Gender and FA

I have been tired and sick and my cat tried to eat my arm, so that’s why I haven’t posted these last few days.

I don’t know what to do about my belly anymore.

I have been tested now for celiac disease and thyroid disease and some vitamin deficiencies, and it seems I am all fine. But my belly is still rumbling on. Part of that is the antibiotics I am on because of the cat bites I sustained this week, but part of that is just my life.

I have done a really good job dissociating from my body a good part of my life. I am very aware of how people look at my fat body and see me because of it. I have heard all about it my whole life. And so I have built up a nice coping mechanism for myself where my head is detached from the rest of my body. We do not exist in tandem. At least that’s what I’d like to think.

Sometimes I feel like I have been so traumatized because of how my body is perceived by this culture we live in. Being a woman, I am so aware that I am just parts for pleasure to so many people. I am not whole. I can barely stand to look at advertising anymore where there are disembodied women hawking some product; a leg to sell shoes, an arm to sell a bracelet, a plump ass cheek to sell jeans. And I wonder: who are these women? What happens to them after years of selling their ass cheek, their arm, their leg? Does it leave an indelible mark on their soul, like it does mine?

I used to rage against my ex-husband for such shameless use of women’s bodies. As a DJ, he and his cohorts would often promote club events with glossy handbills. They’d always show the same image: a naked, headless woman with high heels, in some sexual pose with piece of food or a drink in her hand. Perhaps she was lounging on a bed, or up against a wall. She was wearing high heels. She was ready, waiting for sex. Her face did not matter, she wasn’t human after all. Only her breasts and smooth flat stomach and cellulite-free thighs and nicely-shaped arms were what mattered. She was a sexual automaton, a nameless nobody who was ripe for the taking.

And I asked: Who was she? Do you know her? No, he would say. It’s just some picture from the internet. And that made it so, so much worse. Perhaps she was exploited, a member of some sex-slave trade in a far off country. Perhaps she did not willingly give up her body. Perhaps she was being raped somewhere. She most certainly did not know her decapitated body was being used to promote a lame-ass club event in Madison, Wisconsin.

I think part of me became fat as a protection against the use of my body for such exploitation. To be sure, I am still getting street harassed. And I feel so violated when it happens. I am noticed for my ass, my hair, some body part. Not for me. Being fat makes me feel safer, protects me from the trauma I feel at such a culture that dehumanizes women, turns them into bodies and not people. I feel safer knowing I don’t wear short shorts because I do not have cellulite-free thighs. I feel safer knowing I do not have a flat stomach, I do not have jiggle-free arms. I feel safer knowing I am not desired by a majority of the population because fat is deemed sexually unattractive. And I am fine with that.

What happens to others who are involved in this culture of dehumanizing women? When I look at advertising that portrays people who appear to be men, it is rare to ever see them without their heads. They are not body parts: they are whole and complete. They are a powerful presence. It sends a message: You do not separate the man from his visage, from his being. He is a complete and whole person. He is not just a collection of parts.

There has been talk about how the SA/FA community is not as inclusive to males as it should be, or that it is a feminist movement, and feminist movements are exlclusive of males. How female bodies and male bodies have been treated historically are quite different; a body for a woman is her cultural currency. For a man, it is often an addendum to his cultural currency. I think there is a problem with that disparity, and I think that’s why so many females are attracted to FA: here is a movement that speaks out against the notion that our bodies are all we are worth. We aren’t excluding the males, we are only saying we have a different experience, because unfortunately, we have been treated differently because society still cares a lot about our genitals. Ideally, within modern day feminism, it would be good to move away from the genitals-as-destiny model, but in order to do that, I think we do still need to recognize that there is going to be some consciousness raising needed about how any of the genders experiences culture in relation to their presentation. How can we fight what we don’t even recognize?

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8 Comments

  1. Mebrimathiel said,

    March 6, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Bravo.

  2. Colin said,

    March 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Good points, all. Even though me and my trans body always feels left out in the in-betweens.

  3. phledge said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    I think one of the travesties of our day is that it’s assumed that feminism is exclusionary against males, when as I see it nothing could be further from the truth. Part of my experience of feminism is that we are trying to eliminate all gender constructs so that not only can women express anything with which they feel comfortable along a gender spectrum, but that men can express anything with which they feel comfortable along that same spectrum. As it stands right now it is much safer to be a woman in this pattern than a man–think homophobia, violence against men perceived as feminine. As part of feminism I want men and women (and everything inbetween) to feel safe and free to explore all aspects of their gender construct. Interestingly, I suspect that the FA community is more liquid in its gender constructs because the sexuality of fat people is less defined than the sexuality of the dominant culture. “Fat dyke” is not a common epithet for nothing. 😉 So I do think that males are welcome in the fat acceptance community, and in feminism.

  4. Miriam Heddy said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Being fat has never felt particularly safe for me. Part of it is that, no matter what our bodies look like, as women we’re presumed to be offered up for consumption, our bodies open to commentary. So no matter what I wear, people are looking, and sometimes talking (some nice, some not so nice, and some just plain rude commentary).

    And fat women are just as likely to be headless parts, as every article about fat needs a headless midsection to illustrate it.

    And as you note, even if we’re not segmented, as fat women (and perhaps as women, period), we often dissociate our heads (or minds) from our bodies, for all sorts of reasons having to do with self-protection.

    I’m sort of an intellectual, in-my-head type, and I have long been that way (having been a reader all my life), but living *in* my body has been part of my goal in FA and feminism. And that’s a process, but it’s doable, and it’s amazing how much potential we have to feel safe in our body once we work on eliminating that divide between brain and the rest of us.

  5. weedivine said,

    March 6, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Its interesting that when we don’t talk about men, but focus on women, a movement becomes “man-hating” or “exclusionary” to men. But, by that definition, most everything is woman hating, since women have to be singled out to be talked about in “normal” conversations, where the norm is male. So…. to all those men who feel excluded…. take a long look at how that might not actually be exclusion, but just a change from you being the center of everything all the time. People get so threatened by feminism because its threatening to patriarchy…. the real word for our “normal” or nuetral world view is androcentric.

  6. March 6, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    I recall how awful it felt when I was in college and some boys yelled, “Ugly, fat chick,” at me. Fat isn’t protective.

  7. William said,

    March 6, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Hi

    I think that for Fat Men that the pressures of being Fat is 100% a Fat Issue and is not something that they associate with the body issues and treatment of skinny males.

    I understand the feminine body issues that Feminism injects into Fat Acceptance, but I also feel that they have zero meaning on what I have experienced as a Fat Male all of my life. What I am trying to say is that Feminist issues may add to what Fat Women may experience, but they did not make being Fat easier for Fat Men.

    William

  8. thoughtracer said,

    March 6, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Fat may not be protective in that experience — I have had it as well. But sexually, it is a perceived protection — in my mind. I cannot speak to others’ experiences in their fat bodies. I can only speak to my own. I also cannot speak to whether each human experiences the same dichotomies I do: I am visible because I am fat but feel invisible because I am fat.

    What I can say is that for some reason, I equated sexual protection, the “lack” of sexual objectification with a fat body. And so I think in part, I became fat as a response to that. I wanted to be fat so that I could avoid being sexually objectified, because I linked sexual objectification with rape. Why I made this leap is beyond me; I have not been sexually assaulted — however, I have been traumatized by the repeated negative imagery the media displays of women millisecond after millisecond, including the gratuitous use of rape as entertainment — and fat was my weapon against that. A fat body is considered too disgusting to be sexually availble or attractive.


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