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I'm in the process of reading The Crazy Years by Spider Robinson, which is a collection of his essays, mostly written for the Globe and Mail.

Much like his hero/mentor/inspiration, Robert Heinlein, Spider can be a genius and a dick, sometimes in the same work. He also wears his predilections on his laptop. He clearly thinks Rubens' models are a bit on the thin side and that something more like a Botero would be his ideal.

The piece that this quote comes from is actually QUITE dickish, in that it's a defense of consumerism and a rant against people who think that MAYBE it might be nice if our society wasn't so determined to use up and despoil everything in its wake. The quote itself is somewhat problematic, because of the focus on "childbearing" as a necessary quality in a mate.

HOWEVER, with all that taken into consideration...it still hit a lot of home for me, as I continue to struggle and contort with the body image/exercise/diet conundrum that is pretty much the defining issue of my life, bequeathed to me by my father, who died struggling with the same obsession.

“There’s nothing intrinsically sexually undesirable about a normally fleshy person of either sex: if there were, the human race could hardly exist. An afternoon in any museum should demonstrate the proposition even to the logically-challenged. This generation of this society has chosen to find anorexia attractive and a normal body repulsive. But why? Why would any male pick a feminine ideal with hips unlikely to survive childbirth, underdeveloped breasts and insufficient body fat to survive even the most transitory hard times? Why would a woman yearn for a mate whose status is so low that he needs to be in as good shape as a common laborer or warrior. Why would anybody seek sensual pleasure with someone who evidently has either no appetites or inhuman restraint?”

AND YET....the bicycle, the gym, the running, any time I get up and do exercise, no matter how much I tell myself it's good for my general health and that I'm saving the environment by riding the bike, it's NOT. It's about making my body comport to the image deemed as acceptable and beautiful by this society.

Yes,I know. Very First World problem, isn't it? Sorry for being in this mood, but reading that quote on BART this AM (on the way to the gym because the back-rack just came off my bicycle) it
really hit me.

Then I had to have a gender politics rant because my co-worker called Katy Perry a ho because she's going out with Robert Pattinson, but that's a whole other post, which I may or may not do later.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 29th, 2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
Hits home for me, too. At some point I'll write about how, when I was a girl, being thirty to fifty pounds overweight was HUGE. Now, at least in NYC, it's common to see women that are more than one hundred pounds overweight. They're the sort of people you'd point at as a kid. It's somehow the flip side of this hideous obsession with fitness and anorexia.

ETA: I didn't kmow anyone in the real world cared about Robert Pattinson et al.

Edited at 2012-08-29 08:14 pm (UTC)
Aug. 29th, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
being thirty to fifty pounds overweight was HUGE (...)
One thing we tend to forget is that you can be thirty pounds overweight and still pretty healthy. If I were thrirty pounds underweight I would be very sick. Fifty, I'd probably be dead. However unhealthy overweight is, it doesn't kill you outright.

What is on the other hand true is that as a girl weight issues were definitely off my radar. It's privilege, but it was a very common privilege among my friends (and no, I hadn't selected my friends weight-based. There really wasn't much overweight at that time. Mediterranean diet at work).
Aug. 29th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
Totally agree on Heinlein.

As for your quote, it certainly triggered quite some reaction with me!
That beauty standards are socially constructed is kind of obvious, but it bears repeating in a society which seems to have forgotten it. So far, so good.

That choosing a mate fit for reproduction would be important for the genetic survival is, at first approximation, true. It disregards a number of subtler points (e.g., it seems there's a correlation between homosexuality and greater female fertility in a given bloodline, anyone except the Kinsey 6s could end up reproducing in nature, and a samesex couple could care for orphaned offspring) but it's a basic tenet of evolution for all animals. NOT, of course, a way to choose a spouse/significant other.

And then... AARGHHH!!!! The stupid, it burns!

hips unlikely to survive childbirth, underdeveloped breast
You can be pretty thin and still your hips survive childbirth quite fine. Especially since hips are bones, and the quantity of fat you have on them is irrelevant. For the record, I'm usually perceived as having narrow hips because, even at the my thinnest, I have a very non-thin waist.

As for the breast, non-pregnant females CAN use breasts as fat storage but they don't have to. So long as the woman isn't starving, she'll produce milk, even if she has to use up all her body fat, wherever hidden. One wonders whether this idiot ever read any basic information about breast-feeding.

It is true that low body fat is against survival in case of famine (and even many diseases) but using this a criterion for mate selection seems crazy.

no appetites or inhuman restraint

Just because HE can't keep weight off without a diet, doesn't mean no one else can! (luckily I haven't yet figure out how to switch on capslock on my iPad's keyboard). Most people have a "natural" weight, which the body keeps effortlessly while they eat as much as they feel like eating.

I actually found this statement offensive all around - it implies that the natural status of humans is either being fat, or struggling with a diet. While this is the case for a nontrivial part of us, the fact that the specific percentage varies a lot even among first-world countries seems to imply that there may be other factors around (such as how much and what food is standard/available/affordable, especially for children).

Or maybe I've read too many statements in Italian media that couple physical with charcter qualities - like women with small breasts must be sexually and/or emotionally cold. I wish I was joking.

Anyway, I'd say that this particular sentence is 95% dickish. Okay, maybe ninety :).
Aug. 29th, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
Sorry, honey! Didn't mean to get you so upset. I know you struggle with the body issues on the other side of the spectrum. Not to defend Mr. Robinson on most of his dickishness, BUT he is a scrawny bastard, so keeping the weight off isn't his particular curse one way or another.

My ideal would be to 1. accept my body at it's current "healthy" weight and 2. maintain that while eating what I want. Unfortunately both the acceptance and the maintennance switches don't work very well for me, probably disabled by a life-time on the binge/diet merry-go-round.
Aug. 29th, 2012 10:51 pm (UTC)
I guess I should apologize, I wrote way too much - and you had even put a warning!

Your goal #2 might be difficult, at least according to what I read online and hear from dieting friends, which currently are a bit above half of everyone I know, both male and female. I'm impressed you can maintain your weight at all, although I do know two long-term (10+ and 20+ years, respectively) successful dieters.

As for goal #1, there I think even this pond scum's opinion has merit. You are good looking as you are now, and I expect your weight is within healthy limits (IANAD). Still, it isn't easy: it took me a lot of time and effort to accept my body as it is (Tuscan nose included), I can't imagine how extra hard it must be with the added weight of the social stigma that society so generously puts on overweight people.
Aug. 29th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
You've caught part of my dilemma exactly. To met a mixaphor, being on the merry-go-round breaks the thermostat. IF I'd grown up in an environment and a society where I could have accepted my body thirty years ago, I wouldn't be in this position where I'm so programmed for feast or famine and where when eating "normally" I could continue to do that without inevitably descending into full-fledged binge mode. I don't binge quite as hard as I used to, but it does tend to escalate from normal to sloppy to "dumpster diving" and the weight will keep pushing up until I put on the breaks and start the cycle again with "cold turkey."
Aug. 30th, 2012 02:17 am (UTC)
AND YET....the bicycle, the gym, the running, any time I get up and do exercise, no matter how much I tell myself it's good for my general health and that I'm saving the environment by riding the bike, it's NOT. It's about making my body comport to the image deemed as acceptable and beautiful by this society.

Well... yeah. I think it's good at least that you see it for what it is. I freely admit that I only exercise to stay 'societally acceptable' and have pared it back to the absolute minimum that allows me to eat with relative freedom. Better health is mostly a bonus. If you'll excuse my deeply cynical nature, it's because slimness has nothing to do with fertility, it's about status. People who conform to society's (current and ever-changing) ideals have higher social status. Like it or not, fair or not, aspire to change it or not, it's simple reality, like race, height, attractiveness, wealth, a million other things. That's WHY. I feel a 'good' feminist would refuse to buy into such standards, but most people do, hence the pressure whether you believe in it yourself or not. And absolutely nothing to do with 'childbearing'. That said, I think it's true men really don't care as much as women do. Slimness is to impress other women (including oneself) just as muscles are to impress other men (ditto). LOL, I am clearly cranky today XD
Aug. 30th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
As Susie Ohrbach told us back in 1978, Fat Is A Feminist Issue and you're equally right that it's one where we often do ourselves and our fellow women a disservice. I'm absolutely guilty of that one, both in failure to achieve self-acceptance or to be completely unjudgemental about the bodies of others. Heavy and Que Sera Sera are two extremely difficult episodes of House for me to sit through, because of my own issues. I wonder if they actually had any back-story to account for Chase's antipathy or if they just threw it in there as a plot point.
Sep. 1st, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
I've been a fan of Spider for years; this is unexpected. I'm not sure how I feel about it. As someone who's spent at least half of my life as morbidly obese, NOT being repudiated is nice. I wish more people had such a "live and let live" philosophy...BUT, to be balanced, that should also include the other body types. Nobody ought to go around feeling superior to anyone else simply on the basis of genetic luck! In a perfect world, that is, and alas, I don't think any of us are perfect. I know I'm not.

Sep. 2nd, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
Here's a link to the full essay, so you can get the context;

To me the quote is positive and affirming, although as I said in some ways problematic. It was a good reminder of how much of my "weight problem" is sociological as opposed to physical.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )



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