40 years ago, way back in 1978, author and therapist Susie Orbach wrote the book “Fat is a Feminist Issue”. In it she derides a culture that promotes beauty as the primary contribution of women and imposes terrible burdens on them to achieve and maintain it. In a recent news essay about the book, Orbach says,
Fat Is A Feminist Issue talked about our lived experience: how preoccupied we could become with eating, not eating and avoiding fat. Emotionally schooled to see our value as both sexual beings for others and midwives to their desires, we found ourselves often depleted and empty, and caught up in a kind of compulsive giving. Eating became our source of soothing. We stopped our mouths with food, and I proposed we could learn to exchange food – when we weren’t hungry – for words.
Orbach doesn’t believe that the situation has gotten much better in 40 years. She cites the flourishing of cosmetic surgery, online pornography, and big pharma. All of them prey on children, young girls, post-partum women, and others, sending the message that their bodies need to conform to certain beauty standards, and that it is their job to do the beauty labor to achieve and maintain them.
This is all terrible and it’s not really news to our readers. But I think we have learned a thing or two in 40 years.
We’ve learned that eating is not always a woman’s response to inequality and oppression. It’s an activity that is nobody’s business but her own.
We’ve learned that weight stigmatization is a terrible effect of imposing beauty standards on women, and we can respond through acceptance– of our own bodies as they are, and of other people’s bodies.
In this blog, I’ve learned that women’s bodies are made to do just about anything. And that is worth celebrating and exploring.
Speaking of which, I thought I’d share pictures of some of us bloggers, then and now. I’ll go first.
And then there’s fieldpoppy/Cate, in 1978, and now.
And then there’s Christine. That’s her most recent TKD medal. Whoa.
Martha, in 1978 and now.
Natalie and her sister, in 1978 and now.
And then there’s Samantha. She’s with her best friend Leanne back in 1978, and now, in ceremonial work garb. Read more about Leanne and beauty pageants and photo shoots in Sam’s post here.
Here’s Susan from 1987 and now.
Hey readers, what have you learned about your bodies in 40 years (or 30, or 20, or 5?) We’d love to hear from you.