Actually, you did, Louise, when you tell us what’s attractive without clarifying that you’re only speaking for yourself. We are all of us so different, we are all of us so varied. Your argument, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that our journey is far more about becoming joyful in the skin we’re in.
Those guys, and they’re out there, who HAVE to have a tiny woman, are just as deluded as those women who feel they have to be tiny. However, in all fairness, that is their journey. Just as it was mine, after a spate of vicious sexual attacks in the military when I was 23, to go through four decades of eating disorders. I might argue that sometimes, the compulsions that you and I witness have little to nothing to do with being slim per se, and far more to do with what someone did to us, and it’s how we deal internally with that trauma. This kind of compassion, which believe me, is born of hard personal work and far too much experience of male brutality, informs how I see much of how women treat their bodies.
I write about rape, and I also write about sexual politics. It is hugely helpful to understand that so very many of us (about a third of the world’s women, who admit to being assaulted, to say nothing of those who don’t speak up) act out our trauma and pain through our bodies. To fail to recognize this pattern, to not acknowledge that sometimes what you and I see as anorexic striving for an impossible ideal is a woman’s way of coping with her pain, ignores the larger reality. Not all of us, mind you, but enough of us. It’s a deeply complex and very painful issue.
That said, Louise, I might respectfully offer that each of us has our reasons. So very often, when you investigate (and I do, as a prize winning journalist), you discover a host of issues and problems that lead to OCDs and compulsions and body image issues and body dysmorphia. Quite often, it has less to do with being slim than hating the body that brought on the attack. In that awful way that such things twist us psychologically, many of us descend into eating disorders (I had mine for forty years) as a way of punishing ourselves. Not to be pretty. Nope. We despise our bodies for the pain they cost us.
And in many cases we have no clue that this is the driving force. That takes years. Meanwhile, media images that promise us falsely that if only we were skinny, if only we were gorgeous, if only we used this product that cleanse this lotion, lost this much weight give us the hope that we might finally be acceptable. To damaged goods, and most women I know have been damaged by society those promises act like dopamine. Sells a lot of shit.
Again, I get your points. However, I simply would offer that those things that drive each of us to drink the Koolaid are again, as unique as a fingerprint. I cannot make sweeping statements about why you or anyone else does X because I’m not privy to your inner world. By the same token I’m a bit uneasy when I read an article that includes me as a lifetime bodybuilder, for example, and interprets my motivation for gym work as solely for external validation. You can’t know that Louise,and therefore you can’t speak for me. Nor can either of us speak with authority about anyone else unless we’ve interviewed them.
What you and I can do is speak to the sacredness of our own experiences. That is our perfect right. Your experiences will touch a responsive chord in many women, for much of what you have written speaks to the ridiculous standards that are foisted on real people with real bodies (and kindly, men are no different in this regard, it’s an equal oppportunity offender). That said, my thought is that you will be far more powerful if you don’t make sweeping statements which have a tendency to include people for whom your statements aren’t exactly accurate. Again, that is heart of diversity, which in many regards is a lot of what you’re addressing: that the rich variety of physical form is not only gorgeous, it’s how it should be. Just as the rich variety of preferences among our partners is also gorgeous and how it should be. That is a truth. And the more we celebrate that variety without attacking p references that we might not agree with, the more permission we give ourselves and those around us to be perfectly happy right where they are. Which of course doesn’t sell stupid products, but it sure provides us the space to be unique individuals.