At a house party last night, I was participating in a chat about soreness and injuries from the gym. (So it happened that I was the only woman in this group). I mentioned I related to these problems and only performed particular exercises with someone to spot me. In response, one guy shifted the conversation to bluntly asking me how much I squat or bench press. I disregarded it, saying lightheartedly that I didn’t want to share, but he kept asking repeatedly, demanding an answer. He laughed loudly, *do you even put any weights on the bar?*… I casually pointed out it was sexist, that he wasn’t saying that to any of the guys, and I just didn’t wish to share my personal fitness progress with a group of guys at a party. Of course, I got laughed off. It’s not the first time a woman was expected to be weak. Judged for what she does with her body. Expected to share numbers regarding her body. Laughed at for not wanting to share them. Disrespected when saying “no.” But I sure as hell won’t be having it because I’m a woman, and we are strong if we only decide to be.
My big sister is my best friend. She gained some weight because of going on the pill. My dad told her she needed to lose weight because she was going to be undesirable. He offered her a bribe to lose weight per pound. In year 8 (I’m year nine now) I had the flu and barely ate anything for a week. My mum insisted that I needed to regain some weight in the interests of my health. My dad told me I needed to keep it off and loose some more.
One thing that really bothers me when I’m eating something is some man chipping in with ‘you’ll get fat!’ For the record I am not and have never been overweight, but if I was that would be nobody else’s damn business. It really pisses me off, what on Earth do they think they are adding by giving their two cents worth in this way, as though a woman living in our society could never have encountered the concept of calories before! All they seem to be aiming for in that moment is taking away the pleasure of food from the person eating and telling them that they don’t deserve to enjoy food because they should constantly prioritize their attractiveness to men at all times, to the extent that even thin women should be afraid to put anything in their mouths. It’s amazing to me how entitled some men feel to police what women eat in this way. I remember very clearly one time after finishing work, I’d treated myself to a bag of sweets and as I sat eating a few whilst waiting for the bus I had a passing man look at me in disgust and call me a pig! WTAF?! Is it perhaps that misogynists panic at seeing a woman eating because it registers as a woman not caring about the constant societal messages that shame them about their bodies and thus they feel threatened by that? In any case, as I’ve got older I won’t stand for it.
I recently got engaged (yay!). I was surprised when a colleague at work (a middle aged man) made a comment when I took a piece of cake at work about how that won’t help my wedding diet. I responded that I don’t believe in wedding diets. He said “surely every woman wants to look her best on her big day?”. I responded to say “I already think I look my best, sorry if you don’t!”. I wonder if my fiancé (a man) gets asked about his wedding diet? Don’t think so…
I’ve been doing these exercises from a book about sex (yup, nearly 30 and need a sex ed textbook. Well done, education system.) and the first one is all about remembering your body’s history, like, recalling times that you were aware of your body, how you felt about it, how you physically developed etc. First off, I notice that there are very few happy memories related to my body. Alarming. Secondly, I realised that the first time I ever felt fat was in a ballet class when I was 6. It wasn’t anything that was said to me, I just noticed that all the other girls in their neon-pink leotards had flat stomachs and mine wasn’t. Being a girl fucking sucks, doesn’t it?
This seems minor but it has really annoyed me. In maths class, we were discussing how weight was different on the moon. The teacher then said, girls, if you want to lose weight go to the moon. He was implying that girls all want to be thin and lose weight which is not the case. Also, some boys may want to lose weight etc
When on my lunch break, I went to my Costa for my usual americano. I was second in the queue behind a man, who had already ordered and was waiting for his drink. Whilst the barista was making my drink, I spotted some flapjacks by the till point. I went to pick up one of the flapjacks to see how much it was, and the man standing in front of me said, ‘Ooo they’re fattening. They’ll ruin your figure.’ I was completely taken aback. The worst part about this was that he himself was overweight! He had a beer belly that was practically resting on the Costa counter. Had I not been working, I would have pointed this out to him. Instead, I asked him to not make such comments to me and I purchased the flapjack to prove a point. The reason this annoyed me so much is because even though we were strangers, he felt it was his right to point out what I, as a woman, should and should not be eating! (I just know that if I was a man he wouldn’t have made the comment!) In making the comment he had also clearly checked out my figure, and seen it as his responsibility to make sure I maintained it. Like it’s his business! I didn’t check out his beer belly and say, ‘you better have skimmed milk in that mate. Try the salad.’ He didn’t look too pleased when I corrected him either. I really wish I’d have told him I was eating out at Nando’s that evening!
I’ve always been a pretty chubby girl. One time my uncle was talking to me about my college plans (when I was like 19), and it somehow turned into a conversation about life/marriage plans, in which he stated “for marriage, you’re gunna need to be financially ready…physically ready, too. So you know you should probably work on losing a bit of weight”. I’m 23 now and have discovered I’m asexual, but back then I had no idea. I wish I had, so I could have looked him straight in the eyes and said “I don’t need to be physically ready for anything. I have no plans on having sex anyway, and even if I did, I’d make sure not to marry an asshole like you who thinks weight/looks are the most important thing”. It would have been great to see him so uncomfortable from the mention of sex. My family is Muslim and that’s never a topic of discussion.