Outfit Post: 10/2/13

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Dress: Goodwill (J. Crew) — Flats: 6pm.com (Frye) — Earrings: Gift — Bracelet: Flea market

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Last week, I had an experience that made me think about thin privilege and body policing, and I’m in the mood to talk about it here. (Trigger warning for talk about fatphobia.)

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Specifically, an acquaintance asked me (somewhat aggressively) how I “stay thin” while eating the kind of food I do–that week I had been bringing chili and leftover pasta for my lunches, and I guess she felt compelled to say something. I know that this sort of language is often intended to be a coded compliment, because we’re taught to value thinness and to believe that thin people somehow have more value than fat ones. I don’t blame her for asking, because this is one of the ways in which women are encouraged to interact with each other, and it’s true that fitting a particular beauty ideal–which includes thinness–gives one privilege within our society.

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I do wish I could say that I had been completely honest with her–“I actually have gained some weight in the past couple years, and I probably will gain some more weight in the next couple years, and I’m okay with that!”–but I felt so uncomfortable that I just laughed awkwardly and mumbled something unintelligible. I do try to speak up in a positive way when I can, like when folks say that I can wear my hair as short as I do because I’m “small enough,” but being directly confrontational about anything is something I have trouble with.

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I’m working on it, though, because when I don’t speak up I feel complicit in the unspoken message that my relative thinness gives me value over people who aren’t thin, which is absolutely not something that I subscribe to. I don’t intend for my voice to be heard in place of or over fat folks who want to speak up about their experiences with body policing and fatphobia, but the thin privilege that I do benefit from means I should be honest and open when the occasion presents itself.

I also believe that everybody should take steps to keep themselves safe, even if that means holding one’s tongue sometimes, but I really think it’s worth examining such situations afterwards to see if keeping quiet was really a consideration of safety, or just of comfort. Uncomfortable situations often paralyze me, but I want to work on being, well, comfortable with being uncomfortable. Calling people out on their language isn’t often fun or easy, even if one does it gently, but it’s important.

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6 thoughts on “Outfit Post: 10/2/13

  1. Cute dress!
    I also have trouble responding when people make positive comments about my relative thinness or how I “can” (as if there are people who are physically unable to?) wear short hair because my face/head is “feminine enough,” whatever that means. Generally these things are said by kind people who intend to be kind, and it’s often a throwaway comment, but it is hard to know how to respond. It is easier for me to respond to the hair thing (my response is that I think most women look great with short hair and anyone can wear it if they want to), but I usually clam up at the thin thing. I have an easier time saying things when women I know talk about how they think they look overweight in some way, but when they compliment me on my shape, I don’t know how to say that I am happy that I am pleasing to their eyes but that I don’t think that weight is something that has anything to do with worth.

  2. Interesting…Because I’ve been on both sides of this. I used to be very thin and heard comments all the time about how I could wear something more than most people because of my shape. I was young and didn’t feel pretty, so I secretly reveled in those comments and valued myself partly because of my thinness. When I gained weight, it took me a few years to see myself differently. Then I found myself making those comments to other people, admittedly laced with jealously. As I have matured a little, I can appreciate the beauty in people that goes beyond the physical attributes. It’s not always easy to see this in myself, but I’m leaps and bounds above where I used to be.

  3. I’ve gotten more casual about it lately, not being one to benefit from “thin privilege” at all. But whenever someone says “Oh, you look great! Have you lost weight lately?” I usually give them a solid NO, with a followup of how this dress/top/outfit is new, or that I’m wearing something form-fitting today.

  4. Still love this dress.

    Are chili and leftover pasta non thin-inducing meals? (Yes I know that phrase was totally ridiculous). I don’t know. Weird.

  5. Women can be the toughest critics of not only their own, but other women’s bodies. I think part of the problem is that many of us are not raised to find the beauty in everyone – only the bars that society has set too high for most of us to ever meet without a good airbrushing.

    I only own a few pieces of J. Crew, but all of it was thrifted. The draping and tucking of this dress is so brilliant.

    Love ya,
    Lynne

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