Sunday, 13 May 2007

The primeval male and bin bag porn

Saturday 12th May ‘07

Last night I was walking to my friends’ house at 6 in the evening. It is only a short walk but our area is not the safest in the world and there are always an inordinate amount of creepy men just sitting in parked cars at all hours of the day and night and gangs of kids who shout lewd comments. If it is late I usually prevail upon my very nice and understanding friends to walk me home, but as it was light and still technically daytime, I thought I’d be pretty safe from the creepiness. As I walked along I passed a parked car with two men in it. I had gone a few steps beyond it when one of the men opened the door and leant out. ‘Hey fatty!’ he shouted after me. I just ignored him and carried on as he continued to shout it all the way down the road, but it made me angry. He wasn’t just some stupid kid; he was in his thirties at least and should know better. I know I am no sylph, but I am hardly morbidly obese. You would think that in the whole of Birmingham you could find a fatter person to taunt. What is wrong with people? Have they nothing better to do?


Just before the Easter holidays I finally showed this project to a few people. (It also exists in book form, with lots of pretty pictures) In the book were four photos of me in my underwear, taken at the beginning of the project as sort of ‘before’ photos. I had no make-up on and was trying to look as fat and frumpy as possible - the idea being of course, that you were to be wowed with the ‘after’ photos at the end, which are as yet not taken. Now, firstly I gave the book to a couple to read, one after the other. I handed over the book without a second thought to my female friend, but then I was suddenly struck with the thought ‘oh god, I can’t let her boyfriend see those, he’s a boy,’ and I made my friend fasten those two pages together with a paper clip. Now I’ve known the gentleman in question for a while, he is good friend and I am pretty sure he has seen me at about the worst I can look on many an occasion, so why then, couldn’t I let him see these pictures? I’ll tell you why. Because I was in my underwear, and ‘you mustn’t let boys see you in your underwear’. Ridiculous isn’t it?

It is even more illogical when you think that if anything, showing pictures like that to girl is far more dangerous than showing them to a man. A man would just look at them, think ‘oh, right’ and turn the page. A girl is going to compare and criticise. A girl will see your cellulite, whereas I don’t think a man really would. And in our twenties, shouldn’t we be beyond worrying about a boy seeing you in your underwear? I’m quite happy to wear a bikini on the beach, and there really is no difference. Although I don’t at the moment, I have lived with guys for two years. I even have a brother for god’s sake. There was never any question of inappropriate thoughts ever entering their heads, so why was I totally comfortable in all states of undress in front of my female housemates, but would’ve rather died than let the guys see me like that?

All I can conclude is that these thoughts must be so drummed into us at school and whatever that we just think them automatically now. We are perfectly happy to let strange men see us totally naked if we’re going to sleep with them, but we won’t let our closest friends see us in our bra and pants. It’s so silly. I don’t know, but if I was a guy I reckon I’d be pretty insulted. Or is it just ingrained in our culture? Is it right to maintain modesty at all times, even in defiance of all logic? Why can’t we ever seem to get past sex? And does everyone feel the same way? So many questions... Opinions anyone?


After my friends had read the project, I asked them for their opinions. One interesting point of view was one I had never even considered before. It came from a friend whom I have always considered to be extremely attractive in an elegant, understated way. She is of average height, with soft, brown curly hair, blue eyes and fair skin. She is also very slender. She can wear all the clothes that I can’t, and I have to confess that whenever I see her in leggings and one of her many mini dresses I am consumed with bright green glowing envy. ‘Damn her and her perfect legs!’ is my usual automatic response to anyone with a figure I covet. I think that these girls must be happy and that if they are not then they are just being neurotic, but the other day I heard the other side of the story for the first time. Well that’s not quite true, lets say I have heard it before, but I had never really believed it until now.

Now this particular friend, let us for now call her Kitty, is slender. But like so many slender girls, and certainly all the skinny models we aspire to, she has not got a very large chest. But her size suits her. If she did have huge breasts it would look weird and out of proportion. In the past I have always had a low tolerance level for friends who complained about their lack of cleavage. ‘If you are slim, let alone slim and pretty’ I thought, ‘then you should just shut up and stop complaining. God gave us fatties big boobs as compensation for not looking like you do.’ I know this is an incredibly narrow-minded and selfish thought, but I am human, and I defy anyone to say that they have never secretly thought similar mean things. Talking to Kitty however, was an education. She said that she identified a lot with most of the things I had written, however in her case, it was all in reverse. Where I worried about being too fat, she worried about being too skinny. Where I complained that I was never taken to be anything more than a sexual object, she complained that she was never taken to be one in the first place.

It is a well-known fact that you should always try to emphasise your waist. Men are apparently attracted to hourglass figures because the smaller your waist is in relation to your hips and chest, the more fertile you are likely to be. This is because pre-pubescent girls are yet to acquire hips and boobs, and post-menopausal women put on weight around the middle. In cave man terms, we seek out partners who will be the most fertile and healthy. Therefore, being too fat gets you mistaken (somewhere in the primeval male unconscious) for being too old. But it works the other way around too. Being too thin gets you mistaken for being too young. Kitty gets this all the time. While women may think she is enviable, sexy and stylish, this apparently counts for nothing with men. They have their own criteria. She tells me that she often feels invisible to men. They treat her like a little girl – patronisingly, maybe fondly, but she never gets to feel like sexual temptress. She said she envied the power women with large breasts and hourglass figures have over men. She envies the choice we have of whether to be attractive or not by removing a cardigan and the ability we have to turn the frumpiest of clothes into something potentially sexy. Kitty could wear a bin bag and make it look hip and stylish, whereas I could wear a bin bag and turn it into porn.

The other problem that skinny girls face is that unlike larger girls, they get no sympathy when they complain or say they are unhappy with their bodies because people like me never really believe them or think they should just be quiet and be grateful. I have to admit, I would rather be too fat than too thin, because at least I can lose weight. And being a little overweight often endears you to other girls. It’s like being in some sort of special club. We can all sit around giggling and eating cake and happily moaning that we are too fat. It’s sort of a hobby. It’s automatic, and like the happy English pastime of complaining about the weather, complaining about your body is a good female bonding activity. It’s a way of saying ‘yes, I too am not perfect. I am no threat to you. In fact, I understand your plight and sympathise’. Which is something everyone wants to hear.

I guess we all just want what we can’t have, but I have to say, Kitty has a point. She also makes me feel a hell of a lot better about myself. The other night I was dragged out to a club against my will. I thought, ‘oh it’s ok, I’ll just wear the black strapless dress, that’ll do the talking for me.’ It is very nice to be able to say that, whatever that might do to the cause of feminism. On the other hand, it makes me feel just a teensy bit sad. Here we are, all of us feeling bad about our bodies, each of us living in our own private hell, envying others and thinking that they at least must be feeling happy. Logic would say that if that is the case, why can’t we all just accept that everyone hates at least one part of their bodies and get over it, but I think by now we have established that this is never going to be the case. That is why I decided to make this project into a blog actually. I have now spoken to quite a few normal, attractive, only mildly insane friends about this and we all feel the same in one way or another. If we can all talk to each other about it then maybe we can go some way towards feeling better. I know I do.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Square One

Monday 30th April ‘07
Last night I watched yet another fat program while eating a big tub of ice cream. You’d think I would have better things to do with my time.
I must make some more excuses now. As is always the way, after months of cosy hibernation I suddenly acquired a life out of the blue at around the beginning of March. It seemed as though everything (Good stuff and bad) all seemed to happen at once – both at work and play. As a consequence, after living on cider and pork scratchings at the pub for about two weeks solid just before Easter, I was a physical and emotional wreck. The irony of this is that I actually lost a lot of weight, all of which I then proceeded to put back on over the Easter holidays. So now I guess I am just about returning to normal, back at square one.

Size 0 (I know, I'm sick of it too, but it had to be in here sooner or later)

Monday 23rd April

Last night I watched yet another program on the size 0 debate. This time, two journalists who were both a size 12 attempted to get down to a size 00 in six weeks. Yes, you heard me correctly, double zero. That’s a UK size 2. Not only content with fitting into the clothes of a ten year old, these women are now fitting into clothes a six year old could wear. Where, precisely, is this going to end? The point of this, as with all the other similar programs I have seen is to show the awfulness of dieting and eating disorders etc, etc. (Which it doesn’t) But on the official website for this program, right above the official blurb about this ‘hard-hitting’ program’s exposé of the horrors of dieting, is a whole string of weight-loss ads. Great.

Watching programs like this I always have mixed feelings. I am addicted to them for a start, although mostly this is because of the freak show element, I suspect. On one hand they make me feel great – “oh, so dieting is awful and I am a normal size, yay lets have some cake!” But on the other hand I have to confess something awful. Something I never thought I would ever have to say. I envy them. I think they look, if not good then not too bad. I’m surprised they don’t look thinner, and I look at the diets they do and think, hmmm…maybe.

I know, I know. That makes me seriously fucked up, right? But think about it. There is a twisted logic somewhere in there. Anorexia works. Horrible though it may be, you never see a fat anorexic. When I was younger (About 14 or so) I actually tried to catch anorexia, as if it was some kind of virus. I started skipping lunch and throwing away food in the hope that somehow, if I could just get anorexic for a few months, I would lose weight. (Thankfully, I didn’t succeed) Then I figured I could just shake it off, like you would a bad cold and everything would be fine again. Don’t you just love how invincible you feel when you are young? I guess now you’re all going to think I’m completely mental and eligible for some sort of psychiatric help, but it was just an adolescent phase that I am well over, I promise. And you know what? I bet there are more ‘normal’ girls than you’d think out there who would identify with me, those journalists for example. I am noticing a suspicious amount of these programs around and although they maintain that they do it out of journalistic dedication etc, etc, there has to be a tiny part of them, on whatever level that secretly wants it. You would have to in order to agree to it in the first place. If I had any, I would put money on it.

I feel a little shamed actually. Here are these journalists putting themselves through all sorts of physical and mental trauma for the cause of their art, and what have I done? I have not exactly been extreme in my weight-loss attempts. In fact I have not lost any weight at all, nor have I been on anything remotely approaching a diet. All I've done is whinged about how I have not done it yet. All this shows if anything is my extreme lack of willpower. Although very probably that’s a good thing.

I also found a very interesting article on vanity sizing by Nick Afka Thomas for the Guardian (Thursday August 10th ’06). Here is an excerpt.

“What is particularly frustrating is that size 0 is clearly a marketing concept. Over the years, vanity sizing has ensured that standardised clothing measurements have become less reliable. The shopper who finds that she can fit into a "smaller" size is more likely to buy the dress, even if it is not actually smaller but has merely been labelled as such.”
“This particularly affects the very smallest dress sizes, where the frightening competition to be ever thinner is at its peak. As a result, the gap between normal women and super-waifs appears to be widening. But this is an example of the numbers being trusted, without being questioned.”
“Are women who are a so-called size 0 really 12 sizes smaller than a size 12? Size 12 (or American size 10) is roughly designed around three measurements: bust 35in, waist 28in, hips 38in. And then, for every one that you remove from the size, you should remove one inch from each of the measurements. Therefore an American size 0 would have a 25in bust, an 18in waist and 28in hips. A five foot tall, corseted Victorian might just about have a waist that size. But for most women nowadays, it would be tantamount to death.”
“Size 0 is a misuse of numbers. It does not exist, nor should it. The British representative of size 0 is Posh Beckham, and there have been recent reports about her 23in waist. This would make her an American size 5, British size 7; not a size 0. Misnumbering her size sets a new unattainable standard.”