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Dream of Large Women

May 11, 2010
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“I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But in the meantime, sleep well and dream of large women.”

Recently, an acquaintance from college contacted me after reading my last blog posting. He seemed impressed by my insight and didn’t question my perspective. He did, however ask me a question that has had my brain whirring ever since. He asked me what I thought the reason was for there being such a stigma put on women who are overweight.

My first thought was, “Because a majority of men are pigs and our society doesn’t stigmatize that enough.” And of course there’s always the cop-out answer that the mass media did it. But I didn’t want to cop out – although all you have to do is watch a few early episodes of Sex and the City and you see the disparity between how beautiful and thin women are expected to be compared to men.

So, without coping out, what do I think the reason is for the stigma attached women being overweight in our society? I must admit, I have never pondered the source very deeply. I’m not really a sociology master. I just make observations from my own life, and really, fully realizing that the stigma existed and how deeply and painfully it ran took a lot of observation. And articulating it in any kind of comprehendible way took a lot of energy.

But the reason behind it? Let me think – I guess I always sort of subconsciously chalked it up to what could be termed the “fallen nature of man.” Or immaturity or lack of self exploration and/or evolution – whatever terms you want to use. I don’t know if it is something innate or something that develops, but the most obvious reason that it persists is because people don’t overcome it. Much like a lot of false thinking.

And I do think it is false that a woman who is overweight is less valuable than a thin woman. Or that a woman who is overweight is less valuable than a man who is equally overweight. And yet, most people – if you press them – do believe it. Even heavy women. In fact, it’s an idea that is so deeply ingrained in me that I have to fight it on a regular basis – which is why being a heavy woman is a topic of my blog on a rather regular basis.

I guess the simplest answer is probably that society does not stigmatize people for judging women (or men) based on their weight. So, the negative judgment persists and the negative ideas become more deeply ingrained.

And it isn’t just men judging women. Women do it too. In different ways, but they may be even more destructive ways. We assume things about women based on how large they are – even skinny women. For example, I don’t know if it is just to assuage my jealously, but I almost instantly assume that skinny women are meaner and dumber than me.

And part of that is based on my own experience. When you’re thin people put up with a lot of nasty stuff and most don’t expect much from you beyond your body and your face. And men in particular seem to be mesmerized by beauty – but only thin beauty for some reason. Here’s another example, I have a male friend who just realized last week – after about 4 years – that I have dark blue eyes that are also gray and green. He was amazed at how beautiful they are and I was amazed that he never actually saw my eyes before.

We’ve had a hundred conversations face to face, within 3 feet of one another, but he never looked closely enough to see that I have dark gray/blue/green eyes. He said he had always thought they were brown. Maybe he couldn’t see past my round tummy and chubby cheeks. Oh wait, I’ll bet it was my double chin. That one is hard for me to get past too. Maybe I’ll just imagine that he was always looking at my boobs – they’re pretty too.

I read an article the other day that said the strongest indicator that a child will be bullied in school is his or her weight. Well, DUH. They had to do a study for that one? Okay, I was a considered a chubby kid (and yes, I was teased about it) so that seems obvious to me. I imagine the strongest indicator of whether a person will be popular is probably also his or her weight – maybe coupled with athletic prowess. But no one has done that study yet. Or, if they have, I haven’t read it.

The thing is, whether those ideas are learned or innate, being mean to fat people is socially acceptable – even though it is basically a hate crime. And being mean to large women is more socially acceptable than being mean to fat men. Or maybe it is just amplified. A man has to be practically obese to feel the pain. A woman just has to be…well me. Which is to say, not a perfect size 4.

As I said in my blog, I’m smaller than the average woman in America (by like 2 sizes) and I’m still treated badly. I mean, I’m in the small part of the bell curve and I’m still too fat. It honestly baffles me. But in order to be truly valuable to a man, as a woman I need to be thinner.

One of my former boyfriends even wrote about it in his blog (after we broke up). He basically said chubbiness is a symptom of some defect in a woman: http://danielml.com/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.cgi?m-1254016136/ It’s in there. Now, he’s thin and he considers himself athletic, so maybe it’s fair for him to require that of his mate, but he obviously judges women negatively based on their size. I wonder if that’s my fault.

Anyway, I know that the rules are different for men and woman and to some extent it doesn’t bother me. I mean biology dictates some of it. No matter how hard I may try I will not be as strong or athletic as most men. I might be able to become as strong and athletic as some men, but not athletic men because I’m a little woman.

I can see how this sort of behavior (discouraging fatness through ridicule and showing preference for the thin) might have served some sort of societal and evolutionary purposes back when humans were hunter-gatherers – or even in an agrarian society – but now a person’s weight doesn’t have the same sort of direct correlation to whether he or she will be able to provide for themselves or a family.

Also, biologically women are supposed to have a higher percentage of body fat than men in order to be healthy, and yet they are encouraged to have a lower-than-healthy percentage of body fat. More so than I think men are.

But, then, I’ve never been a man – large or otherwise. So a lot of how I feel society treats men is based on observation, not experience.

A few years ago I was dating a guy named Christopher (I know we were Chris and Crystal – isn’t that sickening?) and I said something to the effect that women can do or should be able to do anything that men can do (another bit of false-thinking that I had been indoctrinated with by our society). And I was getting at the idea that society should allow and enable that kind of equality.

He immediately disagreed and I was initially offended. But he’s right. Men can’t do everything women can do (hello babies) and vice versa – just by the dictates of biology. And there really is nothing society can do about it. However, there are some things that I think society should handle. Like being nicer to fat people, and valuing all humans despite their size or gender.

So far, society really sucks at that. And, as this ramble seems to prove, I really I don’t know why. And, the stigma persists.

I do think I know what part of the cure is. We all need to challenge each other and to think harder about things. We shouldn’t just accept the ideas and images society hands to us, but rather, think and decide for ourselves, “What is really beautiful?” I know it seems trite and cliché, but even if it isn’t the cure a little introspection never hurt anyone.

When I was younger, I was able to find something beautiful or attractive about almost everyone I met. And I did it without even trying or thinking. I realized a few months ago that I no longer do this automatically.

Now I try to do it on purpose. I have to think about it – and sometimes I have to think really long and hard about it. But I’m hoping that with enough practice it will be automatic again. That should help, right?

So, you’re welcome to tell me why you think society does this, or any of your feelings on the subject. I’m sure I’ll write about it again in the future. In the meantime, dream of large women.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2010 9:39 am

    How dare you, lure me in with a 'Princess Bride' quote. Here I go and I'll try to make sense. Fat dudes are just as stigmatized it's just that less are expected of them. Women, for reasons I don't know, seem to be held up to a higher standard. idk what I'm trying to get at. Let me try again. Biologically speaking, women are BETTER than men. They mature faster, their left/right brain function is way more efficient (you think better), and pound for pound women are actually stronger than men. Society and ingrained thinking really are probably to blame…

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  2. May 12, 2010 9:15 am

    I disagree that large men are just as stigmatized as large women. It takes a LOT more weight for society to consider a man fat. I do agree that society expects less of men than of women and thinking about it is pissing me off.

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  3. August 29, 2010 12:56 am

    Interesting. Here’s some things this made me think:

    1) I’m pretty sure a size 10 is only fat if you’re four feet tall. Seriously.

    2) This: ” I almost instantly assume that skinny women are meaner and dumber than me.” is pretty brutal and if this is really where your head is, I’m not sure it’s fair of you to complain about people judging you for not having a perfect body. It’s the same thing. And it’s actually probably more socially acceptable than the fat-bashing you’re talking about.

    3) I actually think — when it comes to appearance — women are way harder on other women than guys ever are. You could show most guys any woman between size 2 and 12 (ok, a tall 12) and if asked, they would probably guess she was a size 6 or 8. I don’t know why, but those numbers seem to be the ones guys assume all non-obese women are. Meanwhile, show a woman another woman with a perfect body and it’s somewhat likely that you’re going to hear something mean, be it a “funny joke” about thick ankles or something nastier about her sexual habits, her brains, or whether her various bits are real.

    4) Why is it still considered ok to be mean to fat people? For the record, I don’t think it really is. But I think it is considered more ok than other cruelties. Party of the problem is that it’s been a comedy staple forever. From stand-ups to sit-coms, it’s all there. So that has to stop before you can get anywhere with your cause. But even otherwise sensitive people think they can get away with it because they can hide their derision behind the curtain of “worrying about your health.”

    5) Unless everyone is suddenly struck blind, people will always be judged – at least initially – on their appearance. Unless you meet someone over the internet or something, the visual aspect will always be your first impression. It sucks, but I don’t think it’s really going to change.

    6) One of the reasons guys get away with being fatter is because of the way they get to dress. Even a pretty big guy will look pretty good in a well-cut suit. Someone figured that out about a hundred years ago and their clothes have barely changed since. Meanwhile, women get stuck with fashion trends designed to make size 2s look good. (Pencil skirts? Skinny jeans? Are you kidding me?) Those same styles, however, don’t look so great on everyone else, but for a couple of years, that’s all you can buy in the stores.

    7) Not to say that the guy/girl fat judgement is equal or fair. It’s not. By the same token that women are harder on other women than men are, they are also easier on men than men are on women when it comes to weight. Not just weight though. General looks. Women are often looking for other things that trump physical aspects for them (particularly true since the advent of hormonal birth control, but that’s another topic altogether.) Guys seem to keep the physical stuff higher on the list. Seriously, walk down the street. You’ll constantly see really hot girls with average or below average guys. This has actually also become a trend in Hollywood comedies over the last few years. But you almost never see it going the other way. I’ve heard a few theories on this. One is that women are less shallow or less driven by hormones than men. Another is that both men and women are delusional, but in opposite directions: women tend to think they are more flawed than they are and men tend to think they’re hotter than they are. Another is that at least some of these women are subscribing to the date down philosophy that says a woman should never date someone better looking than her. That way, the guy will be grateful and not cheat. (On a good day, this last one horrifies me. On a bad day, I wonder if it’s sound logic.)

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    • August 29, 2010 10:31 am

      On point two: I know it’s not an okay thing to think (I htough I made that clear in the post — sorry if I didn’t). But I admitted it to you anyway.

      On Point six: Have you ever nnoticed that when men dress up they put more clothes on and when women dress up they wear fewer and/or tighter-fitting clothes?

      Thank you for the thourough comment!

      Like

  4. August 29, 2010 10:44 am

    Yeah, that was crazy long. Sorry about that. The post just made me think a lot. You’re totally right about the clothes thing. From a practical perspective, it always kills me that there’s no difference between summer and winter formalwear, so at Christmas, you still have to go out in spaghetti straps and no socks. And heels in the snow! I mean, forget about the cold, that’s just dangerous.

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  5. August 29, 2010 10:53 am

    Oh man. I just followed your link to your ex’s post. “Maybe even ask intelligent questions if she doesn’t understand something.” MAYBE EVEN?! Seriously? So if I were dating this guy, I could “maybe,” under the right circumstance, have permission to ask an “intelligent” question about something I didn’t understand? How wonderfully magnanimous of him.

    Sorry. Total digression from your point, but that just made me see red.

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    • August 29, 2010 12:12 pm

      Yeah, he turned out to be an ass. Hence the ex before the word boyfriend. He really was very egotistical and doesn’t think much of other people. His name is Daniel. He’s the one who posted the Buddhist poem on my Crystal in the Light blog, in an effort to convince me to be a Christian again. Totally dodged that bullet.

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