Friday, January 22, 2010

A delicate matter

Statue of the Venus of Willendorf, courtesy of

Bodecea's blog today has really got me thinking ( Women's body image. Where do you stand on it? How do you feel about yourself? Me, I am neither fat nor thin. However, I am not, as my father would say, going to blow over in a strong wind (I should hasten to add he hasn't said this directly to me but about the rounded in general). And as my mother would say, I have never been a small person. Cartman on South Park may even suggest that I am 'big-boned'. For years, I have wanted to be my very anithesis - a blonde, waif-like creature about whom people would say "Oh, isn't she delicate!" I am not delicate. I am healthy looking. Robust even (at least, I was until I did my back in). True, I have never done anything to actively achieve waifness. I've never dieted and even now, in early middle age, I eat what I like. This, I suspect, will catch up with me soon and I may have to start being a bit more tuned in to what I consume and how I exercise. But this will be for my health, not because I am trying to match some sort of image fed to me by society of what a thirty-something woman living in Australia should look like.

But why did I ever want to be a blonde waif? Where did that come from?

Last night, on a tv program called "Inside the Great Magazines", the narrator said "Women's magazines can tell you how to be female." And it's true. Female identity is largely a construct of the media. It simultaneously dictates and feeds off society's desires. The whole thing reminds me so much of Posy Simmonds' cartoon, "The Seven Ages of Media Woman":

Little Miss Sunshine
Pretty Blonde Teenager
Bra-Burning Libber
Attractive blonde housewife, mother of 2
45 year old Super Mum
Battling Granny
Lonely Pensioner

A couple of years ago, I was shopping in one of the major chain stores here and I overheard the shop assistant saying "Oh yes, size 14 is extra-large!" Size 14 (equivalent to about a European 44)?? Most women in Australia are size 14 or larger. So what does that suggest about society's understanding - or acceptance - of the average woman?

As I grow older, I am happy to say that I becoming more accepting of myself. I am almost...gasp...pleased with how I look. But why wasn't this always so? Why have I bought into society's criteria for so long? Where do these ideas come from? Where do they start? Why just a few weeks ago did I feel the need to say even on this blog that a photo I'd posted of my shadow looked 'chubby', to somehow explain myself to you.

I am me and I can do little more than that. Indeed, I want for little more than that.


Wurst Semmel said...

Getting to a place where you feel comfortable with yourself is excellent....I'd like to feel I'm there and by and large I am but, just occasionally, I get twinges (still) of I wish I were....x, y, z.

Feronia said...

I suspect there will always be twinges for all of us, Wurst Semmel! Maybe it's just a matter of minimising the twinges...

Bodecea said...

Women (and maybe more and more men, too?) learn early to see their body as an object that has to please others. This enstranges us from our body. On the other side, some people do not care about their body at all, do not care if there are masssiv overweight or much to thin or unhealthy.
I am quite content the moment, beeing somewhere between the weight-extremes of my live.


Feronia said...

Yes, I think it's important to strike that balance - to not be overwhelmed by one's appearance, but still take pride in it, and maintain one's health too.

Helena said...

I have had the same "14 is extra large" conversation in a shop over here! I am a 16 top and a 14 bottom.
You ask where I stand on body image-
I feel better when I am lighter.
Last year I put on over a stone. Do you have stones over there? If so, I am over 11 stone and only 5ft 2 inches tall :( if not, this means over 155lbs.

I was 9 1/2 stone (133lbs) for ages and even then the dr. said I was overweight.

I put it on when I hurt my back nearly 2 years ago and got out of the habit of regular walking because I couldn't walk far. I was getting it under control again, then mum had the first mini-stroke.

Since mum's illness I've put on more and more. She went down to a dangerously low weight (6 stone 5) and when I moved in with her, I was told to get her eating. So I did and now she is 7 1/2 stone. But much of the time she wouldn't eat unless I did too, hence my gain!

I don't have a waist and I feel a frump; I puff when I bend down to tie my shoelaces and I feel awful, tired, lathargic and a big fat lump.

At the same time I bear inmind how dangerously thin mum got. I also had a friend who died of anorexia; her heart failed at age 22.

You would think that given these facts, I wouldn't worry about my weight. I would think, ok, I fell better when I'm a bit lighter, so I'll work on that when the spring comes and when mum's feeling better etc. Don't worry about it at the moment.

But no. I guess we are all a bit brainwashed to a degree, so you think? -I am overweight and it feels like I should be saying I have sinned!

RIght now I hide in huge jumpers and avoid mirrors. I feel awful.