Friday, 14 December 2012

What you see is what you get? Not really.

In my last blog post, the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fatism and such, I mentioned a quote I wanted you all to think about as homework throughout the post. For those of you that need refreshing, the quote went as such:

The outward body is believed to demonstrate inner worthiness(Lupton 2013: 70).

It was mentioned to me in a good friend’s blog comment (and in several Facebook messages, emails, and comments from family) that I myself hadn’t taken the time to reflect on the quote. I think it’s high time I did that. I mean, I chose it for a reason, right? I’ve also been itching to write. This past week has been a little hairy. Between nearing the eye of the storm in the recovery process, I had the end of my semester to finish up. Being on a bit of a “break” gives me a bit of time to concentrate on more important things in life – namely getting better, and blogging. Christmas is not going to be a stress free walk in the park for me or my family and friends (or for anyone struggling with any sort of illness, circumstance, or the like). I’m going to need to keep myself as busy as a Wal-Mart employee on Black Friday (avoiding being trampled by the stampede of people that is my holiday season, of course). I fully plan on doing as much yoga as possible, blogging as much as possible, avoiding cheesy Christmas music like the plague, writing, destroying the “Wreck this Journal” Maria gave to me (thanks again!), and of course…Doing my chores (i.e.: eating my food and trying to convince myself that the painful road to recovery is worth it. It is worth it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fucking nightmare). So I’ll start here, by responding to this quote. I may seem like I’m repeating myself a bit, because when I chose the quote, I had fatism and body shaming in mind, so there’s going to be talk about that. I’ll try to keep shit entertaining for you. 

This quote is pretty straight forward for me. To break it down – we look at people, we take them in, and within a second we already have started judging them because of the way they look, making inferences about their occupation, their marital status, their lifestyle, their orientation… Everything. Now, some of you are probably saying “who, me?! I don’t judge!”. I’m sorry, but it isn’t exactly something you can control, your brain sort of has an automatic function to judge people by the way they look, it’s essentially what first compels us to approach or involve ourselves with people. The worst critics are babies, I’m dead serious. Babies will pay far more attention to those with “attractive” faces (attractiveness being a symmetrical face in this case) (Freberg 2010). Bottom line here is that our brains are funny organs that compel us to make judgement and reduce people to simple stereotypes that make us think we have an idea about what they are about. This is simply an evolutionary thing it seems – you know, so we know who to approach, who we might want to make friends with, mate with, and who we might want to avoid (Baron, Branscombe & Byrne 2009), and it has just about EVERYTHING to do with what that person looks like to us at the exact moment we see them. It’s not before too long that we funny creatures decide that looks obviously equate to how intelligent a person is, how capable they are to do certain tasks, where they hail from, how much money they have (their class situation), and so on and so forth… It’s age old stereotyping and it’s happened for hundreds of years. It isn’t until more recent times (and by recent I mean wayyyyyy back in the day, when newsletters, magazine articles and newspapers became popular and widespread) that we really saw a lot more importance placed on the physical appearance of an individual (especially that of the body) as a billboard displaying how much social worth they actually have. Attractiveness was equated with positivity, and whatever was deemed unattractive at the time was associated with the negative. It’s so simple! You could tell a person’s social worth simply by looking at them! 

What a funny world we live in. 

I mean, I get it, knowing within a couple of seconds whether or not a person is worth approaching can be useful at times, like when you aren’t sure whether or not someone is a sociopath or a serial killer or something, then instinct might be a little bit important. Otherwise, It has come to pass that more and more pressure is being put on people of all ages and sizes to look or act a certain way, or else there is a definite risk that they will not be accepted by the masses – which in essence is the wrong way to go about things, because the masses don’t really care anyway. We’re all guilty of this at some point in time or another, so I’m not sitting on a high horse here either. 

Anyway, our appearance is being put in front of our most important parts, namely what’s on the inside. I mean things like brains, intelligence, aspirations, thoughts, hopes, dreams, troubles, personalities. All that jazz. We have been taught to put on a face. Once you think about it, in order to be a part of the mainstream today, you have to sell yourself to the devil (mainly advertisers), and participate in what is believed to be a mass cultural movement that “everyone else” is a part of. I guess we as human beings just don’t want to be left out. Problem is, the way we look on the outside often leads to extremes, starting with discrimination.
I know I sort of mentioned this in the fatism blog, but outward appearance (namely size) can really dictate the way people are going to openly treat you in society. I mean, when it comes to fat phobia and fat discrimination, we see consequences happening such as being large correlating with a higher chance of being impoverished, unemployed, uneducated, receiving less respect in public places (such as malls or grocery stores), being more subject to overt discrimination and crude humor than a “normal” sized or thin person, and are more likely to be viewed as lazy, unhealthy, without will power, self-determination or self-esteem. Bodies that do not conform to this unattainable ideal on every spectrum are subject to discrimination. This obsession – something I like to identify as the “bullshit beauty complex” – is taking over our lives, filling grocery shelves, shopping malls, magazine racks, television, children’s toys, makeup counters, you name it – making us believe that what people see (often people who don’t even know us) should be something that makes us feel worthy, like we belong, and like we are worth it. For years, we as humans (especially us women) have put ourselves through some serious bullshit in order to embody whatever “outward body” we think demonstrates our “inner worthiness” to the point of putting ourselves in danger (going under the knife to change your outward appearance), shortening our lifespans by poisoning our bodies (with diet pills/supplements, or using makeups that contain deadly ingredients), and putting our lives at risk – killing ourselves slowly in order to embody whatever that ideal is (in the case of eating disorders, crash dieting, etc.). So, essentially, we as women are killing ourselves in order to fit the mold, whatever it may be. You may disagree with it, I disagree with it… but I still feel the need to put makeup on before I go on a date (what’s that?),  or out in public at all. For you sociology buffs, you may already be thinking of the self-policing theory panopticon type dealy Foucault put forth what seems like a bajillion years ago. Basically, we police, or watch ourselves, making sure we follow the “rules” so we can avoid ridicule, slip under the radar, and continue on with our lives. The agency, or free will you believe you have by making the “choice” to put on makeup, or buy certain products is constantly being influenced by an outside structured force that is so prominent we don’t even acknowledge it anymore, or is so important to us that we buy the toxic makeup and slather it on our faces anyway.

It’s really fucked up what we do to ourselves in order to satisfy this bullshit beauty complex, I must say. Actually, the partner of a good friend of mine recently posted a pretty amusing ARTICLE to my Facebook wall the other day consisting of some fad diets that were really popular in the past (speaking of hurting ourselves to fit an ideal). It just sort of puts into perspective the completely fucked up things we put ourselves through in order to embody something that in the end may not really matter much at all (I mean, who really cares what your waist size is? People are going to love you, and in the end it isn’t going to be for your body. If that’s the main reason these people are friends/partners/lovers with you, there’s a huge problem here).
So, today we’ve heard of these wonderful miracle diets that involve shakes and prepackaged foods, crazy exercise regimes paired with restricted caloric intake, eating nothing but soup, no carbs, no meat, no dairy, no…. WHATEVER. Point is, this crash diets, DIETS in general…They don’t usually work too well unless they are done the right way, the right way being concentrating on healthy food (and accepting that really healthy food is often high in fat and calories – the difference being the fat found in most of these foods is extremely beneficial to your body), exercising for a little bit every day (even something as simple as going for a 30 minute stroll), recognizing that fat can be a good thing, and embracing the fact that eating healthy means you don’t have to put processed food into your body consisting of ingredients on the side of a box that are mainly chemical based! My new rule as of late is that if I can’t pronounce it, or if I don’t know what it is without a simple Google search (only to find out the ingredient might be some foreign plant), it isn’t going in my body. These fad diets are market ploys. They help you lose weight in unhealthy ways (usually by restricting your diet to a very limited and unhealthy regime), and then once you start eating normally again, you find you’ve magically gained all of your weight back! You get frustrated, say the diet didn’t work, and move on to the next bogus product. Money ploy. Bullshit.

But you all knew that... Right? 

Anyway, check out that article. It’s pretty fantastic. I actually laughed out loud. Some of my favorites include the vinegar and water diet (circa 1820) which essentially promotes purging, the tape worm diet (circa early 1900s) which pushed the sale of “sanitized” tape worms to gobble up any fat you take into your system (because as we know, fat isn’t totally necessary for hormone production, vitamin absorption, and organ function… Please, note my sarcasm), the 1950s obsession with weight loss supplements (“Ugly fat makes you old before your time”), the baby food diet (I remember this one, it’s a fucking riot), and the cabbage soup diet (delicious) to name a few. Oh how silly we humans are. I just wonder where this is going to take us in the future. It boggles my mind, the shit we put ourselves through to obtain that “outward body”. For many, it may not even seem to matter that much, but it seems we all become stuck in the throws somehow.
Anyway, the lesson we need to take from this, the lesson I took from this quote, was the realization of the extent we place our self-worth on what we see staring back at us in the mirror, or from the bathroom scale. It’s giving women the wrong idea, especially young girls, and it’s giving the young fellas the wrong idea too. For example, because of the image perpetuated nowadays, it makes it look odd that a heterosexual male would lust after a fat woman without being ridiculed as a “chubby chaser”, or something of the like. He may think there’s something wrong with him, who knows. This may even push him to date women he doesn’t really like, just for the image. That’s not fair to either party. 

We’re hurting ourselves, all the time. It sucks, and I wish I could take it away. I wish I could just be like “BOOM”, and then we’d just accept people for who they are, not think we have an idea about their lives, thoughts, hobbies, practices, etc, just because of what they look like, their body type, hair color, clothing styles, body modifications… The list is endless. I guess the final thing I take from the quote mentioned in my previous post is that we need to be conscious of the way we think, and how it can be poisonous. We also need to think about how the rituals we subscribe to on a regular basis in order to embody this appearance can be poisonous, and probably won’t make us happy in the end anyway as we’re constantly taught there’s always something new wrong with us that we need to fix.

So, there you have it. My thoughts on that lovely quote. What are your thoughts? Please, share ‘em if you feel like it! I’m always up for suggestions for future posts as well, remember, so fire away. My next post is going to be that update I owe you guys. The shit storm has begun, and every day is hell. I could give up if I really wanted too, but that would be too easy.

I was never known to be one to do things the easy way.  

Baron, R.A., Branscombe, N.R., & Byrne, D.R. (2009). Social Psychology 12th ed. Pearson Inc. USA.

Freberg, L. (2010). Discovering Biological Psychology. Cengage Learning. Belmont, CA.

Lupton, D. (2013). Fat. Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group. New York, NY. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey (It's Shannon :) )
    I love this post! You are so wise beyond your years. All these points make so much sense.
    Eating real, whole food, with nutrients that you can pronounce, not these extreme crash diets that leave you in a fog and unable to concentrate and enjoy life! We most definitely need to examine how we think and how it can be poisonous and take a step back and look at the rituals we engage in - all to try and look a certain way - which in most cases is an unrealistic ideal.
    Wow I just love every bit of this!