Culture of fear

Being sick has changed the way I look. I’m thinner, I’m older. It’s scary. But the scarier thing is – I like it.

I’ve mentioned before that since I’ve been sick, I’ve lost a quite a bit of weight. I wasn’t big to start with – round 55kgs, and I’m 158cm tall. Now I’m 48kg.

This morning, I stood in front of the mirror. I’m pale, my hipbones poke out, and my eyes are far more prominent than they used to be. And you know what the completely screwed up and scary thing is? I like it. I know that I’m unhealthy. But I get on the scales every morning, hoping to see them go down.

When my nutritionist is talking about how to get more calories and protein, suggesting I add cheese to vegetables, try more bread, have three almond milk smoothies a day, I’m nodding and smiling. And in my head I’m going ‘Are you crazy? I’ve spent my whole life trying to resist eating too much, feeling guilty for every fatty thing I put in my mouth, and hating my body. You think I’m going to be able to – or want to – reverse that now?’

And therein lies the issue. For me right now, it’s hard enough to eat when I’m nauseous and every bit of food has the potential to cause almost immediate burning pain. Add to that the pressure women receive from every angle, every single day of our lives, to be “thin” and therefore “pretty”, and it’s no wonder I almost cannot bear to put food in my mouth.

With my sallow skin and visible bones, I’ve never been more unhealthy. And I’ve never looked more like the women I see in magazines.

What the fuck, society?

The other day, a local radio station put the following question on Facebook: “Would you rather be in debt or overweight?”

The presenter (male) couldn’t understand why I found this offensive. To be fair to them, they clearly know their demographic, because no one commenting on the post seemed to take issue with it. This in itself is terrifying.

So, dude, here’s my explanation.

1. You are part of the problem. By suggesting that being “overweight” is something that is extremely undesirable, you are adding to the culture of fear that women are forced to grow up in. God forbid that you become what society considers to be “overweight.” How horrific. There’s a new word/concept I’ve learned recently: “fatshaming.” Making people feel ugly, outcast, and ashamed of their bodies because they don’t your idea of perfection. Maybe you should stop doing that.

2. By suggesting that being “in debt” is something that is extremely undesirable, you’re creating a culture where people feel like failures because they have to get loans. In New Zealand right now, that’s most of us, dude. Show me someone who doesn’t have a student loan or a mortgage or at least an HP. We’re in an economic crisis. Debt is a fact of life. Or are you just trying to “low-incomeshame”?

3. For many people, both of these things are not a choice. They’re the way things are for them. Suggesting that they do have a choice is shaming them, pointing the finger and saying they’re failures.

4. The two are apples and oranges. It is such a bizarre comparison to make – “being in debt” and “being overweight.” Are you trying to draw a parallel between these two things? Because I don’t see any correlation.

I know that others shared my outage on this subject. I’ve decided to turn comments on for this particular post, because I feel like there are more reasons why the question was offensive and unacceptable, but I’m struggling to articulate them.

I doubt we’ll change this particular male mind though. The latest post on their Facebook was: “What are the man’s jobs around your house?”


3 Replies to “Culture of fear”

  1. Chris Miller

    Have you seen this? Possibly, because I link it all the time. Some of the stories are seriously chilling.

    To be honest when I read that question I went “in debt” because, well, I *am* in debt, nothing would have to change. And then I went, actually, fuck no, if I could put on some weight AND have all my student loan and credit card paid off, that would be BRILLIANT. I have always been medically underweight, without trying, and it makes winter miserable. But there’s still a voice in my head that says I’d rather be in debt even though both being in debt and being underweight are bad for me. I partly think it’s because the word overweight has been so demonised because if I think about what it actually means I don’t care, but “overweight”? Scary!

    Incidentally science says that getting out of debt is probably easier than losing significant amounts of weight and keeping it off. I feel like in a society where debt is pretty normalised and a lot of people don’t struggle with it, that question leads people to answer in debt because it’s not a big deal for them and sort of… cement it in their mind that in that case overweight must be bad, because it’s worse than debt, and it can’t be worse if it’s not bad, right? Which is such a tiny semantic point but psychological studies also show that tiny semantic points can also affect our behaviour and biases pretty big amounts.

  2. sarahforlyfe

    Great post as usual! I also took exception to that particular Facebook post – rather than commenting I chose to tweet them directly – I also used the exact words ‘youpeople are part of the problem.’ THe reply I received tried justifying their actions by pointing out that on this radio stations home page, they were helping a woman lose weight and therefore the question was valid because ‘talking helps’. RIDICULOUS. body shaming in general is horrible – it is unhelpful and encourgages unhealthy relationships with food and poor self esteem. It goes both ways too. I dislike talk claiming “real women have curves” (since some of us REALLY don’t – am a not A woman then?) as much as I dislike putting people down for not being super thin.

  3. Pingback: Some thoughts on body shaming | Writehandedgirl

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