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Weight Issues and Feminism


Although originally published in 1978, the main theme and sub-theses of Fat is a Feminist Issue, by Susie Orbach, are as timely today as then. In fact, its message is even more relevant and critical to women’s health in an era when bodies “have almost come to define the way our lives can be lived.” We are preoccupied and obsessed with our bodies and, increasingly, “women are not realizing how quickly their lives have become dominated by” concerns about their size and the desire to be a perfect example of what the popular culture, i.e., predominantly the mainstream media, food, fashion, and diet industries, decrees attractive.

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I previously mentioned that I would be writing about “Fat is a Feminist Issue” by Susie Orbach. When I read this book nearly 25 years ago, it was a life-changing experience. I have gone back and read parts of it from time to time over the years, but decided that it is time to re-read it in its entirety and write about it here, so I purchased the January 2006 revised edition. Originally, published in 1978, the book has been updated and reissued numerous times.

I invite you to read with me and join in a discussion of the book.

Each Sunday, I will write about successive sections of the book. I am not breaking it into chapters because there are only seven and each is packed with so much information that I think the discussion should be focused upon smaller segments.

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Have you ever offered a reward to your child to encourage them to attain a goal?

A couple of years ago, my kids wanted new computers. So I made a deal with them: I agreed to buy them new computers when the school year ended — they wanted them for their summer vacation when they could play a certain game — if they achieved an agreed-upon grade point average.

All that semester, they asked me repeatedly as they proudly showed me their tests and papers that their teachers had graded and returned to them, “Mom, if I keep this up, I’m going to get my computer, right?”

“Absolutely,” I would tell them as I posted yet another “A” on the refrigerator.

I remember how their eyes lit up when the UPS truck stopped in front of the house and the driver rang the doorbell with a big smile on his face.

“Did somebody her get good grades?” he asked as he brought in the boxes.

But have you ever bribed your child to lose weight?

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There is a meme making its way around the blog world: “Ten Lies My Mother Told Me.” When I first discovered it, I read some of the responses. Some of them were really clever and funny. Some more serious.But the meme itself and those responses got me started thinking about my childhood experience and my relationship with my mother vis a vis my weight and self-image.After considering those topics for a few days now, I can only remember one lie that my mother ever told me.You might be saying, “Wow, that’s amazing” or thinking that senility has set in and I’m simply unable to recall all the lies she told me over the years. Perhaps you’re even thinking that I’ve repressed the lies — little, white or other — she told me in the deep recesses of my brain and, perhaps through intense psychotherapy, they could be retrieved and examined.

Wrong on all counts.

My mother was simply a straight-up, honest — blunt — person. “Boy, that apple landed close to the tree,” you’re thinking.

The Lie

She told me only one thing that wasn’t true, but she did so repeatedly over the course of many years, even when I was well into adulthood:

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There is a brand new group beginning today at Multi-Tasking Moms called “Go Figure.” Each Friday, participants share tips on exercise, weight loss and health, and offer each other support and encouragement.

The timing of this new meme is serendipitous because I took today off work to enjoy a long weekend and get some things done around the house.
Time to Again Take Inventory

Among those things is again tackling the closet. I am still wearing too many clothes that simply no longer fit and they are decidedly unflattering. They have to go.

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I recently ran across this post at Hahn at Home, a site ironically authored by a lesbian mother. Consider “Work Hard for Their Money” ((It appears just below her post entitled “Em Had Two Mommies” — Em is her daughter.))

This article is troubling on many levels, but most profoundly because it demonstrates a legitimate phenomenon that I encounter every day: Prejudice and bigotry exhibited by member(s) of a protected class of people against member(s) of another class of people. You would think that people who are subjected themselves to unequal treatment because of an invidious characteristic would then be more respectful of other persons who experience the same type of conduct.

All too often, as this instance demonstrates, just the opposite occurs.

In this instance, a gay woman who also talks, as you will see, about race vis a vis her children, exhibits prejudice and bigotry toward persons with disabilities. I write about it here because she also demonstrates revulsion and prejudice toward persons who are overweight.

Weight is not a protected category under the law but it is very common for persons with disabilities to also be overweight, sometimes as a result of the disability. Onlookers don’t understand the legal distinctions and draw all sorts of inappropriate and unfounded conclusions about the individual(s) in question, as this woman did.

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