exactly that

The Space Between…

Jennifer Hawkins, a white, blonde, thin woman, nude on the cover of Marie Claire magazine.The policing of other women’s bodies is never OK from a feminist standpoint. I can’t stress that point enough. It doesn’t serve any productive purpose in feminist discourse.

It is mostly an understood concept among people outside of the mainstream of feminism. Those who are able to work their theory around the concepts of white, straight, cis, upper-middle class, educated, able-bodied privilege.

Yet, a concept that still slips into the space between understanding is the difference between criticizing someone who comes from a place of thin privilege and tearing someone down for a body that is not like your own.

This article at Bitch, to me, was the latter.

It doesn’t seem like so long ago that I was a size 0. And yet, looking at myself now it feels so far away. That is something I am coming to grips with even today. But my mind remembers it all so well. How can nothing be something? And even at nothing I felt all my flaws. I covered in my towel so I didn’t have to glimpse myself in the mirror and be disgusted by what I saw. I still do that now! I refused to own a scale, afraid of what I would see (I still do that now!)…because it would send me into fits of fear and rage and crying…because no matter how much I threw up and refused to eat I could not weigh what all the charts said someone of my height and weight should…and my thighs jiggled and my belly bulged and my arms — while muscular from kitchen work — wiggled. Even though I was actually nothing. My clothing size was nothing.[1]

Jennifer Hawkins has thin privilege. Yes. She most certainly does. But when I was struggling I had two kinds of people to look at in magazines and on television: overly photoshopped women who were too perfect, and purposefully imperfect women meant to make me hate myself so that I would work to not be like them. There was no campaign of women of any size coming out to say “we are imperfect, but here we are“.

I will grant this: The Bitch piece does criticize the way that Jennifer Hawkins’ flaws have been the main focus of her nude cover. That is not the conversation that this cover should be invoking in feminist circles. But if she is talking about how hard this was for her, that is not something we should be criticizing. Dismissing her hesitancy, her own insecurities just because she is thin and has a different body type than someone else… that is not feminist either. When has it ever been OK for us to dismiss another woman’s experiences?

Why can’t we, as feminists, understand that?

She no longer has the protection of her Photoshop Deflector Shields, so she is in a vulnerable place, but her thin privilege doesn’t put her in the same place as all the fatties of the world who are crying in clothing stores because shirts are not made for their bodies. I get that. I think Kelsey Wallace at Bitch, for whom I just did a mostly lovely guest blogging stint w/ some of the FWD/Forward team, even gets that despite what I am garnering from her post.

Jennifer Hawkins is not the same as me. She does not know what it is like to walk into a doctor’s office and have hir assume that the pain or illness is caused by my weight before they know anything about me. She does not know the pain of the stares when I have trouble walking somewhere, as if it is definitely because I am a fattie. Or how clothes are made for people like her and not for me…or how society is made to make me feel like I am a big worthless pile of shit whose only chance at redemption is to adopt a “Lifestyle Change” for just sixty bucks a month or whatever.

But while we are throwing stones at Hawkins and scolding her for making us all feel like crap, let’s remember that she is entitled to feel like crap too. And other women who look like her, who aren’t models, who might feel like crap about themselves, they are allowed to feel that way too if they want too. Because some of them might be trying to recover or hold on or what the fuck ever. Maybe they are healthy, and have been told to Eat a Sandwich[2], as if it funny or hip, but they can’t gain weight or can’t eat that much for whatever reason.

Or, maybe we, women of any size, are allowed to love our bodies and just be fucking happy, no matter what, and these women on these covers should show us that at any size we can all be beautiful (and maybe we will see more variance soon…but I am a silly, idealistic girl[3]).

We can criticize thin privilege without policing other women’s bodies.

Just sayin’…

[1] Why are women’s sizes arbitrary numbers? Why can’t they be waist measurements? That would be more consistent?

[2] Yes. I linked to them. I want people to see how awful that thread is, and how flippantly and dismissively that is defended, even when it is pointed out to the mod to be harmful. As in, she doesn’t care that some people find it harmful.

[3] I can’t back this up. I am not.

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Comments on: "The Space Between…" (3)

  1. When I moved into my new place there was a mirror on the wall in my bedroom. I am renting and for some reason when I looked at the place I did not see the full lenght mirror attached to the wall in the bedroom. Because I had an eating disorder for 6 years I did not use mirrors (other than a bathroom mirror), no scales and cut the labels out of my clothes. I have been very healthy for a few years now. So the mirror was a way for me to be okay with standing in front of the mirror and saying I LOVE MY BODY! I taped up a small saying on the mirror that says, “I have a beautiful body.” It was only 8 years ago when I would stand in front of the mirror for an hour each day pinching my skin until it was red because I hated my body. Numerous issues at hand – quitting collegiate athletics, horrible long distance relationship and healing from generational trauma. My eating disorder was not about my body – it was about how I had experienced a torturous life and the only way I knew how to treat myself was to hurt myself more. I do love my body but this picture would not help. She is white and privileged. Although I was very body positive in my teens I was eaten alive by the outside world in my early twenties. I am now self loving but the journey was dark much of the time. I never expect mainstream magazines to do anything but perpetuate these ridiculous standards even when promoting health. So I haven’t read them in years – they are all toxic to the body, mind and spirit. If I knew someone healing from an eating disorder I would direct them to sites like this one:

    http://www.bodypositive.com

  2. This is a great post and you should feel great for having written it.

  3. […] that might make it easier to do something like this, but I also can’t ignore the fact that even thin women are allowed to feel insecure with their own bodies. We fat women don’t own the copyright on that. I mean, what kind of world do we live in when […]

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