Rewriting the Self
Ok, let’s be very real and confessionary for a second. In the last two years, I have lost about 60 pounds. Part of me is really thrilled with this fact because it’s great to accomplish something, even if you didn’t really mean to. The other part of me is very feminist-y and she, while burning her bra (can you blame her? Bras are not strictly comfy wear), sits there and rails against the assumption that everyone who is fat (yup, I said it, what of it? The word fat, in and of itself, carries no value judgement, it simply remarks on the composition of a body) SHOULD be thin or even can be thin (for full disclosure, I am not thin. I likely never will be as my boobs suggest that my body, while small, is designed to have ample padding in certain spots.) I am with the feminist in me 100% in thinking that thinness does not equal- health, reliability, responsibleness, desirability, hard working, or any of the other assumptions that people make about thin people.
But I am in the minority (a vocal minority; I’ll give you other blogs to visit re: the fat debate at the end) in thinking this. The thinking is so pervasive that studies have been done that bear these anecdotal results out. And as someone who was/is fat, thinks about these issues, and generally wishes the world would remove its collective head from its collective ass re: thin vs. fat value judgements, what I am about to talk about is, in part feeding into the whole negative view society has of people of size (I love this term because EVERYONE is a person of size, likely different sizes but they’re all still sizes and if philosophy has taught me nothing, it is that if something is true with modifiers, it is nonetheless true.) But as I think about these issues and have wordily spelled them out for you and hopefully made my personal position clear, I am going to soldier on.
So, why am I thinking about the size and shape of my body? Because it is largely a new size and shape and I am still getting used to dressing and living in it.
The new shape I have is different, not better or worse, but decidedly different from my old shape. It is a more exaggerated collection of convexity and concavity. It is more obviously muscle-y (I have thighs of steel because I am actually a mesomorph. Here’s a description and there are links at the bottom to endomorphic and ectomorphic body types: http://www.cavemenworkout.com/physiology/95-10-physical-characteristics-of-a-mesomorph. It’s not the greatest but it gives you some indication of how easily I build muscle. I haven’t done anything more than some yoga and lots of walking to build legs that have been described as looking like a modern dancer’s.) All of these things have resulted in a realization that to fulfill my ideal of style, I have to dress in an entirely new way. Out have gone the t-shirts and pants and in have come leggings (to show off my legs, duh!) and dresses and tunics. And, in acquiring all these new clothes, I have had to relearn what clothing sizes and shapes even mean in relationship to my new body. This has resulted in a realization that clothing sizing is so horribly biased and skewed that they literally mean nothing and manage to discriminate towards a substantial portion of the American population.
Clothing sizes, in the US, are not standardized. They are in several European countries, just FYI. As a result, in the US, I can wear a size small in one article of clothing from one company and an extra large in another item from another company. However, even intracompany, I cannot necessarily wear the same size across the board. Because that makes sense. But because I can wear “straight” sizes (“standard” sizes XS-XL) I can wear pretty much anything my little heart desires. Lots of dresses please and thank you. When I was larger the ability to wear a range of sizes was the same but the OPTIONS that came in those sizes were severely limited. And this is where we get to discrimination.
Exercise clothing is the new everyday clothing. Women wear yoga pants everywhere but yoga. And as long as you wear “straight” sizes, you have a plethora of options. Should you want to wear yoga pants in a non-standard size, however, you will have no such luck (Go here: http://flyingpigapparel.wordpress.com/about/ for one of the few options.) There are precious few exercise clothing companies that cater to people of size. So the long and short of it is, we want people we deem overweight to exercise but we refuse to give them the tools to comfortably do so. While exercise clothing is the most egregious offender, that mindset, that if you are larger you don’t deserve a variety of clothing choices is pervasive in the clothing industry. Karl Lagerfeld, the famed designer at the couture design house Chanel, once remarked on Adele of the angelic voice, saying that she had a pretty face but was too fat. Now, Adele has won a boat load of Grammys, sold millions of records, is generally beloved by millions, and has a gorgeous, lush, Ruben-esque body and Karl Lagerfeld, whose design house decidedly does not cater to anyone shaped other than a toothpick, chose to take everything positive about Adele and ignore it, reducing her worth to being directly connected to the size of her body. And, lest you think that Karl Lagerfeld is a lone voice, take a look at any fashion house or clothing store and they may not be flat out saying it but they are obviously designing under the assumption that the amount of attention and care a woman should get is directly tied to the size of her body.
And to that I say, fuck you clothing companies. Our worth, as women, is not based on anything having to do with our bodies and acting as such is hugely discriminatory and generally asshole behavior.
You thought I couldn’t make some random post about my body into a feminist call to action to demand respect and consideration as women, whatever our bodies look like? Ha! Proved you wrong didn’t I?
If you wish to educate yourself further on the issues facing people of size (and remember, we are all people of size), here are some sites that I think will help to that end: danceswithfat.wordpress.com, blisstree.com (they took KL to task for his comment), xojane.com (check out the writers Marianne Kirby and Lesley Kinzel), therotund.com, virginiasolesmith.com/blog.
Let me know what you think in the comments.