Space Taking

I was thinking a lot about what I would write today, it being a Sunday and all, and me doing nothing except reading a sewing and watching Cold Case Files. This is unusual for me. I’m usually buzzing around in a manic state of furor, trying to Get Something Done, for crissakes, without actually getting anything fully accomplished. I don’t know why with all my mania I’m not thin, but I guess that goes to show that psychomotor agitation isn’t an approved form of Weight Loss, because if it were, I’d probably not have ever developed an eating disorder in the first place.

I digress.

Last night, I started formulating a post about the concept of feminism, fatness and taking up space in the world. When I began my journey into non-dieting, stepping precariously, cautiously into the world of non-disordered eating about three years ago; when I decided, after looking at the pictures from my wedding to a man to whom I am no longer married that I was a Fat Pig and had not Right To Be Happy or Exist, that I needed to fucking change my frame of thinking, I started reading everything I could find on feminism and fatness. Clearly, the feminists have been talking about bodies for a long time, as the desires of the dominant culture have played out on the bodies of the non-dominant culture for, well, forever.

When I was an undergrad student, and hypothesizing I would be a journalist, I spent the latter half of my studies on media theory. Brilliant. I loved it. In one of my courses, we focused a lot on pop culture and television. I read an article on Roseanne, which was actually groundbreaking TV in so many ways. My father hated that show, called Roseanne a fat ass loudmouth. Ironically, I also was, and still can be, a fat ass loudmouth. I loved Roseanne, and watched it regularly. She was real in a way so many television moms and families weren’t.

She was outrageous. She was opinionated. She was a woman of conviction. On TV, she depicted a sassy, smart, uneducated, lower-middle class mother who talked back to her husband, didn’t conform to Dr. Spock’s parenting values, and did whatever the hell she felt was appropriate for herself. She was fat. And she was a feminist. People hated her, both as a television character, and as a woman.

The article I read in class postulated that the reason she was so reviled is that she was a woman of excess. Excess opinion, excess voice, excess emotion, and excess size. She, in a very real way, Took Up Space. In a world where women are to be seen and not heard, Taking Up Space is a dangerous proposition. What does the dominant culture do with such a woman, one who refuses to fit into a mold, a mold that is physically easier to control?

It fights back with pure vitriol, as can be seen on Kate Harding’s blog.

As women have gained more social and economic power, making them more “equal,” there has been a significant focus on women’s bodies and how bodies are out of control, on how bodies must be kept in check. Where does that come from? It doesn’t come from women, or perhaps from the non-dominant culture, I would gather — as women can be a part of the dominant culture.

Is it any wonder that the bigger paychecks women earn, the more voting power women have, the year a women has a chance to win the White House, more than ever we are losing the right to physically take up space in the world? Is it any wonder that the more we are economically and politically heard, the less we must be physically seen?

And there is a constant state of chaos surrounding the acceptable body, so that women may never know what is appropriate, how much space is OK to fill. Too thin may garner one a label of anorexia, as we learn in popular celebrity tabloids. Curvy may be acceptable some of the time, but eventually curvy stars such as Queen Latifah will head up diet campaigns for national companies such as Weight Watchers. If regular women are depicted in national advertising campaigns, such as Dove’s, the media will call them fat and disgusting. Thin is OK, as long as there is no cellulite involved. Thin is OK as long as plastic surgery isn’t too evident. Fat is never OK, unless the fat is shed and thinness is won in a redemption story. Confusion reigns: I challenge women to ask this question: Are we supposed to be preoccupied with our bodies so that we aren’t thinking about other issues, such as global warming, child exploitation, the crisis in Sudan, peak oil production, sweatshops, genocide, the rise of Chinese capitalism? Just why do the marketers, the media, the magazines, the dominant culture want us so focused on what we weigh, anyway?

Not for our health, I can assure you that.

No media outlet is created to serve the public, first and foremost. No corporation is organized for the benefits of its consumers. They are created for their bottom lines: which is, to make money. And that money can be made by selling lies, keeping consumers — primarily women –ashamed of who they are, of their right to take up space and leave a fucking mark on this planet, so that they can turn a profit. How many companies sell products at the expense of their consumers? More than any of us care to admit. And so it is with the companies that tell us if we lose weight, everything will just be better.

It’s a distraction. It’s a tool designed for oppression. It’s simply a lie. Any system of power will look for subversive ways to keep a populace it feels threatened by oppressed. Women continue to buy into it, because we continue to hate ourselves. We continue to believe thinner is better. We continue to believe that crash diet after crash diet gives us purpose, instead of doing something actually meaningful with our time. We are afraid of our own power, we are afraid of taking up the space we rightfully should.

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