Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fat: Masculinity and Sexist Put-Downs

Kate Winslet weight fluctuation

I probably should have prefaced this post with an earlier one containing a more detailed explanation of where this post originated, but just bear with me for a bit here.

Over the past few days, I have been marinating on a series of complicated, highly-stressful, mind-boggling, eye-roll-inducing, leave-you-utterly-exacerbated events. I have been compelled more-so now than ever before to get all of these feelings that have stemmed from these series of events out of me but have been hitting a great amount of roadblocks every time I come here to get everything out, because sure, day-to-day observations and questions we have that stem from our daily lives are often put on public display for open discussion. However, when you truly need your blog and need the comfort that comes with blogging, which before I started running Menstrual Poetry more like a news aggregator plus my particular views and input on current events, is what I used this website for. Well, that’s when it’s the hardest to get all of your mental ducks in a row, for lack of a better term. For me, and I’m sure for a lot of other bloggers out there, my personal life has often come up on my blog, which is what we agree to when we start blogging in the first place. Personal views on society and politics are often a direct result of our personal lives. Many bloggers refuse to put their family life on display, which until now I have always respected because while I have a blog and while I will write about my own life, my family did not sign on for their personal lives to be on display just because I have a blog. But when does the time come where we simply must nudge that rule of blogging aside? For me, that time is now.

I have always had a very unique relationship with my younger sister. Due to our childhood, I had been forced to look out for her well-being before my own. I made sure she had food to eat, even if I did not, I made sure she had clean clothes to wear and that she had a bath as often as possible. That in itself is the life of abused and neglected children. Given this upbringing at the hands of our mother, we grew up relying on each other very much, so when she was 16 years old and had started acting completely erratically and not making the best life choices, I chalked it up to teenage rebellion; hell, me and teenage rebellion had a very strong, one-sided relationship. To say the least, I know it well. But this behavior came to a head when she wound up in a mental hospital for a week after divulging self-harming tendencies and a transfer to a much smaller school that incorporates therapy into their daily curriculum. She was put on medication after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and for a little while, she was doing perhaps even better than she had been years earlier. My family thought that they had finally seen the end of behavior that wasn’t just hurting her, but also the entire family. They thought this because anyone would and finally she was on the right track. She was getting straight A’s in school, had goals to graduate and then go to college to become a nurse and she had big plans for her impending future, until maybe two months ago when it all picked up again and this time, it was worse.

To make an incredibly long and painful story short, she’s a runaway and all of the services and people who are put into place to help children have stopped trying to help. She has been staying with her boyfriend (of a month and a few days) in a hotel/halfway house where convicted felons and sex offenders reside. Not the best housing arrangement in the least. So I spoke to her on the phone earlier this week and I went to this place she has been staying to pick her up because staying with her sister in an apartment in a place that I can only think to compare to Pleasantville is a lot better than the previous. Me and my partner were greeted by her “boyfriend” who is not a minor and who I had initially suspected was making her stay with him against her will due to the fact that he had met me at the door, the inside door of which locks and needs a key to get past due to the fact that once word gets out to a community about sex offenders cohabiting their space are never too thrilled with the arrangement. So this kid (who is not a minor, but is younger than I am and has no idea what the word ‘respect’ means, which makes him a kid) refused to let me pick my sister up and who thought the best and most logical way of going about getting rid of me was to call me a cunt and crazy.

I did get my sister home to our family with the help of the police and after she adamantly refused to come to my apartment for a few days because it would put her a reasonable distance away from her boyfriend. As it turns out, she was staying there of her own free will, she is just not functioning with a sane mental capacity and is the utter definition of an out of control teen, which is why a day later she was back with her boyfriend and she had signed online with the sole intention of letting her boyfriend harass me via instant message.

So, to the actual point of this entire post (yes, 1200+ words in…) is the word ‘fat.’ Sure, feminists all across the blogosphere as well as anyone who knows the name Kate Harding knows that we are very accepting to body image and also of the word ‘fat’ itself. So why is it in the mass populace of boys and men alike, do they immediately start to hurl the word fat at women who they are trying to piss off? My sister’s boyfriend IM-harassed me for over a half hour, at least, about me being fat and when I stopped typing back (and didn’t block the screen name in case my sister did actually need to get a hold of me at some point when the shades of grey and clouds that Bipolar Disorder infects people’s minds with faded away) actually said that I wasn’t typing back because my 3am pizza had arrived and I was eating since I’m so fat.

Now of course this is so ridiculous that all you can do is laugh and brush off your shoulder as an ignorant boy’s banter but it does have something with the initial reason why the word ‘fat’ is used as a slap in the face to women by men who feel they are the epitome of masculinity. It is socially acceptable for women to fear that they are too fat, that their ankles are too big, that their asses are too wide, that they have cellulite and stretch marks and it’s all repulsive because we live in the land of ‘you can never be too thin.’ The more we push back against this social normality, the less we will hear the word fat being used as a put down that is supposed to make women run to their treadmills and starve themselves so they can look like the women on the airbrushed and photoshopped covers of magazines. Masculinity should never be about how bad you can make a woman feel about themselves.

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Posted in: Musings | 6 Comments

6 Thoughts on Fat: Masculinity and Sexist Put-Downs | Leave a Comment

  1. tinkapuss says:

    Keep strong. x

  2. Criss L. Cox says:


    My mom is dealing with a similar situation with a step-niece-turned-daughter. She's now living with the boyfriend, at boyfriend's grandma's house, dropped out of school (probably because he told her to; she was doing well in her classes), has quit jobs that were good for her and that she was good at, because of him. She's trying to take her sister down with her, but I think younger sister is starting to see how un-rosy older sister's reality is…

    Anyway. I'm sorry this is happening to you and to your sister.

  3. maremartell says:

    I was that runaway teen. Mine wasn't bipolar (although they claimed it was), it was from abuse much worse than that of my mother's doing.

    Keep the faith. I'm not 21 years past that point in my life and I am a well-rounded, okay fat, but happy woman. Peace to you and yours.

  4. kissmykitty says:

    Ugh. I'm so sorry that your sister is going down that road. You've done everything you can, from the sounds of it (speaking of sounds of things… are you on Lavish? Am I just not connecting the dots with names and blogs? I swear this story sounds familiar!). Now you need to sit back and let her make her bed and lie in it, as painful as that may be. I'd honestly worry more for the baby than her… :(

    And I hear you on the whole men-calling-women-fat thing. I have been bitching about the same thing for years. Someone has a problem with how I drive, my opinions, my this, my that… the immediate response is to call me fat, or a whale, or this or that. What does my physical appearance have to do with my intellect, my morals, my ethics, my opinions, my personality? Last time I checked, nothing… how I drive or what I think about certain issues bears no relevance on my weight, and vice versa!

  5. Danine says:

    Wow. What an incredibly brave post. I haven't read your blog before, I admit that. Good luck with your sister.

  6. ganndis says:

    Hmmm… this post remind me similiar conditions about my friends and anger mostly inside of us when face it but I think this is kind of life story for each person to learn about life itself… I think each person should or would get this situations in different type as their own learning process.

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