I’m at work, and my new coworker sees my driver’s license photo, which was taken over a decade ago.
“You’ve lost so much weight!” She exclaims.
“Yeah, well, I experienced traumatic injury and illness this year…”
“Congratulations!” She hasn’t even heard me. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I’ve lost weight. “I want to do that, too.”
Between the loss of an actual extremity, stress, emotional distress, and a vicious C. diff infection, I lost about 40lbs in the course of maybe 2 months, and I had no power over that at all.
My relationship to food and eating after both intense trauma and gut infection has completely changed, and I have a genuinely difficult time consuming all the calories I need. This is important because I work my ass off at the gym in my ongoing attempts to build the strength and endurance I need to function as well as I’d like with a prosthetic foot.
Today I managed to get down:
- 3 bites of cereal
- a mocha
- part of a bag of chips
- several determined bites of chicken and rice
- part of a slice of bread
I can’t tell you how much I would love to have been able to eat even one full meal. I continue to have very little power over my weight or how much I lose, and that is something I am working on (this is not an invitation for advice, either).
This isn’t every day. Some days I manage 3 squares. Some days I manage seconds (this happens almost never ). Most days I average 1-2 meals.
Every time somebody compliments me on my weight loss, I am reminded of days spent in the hospital unable to find my appetite through the physical agony and emotional shock I endured. I am reminded of days spent unable to function, unable to eat, in despair as I lost even more control of my life and my health. I am reminded that I have not fully recovered, that I am struggling with this daily.
But the fatphobia in this world is so intense, so hardwired, and so fucked up that it would never occur to anybody that my weight loss was anything other than desired.
The entitlement people feel towards the bodies of others is so automatic, and has gone so unexplored, that it is not the fact that they have commented on my body that goes questioned, but the fact that I am struggling to respond graciously.
And the entitlement people feel to graciousness upon the “gift” of a compliment, however unwanted or unasked for, ensures that I must either do the emotional work for them—of fielding their ignorance, their insensitivity, their not-so-subtle programming in patriarchal values—or have my attitude questioned (rarely a safe option for a queer genderfluid person of color) and work harder all around.
This is bullshit.
Fuck your fatphobia. Fuck your concern trolling. Fuck your entitlement to my body and how it looks. Fuck you for not stopping to think for a second that there are so very many reasons a person might lose weight, and actually setting out to is only one of them.
It’s time to stop remarking on other people’s bodies, especially when you don’t know the whole story. I would say it’s time to stop making assumptions, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the ability of folks to make that leap. So let’s start with shutting the fuck up and letting people move though their day and their lives without wondering who is going to comment on their bodies next.
As a post-script to the fedora-wearing motherfuckers who think people should just be happy to get a compliment and will comment here and on FB to that effect:
For various reasons I am not going into right now, I lost a little over 30lbs over the course of the last several months. End result, simplified? My knees hurt less and my pants don’t fit. I should note that, as a person who will never, ever be “skinny” and never plans to be, I find myself caught between two body weight dogmas. The first tells me I am just buying into systemic fatphobia and the diet industry. The second tells me I should lose weight because pretty=skinny.
Neither is true for me, but it makes me profoundly self-conscious about a personal decision I have made about my body and what I choose to do with and to it. But that’s not why I have decided to write this post.
I have decided to write this post because people keep talking to me as if this weight loss is the Accomplishments of Accomplishments. They exclaim over it with greater enthusiasm than they offer over the fact that I have a law degree, that I know Latin, that I am brilliant, hilarious, and great in bed. Okay, I do get some outright skepticism over that last claim, but whatever. Ladies, you can approach that claim scientifically if you like. My number is [redacted].
I hate being told that I should be super proud of my weight loss. I hate people acting as if it’s the best fucking thing I have ever done. I hate people asking how I feel, as if they have just handed me a fucking Oscar and I am supposed to make a fucking speech.
You know how I feel? Fat.
You know how I would feel if I lost another 30lbs?
The fact is, I’m pretty much okay with this. I’m okay with being fat. I’m less okay with how society has made me feel about being fat. I realize this is something of a contradiction. If I am okay with my body, then why the issues? It’s complicated; I’m a multifaceted Whiskeypants. Let’s leave it at that for now.
What gets me is how much people are not okay with it. How eager they are to praise me for my recently pronounced cheekbones and the fact that I can barely keep my pants up, even with a belt.
What gets me is how they say, “Sweet! You can go shopping now!” —as if all of my body image issues have disappeared and standing in a fitting room no longer sets off every single issue I still have, no longer fills me with anxiety, no longer makes me wonder why designers won’t even acknowledge people above a certain size. As if pride in my body is directly correlated to my weight loss. (Hint: It isn’t.) Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of what I have accomplished, here. But not because I look 30lbs “better” according to society’s fucked up standards.
What gets me is how they think that my reward for losing weight is getting to wear smaller clothes. Shopping for clothes. Trying on clothes that were designed for people 1/2 my size and never my shape. Buying the clothes that look the least stupid on me.
Here’s the blog entry that started this brain a’churnin. Check it out, I’ll go get a beer.
It is cool to think that even a fraction of Slave Leias out there are striving for more than cheesecake photo ops and geek-gawk-points, even if the majority are probably sans that nobly-intended kickassery. I dig that at least some of those women think more than just “Look at me, look at me, LOOK AT MEEEE!”
However, even if some of them are going for “fierce bikini warrior” rather than “desirable chattel”, they have a responsibility for the whole message they send with that costume, not just the part they like. Along with the “Grrr, don’t mess with me or I’ll choke your blubbery ass” is “I am a lap dog.” Along with “I am a sexy object, covet me” is “the smaller my outfit, the better I look, the more I am worth.”
The reason the Slave Leia outfit is not merely a skimpy costume (according to this blog) is because while she is dressed like a compliant pleasure-slave, she’ll actually fuck you up. Don’t judge by what you see. But inherent in that statement is that what you see is a degrading costume.
I mean, c’mon. They didn’t throw her in jail like they did her male counterparts, she was dressed in a bikini and a leashed collar while Chewie and Han were in the clink. She was forced to sit there, humiliated, in that giant, pudding-y lap as decoration while a giant turd-shaped alien yanked her around by the neck and stuck his slimy, slimy tongue out at her. Dang, son. That shit is embarrassing.
OMG he’s touching me AGAIN.
Now, ultimately Leia did kick major ass. She was there on a daring attempt to rescue her boyfriend in the first place. She killed that bastard Jabba with the very leash he put around her neck. Go, girl. But her triumph wouldn’t have been as epic if she hadn’t done it from such a place of obvious subjugation, which is what the outfit symbolizes. You don’t get to cherry-pick the “I’m a badass” out of it and leave the rest.
Also, despite Leia’s many heroic actions during the trilogy, we just don’t see the brave and imperious white-gowned (fully-clothed) leader of the Rebel Alliance at cons very often. Or the fearless soldier in the camouflage poncho screaming through the woods at breakneck speed, intent on fucking some storm-trooper shit up. No, nearly all of the Leia incarnations we see have chosen to dress like an objectified slave.
The second part of this has to do with that choice. The choice to don skimpy bikini wear instead of countless other amazingly hot nerdy women’s costumes in the first place. It’s a choice that size privilege affords to some, and one that slaps an automatic penalty on those not wearing Nerdtoria’s Secret or those who try less successfully. (I’m not on a slut-shaming rant here, btw, bear with me.)
Truthfully, I wouldn’t wear SL in any case (not a fan of the outfit, donchaknow), but even if I wanted to, I am a fat girl and don’t have that choice. I would never be seen the same way as a “normal” woman in SL. I would be the Fantasia hippo version of a ballerina, pictures of me would end up on lol-loser websites, I would become another cautionary tale for all the ladies out there who aren’t the correct size to play dress-up.
I’m not complaining about my size, mind you. Or anyone else’s. I’m pissed about the structure in which SL has become the standard, and I am naturally sub-par because I refuse to bare my midriff to the unavoidable mockery and shaming that would result.
“When geek culture says, Don’t be Slave Leia, what I hear is: Don’t unsettle us. Don’t make us think about the consequences of our misogyny, or our entitlement, or our privilege. Don’t remind us that female sexuality can be a power as well as a commodity.”
“I find it troubling when there’s a whole category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate. Because that line is a really arbitrary thing, and it’s really easy to imagine that, some day, I’ll end up on the wrong side of it.”
Would at least one of you think about choking that corpulent bastard?
Fighting back against misogyny: hell yes. Doing it by wearing identical slave girl outfits? C’mon. There’s plenty of ways to claim the “power” without the “commodity”. As a fat, nerdy- type woman, I am plenty aware of privilege and entitlement, and who has it. I am already in a “category of women that we are Officially Allowed to Mock and/or Hate.” Perhaps a little more effort to smudge and remove those arbitrary lines, and a little less jostling competition to be on the right side of them would help.
Beyond SL outfit in specific, there’s this whole Booth Babe/Cylon Funtime Barbie/Nearly-Naked (insert any recognizable geek- icon here) thing going on too. It’s about the teeny-tiny-con-bikini, so standard now that women not wearing one might as well be invisible. It’s about how those of us who aren’t the appropriate shape might as well just stay home because we don’t count. At this point, most cons should just be called “wizard-boob-a-palooza, no fat chicks.”
Nerds, banded together through common interests and a mutual understanding of how cruel the non-nerd world can be, are surprisingly closed down to us who score fewer points on the Slave Leia Value Scale™. That scale seems to rank based on how closely we resemble Boris Vallejo paintings, which is funny considering how few of them bear any passing resemblance. But I digress.
I’m not saying no one should ever wear the ole purple and gold; at this point it’s as classic as plastic pointy ears. The Bikini and Leash has stopped looking like a costume, and started looking like a cheerleader uniform. But fuck it, it’s Sci-fi, it’s Fantasy, it’s a party, it makes you feel sexy and fierce, so be it. Let your freak flag fly. All gazillion of you.
Just please, be aware that wearing it sends multiple messages, and they are not all as awesome as “If you fuck with me, I will end you.” You are also perpetuating some pretty harsh “isms” along the way. If you feel good, then strut your stuff. Wear it proudly, just know everything you’ve got on.
[Whiskeypants note: I posted “In Defense of Slave Leia” to my wall on Facebook, and Tanya responded with a comment that I was not above begging her to turn into a blog post. Fortunately she didn’t make me actually beg for it. That never looks good on Facebook.]
I was told early on that I was “fat.” I was also told early on that “fat” was not okay, not nice to look at, not nice to touch. That is to say, I have been trained since childhood to believe I am unattractive. I have never been one of the thin, (supposedly) attractive people who could dress in form-fitting clothes and grab the attention of the people in the room just walking into it.
I have never been one of those people who could diet and work out a little and lose the extra weight. I work out a minimum of 4 days a week unless I am ill, and I keep a relatively healthy diet. But despite the extraordinary amount of muscle I carry around, people tend to judge me based on the surface—that extra jiggle in my wiggle, to be precise.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, I have recently realized something. I tend to date really extraordinarily beautiful women. I mean, every once in a while I change it up and go for something extra crazy instead of extra hot, but that’s another story entirely. Ahem. Right.
But every time I find some gorgeous, brilliant, interesting woman who expresses interest in me, I have the same thought running around and through my mind: WTF does she want with me?
I mean, let’s look at this situation, here. I am 34, not gainfully employed, overweight, missing a visible tooth (oh yeah—like the meth head look? Never mind that it’s because of some bad dentistry), and I am still carrying around matching luggage from some previous relationships.
Whiskeypants, you may be saying, clearly these women are interested in you for your personality. Maybe that intelligence of yours makes you sexy. Maybe blah blah blah blah.
Fuck that. You find anybody who doesn’t, deep inside, want to be told that they are handsome, pretty, beautiful, stunning. Ultimately, gentle reader, I don’t want to be wanted for my personality—at least, not only my personality. Of course it’s wonderful when people can see past physical flaws (or not see them at all, or recognize that they aren’t actually flaws, goddamn it) because they see who a person is. Of course it’s fucking brilliant when that happens.
But let’s face it: I want to be wanted because somebody has looked at me and found me fucking hot. And I am sorry, but anybody who says differently is lying to you and possibly themselves. We say looks don’t matter, but that’s because we don’t want them to. Not because reality bears this out in any way, shape, or form (whose form? my form?).
I can’t tell you the number of times I have been out with some gorgeous woman and had somebody come up and buy her a drink right in front of me. I won’t lie—to be discounted and ignored like that stings like a motherfucker. No matter how satisfying it is to know she’s going home with me and not that presumptuous individual. I have had it hammered into me repeatedly: I am no looker.
So when some woman, who could clearly have anybody, shows interest in me, it sends me into a tailspin of “why?!” and “WTF?” and “really?” And then I set myself the task of talking myself out of that woman until I have more or less convinced myself that she could never be serious about me (either in a physical or emotional sense) in a million years.
I forget a lot of relevant facts at this point—all to do, of course, with my personality. Facts like:
- I am ridiculously smart.
- I am funny.
- I am kind.
- I am generous.
- I really really really treat the women I date really really really well.
- I have yet to have any complaints in the bed dept.
- I am trustworthy.
- I know how to communicate.
Somehow, though, none of that measures up to the fact that I grew up with the understanding that I was never all that attractive and that I couldn’t rely on my looks to get me anywhere. I don’t know how to get over that. I know there’s tons of rotund-positive stuff out there, but ultimately it doesn’t do anything to penetrate 34 years of programming and programming reinforcement.
So what’s the point of all this beside some whining about being liked for my admittedly rad personality? Good question. I’m not fishing for compliments. In fact, I’d prefer not to have a bunch of well-meaning friends decide to shower me with them just to make me feel better. So save it.
What I want all of you to do instead is to bring those compliments out for the people immediately around you—your children, your friends, your partners, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, that person you just started dating (because if anybody is at their most insecure…). Tell them they are beautiful, that you love their eyes, their hands, their dimples, their smiles. Say, “My gawd I find you amazingly hot.” Tell them this in person, if you can. If you can’t, tell them over the phone: “Damn, I miss that fine ass of yours.”
Because everybody needs to hear it, regardless of what they say or even think. It will put a spring in anybody’s step to hear that they are beautiful, or that they have stunning hair, or that their smile moves you in some way. This doesn’t require that you buy into traditional ideas of beauty (what tradition, anyway? Japanese? African? America in 1920 or 1980 or now?). Just that you find the beauty in the people around you and—just as importantly—that you tell them about it.
Now go forth and compliment.