Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fat Talk

(Via Pandagon)

Researchers have found that when women get together, ‘fat talk’ is inevitable. And it’s mandatory.
Fat talk allows females to appear modest, a prized quality in a culture that shuns egotism.

“We tend to dislike arrogance and especially dislike it in women (‘bitches’)”, Martz explained. “Women are perceived as OK if they fat talk and acknowledge that their bodies are not perfect but they are working on it.”

As Amanda notes in her post, this just ends up reinforcing low self esteem. “Even if an individual woman can get past these obsessions and get out into the world in a manner like Martz describes, she can fully expect other people to refuse to go along with it and continue to act like her only job in life is to be a sex object and evaluate her solely in those terms.” I made the same argument to a friend of mine who was writing a paper on beauty ideals, it’s basically a vicious cycle and I’m not sure how you can get out of it.

Not that I should talk. I have the worst self esteem possible. And the whole being fat thing is only one part of it. (And it’s not helped by the fact that I am surrounded by tiny people. Shopping with one of my best friends is just painful. Even a ‘S’ is big for her.)
In most cases I don’t know how to react to compliments. I always end up thinking I am actually being mocked.

Oh well.


MockTurtle said...

Anything I say would be cliched, but honestly, the most attractive thing about a woman or a man is self confidence.
If you can understand and respect your self it will show in everything you do and that makes you more appealing. If you don't respect yourself, no one else will either.

zen babu said...

Have been reading your blog for some time now and just have to comment. I may be horribly mistaken because I'm a guy and all, but any research/discussion on beauty ideals and objectification etc leaves me more and more incredulous. Just who are these women? Why have I never met any of them, despite the fact that I know a fair number of girls, and have some idea about their conversations. And fat-talk??!!? Don't you think the self-pity precedes the objectification? Even if it doesn't, don't you think that the intelligent, individually stronger individuals do not give in to the supposedly media-enforced unhealthy stereotype so easily?

And you're low on self-esteem? This is totally unbelievable. You're easily one of the most balanced, well-read and articulate bloggers I read, and I read far more than I should. If I could hold forth on economics/Kuhn with as much clarity and knowledge as you, I'd easily consider arrogance to be a virtue of mine (not that people don't accuse me of being arrogant now, but still).

Falstaff said...

How to react to compliments (which, I'm assuming is the spelling you were looking for) on you how you look:

Stare at the person in total bewilderment and say "How is THAT relevant?"

The key to breaking the cycle is recognising that compliments on the way you look are a part of the trap.

Antonia said...

I've noticed this phenomenon, too. Also that everybody goes to the gym, or feels compelled to do so. I don't, but I was surprised how often people ask me: and don't you do any other sport? I find it is very difficult to get rid of this focus on the body and this vicious circle that you describe and I only would know individual solutions rather than general. I was wondering whether this is a trend of the fashionindustry, a couple of years ago everyone wore t shirts and jeans, stuff that anyway hides more of the socalled fat, while nowadays women wear less and often tighter stuff which makes it of course more complicated to fulfill the beauty norms. One way out of this cycle can be the development a clothingstyle independent of the fashionindustry and I am luckily in such a position where I can afford wearing socalled hippieclothes, but some women probably now that are doing business or so, they probably have to do the whole fashionbarbiebeautify-programme. Of course no one would admit they have to, but it is some sort of unwritten law....
I don't know a single woman who has not some sort of body issues.

Alok said...

Oh okay and I was thinking you only move in intellectual circles talking about Kuhn-Popper and European History and Politics and stuff... :)

It is these things which really matter and which define one's personality -- intelligence, tastes, knowledge, curiousity, confidence, maturity. (btw, I was totally floored by your pedantry that day when you mentioned that you had taken courses on the history of the Habsburgs! and also that Kuhn-Popper post. How about this for a compliment? :))

more pedantry please!

ggop said...

I can totally related to your last two statements. :-(

Tabula Rasa said...

"culture that shuns egotism"? which culture are we talking about here -- the american?

i wouldn't read too much into a quoted version of some study published in a journal that calls itself "an international journal of research". (appalachian state university?)

don't let these things get to you. there are better things to worry about.

Szerelem said...

MT: I agree with you. But we all have our days of self doubt, no?

Zen Babu: Hi. I understand where you’re coming from, but I’m with Antonia here. I don’t know any woman who doesn’t have some body issue. Maybe I am the exception here but I do think it’s difficult to ignore the stereo type. I think the Pandagon post had a point because even if you individually shun those norms, it doesn’t stop other people from judging you according to those standards. You’d be surprised how preoccupied some girls in school are with clothes, looks and the like. I guess one way out of it is to choose your company carefully. Which makes people think I’m the epitome of haughtiness (which isn’t really true). And thank you :)

Falstaff: That is the spelling I was looking for *embarrassment follows*. Corrected it.
"How is THAT relevant?" - that’s true but isn’t that a bit rude??!! I too sometimes tell people (men and women) that they are looking good, (I just don’t expect them to look picture perfect all the time) and would be a bit offended if I got that response. I guess compliments should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Antonia: Oh yes, the gym. Have you noticed the correlation that exists for some people between being thin and being healthy?? I used to go to the gym but it got so boring. I go for an hour long walk most days because I think exercise is important, and because I actually end up getting fresh air! You’re right about the fashion industry…the clothes get shorter and skimpier. And the models are so thin because they are just human versions of clothes hangers.

Alok: You are too kind. Thank You :) (Though isn’t being pedantic a… ummm… bad thing?)

ggop: Sigh :(

TR: Yeah I noticed that as well. But I thought the Pandagon post made some valid points regardless. But, you’re right there are better things to worry about :)

Anonymous said...

babe. fat, you are not!

and if one of your best friends is the same person im thinking about, then you're not the only one that feels inadequate when shopping with her man!

but hey, at least she sometimes CANT buy clothes cos they're too big! xD

thalassa_mikra said...

You know, I struggled with low self-esteem issues practically my entire life, because I was always told that I wasn't attractive. And then I came to the US and met my Iranian friend who told me that my nose was so prized in Iran, women were getting plastic surgery to obtain similar noses!

That's when I realized how culturally conditioned all this is. What counts as fat varies so drastically across cultures. So I guess I stopped caring (which has it's own problems, because I'm getting chunkier everyday and I still don't care :) )

Antonia said...

yes I noticed that difference between thin and healthy. And earlier really no one did go to the gym only some yuppies, now everyone. I guess this thinness norm shifted/s constantly towards more thin and so all the norms got out of control somehow. No one really knows anymore what's normal. I saw this documentary on the telly recently which is about the general beautyoverkill that all the model photos are photoshopped and so all the relations towards whats normal or an average-look gets lost:
I should think it's probably easy to say for guys (who are not yet that exhibited to this sort of pressure) here not to worry about this and focus on the more inner values, great blogging or whatever, but it is an altogether different story being constantly obviously or not so obviously judged according to one's appearance & being confronted with unachieveable beauty standards, every day, whereever one is, whatever one wears.

Rahul said...

I agree with MT. Speaking for myself, I find it hard to judge attractiveness in photos, and I simply can't find dead-fish personalities like Aishwarya Rai attractive. (I'm judging by her media appearances, of course.) Self-confidence is an attractive attribute, provided it's about worthwhile things (self-confidence about the leetness of your high heels doesn't count...) You're self-confident in discussing Kuhn and Pamuk, not to mention Dev Anand, many would find that plenty attractive. There's a Woody Allen short story, I forget the name, about a man who pays attractive young women to spend time with him in hotel rooms discussing Proust and Nietzche because his wife is unable to satisfy his intellectual needs.

As for your looks, I have no clue what they're like; but judging by anonymous's post, my guess is that you look fine, but would fail to qualify as a supermodel, and that bothers you a little. Hey, many of us find the supermodel scarecrow look repulsive.

Swathi said...

guess you were alluding to 'The Whore of Mensa' ?

yes, choosing the circle u hang out with is the solution. i have two distinct group of friends -one for partying and one for those days when I want to make a decent conversation :)

Szerelem said...

Grace: Hehe. Who else could I be talking about! And I think I remember her saying something about how I feel like a giant only because of her or some such. Maybe there’s some truth to that :P

T_M: Yeah, you’re right about the culturally constructed bits. I may be off with this, but I do feel more comfortable in my skin in Europe, than in India or S.E. Asia.

Antonia: The beauty industry is scary sometimes. Though I think men are being affected by this now as well, probably not as much as women though. There’s this trend I see with all the young guys gyming out like mad, trying to get perfect biceps, abs and what not. But I still don’t think they are judged the way women are. If only they worked a bit more on their intellect.

Rahul: Hehe…. many people find me weird because I like discussing stuff like Pamuk, Gulzar or what have you. To each their own I guess. It’s interesting what you say about the scarecrow look…most guys I know don’t find it appealing at all. But somehow women wind up with that ideal. It’s quite screwed up.

Swathi: Yeah, I realized that after my first year at school. I’d rather have no friends than be around people who make me feel weird. Luckily, I have a handful of friends who I can hang out with, and have decent and flippant conversations with.

chandni said...

oh come on!!!!

fat or not fat is not important, fun is!!!

we women should really relieve ourselves of thew whole bloody pressure trap!!!

and how it goes by the way? :)

Antonia said...

yes i think you are right, szelerem, the men are being caught too.In my pessimistic moments I think it does not get better for women that they are being judged less, but it gets worse for men too, so nothing is won in the end.
But I agree with what swathi said, it makes a huge different with what sort of people one hangs avoiding the gym people at all costs :)

Rahul said...

Swati: Yes, that's the one.

szerelem: Yes, there are all kinds in the world, luckily. I think in most cases insecurity about looks is fundamentally irrational -- as are most things about us. Here's another post on the subject of desirable looks, which brings in media manipulation and evolutionary psychology. Again, I don't think that particular blogger (whom I know) needs to worry, but no doubt we all have our insecurities.

airy voices said...

look what I found in Point Counter Point:

"Modesty's harmful if its false. Milton said that "nothing profits more than self-esteem grounded on just and right. I know that mine is grounded on just and right. I know, I'm abolutely convinced that I can do what I want to do. What's the good of denying the knowledge? I'm going to be master, I'm going to impose my will. I have the determination and courage. Very soon I shall have the organized strength. And then I shall take control. I know it; why should I pretent I don't?"

How absolutely fabulous huh? Now all I need is the convinction.

Alok said...

reg pedantry, of course it is a great virtue. It shows enthusiasm and knowledge. It is not the same as arrogance at all. It is about how much you care and how much you know...

the best way is to stick to your interests and goals and make friends with people who don't force you to compromise on these.

Revealed said...

1. I'm absolutely tiny and absolutely self conscious about it. When anyone looks at me I assume that they're thinking "look at that freaky midget".
2. I never trust compliments but I know how to pretend that I know how to accept them.
3. It's easy I think to dust off this issue as a non-serious one, one that isn't worthy of your time. But I think it's an extremely serious one. I read a paper the other day which said that we all judge any new person we meet within 90 seconds of meeting them. And I don't think that's based on their intelligence or their opinions on Kuhn (sad though that is). And I had the exact same conversation (:D) with someone else about how there is always expectation to conform to an ideal. And it's an impossible ideal. Every failure (imagined or otherwise) to do so leaves you with ever decreasing self confidence. And then a lot of us overcompensate for that and come across as arrogant or over confident. It's a hard life being a woman :). I think for a lot of women the validation they most need is that of being attractive. I really liked the bit in Little Ms.Sunshine where the kid asks her grand dad if she's pretty :). And he sez I don't like your intellligence or your personality but I'm in love with the way you look. :)

And also it is AWFULLY hard getting clothes your size if you're small!! Trust me on that one. If anyone should be envying anyone it should be her envying you! *sigh*

Szerelem said...

Chandni: Yes ma’am, as you say. *Plans to go off and have some fun asap*
It’s going okay as of now. Just going with the flow of the last term :)

Antonia: I know, it’s sad isn’t it? Instead of saying lets not objectify, it’s become lets just objectify everyone.

Rahul: Interesting post. Thanks for linking. But like you said, we do have our insecurities.

AV: Haha! I need conviction too man! And I need to read that book.

Alok: :-) I think a lot of people think I’m arrogant. I don’t make friends very easily so when I do it’s as you said about being comfortable with them.

Revealed: Every failure (imagined or otherwise) to do so leaves you with ever decreasing self confidence. And then a lot of us overcompensate for that and come across as arrogant or over confident. That is SO, SO true! It is hard being a woman.
And, of course I agree with you about how quickly we judge people. Inevitably it is based on looks and it does require controlled thinking not to do that.
And didn’t you just love Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine? :D

GhostOfTomJoad said...

I think I saw this 'study' in the newspaper here. But I wouldn't believe too much of this 'study' business. Like someone said, it's a cultural thing.

Besides, where is it going to end...weight, colour of the skin, height, complexion, the way you walk (women have to sway their hips, men have to have the "shoulder swagger" - I kid you not...this is based on another 'study'!)

TS said...

There are days when I wake up fat, and then there are days where I wake up FAT.


scout said...

oh fat talk. how well i know it. i'm guilty of indulging in it and i adore telling other people they're not fat. somehow standards change for other people and for myself. i'll tell another girl who looks exactly like me that she's perfect and then i'll look at myself and go "eurrrrrghhhhh, lose some weight, bitch."

fortunately, i've realized the road down to anorexia is not fun - i'd rather stick to the size I am. And you're fiiiiiiiiiiine. If you wanted to hear that :D

Primalsoup said...

Heh. I have realized that no matter what one does:
a) somebody will always be thinner
b) inside my head I shall remain a fat girl

May be that is what they call denial, but it usually works! :)

30in2005 said...

I worried about my enormous weight while I grew up but never enough to do something about it. It's taken till now for me to get my act together and start some sort of activity to get teh weight down a bit and start looking like a normal person. I've never worried about what other people think sadly - always just that I should feel healthy and able to do things I enjoy without collapsing. I'll never even be an M but I don't care because the thin people have me to thank for their being called thin - the comparison post if you like!!

GhostOfTomJoad said...

Sorry, you had asked about the Iranian film...well, films is more like it. Because first it was Dayereh by Jafar Panahi, then The Silence by Mohsen Makhmalbaf and this Sunday it'll be Baran by Majid Majeedi, which I have seen once but am going again :-) And, then, in the following week, it'll be Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us...good, eh? :-)

General Pervez Musharraf said...

I'm glad fat people are sitting up and taking note of their obesity.

It's a huge problem, is obesity and I think it's time people understood their responsibilities. They owe it to themselves and to society to make the effort.