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September 16, 2013 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Body Languish

I can’t remember the first time I thought I was fat. I was in Year 3 the first time I was called fat, by a boy much fatter than me—they start ‘em young on the double standards in upper-middle-class Wellington suburbs. If I recall correctly, I was drawing a picture of a seal. There was a comparison made. This was in 1999, so a) I was dressing like it was 1992 and wearing corduroy, and b) if you adopt this boy’s mentality (I certainly did), I’ve been fat for an entire millennium. Judging by the state of my arse, that’s not changing anytime soon.

Except, I’m not fat; I’m a completely average size 12. Even as an admittedly chubby seven-year-old I’ve never been obese, or even overweight; I just have body fat which is distributed in varying thickness across my body. You know, like a person. So it’s ridiculous that I would (and have, and do) adopt this mentality just because some kid who couldn’t even draw a seal if his life depended on it said something to me once, and I went to a high school where like half of my year became models.

Of course, it’s totally fine to be fat. I know this, objectively. It’s just that, currently, there’s this voice running through my head which goes, “It’s okay to be fat, but it’s not okay for you to be fat.” Because we’re taught, as women, to be sexual objects above all else, to be desirable to men above all else, and we’re taught that the way to do this is to look either like Beyoncé or Gwyneth Paltrow. If you don’t, then you’re failing some vital tenet of womanhood by not being a manic pixie dream girl and/or only shaving your legs biweekly. To quote the venerated internet sage @hostile_goose, “getting real tired of occupying a physical form.”

That’s not to say that men, or people of other genders, don’t get insecure; the day I meet someone who has always been comfortable with how they look is the day I accept the imminent rule of our alien/robot/cyborg overlords. (After doing my darndest to get into the pants of said alien/robot/cyborg/perfect specimen of humanity please where are you I’m so available.) But, like almost all things in life, because I’m a feminist and because it’s the truth, women get it worse. The litmus test of societal misogyny lies in the rom com, and you only have to look at Knocked Up–era Seth Rogen to see the double standard. Chubby guy gets with traditionally hot girl and no one comments, except to maybe high-five the guy on his ‘conquest.’ If Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, or Gabourey Sidibe were in a rom com with Ryan Gosling, the entire film would be one endless fat joke insinuating that she’d somehow ‘tricked’ him into being with her. Actually, that’s the plot of Shallow Hal.

While fatness and obesity are vilified throughout society (you know how we almost deported a South African chef for being overweight? Yeah.) it seems to be a (sorry) bigger deal when it comes to women. When body-positive feminism comes along and tells beauty standards to fuck right off—they’re largely unrealistic, and damaging to the vast majority of women who don’t fulfil them, but also potentially to the ones who do—I have to cheer. Especially since this branch of feminism is particularly intersectional; beauty standards are most often based on white, cis, women, which fails to take into account the huge variety in the shapes and sizes of women’s bodies. It’s a form of liberation, which some women achieve by refusing to kowtow to pressure to change the way they look, and others by exercising and dieting until they feel they’re happy with their bodies. The governing philosophy is: fuck you, I’ll look how I like.

Personally, I have no idea how to get liberated. I’ve run around Brooklyn Park naked with five other people and I still don’t think I’m there. I still feel like it’s pretty arrogant to love my body, or to even suggest that it could one day be a thing I’d possibly consider. We’re constantly told that our bodies are too fat, too thin, too young, too old, too fertile, too infertile; any hint of pride in myself seems like the most massive act of defiance, which I’d rather save for my quarter-life crisis.

But that’s bullshit. Much as I like to, once a month, throw my hands up into the air and cry “MY BODY HAS BETRAYED ME!!!!1!!!1!!!” before quickly reassuming the foetal position, I really don’t have much right to hate my body; I’m healthy, able-bodied, young, cisgendered, white. My body hasn’t betrayed me. It’s just doing its thang, and doing it pretty well, regardless of my input.

Getting deep for a second, but, in the great cosmic scheme of things, it’s frankly remarkable enough that you’re alive to have a body, regardless of what it looks like. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, then fuck ‘em figuratively and potentially punch them literally. Loving your body is something we should all be working towards. It’s also a totes subtle euphemism for masturbation.

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