exactly that

Posts tagged ‘thin privilege’

Piece of Me

A few weeks back Britney Spears, whom I think most people around here are probably aware by now, is someone whom I admire the fuck out of did something else I kind of admired. We’ll get to that.

We kind of grew up together, Britney and I. She’s a year younger than I am, give or take a few months (we are still on the “give” end, right now), and there were stages in her music and over-exposed by the media life that hit the stride w/ my life that really helped me cope. She was the first pop star who was around my age who normalized the idea that it was OK to struggle between the idea of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy, and prove that you could come through the other end of it defining your sexuality on your own terms and really decide for yourself what it all meant to you.

While I lamented that Britney had to go through in public many things that I was desperately trying to keep private, I secretly was relieved to have someone to look up to and see that there was this celebrity, this literal nigh rock star who bounced back from it, to tell me that I was going to be just fine. Here is this mother, this woman, this divorcee, this person who lived while wearing all of these hats, and didn’t have to do it perfectly, and yeah, people were really fucking harsh on her. But here she was, and if she could do it all with all of these people watching her, then surely I could come back and heal and do it OK for myself and maybe find the fight inside of me. I did and she did, and I think we are both still healing a wee bit. I haven’t asked her directly, but I would over coffee if given the chance.

But now back to that other thing that I just love that she did. Britney released the original, untouched pictures from a recent photo shoot with Candee’s shoes, showing all of the things that were ‘Shopped out for the advertisement.

Britney Spears, a white woman with blonde hair in a pink bathing suit and black high heeled shoes in a before and after photo shop shot, showing her waist slimmed, her thighs slimmed, and her bruises removed from her shins.

Not ignoring the fact that Britney Spears is not the majority of women who will consume this advert, I have to have a lot of respect for this. As a woman who opened magazines as a teen and wondered what the poop was wrong with her own knees, I appreciate this gesture. I have no illusions that Britney Spears has a great deal of privilege that allows her to be able to find more comfort 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 a woman who has been a professional dancer for most of her adult life isn’t deemed perfect enough? That she has to have the bruises one would find business as usual to that kind of activity to be unsightly erased to be considered conventionally beautiful; that her ankles have to be smoothed, that some of her muscle tone has to be smoothed away as if it were ZOMCC TEH UNSIGHTLY FAT!!!1!ELEVENTYONE! is telling of where women are in society.

This is a far cry from “she is a manufactured pop star, what do you want?” also. As previously noted by Melissa McEwan, even Britney Spears isn’t Britney Spears ™ anymore. In fact, I kind of like this Britney Spears better, because she seems to have settled into a more creative and comfortable her — a Britney who is fine having un-‘Shopped pics of herself released because she knows that she is comfortable enough in what she has that she is proud of what each mark and bruise means to her. A stronger and more confident woman. A woman who is strong enough to say “This is the person I am outside of the image someone else carved out for me”.

She knows that she has come by all of this in her life and she knows the stories behind all of it. Every bruise, bump, fold, wrinkle and dimple.

Britney Spears, again a before and after, showing her tatoo removed, her cellulite removed, and her buttocks made smaller by Photoshopping.

I am glad to have someone who can do this to look up to. And while yes, beauty is a construct of society that at the end of the day is another hierarchy that is set up to privilege some women above others, I can not fault some women for abiding by it or even succeeding by it, not when there are so many things that are set in place to hold us pack within the Kyriarchal structure. Like Natalia Antonova noted once, beauty “goes hand-in-hand with terror”. Because, for women who depend beauty to get by in our society, “losing your looks is extremely hard in a culture that somehow manages to both reward and punish you for having them”.

We can argue all day the privilege of being a conventionally thin and attractive woman. We can argue all day that a celebrity sets hirself up for that by trading in fame for privacy (note: HA! no, you can’t do that here, on this thread, b/c comments to that effect will not be allowed, b/c I don’t believe that a celebrity has an obligation to trade those things for a job, nor are people the sum of their jobs, nor is a thin person or a conventionally pretty person not allowed to feel insecure, etc. Go get your own blog and argue that crap. I can search Google and find about a dozen celebrity gossip sites where that shit is just fine. This is not one of those).

What I will argue, is that I am shockingly low on all the news and magazines who are clawing all over themselves to run the photos of men in the buff — au naturale if you will, because it isn’t such a big deal. I don’t see men who are dragging themselves around to the same degree to be impossibly beautiful. I see pores and stubble and grey hairs and the signs of aging all over magazine covers. It is not the same standard, no matter how hard you argue it or how loud you yell at me. It’s not the same thing. I am not seeing young men killing themselves trying to meet impossible standards b/c the world’s most perfect men aren’t perfect enough, and haven’t read stories by any young men about how they didn’t know until college that their knees were really supposed to look like that.

It’s not the same standard.

But, thank-you, Ms. Spears, because, as has been said before, by women who have written it better, I admire the fuck out of you. It’s been a long journey, and you have walked it admirably.

Here’s to the next decade, and I hope it brings us great things, sister!

XOXO

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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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