I did not buy a body-weight scale, very purposefully, when I moved out of my parents house. I’m lucky enough to have regular check-ups with doctors so, most of the time, I have a pretty good idea of how much I weigh. Our in-class discussion about the obsession or fascination with numbers reinforced my deliberate attempt to stay away from scales. I don’t want to be like other girls, although I sympathize with anyone who struggles with weight problems or their self perception.
My mom is a feminist if there ever was one, but she’s a feminist more by her words and actions than by reading or participating in feminist theory. Born in the 1940s, coming of age in the 1960s and ’70s, and rebelling against her relatively wealthy conservative parents in order to live her life as she wanted, my mother was a hippie, lived in a commune, and many years later, raised three strong feminist daughters (and, arguably, two feminist sons). But growing up, I didn’t know all this. I was more aware of my mother’s struggles with her self, her struggles with weight gain and health problems related to it. I saw my mother’s struggles with depression, how she was never happy with how she looked, how she fought against her own body to lose weight but was never “successful” enough.
I can’t relate my own life to fat acceptance because I’ve never considered myself fat. Even at 5’2 and 135 pounds — some girls would despise their weight at that height — I don’t feel fat. In fact, my experience has been the opposite. When I weighed less than 120 pounds, I had little energy, I felt worse about myself, and I felt too skinny. As I put on some pounds, I found myself feeling better about my appearance. I look healthier and feel more vibrant when I weigh a little bit more. I don’t care about the curves or bulges. Despite my own experience, I see others, including my mother, who don’t look at themselves in the same light. I see society turning the fat body into the abject, which is something I can relate to because the feminine is also abject. The male body becomes desirable while the female body is reduced to the Other. It’s the same with the fat body, the queer body, the aged body, the differently-abled body. It’s not that these bodies are undesirable in and of themselves, but rather how society’s institutions try to shape bodies for its purposes, no matter what a person must give up in order to fit the constrained “perfect” body.
So what can a person like me do to combat notions of the fat body as a symbol of shame? First, I can share the fat acceptance movement with the women in my life who struggle with their weight. I can even be a part of the fat acceptance movement insomuch as I can combat fat oppression on the streets and use social networking to share the movement with others, wherever they are geographically. I can voice complaints with mainstream media that portray ultra-skinny as desirable, when really it’s extremely dangerous, especially for young girls who start diets without their parents’ or doctors’ knowledge. Most of all, I can have confidence in my own body, even if weighing 135 pounds is “overweight” according to the useless BMI chart.