Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why the thinnest woman you know probably thinks she's too fat, and other random musings on International Women's Day

Things are tougher for young people coming up today than they were a generation or two ago.

An education has become prohibitively expensive for far too many. Graduating with massive student loans, young people find an economy that has been shedding decent jobs for at least thirty years. Most of what they grew up believing in they find out of reach.

But however difficult things may be for young people in general, they're twice as tough for young women in particular.

They carry every ounce of the burden carried by their male peers, but then piled on top of that they carry the expectations of a consumer culture that through every medium imaginable ceaselessly reminds them that they're not good enough.

Feminist writers and activists have been going on about the destructive impact of female representation in popular culture since at least the '60s. Has there been any let up in the unrealistic representation of females?

No. To the contrary, advances in technology make the reminders of inadequacy more ubiquitous than ever.

It's hardly news that the iconic images of female perfection lionized by the culture we all swim in are hopelessly out of reach for most normal females.

A fifty year old guy who had bad skin as a teen now has "rugged good looks."

A fifty year old woman who had bad skin as a teen has had plastic surgery or is just ugly.

Any overweight man is just big.

Overweight women are fat.

There's a difference.

Feelings of perpetual inadequacy extract a toll. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, abusive relationships... all of these are far more likely to sweep up my daughters than my sons.


We live in a hyper-competitive society. If you're not on the A-list you're a loser. That's drummed into kids from the time they are sentient beings. It comes from the TV and the internet and the movies and every mainstream media outlet. It is a philosophy propagated by our education system from pre-kindergarden on.

If you don't want to be a loser, you're going to have to look like a winner. Winners look like they look in the commercials and the print ads. When is the last time you saw an overweight fiftyish woman with bad skin in an ad for Jaguar or Porsche or Rolex or...

Young women, having been bombarded with that beauty propaganda from their first sentient moments, internalize that stuff.

According to studies by learned folks tasked with looking into these matters, most girls worry about their weight by the time they're ten years old.

Ten year old girls should be climbing trees and building tree-forts, not worrying about their weight.

That's just bullshit!

For the sake of our daughters, we need to get away from that winner-takes-all model of society. International Women's Day originated in the European socialist movement, which was a response to the unbridled capitalism that had established itself in the Europe of the industrial age.

We've come full circle. One hundred years later we are again grappling with an unbridled capitalism that wants to make winners out of the few and losers of the rest of us.

It doesn't have to be that way.

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