,” though nothing I’ve seen from her shows that she is, or has ever been, remotely funny.  Her Google Info thingy says she is from Hamilton, Ontario, and a quick search finds that there is a nearby establishment, The Making Box, that provides FREE Improv Classes!  She should sign up!  Maybe they’ll help her discover some sort of comedic voice, eventually?

9. Donate to a Food Bank: It’s been proven that poverty and obesity are linked – when people don’t have access to fresh, healthy food, they eat whatever is cheapest and available, like fast food or junk food.  So if you’re really concerned about obesity, here’s a list (again, quick Google search) of Food Banks in the Hamilton area that she could donate to instead of making dumb videos!

8. Take a nap: This girl seems very grumpy about the existence of fat people.  Maybe she should take a nap?  I always feel better after a nap!  Naps are the best!

7. Do her job: As a result of this video, this person was allegedly fired from a legitimate showbiz job.  If she’d just done her job instead of recording this video, she would not have been fired!  What a concept, getting paid for doing real things!  (Ironically, the job was on an anti-bullying video/film).

6. Read a book: Books are great!  I wrote one, and I’m trying to get it published!  Since she can’t read my book (yet, fingers crossed), I have several recommendations:

Station Eleven (by Emily St. John Mandel): Post apocalypse, a troupe of musicians and actors travel the Great Lakes region performing Shakespeare and classical music for the survivors of a plague that has wiped out more than 99% of the world’s population.  Finished it this weekend, it was great!

Bossypants (by Tina Fey): An actual funny book written by an actual funny comedienne!  She could learn from this.

Any one of these 10 children’s books about kindness (Various Authors): The reading level (grades K-4) is probably her speed, and she could definitely stand to learn a thing or two about kindness!

5. Drink a margarita: Similar to #13, if I’m feeling stressed or grumpy or otherwise inclined towards being cruel to my fellow humans, a margarita instantly improves my mood!  You can get them at almost any bar, they’re wonderful!

4. Volunteer at a low income school: If she can’t find one in Canada, we have plenty here in the United States.  If she’s so concerned about obesity, children in low-income neighborhoods with limited resources at schools are generally less active and receive less education about health in general.  Volunteer an hour or two a week to give a local teacher some help so he or she can better help her students learn how to take care of their bodies and minds.

3. Have a cup of coffee: Maybe she made a boring, hateful video because she was off after having missed her daily cappuccino?  I prefer iced coffee and Starbucks Iced Chai Tea Lattes myself, but since she’s so concerned about calories she will probably just have hers black.  Either way, the caffeine should perk her right up and make her less likely to spew vitriol on the internet and focus her energies on more productive pursuits.

2. Donate to the American Heart Association (or similar organizations): This person seemed very concerned in the video about people dying of heart disease, so if she’s that worried she could donate money or time to one of the many reputable charities and organizations that are searching for a cure to this condition, which affects people of all sizes and weights!

1. Literally anything else: Do 100 jumping-jacks.  Watch You’ve Got Mail for the hundredth time and cry at the end when Meg Ryan discovers her correspondence-love was Tom Hanks all along (spoiler alert).  Go for a walk.  Eat a piece of pizza.  Take a dip in a pool.  Binge-watch all five live-action Star Trek TV series on Netflix (well, maybe not Enterprise, that one was kind of a dud).  Smell a flower.  Do literally anything else other than spew hate towards a group of people who have most likely experienced more emotional pain yesterday than you, as a thin, blonde, conventionally attractive woman, have experienced in the last ten years.

I highly doubt that this Vlogger will read this, but in case she does, feel free to add your own suggestions for things she could do instead of spewing hate in the comments!  I’m sure I missed a few!