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You're right; I didn't eat that
May 31, 2014 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I am not especially bothered by men who desire thin women. They are just as susceptible to messages that these are the women that they should find most attractive as women are to messages that they should look like them. The more troubling kind of man has a caveat about a woman’s thinness. She must not be “obsessed” or “overly concerned” with it. Or at least not visibly so. She mustn’t always order salads or freak out when she doesn’t make it to the gym. Watching her eat a cheeseburger—or better yet, a steak—even oddly enthralls him.
Reflections on thinness, staying thin and making it look natural by Alana Massey.
posted by MartinWisse (215 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
A simple way to pull back from an obsession with thinness: stop dating assholes who prioritize it and browbeat women to be extremely (perhaps overly) thin without dieting, exercising, or "obsessing" about said thinness.

There are a lot of other men in the world.
posted by miss tea at 9:56 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


hm, the Instagram account this article is titled after is mostly pictures of food without humans; of the photos with humans, while mostly of women, only a minority of pictures are of women who are visibly thin (most of the photos you just can't tell)

anyway, yes, the majority of women have to deal with too much socio-cultural pressure to be thinner than is easily or healthily done, it's true. The particular form of patriarchal pressure that the article describes is interesting thought I think the author doesn't really know what to do with the minority of women who are naturally and healthily model thin beyond beyond a passing mention
posted by Bwithh at 9:56 AM on May 31


This is almost a TV trope. I first noticed it on Gilmore Girls: very thin women who eat donuts and cheeseburgers all day and never exercise. Since then I see it everywhere.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:58 AM on May 31 [16 favorites]


I also wonder what type of guys this lady is dating, that they make all these remarks. Hopefully she finds a Chris Traeger out there (assuming her strict fitness/diet regimen remains important to her).
posted by sbutler at 10:00 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


The writer says so many times that she feels like she's edging very close to illness and she's upset that men are only thinking about how her body looks to them and not how she feels to herself and that staying thin is the most important thing in her life -- is she saying she needs or wants help? I don't want to presume, because she can do what she wants with her body. But I hope that if she *does* want help and to change how she's treating her body (and herself) she'll be able to open up to someone in her life. She doesn't have to live like that, people (even men!) will still admire and love her if she doesn't anymore. She's obviously brilliant. Even her maybe-cry-for-help is hilarious. That just sort of makes me more afraid for her though? Ms. Alana Massey, if you read this, please join in the convo!
posted by rue72 at 10:03 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Wow, I really hated this article. I feel like she's trying to make her body and relationship issues universal to anyone who isn't fat and I resent that. I started writing this post by pulling quotes and complaining about them, but that quickly got ridiculous, so I will only point out the most unforgivable line in this piece:

...they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Yes, yes you can. Bring able to eat cake that you have is the entire fucking point of having cake! Can you eat your cake and have it too? No, of course not. So say that.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:06 AM on May 31 [16 favorites]


KokuRyu, sure, a reasonable weight is healthier that being overweight, but the author acknowledges in this piece that she had dropped a few sizes, to 0. She was never overweight, and acknowledges that:

At a size 0 and a low BMI, I am frequently told by men, “I can tell you take good care of yourself.” This was not something I heard much for most of my adult-sized life when I was a few sizes larger. I was average and proportional. I worked out regularly and ate reasonably well. But I was never thin.
posted by miss tea at 10:09 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that redheaded woman from the Wendy's commercials has proven that you can be thin and attractive while consuming a diet of fast food hamburgers.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:10 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm skeptical that this is really a significant problem.

That we're too concerned with attractiveness: sure. That men are generally worse about it than women are: yep. I agree.

But that, in addition to being too concerned about thinness, some people also complain about how much effort it takes for their S.O. to stay that way?

Meh. This seems like kind of reaching for an extra complaint.

And I doubt that there are all that many men who care that much that their gfs only engage in certain approved forms of exercise. Seems like (ahem) a straw man to me.

As for the time/effor thing: ust explain: look, choose one: (a) I look super-hot; (b) I don't have to exercise much.

And possibly also explain: you need to choose (a), because that's the one I want and it's up to me.

I'm ok with physical attractiveness being at least somewhat important to people...but, as others have noted, some of these guys sound like assholes. Assholes are to be blamed for being assholes alright...but who's to blame for dating them, would you say?

Also some of these comments are made to sound more sinister than they really are. So I suspect that some non-assholes are being made to sound like assholes. Suggesting brunch instead of running is a reasonable suggestion. It's not evil, and doesn't mean that they guy is insisting that you be thin without trying nor any such thing. Pretty hyperbolic/unfair interpretations abound in there, it seems to me.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:12 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


She must not be “obsessed” or “overly concerned” with it

This is almost a TV trope. I first noticed it on Gilmore Girls: very thin women who eat donuts and cheeseburgers all day and never exercise.


Ugh, yes, this is something that bothers me a TON and crops up even in shows I really like and generally respect such as Gilmore Girls and 30 Rock. Eating all sorts of crap becomes a fun, carefree aspect of the women's personalities and the fact that they are very trim and super attractive is not mentioned as being incompatible with that; it's used as another way to show that they're wacky or fun or carefree (or even, in Liz Lemon's case especially, kind of gross), but it never actually affects their appearance and there's no sense that it ever COULD because they are fun and this is just how they live their lives.

I remember reading Cosmo as a teenager and seeing one of those articles about What Men Are REALLY thinking and one of them was like "I hate when a woman orders a salad at a restaurant. We all know you're going to eat more than that afterwards, so just get a steak." It really bothered me, enough that I remember it, although at the time I just sort of internalized the sentiment and thought "cool women don't eat salads. Got it." He seriously thinks that, in order to stay healthy, women eat steak all the time? He thinks it's ANNOYING when a woman eats in a way that keeps her healthy and attractive (as he probably believes she is supposed to be)? He thinks it's inappropriate and performative if you eat healthy food on a date? In order for him to like a woman, she HAS to eat food that might not be compatible with her metabolism?

The idea that trying to conform to these expectations makes you inappropriately high-maintenance is really upsetting; you have to look a certain way, but it also has to be completely effortless or you're just a huge pain in the ass. It honestly makes me so crazy because it's just another way in which there's actually no way to win.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:13 AM on May 31 [79 favorites]


This article was awful. She basically says that she lost a ton of weight due to stress and developed a complex eating disorder and exercise routine to maintain this. Then she seems almost upset that she's not getting credit for being unhealthy. She described the consequences of eating anything with calories in it as disastrous. I feel like she is trying to justify her eating disorder by saying that all thin women have eating disorders, it's just that no one talks about it.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:15 AM on May 31 [23 favorites]


I have a thigh gap, too, when I'm triumphantly standing over the body of a man I just beat to death because he said something like “You know this girl showed up and I thought, ‘What did you do, eat the girl in the pictures?’

Also, I hope that one "concern trolling the fatties" comment is enough for this thread.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:17 AM on May 31 [98 favorites]


But that, in addition to being too concerned about thinness, some people also complain about how much effort it takes for their S.O. to stay that way?

Disclaimer: This is in NO WAY a reflection on my husband who is amazing and supportive and kind and has never ever ever made me feel bad about my body in any way which is an enormous accomplishment.

Unfortunately, yeah, this does happen. Getting annoyed at how much time someone works out or spends at the gym, saying he or she (often she) is ruining everyone's good time by not taking that extra piece of cake or whatever, or making everyone feel badly when s/he gets a salad when everyone else has ordered burgers. These things definitely happen.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:18 AM on May 31 [35 favorites]


Sorry, but it sounds like she has an eating disorder. Talking about control and food in the same sentence is a dead giveaway. I don't think the rigorous regimen she has going on is normal, healthy or common.
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 10:22 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Mindy Kaling referred to this as trope as "The Skinny Woman Who Is Beautiful and Toned but Also Gluttonous and Disgusting" in her 2011 New Yorker piece Flick Chicks:
But I can’t suspend disbelief enough, for instance, if the gorgeous and skinny heroine is also a ravenous pig when it comes to food. And everyone in the movie—her parents, her friends, her boss—are all complicit in this huge lie. They constantly tell her to stop eating. And this actress, this poor skinny actress who obviously lost weight to play the likable lead character, has to say things like “Shut up, you guys! I love cheesecake! If I want to eat an entire cheesecake, I will!” If you look closely, you can see this woman’s ribs through the dress she’s wearing—that’s how skinny she is, this cheesecake-loving cow.
posted by purpleclover at 10:23 AM on May 31 [33 favorites]


But that, in addition to being too concerned about thinness, some people also complain about how much effort it takes for their S.O. to stay that way?

Well, you know, there's this male expectation that female beauty should be *effortless*. No minding every bite of the food you eat, no spending all your free time exercising, no spending hours shopping for cute clothes and shoes, no time spent fixing your hair, applying makeup, coordinating a look. There's a vast treasure trove of misogynistic thoughts about how women are so shallow and stupid for working on beauty, and then they are shallow and stupid for being beautiful.

Argh.
posted by sukeban at 10:24 AM on May 31 [74 favorites]


I thought the article was supposed to be awful and slightly horrifying. She feels stuck between not being attractive if she gains weight and needing to spend a huge amount of time and energy keeping herself at an completely unrealistic weight. But the work she puts into doing so makes her unattractive because the reality is that it stops her from doing/eating things she would otherwise enjoy. She's internalized it to such a degree that she's trapped doing things that make her miserable to date assholes. Its a horrible catch-22.

Its not even about weight either I think the piece reflects an extreme version of the extra labor that goes into meeting female standards of beauty. I would bet this women spends much more time and money on her appearance than the men she is dating do. Not that I'm implying its right, but she values thinness over happiness in much the same way that a lot of women value spending time and money on our appearances over other things that we could be doing with our time and money because our looks are valued much more highly than our other attributes by some people.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:26 AM on May 31 [15 favorites]


Sorry, but it sounds like she has an eating disorder. Talking about control and food in the same sentence is a dead giveaway. I don't think the rigorous regimen she has going on is normal, healthy or common.

I agree, but wasn't she saying as much in the article? At least that's how I read it, a sort of tongue-in-cheek thing about how ~normal~ it is that she's getting both the carrot and the stick (socially, and also within her own mind) driving her toward this you'd-think-obviously-but-apparently-not-that-obviously sick behavior.
posted by rue72 at 10:26 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Compliments during sexual encounters that were once full of the word “beautiful” became dominated by mesmerized declarations about me being so “little” and “tiny.”

Christ, what a narcissist.
posted by grounded at 10:26 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I don't think the rigorous regimen she has going on is normal, healthy or common.

I shared this essay with my friends, I have slightly more female friends than male and every woman said something to the effect of "wow I think like that all the time."

As for Healthy? What a god damned fucking nightmare that is to navigate. When is it "disordered" and when is it "caloric restriction diet."? When is working out too much "too much?" when literally every person, place and thing in your environment is telling you to work out more? My only experience with "too far" was passing out at the track after not eating much for a few days. Anything short of a hospital stay seems like its open to ( endless, fruitless) argument.
posted by The Whelk at 10:28 AM on May 31 [21 favorites]


WTF is this, skinny-shaming? It never ceases to amaze me, what new ways people can express their contempt for other peoples' cues for sexual attraction.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:34 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


Wow, I took this completely differently than many of you. I don't think she's bragging at all.

The point of this to me is how disordered male thinking about female weight and beauty is. Not that other women should emulate her example or she should be applauded for her efforts.

I don't think that she is saying that her diet or mindset is healthy. She uses the word "disordered" at one point: It is deeply disordered but not quite diseased and because the aesthetic is desirable when it only borders on worrying, it is presumed the result of good care.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:35 AM on May 31 [51 favorites]


As a fat woman, I didn't find this narcissistic or awful or anything like that. I found it to be perfectly honest: For the vast majority of women, staying very, very thin requires constant effort, effort that is teetering on the edge of being disordered if not fully in that category. The hypocrisy of people, both individuals and as a culture, demanding those results while shaming the process is staggering.
posted by KathrynT at 10:37 AM on May 31 [125 favorites]


This is absolutely a real thing. If the author is bragging at all, it's bittersweet. You see it all the time in dating profiles: asking women to like food, asking women to like the right kind of food. Sometimes they just say it outright: one guy in my city has a dating profile that says "message me if you like pizza but don't look like you like pizza." Because then you'd be a gross fatty, amirite? (Or Italian, I guess, but that's bad in an entirely different way and I doubt that's what he meant.) This is where class intersects in a weird way: popular culture only really has a bead on the calorie totals for processed foods, middle-class or lower foods. When you think of "high-calorie" foods, you think of McDonald's, not the restaurant that just got written up in the New York Times that can outpace them fast. In parallel, you have these guys flooding dating sites wanting girls to be into craft beer, restaurants that use endless butter and coconut milk and salt, fancy burritos that are still pretty much burritos, all these things they eat that if a girl is short enough have more calories in one meal than they can ever eat in a day, biologically speaking, if they are trying to lose weight. The most common dates are generally incompatible with the process of losing weight because they ask that women hide the labor that goes into it. (It's The New Inquiry, of course they'd focus on labor.) And as the article says, if you order a salad on a date, that's a strike against you for a lot of guys.

"He isn’t asking that her household finances be in order and that she be self-actualized. He is asking her to be thin." is also spot-on. Take "I want a girl who is healthy," for instance. A lot of people in my family have a history of developing ovarian and/or thyroid problems, starting at my age. These can screw your health up on multiple levels. I can guarantee the only scenario in which a guy (who is not my doctor or husband) would give a shit about the health of my thyroid is if it makes me gain weight.
posted by dekathelon at 10:39 AM on May 31 [106 favorites]


Eh. She's just a crappy writer. She overgeneralizes and makes large sweeping statements, none of it is deep or even interesting. I clicked on a few of her other posts and she writes like a 12 year old with her first diary. She's boring.

I'm not even going to get into the incredibly stupid premise of this piece.

Haven't we been hearing this crap trope for years? That men want a beautiful perfect woman but hahahaha she takes forever to get ready.

Wimmen, amirite???
posted by kinetic at 10:42 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I didn't have a problem with the article. I have a naturally small frame, and still tend to eat really terrible food without paying for it (although I work out a LOT) The premise of her article is incredibly real and an actual thing, though.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:43 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Holy shit, the things she is reporting on men saying, I just feel really lucky I've never heard them, because it would make me feel insecure too. I almost wonder if by being super thin, a size 0 rather than a size 4, she is dating men who are incredibly judgmental and would never date a size 4 like me.

I feel that way about height too (though certainly it's a less charged issue)– I am very short and if I put my height on online dating sites I do end up getting messages/going out on dates with men who are really only considering me because of that.

People do ask me sometimes about my weight, because I am a food writer and I used to be a bit chubby. I do eat a lot of the things that are associated with being overweight. I eat a fair amount of burgers. I eat large amounts of butter. I just do exercise reasonably and I do control portion sizes, I understand this means I won't be a size 0, but I am still thin in many people's eyes (though I know to a disordered mind I am fat, I absolutely do not have a thigh gap).

It does annoy me when people say "I can't believe you are so thin while eating [insert food they think makes people fat." It's a more flattering, but still toxic, version of body policing.
posted by melissam at 10:47 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Anyone, male or female, who makes you constantly aware that they are on a diet is probably an asshole. The possible exception being if you have a restricted diet and you're at an event that obstinately refuses to accommodate. (See: me at every wedding I've ever attended, attempting to order a vegetarian salad. Please stop putting bacon in salads by default, America. Just... stop.)

But why would anyone care what their date orders for dinner? This is truly baffling to me. I dated for years and I never once in my entire life entertained the thought for even a split second that my date ordered the wrong kind of food. Life is too short to worry about what other people are eating.
posted by deathpanels at 10:48 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


This is almost a TV trope. I first noticed it on Gilmore Girls: very thin women who eat donuts and cheeseburgers all day and never exercise. Since then I see it everywhere.

I know I'm an outlier, but this is me, and I shouldn't get "credit" for it like I earned my DNA or something. I am super lazy and gluttonous and I don't understand why I'm not 200 lbs. I'm probably way less healthy than most of my heavier friends who bike and run and stuff. If I survive the zombie apocalypse, it will only be because I don't have enough body fat to warrant eating me.
posted by desjardins at 10:49 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Even if the linked piece is not a paragon of craft, what she is drawing attention to needs all the attention, awareness, and discussion it can get.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:50 AM on May 31 [14 favorites]


I can't decide if this article and the subsequent comments about it make me want to punch or scream, but yes. yes, this is absolutely fucking normal and happens all the time and it is painful and awful. Yes, the men want us to eat, to "splurge", so that they can reassure themselves that we wont' grow up to be fat.

I had one of my boyfriends, while I was skinny, look up my mom on Facebook to see what my genetic predisposition to fat in later life was.

And as a fat girl who got thin and then bounced back and forth between the two? It is absolutely fucking real that you get more attention the thinner you are, even when you're just going down two dress sizes and neither of them are actually overweight.

And man, it really feels like there aren't a lot of other men in the world. I don't know many guys who aren't concerned about weight and have unrealistic ideas of what it takes to get there. The "Takes care of herself" is a real thing people say all the time, as if to differentiate this casual girl who just is normal and fine from the BIG DISGUSTING SLOB who ladles lard into her mouth, or whatever the fuck they think women who are a mere size 14 actually do.

Man, maybe it's just the Rogers thing throwing everything into sharp relief, but this whole thing seems extra gross today.
posted by corb at 10:55 AM on May 31 [43 favorites]


Holy shit, the things she is reporting on men saying, I just feel really lucky I've never heard them, because it would make me feel insecure too.

My dad actually says a lot of the same kind of things that she talks about her dates saying, he has an issue with women being "too" ugly or heavy (which are also same diff, to him). On the upside, eating according to hunger rather than aesthetics feels to me like sweet, teenage-y rebellion because of it, and so I end up doing that most of the time. On the downside...I have a completely run of the mill adult woman body and I "know" I would look better thinner? I think the writer did a good job showing the blurry/nonexistent line between "taking care of yourself" and "making yourself sick," and what it feels like to live on that blurry/nonexistent line. Which I think is where most people who are trying to make themselves attractive to men are pressured very strongly to live.
posted by rue72 at 10:57 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]



Even if the linked piece is not a paragon of craft, what she is drawing attention to needs all the attention, awareness, and discussion it can get.


To what? That she dates assholes, has an eating disorder and has no original thoughts? She's referring to an age-old trope, men want beautiful women but get to (hahahaha) roll their eyes or make comments at the hours in the bathroom getting ready, the punishing diets, the abusive amounts of exercise.

She doesn't say anything new here, she just drags out old stereotypes.
posted by kinetic at 10:57 AM on May 31


she just drags out old stereotypes.

What stereotypes are you talking about? The experiences she's referring to are absolutely real, and absolutely toxic.
posted by KathrynT at 10:58 AM on May 31 [54 favorites]


I think I see this attitude in men, but not for the reason she claims:
Men seeking this woman are not seeking a carefree attitude as much as they are seeking a biological anomaly.
[...]
Watching me order kale all the time isn’t the hard part, it is realizing every time I do that the alternative could be disastrous. And so they seek a more carefree woman who possesses either enviable genetics or professional expertise at disguising her weight-related diligence.
No mention of the double standard for BMI which I think is key: men do want an carefree attitude because they want to be carefree, but they don't care about their own beer bellies while wanting skinny girlfriends.

Do men really think this through and realize that eating hamburgers & not working out a lot while remaining skinny is rare? On preview, corb suggests some do. Surprising to me.
posted by morganw at 10:59 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


That she dates assholes, has an eating disorder and has no original thoughts?

A lot of people here disagree with you. Many men think and say these things. Maybe it does make them all assholes, but that doesn't mean she has an eating disorder, and it doesn't mean that this issue isn't really important. As for original thought, I've never seen someone articulate this issue, so uh, it's new to me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:00 AM on May 31 [17 favorites]


Assholes are to be blamed for being assholes alright...but who's to blame for dating them, would you say?

I blame the assholes for being the assholes and no one else because I myself am not an asshole who blames women for the shitty behavior of men.
posted by elizardbits at 11:05 AM on May 31 [95 favorites]


The "eating disorder" stuff misses the entire point of the piece:

Men seeking this woman are not seeking a carefree attitude as much as they are seeking a biological anomaly. For the majority of women, being thin is something with which she must be overly concerned in order to achieve and maintain it. Being effortlessly thin is no more achievable through a charmingly carefree attitude than becoming green-eyed or double-jointed. And while naturally thin women exist, of course, their numbers cannot keep pace with the number of men that desire them. And so we must be overly concerned as quietly as possible.

Notice the "overly." It's not that the author is saying her method of eating is desirable, it's that she's saying it's necessary to meet the trends of male desires. Again, it's The New Inquiry, so it's not framed as an eating disorder so much as excess unacknowledged labor.

Incidentally, this is one of the few good things about tabloids. Magazine profiles are snapshots, often posed, of celebrity eating habits: "she ordered the fish! But, like, restaurant fish, not gross diet fish!" (That is, when they don't go straight for the "she ordered truffle fries.") Tabloids do this too, but they'll also get a celebrity trainer in to be brutally honest about how many hours a day Megan Fox spends exercising, what they eat and how bland it is and who prepares it for them, and that's how you look like Megan Fox. The unspoken assumption is always that Megan Fox can do this because she is wealthy and can hire trainers and chefs, and has the time to do all this, because her full-time job is looking like Megan Fox. Of course this turns into the gross thing about tabloids, which is goading their middle-class readers to do this, but the information at least is there.
posted by dekathelon at 11:06 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]


The reason I posted this was because a) that idea that she had to be thin, but not seen to work to be thin clicked something for me; as a bloke who isn't that obsessed about weight this is nearly invisible until you notice it and b) because it is a messy, somewhat contradictory essay which felt honest to me in its contradictions. Obviously being thin is something you can feel both proud and horrified by and everybody's feelings about it will likely be a bit confused.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:07 AM on May 31 [43 favorites]


Not showing the work entailed and behind attracting male desire and pefering someone who can do it all effortlessly and easily, sounds an awful lot like wanting all your workers to smile while they toil.
posted by The Whelk at 11:13 AM on May 31 [48 favorites]


I'm just reading this as that well-worn false stereotype that men want women to be gorgeous and picture-perfect but they also get to make dickish comments about how it takes them forever to get ready because they have to put their face on, and how men desire little teeny model-esque women who can also eat like lumberjacks.

That's how I'm reading his article. I just don't see where she's saying anything new.

I get it; she dates people who comment on her teeniness and don't recognize all the (typical/atypical/healthy/unhealthy) effort she makes to be that way.

I just don't see where there's anything new in her piece. Men be shitty, women be high maintenance stereotypes is what I'm reading.
posted by kinetic at 11:13 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Also really the whole "you must be thin yet eat like Michael Phelps in training" bullshit comes from the same idiotland place as the "you must look flawless but not be wearing any makeup" bullshit.
posted by elizardbits at 11:14 AM on May 31 [47 favorites]


To what? That she dates assholes, has an eating disorder and has no original thoughts?...She doesn't say anything new here, she just drags out old stereotypes.

Is that really what you got out of what she wrote? Most of the piece is a description of her own complicated and difficult experiences, which is pretty different from saying 'men are like this, women are like that, amirite?' And obviously the issue is not something that everybody is aware of, since there are people here expressing doubt that it happens at all. Even if this was something that is well-known, it's still worth talking about because it is still a real problem and a source of pain for people.
posted by bookish at 11:15 AM on May 31 [11 favorites]


Also really the whole "you must be thin yet eat like Michael Phelps in training" bullshit comes from the same idiotland place as the "you must look flawless but not be wearing any makeup" bullshit.

AAAAAAAAAAAAH YES AND ALSO "I hate when a woman doesn't wax"/"women who wax look like prepubescent children" because it is ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS what anyone does with their pubic hair.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:17 AM on May 31 [14 favorites]


Also really the whole "you must be thin yet eat like Michael Phelps in training" bullshit comes from the same idiotland place as the "you must look flawless but not be wearing any makeup" bullshit.

As a runner, the first example you mention is not at all bullshit. I experience this and talk about it every day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:17 AM on May 31


I'm just reading this as that well-worn false stereotype that men want women to be gorgeous and picture-perfect but they also get to make dickish comments about how it takes them forever to get ready because they have to put their face on, and how men desire little teeny model-esque women who can also eat like lumberjacks.

. . . what makes you think that's a false stereotype? I mean obviously it's not universal, but for honest and for true, those people exist. Tons of them exist, you don't have to look far to encounter those attitudes.
posted by KathrynT at 11:20 AM on May 31 [18 favorites]



As a runner, the first example you mention is not at all bullshit.


As a human woman, it is not at all bullshit.
posted by elizardbits at 11:22 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


So why did you just say it was bullshit?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:23 AM on May 31


"Wmen: Please be completely flawless and perfect but not in any way takes makes me uncomfortable or forced to acknowledge the work that goes into it or its arbitary nature. That would be dangerously close to empathizing with you and having to put my own immediate needs and desires slightly secondary for a moment."
posted by The Whelk at 11:24 AM on May 31 [39 favorites]


Restaurant portions tend to be too large for me, and I'm a tall, active man. So of course dating is a minefield for a person who is watching portion sizes and yet is wanting to have the kinds of social interactions that go along with going out, having fun, where everyone is relaxed and laughing and ordering another round of appetizers for the table.

At least McDonalds puts the calorie numbers right up there on the menu board; the high end restaurants where I go for work dinners don't give any of that information, and you can guarantee that every single dish is loaded with butter, cream, and some extra butter just in case.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:24 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I think she meant that it's a bullshit attitude that is rage-inducing and contralogical, not that it's a bullshit experience that never happens.
posted by KathrynT at 11:24 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


the high end restaurants where I go for work dinners don't give any of that information, and you can guarantee that every single dish is loaded with butter, cream, and some extra butter just in case.

Or as I call it, "flavor".
posted by Justinian at 11:25 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


There are also men out there who are still part of the "clean plate club." (My spouse is one of them) Explaining to them that you stop when you aren't hungry any more can be complicated at first.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:25 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


It's bullshit because it is a bullshit horrible thing that women are held to, a factual thing that happens in the real world that is terrible and pervasive and awful. It is not a thing I am claiming is false.
posted by elizardbits at 11:26 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


AAAAAAAAAAAAH YES AND ALSO "I hate when a woman doesn't wax"/"women who wax look like prepubescent children" because it is ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS what anyone does with their pubic hair.

Yes, because according to that mindset (the mindset of someone who thinks it's their place to pass judgement on what you do or might do to your public hair) YOUR body is THEIR aesthetic object. It's about ownership, I think.

men want women to be gorgeous and picture-perfect but they also get to make dickish comments about how it takes them forever to get ready because they have to put their face on, and how men desire little teeny model-esque women who can also eat like lumberjacks.

This piece is about *her* complicated feelings and relationship to her body and attractiveness/neediness/lots of stuff. She is an actual person talking about her actual feelings about the way she's actually being perceived and treated and the way she perceives and treats herself, and *she* (not the nameless, faceless men she's dated) is at the center of this essay. The comments she brings up from these pretty much anonymous men are just jumping off points for her to discuss her perspective/perceptions.
posted by rue72 at 11:26 AM on May 31 [15 favorites]


because it is ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS what anyone does with their pubic hair

Eating and specific aspects of sexuality (including pubic hair at the moment) are super loaded, everyone has an opinion and feels free to share it, and express those opinions in super judgy ways.

Because I'm not overweight, the other week when I literally had cheeseburgers for both lunch and dinner two days in a row, no one would ever tell me what an unhealthy person I am. If I were carrying extra weight, the eyeballs of judginess would have been all over me.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:28 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


what makes you think that's a false stereotype? I mean obviously it's not universal, but for honest and for true, those people exist.

I'm not saying they don't exist. I'm saying that particular stereotype, the man who wants to mock his woman for taking eons to make herself pretty, who wants a picture-perfect woman who doesn't look like she's wearing makeup, the man who wants a model who eats like a lumberjack...

I'm saying those stereotypes are old, they're bullshit because they're not based in reality, they're rage-inducing.

That's what I mean by false stereotypes. I should have said bullshit stereotypes.
posted by kinetic at 11:37 AM on May 31


I am entirely missing your point, I think. They ARE based in reality -- these people exist, here, in reality. They're "old" because these people have existed in reality for a long time. I don't see where that makes them unworthy of discussion.
posted by KathrynT at 11:40 AM on May 31 [19 favorites]


I'm not saying they don't exist. I'm saying that particular stereotype, the man who wants to mock his woman for taking eons to make herself pretty, who wants a picture-perfect woman who doesn't look like she's wearing makeup, the man who wants a model who eats like a lumberjack...

There are lots of women who want this for themselves.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:40 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


they're bullshit because they're not based in reality

Several women in this thread, as well as the author of the piece, have encountered multiple versions of this man in reality. Are you suggesting we're all just lying?
posted by dekathelon at 11:40 AM on May 31 [28 favorites]


They are bullshit/not based in reality because they are BULLSHIT UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS SET BY MEN AND PLACED UPON WOMEN argh why is everyone so terrible today
posted by elizardbits at 11:41 AM on May 31 [22 favorites]


Also, okay, the idea that men who wants a woman who takes care of herself (read: thin) is not really inappropriate, although the translation might be. There's nothing wrong with a man wanting a woman who takes care of her body in certain ways.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:42 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


As for "old," there's "The Lady's Dressing-Room" (Jonathan Swift, 1732.)
posted by dekathelon at 11:42 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Yes, women would love to be stunningly gorgeous without any effort and also to be able to eat 15,000,000 calories a day if they feel like it without gaining or losing any weight, sure. (Some women, not all women.) But they don't think it can actually happen in the real world. Men (some men) do in fact expect this to happen in the real world.
posted by jeather at 11:43 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


They are bullshit/not based in reality because they are BULLSHIT UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS SET BY MEN AND PLACED UPON WOMEN argh why is everyone so terrible today

What she said.

Thanks, elizardbits.
posted by kinetic at 11:43 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I think I found out why people are getting confused. Here is what was said (bolding mine):

I'm saying that particular stereotype, the man who wants to mock his woman for taking eons to make herself pretty, who wants a picture-perfect woman who doesn't look like she's wearing makeup, the man who wants a model who eats like a lumberjack...

I'm saying those stereotypes are old, they're bullshit because they're not based in reality, they're rage-inducing.


The most obvious interpretation is that you are calling this man a stereotype that women only think exist, probably because look at all these men who aren't like that! But I can see how maybe what was meant was that the stereotype was the "woman who looks like a model but eats like a lumberjack." However, that's not really what you said.

also, thanks for calling me "terrible" for taking this pretty much at its most obvious interpretation, really appreciated
posted by dekathelon at 11:46 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


At least part of her point is how she's *internalized* this and holds *herself* to these standards even as she knows that they're 1. impossible 2. brutal/bordering-on-ill.

This is about *her* and her reactions and perceptions and how *she* sees these standards and what *she* hears when men say these things and all start hitting on her when she's waifish because of a post-break-up emotional collapse. This is about how brittle *her* life is because she's pushing herself so hard to be pleasing/loved/wanted and getting so close she can smell it but always feeling like getting there will break her. Which I think that a lot of people can relate to on a lot of levels? And isn't stereotypical or some stale joke?

On a totally different subject, how did you feel about Black Swan?
posted by rue72 at 11:47 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


I just don't see where there's anything new in her piece. Men be shitty, women be high maintenance stereotypes is what I'm reading.

For me, the interesting takeaway from this article is not even about thinness, or how our culture values it so highly while turning a blind eye to how much unnatural effort it takes. It's about women feeling pressure to hide who they actually are and what they actually do from the men closest to them, so as to seem more attractive and simultaneously less problematic. It's not overt, it's not about men openly mocking women for being "high-maintenance" as you so tactlessly put it. It's about a wordless pressure for women to hide their needs. It's in the same vein as never pooping in public, or taking up less space on a bus, or downplaying the work that goes into a project.

I have a friend who, at least at one time in his life, was extremely judgmental of two types of women - women he judged as overweight ("too fat for him to date" -- for reference, i was borderline acceptable, at 5'1 and 115 pounds) and women who obviously worked long hours at the gym, spent money on clothes and tanned, who obviously "took care of themselves." He really did buy into the whole ideal effortless beauty thing. I'm sure he's not alone.

I'm married to a supportive, open-minded, loving man, and heck I feel the urge to just not tell him what I need almost every day, whether that's food or time to myself or whatever. Not two hours ago we had pizza for lunch because it was convenient, and only afterwards did I realize I could have said I didn't want pizza, that I would have preferred something healthier, that I had just automatically set my desires aside because it was expedient and easier than making him look for somewhere else to eat. I do this a lot and I don't consider myself mentally abnormal, or some high-maintenance stereotype.
posted by daisystomper at 11:52 AM on May 31 [51 favorites]


There's nothing wrong with a man wanting a woman who takes care of her body in certain ways.

No there isn't anything wrong with having certain preferences in a romantic partner. There is a lot wrong with men who want women to be very thin but refuse to acknowledge that its not an easy thing to be and then shame women who don't live up to their expectations instead of recognizing it as their preference.

The whole phrase "a women who takes care of herself" is disingenuous and a way of disguising a perfectly valid, but shallow, aesthetic preference.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:54 AM on May 31 [17 favorites]


I'm not saying they don't exist. I'm saying that particular stereotype, the man who wants to mock his woman for taking eons to make herself pretty, who wants a picture-perfect woman who doesn't look like she's wearing makeup, the man who wants a model who eats like a lumberjack...

There are lots of women who want this for themselves.


I'm sure there are tons of dudes out there who have unrealistic expectations of women in every aspect of their life.

Be smart, but not too smart.
Look attractive, but don't spend "too much time" in front of the mirror.
Be thin, but not all obsessed with dieting.
Work out regularly, but also be down to have drinks at all times.
Have drinks at all times, but not be drunk.

But to be fair. Women oftentimes want this for themselves too.

So yeah, women wanting this for themselves or their female friends is problematic as well.

Is it one of the biggest problems in the world up there with hunger, lack of clean water, and no access to medical care? No. But that doesn't mean it's humorous, or doesn't hurt people.

So maybe people can read this, and figure out how not to purposefully or even accidentally say something dickish to someone who has problems like this described. It's not the worst thing in the world, but it still hurts your fellow human.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:55 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


They are bullshit/not based in reality because they are BULLSHIT UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS SET BY MEN AND PLACED UPON WOMEN argh why is everyone so terrible today

I don't hang around many dudes. But I do hang with many women. I seriously think women are more responsible for this than men are. I'm not giving men a 'free and innocent' here, but women are brutal to each other regarding stuff like this.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:01 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


The whole phrase "a women who takes care of herself" is disingenuous and a way of disguising a perfectly valid, but shallow, aesthetic preference.

True; but in that sense isn't any aesthetic preference definitionally shallow?
posted by Justinian at 12:04 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


People are attracted to the appearance that something difficult is easy, and that's always tough for people who can't even make the difficult thing seem doable.
posted by michaelh at 12:09 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


It's about women feeling pressure to hide who they actually are and what they actually do from the men closest to them, so as to seem more attractive and simultaneously less problematic.

Yes, exactly daisystomper, thank you for putting that so eloquently. The writer says so pretty directly, I think: "I always thought it was a melodramatic cliché when thin women said that the more they disappeared, the more visible they became, but it was now undeniable."
posted by rue72 at 12:09 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Of course aesthetic preferences are all shallow by definition but you don't see people who prefer redheads calling everyone who isn't redheaded enough unhealthy or worse or treating blonds badly in non-romantic situations.

The problem is when you define health as skinny enough to meet my sexual preference and people who don't meet the preference poorly.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 12:10 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


The whole thing reminds me of this.
posted by KathrynT at 12:10 PM on May 31 [7 favorites]


There's nothing wrong with a man wanting a woman who takes care of her body in certain ways.

But again, you're missing the point: men don't really want women to "take care of their bodies," they just want them not to be fat. I'll give two examples.

Let's go back to my poor thyroid for a second. If this is going to seem a bit TMI, it's on purpose, because I want you to know exactly what the phrase "take care of her body" means in reality. Thankfully I seem to have avoided most of my family's ovarian problems so far, and maybe I won't need an early hysterectomy like they did. The thyroid, however, is an open question. The single greatest thing I could do to "take care of my body" is to go to the doctor right now and get a full physical and lab work done. I haven't done this, because I don't have good health insurance yet. In the most literal sense, I'm not taking care of my body. But again, the only way a man will give a shit about this is if my thyroid makes me gain weight. (Actually, IANAD but it'd be more likely based on my health profile/history that I'd have Graves' disease, which is one of the ones that usually doesn't make you gain weight. Which is more likely to present as "taking care of my body," even though it's still a pretty serious problem with the body. Which is fucked up!)

Or let's suppose I were to develop an eating disorder, one of the really bad ones. Bulimia, say. This is an excellent way not to take care of one's body, leading as it does to dental, digestive and other health problems. But the only way a man would give a shit is if it fails to make me lose weight, or maybe if it fucks up my teeth or makes me all emotional. Or if I were to hypothetically tell them. Even to a less severe degree, the entire point of the piece is that "deeply disordered" (exact quote) eating and lifestyle patterns are seen as a good thing:

It is deeply disordered but not quite diseased and because the aesthetic is desirable when it only borders on worrying, it is presumed the result of good care.
posted by dekathelon at 12:10 PM on May 31 [11 favorites]


This thread is embarrassing. Author isn't a bad writer or a narcissist or anything else. She is sharing with you the reality of her situation. If you are rejecting that for some reason extrinsic to what she wrote, that's your own baggage. If you are a guy, you need to read and comprehend, not reject it for failing to meet some arbitrary quality standard specific to you. After that, you need to stop ignoring what MeFites say about their own experiences. Who are you to reject someone else's reality, to punish them for speaking up about it? Talk about narcissistic.

more
posted by radicalawyer at 12:16 PM on May 31 [64 favorites]


But again, you're missing the point: men don't really want women to "take care of their bodies," they just want them not to be fat. I'll give two examples.

You're missing the point. Those aren't men, those are assholes. And women are part of that subset too.

Also implying that "(all) men want..." borders on anti-men rather than pro-women, which makes some people obfuscate the issue and turn it into "chicks be so crazy". And that becomes entrenched as part of the cyclical problem.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:18 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Because I'm not overweight, the other week when I literally had cheeseburgers for both lunch and dinner two days in a row, no one would ever tell me what an unhealthy person I am. If I were carrying extra weight, the eyeballs of judginess would have been all over me.

Yeah, I had homemade ice cream for breakfast AND lunch today and posted it on Instagram and everyone was all "haha that's awesome." That's my skinny privilege right there.

I used to read these types of articles and get mentally judgey with my "stop dating assholes" spiel. But you know what? The problem isn't her judgement in men. The problem is that she lives in a society that sends her these messages all the time, so that by the time she hears it from a man, it's not assholish at all, but rather an expected and valid response. That's the bullshit here.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:18 PM on May 31 [23 favorites]


The whole thing reminds me of this.

Hah! I'm always shocked by how many people (mostly men I assume) can't tell when a woman is wearing makeup unless it's like dark tiger eyes and bright red lipstick. Then when they see a woman without makeup they ask if she's really tired or possibly ill?
posted by Justinian at 12:18 PM on May 31 [16 favorites]


I already feel a bit guilty learning how damn hard Beyoncé has to work to stay sexy.

With Virginia Massey's article, it again seems enjoying illusion is a moral compromise.
posted by surplus at 12:19 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Also implying that "(all) men want..." borders on anti-men rather than pro-women

Oh, is it Not All Men time again?
posted by dekathelon at 12:19 PM on May 31 [45 favorites]


But again, you're missing the point: men don't really want women to "take care of their bodies," they just want them not to be fat.

Some men. Sure. But a lot of guys really do mean they want a woman who works at her body.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:19 PM on May 31


Or let's suppose I were to develop an eating disorder, one of the really bad ones. Bulimia, say. This is an excellent way not to take care of one's body, leading as it does to dental, digestive and other health problems. But the only way a man would give a shit is if it fails to make me lose weight, or maybe if it fucks up my teeth or makes me all emotional. Or if I were to hypothetically tell them. Even to a less severe degree, the entire point of the piece is that "deeply disordered" (exact quote) eating and lifestyle patterns are seen as a good thing:

Everyone knows how to spot the asshole in the frat boy hat and "no fat chicks" t-shirt.

But its harder to spot someone who propagates those same values by saying something shitty like "an eating disorder, one of the really bad ones". I don't know if that states or implies something to you, but it does reveal an attitude of "some eating disorders are not so bad".

Oh, is it Not All Men time again?

No, this is the reality of the situation for a lot of people. Don't minimize it like the same assholes who claim that the topic of this thread is "not a problem for women"
posted by hal_c_on at 12:24 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]



The whole phrase "a women who takes care of herself" is disingenuous and a way of disguising a perfectly valid, but shallow, aesthetic preference.

I love how she addresses this in the article:

It seems a benign enough request, but one quickly learns that this man is not especially concerned that she has regularly scheduled self-care sessions like time with friends or spa days with a good book. He isn’t asking that her household finances be in order and that she be self-actualized. He is asking her to be thin. When he says “herself,” he means “her body.”


I really liked this piece. I have always been within a healthy BMI, sometimes right in the middle of the range and sometimes near the top, in about a 15 pound difference. A few years ago I took a depression medication that is known for making you want to eat EVERYTHING, especially sugary things. I would go out to eat for dinner and eat my whole meal plus appetizer and dessert and come home and order an entire pizza and eat it and then eat more. I didn't really think about it either, because my body was telling me "you need this, you absolutely have to eat more, I don't have enough energy to continue unless you do this, please please eat more." I've never experienced hunger that way before. I gained about 20 pounds, but still was only about ten pounds over a healthy BMI.

This medication is the kind of thing that's referred to as a "last resort," which is so ominous to me whenever doctors mention it, but yeah that's kind of where I was with the depression, so if gaining weight happened but I felt better, so be it. I used to say if someone said "I can cure your depression, but I'll need to amputate your pinkies," I'd let them have at it.

Eventually I got better and off that medication and quickly lost some of the weight, but some was more stubborn. I wore dark loose wrap tops. Everyone said I looked fine. I lost a little more when I stopped eating all the random food that gets passed around the office.

Then last spring/summer I was having major issues with sleep and decided to try a strict paleo diet to help with that. A side effect of that was losing weight - I lost only about 10-12 pounds (also was just doing yoga and a little running for exercise) but the change in people's perception was INSANE. Huge amounts of compliments, from people who already knew me telling me I looked good, to people I didn't even know complimenting me at parties (in non sexual ways). And yeah, the dating situation exploded from having OK results online dating to getting dates out of almost every social situation I went into.

But the other thing that happened was a lot of criticism about my diet (and once I added spinning, about my exercise habits). People pushing me to drink beer, eat pizza, eat cake, eat whatever, all the time. "You didn't even need to lose weight, you looked fine."

I like how she mentioned that people try to tell you to have a cheat day or something, but you know you already had your allotted "life before gym" time earlier in the week so you have to make up for it.

I have gone on a few dates with a new guy and have had to miss a few spinning classes because of it, which gives me anxiety, and I have to tell myself I'll need to make up for it. Last weekend I went to visit a friend and didn't bring my sneakers because there's nowhere to run really where she lives, and she pointed out a new treadmill in her house and I had a slight panic and irritation she hadn't told me about it.

It's just...I'm not even THAT small but it is a ton of work and takes up a lot of maintenance time that yeah, i could use doing other things. I don't think it's strictly a thing women do for men, and I admit it's something I want for myself, but like the author says, it's one thing that we have this crazy obsession with weight in our culture but you can't blame people for buying into it, or wanting a certain body type to date because of it. But it's the crazy denial that it's a ton of work, and no you can't really have donuts, and that an injury or illness can derail everything really fast, is really frustrating. I have a slight knee issue that is making me need to regulate how fast I go in spinning, which is a version of "taking care of myself," but also means I can't get as hard of a workout as I want which means I can't be as skinny and toned as I might want to be this summer, it sort of set everything back about three weeks.

I know some people who are perfectly great looking while drinking beers and eating pizza and never going to the gym, but that doesn't feel like an option for me. They tell me it is, but I don't believe them.
posted by sweetkid at 12:26 PM on May 31 [35 favorites]


It's a shame that the instagram account mentioned in the article 'You Did Not Eat That' isn't getting more mention in this thread because I think it does put the article into context.

Sure it's ridiculous having skinny women posing with fatty food they're not going to eat and yes food shouldn't be a disposable fashion accessory, but the point this article is making is that yeah, DIDN'T eat that, but isn't kinda weird that you (male gaze) think I should?
posted by litleozy at 12:26 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Yeah, some gymrat wants to get with another gymrat -- fine. But we're not talking about individual men, we're talking about society.

It's not how INDIVIDUAL MAN X feels about women and weight, it's about how *the patriarchy,* aka the society we-in-the-general-sense live in, deals with women (or really anyone who society demands be attractive/pleasing to Men-as-a-monolith, because, in my experience anyway, gay men seem to get a lot of the same messages) and food/attractiveness/needs/body-hate/etc, and how that's communicated and how that's internalized and how that effects people's actual lives. That's the whole point of "not all men" being a derail -- it's how the individual is interacting with the patriarchy/hegemony that's being discussed in this article and in threads like this in general, not whether every single guy in the world thinks a certain attribute is attractive or whatever.
posted by rue72 at 12:28 PM on May 31 [9 favorites]


And to add to this, women eating fatty foods becomes again women performing for men - men aren't interested in the consequences of these performances and it's true that it's a ridiculous performance, but it's not hard to see why there are so many eating disorders out there when eating, taking in substance, becomes not just a neurotically calculated calorie intake, a scientific act to stay skinny, but also a performance to be made to reassure men that no such calorie calculation is being made.
posted by litleozy at 12:30 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Some men. Sure. But a lot of guys really do mean they want a woman who works at her body.

But they don't. That's the entire point. They may say this, but they don't mean a woman who schedules regular physicals, or takes medicine for their physical or mental health, or any of the myriad of things that "works at her body" can mean. (If I'm parroting the piece, it's because it might behoove a lot of people to read it. All this is even in paragraph one.) They mean a woman who is not fat, for whatever reason, healthy or not. They literally cannot conceive of any other meanings for "taking care of herself" or "working at her body" that have nothing to do with fat. In my experience the most they ever deviate from this meaning is wanting a woman who will, say, go running with them -- but again, when they say this they imply a thin woman; a fat woman who's into that is still automatically out of, well, the running.
posted by dekathelon at 12:32 PM on May 31 [22 favorites]


If you are a guy, you need to read and comprehend, not reject it for failing to meet some arbitrary quality standard specific to you.

OK, then as a woman, what's so rage-inducing about this article is that she's trying to make her experience and quite major issues universal to all women who aren't overweight. This just reminds me of women in the past who have basically told me I obviously have an eating disorder or actually called me a bitch for not being fat. (People I don't know! Complete strangers!) I feel she's reinforcing those toxic attitudes some women have towards other women and it pisses me off.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:32 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


men aren't interested in the consequences of these performances and it's true that it's a ridiculous performance

Yes, and I think the very ridiculousness and implausibility of the performance is a way of being ethereal, detached from the physical, which is something I think a lot of women want very badly and aspire to, because the female body is considered shameful in a whole lot of ways and a whole lot of the time.
posted by rue72 at 12:34 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


a fat woman who's into that is still automatically out of, well, the running.

My experience in the running community, with friends who are ladies of all sizes, and all partnered, does not reflect this at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:36 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


And my experience on online dating sites with literally every man who lists running, jogging, or really anything exercise-related as an interest or in the photos, and when you click through to their answers to questions like "Is it a dealbreaker if a woman is overweight?", reflects this almost 100 percent of the time. My experience is not isolated.
posted by dekathelon at 12:38 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I have gone on a few dates with a new guy and have had to miss a few spinning classes because of it, which gives me anxiety, and I have to tell myself I'll need to make up for it.

This. I had major (planned) surgery three weeks ago and was freaking out two days after I was released because I was physically unable to go to the gym.

People who are thinking that the article is ridiculous, please believe that it might not be great writing but the thing being described is very real.
posted by winna at 12:41 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


And my experience on online dating sites with literally every man who lists running, jogging, or really anything exercise-related as an interest or in the photos, and when you click through to their answers to questions like "Is it a dealbreaker if a woman is overweight?", reflects this almost 100 percent of the time.

That's a feature, not a bug. Makes it easy to figure out who you shouldn't make friends with, eh?
posted by hal_c_on at 12:43 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of Anne Helen Peterson's article on Cool Girls.
posted by Mavri at 12:44 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I think the writing quality is fine. I don't understand that criticism.

OK, then as a woman, what's so rage-inducing about this article is that she's trying to make her experience and quite major issues universal to all women who aren't overweight. This just reminds me of women in the past who have basically told me I obviously have an eating disorder or actually called me a bitch for not being fat. (People I don't know! Complete strangers!) I feel she's reinforcing those toxic attitudes some women have towards other women and it pisses me off.

Where? Also, I don't think she has "quite major issues."

This just reminds me of women in the past who have basically told me I obviously have an eating disorder or actually called me a bitch for not being fat.

Like where are you even getting this? Also, how can you be upset that people say you "obviously have an eating disorder" and then say that the author does, based on scant evidence?
posted by sweetkid at 12:44 PM on May 31 [14 favorites]


I feel she's reinforcing those toxic attitudes some women have towards other women and it pisses me off.

Awesome eloquence.


This just reminds me of women in the past who have basically told me I obviously have an eating disorder or actually called me a bitch for not being fat.

Like where are you even getting this? Also, how can you be upset that people say you "obviously have an eating disorder" and then say that the author does, based on scant evidence?


The scant evidence being a whole article where she reveals she's highly susceptible to attitudes of assholes?

Also, why are you telling this person (slf kiddo) that she's not allowed to feel upset?

Not cool, Zeus.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:50 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


where did I tell anyone they're not allowed to feel upset?

The scant evidence being a whole article where she reveals she's highly susceptible to attitudes of assholes?


This is blaming the victim. Plenty of comments in this thread about people who relate to this pressure and how mainstream it is - it's really not all that easy to say, "Fuck it, they're assholes."
posted by sweetkid at 12:52 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


This article and this thread make me hate relationships even more than I already do.
posted by JanetLand at 12:57 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


The entire point of the article is that these aren't "those assholes" in frat baseball caps or whatever, these are successful people, dating people, everyday people, coworkers, superiors, people who you and I and everyone else are friends with and people you and I are told to aspire toward. It's the same point as a lot of the articles about misogyny that have come out recently for obvious reasons: it's easy to point to "those" people, to say that you can avoid all misogyny just by not associating with the world's Tucker Maxes and Elliot Rodgers. In many ways it's safer and easier to believe this than to believes that these assholes are all around you, in the most mainstream of mainstream culture. But it isn't true.
posted by dekathelon at 12:59 PM on May 31 [32 favorites]


where did I tell anyone they're not allowed to feel upset?

Also, how can you be upset that people say you "obviously have an eating disorder" and then say that the author does, based on scant evidence?


Right there. That's where you say that she shouldn't be upset when people tuen her into an eating disorder case.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:59 PM on May 31


sweetkid, it's stuff like this that sticks in my craw (when I say I feel like she's trying to make this universal):

For a thin woman to betray the reality of her diet and regimen for staying that way would spoil the fantasy of a woman who is preternaturally inclined to her size rather than personally preoccupied by it.

And so we must be overly concerned as quietly as possible.

I always thought it was a melodramatic cliché when thin women said that the more they disappeared, the more visible they became


I feel like she IS saying she has an eating disorder:

It is deeply disordered but not quite diseased and because the aesthetic is desirable when it only borders on worrying, it is presumed the result of good care.

I didn’t scream, “Vacation is where skinny goes to die!”

I wanted to say that as a complex living organism, the human body is on for twenty-four hours a day, ready to betray you at an astonishing speed for minor transgressions if you do not respect its hypersensitivity to what goes in and out of it. But that would sound so obsessed.


Or maybe she's just a bad writer and I'm just cranky.
posted by sfkiddo at 12:59 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Plenty of comments in this thread about people who relate to this pressure and how mainstream it is - it's really not all that easy to say, "Fuck it, they're assholes."

Yeah also because those assholes LIVE IN YOUR HEAD.

Which is why the problem is hegemony and not just some random jerk on OKCupid.
posted by rue72 at 12:59 PM on May 31 [27 favorites]


This article and this thread make me hate relationships even more than I already do.

Well the attitudes described are not limited to persons with whom you might or might not want to sleep. It's also your boss, people in stores and restaurants, random passersby - everyone you might meet!

Depressing fun for all occasions!
posted by winna at 1:06 PM on May 31 [8 favorites]


sweetkid, it's stuff like this that sticks in my craw (when I say I feel like she's trying to make this universal):


sfkiddo, I disagree with you but appreciate that you talked a little more about what bothers you, it makes a little more sense to me, though I don't think the parts that you quoted really relate to people calling you a bitch because you're not fat.

hal_c_on, you're misreading what I've said to such an outlandish degree I'm not sure if I can set it right at all, so.
posted by sweetkid at 1:07 PM on May 31


Yeah also because those assholes LIVE IN YOUR HEAD.

Which is why the problem is hegemony and not just some random jerk on OKCupid.


This seems like a good point, but I don't think I fully understand what you are trying to say. Can you elaborate, yo?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:10 PM on May 31


hal_c_on, you're misreading what I've said to such an outlandish degree I'm not sure if I can set it right at all, so.

Apologies, if I'm wrong, but I straight up used what you wrote. I read it as "you shouldn't feel upset when people say that to you because...". Maybe you meant it as "being subject to that kind of scrutiny, you should be super-careful when applying that scrutiny to others".

Sorry if I didn't give you the benefit if the doubt.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:13 PM on May 31


Like where are you even getting this? Also, how can you be upset that people say you "obviously have an eating disorder" and then say that the author does, based on scant evidence?

Because the former is based, I'm assuming, on physical appearance and the latter on revealings of a psychological/behavioral state.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 1:15 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Reflections on thinness, staying thin and making it look natural by Alana Massey.

Wait. This is actually:

Reflections on thinness, staying thin and making it look natural by AUTUMN WHITEFIELD-MADRANO
posted by hal_c_on at 1:20 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


No it's by Alana Massey- the intro is from someone called Autumn. I agree it's super confusing.
posted by sweetkid at 1:28 PM on May 31


This seems like a good point, but I don't think I fully understand what you are trying to say. Can you elaborate, yo?

As part of a patriarchal society, you (as in, universal-you-regardless-of-gender) have internalized patriarchal ideals. You can't avoid the misogyny baked into society -- baked into *you* -- by avoiding some random jerk on the internet or on the street or wherever. That misogyny is buried deep inside you already, maybe so deep that you don't even know where it stops and "you" begin. (Which is what cultural hegemony is, at least according Gramsci, whose definition is the one I go by because he's written brilliantly on it).

I think a lot of people are reading this article as the writer's complaint about the guys she's dating. I don't read it that way *at all.* I read it as being about *her* baked-in misogyny (and semi-masochistic pride, and yearning to be ideal/desirable/right/loved/attractive/etc, and denial of her needs and society's celebration of her denial of those needs, and her sort-of-metaphorical-sort-of-literal disappearance and society's celebration of *that*...and some other things).
posted by rue72 at 1:35 PM on May 31 [38 favorites]


I read somewhere a long way back that food/thinness has replaced sex/chastity in our culture, so being thin is now equated with virtue in the same way that being chaste used to be equated with virtue. So I guess the thing about wanting to see women get ravenous for ridiculous junk food while staying bone-thin might sometimes also be about wanting women to seem available without seeming slutty.
posted by rue72 at 1:45 PM on May 31 [61 favorites]


I'm one of those mythical "eat as much and as crappily as I want and still stay thin" women. Not fit, or particularly well proprtioned, or toned, mind you, but thin.
And yes, men have told me what a relief it is that I have a "normal attitude" about eating, and am not a salad nibbler. The same people then turned around and told me how much they liked that I am slender.
One particularly direct person indeed praised me for "effortlessly" remaining thin.

This is A Thing. It always bothered me and I couldn't articulate why, beyond "well what if I get old amd fat and ugly, will you stop loving me?" After all, I was getting a compliment, so yay? But I also always hated how men seemed to think I was both keeping thin and enjoying my food for them. Like, why were they praising me for something that I did for my own pleasure (eating) and something I maintain no control over (my body size?). It felt like they were fetishizing some concept and making me an example of it.
So this article has helped me understand why this was so discomfitting, why it felt so wrong.

I think the article is horrifying. It sounds awful being her, having to live that way.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:46 PM on May 31 [49 favorites]


sfkiddo, I take your point. Sometimes, trying to convince dudes that women aren't universally lying to them about how much some parts of womanhood suck means that I critique their reactions to a piece with its own higher-order problems. Like I Blame the Patriarchy/Dworkin vs feminism that thinks porn is okay/good/great. Either type of outlet may have some good material on it at more introductory levels, despite the fierce debates between those two camps on the porn topic in particular. I figure the unconvinced dudes who are my main audience can learn about those intricacies once they get past Feminism 101.

I wasn't aiming at you, Scout's honor. Your point (I think) is that these higher-order arguments aren't coming through in her work, and that is a fair reading of it. Some folks upstream were just saying, "I'm not going to pay attention to the message because the writing wasn't great." You, on the other hand, are obviously reading closely.

I apologize if my comment felt antagonistic. My Facebook feed has had some unpleasant reactions to #yesallwomen, and it's got me looking for a fight, which makes for bad commenting. Oh, and Metafilter rejected my first attempt at an FPP ;(
posted by radicalawyer at 1:49 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Why are a lot of guys so super-fragile? I mean, if a person not in a particular group (that you're a member of: "men", "white", "nerd", whatever) criticizes said group, why do you get so defensive and rules-lawyery and shit?

When others "punch up" at a group you're a member of:

1) Am I engaging in the criticized thing? If yes, maybe I should work on that.

2) Am I personally not engaging in the thing, but you know it is definitely a thing in this group? If yes, maybe work on fixing the group--as a peer, you're more likely to be listened to.

3) If you don't think it's a thing in the group, have you actually paused to examine if it might be? Is it invisible to you? If multiple people outside the group say it's a thing, it's almost certainly a thing. Maybe try step 1 again, eh?

4) Hyperbole is OK. If it's not true about you, and you honestly (see step 3) don't think it's a problem with the group, it may be for the person saying so. They're punching up. You're privileged and they're not. Give them some slack.
posted by maxwelton at 1:52 PM on May 31 [17 favorites]


Why are a lot of guys so super-fragile? I mean, if a person not in a particular group (that you're a member of: "men", "white", "nerd", whatever) criticizes said group, why do you get so defensive and rules-lawyery and shit?

I think I understand what you mean. I see the same thing in white people.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:06 PM on May 31


It'd be kinda nice if we could not drag this around into a discussion of why dudes feel offended / get defensive / whatever.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:10 PM on May 31 [11 favorites]


On the one hand, the phenomenon she writes about is certainly real. And it can also go the other way around, where some women will express a preference for a man who looks "fit" or "toned" or what have you but isn't a "gym rat" or a "meat head" etc. But of course there's a big difference due to different power dynamics, double standards, etc. so I don't mean to say that men have it just as bad.

So it's not that I think the cultural pattern isn't worth writing about. But on an individual level, it seems like the problem is largely a mismatch in values with the people she's dating. I can't tell from the article whether she has an eating disorder or if she's just into nutrition and exercise. I know people who aren't very experienced with the latter are sometimes liable to label it as the former. It seems to me that if the author dated men who shared her fitness priorities, she wouldn't experience this clash of expectations. That's why CrossFitters are always hooking up with each other.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:14 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I got a wacky suggestion: instead of judging this woman for how well or badly she's navigating the mine field she's stuck in, we pay attention to the fact that SHE AND EVERY WOMAN ARE STUCK NAVIGATING A DAMN MINE FIELD, one that wouldn't exist without explicit and implicit maintenance through action and inaction by a whole lot of people a whole lot of the time.
posted by Zed at 2:31 PM on May 31 [39 favorites]


I don't hang around many dudes. But I do hang with many women. I seriously think women are more responsible for this than men are. I'm not giving men a 'free and innocent' here, but women are brutal to each other regarding stuff like this.

Although men and women are both responsible for body policing, the nature of it is different. When I see women taking any food at all in the conference room at work, there is always an excuse or an acknowledgement that it is shameful -- "I'll get some for my officemates", or "I'm being so bad, I know". With men, the effort is supposed to be invisible; with women, the effort to be a certain size is supposed to be visible and shared. The unspoken agreement is that you all have the same goal and are working hard towards it-- If someone is naturally skinny what you hear from women is "I hate her" while what you hear from men is "That's awesome that she's not obsessed with her weight"(while still being skinny)
posted by matcha action at 2:44 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


Man, discussing whether or not she's got an eating disorder is a smokescreen: she's saying openly that she does have disordered eating, but that the twofold problem is 1. its tacit encouragement by both media and the people (dominantly men) in her life and 2. that people (again dominantly men with romantic interest in her) don't give two ha'penny hoots that she HAS disordered eating, they care that she is making them feel uncomfortable.

My life is also dominated by calorie-crunching disordered eating that wobbles between "disorder" and "disease". When I had the time to work out enough so that I could have ab muscles to disguise the awkward C-dip between my ribs and my pelvis, I got lauded by dudes all the time with all the vocab she noticed: "tiny" and "petite". Now that those muscles have softened and my ribcage is dominant, men -- men I love deeply -- do not sit down and talk gently with me about worry for my health, they say: "Pack on another couple of kilos! You've lost your tits." (If I wear a push-up bra suddenly I get congratulated on 'looking healthier'. It's like a tit wizard fitness spell.)

Your worth is your societally measured effort. A lot of men remind me with their words or actions that I'm not hot if I'm not skinny, but if I'm skinny I'm not hot, I have to be the kind of skinny that doesn't make them feel bad. When I'm overweight (or even "healthy and within BMI but not perfectly sculpted") I am, counterintuitively, an invisible pig. When I am skinny I am encouraged to keep getting skinnier, so long as if I have a heart attack I expire petitely and discreetly out of sight. If I died this way I know people would talk in hushed voices about how sad it was, but with undertones of disapproval for how openly I lost the game. I'm so bitter, and it's such fresh hell, and it's killing so many of us in so many different ways.
posted by monster truck weekend at 2:57 PM on May 31 [57 favorites]


You never see men minding their bodyfat percentage on TV or movies either, but I guarantee you -- you won't have that sixpack without it.
posted by the jam at 3:21 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Ok. I've read a bit of this and now I'm calling bullsh.., er, whatever. What's the most glaringly lacking point is its the nature of the female body to gain weight for procreation.

Wait, what? No, I don't think that's right at all. And also, there are plenty of women who have no interest in procreation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:23 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


You never see men minding their bodyfat percentage on TV or movies either, but I guarantee you -- you won't have that sixpack without it.

I think women are mostly aware of this, though. And I've never heard a woman praise a man for maintaining a six pack without excercising. It sounds daft even as I type it.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:36 PM on May 31 [18 favorites]


I think the medical community can be at least somewhat blamed for the fixation on "taking care of yourself" being synonymous with being thin. As deaths from infectious diseases decreased and deaths from non-communicable diseases increased over the last century, there was a huge public health focus on "lifestyle" as a protective factor against chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. To the point that now people's idea of what "healthy" is seems to consist almost solely of eating well and exercising. Anecdotally, I was in a health promotion class and we were asked "when was the last time you felt really healthy?" (this was after being introduced to the WHO's definition of health which is way more holistic than just "I'm not actively sick right now"). Given that I work in the health sector and my job is stressful my mind immediately went to times when I'd felt really great: sitting in the sunshine, or getting enough sleep. To my surprise, every other person in my small group answered with some variation of "I was eating well and exercising.". I mean they said it in different ways but that's what it boiled down to. For reference in my group was a nurse, a doctor, an optometrist, a health insurance adjuster, and a dentist. So while I think there's definitely patriarchal ideas wrapped up in there I think the over-emphasis of lifestyle to the almost exclusion of other health factors by sectors of the health community is probably contributing to that as well.

As for the "look great but I don't want to see the sausage being made" aspect, I find that deeply misogynist. It's someone who despises what they perceive as being the "girly" aspects of beauty, like eating a salad and actually displaying concern over your appearance, but still wants all the rewards of being with someone who eats a salad and is concerned with their appearance. They hate when you do these things because it makes you one of "those girls" humorless and high-maintenance and no fun. But the answer for this is not "I might have to do without this thing I desire if I don't like the lifestyle that accompanies it" it's "Hide your fucking lifestyle away in shame because I don't want to see or be inconvenienced by it in anyway, but there's no way in hell I'm compromising my own standards of attractiveness because why should I have to?"
posted by supercrayon at 3:39 PM on May 31 [15 favorites]


"I have gone on a few dates with a new guy and have had to miss a few spinning classes because of it, which gives me anxiety, and I have to tell myself I'll need to make up for it. Last weekend I went to visit a friend and didn't bring my sneakers because there's nowhere to run really where she lives, and she pointed out a new treadmill in her house and I had a slight panic and irritation she hadn't told me about it."

Wow, sweetkid. I thought I was the only one.

On a Thursday, a friend invited me to see a movie with her that Friday. She mentioned in her email "sorry for the last minute notice" because whenever she asks to do something with me less than day or two ahead of time, I already have plans to go to yoga or run after work and I feel anxious if I can't do that.

Exercise definitely helps my mood but at the same time, I feel anxious if I don't work out because I'm worried that This Is How It Starts and that at this rate, I'll gain 100 lbs and look like my mother. And since I think that one of the things people like about me and know about me is that I'm short and relatively cute, they won't think that way about me when I'm morbidly obese so I will lose all of my friends. And it will be hard for me to find a job because people don't hire overweight people. And I'm not even skinny. I'm maybe a size 10-12.

I can't explain this to my naturally skinny husband. He has no idea. I wish that I was naturally skinny like he is. So much. I know that I'm depressed and that I was depressed when I was several sizes smaller but there are times when I think that I look so gross that I am afraid to leave the house because all of my clothes make me look fat and terrible. I wish that I didn't feel the need to spend time shopping online for clothes that will make me look skinnier. Or looking to see what time classes are at the gym. Or the weather to see if I will be able to get a run in before it starts pouring.

I know that a lot of this is in my head, that people aren't literally pointing at me and saying, eww, look at the fat girl. But at the same time, when I went to see a doctor about a health problem, the resident suggested that it would be solved if I lost weight. The doctor looked at him like he was crazy but still.

I have to go for that run now. I need to get out of my head for a minute.
posted by kat518 at 3:48 PM on May 31 [9 favorites]


the jam, this is because men are held to a different standard: masculinity is prized as bigness. You see reaffirmation of masculine beauty standards all the time on TV and movies as men do chin-ups and get held to a regimen of SQUATZ'N'OATZ. It's a different misery -- skinny men are derided as feminine -- and it's fucking terrible too, but men have a different problem in the expectation to be eating five dozen eggs so they're roughly the size of a baaarge!, etc. Gotta be seen to gain, not restrict.
posted by monster truck weekend at 3:53 PM on May 31


Can someone explain to me what it means to be a "size 0"? I'm a woman but I guess I skipped class that day.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:58 PM on May 31


(U.S.) Clothing size 0. It means you buy clothing with the label saying "0" and it fits you. I don't know how else to explain it.
posted by sweetkid at 4:02 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


because I'm worried that This Is How It Starts and that at this rate, I'll gain 100 lbs and look like my mother.

Ugh I get this all the time if it helps, MISSING THAT RUN WILL MEAN YOU WILL EAT A BAGEL AND YOU WILL DIE ON DIABETES AFTER THEY CUT OFF ALL YOUR LIMBS CAUSE THAT'S HOW IT HAPPENS, ALL MY HARD WORK WILL BE UNDONE BY A SINGLE BUTTERED ROLL, AAAAAAAAAL OOOOF IIIIIT.

Its neeeeever eeeending
posted by The Whelk at 4:02 PM on May 31 [8 favorites]


Can someone explain to me what it means to be a "size 0"? I'm a woman but I guess I skipped class that day.

Here.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:03 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Can someone explain to me what it means to be a "size 0"?

That's what's bigger than a size double-zero.
posted by Zed at 4:05 PM on May 31


TIL some women in the US have never heard of clothing size zero?
posted by sweetkid at 4:07 PM on May 31


Guys, if it makes you feel better, I seriously thought cheese was a health food until my twenties. I had just as much NO I WON'T EAT MUST BE SKINNY as everyone else but I was meanwhile FORCING myself to eat CHEESE because it's a HEALTH FOOD. So uh you're way ahead of me no worries.
posted by rue72 at 4:07 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


P.S. I mean "way ahead of me" in terms of having at least some understanding of what "health" means and how to achieve it. Not being snarky.
posted by rue72 at 4:11 PM on May 31


> TIL some women in the US have never heard of clothing size zero

I'd heard of it but didn't really understand it. Now that I've seen the measurements, I don't think even my skeleton would be size zero.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:11 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


The measurements thing is always weird - I'm like 32-27-36 a lot of the time and fit 2s and 4s, except in things that have crazy vanity sizing like the Gap, which is the only place I think I am an x-small.
posted by sweetkid at 4:16 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I was size 4 at 105 lbs, 5'3 - that was my "my fighting weight" - when I spent my twenties being that girl who never exercised and ate whatever, but stayed slim. Then I turned thirty and everything changed. I don't know - size 0 I guess I would be dead? Not a problem now I am size 10, but still - I can't wrap my head around zero either.
posted by mkim at 4:17 PM on May 31


Yeah, the measurements are either off or there's a whole lot of bizarro vanity sizing going on. According to that chart, I'm a 10, but I have pants that range from 4-12 depending on manufacturer/brand. Nevermind that upper body I have L size boobs on a S size frame so everything is either a tent or gappy or too tight or HELLO CLEAVAGE.
posted by asockpuppet at 4:21 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Take Old Navy for example (shut it i'm cheap). I can try a pair of pants on in x size and great, they fit. I can find another pair of pants in a different style and, at the same store, I have to go up 2 sizes for pants b to fit the same as pants a.
posted by asockpuppet at 4:26 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


The labor she's putting into her appearance is part of the patriarchal bargain she's made. She's aware this makes her less desirable in certain circumstances (blowing off running for brunch, etc) but the differential in her "market value" (::shudder::) as a size 0 versus whatever larger iteration her body normally falls into is worth the work to her.

I just despair at how perceptive she is of the underlying sexist assumptions that define what goes into "taking care of oneself" (i.e. remaining thin no matter the physical and psychological cost) and her lack of rage over this. Maybe because I'm so far outside of this level of socially-approved embodiment (read: way too fat, even if I really really starve and exercise and "take care of myself"), I can't imagine hearing some of these things she reports men saying to her without reacting with Xenomorph-Queen-levels of hostility. But she's playing the game.

This article really exposes the bullshit of euphemisms like "taking care of yourself" as shorthand for NOT FAT because she explicitly makes the connection between her devotion to thinness and her emotional pain. The breakup gave her the push, but the subtext suggests that it was just a taste of the loneliness she fully expects will be her punishment if she allows her weight to rise. She's not really taking care of herself because she's neglecting her emotional and social needs to make sure she looks the right way.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 4:32 PM on May 31 [19 favorites]


Probably the worst sizing-related experiences of my life was when I was in France over their big sale period, and I had a relative stranger (who I was crashing with at the time) march me into a clothing store to find out my French size -- "finding out" meant having her shout to the random saleslady "what size is she?" across the store, and then having the saleslady eye me up and down and shout back, "36," with this snotty look on her face.

I'm not someone who would ever want to be a model or actress or anything, I don't know how they can possibly deal with just getting publicly judged right in front of their faces like that! And I was just buying some jeans, the judgement was just on my clothing size -- it wasn't even important or harsh or anything. It just *felt* bad, regardless.
posted by rue72 at 4:35 PM on May 31


Size inflation has gotten crazy. I have a Land's End shirt that is XXS Petite.
posted by desjardins at 4:40 PM on May 31


This is what a size 0 looks like.
posted by zug at 4:47 PM on May 31


I have MANY thoughts, but really only one thing to say.

AAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHHH.
All the rage.

This is something so many women go through in one form or another. And it doesn't matter whether it's the way particular men are acting or whether it's internal in her head, it still sucks, and either way, it's still the patriarchy.

I'm going back to being invisible, for apparently I have committed some egregious error that makes me so, and I'm really past trying to figure out what it might be. (Unfortunately the pool isn't open until tomorrow morning, so I'll just have to seethe until then.)
posted by susiswimmer at 4:56 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: It's like a tit wizard fitness spell.
posted by Daily Alice at 4:58 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I was size 4 at 105 lbs, 5'3

Same height, 5lbs less, I was a size 0. I've only broken into the 4s recently but with the weird vanity sizing going on I guess it is closer to a 6 or even 8.
posted by elizardbits at 5:12 PM on May 31


Why are women's sizes an arbitrary meaningless number while men's sizes on anything but t-shirts and sweats a slightly less arbitrary set of lengths and widths?
posted by Justinian at 5:38 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


Because everything in the whole world is designed to piss me off.
posted by KathrynT at 5:48 PM on May 31 [38 favorites]


I think what really kicked me into mega rage was when tabloids started policing actors for Anorexia / "too" thin on the same page as they did the fat policing.

I still internally think that I deserve to be disdained for being fat. I try not to - I desperately want to internalize health at every size because believing I'm bad for being fat makes me run for the fatty foods (ice cream makes everything better, yo) - but I really do believe it. I have an easier time "forgiving" other women; somehow it's different when it's not me. So the tabloid reporting made sense - publicly shame people smaller than me to ensure that I will perpetually feel like crap; that makes a lot of sense (and doesn't work at all).

But then people got the memo that anorexia nervosa, unlike most other mental illnesses, kills a lot of people in a non-suicide manner (heart attacks, yay), and someone got half a conscience and went "we should encourage people to not be too skinny". Unfortunately, the means was still "make you feel like shit for looking like you do", and the "too skinny" and "we can see her ribs" and "look how narrow her upper arms are" joined the "celluloid on her ass" and "look she has a tummy" and "omg, five weeks after giving birth she still has saggy skin" on the tabloid shelves and I just got so pissed.

The sizing shit is just bullshit, but it's too depressing to enrage me anymore. And don't even get me started on bras.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:52 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Same height, 5lbs less, I was a size 0. I've only broken into the 4s recently but with the weird vanity sizing going on I guess it is closer to a 6 or even 8.

But is it? I mean, 6 and 8 are also arbitrary numbers. Were they ever really non-arbitrary? I know how they've been changing over the years, but I don't think that there was some time when dress sizes were true numbers.
posted by jeather at 5:53 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Pretty much. It's creeping into mensware as well, in Holland I am an XXL but at old navy I'm almost an M. After a certain point you just memorize your actual measurements and work from that but that assumes the place you're shopping at bothers with that and not bullshit made up sizes and then you're the crazy person with the measuring tape at the mall and everything is awful and frustrating for no reason.

Plus men's are not expected to have as much a wardrobe/ turn it over as often and men's ware goes out of fashion a low more slowly and is more standardized in another small way the world is unfair and dumb.
posted by The Whelk at 5:54 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


( dear American Men's Casual clothing makers, I will never be an M cause my shoulder and waist bones are literally too big. I had them scanned and everything. Stop lying to me.)
posted by The Whelk at 5:56 PM on May 31


Were they ever really non-arbitrary?

No I just mean, idk, as incremental differences in clothing size, it feels like I have gone up more than just 2 spots on the charts, so to speak, although current sizing says otherwise. Does that make sense? I'm having trouble wording.

All I know is that when I lost about 10-15lbs recently from health issues, everything I had in a size 4 was saggy and weird on me but older stuff in size 2 was still too tight.
posted by elizardbits at 6:05 PM on May 31


From the female perspective: I've always been with guys who are athletes and spend a lot of time obsessing over their bodies and diets and it can get extremely annoying to listen to someone freak out because they gained a pound. I couldn't date this woman or anyone like her, I probably couldn't even be friends with her. I don't think its healthy or normal to act the way she does or to blame it on other people's expectations.

If you want to be in amazing shape you have to work out like a fiend and eat clean, I've never had anyone male or female give me a hard time about that. If your only topic of conversation is your disordered eating and workout plans, yeah people are probably going to start making pointed comments the way they are if you only talk about musical theater or your relationship with your mother.

I broke up with a guy because of his Crossfit obsession once. I couldn't take one more minute of listening to him talk about himself. It was a shame, he was very tall and very handsome and very, very boring.
posted by fshgrl at 6:06 PM on May 31 [6 favorites]


How do you know someone does Crossfit? Wait 30 seconds and they'll tell you.
posted by Justinian at 6:07 PM on May 31 [16 favorites]


I found this page which includes a table of sizes and measurements from the 1940s. That table is hard to read, but it has a size 6 as a 31.5" bust, 22.5" waist, and 33.5" hips. a size 12 is 35" / 26" 37". A size 22 is 44 / 35/ 46. The same page includes a table from 2001 in which a size 2 is 32 / 24 / 35.
posted by KathrynT at 6:17 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I totally get that the sizing is arbitrary and you're now a 484.23 when you used o be a 1092.0001 and you're sure you haven't changed sizes that much -- all the clothing size numbers are total bullshit and arbitrary and they change in what appears to be random ways though the numbers always get smaller (yay, I'm size -5!). But KathrynT's table looks pretty arbitrary too -- and of course, it isn't like bust/waist/hip size all change at the same rate, you could have a bigger bust or smaller hips or whatever.

This all makes me so annoyed.
posted by jeather at 6:25 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


The youdidnoteatthat account fascinates me because it is a different form of the more well-known habit of criticizing fat women for eating the "wrong thing."

It's amazing that no matter what a woman looks like, her food choices are policed. If you are "too thin" you can't post a picture of a burger without getting crap. If you are "too fat" you also can't post a picture of a burger. The crime of eating while the "wrong size."
posted by melissam at 6:30 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


argh. that essay was precisely what I think is going on.
but there's this. why is it that thin women in countries not the USA (like The Netherlands for example) are able to maintain the thin bodies they have without this excessive attention to eating/exercising. Or is that just my misread of what thin women in places the netherlands do?
posted by bluesky43 at 6:30 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I just despair at how perceptive she is of the underlying sexist assumptions that define what goes into "taking care of oneself" (i.e. remaining thin no matter the physical and psychological cost) and her lack of rage over this.

Anything it may lack in rage, it more than makes up for in despair.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:44 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


but there's this. why is it that thin women in countries not the USA (like The Netherlands for example) are able to maintain the thin bodies they have without this excessive attention to eating/exercising. Or is that just my misread of what thin women in places the netherlands do?

Biking. Everywhere. When I lived in Uppsala Sweden I ate pastries constantly. I baked all the time. It was like my job (no wonder I got my first C in a class). I also drank quite a lot of beer and aquavit.

But I lived on the outskirts of town, which was kind of OK because of the awesome bike paths, but Uppsala is a bit hilly. Every time I bought flour or booze I'd have to bike it at least a mile, partially uphill. If I wanted to go to a cafe or bar, I had to tackle the biggest hill in town. But it was the easiest time I've ever had in my life maintaining a low weight. Of course though– not everyone is a size zero. The bell curve is shifted towards thinness, but there still is variation.
posted by melissam at 6:46 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


bluesky43: I have no idea in particular about the women of Netherlands and how much easy it is for them to maintain their body weight, but my impression from Europe is that the culture regarding food is very different.

There's a lot more regulation on the food industry, lower availability of cheap prepared foods. People eat out a lot less than in the US, there's less snacking or food at the office. Food is viewed and marketed differently than in the US. Other cultural factors include less driving and more walking / biking / public transportation.
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 6:54 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


There’s really no escaping it. I’ve been overweight. I’ve been underweight. I’ve been in between. I’ve been in a good place for most of my adult life, but there’s always a niggling doubt, because women can’t even really trust most doctors – I’ve seen doctors blame everything from a headache to a broken wrist on weight, and obsess over weight to the exclusion of obvious, non-weight-related medical problems.

And there’s a place for you in the trap no matter what your situation is, no matter what your situation used to be, and no matter how hard you try to fight it. You drop a bunch of weight in high school due to a combination of a long illness and adolescent metabolic change? You sister stops speaking to you and refers to you exclusively as “that skinny bitch,” and the boys who were telling you they wished you would die and making retching noises when you walked in the room a few months earlier are now offended and completely baffled because you’re rejecting their advances and refer to you as “that stuck-up bitch.”

Grow out of that and think you’ve moved on? Wait until your thinner friends start going on about how much they exercise and see if you don’t feel judged. Go out to lunch with your heavier friends, order a salad and no dessert, and wonder if they’re annoyed with you because they feel judged. And while you’re there, remember all those years you didn’t dare eat in public at all, in the van hope that you could just get through ONE DAMN DAY without somebody commenting on what you did or didn’t eat.

Nobody gives sweet Fanny Adams about what kind of condition your body is in unless it affects the way you look.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:04 PM on May 31 [20 favorites]


I guess I have trouble understanding why it is so hard to just admit to yourself that you didn't win the genetic lottery, and you have to work if you want to be thin? It seems that hiding the workouts and salads is an attempt at trying to pass as one of the genetic outliers. Easier for all involved if people would just say "I am what I am, deal with it." If a guy wants one of those outliers, let him go - he's gonna need lots of time to find one.

I'm married for 15 years, and I work hard at staying in shape - this means less time with my family which they are often not happy with. But it's my choice to make.

When I was in my dating years I saw the gender-reversed version of this pretty often. Women wanted a man who could buy them dinner at nice place, take them on vacations, give nice presents etc. but complain about bringing work home or having long nights at the office. Men definitely feel a lot of pressure to represent more spending power than they have, at whatever level. But I think men are more comfortable giving up the charade and saying something like, "if you want to eat at [trendy spot], it means I'm gonna be putting in some long nights"
posted by bashos_frog at 8:57 PM on May 31 [6 favorites]


That size chart bears no relation to reality. I'm 5', 95 lbs, 27" waist. Size 0 is typically too big in the waist these days---although when I was the same size 15 years ago (perhaps with a smaller waist because of no babies) size 4 jeans were a good bet. There is no way that size 0 is typically a 24" waist. (Size 14 girls is pretty consistently good, though--except at REI, where two different sets of size 14 girls pants were way too big. Crazy. My daughter is 8. I should not be almost wearing the same size she does in pants. Socks, ok. But pants??)
posted by leahwrenn at 9:00 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


why is it that thin women in countries not the USA (like The Netherlands for example) are able to maintain the thin bodies they have without this excessive attention to eating/exercising.

Maybe because so many American women have been fucking around with their metabolism since before they've even hit puberty? That's just a guess.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:47 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


(I hope it's obvious I'm not victim blaming, just making an observation.)
posted by Room 641-A at 9:48 PM on May 31


"have been fucking around with their metabolism since before they've even hit puberty"

Before they can even walk, if Dr. Lustig is to be believed. And not just women.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:54 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


I guess I have trouble understanding why it is so hard to just admit to yourself that you didn't win the genetic lottery, and you have to work if you want to be thin?

The author's whole point is that she has to work to be thin. It's not "so hard," she admits it right away.

It seems that hiding the workouts and salads is an attempt at trying to pass as one of the genetic outliers. Easier for all involved if people would just say "I am what I am, deal with it." If a guy wants one of those outliers, let him go - he's gonna need lots of time to find one.

It's not easy to say 'I am what I am, deal with it' because of the massive cultural pressure to seem like you don't need to worry about your weight while actually needing to worry about your weight.
posted by sweetkid at 9:58 PM on May 31 [9 favorites]


but there's this. why is it that thin women in countries not the USA (like The Netherlands for example) are able to maintain the thin bodies they have without this excessive attention to eating/exercising. Or is that just my misread of what thin women in places the netherlands do?

People eat less. Straight up. I'm part of a pretty global little tribe and we ALL, men and women, gain weight in the US when we're here for work. Even if you live here and have a kitchen you have to be careful how you eat. The portions are INSANE when you first get here, laughably so. And all the food is drenched in fat and sugar, particularly outside CA. Most of the things you call "salad" are hahahaha mayo with some other things. The desserts, my god, the desserts. And people eat every 4 or 5 hours! Full meals! We eat maybe one big meal a day at home and two light ones.

After a while though you get used to the size and the greasiness and the frequency so you can keep up. Then none of your pants fit.

American style eating-till-you're-stuffed is becoming more common in Europe though and people are getting rounder. And, personally, I think that people drive more and use public transport less as they become less fit, not the other way round. A great deal of American's over 55 couldn't get around without a car because they can't walk very far anymore and can't bike at all.
posted by fshgrl at 10:02 PM on May 31 [12 favorites]


I dunno I feel like "Americans eat too much yes/no" is a bit of a derail here, and an all too common one in threads that have anything to do with weight.

It's about fitting a hard to manage ideal, not about being overweight. She wasn't overweight before the juices/cardio that brought her to the size zero level she's talking about. She was maybe a 4.
posted by sweetkid at 10:42 PM on May 31 [12 favorites]


The portions are INSANE when you first get here, laughably so.

There's also the unfortunate fact that many of us were raised by boomer parents or grandparents who were themselves raised by depression parents or grandparents, so eating everything on your plate OR SO HELP ME is ingrained at a young age. And while those childhood portions may or may not have been reasonable, it seems to be a habit that stuck with people way after someone told them they'd have to eat that cold spaghetti for breakfast the next day if they didn't eat it right away.

I don't always have the healthiest relationship with food but I will forever be grateful that neither one of my parents ever forced me to into that fucking clean plate club cult. I stop eating when I'm full, and don't eat again until I am hungry, and I feel pretty good about doing so.
posted by elizardbits at 11:00 PM on May 31 [12 favorites]


I think women are mostly aware of this, though. And I've never heard a woman praise a man for maintaining a six pack without excercising. It sounds daft even as I type it.

You sometimes see it as a question from the woman receiving a nonchalant answer from the man. "Nice [attribute]. Do you work out?" "Nah, not too much, I try to keep it fun," is generally a more attractive answer than, "yeah, I go every morning for an hour." Another is the disdain for "gym rats" though that can be more a phrase for certain clothing, tan, etc. than an actual preference for moderate gym use.
posted by michaelh at 12:12 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]


A great deal of American's over 55 couldn't get around without a car because they can't walk very far anymore and can't bike at all.

Alternatively, a great many Americans of any age can't get around without a car because we live in areas that were designed fifty to seventy years ago for people with cars and have few, if any, public transit options, and often no sidewalks.

There's a supermarket half a kilometer from my house, and I drive there almost every time. Walking requires that I do the entire bit on the curb of a busy road with no sidewalks, no crosswalks, and a four way "stop" instead of a stoplight. I can count on one hand the number of times I've walked there in the 18 months I've lived here, and on two of those times I was nearly hit by inattentive drivers. I recently tried to see if I could take public transit from my house to the nearest major city. The suggested first leg of that route was walk seven miles.

This is not unusual. Once you're out of major cities and off the coasts, that's what you deal with. If you're lucky there's a bus that comes every couple hours; if you're not, well, hopefully you can afford a beater car.

My parents were both the children of Depression-era parents, one from a much poorer family than the other. There were many, many nights as a child when it was clean your plate or you're not leaving the table; clean your plate or that's what you're eating tomorrow. I'm an adult, and between the childhood clean plate drill and my own lack of affluence, leaving food on plates or--worse--throwing it away seriously makes me want to stress-vomit. (Which--how's that for irony?) I do it, but it's super, super hard, and I often find myself punishing myself later--well, self, you threw away thing X, so now you don't get to eat Y, where X is anything from crackers to a popsicle to "anything at all for the rest of the day". I mean, it's a thing I'm aware of that I try not to do, and I still do it, because I don't have to think about it to do it, I just do it. It's like superpowers, only instead of saving the world I've destroyed my metabolism and can't eat around people. Hooray!

Viewing this through the lens of lolamericans isn't an entirely unreasonable thing to do, but going "big portions!" is like looking at a single screencap from the end of the film and deciding that's the most relevant part of a two-hour movie.
posted by MeghanC at 12:36 AM on June 1 [20 favorites]


I got a wacky suggestion: instead of judging this woman for how well or badly she's navigating the mine field she's stuck in, we pay attention to the fact that SHE AND EVERY WOMAN ARE STUCK NAVIGATING A DAMN MINE FIELD, one that wouldn't exist without explicit and implicit maintenance through action and inaction by a whole lot of people a whole lot of the time.

I agree, but she is, in fact, one of the people whose actions are reinforcing the standards of size, weight, fitness, etc., for women.

Yes, men who are sexist, biased, presumptuous assholes should stop being those assholes. But to enforce female standards again those assholes, women who are feminists, like me, should tell them that they are assholes and refuse to date them, rather than attempting to conform to their absurd standards.
posted by miss tea at 4:23 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]


It's kind of hard not to ultimately get the message that men want frailty when women get hit with this boatload of contradictions. They want naturally slender women, who don't weigh very much and don't have big muscles. They don't want a woman who runs a lot, lifts weights, or eats a ton of salad. She has to eat junk and generally live an unhealthy lifestyle.

One might cynically assume that men are attracted to women who are easy to overpower.
posted by almostmanda at 7:29 AM on June 1 [18 favorites]



Viewing this through the lens of lolamericans isn't an entirely unreasonable thing to do, but going "big portions!" is like looking at a single screencap from the end of the film and deciding that's the most relevant part of a two-hour movie.


The structural stuff definitely interconnects with this essay. That income inequality and crappy food subsidies and sprawling development patterns all disproportionately impact women is relevant to societally policing women's bodies and especially their weight, for example.

One might cynically assume that men are attracted to women who are easy to overpower.

There is truth to this. At least at the level of media images, there is a spectrum, with fashion industry models all the way at one extreme of fragility, and some other portrayals much less so.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:10 AM on June 1


Oh, wow. I think this article is excellent. This is very much A Thing, and I know that because I share 1/2 of her experience (the part where you have to work extremely hard to maintain your weight, despite the breezy women's magazine contention that it's as easy as "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full" and the pressure to be carefree) yet not the other half, the part where men with questionable expectations want to date you.

I am extremely careful about my food intake (personally I'm less of a gym-goer, because diet is what affects my body more) but I do this simply to avoid getting very fat. I'm average size, a size 6 US give or take, and without a pretty face to compensate for it I get no male attention whatsoever. The invisibility is one thing in the dating context (I don't date. At all.) But it's almost worse in the life context. I don't need every man to find me hot but I would like them to sometimes notice that I am a person, and look me in the eye if forced to talk to me about some mundane topic. Having to do extra work just to get a clerk to see you in a store, just to make conversation with people in a mixed group at dinner, is like this extra layer of effort that I think thin women don't even realize goes on. It's *so* tiring.

You might think I should just say screw it and eat whatever I want, since I'm never going to get down to a "visible" weight anyway. But the problem there is, I eat the way I do for myself and (ironically) to take care of my body. I don't like the way I feel when I'm heavier. True, I don't like the way I look either. I don't "wear" extra weight well. I don't look bountiful and jolly when I gain, I look lumpy and ill. I'm not saying I'm immune to the influence of the patriarchy, just that I know I would watch my food intake if I lived in a convent, or alone on an island. It's not primarily for men. What would be the point of that, since they don't *see* me?

It's a strange feeling to be stuck in the middle of this problem. Every time I scan my purchases at the grocery check-out, I'm afraid someone will say "Your ass doesn't need that frozen yogurt, fatty" or "You know grapes have a lot of sugar, right?" Yet if I ever "succeed" in getting the body I really want, I feel like the only thing waiting for me on the other side, apart from an easier time buying clothes, would be men who don't even want me for myself but for the genes they assume I possess. Is it worse to be wanted for a lie, or to not be wanted at all? I honestly don't know. If I'm going to be single forever, though, I guess I'd take the ability to buy pants without stress.

Incidentally the IG account referenced in the title is mocking two things. Mostly, the copycat actions of fashion/lifestyle bloggers who all stage the same unappetizing pictures of "trendy" foods as props, either laid out on a table with a scented candle and a $5000 purse or in the general vicinity of their mouth. The secondary thing it's calling out I think is the idea that any impressionable fan-girl can eat whatever she wants and still be shockingly thin. Maybe this woman and this woman really can eat like that at every meal and look the way they do. But what the article is saying is that ability is very, very rare. And these blogs and IG accounts and perpetuated notions are very, very common. As are the celeb interviews mentioned above, where skinny famous women, looking fresh without makeup of course, consume large meals in front of drooling reporters.

I could say a lot more about this, but I'll stop now. Thanks for posting this & letting my sockpuppet come out to rant.
posted by ocksay_uppetpay at 8:57 AM on June 1 [10 favorites]


Abundance is the single most important reason Europeans colonized the Americas in the first place. It's certainly the reason my ancestors came here in the 1600's. It's not surprising that it should have become a key element of our culture.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:58 AM on June 1 [3 favorites]


But to enforce female standards again those assholes, women who are feminists, like me, should tell them that they are assholes and refuse to date them, rather than attempting to conform to their absurd standards.

What do you do about the men you're not dating: your friends, family, colleagues? What do you do when their standards aren't actually held up as 'absurd' but are reinforced by media images and depictions of thinness and women in the everyday? It's an internalized rot that isn't just about assholes, it's the ever-shifting goalposts that give the words of those assholes a reinforcement and a power that leads to women trying to hide the fact they're living on kale and PB2 powder. The douchebags are only a hideous symptom, and women not gatekeeping douchebags isn't a cause.

I mean, this is happening to me and I'm a gigantic homo! I don't have to deal with male-gaze bedroom politics! That's terrifying, because it tells me the patriarchy is calling from inside the house.
posted by monster truck weekend at 11:32 AM on June 1 [19 favorites]


I certainly didn't mean to derail with my comment about thinner people in other countries- I agree that Europeans have a different relationship to food (and have a different threshold for sugar) but I also wondered how much fat shaming is related to cultural views and/or a generally more fit population. I'm in no way excusing the comments of men described in the essay but I wonder if in a society where there are generally less fit people, there is a tendency to be hyper vigilant about a potential partner's weight. There may be some data somewhere on this.
posted by bluesky43 at 11:34 AM on June 1


I'm average size, a size 6 US give or take

Without negating your other points, average size in the US is more like 10. This is of course pat of the issue, that what we consider "average" is actually thinner than the average.
posted by jeather at 11:43 AM on June 1 [4 favorites]


jeather, you're right, that was just a poor choice of words on my part. What I meant was that I'm a "normal" or "regular" sized person. I hate to say size 0 or size 20 women aren't "normal" but I hope you see what I mean. If you looked at me, your first thought would be neither "thin" nor "obese." Which puts me and millions of others in this position of having all the fat girl problems (being ashamed to be seen eating anything more fattening than lettuce, being invisible) despite not being that fat. And also having all the thin girl problems (having to constantly diet to maintain our weight, having people tell us "oh you're not fat, eat this plate of nachos" despite not being that thin. No one wins.

As for dieting in Europe, I believe it happens. But it goes by different names, and it's not accompanied by the American characteristic of talking openly about all our stuff all the time. Imagine a French woman who doesn't eat between meals, she eats only small portions, she sticks with the best quality food so she never eats a bag full of greasy chips, and she walks or bikes everywhere. She would never say that she diets because in her mind, she doesn't. She just does what's normal; to do otherwise would be gross, or unusual, as it would be to discuss it. In America this same woman would be considered a constant calorie-counter who is a snob, no fun, and obsessed with exercise. Because she wouldn't describe her actions as being part of a deep, food-appreciating culture, she'd describe them as dieting. Or "taking care of herself."
posted by ocksay_uppetpay at 12:06 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


This does have something to do with sexism, probably. But for me it is also a window into the way the elite think about physical attractiveness, both men and women - a paranoid, obsessive pursuit of perfection.
posted by Halogenhat at 1:38 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


What do you do about the men you're not dating: your friends, family, colleagues? What do you do when their standards aren't actually held up as 'absurd' but are reinforced by media images and depictions of thinness and women in the everyday? It's an internalized rot that isn't just about assholes, it's the ever-shifting goalposts that give the words of those assholes a reinforcement and a power that leads to women trying to hide the fact they're living on kale and PB2 powder. The douchebags are only a hideous symptom, and women not gatekeeping douchebags isn't a cause.

I've noticed a lot/most women in C-suite level positions in my business (and others) are rail thin and have very carefully groomed appearances, so yeah this extends beyond dating.
posted by sweetkid at 1:42 PM on June 1 [14 favorites]


Going off of ocksay_uppetpay's comment, one thing I noticed in the parts of Europe with low obesity rates is that there are fewer situations where the only acceptable choice is junk food. In the US I encounter this all the time, especially working in tech. I'll go to a customer site where they have a catered lunch, or a training, or a conference. And the lunch is basically just fried chicken. Or pizza. Maybe a very sad salad would be available, but you'd really stand out if you got that.

In places I've lived in Europe this is the kind of food you eat when you are totally drunk. In the US it's served to adults at work or at professional conferences.
posted by melissam at 1:43 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


It's kind of hard not to ultimately get the message that men want frailty

This is what bothers me about youth being considered especially attractive in women, too. It's a social pressure on women to seem as vulnerable and powerless as possible, and equating that with attractiveness.

I think that elevation of frailty is mostly a white and American-or-Western-European thing, though. This is obviously completely anecdotal, but I know that when guys who have immigrated from other parts of the world (SE Asia, Central or South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Africa) flirt with me, they're pretty liable to show lots of admiration for me working really hard or being someone who gets things done or seeming tough or strong in general, and that will be what apparently attracted them to me in the first place. American guys almost never act like those attributes are attractive, and I don't think I've ever had a white American guy be into things like that. The best I've ever gotten is when an ex boyfriend told me I was someone who would "always land on my feet." American (or French or English) guys seem to mostly want me to tell them how tough or strong or successful *they* are instead.
posted by rue72 at 3:10 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


This is obviously completely anecdotal, but I know that when guys who have immigrated from other parts of the world (SE Asia, Central or South America, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Africa) flirt with me, they're pretty liable to show lots of admiration for me working really hard or being someone who gets things done or seeming tough or strong in general, and that will be what apparently attracted them to me in the first place. American guys almost never act like those attributes are attractive, and I don't think I've ever had a white American guy be into things like that.

That just brought up the weirdest memory. I was moving a table at a public event at work years ago, and a cute guy smiled and said, "That's what I like to see - a woman who can pull the wagon when the mule dies." I've NEVER known if he was trying to flirt or being an asshole, and it's always bugged me that I couldn't tell.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:27 PM on June 1 [7 favorites]


What do you do about the men you're not dating: your friends, family, colleagues? What do you do when their standards aren't actually held up as 'absurd' but are reinforced by media images and depictions of thinness and women in the everyday? It's an internalized rot that isn't just about assholes, it's the ever-shifting goalposts that give the words of those assholes a reinforcement and a power that leads to women trying to hide the fact they're living on kale and PB2 powder. The douchebags are only a hideous symptom, and women not gatekeeping douchebags isn't a cause.

I am not attributing causation to the assholes, monster truck weekend. I'm just trying to say that women should stand up for themselves and abdicate compliance with douchebaggery.

As a personal example, my dad said something shitty about a provider in my child's daycare (that her stomach made her look pregnant). I told him that it was none of his business for a variety of reasons, that I won't enumerate here, but fundamentally, judging women's bodies is sexist and not his business. He picked up what I was putting down and apologized.
posted by miss tea at 4:13 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


I'm just trying to say that women should stand up for themselves and abdicate compliance with douchebaggery.

Yeah, miss tea, I do agree, and I think we're on the same page. I just see it as scope. It might be a grassroots movement still -- women standing up for themselves, standing up for other women, standing up for men who don't meet the 'criteria' -- but it's a necessary one. Problem is it can also be hell if people don't have the self-awareness your dad did to make an apology to you, and ostensibly to quit that behaviour. Your dad responded in an incredibly laudable way. Too many people don't. I'm always going to end up complicit with the douchebags because there are too many of them: I call out what I can, talk it out when I think someone's listening, but until the societal reinforcement they get is destroyed, just standing up for ourselves won't be quite enough.

When I taught six-year-olds one of the first insults the girls used was "fat", and they pelted it at each other, and the boys pelted it at them too, no matter their shape or size. (In fact they all had the body type of a flexible potato.) I had so many distraught class talks about insults and the right to make comments about another person's body, but it was too far gone even then, they'd all seen people critique women's bodies in some form of another and weren't about to stop. You can't deprogram that without massive revolution on every level.
posted by monster truck weekend at 4:44 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised there were so many comments about the article being poorly-written; I thought it was very well-written! Thanks for posting it.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:25 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


All I know is, is that my entire life I have felt varying parts of shame and pride for my weight. This is not just in my head. My entire life I have been given both compliments and insults for my weight. I am not like the author of the piece, I have never had to work to say slim and that in of itself has made me feel guilty, seeing how my friends obsess and stress over getting down to this weight, counting calories, going to the gym, lamenting about not going to the gym. The making comments about how my weight made them feel bad, and learning to say things that put myself down in order to make them feel better. Always, always feeling guilty about going shopping with others, and being hyperaware about how easy it was to buy things in comparison. But at the same time resenting them for making me feel bad about myself, for feeling ashamed of something I can't control. For buying into the hegemony and feeling like it was 'check' in my femininity list that I was able to eat anything and not gain weight as I knew this was the ideal that many guys wanted. But never being overtly proud about it, and railing outwardly at such standards, and yet, secretly, silently, being proud that I could do that. It's layers and layers of conflicting and intersecting feelings on the topic all changing and varying in degrees every single day.

I'm currently trying to put on some weight, after I lost a bit after wisdom teeth surgery. It's hard when there's no support for it out there. My friends don't know how to help or are openly jealous that I have the "challenge" of gaining weight. It feels like such a first world problem, but it's still my problem. It's such a bonding exercise, I've found, amongst women my age, to talk about dieting and good fats and bad fats and how many runs they've been on this week. I try to participate, but I don't know how to contribute. It's blatant privilege that I've never had to think about calories or question whether I should go back for a second serve of dessert. It's outright privilege that no one has ever called me on it either. Like someone above said, I could easily post pictures of eating cheeseburgers night and day and would get congratulated on it. My larger sized friends are not afforded the same luxury. But, on the flipside, the times I have ordered a salad, I have been questioned about why I need to order that, am I watching my weight (sarcastically) and implying that I may have an eating disorder. Y'know, it may just been none of those things, I simply felt like a salad that day and actually like salad sometimes! Just because I can eat unhealthy food all the time, doesn't mean I want to. I also don't want my insides turning into slush and dropping dead at 30 because my heart can't take it anymore. But women are told to value the outsides more than the insides at essentially any cost. I thought (naively, I guess) that all these things would abate the older I get, but for some reason, it seems to be getting worse? Maybe it'll plateau at some point, I hope so anyway.
posted by liquorice at 5:35 PM on June 1 [7 favorites]


I'm just trying to say that women should stand up for themselves and abdicate compliance with douchebaggery.

This is what I've done most of my life, and I've manged to avoid assholes this way. BUT!! I am in the minority of women who were not particularly interested in having children and are not particularly interested in getting married, either (at least not for the sake of being married.)

I'm sure I would have put up with a lot more crap if I thought I was in a race against time, even if that pressure was only coming from me. If you're in your 30s, want kids and/or to get married, and have invested time in a relationship it's shitty thinking you have to choose between the jerk you're dating now or starting all over again, especially since the the next guy might do the same thing.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:53 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


One of the things I've tried very hard to do is to stop myself short when I find myself thinking about or commenting on the bodies of other women. The "you're too thin" comments can be just as harmful as the "you're too fat" ones; none of us are getting out of this unscathed. I also try to not engage in "diet talk" around food, though that can be a little harder.

Not judging each other's bodies and food choices is something women can do which I think will have a profound effect on ourselves and on our relationships with each other.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:56 PM on June 1 [10 favorites]


I think this is a great article. But one element that it misses about exercise is that of competition. Men are socialized to think they should be the athletic and strong ones. Many men are worried and intimidated by a woman who might be able to run faster than them, or worse lift more weight in a squat or a leg press. Hence the hopeful "So what do you do, yoga?"
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:31 PM on June 1


I'm probably alone in this, but I think she's just a normal person trying to maintain a weight loss: yes, that means 'disordered eating', in that you cannot eat normal amounts or even to satiation, certainly never expansively. The problems come when they discover that she has no butter in the fridge, that she runs in the morning, that she cannot skip the gym; in my case, the problems come when they discover the doctor-style balance weigh scale in the bathroom.

Maintaining a weight loss requires 'disordered eating', because you're trying to push your body to be a different size than it wants to be. I know I'm Captain Obvious, but when you KNOW your two choices are 1) eat healthily, well, and as much as you like = 200 pounds and 2) eat very little, restrict your choices and exercise a minimum of 60 minutes a day =120 pounds it is enraging to have people insist (repeatedly and in the teeth of all your experience) that if you eat healthily, well, and as much as you like = 120 pounds.

And it's exhausting and infuriating to be told that you're crazy for stating this, or that you're insisting that naturally skinny women don't exist or that you're criticizing all men. Guys like the results. They do not like the process, especially when they have to live with it.
posted by jrochest at 10:25 PM on June 1 [18 favorites]


You can't deprogram that without massive revolution on every level.

Agreed, monster truck weekend. I was just trying to say that my frustration with the article is that it seems to skip what I believe to be step one in the revolution: women choosing not to have relationships with assholes (and telling them that!).

Dealing with the assholes and their assholery through politics, personal accountability, and other political AND personal methods is step two.

And yes, the kids, ah, the kids. They certainly pick up terrible stereotypes and actions from other kids, family members, distant family members, etc. I have a 4 year old daughter, who, despite no exposure from her immediate family, told me a couple of years ago that men are doctors and women nurses. Sigh. That (and similar "rules" she learned from friends and other families) took a while to deprogram and sexist information still returns about other topics.
posted by miss tea at 2:52 AM on June 2


And Room 641-A, your statement is totally true:

If you're in your 30s, want kids and/or to get married, and have invested time in a relationship it's shitty thinking you have to choose between the jerk you're dating now or starting all over again, especially since the the next guy might do the same thing.

But, it is the time investment that I'm trying to articulate should be stopped. Sure, I've dated some jerks. But ending a relationship with a person who seems like a jerk immediately gives you more time to weed out jerks and find someone who is not a jerk.
posted by miss tea at 3:01 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


So, for most women being tiny means daily intense work outs, food hypervigilence, borderline starvation AND attracting assholes who nervously ask "but you're not going to get fat again, are you???"

PASS THE CAKE
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:53 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I believe there's a pretty deep male-female power issue here but also wanted to mention that social pressure to eat more can come from a "misery loves company" type of attitude. I think there's a lot of unacknowledged compulsive overeating that goes on in the States no matter what gender you were born with.

When I say "compulsive" I mean the gamut of behaviors ranging from mindless "I have to finish everything on my plate BECAUSE IT'S THERE" to binging in private. The more people engage in the behavior, especially in a social setting, the more it flies under the radar.

When you go out to eat at a typical American restaurant, the calorie load is enough for most people for the entire day and then some, unless you are engaged in very strenuous physical labor. Yet a lot of people clean these plates in one sitting without thinking about it.

So when you're being mindful of your eating AT ALL, for whatever reason, it can make the mindless eater across the table from you feel guilty. And of course, if you're making someone feel guilty, it must be your fault. Is there an OY tag? There should be.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:50 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Yeah I think one of the many fine points in the essay is that in America, for a lot of people, maintaining a desirable weight requires behavior that is borderline unhealthy and this makes us uncomfortable talking about it.

I mean, like we talked about in the allergy thread, people have totally unpredictable, vehement reactions to other people's food choices, even more so if it's in a social setting and people are offering.
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 AM on June 2


So when you're being mindful of your eating AT ALL, for whatever reason, it can make the mindless eater across the table from you feel guilty.

I would even take it a step further and say that when you’re eating differently from what somebody else considers the norm, it can make them feel profoundly uncomfortable and even threatened. As a vegetarian I get that reaction SO MUCH. Sometimes you’d think I had set fire to a Bible instead of ordering a grilled cheese sandwich or asking to have bacon left off a salad.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:32 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


we talked about in the allergy thread

Are you talking about the gluten thread? Because yeah, whoa.

Also, in terms of people thinking the author's behavior is disordered, look at the weight loss advice on AskMe - it's often about restriction, restriction, restriction, plus weight lifting. And tracking all calories. And not including exercise at all as a deficit. I track my calories, but if I were to discount burning anything during exercise as part of my net calorie totals I would just pass right out half the week.
posted by sweetkid at 11:46 AM on June 2


Man, I didn't see that gluten thread.

So here's another thing: my 7-year-old daughter has fructose malabsorption disorder, and since we've been treating it, she has gained weight to the point where she is merely slender instead of having a BMI below the first percentile for her age and having her hair fall out. (She weighed less than forty pounds a year ago, and when she stood with her feet together, her legs only touched at the knees.) I, as previously mentioned, am quite substantially overweight. You would not BELIEVE the looks of disgust I get when we're eating out and I say something like "I know the kids' meal comes with apple slices, but can we get fries instead?" or "No, sweetie, no chocolate milk for you, you can have a diet coke." I have an electronic copy of her diagnosis results on my phone in case anyone gets shirty with me, but it's beyond that, it's the poisonous glares that happen ALL THE TIME. I'm not sure exactly what's going through people's minds, but it's pretty clear that they're angry at me about something.
posted by KathrynT at 12:03 PM on June 2 [12 favorites]


"How can anyone have a relationship to food?" he asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out,
I have been taught to grow in.

posted by MaritaCov at 12:14 PM on June 2


But ending a relationship with a person who seems like a jerk immediately gives you more time to weed out jerks and find someone who is not a jerk.

If only the all revealed themselves to be jerks early on! There's another component to this, too: you have to be willing to be single, and even when you take out the marriage/baby factor that's still a difficult decision for many people.

I'm not arguing with your premise at all; I wish more women would/could do this and I encourage it! I don't really want to derail the conversation, I just think it's a lot more complicated.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:51 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


I'm not thin, and haven't been thin since I hit puberty, and I recognized myself in this article. For most of my life I've been in the middle of the bell curve, but after I simultaneously hit 30 and immigrated to the (Southern) US where I can't walk anywhere, I became overweight. I'm a fine-looking woman, and I mostly don't care about the weight from an appearances point of view (and when I do, I can tell it's just society fucking with me). I've had slightly disordered eating that never became an eating disorder since I was a teenager, so I have to be careful about being too careful. However, I've been preoccupied with diet and exercise for the past two years, because two years ago I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and I'm losing weight so I don't get diabetes. I am absolutely surrounded by people who (a) know all about the pre-diabetic thing and (b) still tell me it won't hurt me to have a couple slices of pizza instead of my spinach salad.

I had a conversation with my husband last night where I made an off-the-cuff remark about feeling bad that I'd eaten some chocolate before going to bed, because I felt jittery and it was totally just emotional eating, and he was all, "you know, if you feel like you need the food, then eat it, your body is telling you that you need it," and I was all, "no, see, you're mistaken, my vagina is a lying bitch." He laughed and dropped it but we'll have a similar conversation next week, because I don't want to add the stress of trying to hide my diet/exercise efforts to the stress of the actual diet/exercise. His concern is absolutely coming from a "but you're beautiful just the way you are" place and not an asshole place, but I still have to have an argument with him at least once a week about my (medically approved! by multiple doctors!) diet, because he apparently has some unexamined belief that I should be able to lose weight on 3000 calories/day while sitting on the couch watching Mad Men.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:27 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Juliet Banana: "I have a thigh gap, too, when I'm triumphantly standing over the body of a man I just beat to death because he said something like “You know this girl showed up and I thought, ‘What did you do, eat the girl in the pictures?’"

I deeply regret that I have but one favorite to give for this comment. In my soul, I have favorited it ALL THE TIMES.
posted by scrump at 12:37 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


As a dude, I am really, really conflicted about the growing trend of impossible beauty standards for men.

Because, on the one hand, it's toxic, and doesn't do anyone any good.

But, on the other hand, it's about fucking time that men really understood what it's been like to be a woman for oh about the last FOREVER.

Seriously, it's like irony died. That sinking feeling you get when you realize that Zac Efron is what you're supposed to be, when Zack Galifianakis is what your metabolism is? Welcome to being every American woman ever. That even more sinking feeling when you realize that Zack Galifianakis isn't actually all that fat, just like Melissa McCarthy isn't all that fat? Congratulations on your wake-up call.

So, while I'm upset and all about how unrealistic beauty standards are finally showing up for men, I have to say, I don't really give a fuck right now. Because it's obvious that men are going to be completely goddamned oblivious until the message is beaten into their skulls with a hammer. So bring on the hammer. If this is what it takes to wake men up to the reality of a toxic media and social narrative, then so be it.

How fucked up is that? Our society is so colossally fucked that I'm actively rooting for MORE toxicity, because our society has made it impossible to actually make progress without the toxicity. And there's a better than average chance that even more toxicity WON'T ACTUALLY REGISTER.

Why, yes, I am having a BRING ON THE METEOR day, why do you ask?
posted by scrump at 12:56 PM on June 4 [10 favorites]


fshgrl: "People eat less. Straight up. I'm part of a pretty global little tribe and we ALL, men and women, gain weight in the US when we're here for work. Even if you live here and have a kitchen you have to be careful how you eat. The portions are INSANE when you first get here, laughably so. And all the food is drenched in fat and sugar, particularly outside CA. Most of the things you call "salad" are hahahaha mayo with some other things. The desserts, my god, the desserts. And people eat every 4 or 5 hours! Full meals! We eat maybe one big meal a day at home and two light ones."

We signed up for Blue Apron.

One of the most startling realizations we've had recently is that what they designate as a meal for two with leftovers for two (the idea being, you cook it for dinner, and then you can take leftovers for lunch the next day), is actually enough food to feed a family of four, AND have leftovers the next day.

That's right: we're feeding 2 adults and 2 male children for TWO MEALS on serving sizes listed as "for 2". And this is with good ingredients and simple recipes.

(This isn't a slam on Blue Apron, by the way: we love it, and it's been a tremendous boon for our family; it's gotten us off fast food for the first time in about 10 years.)
posted by scrump at 1:01 PM on June 4


I really do think the "people eat a lot in the US" is kind of a derail, unless you're sort of trying to walk it back to "and that's why people put strange pressure on very thin women to eat unhealthy/lots of food with the idea that they're naturally thin so it won't hurt them, when in fact they must carefully balance diet and exercise to maintain their low weight."
posted by sweetkid at 1:33 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


The day that men (yes, I know, notallmen) stop rejecting women on the basis of their looks is the day they get to say we're shallow for spending time and money to meet cultural standards of beauty.
posted by xenophile at 11:41 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


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