We Can Do Better – Playing It Small
This was originally posted a couple of years ago, but I still feel that it’s relevant and addresses an issue of great magnitude so I’m reposting it. Do enjoy.
This is a topic that I’ve danced around for quite some time. Not only because it’s sensitive, but because it’s something that must be articulated precisely and defended compassionately. And, truthfully, the only person I’ve ever discussed it with is my sister, for fear of being misunderstood by anyone else. You can thank her for this post because she’s the one who encouraged me to tackle it.
I’m nervous writing this because I think it’s immensely important. And because I want to get it right.
The fourth-wave feminist movement (circa 2012) has been going strong, and don’t mistake me, it’s great. And a long time comin’. But there’s this antagonistic counterpart to women’s rights that we kind of ignore. The crazy part is that, as women, it’s entirely our responsibility to fix it. Well..actually, it is us.
The following are various things that have been said to me, or said about me that I think warrant a conversation. Please approach with the mindset that the ultimate point I want to make is much larger than these trivial statements.
- I was recently in a situation where I later learned that other women were negatively discussing something I was wearing as inappropriate.
- I was wearing loose, non-spandex shorts of a reasonable length in order to teach exercise outside in 85 degree weather. A fellow male instructor had shorts on as well.
- I have been a part of a conversation that trails off to two other people discussing what size pants I wear between themselves, yet very audibly.
- Whatever size pants you wear, this is not cool. Don’t do this to people.
- “You’ve never been overweight, I can tell.”
- Girl. You don’t know me. And for the record, I have been overweight. Take note: beer and the pressures of grad school is a friend to no waistline.
- “Why aren’t you eating any of this [avocado]? This is healthy.”
- Mind you, this was a regular recurrence from a specific person. Every time I would eat around this person, my meal choice was analyzed and often times accompanied by a comment on why she loved eating–usually bacon–and how I was missing out. It was as if she felt compelled to defend her own lunch.
- “You’re lucky, you can eat anything you want.”
- No. No I cannot. Plus – we are what we eat. A healthy weight doesn’t always translate to actual health.
- “Here, you’re skinny, you can eat this stuff.”
- [shovels 7/8 of her cobbler onto my already 1.5 servings so I now have a marathon’s worth of saturated fat on my plate.]
- Also—skinny is a pejorative adjective and don’t pretend like you don’t know it.
I’ve broken out in an anxious sweat as I’m typing at my computer. I loathe these situations. And I loathe talking about them. I shouldn’t. But I do. Here’s why:
When these things are said, they are said derogatorily, almost accusingly. I’ve witnessed this secondhand as well. Other women reproachfully making comments to other women about their weight or figure (whether it’s healthy or unhealthy; big or little; pretty or not pretty).
My worry in writing this article is that you will assume my grievance is another obtuse rant on how my privileged little feelings are hurt when someone calls me skinny. Cause that ain’t it. (Well…I am totally privileged. But my rant isn’t about me, per se; it’s about how women treat other women).
And friends: We can do better.
Sure, some of these things can be legitimately hurtful, but they’re much more so humiliating. I never know how to respond and just wish the conversation would end immediately. For some convoluted reason, I feel compelled to be apologetic about it; to shrink out of view; to make myself small.
Why do we so often need to focus on physical attributes of women? Aren’t the latest headlines evidence enough that men are doing plenty of that for us? Whatever the hell size you are, why are we—as women—making it a thing? Why do we bring it into the arena of conversation amongst ourselves? How much of this deprecating culture are we reinforcing in our own interactions with other women? And in doing so, how much of our own energy is being wasted on this negative, subconscious self-preconception that our physical size is the most important thing about us?
Since when do “skinny” people not have to worry about their health? Weight is not necessarily a reflection of wellness. Health should be about being healthy, not looking healthy on the outside. They’re not the same thing.
So, what are we doing? At a time when equal rights are at the forefront of our social agenda, why are we hypocritically bringing other women down while also claiming to be a proponent of gender equality? Even outside the topic of physical appearance, we often approach other women defensively and judgmentally.
Here’s the worst part of this article. I’m not an innocent party.
I’ve looked at some celebrity’s social media and flippantly said something like “she seems like a bitch”. When in fact, after reading through her posts I find out she’s endearingly hilarious and we were probably best friends in a past life. I then become an avid follower of her Instagram account, oblivious to my own capricious inclinations.
Here’s another version of that on a much grander scale.
When I was in undergrad, I lived with my best friend for a couple of years. Important to note: I am not the easiest person to live with. I’m an introvert. I like to be in silence and alone probably 98.2% of the time. People doing normal things like watching TV and loudly grinding coffee will wear on my limited capacity for stimuli and then my brain will just explode (to be fair, I’ve gotten much, much better about this. Only took 30 years).
My BFF is truly one of the kindest, most gracious people that I know. She’s a rare breed of person that gives ceaselessly, just because that’s who she is at her core; she doesn’t expect anything in return. She’s also the opposite of me – extroverted and outgoing. Probably part of the reason we’re best friends.
One day, in the midst of our residence together, I’d been exposed to one too many loud noises and my tolerability synapses had collapsed entirely. I texted my sister–official bearer of all my ranting–and launched into this huge tirade of nonsensical revulsion with my roommate, who was merely existing peacefully. I said something like “she coughs ridiculously” and “she acts like she’s super sick and she’s NOT, Susan. SHE’S NOT.”
That is crazy person shit right there. A brain that broke.
So I send this massive novel of a text voicing all of my crucial grievances, like how her breathing patterns are displeasing to me. I glance away for a second and then look back at my phone and I’d sent it to my bestie, not my sibling.
I panicked, frantically texted the nature of the situation to my sister, and desperately tried to elicit some low form of sympathy. She swiftly and compassionately replied, “omg lol. that’s hilarious.”
BFF appropriately responds with, “Dude. WTF?”
I think I was so confounded and ashamed by the sheer idiocy of my own actions that I tried to say the text was about someone else. Which just added to the big pile of stupid in which I was rapidly drowning.
I went home immediately and tried to explain that I’m clinically irrational and asked for forgiveness, which she readily gave because she’s all gracious and a much nicer person than me. And she knows I’m a poster child for mental illness, so that helped too.
This may sound unfounded, but that incident freaked me the hell out. All I could think was “Wtf is wrong with me?”. Who does this shit?
I’m an anxious and sometimes depressed person, but I’m not that person. At least, I desperately wanted not to be.
In life, if you’re wise (or just keenly aware of your own foolishness), you’ll learn from a traumatic event and craft a plan to ensure it is never repeated. Lucky for me, the handful of times that I’ve genuinely hurt someone I love, I’m so gravely disturbed by my innate ability to be such a dick that I learn my lesson pretty quickly.
From The Infamous Text experience (how incredible is it that the acronym for that would be TIT), I developed a mantra that I still use today. Whenever I build up an unwarranted amount of agitation with someone, I try to remind myself: “She’s on your side.”
She’s on your side. She’s on your side.
I mean..it’s the truth. She is on my side. And chances are that whatever female you’re prematurely analyzing, she wants to be on your side too. What are we if we can’t give another human that benefit of the doubt?
Our world isn’t so crowded that anybody should be made to feel small, no matter what your size.
We hope you liked this article. Feel free to hit the blog to find more stories of me making a fool of myself.
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