Glosswitch wrote an eloquent critique of The Sun’s “No More Skinny” campaign for New Statesman to which I have little to add. The campaign, led by “showbiz columnist,” Dan Wooten, is directed at the fashion industry, which Wooten says “has been guilty of hiring and promoting underweight, skeletal and, at times, sick models for far too long.” The aim, he says, is “to put pressure on the fashion houses to stop hiring unhealthy models using the support of celebrities of all shapes and sizes.”
It sounds like an earnest and relatively harmless endeavour and Wooten seems genuinely perplexed by the backlash. But while men pat themselves on the backs for being so brave and bold as to like “real women” or “women with curves,” instead of simply the very thin, model-like ones, women are still left to cope with the depressing reality that their bodies are of little worth unless objectified.
Glosswitch points out that, really, whether or not these bodies are supposedly “healthy” or “unhealthy” is beside the point — “After all,” she writes, “they’re just bodies.”
It’s the overall context that makes the difference. Too many catwalk models are dead-eyed and hungry. Too many bikini-clad babes drape themselves over men who are fully clothed. Too many pairs of female tits appear in the midst of stories of male violence and abuse. It is, quite simply, all too much.
Women are never going to feel “comfortable in their skin” (as we are continually encouraged to while simultaneously learning, from girlhood, to hate our bodies and to find and obsess over our physical flaws until we die) so long as we learn that we exist to be looked at and admired by men. How could we possibly feel comfortable in our bodies when they don’t belong to us?
Yes, I’d rather eat than not eat. And yes, dieting is unhealthy and no-fun and a waste of energy and life. But encouraging the objectification of women who eat bread isn’t going to resolve the issue of body-hatred.
Glosswitch writes: “It is absurd to tell women to love themselves in a world that alienates them from their own flesh.”
Indeed. And beyond that, it is absurd to tell women to love themselves in a world wherein men can’t even fathom that we might exist or feel good about ourselves outside men’s approval and sexualization.
“I love women,” coming from a man, almost always means “I love when women please me,” “I love to imagine fucking women,” “I love to jack off to women’s pornified bodies,” “I love women who don’t challenge me in a way that makes me uncomfortable,” or “I love the idea of women.”
It doesn’t mean “I love women because they are human beings like me.”
I, quite honestly, can’t even imagine what it would be like to love my body. I remember hating my thighs when I was 11 — they were too round. When I was 12 I hated my knees — they were too bony. When I was 13 I hated my arms — they were too skinny. I hated my lack of butt and boobs all through high school. I wanted curves. Now, as an adult woman, I — like so many other adult women — obsess over being “too fat.” (And yes, I am aware all of this is based in delusion and that my body has probably been fine all along.) But don’t you see? It doesn’t matter how “healthy” we are. It doesn’t matter what my body looks like. I am “healthy” now, I was “healthy” then. I hated my body when I felt “too thin” and I’ve hated my body when I felt “too fat.” There will never not be something to pick on, something to hate, someone else to compare myself to. And I will always and only care about such things because I am aware that if I were ever not objectified and objectifiable I would disappear. I would cease to exist and matter. If we’re just bodies and men have the power to decide whether we are sexy/healthy/lovable or not, surely the demand that we “love ourselves as we are” is little more than a sick joke.
We teach women and girls that their bodies are separate from their beings, that their bodies exist to please others, and then we force them to spend their whole lives in therapy, reading self-help books, posting affirmations on their bathroom mirrors in order to repair what’s positioned as a personal problem — “low self-esteem,” we call it. We are losers either way — not strong enough to escape that which is drilled into our heads 24/7 or not beautiful/sexy/thin/curvy/young enough to count.