So, recently, there was this badass thing, “Don’t Peggy Olson Me, Motherf*ckers.” Whoa! I’ve got your attention now.
That line was tweeted by Neko Case at PlayBoy magazine late last month after they deemed her a mold breaking “woman in music.” Peggy Olson is one of the main characters in the TV show, “Mad Men.” She’s a woman working in advertising in the 1960’s & trying hard to get somewhere worthwhile based on her merit. It’s an uphill battle & back-handed compliments are the hand grenades she has to dodge. Neko Case basically decided enough was enough & did not try to dodge the back-handed complimenting of PlayBoy. Instead, she directly called them out for recognizing her, not as a uniquely talented musician among musicians, but as a woman among musicians. Neko made it clear she has a zero tolerance policy on the “she’s pretty good . . . for a girl” talk.
“Interesting story, Angie. What’s it got to do with anything?” you are asking. Well, honestly, there are about a million layers here that we could dissect for years, but that comment of Neko’s got me thinking about how we talk about women’s bodies. I’m referencing that tweet, because it relates to the back-handed complimenting, feigned concern, & other social commentary on women’s bodies that I am just tired (& not normal tired, more like weary) of hearing, reading, & receiving.
I think we should talk about a new kind of body etiquette:
1) “I wish I had a skinny disease.”
Oooobivously, remarks like this are not appropriate. A woman I know sort of let those words fall out of her mouth one afternoon while we were speaking. I know she wasn’t trying to be a total jerk. Both fat shaming & skinny shaming, unfortunately, happen in our culture, but there tends to be alot more overt penalizing of the heavy. I think this leads to the false belief that being thin, even at the hands of disease, is desirable. Without intending to be so harsh, this woman was delivering a back-handed compliment. Just like the other characters on “Mad Men” geniunely think they are paying Peggy high praise & PlayBoy really feels it has given Neko a major accolade, the woman I know probably thinks it legitimately flattering to make a remark like that to me. Let’s all just agree to not play into this back-handed complimenting anymore. Whatever the social-messaging-emotional-baggage-weirdness is that got us here, let’s just not anymore.
2) “I’m concerned about your weight.”
Nope. The only body weight that is your business is your own. Painfully obvious, right? Apparently this stuff has to be revisited though. Unless you practice some form of healthcare & a person has asked you to help them with their weight or you are a VERY close friend or family member (basically, you better be my husband or mother), then another person’s weight is not your biz. The feigned concern bit has been used on me several times in my past, as a way for other women to subtly judge me about being underweight. I’m sure many overweight women have had similar experiences.
Here’s some basics on the concern bit:
- Disease, of all kinds, can have a big impact on weight. Up & down. Disease is private, unless a person has chosen to share. Duh.
- Calories in, calories out is outlandishly old school thinking. Much more complex than that. Don’t tell folks to “have a sandwich” or “just try a low-cal snack.”
- Being too thin is a health risk. Being too heavy is a health risk. That risk is for the individual to manage.
- Not all heavy people are compulsive over-eaters. In fact, I’d say most aren’t . . . have you seen “Fed-Up” yet?
- Not all thin people have eating disorders. Being thin is not a call to action for heroic “interventioners.”
- Compulsive over-eating, anorexia, bulimia, & orthorexia . . . those are all illnesses that need treatment, not shame.
So let’s all just have a zero-tolerance policy, like Neko, on this one. If you think it is your place to speak up about concern over another person’s weight . . . check yourself, then double check yourself, then probably keep your thoughts to yourself.
3) “Real women have curves.”
Yeah, they do. They have broad hips, wide behinds, large breasts, round tummies, & ample thighs. Other, equally real, women have thin arms, narrow hips, flat behinds, visible collar bones, & tiny ankles. The variations on “real” are endless. Why on earth are we playing into qualifiers like this about our bodies? Is this catch phrase useful? What if instead we just say, “Women are real.” Ha! Right? We exist. All of us. In lots of different shapes & forms. As this blogger said, “It’s so easy to think that someone else’s body is a commentary on your own. When it’s definitely not. When it’s definitely just their body.” Let’s all just stop with the social commentary on each other’s bodies. Let’s call others out when they do it. Stop dodging those comments when you hear them & just be direct the way Neko was with PlayBoy.
I’ve always been thin. Autoimmunity made me much thinner. One of my goals is to heal & reach a healthy weight. I’m not worried about unattainable beauty standards for myself or any other woman. I’m focused on health, both for myself & the women around me. Basically, disease taught me something important . . . we need to love & care for our bodies. They are the only place any of us have to live. Let’s all stand up & protect our “homes” . . . Neko-style. That would be badass.