The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

That’s nice, but…

Via Twitter: “This secret on the PostSecret App is the most hearted of the day”:

There’s a part of me that wants to salute that person in Ohio, to thank them for reminding us that we’re all lovable, and deserving of love. That being ‘bigger’ is no signifier of anything other than of itself. I’d like to thank all the people that “hearted” it, who innocently wanted to make fat women feel better. I want to just smile at this. I want to hug it to me and print it out and post it on my wall.

I’d like to be able to do that. But my feminist brain won’t let me. My feminist brain gets me in trouble all the time, fuck it.

My Feminist Brain wants to point out that “bigger women” are not always “curvy”. It wants to mention that for most people, “curvy” suggests Christina Hendricks and Sofia Vergara, not Beth Ditto or Melissa McCarthy. It wants me to note that while I had no trouble thinking of Hendricks and Vergara, I had to rack my brain to think of “bigger women” who aren’t all vavavoom curves and giant tits.

I’d like to be able to just see the intent of this, and not have “intent isn’t magic” screaming at the back of my head. The problem with that particular meme being that while no, intent isn’t magic, it is still important. The person who posted this meant well. They meant to make people like me feel good about myself.

And therein lies the biggest problem for my Feminist Brain. Random Person in Ohio doesn’t get that one postcard is never going to cancel out the thousands of other messages that fat is bad and unhealthy and unattractive, and of course no one could ever love someone like me. What RPiO doesn’t get is that it doesn’t matter that there are some people who find “bigger girls” attractive.

What matters is that women, no matter what our size, can never measure up. That calling someone curvy is just body-policing of a different kind. (Be fat, sure, but you better have great tits and a small waist and nice legs. And don’t be afraid to show off those breasts – they’re your only good feature. Oh, but not too much. No one really wants to see that much of you.) That we will always always be defined first by how we look, by our bodies.

Or, hey, maybe I’m just a contrary bitch who can’t take a compliment.

5 responses to “That’s nice, but…

  1. Carol October 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Well said, Tallulah.
    It’s fucking patronising.

  2. Moz October 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I guess I read that more as an example of “it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness”. Sure, intent is not magic, but the question I’m asking “is what they’ve done helping or hurting”. You seem to fear that it’s probably hurting more than helping, and I disagree. I suspect you’re using the perfect as the enemy of the good (which is a problem more widespread than critique of activism, it’s a big part of body policing for example).

    As an activist I get this all the time and it shits me. There’s always someone piping up to insist that unless everything is perfect I should do nothing[1]. Often this is also voiced by people inside activist groups as well as those trying to silence us. After some consideration, I have decided that those who hold that viewpoint have an obligation to be consistent. Specifically, until they are themselves perfect they have an obligation to be silent. This isn’t so much a specific response as my consciously developed gut reaction to the sentiment.

    It’s a hard balancing act. On the one hand, “the inside is what counts” is a reasonable position and a positive response to body policing. On another hand, “fat can be beautiful too” is empowering. But on the gripping hand, that’s always going to say “can be” and the beauty competition usually has more losers than winners. But on another hand, the postcard is IMO pointing more at the “everyone is beautiful in their own way” view than the “fat supermodels exist” view.

    So I think there’s justification for seening it positively.

    [1] specifically for me it’s often “until all cyclists, everywhere, always obey all road rules, no cyclist anywhere should expect not to be murdered”. Please don’t start that.

    • tallulahspankhead October 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm

      And I pointed out, in the post, the ways it could be positive. But, as one of the women it purports to be “helping”, you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel it achieved that goal.

  3. Jackie Clark October 7, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I have a thought to share. Do with it what you will. When it comes to who others find attractive, we have no control over that. We do not see with their eyes. We are not them. So body policing is really all about how we see ourselves. We are, in effect, policing ourselves. That is all.

  4. Ally October 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I like the sentiment behind the post card. I love your analysis. I also love the fact that all women have curves because they are human beings and therefore are three dimensional.

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