We need to remember that self-deprecating comments about our bodies hurt other women, too
The fear of being “fat” is palpable in women’s media and culture. After all, it’s summer. Even our most progressive brands come out of their trendy body positive husks this time of year to poke their heads around and peek into the glaring, skin-burning, eye-watering sun of the patriarchy, insisting that we work toward a “beach body,” suggesting that how we look in the wintertime is not good enough. It has become a cute, quaint advertising platform with memes and cartoons.
I see these beliefs internalized and sturdily installed with a load-bearing support beam into the souls of women and girls around the world. And these beliefs glaringly present themselves when we are compelled to make a self-deprecating comment about our weight and our bodies. As if to yell out and assure the male gaze, “I recognize that I am being controlled by you, and that I want your approval! I am working to change myself so that you tell me that I’m good enough!”
What many of us do not realize is that we are subconsciously bringing down all women when we make these vocal assertions about ourselves, even when intended in the most playful of ways.
I don’t think that many comprehend how damaging these comments are — there are even studies looking at how these words impact children’s body image. You know the ones:
“I’m the fat one in my relationship, LOL!”
“I’m eating so much today! I’m such a fatass!”
“Ugh, my arms look fat in this shirt!”
This is actually an incredibly aggressive act towards other women (and simultaneously yourself.) When we mutter these words while sifting through the racks at J. Crew or H&M, or while ordering dessert at Applebee’s, you are telling women in your life that you believe fat is bad. That fat is something to be avoided and feared. When a friend who is bigger than you hears you, what she really hears it that you secretly think that she is worthless because of her weight. You think that her state of being is something to panic about if you’re “not careful with these fries.”
I think that we can do better if we would just take 10 seconds of thoughtful, silent review with ourselves during a conversation.
It will feel weird at first. But if every woman tries, we will all be so much healthier and happier for it. Stop and think about what you are saying when you are about to vocally shit on your own body. Are you insinuating that you truly believe women who don’t fit your ideal body type are worth less than those who do? And if you actually believe that, think about why. Think about what you value. Is it attention and approval from people you are attracted to? Is it “fitting in”? Is it something your parents ingrained in you? Do you want to keep living a life where you are a self-imposed servant to a male gaze society that already doesn’t respect you?
For so many of us, that mindset is just plain habitual at this stage in our adult development. We do not even realize what we are saying. It’s muscle memory. Uttering these words feels like a mindless, daily routine.
But you owe yourself, and the women in your life who you love and respect, the courtesy to not insult your weight.
The amount of toxicity and leeriness that we get from men and society regarding the mandates for our bodies is plenty enough to fill our chalices; women themselves do not need to add to that grand portion. Or, the cup will — dare I say — runneth over.
We should not feel wrong or ashamed for having participated in this toxic part of our culture. It is not our fault that we’ve been systematically trained to believe that fat is bad, that we owe society a body other than the one we naturally have. I blame no woman for what we have internalized and projected onto other women.
Now that we can identify the problem with making these comments at brunch or in the dressing room, we can backpedal — and just not say them.
They say that a habit takes 21 days to break. We’ve got this, ladies.