Sometimes I’m walking outside and a guy I don’t know calls out a compliment. Sometimes I like it. I smile for a second and go on with my day. And it has been pointed out to me that this is probably very bad.
There are lots of reasons why it’s bad for men to compliment women on the street. They are objectifying those women. The women might not want that attention, and it can feel invasive and uncomfortable. It can feel inescapable. It can sometimes take on an aggressive tone. It can be harassing. Sometimes it is. And that is not OK. Really, not at all.
But sometimes it isn’t harassing at all. Sometimes it’s nice. And it’s interesting to me that this feels like a sort of shameful and risky thing for me to admit. As though I have just failed feminism. As though I owe feminism more, and I’m letting womankind down, and I have gotten mixed up and forgotten some of the basic rules and regulations. I should consult the manual immediately. Keep reading »
I am 19 weeks pregnant. In pregnancy, everything is measured in weeks, and I keep wanting to wish my fetus a happy beginning-of-the-next-week birthday. Because we made it this far and we should celebrate, damn it. But I guess that gets a little excessive. People keep telling me, “You barely look pregnant!” And it’s frustrating, because I am really, really pregnant. I know, because of all the barfing I endured for three months. (So much barfing! Dear God. I can hardly look at a saltine now without a rising sense of dread.) I know, because of the boxing match that seems to be going on endlessly between my very enthusiastic baby and any part of my body he or she can reach. Believe me, I am quite pregnant. So when people tell me, “I can’t even tell!” I have this weird reaction. I know that they are complimenting me. They’re suggesting that I look thin, and I’m supposed to appreciate that. But I also have to resist the urge to stick my belly out and say, “No, no, seriously, look closer! This is the real deal!” Keep reading »
People like to make things into battles, with two opposing sides. You know, like in the Mommy Wars where breastfeeding is a battle cry and formula feeding is a ferocious counterattack. Oy vey.
Sometimes, in the world of conversations about body image, it seems like heavy women get pitted against thin women. There are a series of memes that have been endlessly cycling through Facebook with pictures of skinny, currently famous women alongside previous pinups with voluptuous breasts and hips. One caption reads “When did this … become hotter than THIS?” suggesting that our thin-obsessed culture has lost its way.
“EEWWW! She’s just skin and bones!” say the commenters. And then thin women get understandably pissed. Keep reading »
I shook my head recently when I read about New York Observer film critic Rex Reed’s personal insult toward actress Melissa McCarthy. In a review of her latest offering, “Identity Thief,” he called her “tractor-sized” and as big as a “hippo.” Isn’t it interesting, I thought, that a man, who himself is part of a marginalized and often supressed segment of society [Reed is widely believed to be gay.] wields his pejoratives so freely when directed toward another similarly ill-regarded community, the “un-thin” or “un-commercial.” The part of our population that still hides in a closet of self-hatred. The part of our population, fearful that they won’t be accepted or seen for anything other than their physical appearance. You don’t have to be overweight to be part of our collective; you just have to have a self-loathing of some physical feature you feel you possess. Surely, this is something that everyone can relate to at some point in their lives and certainly, unless he was blessed to have grown up amongst royalty, Rex Reed himself must have had to deal with.
Keep reading »
She was really beautiful. She was the coolest girl ever. She always knew what to say, and she said it casually, like she barely had to think first. I wanted to be just like her. I was 13, she was 15, and she was perfect to me.
My parents were very supportive. They thought I was smart and pretty and capable. And that is so important, like the concrete they pour into the husk of the foundation of a house when it’s just planks and sticks in the dirt. But the shape of the building, the furniture inside—I think that comes from other girls. That’s how you learn how to be a girl, after all, from the other ones around you. Keep reading »
I was looking seriously cute. My hair was behaving commendably, my face did not have anything obviously wrong with it, my belt was making my waist look seductive, and my new boots gave me a taller, lither look than I’m accustom to. Even my little boobs were cheerful and holding form in my bra, rather than sliding disobediently down, as is their evil habit.
“You look great!” said my husband, picking up on the whole thing. He snapped a photo on his phone. And another, and then a third.
“Hmm,” he said, “I can’t really get a good angle. Wait.” One more. “Okay,” he said, sounding satisfied. He showed me.
It was a little shocking, how wrong I’d been. My hair was stringy and frazzled at the same time. My face had aged 10 years. My waist was bulging around the belt, and my little stunted legs looked almost hilariously comical in their silly, trying-too-hard boots. Even in the “good” shot, I appeared to be lumbering off to terrorize a small village, possibly to capture a maiden or two and haul them off to my cave for supper. I’m not even going to get started on my boobs. Keep reading »
When I was in college studying in Italy, I got insanely, disgustingly skinny. My host mother fed us very little. I think she requested vegetarian students because she thought vegetarians ate less. Each night, she would stir a tablespoon of canned spaghetti sauce over a 1/2 portion of pasta, cigarette in hand, and when we were done eating (she never ate — she was the size of a mouse) she’d look at us with threatening eyes, shrug and say, “What else you want?”
I was just so happy to be there, so willing to assimilate into my new lifestyle, and always a little nervous about doing new things, that I was too timid to ask for more. After a while, I didn’t even realize I was hungry. And my stomach got smaller and smaller. I weighed about 120 pounds when I got there, a healthy amount for my 5’2″ frame. After a few months in Italy, since I didn’t have a scale, I can only guess I was down to about 90 pounds. It scares me to type that number out. So much. Keep reading »
The other day, a girl emailed me:
“I’m worried that I’m not pretty enough to get a guy. I’m single, and want a serious relationship, but sometimes I think I can’t find one because I’m not prettier.”
I wanted to exclaim, “That’s ridiculous!” But instead I thought, Well, of course you’re worried.
When I was single, I reasoned that being hotter was always better because it would give me more options. The hotter I was, the more guys would be interested in me, and the more choice I’d have in the matter. So even if I thought I looked fine, it would’ve been better to look, well, even better. (And then there is no limit—you can always be hotter, somehow.) And when I thought that I looked significantly, depressingly less than fine, I was scared, because I felt as though I might miss out on something essential.
This is not irrational. It makes sense, when we think of women’s worth as being closely matched, at least initially, with their beauty. Keep reading »
This weekend I was wandering around one of my favorite stores when I spotted a sliver of blue plaid fabric peeking out from the crowded rack of dresses. Blue is my favorite color, and plaid is my favorite pattern, so I was immediately intrigued.
When I reached into the mass of hangers and pulled out the mysterious dress, there is a good chance I audibly gasped. It was lined in silk, with a cutout in the back, a sweetheart neckline, and a flowing hourglass shape. It was surprisingly formal, but the plaid fabric made it feel playful and fun. It was unique without trying too hard. It was, quite possibly, the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen. “I would pay $200 for a dress like this,” I thought, flipping over the price tag to reveal numerous crossed-out sale prices making their way toward a grand total of $39.97. I practically skipped to the dressing room. Keep reading »
I liked being Jewish. I just hated my face. I wanted desperately to like my face better. I’d spent too many years laughing with my hand over my nose because I thought it looked even bigger when my face was happy. Stupid, right? It’s amazing, in retrospect, the things we are tormented by.
When I was a little girl, I thought I’d grow up to look like a queen—exotic, powerful, with a strong, regal profile. Queen Thayet, in Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals series, had a hawk nose and she was the most beautiful woman in the world! Why not me? I had a hawk nose! I figured I would be decent at ruling a kingdom, too.
But then when I was 14 a girl told me I needed to get my face fixed. She said she had a friend whose daddy could do it because he was a rich plastic surgeon. She said that if I went to him he’d make me pretty.
The things kids say! Keep reading »