Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reading Recommendation: How the Skinny Bitch Discourse Isolates Women

Check out this very thoughtful post a Jezebel: "How the Skinny Bitch Discourse Isolates Women."

Some salient points of interest:

The key change in the past decade around skinniness is the explicit recognition of thinness as a marker not only of status, but of proud isolation from other women.

It seems likely that this "discourse of female cruelty" works in tandem with the narrative of compulsory individuality to suggest to young women that theirs is a hyper-competitive world where success is a solitary and sexualized pursuit. Whether it's chasing grades or getting guys, even your sisters are nothing more than "frenemies" at best.

What's new is that rather than seeking to strengthen young women's bonds with each other, the dominant cultural message seems determined to fray them further. The relentless reminder that other girls are mean and manipulative combines with the suggestion that success (good colleges, good boyfriends, good jobs, good praise) is scarcer than ever and requires ever more competitive effort.

I have a friend, "J" and she is a size 2. When she went to study abroad, her host mother was so offended by how thin she was, she insisted that she take second and third helpings of lunch and dinner. She was able to gain 8lbs after a full semester of rich, plentiful French food. She went home for Christmas, her mother was THRILLED to see that she had gained 8lbs! She lost the weight--over the freakin' holidays! Her metabolism was just too fast to maintain that 8lb weight gain without eating past her level of comfort/satiety on a regular basis. She has had to endure "skinny bitch" joking or not comments most of her life. She is not "a mean girl"--she is lovely and a delight. Perfectionism, extreme self-control, A-type personality, "bitchiness"--these are the stereotypes that characterize the very thin. Lazy, out-of-control, "jolly," ignorant--these are the stereotypes that characterize the fat. No one body type has market-control over laziness or bitchiness. People in all shapes and sizes exhibit personality disorders, as well as kindness, diligence and compassion. The article referenced above does an excellent job of looking at isolation and the alienation of women/girls from one another through body-type ideation. In order for fat-activists and body-acceptance activists to succeed in making the content of our character our markers rather than our body-types, we need to help our very-thin sisters feel included in these discussions. This means avoiding making those "eat a sandwich" jokes and supporting eating disorder victims (even when their own disorders makes them cringe when they see average/fat people).
Vive la différence!

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I just found your blog randomly and I have to say that this post really hit home for me. I am 5'2'' and struggle to stay at 110 lbs. I love to eat, and I eat a lot, but my metabolism is just really really fast. As far back as 1st grade I can remember peers and even friends' parents commenting on my thinness, calling me anorexic, telling me I need to eat, etc. Even now, my very sweet and well-meaning father in law will act absolutely AMAZED when I finish a plate of food in front of him (something I do regularly).

    It is indeed extremely alienating and the words "skinny bitch" hurt.

    I think we need more dialogue about this. People don't realize that being thin comes with its own set of challenges, especially if that thinness is unintentional or what other people consider to be extreme. I'm actually technically a healthy weight, but people just LOVE to comment on how small I am as if it's unnatural or a bad thing.

    In any case, thank you for this post, and as someone with friends and family of all shapes and sizes, I could not agree more.

    - LJ