Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Judging Others Part I: Women and Size

        I want to start this post by acknowledging that I am a small woman.  I've always been a small woman.  At my "biggest" (pregnant) I was still only about 20 pounds more than I currently am.  Some might say therefore that I really have no place or no right to write about this.  But I'm going to anyway because I think that if we don't stand WITH one another in whatever we are going through, then we truly will fall alone, each and every one of us.  Also, I am hoping that maybe as an ally, as a "stand alongside" person, that maybe more people will hear this message than otherwise might.
        So here's the bottom line - a person's size should not matter.  Period.
        For women especially there is such attention to size, such "concern" about size, but frankly, I see no real justification for this. It is blatant prejudice, judgment, meanness.  But we hide our prejudice and judgments under the guise of "concern".  We are "concerned" about the health of bigger people, we say.  That's why their size matters to us, because we "care" about their health.  That's B.S. Sorry, folks, but it is.  If this judgment is out of concern about people's health, why are we not more "concerned" about women's health CARE?  Why are women's health care issues so much more expensive to address?  Why do we not fund more proactive women's health care if we are truly worried about this?  Also, why are we not concerned about women who wear high healed shoes all the time, thus injuring their backs?  Or those who spend so much time in the sun, thus exposing themselves to skin cancer? Why are we not more concerned about how much alcohol or caffeine others consume?  Why do we not care more about artificial sweeteners and pesticides?  Why do we feel it is okay for women to inject their faces with a poison in order to minimize wrinkles? Or to have elaborate surgeries to change their shape when it is unnecessary for health reasons? And the thing is, even when we are concerned about those things, we are concerned about those things, not about the people who participate in them.  We don't carry the same judgments, and we certainly don't express those judgments.  We understand that would be rude, would be unkind, is frankly none of our business.  But somehow we justify our prejudice, our meanness towards larger people under the guise of "concern" for their health.  (A big part of the irony of this is that if we weren't so attacking and judgmental, people would probably find it much easier to lose weight if they chose to do so.  That judgment itself makes it so very hard to shed the pounds that can sometimes act as a buffer between ourselves and those judgments.)
       But as I've thought about women and size, I've wondered if the issue might not go deeper.  Why is it that we want our women to be so small? Again, I do not accept the answer that we are worried about their health.  That's bogus.  No, I think it may come back to power, to fear, and to control.  We have valued women being so small that they almost disappear.  Too many women have died from anorexia or bulemia, too many women suffer health issues for being underweight (but again we aren't judging them are we?).  I wonder if there isn't instead a fear of women becoming too big because size is power, is influence.  We shrink our women by paying them less.  We shrink our women by setting a glass ceiling beyond which it is hard to rise.  We shrink our women by taking away reproductive rights and control over their own bodies.  We shrink our women by blaming them for their own abuse, rape, victimization, thereby allowing their abusers to continue to claim "power over" by not holding them accountable for it.  And we shrink our women literally by insisting that they are not worth as much, that they are not worth our time and attention, that they are not worth being paid as much, or being able to do what they want (especially if that involves going into acting, singing, modelling, etc.) if they are not tiny.
         Some women are bigger than life.  And somehow that scares us.  So we control it.  In my humble opinion it would do us well to rejoice in that bigger than life quality, to celebrate it, and to see what amazing things women (all people, really) can do, regardless of their size. We are the ones who miss out by shrinking others, or even by allowing them to be shrunk by those around them. Personally, I'm moving from being a person who was always careful about staying small, to finding that there are times I wish I were bigger: bigger in confidence, bigger in courage, bigger in joy. Maybe that needs to start by claiming the space that I take up rather than striving always to be smaller than I physically am.
           I want to own that all of us are affected by the judgments that our society has about bigger people, and so I apologize for anything I may have inadvertently said that judges size.  I will strive to do better, too. But as a society it is something we need to work on.  People of all sizes are beautiful. Let us strive to not be intimidated or scared into meanness by the power, the size, the beauty of others.

After writing the above a friend sent me this link to a program that NPR did on this topic.  It was very well done and worth listening to as well!!  Click the link below to hear or read it:
"Tell me I'm Fat"