Birthday…IS…Men…Title Revisited.

So yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 22 on 2/22 which was pretty neat.  I went out to dinner with my sorority and some other really good friends and had a grand old time.  Here is a picture to commemorate the occasion:

(I’ve promoted myself from headless fatty to face transplant fatty….maybe one day you’ll have the pleasure of gazing upon my real face.  A special thanks goes out to Raggedy Ann for lending me her face for the time being.)  That glorious plate in front of me is molten lava cake.  If I were one of those people who gave morality to food…I’d have to call it sinfully delicious.

The friends that sat near me at my end of the table at dinner were mostly seniors and at this time of year, the seniors at my school really only have one topic of conversation–IS (our giant Independent Study Projects that are due in a few weeks).  There are a few different types of seniors at my school:  Those who enjoy talking about their IS (sometimes because they are genuinely enthusiastic about their topic, but more often because it makes them feel all important); Those who just complain about IS (usually because these people just like to complain about things to begin with); and Those who will avoid talking about it.

I’m usually in the last category.  I’ll talk about how I need to work on it or some frustrations I’m having with it, but I generally don’t like to go into specifics.  Part of this is because talking about it with other seniors causes me to start comparing myself to them, which can cause me to freak out and isn’t healthy.  But also part of this is because a lot of people just don’t quite get my topic.  I suppose if I want to get good at this whole fat acceptance thing I should really want to talk about it in order to teach them about it, but it can be so exhausting to explain and possibly debate.  Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely passionate about fat positive feminism as my topic and with the right person I will talk for hours on end about it.  But sometimes I just don’t feel up to the challenge.

But last night I brought it up.  I have an adorable tiny little friend who ordered cheesecake after her dinner last night to share with my other friend sitting next to her.  She’s not usually one for fat talk, but while she was eating it she was talking about how “bad” she was being by eating it (and by “it” she meant HALF a slice of cheesecake) and how she really needs to go to the gym.  I casually mentioned that she should just enjoy her cheesecake without guilt and that she could benefit from reading my IS.  She proceeded to ask about it and showed a real interest in what I was saying, but didn’t refrain from her cheesecake guilt talk.  Kind of like “oh! that’s a great topic for you and it’s really interesting, but I still need to be hard on myself.”  I don’t blame her because it’s a way we’ve all been trained to think…but it makes me feel like I hit a wall when I get into conversations like that.

So the whole table (all girls) got into a talk about body image, not fat acceptance but still a valuable topic.  Then one of my friends chimed in with “In some ways I feel like guys have it worse”– referring to the body ideal for men.  I can’t for the life of me see her perspective.  I understand that men have issues and insecurities about their bodies, and yes that sucks.  But I do not see it nearly to the extent that I see it for women.  Granted, I will admit that I am the kind of feminist who has a lot of trouble feeling sorry for men.  I’m not a man-hater by any means (as one can see by my adoration for my father and brother as well as my unhealthy and strange affection for all things boyband and Zac Efron).

The thing is, if I consider specific men individually, I have no problem at all sympathizing for their insecurities and  and body-issues.   They are very real…men have feelings too.   But something changes when we speak about men collectively rather than individually.  I am a lot less inclined to be able to empathize.  Maybe I’m essentializing the male experience, but I can’t imagine men experiencing a beauty ideal with the same all-encompassing rigidity like I’ve seen among women.

I mean, for example fat men can definitely say a whole lot about fat oppression and they are scarred in many ways just like fat women, but I see more acceptable spaces for fat men.  And when I see a man who is not exactly a pleasure to look at  calling a woman fat or ugly, there’s definitely something going on there.  Maybe not within men individually as there are so many wonderful guys out there and when a guy sucks it’s because he sucks, not because he is a man…but I’m pretty sure there is something going on with men collectively and their power that makes me not as inclined to be able to relate to “men” in the general sense of the word.

Ok that was just a lot of rambling.

Anyway…the IS title search continues.  I had one thought, but I don’t know if it’s a big enough theme in my paper to make sense as a title… “Recapitating the Headless Fatty:  A Look at Fat Positive Feminism in Blogs”.

Ok so maybe “recapitating” is a made up word, and the “headless fatty” isn’t necessarily an explicitly dominating theme or doesn’thave very much to do with blogs, but I think it could work on a few different levels and is actually a bit…ironic?  Since blogs are kind thought of as kind of disembodied entities.  I don’t know.  I’ll keep thinking of more options.

Edited:  So a friend of mine pointed out that “Recapitating” just sounds like a foolish word.  “Putting the Head Back on the Headless Fatty” then?  Something completely different?  I don’t know…

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17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anna on February 23, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Great post, and happy birthday! I too have been dealing with the “Oh I’m so bad!” dynamic when eating with friends, and I know it’s a difficult thing to discuss. But what really stuck out is when you said you had trouble seeing your friends perspective about how it’s “harder for men.” I have never heard anyone say it’s harder for men. Ever. Even from men. A quote form one of my best friends stands out “When I’m with a girl, and I feel self concious about my body, I remember that how I’m feeling is probably only a fraction of her own self loathing.”

    Reply

  2. I think that there are two substantive difference in the beauty standards for men and women:
    1. Appearance doesn’t matter as much for men, so not meeting the ideal is not such a big deal.
    2. The ideal for men is big, fit and strong. The ideal for women is tiny and insubstantial. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather eat normally and go the the gym regularly than starve myself and try to avoid developing “bulky muscles.” Also, in a very straightforward way, I’d rather be strong than weak.

    Reply

    • I’m completely with you. Those were some of the points I made in our discussion last night!

      One of the points for the other side of the argument, though, was that men’s body issues aren’t ever talked about and at least women have a space to talk about their’s. Which seems at least a little bit valid to me, but I don’t think that’s a sufficient enough argument to say that they have it worse. It just means that we need to create that space for men.

      Reply

      • If there is a safe space for men to discuss body insecurities and not living up to the cultural ideal of what a man should be, I have not found it. I looked for it. There is some support for it in the gay community, but if you are a male hetero fatty, you are on your own. There are a few little blips not with some blogs, but even there this topic rarely comes up.

        My entire physical self image and social (dating) development was completely pummeled by fat stigma and hatred. I excelled in non amorous endeavors through the strength of personality ( I am such a “nice guy”)

        Only now through the FA movement I am I starting to connect with the sense of worth that was my birthright and was eclipsed buy shame and self hatred for being in the type of body that “no woman would ever want to marry.” or so I was told.

        One of the disadvantages of being a man is that we are taught it is a sign of weakness to even admit to having these thoughts about ourselves, let alone discuss them.

      • Thanks for giving a man’s point of view nycivan! I completely see your point and sympathize with what you have faced on an individual level. It sucks. And it sucks even more that men aren’t really supposed to talk about it. Like I said in my post, though, when someone brings up the idea of “men” collectively, I have a lot more trouble being sympathetic (at least trouble being sympathetic enough to agree with my friend’s assertion that men have it worse).

  3. Posted by Raven on February 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

    When you say “we” need to create that space for men, whom do you mean? If it is that big of an issue for men, they can create that space for themselves. Women talk about it all the time because it *is* that big of an issue for it. If men don’t have a lot of places they are talking about it, I can see one of two possibilities. Either it isn’t a big enough issue for most men to care enough to make a place to talk about it, or men mostly have some sort of macho block up about talking about their problems in this regard. I don’t see either of those things as being my responsibility to fix.
    If you are a man who struggles with body image and thinks there’s a lot of other men in the same boat as you, go make a blog about it. It will take like, 5 minutes.

    Reply

    • When I said “we” i meant that dumb copout version of “we” when people talk about society. I don’t mean I feel any personal responsibility to create that space other than maybe letting men in my life know that they can feel comfortable talking about their bodies at least around me….just as women talk about their bodies. I agree that any larger scale effort to create a space is men’s responsibility. I mean, macho masculinity is to blame isn’t it? and women aren’t really in control of turning that ideal on or off. Men have the power here.

      Reply

    • Actually, he does have a blog, and it’s quite good.

      Reply

      • thanks for the comment about my blog… and yes i did start a blog which has been truly helpful as I process my FA 101 stuff. I also think that the reason we do not see this kind of discussion is because we are taught as men it is a sign of weakness to talk about this stuff.

        I would hope that folks on this list could keep me in mind if you ever find other men looking for community in the FA sphere.

        Cheers,

        Ivan

      • Yeah Ivan, I’ve read an enjoyed your blog too. I think you’re a great example of a man trying to create that space to talk about it.

    • Editor please delete the previous post

      Hi

      I think that what Ivan means and what I have always thought is that there needs to be more places in Fat Acceptance where Fat Male experiences are not automatically classified as far less important than that of Fat Women instead of just being different.

      In most of my involvement in Fat Accept the Fat Woman vs. Fat Male issue has just been something that ruins conversations (often I am the one who objects and an argument starts) instead adding to the conversation of Fat Acceptance

      William

      Reply

      • i didn’t mean to start a fat women vs fat men argument surrounding my post. I was trying to talk more about the bigger picture of women and men and body images in general. I would never want to alienate men from the fat acceptance movement.

      • no, that is not what I meant exactly William.

        I think that is important to recognize that there are areas of Fat Hatred and Stigma that are harder for women than men. eg. I am never accosted or cat called in public whereas women are.

        The point I was trying to make was that there are not spaces where these things (hetero male perspective) are discussed and that one of the reasons is that men are taught to not discuss weakness.

  4. Dude – turning 22 on the 22nd – that’s your golden birthday – I hope you know you are supposed to get double the presents that day!

    Reply

  5. Hi Ivan

    You are right that a lot more Fat Men need to start sharing their experiences. Some Fat Men do mention their experiences on the Social/Dating communities for Fat People, but they never seem to make it over to the areas like this one that Focus on Fat/Size Acceptance.

    It is a fact that Fat Women and Women in general get a lot more public harassment than Men.

    There are expectations for both Genders in Society. Fat Woman have body fat more associated with their degree of attractiveness and sex appeal. Male Body Fat is generally interpreted as unmanly, yet at the same time some Fat Females are considered Manly. I am not sure what kind of logic the Fat-o-phobic are using.

    I think that the variables of Men, Fat and Manliness is what confronts Fat Men. it blocks them from talking about their Fat and it makes some of us touchy about how Fat Acceptance views us.

    Reply

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