Fat is a feminist issue

January 28, 2006 at 10:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
"i am not a pretty girli don't want to be a pretty girl
no i want to be more than a pretty girl"
- Ani Difranco, "Not a Pretty Girl"

Sometimes it’s so easy to pick a fight.

When one of your sisters in is pain, picking a fight with the one who hurt her is the most desired thing in the world.

Last night I learned that someone – a boy – had made one of my dear friends cry.

Made her feel lesser than herself.

Question herself.

All because of body image.

This boy told her he thought she ate too much, didn’t want her to become fat, and to look in a mirror.

My friend cried.


But besides the fact that this boy made my friend cry, is the fact that society gives us the tools with which to punish ourselves as women. We’re accomplices in our own demise here women. No one should be able to make us feel bad, but ourselves.

From tvs to movies to magazines to advertisements to dressing for other women, to judging other women, to analysing ourselves and comparing ourselves to other women.

I don’t dress for men. I dress for other women. I feel their judgement on me all the time, and it’s mutual.

Society has helped create any negative body image I might have, but I’ve been an accomplice in it.

When I work out, when I prep myself, when make myself up and dress a certain way – it’s all to portray a certain image.

And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with developing one’s body image, one’s sense of style. It’s a way of expressing one’s self.

But there needs to be a balance between a positive body image, and a body image that is one that society is pushing us and helping us to create.

That body image is dangerous.

It pushes the folds of the patriarchy, it reigns us in. It keeps us second-class citizens. After all, it’s not the body image that we’re necessarily wanting for ourselves. It creates doubts in our minds, makes us question ourselves, makes us want to become something we’re not. Pushes us to reach the unattainable ideal person. And this goes for both women and men. Men are just as much victims of the patriarchy as women are. Hegemonic femininity and masculinity – the ideals of society – push those of us who don’t fit into those ideals to work harder to achieve them.

That keeps patriarchy intact. And it makes it grow stronger.


So I guess the moral of the story is, when the bastard boy made my friend cry, he was enacting the roles of the patriarchy.

And so was she.

That still doesn’t mean I have to like him.

When he’s ready to push the patriarchy aside, to accept her as the beautiful person she is on her own, then maybe we’ll talk.

– Artemis



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  1. Y’klnow, I never cared about my weight in High School. Then I joined the military, and at basic training we had weight standards as part of our physical health measurements.

    Now, this wasn’t to monitor appearances, but the Drill Sergeants had their own idea of “motivating” troops (male and female) to lose weight.

    I was always within ten of the weight standard. One particularly cruel Senior NCO would not leave me alone. I hadn’t obsessed about my weight in HS, but coming out of basic I was picky about my food and what clothes I wore and just really insecure about it afterwards. Took years (and a change of fitness standards to ones that stop people from crash dieting to “make weight”) to get past it.

    And I still remember that NCO’s name.

  2. I can’t believe the government in Canada is now under a conservative rule. That to me is so sureal. I live in America and I know that me and a lot of my gay friends look to Canada as out saving grace. When things get bad here we have somewhere to go. I really hope that does not change.

    I totally agree with you about the issue of fat. I am what society would say is over weight and for me I am happy the way I am, but there are always those who try to bring me down from time to time. My main annoyance is the fashion industry which lets itself be pressured by the patriarchy to keep the sizes in the mainstream small as “motivation”. It is sickening. Your blog is awesome btw. I found it on Bust.com

  3. Twenty years ago, I bought a book called Fat is a Feminist Issue. I ‘made’everyone read it.

    Up to that point, I hadn’t understood the complexities of eating when I was not hungry. It took me year’s to quit obsessing, but I do credit that book with starting me on my path. Authors name…maybe Suzy Orbeck??

    Sue Richards/Calendar Girl

  4. Hello.

    I’ve always protected myself with really glib comebacks to statements like, ‘you’ve gotten really fat.’ And I suppose, in my glibness I’ve negated the importance of trying to make others realize that it doesn’t matter. That I don’t need to conform to their ridiculous beliefs about what is beautiful and what isn’t. And my shiny glib armour has been dented on several occasions, and I have cried myself to sleep on many more. I completely agree with you when you say that by allowing such comments to affect you, you are enacting the roles women have worked so hard to over-turn and still strive towards it, everday.

    I found your blog by clicking on ‘Vagina Monologues’ as an interest. 🙂


  5. “Men are just as much victims of the patriarchy as women are”.

    This is an interesting observation. I’d like to know what you mean by it. I walk around in a world where men are privileged. I understand that we are all affected by patriarchy, but really, men as victims? of what? a patriarchy that privileges them? Are they victims of rape? of limited access to political processes? of economic marginalization? The very nature of patriarchy is that women are kept down so that men can benefit. Perhaps men are “victimized” by the cult of manhood? I don’t see too many of them offering to give up the privilege offered by those structures. In fact, it seems to me that they react very strongly to any suggestion that they may be privileged by structures of patriarchy. They think they have more money and things because of merit.
    So, men affected by patriarchy? I could go there. Victimized? I don’t think so.

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