Nov 04 2006

Feminism and the feed-bag

Burgerhounds at the diner. Fran’s Hamburgers, South Congress

Ariel M Stallings, writing at Alternet, is today’s winner in the Twisty Weep-O-Matic email machine. Stallings asks the age-old question “Is dieting anti-feminist?”. Such questions cause a tear of blue funk to spring to the eye, for of course dieting isn’t anti-feminist, patriarchy is. To which distinction I’ll return momentarily. For now, the question answers itself: Ms. Stallings is a self-avowed feminist who, apparently, diets, so there you are, a pro-feminist dieter.

Of course, feminist self-avowals are no more immune to the little unexamined daily applications of prevarication than avowals of any other sort. Nevertheless, we’ll give Ms Stallings the benefit of the doubt. I am not personally acquainted with the intricacies of her politics, so for the sake of argument let’s at least give her an awareness of the brutality endemic to a system of male domination, and throw in for good measure a spirited contempt for compulsory pregnancy.

So Ariel Stallings, then, is a feminist who diets. In the Alternet piece she launches forthwith into a gripping autobiographical essay acquainting the reader with the unacceptable dimensions of her ass, how it got that way, how Weight Watchers, by shrinking her, ultimately catalyzed her how-can-it-be-so-wrong-to-look-so-hot “epiphany”, and how the newly miniaturized Ariel — although, she painstakingly reiterates, health was the primary motivation behind her purposeful physical diminution — is now reaping “vanity pay-offs” that make her “forget all about feminism, if only for a minute.”

You may imagine the difficulty one has, what with blue funk engulfing one’s tear ducts, in reading Stallings’ ardent, doxological views on the odiously misogynist Weight Watchers, which approbations she intersperses with such plug-and-play new-age nonsense as “losing this bit of weight has actually made me get back in touch with my body and its needs and given me a better sense of understanding myself.”

Yet I press on, past even the women’s mag-ish, pathos-evoking lament about having had to “sacrifice” a beloved pair of pants to her new figure (a pity that God hadn’t the decency to intervene on the unfortunate pants’ behalf, the way he did for Abraham and Isaac; a woman shouldn’t have to sacrifice innocent legwear to prove her love for either herself or, as the case may be, her patriarchy).

One cannot shake the sense that Stallings, in this earnest memoir of self-discovery through physical diminishment, has exerted every effort to convince the reader that in her quest for a reduced physique she was as careful as a redheaded stepchild tiptoeing past an alcoholic stepdad not to stir up the rumblings of the radfem bitchlords. For example, she distances herself from the patriarchy-infested Weight Watchers imams by “refusing” the dreaded weekly weigh-ins, not wanting to “fixate on a number.” But on the other hand she blames feminist dogma in the first place for having produced in her such a terror of ‘thinking about food” that she had become quite incapable of making rational decisions about how much daily bread to shovel in.

Say we concede that Stallings’ health might really have been suffering, despite a vegan diet and daily yoga practice, owing to her extra “bit of weight.” Say that she has persuaded us of her central argument: that the struggle to maintain a certain weight for health reasons is pro-feminist. What, then, do we then make of her parting statement about the delights of “vanity pay-offs”? Off-the-cuff jest or no, this, I posit, is where Stallings’ argument crumbles, (i.e. “becomes crumbelievable”), turning into something else altogether, something like “it is consistent with the tenets of feminism to reap patriarchally-bestowed rewards of hotness as long as you can argue that your health is what really matters.”

For it is clear that conforming to the patriarchal beauty ideal is of no small — whups, there I go being ‘litotic’ again — importance to Ariel Stallings’ deepest happiness. So important is it that she hyperbolates, like a beauty editor for Glamour, that the pleasure of this conformity overrides noble ideals she presumably holds so dear that she lets them define her. And although she says it jokingly, and obviously knows on some subconscious level that “vanity pay-offs” and feminism are incompatible, it is clear from her yearning tone that she wishes this weren’t true.

Stallings has fallen into the trap that has ensnared so many femininity-loving self-avowed feminists before her: she cannot tell the difference between what is true and what she wishes were true. She wishes it were true that conforming to the patriarchal beauty ideal is a politically neutral act; therefore she has concocted an elaborate scenario she believes will produce the desired result, and confuses it with truth. To wit: it is desirable for a feminist to want to be healthy; simply equate feminine beauty with health and there you are!

But it is not true that feminine beauty and health are the same thing. Let us not forget that one cannot be a hottie in a vacuum. A desirable thing may lie at the end of the path of least resistance, but that thing isn’t necessarily truth.

Possibly Ariel Stallings knows all this and doesn’t care, which would make her not a “bad feminist” but merely one of countless women for whom the constant struggle against dudely dominion is too exhausting. Women are under attack. Femininity is a survival skill. Use it and delight, lose it and fight. There are arguments to support either position. But let’s not kid ourselves that one is the other.

The spinster auntly heart bleeds for all the pious feministas in crisis, scrawling anguished odes to their hypocrisies. I wish they would just chillax already. Pause, girls. Reflect. Either you capitulate so patriarchal forces’ll cut you a break, or you don’t. If you have indeed paused and reflected, you know the truth.

Now, back to Ms Stallings, and this bizarre cultural imperative that a woman “love” her body: ay yi yi!


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  1. into-something-beautiful.blogspot.com

    Well blamed, Twisty! I was having a conversation with some fellow students about this the other day. I was trying to maintain that wanting to “look hot” always defeated feminism, and my colleagues disagreed. And now, here on the internet for all to see, is your brilliant and grammatically acceptable postulation. Thanks.

  2. “Femininity is a survival skill. Use it and delight, lose it and fight. There are arguments to support either position. But let’s not kid ourselves that one is the other.”

    Jebus, this is the most succinct and accurate description of coping in a patriarchy that I have ever seen. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m knee deep in feminine accoutrements used as a survival skill, I would be wearing that on a T-shirt or printing it up on bumper stickers (with all due credit to the original source). Seriously.

  3. Looking “hot” may help her “forget about feminism” for about sixteen microseconds, right up until some asshole in a tavern tries to grab her ass, she gets obscene shit hollered at her out of a pickup truck window, or her boss tells her “fuck me or lose your job, baby.”

    I LIVE inside of one of those grade-A, thin “hot” bodies, and I can tell you right fucking now, I never forget feminism for one goddamned second. What, being the sort of woman that most of those fuckwads resent like hell because we’ve got premium pussy and we won’t cough it the fuck up makes one LESS feminist? How fucking stupid is this moron?

  4. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    She says she grew up “without a scale in the house”. This is not the acceptable situation for any self-respecting fish. One should hope to cover one’s nakedness in a much more thoughtful fashion.

  5. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    She also says, ‘accelerating my metabolism’s natural decline”. It’s like she sped up all teh way to the edge of the speedramp and then simply dropped over the edge. I can’t believe that this could happen.

  6. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    She said, “I started wrestling with myself”. Was it sumo-wrestling?

  7. tonypatti.com

    In a blog teeming with exquisitely-balanced and sonorous phrases, the sentence below stands out above a crowd of hundreds:

    “One cannot shake the sense that Stallings, in this earnest memoir of self-discovery through physical diminishment, has exerted every effort to convince the reader that in her quest for a reduced physique she was as careful as a redheaded stepchild tiptoeing past an alcoholic stepdad not to stir up the rumblings of the radfem bitchlords.”

    Delightful! And yet, she has! But instead of a tongue-lashing, she has garnered enlightenment.

    “Femininity is a survival skill. Use it and delight, lose it and fight. There are arguments to support either position. But let’s not kid ourselves that one is the other.”

    What a pearl of wisdom!

    Somehow, even though the patriarchy has soured and spoiled sexual relations for the many, feminist women can understand and choose their strategy for dealing with the issue of sexual attraction.

    There must be a genuine, non-patriarchal pleasure in thinking oneself attractive. But the category of femininity has been male-defined, and this is where it goes bad, right? There are universal ideas of beauty, I think, that have nothing to do with sex, and would include youth and health.

    On the critical side, though, I did sense a certain impatience with the issues of weight which only a life-long whisper-thin waif like Twisty could vouchsafe sans the redemption of empathy. Tsk! Tsk!

  8. I liked the link to Lilly’s blog. Apparently she doesn’t want any comments from non-bloggers, so she has none. Oh well. So much for inclusion. I haven’t the time to have my own blog, hell I really don’t have the time to spend posting on blogs, but I do anyway. I must in order to not fall into the sink hole of patriarchical brain wash of the likes of Stalling.

    When and if the middle class ever declines and more and more women are faced with the reality that make-up, accessories and beauty shop services suck up too much valuable time and money, then I imagine we’ll see things and attitudes change.

    I have no idea how any woman can ignore her role in the patriarchy. More likely, she either fights it or succumbs to it. One cannot do both. One cannot feed the dog that bites them and say all is well. It is not.

  9. Whenever I think about this issue (and I try not to, because I know that body image is the one area where my feminism falls to shit), I’m reminded of W.E.B. DuBois’ idea of “double consciousness” — it’s not that we women only see ourselves through men’s eyes; rather, we simultaneously see ourselves through men’s eyes (hott or not?) and our own.

    No wonder this line of thought makes some of us crazy.

    I’m going through a breakup, so I expect this crap to accelerate in my own life very soon here, and I’m not looking forward to it. But for the moment, I’m sitting at my desk, happily munching dark chocolate-dipped hunks of crystallized ginger.

  10. arielmeadow.com

    Thanks for the thoughtful, thorough take on the article. I won’t waste anyone’s time with a defense of the piece, but I will say that I was surprised as hell to see it on Alternet. It doesn’t seem like a fit with their content to me, but that’s the joy of syndication: a puff piece published in a fluffy women’s zine can end up on the front page of a progressive political site and leave everybody (including the author!) wondering just WTF it’s doing there. Quite confounding.

  11. meanfeminism.blogspot.com

    She loses, and you win. It’s really about “looking hot” not about “health” and she knows it. If she had just dropped the “it’s about health” garbage, the piece would’ve still made me tear up, but at least she would’ve been being more honest with her readers (and most importantly, in women’s mag gospel, herself [insert earnest-seeming italics]).

  12. CafeSiren: But for the moment, I’m sitting at my desk, happily munching dark chocolate-dipped hunks of crystallized ginger.

    I have found that if one STANDS while eating those glorious bits of chocolate hunks, the calories are reversed! Eating over the kitchen….yummy!

    I know…Alternet???

  13. 27july1869.blogspot.com

    I’m beginning to think that desire is the biggest of the conundra. I think that, in large part because we ae social creatures, we want to be desired. By whom, and for what reason(s), well, those are whole nother parts of the iceberg (the parts that’ll sink your ship, if they can).

  14. faultline.org/place/toad

    WTF? I mean, even in the midst of a few hours of red-hot sex I’ve never had to “forget about feminism.” (Any more than I was forgetting about, oh, gravity and oxygen and not biting and the like. OK, but only that much.) Forget that “looking hot” shit. The good stuff is all about pheromones. You want to talk about “loving (your) body,” skip the pants and, for that matter, the looks.

  15. Mmmm…litotes…

  16. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    “The good stuff is all about pheromones.”

    Fairy moans.

    Yes, a good, really, really vigorous workout session will breed the pheremones.

  17. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    For a few misterable, bloated years after the birth of my daughter I rode the diet train back and forth. News flash for those who might not be paying attention: Traditional styled diets don’t work anyway!

    I wasn’t “fat,” but I looked awful and felt worse. Then one day I discovered I was having bad reactions to the staples of my so-called “healthy” diet. The extra weight wasn’t fat; rather it was an extended abdomen and five-to-ten whole pounds of edema!

    It all had to go: Bread, pasta, milk, nuts, legumes eggs. Naturally, I lost weight, but it was the “good” kind of loss. My brainfog disappeared and every inflammatory disorder I’d been suffering from (including osteo-arthritis) cleared up in 2 weeks! My attitude and demeanor improved and all of a sudden I was interested in SEX again! Whoopie!!!!!!!!

    I now subsist on meats, fruits, veggies, your typical “diabetic” diet, similar those Healthy Choice dinners you find in the freezer section at your local supermarket. When I fall off the wagon I get a bloaty bellyache. I use my face to guage my edema levels. Vain? You bet!

    Just my longwinded way of saying, yes, sometimes dieting – the right kind, at least – really is about health. And there is nothing wrong about wanting to be found sexually attractive to the gender(s) of your choice, either, but it really doesn’t take much: Radiate health and a spunky attitude and people are gonna wanna do ya. Nothin wrong with that . . .

    Oh, and chocolate covered crystallized ginger ROCKS!

  18. meanfeminism.blogspot.com

    hedonistic, you are freaking me out. Seriously. I have hypothyroidism and I haven’t been to a doctor in like, forever, because I totally hate doctors, and my face and stomach are gigantic. Like, Jupiter-sized. Oh my god oh my god.

    I blame the patriarchy for everything, including poor health.

  19. I’ve got no wisdom to impart, just observations from living in my body.

    The heavy end of my spectrum is not a healthy range for me. My blood pressure and blood sugar shoot up when I cross into the high end of the range, with or without exercise.

    I’ve lost track now of how many times my weight has gone up and down. I typically go from 18-20 to 8-10 and back. It’s a strange journey. At higher weights I’m invisible. It’s always such a shock to me when I’m on the decline and I cross the threshhold where I cease to be invisible.

  20. The author is likely a Trust Fund Baby who was able to snag a syndicated media gig after a decorative internship at an “alternative” media organization. No doubt she will have a lucrative career at Conde Nast at some point in her future, where she will pen earnest and uplifting puff pieces examining her gut-wrenching decision to get a tummy tuck after the birth of her genetically engineered surrogate-bred twins. By subtly attacking imaginary feminists who might discourage her “life affirming” decisions to be a post-partum Hoochie Mama, she will earn herself a coveted spot on the “liberal media” pundit circuit. No doubt,her “refreshing post-feminist” views on everything from Botox to Burqas will garner her numerous media awards.

  21. CaffeinatedGeekGirl.typepad.com

    Girls are taught to hate their bodies from such an early age that it’s no wonder so many of us have issues. Body image is something I’ve wrestled with all my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever be completely cured of the desire to be thin. I am however cured of letting that desire control me.

    Weight is an issue where women simply can’t win. No matter what we weigh or how we eat someone will be there to judge us. It’s enough to make a person crazy!

  22. It’s always such a shock to me when I’m on the decline and I cross the threshhold where I cease to be invisible.

    I’ve experienced this phenomenon, too. It’s weird. Nothing about my personality, intelligence, or attitude changes — I just cross some invisible barrier, and Presto! People suddenly see me (for good or for ill). Then, I gain five pounds, and Poof! Invisible again.

    Any other part- or full-time invisibles out there think we ought to go on crime sprees? We’d never be fingered, because we’d never be seen.

  23. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!
    I am sending this to everyone!

  24. I’d join you on the crime spree CafeSiren, but in my experience, you’re only invisible as long as you don’t “inconvenience” someone. As soon as they’re forced to notice you they go on the offensive. People rarely say anything at all to me, but when they do, it’s usually an insult tacked to the descriptor “fat”. Fortunately the nice thing about being a large woman and taking up space is that I can fight off physical attacks and use my body in a passive-aggressive manner to block rude people’s paths. Call me a name and I guarantee you won’t be able to cut in front of me in line or get past me to the sale rack.

    I don’t much care if dieting is feminist or not, but conforming to the patriarchal mandate to take up less space ticks me off. The reward is a lifetime of fighting to disappear physically into yourself for a few compliments and a whole lot of people who think they own you. Fat, average, thin, whatever, don’t apologize for taking up the space you’re in, and stretch or sprawl every once in a while to claim a bit more.

  25. That’s some serious navel-gazing there.

    This (with appropriate grammar jiggling) about sums up what I think when someone does as Stallings:

    “Is it really my health that worries you, or is it that somewhere in your mind you still think I’m obligated to be beautiful in some male-defined way?”

    Laurie Ann Lepoff, ‘Fat Politics’.

    Which brings up the healthism. Even in the fat acceptance movement, there’s still some degree of “healthy-lifestyle-ism”, mostly because fat is so despised that we still feel the need to prove how “good” we are – “See? I might not be losing any weight but I still eat mung beans and go to the gym every day.” Not like those *slobby* fat people. Like Suzie is a *nice* lesbian who wears dresses, has a job and a mortgage and a spot on the PTA, not like those shaven-headed motorcycle dykes who’ve had their tubes tied.

    Healthism shifts the onus of health (and the costs of such) onto the individual, relieving governments and corporations and the like of the responsibility of an environment in which any individual can have health. It seems also to be a middle-class consumerism-related thing. Here, buy some special margarine that lowers your cholesterol. Here, buy a Weight Watchers program that’s tailored *individually* just for YOU! Too bad your cleaning lady’s suburb was built on a toxic waste dump, but if she ate more tofu she might not have those headaches.

    Then it gets right on down to the desire to control everyone’s “lifestyle” for “health” – those unhealthy people are costing you money, your taxes and insurance premiums are high because of them, for a start. They should do something for themselves, like you are. Never mind that they’re a poor woman working 60 hours a week to support the kids that were forced on her by lack of access to contraception and abortion and then her boyfriend disappeared. Her blood pressure would go down if she exercised like she was told to. And feminist concerns about reproduction issues aside, fat women, for example, are not allowed to use IVF in the UK, because they’re considered inherently “unhealthy” and good god they might have fat kids.

    Tie health up with appearance (such as with not fitting into a narrow size or weight range) and you get some patriarchally-approved explosions and mind-bending self-justifications. It’s all about The Man keepin’ you down.

  26. TPOn the critical side, though, I did sense a certain impatience with the issues of weight which only a life-long whisper-thin waif like Twisty could vouchsafe sans the redemption of empathy. Tsk! Tsk!

    Why the need to exempt fat cover from the rest of the patriarchal desiderata?
    Don’t you think that there’s more than enough empathy in the Twisty little fingernail on this subject, by virtue of her advanced understanding of the workings of the patriarchy in enforcing a narrow range of acceptable behaviours – – and isn’t a body’s state of avoirdupois just another homology to head tilting and bottom waggling in a set of behaviours?
    Being skinny isn’t desirable for most people who aren’t skinny unless they are buying the whole patriarchal judge-me deal.
    I know; I’ve done a survey. It’s a lifetime of refusing to accept all those meaningless standards.
    It remains a fight that needs to be enjoined every day but it is just a lot more palatable than being delightful to persons unmet and unvalued.

    Furthermore, going along Ron’s train of thought, not only is desire so much other than what one sees, it’s so much other than visual as to be untameable by those who want to use it to control. Hence the need for the patriarchy to narrow it down to all it knows how to control; what one looks like. And with the aid of the last 100 years of technology, the patriarchy’s job has been very much easier than when it had to mount a big show of hell and damnation in the cathedral to keep everyone in the traces.

    But gee, is this essay not a zinger?
    I adore litotes applied with lobular acuity.

  27. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Edith, yoo hooooooooooooooooo! And anyone else out there with distended belly and edema issues! (pardon me about hijacking the thread, but it is about diet and health, yuss?)

    Most conventional doctors are bad at identifying (or even understanding) food sensitivities and allergies. Do you have insurance, and if so would it cover a visit to a nutritionist instead?

    You could also google “Dr. Kenneth Fine” and “EnteroLab” to read some good research (based out of UTexas Dallas – I think?) about food sensitivities and even make arrangements for a stool test online (an out of pocket expense, alas, but it was sooooo worth it for me). https://www.enterolab.com/Home.htm The tests will identify immune reactions to certain foods (yeast, eggs, gluten, dairy) but not all foods. I actually enjoyed mailing a bucket of my shit to Texas. I think it was an election year!

    Failing that, try a rotation diet: Cut out the most common allergens from your diet (wheat/gluten, dairy, corn, potatoes, eggs, nuts, soy, fish, which of the 11 offenders am I forgetting?) for a few weeks and then slowly introduce them one at a time and gage your reaction. You’ll lose weight immediately because you’re bewildered by your lack of food choices but you’ll soon catch on: Plain meat, fruits and vegetables, and rice. Plain meat, fruits, vegetables, and rice. And so on. Lots of water will flush out your system. Let spices and herbs make it interesting!

    If if turns out you have food sensitivities don’t despair; there are so many good substitutes available online and at health food stores. Quinoa pasta saved my soul, ans Silk soy milk is da BOMB if you’re not soy sensitive. Check out my site for “HPS Test Kitchen” recipes, I was experimenting with gluten free, reduced dairy spinach lasagne bechamel last night . . .

  28. Chocolate-covered ginger – mmmmmmm.

  29. I love your essay, Twisty, and, yes, the article is a piece of navel-fluff gazing. But, for those of us who really struggle with weight issues, it’s not just a matter of feminist or not. It really is a matter of health when you tend to gain weight just by thinking about food, and weight-related disease runs strongly in the family.

    I have no pity for Ms. Stallings, who gained all of 15 or 20 pounds by eating too much and sitting on her ass for several years. Her glib tone (it was so easy to lose weight once I had the magic formula!) is as annoying as those smug thinnies who say to me “I eat whatever I want and I don’t gain weight” as though it’s a personal moral virtue. If I lost a pound every time I heard that, I wouldn’t be bitching now.

    So don’t lump all of us chronic dieters together. There is a vast difference between wanting to be a size 10 in order to attract a high-quality male and just not wanting your heart to explode.

  30. I think there is a difference between dieting to meet societal indicies of thinness and eating to protect your health.

    Health and weight are related, unfortunately most doctors go by the scale and the chart rather than looking at more effective predictors of chronic disease – cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. Truly lazy, particulary when the “obese” person in front of them would run their skinny ass into the ground on a 10 mile hike or wait for them at the end of a 50 mile bike ride, beer in hand.

    We need more tracking of effective indicators of risk and functional indicators of fitness and less emphasis on “chart thinness”. Can you climb a flight of stairs without being out of breath? Can you walk a mile? Do your load-bearing joints ache if you do? Does your fitness or fatness level interfere with your ability to get through the day without getting exhausted?

    Of course I say this as an “officially obese” 185lb epidemiologist who wears size 14 pants and bikes 13-15 miles every working day and has been advised to eat bacon and eggs now and then to keep my cholesterol up. BMI fanaticism is about authoritarian and patriarchal taylorizing of our bodies, not about health.

  31. ninaturns40.blogs.com

    To me, this is the paragraph that gives Ariel away: “I tried various exercise regimes to try to balance my sedentary routine, but because I’m so solidly muscular, the effect was that I just got bigger. I ran stairs for six months and my ass grew (harder, but bigger!). I lifted weights for almost a year and the result was that my T-shirt sleeves stopped fitting.” She was getting healthier before WW, but she wasn’t getting smaller. She wanted to be smaller.

  32. Thank you Nina! Settles the health/weight question for good.

    Shrinking violet, no? How can a woman ever want to be smaller? Most fashion followers I know buy new stuff every year anyway – just buy stuff that fits!!

    My t-shirt sleeves NEVER fit and the ones that are all cute and capped look dumb because they ride up on my bodacious biceps.
    I have trouble finding jackets that fit because the arms are made for Olive Oyl, even in the size 16 or 18 I need to button across the chest. I’m not going to stop kayaking, though. Or lifting my 40+ lb boat over my head to get it on the roof rack of the minivan. Or carrying those water cooler bottles one in each hand.

    I know a very slender and fit woman down the block who lists her playing weight as 130lbs on 5’3″. She is a professional personal trainer and I swear she can’t wear more than a size 4! On top of that, she gave birth to TRIPLETS who are now in junior high. She eats lots and exudes health, and obviously doesn’t give a fuck about what people see her eat or her weight or she wouldn’t list it on her women’s football league website. In fact, I’ve heard her say “football season – gotta bulk up”.

  33. “…happily munching dark chocolate-dipped hunks of crystallized ginger.” Cafe Siren

    Dark chocolate keeps you happy AND healthy what with all those wonderful flavonoids doing their stuff to keep that nasty cholesterol from clogging up your blood vessels, reducing the risk of blood clots and atherosclerosis. One point six ounces a day keeps the doctor away.

    On the other hand, the guilt factor kicks in when I remember the chocolate probably came from the hard labor of ten year old slaves on some plantation in Africa. God damned patriarchy.

  34. politblogo.typepad.com

    “My t-shirt sleeves NEVER fit and the ones that are all cute and capped look dumb because they ride up on my bodacious biceps.”

    You know, that’s weird. I’m quite a large person, and it’s still easy to find T-shirt sleeves with ample room. I know that it’s in fashion for men to go around with tight bicep-showing T-shirts, but I don’t do that and I don’t have trouble finding T-shirts. You mean women only get soft-drink straw sleeves or something?

  35. Gotta chime in on the “invisible” thing here … any invisibles here want to trade? Cuz I gotta tell you from Skinny City here that the last thing you want is for the doberman to NOTICE you. I’m 40 this year, which means I can officially start looking forward to being invisible — living a life that doesn’t involve drunk businessmen “noticing” me, deciding that because they want my cunt and I’m not forking it over that I’m some stuck-up bitch who isn’t playing the game, and proceeding to make their displeasure evident in some threatening ways.

    Who the hell was it ever said that conventionally pretty women had it GOOD compared to women who weren’t? Yeah, it’s such a great space to inhabit when you’re what that asshole cleric in Australia called the uncovered meat.

    There is NO acceptable way to be female in this universe. You’re either unattractive and hence garbage, or you’re attractive, and you’re fuckable garbage. Trust me when I say the latter isn’t anything to pursue.

  36. I think they’re called something like baby-girl or baby-doll sleeves, which of COURSE are a great idea on shirts for adult women. They’re also often the only kind of sleeves available for shirts that aren’t quite nice and yet aren’t quite T-shirts. I’m in graduate school and we’re encouraged- heh -to not dress quite like the undergrads, but I also work in a lab and think wearing anything more fancy than coveralls is ridiculous. I’ve got pretty sizeable arms and an overactive metabolism (which doesn’t make me skinny but makes me a walking furnace), which results in sweat stains the size of Rhode Island. I blame the patriarchy for making stupid clothes. I blame my physiology for the silly metabolism.

  37. Ms Kate – You sound great, large and proud. I’d just say, keep an eye on the blood pressure, cholesterol, joint health, etc., as you get older. Your body gets less forgiving. I sailed along for years before heredity caught up with me.

    You’re absolutely right about the tyranny of BMI. Being short, stocky, and basically muscular under my fat, I would have to drop to what I know is an unhealthy weight to have a satisfactory BMI. I know because in my youth I sometimes managed to approach the sacred Ideal Weight, and my health always suffered – lots of colds, general fatigue, loss of the strength to do ordinary things like walk up a few flights of stairs.

  38. meanfeminism.blogspot.com

    Actually, thelmyc, I think in the patriarchy, even “unattractive” women get to be fuckable garbage. I don’t think being unattractive let’s women off the hook from street harassment etc. As someone who has been on both sides of the divide, really, the only thing I’ve noticed is that when you’re considered “attractive” the men aren’t as surprised when you turn them down. When you’re “unattractive,” the men can get quite angry — “who the fuck do you think you are, you fat ugly bitch?? I’m probably the only guy who’s offered to fuck you in a year!!” etc.

    And hedonistic, wow. Thanks for the info. Although I can’t imagine me restricting my diet, like, at all — I know I’m lactose intolerant so I avoid milk, but that’s about all I can do (and I’ve been doing that all my life, so it’s no real issue). But sending poo to Texas? Bring it on.

    Oh, and Harpy? Brilliant.

  39. She also seems to labor under the misconception that the patriarchy will ever love her, if only she ____. It doesn’t work that way. No amount of fasting and eating overpriced meals from Jenny Craig is going to make me love this form, because there is no ideal, is no perfect. There will always be something wrong with you. Get down to the weight they want and your ribs will show, every photo those must be airbrushed out. You will never be able to stay blind to all those little imperfections, because if you attain, they can’t sell you anything more. Therefore, there can’t be a perfect. There’s always another surgery, another diet, another cosmetic, that you absolutely need because you’re still a woman, and that’s what they want you to fix. Not the cellulite on your ass.

    Health is the bullshit they tell us. “Honey, are you sure you should be eating that. It’s not healthy.” Listen to any American regale you with their trips to European nude beaches, listen to them critique the bodies of healthy, happy women in National Geogrpahic. Nothing is going to change the fact that you’re a woman, and that means that not only is it their right to critique your appearance, your decisions, your clothes, your existence, it is their obligation to Dude Nation to do so, to protect their eyes which deserve to see no ugly. And honey, sweetie, sugar tits, we’re all ugly to them.

  40. “one of countless women for whom the constant struggle against dudely dominion is too exhausting. Women are under attack.”

    Raises hand, collapses.
    Anything other than exuberant ass-licking of the patriarchy’s stinky behind is met with rage and horror. It is very exhausting to be continually met with rage and horror all the time. I am totally worn out.

  41. And honey, sweetie, sugar tits, we’re all ugly to them.

    I don’t really think it has to do with pretty/ugly or even healthy/unhealthy – it has to do with controllable/uncontrollable. To appear and act uncontrollable is a cosmic violation for a female.

    As for the baby-doll sleeves, yeah, those are the ones that won’t go around my 14″ biceps. Well, they go around, but they hit at the widest part and then ride up when the muscles underneath get put to use. I can wear a men’s large t-shirt as those have longer sleeves and accomodate large arm muscles – they just don’t work as well in “office casual” situations.

  42. I don’t much care if dieting is feminist or not, but conforming to the patriarchal mandate to take up less space ticks me off. The reward is a lifetime of fighting to disappear physically into yourself for a few compliments and a whole lot of people who think they own you. Fat, average, thin, whatever, don’t apologize for taking up the space you’re in, and stretch or sprawl every once in a while to claim a bit more.

    yes, friggas own. I am a big woman, but only my enemies call me even “overweight.” I’m tall, which is a great blessing as I get older. I can carry the weight I have. I can do a day’s work. I can lift heavy objects. I can eat big meals. I’m 67, but I’ve got good skin and my hair has not turned grey. If I were a man, my physical presence would be considered admirable. Big man. That’s good, right? Big woman: how gross.
    The women I know of my age who are on the thin side are not very robust. I’m glad I have still got all my parts, and they all work.
    –aunty hattie

  43. Today I had a jolt of awareness considering all the talk about feminine costume, conformity and feminism.

    I usually dress for work as lately I’ve been working seven days a week. Dressing my way means no makeup, hair tied back for convenience, carpenter jeans, a shirt (sweatshirt or a thick cotton shirt, summer a T-shirt) and my old ratty Doc Martens. Being slightly overweight also, gives me a rather un-ideal appearance.

    Today my partner and I were having breakfast at a local resturant before setting out to our job. Sitting at a booth, I was in eye’s view of people who were paying the cashier at the counter. I noticed a man with a women paying up, nothing unusual, except that he looked over at me and gave me an eye I’ve seen in men often.

    It was an eye of disapproval, one of scorn, of disgust. I know the origin of this look. His wife was made up in the appropriate feminine way with cute blouse, make-up and feminie jacket, etc. She saw me looking straight at him and whispered something in his ear. It unnerved me. He kept looking, staring actually seeming to dare me to stop. I didn’t until he did but it unnerved me enough that I was mad about it for about a half hour after we left.

    My friends, its not all women. Its men also who force the conformity and it is men who oftentimes hold the cash with which to make their approval or disapproval known. I’ve had men like this question the validity of my decisions or statements, ignore my speech and generally refuse to acknowledge my existance. They’ve been men in the building trades who ask me who I work with, a man who was a scout leader for my son, men who are teachers, men who are mechanics working on my trucks, men who rang the buzzer when I worked in a meat room. Men who will push you aside to get in front of you in line anywhere, as if you aren’t there, men who will talk to you, if they do at all, as if you are a child because, as a woman of course, the default assumption is that you know nothing and have nothing of value to say. Men who require a man to back up everything you say.

    Its not all us. These men are frightening to me, they threaten with their body language and their voice. They threaten to downgrade or ignore, to invalidate or even worse; to cause violence to those women who dare to ‘disobey’ their demands and their orders.

    Might I also add that the majority of these men are the same ones who would turn a soft eye to me when I was young and attractive. When I was demure and shy and little understood the root of their attention, but only saw their attention as the goal to my fulfillment. And it is them who, in the end, take all they can and leave nothing, serve for their fulfillment by emptying me of my self esteem, dignity and whatever else.

    It may be the women who wish that everyone conform like them that assist to drive this machine that runs against women, but it is the man, many men, who sit at the wheel, still. It is they who see themselves as the sole arbiters of the confines of womanly existance. That some or even many women still uphold this is disappointing as it gives them power, but still let’s not forget from whence the power comes.

    The original enemy has not left the room. By focusing on ourselves they are getting off the hook.

  44. (clapping before typing) BRAVO! BRAVO!

  45. and isn’t a body’s state of avoirdupois just another homology to head tilting and bottom waggling in a set of behaviours?

    darkymac, I’m struggling to understand that comment. Are you saying that a person’s attempts to control body size are part of an array of tactics to attract a mate or be acceptable to (patriarchal) society? I believe that to be true but I just wanted to know if that’s what you meant.

  46. KTal, I loved what you wrote. Does anyone believe that women would continue shaving, dieting, and teetering in pointy shoes for a nanosecond after men were beamed off the planet? Please. Sure, there would still be competition and some of us would be deemed more aesthetically pleasing than others, in a general sense. But I guaran-damn-tee that no one would surgically stuff sacs of artificial goop in her chest cavity and call it an empowerful choice ever again.

    And what was that guy’s problem in the restaurant? The attire you described wearing doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all. Do some people have nothing better to do in life than play Fashion Police at the pancake house?

  47. “And what was that guy’s problem in the restaurant? The attire you described wearing doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all. Do some people have nothing better to do in life than play Fashion Police at the pancake house?”

    I wish I had a flip response for that, or a pat answer, but I don’t.

    I remember once at a yard sale I was attempting to purchase something when some asshat behind me bellowed, “Hey! I was talking to them about that! Obviously I was interested in it!” He was tall, about six something and had coach shorts on and had a blonde picture perfect ladee with him who just stood by saying nothing. He bullied. I responded, “Yeah, but I’m willing to give them the whole price for it right now, you are trying to get it for nothing.”

    He bellowed some more and bascially the two old woman running the sale gave in and he had to pay up the whole price. He wasn’t happy, but by his bloviating male antics and threatening postulating, he won. He shouldn’t have, but he did.

    Or the man-friend of a former friend of mine who said wanted me to take a day trip with her and man-friend. Man-friend would not acknowledge my existance for the whole trip. “What’s his problem?” I asked afterward, feeling really put down. “Oh I don’t know.” she said. I got it afterward though as she in the next breath told me how he demanded that she wear heels and a dress whenever they went out, fully donned in makeup as well. My plain attire didn’t match up and thus I was deemed unworthy of recognition.

    That’s what I’m talking about. I spend so much time working that I’ve lost my ability to articulate it well enough other than to provide anecdote.

  48. KTal,

    Maybe you wish this kind of reaction was more feasible when you’re on your own in public?

    I’ve already slipped further out of the desirable mode for a woman in public and bawled out such aggression as the staring-man and the hissing-as-you-go-past-man.
    Most of the time it’s been worth it.
    Twice I’ve been assaulted afterwards.
    Those times were still worth it.

    Blamerella, yes. How you should look is prescribed by the patriarchy, including how much fat you can carry. I detect no irony in your asking me to paraphrase myself. I am not worthy to express myself on the same page as Twisty and some terrific commenters.

  49. kugelmass.wordpress.com

    Twisty, I agree with you that the hand-wringing is a pain, and I also agree that Stallings seems to actually want to oppose her actions to her feminism. Moreover, it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for the kind of bullying about appearance and everything else that KTal and others describe.

    That said, it’s difficult to argue that Stallings’s fat is somehow an act of resistance. If she were a park ranger, the fat quite possibly wouldn’t be there, because her job would involve walking around all day. That doesn’t mean, speaking here purely about the intersection between feminism and our daily lives, that park rangers are somehow less engaged in the fight against the patriarchy than women who work sitting down.

    More to the point, Americans just don’t eat right. They eat too much, too quickly, and this is even true of people who avoid fast food. Weight Watchers may be misogynistic — I don’t know, having never had anything to do with them, but I’m happy to concede that point. Still, it can’t be reasonable to identify eating like an American with nonconformity.

    My sense is that the way Stallings framed her argument created the problem. What if she had written, “I was sick and tired of having a body created by the combination of my job and a set of eating habits that have become the American norm”?

  50. kugelmass.wordpress.com

    Oh, heavens. Let me make something from the last comment clear, because I messed up the grammar: reading through the stories of sexual harrassment, chauvinist contempt, and unequal treatment made me ill. They were all so angering, and legitimately representative of contemporary sexism, that I was tempted not to disagree with the original post in their honor. It’s simply that the original post suggests that things that happen to you (such as gaining weight) turn into an ethical obligation to have a body that isn’t the one you want. Stallings’s own half-hearted feminism aside, that really isn’t the sort of judgement I want to make about another person’s relationship to their body.

  51. Twisty

    According to an email I had this morning, I obfuscate overmuch, so please allow me to clarify my muddled ideas.

    I am not advocating that ‘for the sake of the movement’ women purposely shape themselves to conform to some anti-patriarchal archetype; I’m merely suggesting that some women lie to themselves about what revolution really means.

    Incidentally, Stallings says she is surprised that her “fluff piece” appeared on the lefty Alternet site at all, and originally seemed quite refreshingly complacent about the ensuing feminist critique. But — and I can’t say that I blame her — she grows bummed; her current blog post quotes some pretty mean and weird crap pulled from the comments of this here very blog. “Trust fund baby”? Ouch. Even so, I would assert that the general tenor of the IBTP response, though ornamented with a few claws-out doozies, is actually quite a bit tamer than such discussions usually are.

    Stallings also says that the feminist-questionable content was added by editors.

    Editors. Can’t live with’em; without’em you’re just a blogger.

  52. I don’t know how to make crystallized ginger but candied ginger is as good and ginger is an anti-inflammatory.
    Slice ginger thinly (you can scrape off the paper skin if for aesthetics), combine with equal parts sugar and water and simmer at a low heat until the ginger slices are translucent. I use a slow cooker as this can take awhile but I also make a kilo at a time. Drain off the syrup (save to use in coffee and tea or on fruit salad). Allow slices to air dry until tacky to the touch, toss with sugar and allow to dry spread out on a pan. Store in a jar or plastic container. Melt dark chocolate chips and dip ginger slices in it to make it irresistable.

    I’m 5’9”, 210 lbs. (blessed with an even distribution of fat that helps me conform closer to the societally dictated body type but which is mostly useful for winning prizes at “Guess Your Weight” stations) and I have no overwhelming urge to dress in heels, dresses or spend ghastly amounts of time painting my face. I made a decision when young, based on my grandmothers’ lives, to live to be competent and not necessarily desirable. I found that there are an adequate number of men who prefer competence to fashion and so have no desire to change that decision.
    Eat right, exercise more and desire yourself. I hope Stallings gets to the point where she is comfortable in her own body. It is the one that she is going to get.

  53. “A desirable thing may lie at the end of the path of least resistance, but that thing isn’t necessarily truth.”


    But, I ask you, how many people are capable of living a life that seeks truth?

    Most are content with a life of belief; of blind faith. And, the more I study it, the more I wonder if humans are capable of living truth. We do occasionally see it or find it. But, to expect it from ourselves and others with any sort of consistency appears to be a mistake.

    Truth-seekers are often disappointed. That’s all I’m sayin. Not defending the patriarchy or blaming it today.

  54. Twisty

    Well you know, finnsmotel, even on the road to truth, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.


    I wish that people really were, as you say, content with blind faith. But they’re really not content at all. Either they’re morons who believe in a dudely mind-reading supernatural being who is obsessed with the tedium of human existence, in which case they will not rest until they have crammed this dudely being down everybody else’s throat, or they say they believe, but secretly suspect that there is nothing so improbable as an afterlife, which of course makes them not content.

  55. Excellent post, dear Twisty.

  56. “I wish that people really were, as you say, content with blind faith. But they’re really not content at all.”

    Oh, I agree with all you say. “Content” was the wrong word, as it implies acceptance of some sort.

    The problem with philosophies/myths/religions that include a bit about an afterlife is, as you suggest, afterlife is such an improbable idea, it requires a superhuman effort to keep the story going. Sorta like Santa Claus. Damn is it hard, as a parent, to keep that one going. (And, frankly, I never got enough pleasure out of it as a parent to make it worth doing. I plead cultural pressure on that one. My parents would’ve crapped twinkies if I hadn’t done the Santa bit with my kids.) We can only hypothesize as to the longer-term psychic damage of such myths on the culture at large (kids with unrealistic expectations, etc.).

    Yeah, it takes a superhuman effort to keep the myth going, when it gets spun beyond common truths. And, some folks will stop at nothing.

    Still, I am less likely to judge folks for their fervent beliefs, these days, despite what appears, to my eyes, to be a cause-and-effect feedback loop (religious belief of unprovable truths actually CAUSES the problems it proclaims to cure). I love many who believe, so it’s hard to dismiss them entirely. I guess I’m caught up in the culture, too, and wish they were right, at least for their sake.

    rambling. sorry.

  57. acunningplan.typepad.com

    I’ve been pondering the fat as a health issue for a few years now, not because I live it, but because I research issues related to appearance and health. It’s fine to say fat is a health issue, because for some people it is. It causes joint problems, is linked to heart disease and diabetes etc.


    There are all kinds of physical things that are health conditions: sedentary lifestyle, poor diet due to poverty, bad genes, mercury in the water and fish that goes into women’s breast milk, passive smoke, etc. The difference is these are generally INVISIBLE on the body. No one knows if you have a defective gene, eat too many fatty foods while maintaining your weight, never eat a vegetable, live in a toxic soup, are poor.

    Fatness shows and because it is a visible transgression of societal notions of ideal bodies and ideal health and mark the body as uncontrollable and irresponsible and as such should be brought under control. Women get the added “need to be hot to be appreciated” patriarchal crap, which just adds to the need to justify change as healthful instead of vain, but both fit the same ends–the vanity of saying you fit healthist/patriarchal ideal body standards. If you’re just living on cigarettes and lettuce leaves you can avoid the constant pressure to conform because while you may not be healthy, you look fine so patriarchy doesn’t notice so much or care since women’s currency is her body.

    And really, something is going to kill all of us some day. Why is it that the overweight should spend more time and energy worrying about their “health” than the rest of us and be chastised for being burdens to society?

    So the health angle doesn’t cut it for me. It’s just another facet of patriarchy.

  58. Physicians are refusing to take as patients those who smoke and will not quit, for ONE example, especially when they’re also being treated for, say, emphysema. So yeah, if your weight is something you could control, then it’s a health issue.

    Yes. Even people in wheel chairs can control the weight. And do. Strictly speaking, it’s energy in = energy out. But yes, a lot of other things are involved and can mitigate that. That doesn’t mean that everyone who is over weight can claim those mitigating factors.

  59. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    ktal, I feel you. How dare anyone?

    I was verbally assaulted in the street last week by a shining star of the patriarchy, who deemed himself worthy to judge me by yelling out his pickup truck window that I ought to get my fat ass off the sidewalk. What was I doing to him? Nothing, other than offend by my very appearance. How I wish he’d been within reaching distance, he’d have felt the wrath of my knitting needles.

    Again, how dare anyone?

    Yes, it’s hard enough to be taken seriously out there if you’re just unfortunate enough to be female, but don’t dare be female and fat, too. You’re an affront.

    For those asking earlier, I also have the abdomen/face issues, and a loverly hump on my back as well-it’s attributable to long-term stress, hypercortisolism, AKA Cushing’s Syndrome if you’re lucky enough to get an official diagnosis. Often caused by oral steroid use long term, but can be caused purely by stress, too.

  60. I’m not sure why weight is a black and white feminist issue. Sure, in a world without men, there are many things heterosexual women might not do: cosmetic surgery, wearing makeup, heels, etc. But there are many other things some would: exercise, eating right, etc. I don’t see being at a healthy weight as “diminishment.” Certainly, dieting down to Hollywood ideals is. But there’s a wide range of attractive and healthy weights that, absent metabolic issues, are fairly easy to maintain alongside an active lifestyle.

    The same thing with wanting to be attractive. Sure, some forms of this reflect the patriarchy. Others are analogous to men’s wanting to be attractive to whatever gender they’re into. My husband loves getting compliments on his appearance and will turn aside an extra piece of pizza to enable that. I don’t think that makes him a traitor to his gender, and I don’t think similar behavior on my part makes me a traitor to mine.

    thelmyc said: “There is NO acceptable way to be female in this universe. You’re either unattractive and hence garbage, or you’re attractive, and you’re fuckable garbage. Trust me when I say the latter isn’t anything to pursue.”

    More rampant exaggeration. Sure, most women have had to deal with unwanted stares, words or much worse. Does that mean there’s nothing good about being attractive? If you haven’t experienced it, my heart goes out, but trust me when I say it can be fun for women OR men to be admired for something part-health and part-vanity. The vanity aspect isn’t unique to women, and even if it’s more projected onto women by the patriarchy, that doesn’t mean it needs to be fully rejected. Those righteous posters who claim to be proud of or unbothered by the spare change, accompanied by muscle or not, are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Aesthetics are a fact of life, not just female life, and enjoying beautiful art, interior design, nature, etc. without caring about maintaining what you present to the world is more likely to be hypocrisy and laziness, in my book, than a heightened feminist sensibility.

  61. Twisty: Stellar blaming, as usual.

    Octagalore: My initial response to you is a hearty “f__k off!” but your assessments of the fat (lazy, don’t care about themselves, self-deluded, just need to put in a little effort) are so pedestrian why bother. Please don’t waste any of your heart feeling sorry for me. I’ve been hot, not, and in-between. All those states have advantages, all have disadvantages. To the degree that a woman eschews the all-consuming task of being pretty she will be rewarded with more time, money and mental real estate to enjoy aesthetics that don’t involve Weight Watchers, fashion magazines or tweezers.

  62. saviabella.diaryland.com

    I think a lot of us turn to food because it’s one of the few things we can control. It’s no secret that those of us who have been sexually abused or abused in other ways (and there are all too many of us) have issues with food – whether it’s eating too much or not enough or binging and purging, etc. Our bodies are the microcosm of the way we are treated in this society. No matter what size we are, it never seems to be good enough. I recently lost more than 50 pounds, mostly for health reasons, but I do admit that some of it was about being unhappy with what I saw in the mirror. Throughout the whole process, and particularly once the weight was gone, I certainly felt the effects of patriarchy. If you’re interested in my experience, you can read about it here: http://saviabella.diaryland.com/060811_42.html

  63. Saviabella, your essay was interesting — it’s what Stallings’ might have been, if hers had been more honest, and had refrained from agonizing over what the strawfeminists would think.

    I especially liked the bit about the perils of visibility, to yourself and to others.

  64. octogalore- ‘Those righteous posters who claim to be proud of or unbothered by the spare change, accompanied by muscle or not, are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Aesthetics are a fact of life, not just female life, and enjoying beautiful art, interior design, nature, etc. without caring about maintaining what you present to the world is more likely to be hypocrisy and laziness, in my book, than a heightened feminist sensibility.’

    I would never claim that my feelings about the old spare change was caused by a feminist sensibility. I say that it came out of my grandmothers’ experiences and decisions that I made early on. I am lucky in my genes on several fronts and I have a paucity of caring about how others feel about my aesthetics. I like what I like, I wear what I find in my price range that I feel comfortable in. I despair that I will ever find clothes or even cloth in a green that I like but I blame the patriarchy for that. I have never felt denied the advantages/disadvantages of male companionship even though some people (male and female) have implied that I should have due to my weight, hair length, skin tone and other aesthetic markers. I have just had to attend the funeral of a male friend and deal with the disappointment of his female relatives because I chose to marry someone else. I let personal decisions come out of personal experience and I have found that that has always worked for me. It is the advice I give to all young women who ask for my opinion. Being who I am is my aesthetic and it is not lazy or hypocritical, it is just me.

  65. “Octagalore: My initial response to you is a hearty “f__k off!” but your assessments of the fat (lazy, don’t care about themselves, self-deluded, just need to put in a little effort) are so pedestrian why bother.”

    Whelp, that made my day. Thanks smmo.

  66. Twisty

    Octogalore, you write as though “aesthetics” is some sort of intergalactic absolute. Aesthetics is, in fact, merely philosophical theory one applies to art and poetry, and has been accurately described by smarter people than me as silly and pedantic. The novice blamer might call it “taste.” Taste, in which criticism and judgement is implicit, is a creation of money and class. i.e. dominant culture, i.e. patriarchy. Applying “aesthetics” as a rationale or protocol to critique a female physique, as though a human person’s external aspect were the work of creative, intellectual effort and inspiration, is asinine.

  67. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    (HPS flails her arms like Elmo and goes OOH! OOH! like Horshak (sp?) on Welcome Back Kotter)

    I wish we could all take a hammer to the blinder of the so-called “middle” class, the class that pointlessly aspires to higher eshcelons via the pursuit of aesthetics. Sometimes I think we cling to this blinder the hardest.

    Why “pointlessly” you ask? Because it doesn’t work. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much money you make or spend, no matter how well you project the RIGHT kind of “pretty” to the world, barring the unlikely fortuitous marriage the upper eschelons are closed to you. Generally, our class designations were handed out in the maternity ward just like everywhere else in the world. Americans are delusional when they pretend otherwise.

    The best most of us will make is “Upper Middle,” so if you’re there already, there is nowhere else to go, so chill already. Have a cookie.

  68. Octagalore, you said:

    “I”m not sure why weight is a black and white feminist issue.”

    Well, HELL, woman, if you had read this whole thread you’d understand that it’s NOT a black-and-white feminist issue.

    And, as Twisty got to it first, I will spare you the long version of my lecture on the non-universal nature of Aesthetics. Even if you limit your study to, say, European art of the last few centuries, you will see that “aesthetics” as a body of standards applied to the attractiveness of the human body have changed dramatically, over and over again. Go global, or go farther back in time, or both, and you have even wider cultural ideas about what is attractive.

    On the whole, VERY generally speaking, humans have a propensity to admire symmetry in the human form, and to admire what they think is healthy. Since cultural ideas of what is “healthy” vary widely, so then do the markers of “health.” But there is no such thing as simple aesthetics, as in “aesthetics are a fact of life.”

  69. Obviously, this Alternet author is stupid. Because only stupid, thin women are accepted by the patriarchy. I got serious about being athletic last year and lost 35 pounds. I got more action when I was “fat” (patriarchally speaking) than I did this entire last year. Being “hot” and intelligent makes you a threat to the patriarchy, and hence something to be avoided by the vast majority of guys.

    I recently had a guy tell me that if I could stop with “that feminist junk,” I might get a boyfriend. I let him know, in a nice way, that I don’t want a boyfriend who thinks I am not a person just because I’m female.

  70. genderberg.com

    Trapped in an airport, I read blonde bombshell Jenny McCarthy’s latest book standing in a bookstore. Jenny is threatened by the plastic women in pornography and suggests women get porn with ugly women in it to make their men happy while not thrashing their self esteem about too much. Since then the thought has clung to me that if Jenny McCarthy feels unattractive compared to other women there is no hope for any of us to live comfortably in our own skins.

    Despite theories hypothesizing the mainstreaming of pornstitution will eventually, because free markets are women’s best friends, result in prostitutes getting pulled out from under the grooves of society’s shoes, I’ve been witnessing a more sinister trend. From Desperate Housewives to Six Feet Under to other shows I’m sure those of you with cable tv and pay channels could add, I’m seeing prostituted women written as more deliberately predatory homewreckers than I remember from a few years ago when pathos used to be the primary theme for prostitute characters.

    As I don’t have cable tv or pay channels and learn about these plotlines from ex-prostitute colleagues who feel every cultural crack on hoes viscerally, if anyone could relay other entertainment examples of hypercompetition with hookers to me I’d appreciate it. sam at genderberg dot com.

  71. I’m gonna litter my yard with feminist junk to keep the boyfriends away.

  72. Dear Hawise,
    No green is beyond your reach with a bit of dye. I get my dye and fabric for silk painting from Dharma Trading.com online. They have all manner of delicious fabric quite inexpensive and no slave labor in production. As women in a patriarchy we aren’t entitled to much. It is my position that we are entitled to the color of our choice.

  73. Thank you, thebewilderness. I have tried dye but the green in my head just will not match anything that I can find. It is an elusive green reminiscent of the colour of the underside of a maple leaf in July from somewhere in the middle of the tree, neither the too pale lower leaves, nor the dark upper leaves. It also has some of the tones of bracken just as it opens up from its fiddle head in spring. It is out there somewhere, I revel in the hunt. Besides it’s a great excuse to haunt the fabric stores of the clothing district.

  74. “Go global, or go farther back in time, or both, and you have even wider cultural ideas about what is attractive.”


    Seems to me a simple question of whether or not you are comfortable or uncomfortable with the generally accepted aesthetic of the culture you happen to live in. (within you happen to live?)

    It’s one of the areas where I have a hard time claiming to actually “be” a feminist, rather than a sympathizer/empathizer.

  75. Twisty

    Y’know, Speedbudget, “health” is totally a class issue, too. Only those in certain classes can afford it. If, say, I were an indigent sub-Saharan African, I’d be dead of metastatic cancer by now. Why am I alive instead? I had $120,000, that’s why.

    And anyway, if rotting teeth and eczema were physical signs of economic prosperity, that’s what you’d be seeing on the cover of People Magazine.

  76. Health is a class issue moreso in the US than in Canada, where until recently it was available to everyone, in the same degree. Now we cling to a ghost of what it was 15 years ago when the right-wing cuts began. But what luck, pharmaceutical companies have stepped in to take up the $$ void left by upper class taxpayers. And in order to justify medical schools and subsidized tuition aboard south seas cruise ships, our doctors push us to take the drugs that paid for the his/her MD, which do nothing if we’re lucky, harm and kill if we aren’t.

  77. Actually Twisty those two are basically signs of economic prosperity to most of the world. It just takes a higher level of prosperity to hide them from the glaring eye of modern society.
    $120,000 to get better- God, it makes me love Canada more and I’m glad my Aunt and her wife moved up here well before they got sick.

  78. politblogo.typepad.com

    Is that $120K straight-up (!!!) or via insurance?

  79. Twisty

    Mandos, I haven’t broken it all down yet, but a significant chunk came (and continues to come; I’ll be taking expensive drugs and getting lab work and CT scans for the rest of my life) straight from the Faster Family coffers.

  80. politblogo.typepad.com


    Thank heavens I am doubly insured, with my cheap US insurance and my Canadian insurance, though I don’t know how long the latter is going to last what with the CMA clamoring to kill it.

  81. Cancer is, indeed, very expensive. Here – http://www.limeproject.org/ – is a link to a page set up for a woman who cannot afford her cancer treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So how are her female friends raising money for her? They made a naked calendar of themselves and are begging people to buy it. How/where do I begin to talk about how awful this is? I don’t know. Not, of course, that I am upset that her friends are desperately trying to save her life, but more that: although apparently she has insurance it doesn’t cover all necessary treatment, which in “affluent America” means one is SOL; that one cannot get anyone to donate money to save a woman’s life without pornifying oneself. Around lj-land people are talking about what a wonderful project this is. I have to wonder if people would be as generously inclined to buy a product to help save a woman’s life if it involved hand-crafted pottery. Oh wait – no I don’t, I already know the answer to that.

  82. I know what you’re saying re: “health,” Twisty. It used to be that being pale was a sign of big coffers; now it’s fasionable to be super tanned, because that means you’re lucky enough to have a job that pays you enough to take days off or gives you an actual vacation every year.

    By the way, the only reason I’ve been able to afford my forays to the gym are because I qualified for Medicaid. Living at home and being dirt poor do work to a person’s advantage when it comes to health care. When I was making just below a living wage and struggling to live on my own, I couldn’t afford healthcare and didn’t qualify for Medicaid.

    But also, I went to the gym to get back to the old athleticism, not necessarily to be healthy. I was healthy already, lack of insurance be damned.

  83. Shoot. That should be “is because.”

  84. ohprettylady.blogspot.com

    Gracious. You are all so barking up the wrong tree. I had a similar issue with little Kathy Acker’s insufferable book, “Empire of the Senseless,” where she made some ridiculously pretentious statement about ‘creating a language of the unconscious’ by dredging up taboo topics and dwelling upon them inordinately. ‘Oh, come now, Kathy,’ I told her. ‘In setting up a paradigm in opposition to something, you are every bit as dependent upon this structure as the original oppressive system. You are defining yourself, your language, exclusively in relation to it. Thus this entire novel is a piece of crap.’ Or words to that effect. I am afraid I had not had much sleep the night before.

  85. Twisty

    Oh goodness! You are so Pretty!

  86. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Something tells me Pretty Lady did not read the FAQ before posting on a website devoted to advanced patriarchy blaming, poor thing.

    I’m a sycophant to the patriarchy myself (the details of my everyday life reveal I profit nicely from it) but I’d ever be an apologist for the “poor dears” HERE. At least, not unless I were in the mood to have my ass handed to me on a platter. Gracious!

  87. Pretty is as Pretty does.

  88. Twisty

    “to have my ass handed to me on a platter. Gracious!”

    A Wedgwood “Franciscan Desert Rose” platter, my dear!

  89. hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com

    Hey lay off my mother’s china; it’s PRETTY!

    HAH . . .

  90. How I love it when the thread degenerates into giggles over china patterns.

  1. On Feminism and “I Blame The Patriarchy” « The Kugelmass Episodes

    […] I really don’t want to fight a bunch of different battles when it comes to gender. I want to fight just one battle, for equality of the sexes. Which is why I’m sorry to report that I find I Blame The Patriarchy alienating, and have to respond to the latest post there (entitled “Feminism and the feed-bag“). […]

  2. [i:rrhoblog] » links for 2006-11-06

    […] Is Dieting Anti-Feminist? What’s wrong with wanting to be healthy and look hot? (Twisty replies.) (tags: alternet feminismus frauenbild frauen diaet ernaehrung gender genderblog) […]

  3. Writing in the Corner » Blog Archive » Progress

    […] Twisty’s most recent post at I Blame the Patriarchy, Feminism and the Feed Bag is a terrific essay on femininity as a tool of the patriarchy. My favorite quote: …not a “bad feminist” but merely one of countless women for whom the constant struggle against dudely dominion is too exhausting. Women are under attack. Femininity is a survival skill. Use it and delight, lose it and fight. There are arguments to support either position. But let’s not kid ourselves that one is the other. […]

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  5. Delayed reactions to broken news: body image edition at Vortex(t)

    […] Take for example last year, after I Blame the Patriarchy’s Feminism and the Feed Bag. Its author, the infamous Twisty Faster, had been responding to an article on Alternet, “Is Dieting Anti-Feminist?” about Ariel Meadow Stallings’ effort to reconcile her feminism with her experience as a Weight Watchers participant. In taking issue, for example, with the article’s final sentence, “And the vanity pay-offs make me forget all about feminism, if only for a minute,” Twisty could not have known this was an editor’s alteration of Stallings’ sentence as it had originally appeared on her own website: “And the vanity payoffs are great.” (Which, while it doesn’t invalidate all of Twisty’s criticisms, it clearly does change the implications of the piece.) […]

  6. Electrolicious» Blog Archive » Writing FAQ: Blogging & Privacy

    […] writing about my weight loss for AGES because I knew it would bring out the haters, and OH LORD, did it ever. Perhaps one of the most valuable skills blogging has given me is a ridiculously thick skin. […]

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    […] has discussed femininity as a survival skill here and elsewhere, so I’m not saying anything new overall. Still, when it’s the first time […]

  8. Fat is a feminist issue - Electrolicious

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