I’m going to be honest with you. I have been trying really hard to lose weight. But in the current climate–what with the growing fat acceptance movement, Michelle Obama’s campaign against child obesity, eating disorders, Gabourey Sidibe, photoshop nightmares and Kevin Smith’s wild ride–it’s hard to know where weight loss fits into a feminist ideology.
While I wholeheartedly support efforts to prevent eating disorders and unrealistic standards of beauty and thinness, I also find the fat acceptance movement problematic. While I agree one can be beautiful at any weight, I am not sure I buy the argument that one can be healthy at any weight. To clarify, I do believe you can be healthy and overweight, but I am uncomfortable making that argument in the case of morbid obesity. I am also uncomfortable writing the words “morbid obesity” because I do not wish to judge anyone or make anyone feel bad. Ultimately, no matter what you believe about health, people of all sizes deserve respect and equal rights.
When I make the weight loss issue personal, things get even more muddled. When people (other feminists) ask why I am losing weight, I know that the acceptable answer is that I’m doing it for my health. But that would be a lie. I work out 3-6 times a week and am in excellent shape, despite my extra pudge around the middle. I could also answer that I want to lose weight so that clothes will fit better, but that isn’t really it either. The truth is, I want to lose weight because I want to look “hot.” Back-up-dancer-in-a-misogynist-music-video-hot. Should I turn in my feminist badge right here and now?
Digging even deeper, it’s both confusing and obvious why I want to look “hot.” It has something to do with fashion, aesthetics, power and sexuality. Looking and feeling hot makes me feel confident, in control, and powerful when it comes to sex and dating. But I cannot deny that it also has something to do with social pressure, insecurities, and the desire to please others.
Okay, so maybe the question isn’t why I want to look hot, but why I believe I must lose weight to achieve hotness. Is it all socialization? Have I completely bought into the pop culture maelstrom that has enveloped me since birth? (Yes, duh.) But are there other legitimate, dare I say feminist, reasons to desire thinness for the sake of hotness? If there are, I haven’t found them.
Maybe the closest thing to a feminist rationalization of weight loss is this: feminism is about personal autonomy and choice. I choose to lose weight, and despite some ideological guilt here and there, my choice has made me very happy. I’m curious to know how other folks reconcile weight loss with their feminist sensibilities. Do tell.