Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"You can’t have a plus size girl winning – it makes it a joke."

Part 3: Fat Feminism

I consider myself a feminist, though that's a scary thing to say because it always feels like there's someone in the wings waiting to jump out and say, "YOU'RE NOT." For those of you who have never really read anything about feminism, there are a whole lot of branches. Feminists that focus on racial issues, or that focus on age issues. Atheist, Christian, Cyber, Material, Radical, Sex-Positive...the variants never end. The one that I'm sure will blow your mind, however, is fat feminism.

I don't agree with a lot of feminists, on beliefs and on methods. I can usually, however, find a common ground, a mutual understanding overall. But fat feminists frustrate me with how they focus so much on the emotional affects of being overweight and obese, and not enough on real scientific data.

Their basic tenets (from my understanding, and I could certainly be wrong) seem to surround the idea of "fat acceptance."

-People treat them terribly because they're fat(I agree).
-Because it's wrong, people should not treat them differently purely based on their size (I agree). -Instead, people should accept that they are fat (I agree).
-People who are fat should accept that they themselves are fat.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

The articles I've read regarding this movement are often tearing apart research regarding weight issues. While I'm not about to claim that just because the person behind the research has a degree necessarily means they're right, at the same time the criticisms seem...hollow.

No one is saying you should feel bad because you're overweight (well, no one who is also rational). But studies show that, sadly, many young girls do feel this way. Will helping them lose weight solve the problem? The writer is right, it probably will not. That's assuming, of course, that the only problem here is the girl's self-worth and body image. Losing weight will make her feel temporarily better, but unless we convince her that people who don't look like Angelina Jolie are still beautiful, she'll only find more things to hate and criticize about herself.

But there are more problems than just the emotional affects going on here. Legitimate studies show that being overweight can lead to serious health issues and a shortened life span. I want young girls to feel beautiful no matter what they look like, but I want them to live long healthy lives as well.

My point is that by focusing solely on the psychological and emotional affects that the media and society has on us, we're ignoring the bigger picture. Being overweight and obese is not morally objectionable and no one else's concern but your own. But self-love and self-worth involve treating your body right.

I'll throw the caveat in that applying a generalization to individuals is of course invalid. While studies show that MOST people will have increased risks of pretty much almost everything if they're overweight, some people will indeed be perfectly healthy in a different bracket from everybody else.

And that's why the decision to lose weight needs to be an individual choice, which I whole-heartedly agree with fat feminists on. Don't listen to your parents, your friends, the media, or anyone else. If you're going to lose weight, make sure it's the right decision for you. Odds are, it probably is, but still.

While I'm writing about treating people the same no matter what their size, I feel the need to elaborate that that involves women on the other end too. Surprise surprise, some bodies are more comfortable on the heavier side, and some on the thinner side. Telling skinny women to eat more, or making them uncomfortable when you go clothes shopping is wrong, presumptuous, and unfair. Just because they're skinny does not mean they have an eating disorder, or that you have the right to poke fun of them for it. Unfortunately, fat feminism (from my perspective) seems to completely ignore the plight of this minority. They need a voice too, but I feel that as soon as someone starts "Skinny Feminism" we're going to have a serious battle of the blogs on our hands.

Calm down, fat feminists, and let's all try to look at the bigger picture.

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