Friday, February 09, 2007


"Does This Donut Make My Butt Look Big?"


Women are weird about their bodies. And by this, I mean about each other's bodies even more than their own.

Certainly, every woman I know has a hearty dose of bodily self-loathing:

"My belly shakes when the wind blows."

"This arm wattle? Stand back when I stir the pasta sauce, or you may get hurt."

"I can't even rest my martini glass on my breasts. They're just too small to be decorative or functional."

Really, the litany of body gripes is endless, from our naturally-dark roots to our disgustingly-gnarled toes.

Generally, the media receives the blame for this cultural phenomenon--supposedly, we see images of young, tucked, snipped, airbrushed celebs, and this makes us feel bad about ourselves. I suppose I buy that to a certain extent. But frankly, when I look at photos of Britney Spears or Paris Hilton in magazines, a rush of relief sweeps over me, and I feel profoundly grateful that such a life and style are not mine. What's more tragic than having every resource in the world at your feet (or at least in your Blackberry) and still being a mess?



Other people try to make the case that women loathe their appearances due to comments made by men. Again, okay, I'll sort of buy that. Men have said hurtful things to me about how I look. Decades later, I still remember their words. But mostly, I don't think heterosexual men care about women's appearances all that much. If their relationship with a woman is platonic, they really don't care. If their relationship with a woman is romantic or sexual, they probably care, but only to the extent of, "Okay, so at what point do I get to touch that stuff?"

In truth, I think the momentum of our bodily self-hatred comes from other women. Admit it, ladies: we are constantly sussing up other women's bodies. Usually, we keep our snarky thoughts to ourselves...or at the very least limited to a circle of our three best galpals: "The thing about Barb is that she's so short. If she were taller, she could pull off that denim patchwork skirt. It would be mod. But on her, it's just a tablecloth." But we do, all too often, take our opinions to the very last person who should hear them: the woman in question.

I remember walking down the hall some years ago at the university where I taught, and a student, whom I'd never seen before, came up behind me and said, "I love those pants on you. They're so fun. Now me, I'm too thin to pull off a look like that, but you wear it perfectly."

How quietly the claws can be unsheathed.

So we dames like to mess with each other. And we know that a cloaked attack can do wonders for our own self-esteem, strangely enough. But then there is a subcategory of Babes In Thinness Callowly Hollering Expletives in Society (BITCHES) that calls for a very different kind of behavior, which is a woman who is clearly "superior" physically (aka, a smaller size) loudly complimenting a physically "inferior" specimen (someone who is described as having a "great personality").

I witnessed this a couple of months ago in the kitchen area at my workplace. A kind faculty member--also a city councilman (no doubt out to garner goodwill)--had bought several dozen donuts and set them out for the taking. In front of the donut box, I witnessed an instructor, we'll call her Size 4, commenting to another woman, Size 8, who was helping herself to a raised and glazed, "I wish I could eat donuts and have a figure like yours."

Sounds sort of like a compliment, right? But the underlying point struck me as one of moral superiority, the subtext being, "You don't see me reaching into that box, now do you?" Even further--how ridiculous is this?--Size 4 *could* have a figure like Size 8's, if she just ate some freaking donuts. Size 8 responded, however, with a happy chuckle, just loving that someone was loving her figure. She responded with, "Well, the only way I keep this figure is to get up bright and early every morning and walk."

At that moment, I wanted to take two bricks and huck them at these women's heads. The whole interchange tapped into an inner exhaustion I have; I'm plain tired of women making their bodies the center of attention. Yawn. Snore.

If you're planning on kissing or stroking a person's body, it becomes part of your purview. But otherwise, hesh up already.

Excuse me, now, as I stomp off to a meeting that damn well better feature a large platter of cookies.

Harumph.


28 comments:

Ariel said...

I want some cookies. I want lots of cookies. Oh and pastries.

I try not to compliment/get the claws out regarding how people look at all. I always feel like if I tell someone they look nice today that they'll take it to mean I think they look like crap every other day. Paranoid, yes, that's me.

Jazz said...

I have gotten to the point where I really don't much care anymore. Mr. Jazz's opinion is important, and so long as he can get me nekkid, he's a happy camper.

Lord knows I spent way too many years loathing myself both inside and out. A good 40 years actually. It's too liberating to actually like myself to go back to that.

PS: that word verification - xhijbuzxw (if that's it is a bit much for a friday afternoon brain)

PPS: Damn, I got it wrong. one more try

paintergirl said...

You know I get the women in my town looking at me up and down. I hate that. I never judge people by how they look and yet it happens to me all the time. We have moved on from high school people. I like telling total strangers that I like something that they are wearing. Not just made up, I'm genuine.

bill said...

...did you get the cookies?

Lee said...

"I can't even rest my martini glass on my breasts."

The only person I can think of that can do that it Aretha Franklin! ;)

mist1 said...

And this is why most of my associates are men. Also, they pay for my drinks and feed me complements about my jeans. That helps. If I could find a few female friends that would do that, I would drop the guys club in a heartbeat. Don't tell them that I said that.

furiousBall said...

Very true...all that stuff. You know as a guy, a married guy. It's amazing how much my wife's self-image is derived from reality shows rife with models and her skinny friends that go to the gym with a tenacity unforeseen by JessicaSimpson-kind.

Now, I love my wife's body, love it. But I can never fill her with the confidence to counteract society's image of her body. Not sweet words, not late night dry-humping, not cute little notes left around the house (i.e. "Your ass is like candy").

but I think Sir Mix A-lot said it best...
"I ain't talkin' bout Playboy
'Cause silicone parts are made for toys
I want 'em real thick and juicy
So find that juicy double"

I think he actually ripped off Shakespear's Sonnet 130...

lushgurl said...

I can so relate to the body image thing. I struggled with eating disorders all of my life, I don't blame it on women ('cause I know it's my own crap) but I do know that other women had a profound impact on my self image.
Case in point- one best friend thought it was a good thing to point out to me that (if I had put on a few pounds)maybe I should wear something more flattering to my fuller figure!! UH, yeah thanks G-friend!

CSL said...

I don't think its just women causing the body image problems - I think its also media images of women (all the photoshopped models in magazines and digitally altered women in movies), the rising plastic surgery rate (more and more women geting boob jobs and chaging what "normal" looks like) and men's participation in the ubiquitousness of porn. It all makes it difficult for women to feel okay with their beautifully imperfect bodies.

Diana said...

Oh, you said it so well. (And have you lost weight?) What the hell is wrong with me? With us? I'm healthy, fit, a nice person. Why must I obsess over all the not-perfect parts?

Well, at least I don't have dead-fish eyes, like that Hilton chick. >;)

Diesel said...

I used to work with 2 women who were both gorgeous. I won't go into details, but either of them could have been a model. One time I listened to them talking disapprovingly about women getting plastic surgery to improve their appearance. I just started laughing. I'm not sure they ever figured out why.

I think women and men are both very critical of women's appearances, but in different ways. Women are catty, commenting on petty little details about the selection of a particular outfit, or how a hairstyle doesn't flatter a particular person because of the shape of her face, etc. In contrast, men have discussions like this one (an actual conversation I had with a co-worker):

Me: Man, she is so hot.
Co-worker: Yeah, H.M.* though.

*High Maintenance

Dan said...

In truth, I think the momentum of our bodily self-hatred comes from other women.

Sure, but that's all men's fault too! Didn't you know that? Didn't you know that men were responsible for all the evils of the world? :)

Very thoughtful post!

And, at the expense of fitting the stereotype, I love your new profile photo, my platonic friend! :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Fine post! We all struggle with our own insecurities, which I think are largely caused by the media's exploitation of very specific kinds of beauty.

It would be truly liberating, and far more interesting, if we could finally get past this nonsense and begin to appreciate ourselves and others for our unique qualities, physical and otherwise, without evaluating them.

Jocelyn said...

Ariel--Cookie Monster and you should date.

Jazz--I'm with you. Being done with self-loathing is such a relief. I'm expecting that to be the beauty of my 40's.

Paintergirl--Your town sounds tough. But keep complimenting them on their buttons.

Bill--Damn it, no. I had to keep stomping around all afternoon until I got myself an almond biscotti,and then I shaped up.

Lee--And maybe Patti Labelle, so long as we're envying the martini-toting powers of good yowlers.

Mist1--I bet those men compliment you on your genes, as well as your jeans.

Furiousball--Any time you can weave in Sir Mix-a-lot... Your wife, btw, is lucky to have you.

Lushgirl--Don't we sometimes wish our friends would just shut up?

CSL--Yes, this whole phenomenon is definitely a tangled web.

Diana--I was born 8 pounds, 14 ounces, so I've actually gained weight. I currently suffer from "but I run an hour a day, lift weights, do Pilates and yoga, so what do I care if I'm not someone else's vision of perfect?"

Diesel--H.M. women tire me out, too.

Dan--Thanks, my platonic friend. I actually cropped my husband out of the photo and then threw my head into a picture of our kids' closet, after we painted it.

Hearts--You really should run for office, you know. Every time I read your writing, I get all roused up and ready to take action

actonbell said...

Great post! I have had at least one female coworker make comments on my apearance and body, and it makes me mad as hell. I've NEVER made a single comment along these lines to her or anyone else. (And she's no movie star, either, btw)

Yes, I grew up with a sucky body image, and I'm not wild about my figure now, but with middle age, I've chilled out.

And I think it's a combination of ALL the things you listed--magazines, celebs, comments, all of it just gangs up on women. This is suck.

urban-urchin said...

AMEN! But on a side note how SAD is it that Brittney-I'm-a-stupid-whore- Spears is aging SOOOO badly. (meow.)

That Chick Over There said...

Good post. I remember reading a study once about children in...maybe third or forth grade. The teacher had a pizza at the front of the room. The children could help themselves to the pizza. The boys were getting as many pieces as they wanted. The girls all ate one piece and sat there. Finally, one girl stepped forward and took a 2nd piece and the other girls eventually followed. It amazed me how girls THAT YOUNG had already gotten the message: Don't eat so much.

Sigh.

choochoo said...

I can't remember any guy ever saying anything insulting about how I look. I've met a few bitches in my time, though.

BlogWhore said...

hell yeah!

(cheering and thumping arm!)

Anonymous said...

Somehow I ended up at the grocery store and bought a dozen doughnuts. I ate three right away and finished off the rest the next day with a little help from the boys who call them bagels. Ooh they tasted great and I had no guilt because after all they could be "bagels"
love the blog!
julie b

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

thanks for the insight into the female psyche. Am as confused as ever.

Steven Novak said...

Most men have the same issues with thier bodies...

We just don't bitch about them as much. ;)

Steve~

Jocelyn said...

ActonBell--Why am I so enamored of your phrase "This is suck"? I'm sure others have used it, but it gave me a snort today.

Urchin--See, I was sure you and I could be snarky together. So, um, yup, I agree about Britney looking so awful. Cocaine will do that to a girl.

That Girl--What an interesting study. I have a six-year-old who, most merciful of all things, is unfettered by body image stuff so far. But I'm waiting. Tick. Tock.

Choochoo--Thanks for the added evidence!

Blogwhore--Now, the real question is: that thumping arm of yours, is it toned and firm or is it flabby? Right?

Julie B--Soooo fun to "see" you here. Unfortunately, the truth is that bagels are really loaded with calories, etc. (I can eat two biscotti to equal a bagel in calories and fat...you see, I do measure my life in Biscotti Counts), so I don't know if your naming strategy will work.

Lone Grey--I suspect the more I write about women, the more confused I'd make you. We don't make a whit of sense.

Steven--Yea, guys are too busy writing blog posts about their penises to bitch about their weight, right? *ahem*

Dorky Dad said...

Are you going to eat those donuts? Because I'm hungry.

Crankster said...

Good for you! I've seen so much focus on bodies, but so little consideration of souls. How boring!

Glamourpuss said...

I only say nice things to other women because life is too short to get involved in bitchiness. I have to say though, in my profession, body consciousness kind of goes with the territory.

Puss

velvet girl said...

Yeah, that body consciousness thing is a real drag. Don't suppose you could pass me one of those there doughnuts, could ya? ;)

-velvet

lushgurl said...

Thanks for stopping by today Jocelyn! The only promises I make today are to do the BEST I can...
HUGS to you!