Dainty Little Bites: Discuss.

So the fellas and I are packing up and moving several states away this week — on Friday or Saturday, depending on how packing and loading up the truck goes — and as a result I have no dadgummed clue where my copy of Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight is. It may be in the garage (appropriately off-the-floor and well-cared-for, I hasten to add; for I am not a hater of books, and I would wither if any of the awesome Shapeling librarians or librarians-to-be gave me the hairy eyeball) or it may be in a pile of somethings, or under something, or in with the cookbooks, I’m just not sure.

If I had access to the book, I would here post something intelligent and pertinent about the Dainty Little Bite — that culturally-approved way for women to have appetites. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about appetites, as I expect most of you have noticed; and I’ve been thinking lately about the Dainty Little Bite in particular. And I would love to rehash what Susan Bordo has already said, and use an excerpt as conversation fodder. (Note to Susan Bordo, if you’re reading: You are my fantasy Famous Shapeling. I love to imagine that you read here. I like to think that that’s actually entirely possible, and that one day we’ll discover that you’re a regular commenter here with a wickedly clever little alias that you chose so that you could help collaborate on some of the more ribald contributions that the SP community has made to humanity over the years… the parodies, the Douchehoundings, etc. But a friend of mine from college has now gone and ACTUALLY STUDIED WITH YOU in grad school, and she tells me that in her opinion you’d have no qualms about commenting here under your own name, because you’re fearless like that. Sigh. Reality, why must you get in the way of all my cherished fantasies?!)

But, as established, the book is not handy. So here are my off-the-cuff thoughts and questions about the Dainty Little Bite. First, it really has cognates in other appetites, no? (I’m just thinking for example of all those advertisements, mostly ones directed at heterosexual doods… where a woman is pictured with the product, the camera angle is from above and looking down on her, she’s looking up playfully — childishly let seductively — and her mouth is half-open. Isn’t that kind of the Dainty Little Bite of sexual appetite? Or have I got it all backwards and inside-out?)

Related to that: is it just me, or is the Dainty Little Bite not basically a shorthand for “I have just enough desire to indulge my appetites when you would find it titillating and/or useful, but not enough desire to spur me to set my own terms”?

And third, how is the Dainty Little Bite situated by whiteness and by middle class identity? Having seen the racist and classist ways in which virtuous eating functions among white middle-class people* I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s thoroughly situated by whiteness and middle class anxiety/internalized superiority. But I’m a white straight cis middle-class chick. For me, the DLB goes all the way down, so far that I can’t see where it starts and where it stops.

All these may be obvious, and all may have been stated better (BY SUSAN BORDO, PROBABLY, which is why I wish I could put my hands on the damn book). Anyway, may we talk about it? (I feel a twinge of guilt here for not having, you know, a strong and assertive thesis statement — “In this blog post, I shall argue that…” etc. — but honestly, I’d more like to know what you all think. Plus, I’m in the middle of a move, and I’m rather pleasantly surprised I can put together sentences at all beyond “The thus-and-such goes in the this-or-that.”)

Sooo, discuss! (Please? And thanks.)

*-Recently someone cold-called one of my husband’s colleagues and asked him if their church group could bring “fresh fruits and vegetables” to their neighborhood in the “inner city.” He was like, “How did you get this idea? Do you know anyone in our neighborhood? Did anyone call you and ask for your gracious help?” No no no, they just heard from other white crunchy virtuous eaters, and saw on the teevee, that there were poor people of color in the inner city who were miserable wretches in need of produce. So they decided to help. Without being asked. Which straightaway reminded me of the clip from Sesame Street where some kids are just eating their lunches, minding their own business, and are interrupted by the obnoxious and intrusive Captain Vegetable… who bursts in and sings “It is I, Captain Vegetable! With my carrots! And my celery!” Ah, Sesame Street. Always so ahead of its day. I think I’m going to start humming this now anytime someone starts plotting to save the world from types of eating which they find icky-poo.

222 thoughts on “Dainty Little Bites: Discuss.

  1. Here’s a cheat sheet about one chapter from Bordo! I think this bit relates to the DLB:
    -Hunger for food and desire for sexuality are constructed as analogous, but this is a gendered analogy. When women are targeted, “their hunger for food is employed solely as a metaphor for their sexual appetite.” When men are targeted, the metaphor goes in reverse: eating delicious food is depicted as a sexual conquest. (The examples for this include hilariously awful ads of men whispering sweet nothings to their Betty Crocker desserts.)
    I distinctly remember a set of Haagen Dazs ads reproduced in the article, in which the woman had eaten a spoonful and looked at you coyly, whereas the man had eaten the whole pint, which was, I believe, lying forlornly on its side (the morning after?).

  2. is it just me, or is the Dainty Little Bite not basically a shorthand for “I have just enough desire to indulge my appetites when you would find it titillating and/or useful, but not enough desire to spur me to set my own terms”?

    Nope, not just you. I know there’s a whole plethora of writing about food and sex, especially when it comes to women. The connection between having big appetite for food and therefore having a big appetite for other things is pretty obvious (whether or not its empirically true).

    I find it ironic that our culture, as a way of controlling women, insists on thinness and food deprivation in order to keep women from becoming too much, which effort has become completely pathological. And a side effect of that much deprivation is… loss of interest in sex (people who are malnourished or starving suffer reduction in the libido and even women who are not clinically malnourished become so obsessed with their bodies and weight that all they can think about is food and judging themselves, neither of which are conducive to getting In The Mood).

    You’d think the men in charge of much of our culture would want women interested in sex, since that benefits them. Obviously I’m not speaking of the right-wing factions that believe all sex is immoral unless it’s to make more babiez for Jeezus, but the bulk of straight guys who are fine with women wanting sex but simultaneously want their women young and skinny. *sigh*

    (If I’m sounding bitter, it’s been a rough couple of weeks in the online dating world for me, so I’m a little rattled right now.)

    DRST

  3. When I was a teenager (about 10 years ago) I remember the magz being incredibly hung up on what guys thought was attractive for girls to eat. Politically correctly enough, the answer was always “a steak” or “don’t just sit there and nibble on a salad,” but the idea that it’s even up for male observation and commentary what a woman eats on a date is really weird.
    Although I’ve been doing online dating for a while and I definitely judge guys who say their favorite type of food is something like steak or Italian. And my profile boasts that I always order the weirdest thing on the menu. I think with the rise of foodie-ism among a certain type of American the “wide-ranging and voracious appetite for food = for sex” trope is becoming more widely believed and accepted. Not that one’s body is allowed to reflect voracious appetites for food, of course.

  4. Regarding DRST’s comment, I think the culture teaches men that it’s better to have power over women and their appetites than to risk having them unleashed. Even though it would seem to be to their benefit to have women interested in sex, it constitutes a breach of the patriarchy’s stronghold on women’s desires and actions.

  5. Ahem.
    Not to impose unduly, but since you’re packing anyway, I would LOVE it if you’d roll up a copy of this and send it to my mom’s house replete with brass band. No, sorry – brass symphonic quintet.

    Because it is genius.
    And because ATHLETES EAT.
    (Even if girls.)

    (Anyone who mentions Jason Whitlock – not that anyone here would, because you are all readers of taste – gets SIde-Eye Ray of Death. That is all.)

  6. I wish I didn’t have to leave for work in 10 minutes so I could go more in-depth into my thoughts. Feh.

    I’ve always had hang-ups on food and how much to eat. I have an anxiety disorder that began as a compulsive vomit-phobia around age 9 (I’m 20 now), so I would eat as little as possible a) to avoid throwing up and b) because my anxiety attacks took away my appetite. As a mid-teen, I was always on and off diets to control my weight, mostly Weight Watchers. The meeting leaders always encouraged eating small portions, itty bitty ones, in my mind. I remember feeling conflicted: I LIKE eating large portions. I LIKE to feel very full, not just barely full. So, in a sense, portion control is my own version of the DLB.

    Needless to say, having anxiety issues and poor body image from constant dieting has made my love life almost non-existent. Of course, that has more to do with my self-confidence, my neuroses, and the superficiality of teenage boys than my actual body shape. Try to tell a 16-year-old Vegkitty that, though, and the shit will hit the fan, I promise.

    I don’t really know how one relates to the other in terms of the DLB, but I feel like there’s some connection there. Anyone who wants to attempt to psychoanalyze me, feel free. :)

    For now, retail calls.

  7. I think it’s telling that I have never heard the Dainty Little Bite discussed before, but I instantly knew *exactly* what it was. The “appropriate” amount of desire. Screw that.

  8. So, apologies for how 101 this sounds, but… besides food and sex, what else? Of what else am I supposed to be taking dainty little nibbles and then giggling gleefully about how baaaaad I am to indulge (hee!), instead of just having my fill and being done with it?

    Love? Institutional power? Time for things I enjoy? Friendships with other women? All of those come to mind…

  9. Okay, but then –

    What about the sitcom-ice-cream thing? You know, where the women sit around in their pyjamas, eating directly from the carton, usually after they’ve just had a hard time with some guy? Because it’s like the DLB always has this counterpoint of ice-cream-piggery, and the ice cream is the unleashed libido.

  10. In Steve Martin’s novel “The Shopgirl” he has a character, the sort of anti-heroine if not antagonist, who is trolling for a rich man. I forget her name because it’s been years since I read it, but this aspect of the character really stuck with me. She starves herself constantly except when she’s on a date, when she makes a show of ordering a steak and not being a girly eater or ashamed of her appetite. And I had to admit to myself I had done that too. I think this is an instance of this cultural parallel that Other Kate mentions. I think the DLB and the “I’m not afraid to order a steak” phenomena are interrelated in a way I’m not quite smart enough to put together in 2 minutes in a comment box, but I think you get my drift.

  11. Oh, vegkitty, we were commenting at the same time and, evidently, entertaining the same question! Yeah, portion control… TOTALLY. For me it was times a bazillion when I was on Weight Watchers — not only was my indulgence “dainty” but I knew EXACTLY how dainty it was: four points dainty, or three points, or two.

  12. I don’t find the request for fruit and veggies for the inner city folks offensive. After all, those items are more costly than fast food or pre-packaged items. Are you sure it wasn’t just a nice gesture?

  13. omg, the way you describe Captain Vegetable basically describes how a lot of (hate to say it) nutritionists and RDs and other health-promoter types go about marketing themselves. By busting up the party with effing vegetables.

  14. First off, this post immediately brought to mind this post at Sociological Images. The ad transforms the woman in the ad into little more than a blow-up doll. Further, the ad text does all but come right out and say that it is ok to “fill your desire”, as long as it is with “something long, juicy and flame-grilled”. Better not take any dainty little bites of “the NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER”! But how much desire can a blow-up doll really have? Doesn’t the whole ad speak more to male desires than female cravings? Aren’t both the sandwich and the woman pictured in the ad positioned as things for men to consume? And that is really creepy and offensive.

    Second, when you said this:

    is it just me, or is the Dainty Little Bite not basically a shorthand for “I have just enough desire to indulge my appetites when you would find it titillating and/or useful, but not enough desire to spur me to set my own terms”?

    it brought to mind another image of women’s “appetite” and “desire” that I have been mulling over. I’m thinking specifically of the “girls kissing girls in order to turn on the boys” phenomenon (GKGTOB). I have no problem whatsoever with girls kissing other girls (I’ve done it and enjoyed it quite a bit), but I do have a problem with the “in order to turn on the boys” part of the phenomenon.

    In a way, the GKGTOB thing is a sort of “dainty little bite” of sex. The whole situation communicates that female desire and pleasure (even for and with other women) are only ok so long as they are validated by the titillated observation of a man. Reification of the male gaze, much? And the whole thing seems really creepy to me.

    I do understand that the GKGTOB phenomenon might be a way for young women to explore their attraction to other women in a socially acceptable guise — and I’m relieved that there is some conceivable positive outcome from it. But I have to say, the co-option and subrogation of the images and forms of female desire (even when that desire is same-sex in nature) seems exceedingly wrong to me. Part of that is that they are co-opting the forms of my bisexual identity and turning them into an essentially heterosexual performance — which is particularly irking in light of the “not really queer”, “fence sitter”, and “she’ll just leave you for a man” messages that bisexual women have had to deal with for so long. But I think my disquiet goes beyond that; why can’t a women’s desire be valid in and of itself? What business do the male-gazers have with an opinion — much less the power of validation — about women’s desire in and of itself?

  15. As far as things we’re supposed to only take “appropriate” portions of, lest we seem unladylike or immoral — I’d vote for:

    -food (obvs)
    -sex (obvs)
    -sleep
    -time off from work
    -space
    -attention/visibility
    -part in a conversation

    These are all things I find myself feeling guilty for indulging in, from time to time, in irrational ways, or have had people actively dissuade me from taking.

  16. terrell, I’m sure it was meant as a nice gesture. Thing is, when you’re white and middle class and you go into spaces you don’t know and haven’t been asked into, full of condescending fantasies about (for example) “these inner-city kids who don’t even know where food COMES FROM!”…. and you have no awareness of how your white and middle-class privilege have formed you to think of yourself as a do-gooder with everything to give and nothing to gain except a sense of having helped your fellow human being… Well, then it’s not really so nice. And, it happens a lot. Because I’m so churchy in upbringing, perhaps, it seems very much to me like the missionary impulse — “bringing the light of the gospel” to those “savage” and “deprived” lands full of benighted but noble inhabitants who just need some Nice White Lady to show them how to live right, you know?

  17. To add to the fat nutritionist’s list:

    -intelligence (just enough to keep your slice of conversation interesting, not enough to dominate a conversation or prove a man wrong).

    -anger (being a feminist might be okay, but not an angry one).

    -confidence (enough to make you frisky in bed, not enough to intimidate. Was called “the most self assured person [a man] had ever met” recently and it *was not* a compliment).

  18. Fresh produce *is* too expensive for a lot of people. I don’t think their intentions were quite so condescending as you’re implying. Just because someone didn’t call them up begging for fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean that this isn’t a good idea. I don’t think the goal of this sort of act is to correct the eating habits so much as to offer food that really is nutritionally important and that people without much money, trying not to feel hungry, and so going for the most immediately filling food, would (understandably) not have.

  19. OH my…this is so timely. A few days ago, my employer hosted a party for the company, which involved a buffet style dinner. The meal was complete with veggies, pasta, and three kinds of meat. I rarely have the opportunity to sit down for a good meal, nonetheless one I don’t have to cook, so I dug in. Wholeheartedly. At one point, I looked around at my coworkers and saw them eating their food in a prim and proper fashion. Taking small bites and leaving half of their already small portions on their plates. THEN, someone said what if our trainers (from the work sponsored “health challenge”) knew about what we’re eating! And they all chimed in, yeah, we’re all being so “BAD!” I looked at my food, my portions, thought about how much I was enjoying how good it tasted, and immediately felt bad. Then I said, F it. I’m here to enjoy myself. They all can feel bad, I’m not. I’m not going to be the ms. perfect etiquette, manners, and appetite girl tonight. And I definitely think, as far as I’m concerned, the DLB shows up in my life at every point. I should be content with the mediocre job, living situation, and relationship. As a fat, not so well-off woman, I should be happy with whatever I can get and keep my appetite for achievement and happiness at a minimum.

  20. Sooo…

    I know this is a little tangential, but while I get where you’re going with that last example, there are inner-city “deserts” where it is very difficult for those in poverty and/or the elderly to get access to any groceries, let alone good produce. And generally they don’t have the resources to put out a campaign to ask others to help.

    So yeah, there are racist ways of “helping” with that problem, but it is a real problem and something projects like Heifer International/PIH have had some success with, while working with and involving those in the community.

  21. Re: A Sarah’s comment to terell: Yeah. It’s not just about food. It’s about all kinds of help/aid/contribution. There’s a fine balance between being engaged with communities that could use some assistance, and being dictatorial. It just so happens that food is a big issue these days, so it’s a good example of a broader trend.

    However, the worst part is, food security, affordability, and availability are real problems in America, and urban communities are affected in particular ways by these issues. (The recent rise in cost of food these last two years and the economic downturn means there is a *waiting list* at the food shelves in my city, and former contributors are now patrons of the services they used to support. It’s bad news.)

    But there are examples of ways cities are combating hunger that reenvision the relationship of those who have to those in need. My personal favorite lately is Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In the 1996, their municipal govt. decided that “food security is a right of citizenship.” And they went about making that a reality. There’s an article here on this initiative: http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=3330

    What really butters my crumpets is that EVERYONE (or, at least LOTS OF PEOPLE) in America seems to care about Americans being fat to the point of frothing about it. But substantially fewer people in America seem to get worked up about Americans being *hungry* and *malnourished.*

  22. Another DLB category is crassness/vulgarity. Women are supposed to be occasionally amused at something mildly crass or vulgar, and maybe say “Shit!” if you drop the pie on the kitchen floor. But that’s it.

    I think being crass and using profanity are probably the things I get the most shock and outrage for. Not my frank attitude about sex, my (very) healthy self-confidence or my fat ass. Nope, it’s the shit jokes and general crassness and vulgarity that give people the vapors.

    It really makes me angry the extent to which we’re supposed to refrain from acknowledging or indulging our own humanity. Shit, piss, fucking, eating, bleeding: these are all parts of being alive. But we are to pretend they don’t exist. And god forbid we acknowledge them as funny or capitalize on that humor.

  23. Ooh, ooh, also:

    -authority, like in management positions.

    Women are supposed to be good managers and maintain a certain amount of control, but past a very fine line, you become “a bitch” for taking authority in a way that lots of men could easily do without comment.

  24. AnthroK8:

    But substantially fewer people in America seem to get worked up about Americans being *hungry* and *malnourished.*

    So, so true. And devastating.

    I also believe food security is a human right. Being attractively slender…eh, not so much. So what’s the priority here?

  25. I was totally going to say Anger Anthro, you took mine WAH!

    Also Laughter. I feel like a lot of times when women laugh we end up being described as “giggling” or “cackling” or whatever. We’re not supposed to laugh too much or too loud or too hard or at the wrong things. Maybe I jsut feel that way because I laugh freaking loud.

    I wonder if also this whole DLB phenomenon is where the whole shopoholic/shoeoholic concept came from? Because women’s desire for fashionable clothes, shoes, accessories, is often not something they are willing to compromise on or allow to be controlled it becomes this huge cultural joke among the menfolk about how all women want to do is shop. Just a thought.

  26. I think being crass and using profanity are probably the things I get the most shock and outrage for. Not my frank attitude about sex, my (very) healthy self-confidence or my fat ass. Nope, it’s the shit jokes and general crassness and vulgarity that give people the vapors.

    Yeah. Me too. Add to that expressing frank desire/objectification of the opposite sex (usually gets me called out as a “reverse misogynist” or some such crap).

  27. -sleep
    -time off from work

    I hadn’t thought about these before, but yeah, there’s certainly a sense of how much is appropriate, and more importantly, that you use it in an “acceptable” way – that you sleep enough to be cheery and productive the next day, but not so long as to be decadent or lazy – especially if one is living with a person on a different sleep cycle.

    There is also a pressure to do something virtuous (in a gender-specific way) with one’s time off.

    Another one I can think of is competence – like AnthroKS commented about intelligence, one needs just the right amount – enough not to make anyone else’s life harder, but not enough to threaten anyone else’s sense of superiority.

  28. Shinobi42: Oooh. Sorry, hope I didn’t make you mad. (hah. hah.) But you’re so right, laughter. And indeed, sense of humor. As Chris Hitchens points out, women aren’t funny, you know?

    Fat Nutritionist: Seriously. I am really, really in favor of people having enough to eat, and eat well. But sometimes, I think this ORGANIC GARDENS FOR THE INNER CITIES AND NUTRITION LESSONS FOR ALL business is skipping from “too little food” straight to the fear of “too much and wrong.” There’s no layby for “enough, for both body and the metaphorical soul.”

    Further, I have spent my share of time on an American Indian Reservation, places which can have much the same problems with availability of food as urban ones. And, the thing that drizzles my cheese sauce in THAT setting is… Type II diabetes didn’t show up on Rez’s until commodity foods did. Before, people were eating what they always ate or starving on army rations.

    Lo and behold… when people have access to native foodways and resources, as opposed to say, what passes for adequate nutrition in the form of government subsidies… the state of people’s diets improves. Fancy that.

  29. I think this ORGANIC GARDENS FOR THE INNER CITIES AND NUTRITION LESSONS FOR ALL business is skipping from “too little food” straight to the fear of “too much and wrong.”

    I think it can, yes.

    One of my favourite nutrition models is the Hierarchy of Food Needs, based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

    At the bottom of the hierarchy — the fundamental basis — is having ENOUGH food. At the very tippy top — which many people will never get to, and which can’t be paid much attention to until all the other levels are satisfied — is “instrumental food.”

    Basically, it’s saying, only people who are privileged enough to have all their other food needs fulfilled get to worry about “nutrition” in the way it’s popularly presented — as food that will cure or prevent illness or optimize functioning.

    I think it’s very telling of our privilege that most of us, in our consideration of what nutrition is, skip straight to the top of that hierarchy — even (maybe especially) when we’re trying to “help” people who don’t even have the basics, as yet.

  30. @chava… Yeah, I see your point too about urban deserts, and thanks for the pointers to groups doing good work. I know in St. Louis there’s an urban food collective on the north side in one area with population density that’s so low that I think they talked about pulling water and garbage service… but I don’t know enough about it to know whether it’s being done in a condescending top-down way or a grassroots way. AnthroK8, I appreciate your analysis as well… and the Belo Horizonte story is AWESOME and I shall whip that one out next time I’m around people who use food to hide racism and classism.

    I think this particular example was just so egregious because it was a church group just up and cold calling this one black man on the staff of a charity whose focus WASN’T FOOD and with whom they had no previous relationship, and because of the way they said it… “We have some fruits and vegetables, and we’d like to come into the ‘inner city’ and give them away to people!” When pressed, they couldn’t (apparently) articulate why they thought it was so important or how they came to believe that people in the inner city needed or wanted fruits and vegetables.

  31. @A Sarah, yes I do see what you are saying. :) I was only thinking it was a nice gesture to want to try and provide fresh food when I know it is lacking at our local food banks and that it can be cost-prohibitive to low-income families. But, it would be much better if they actually asked the families what they need rather than assuming, or guessing, or trying to instill their own “healthy” habits.

    I’m a new reader. Enjoy the blog so far.

  32. Another thing where the DLB comes into play: shopping/spending. We’re supposed to buy a few nice things (bonus if they’re things to turn him on, like high heels or lacy lingerie) but not to go on shopping “sprees.” A woman who overindulges with the credit card is almost as much of a stock character as one who overindulges with the ice cream!!

  33. I know I’ve gotten invitation to some (SOME!) women’s book clubs that are all about taking dainty little bites of literature. I’m not sure I know how to explain what I mean, exactly… it’s kind of like, they’re about reading books that are serious enough to warrant a woman’s having a night out with other women, but not so serious that they threaten the unquestioned domestic order that the women return to.

    (I certainly don’t think all women’s book clubs are like that, though.)

  34. @terrell — Hey, thanks, and I’m glad you’re reading and enjoying. :) (And as I think about it, I’m sure if I’d given more information in the original example it would have been clearer why it wasn’t nice, but hey, it gave us a chance to discuss, so that’s a good thing, right?)

  35. Dainty Little Bites of the intellectual pie, lest we inadvertently appear Too Clever.

    Dainty Little Bites of the managerial pudding, lest we accidentally emasculate someone.

    DLB of the urge for violence – starting with tiny girls. I don’t mind that one, but I think boys should be trained into it too, because a world where boys are allowed and encouraged to express violence and girls aren’t? Yuk.

    DLB of self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s not polite to have none, and not polite to have too much.

    DLB of housepride – not enough to be obsessive, but totally your job to keep the place nice.

    Probably others.

  36. Correction: DLB of housework – not enough to *treat it as actual work or get credit for it*, but enough to keep the place nice because if it’s not it’s your fault.

  37. So do you think it’s possible to take a DLB of something coded “poor” or “other than white”?

    And if so, is it only possible for a DLB to happen if it’s a hipster being ironic?

    And is the fun-girl-who-eats-a-steak-and-belches-but-stays-thin thing a version of the DLB? Or a subversion thereof?

    This is too fun, but I gotta go pack.

  38. DLB of housepride – not enough to be obsessive, but totally your job to keep the place nice.

    OH MY YES.

  39. A Sarah: I *heart* the Belo and use it for just that purpose as well. And, re: book clubs as dainty bites of literature. Oh, yeah. They fit in a constellation of women’s organizations with a similar theme (dude… women’s auxiliaries…).

    -Altar Guilds- get you close enough to the pulpit to put embroidery on it, but never preach with spiritual authority.

    -Girl Scouting. Did I ever get to do a 10-day intensive wilderness hike in New Mexico as my brother did as a Boy Scout? Did I heck. I got to make situpons so as not to grimy my shorts while taking a DLB of wilderness.

  40. A Sarah, lots of critics say that the DLB “mythology” began in Victorian England. Back then, they saw all appetites as connected and the main three were food, sex, and violence. Men could be hungry, have a sex drive, and be violent (although this one was more frowned upon) because male maturity was a process of gaining self-control, of restraint of those animal drives.

    Women on the contrary were assumed to have no self control at all. Our appetites were infinite or non-existant, because little girls could not learn self-control. That’s why training girls to pretend not to be hungry was of crucial importance in their socialisation.

    (I have a whole Master’s Thesis on the subject….)

  41. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny8nvM_pl1g is Elmo and Captain Vegetable . . . and both that and the original are seriously disturbing. We really can never be trusted to choose food for ourselves, nor can Elmo’s mother be trusted to provide him with nutritious food without SuperHero intervention. It is clearly implied to young viewers that they cannot trust their parents for guidance, either, and that they should get their food guidance from television. Wow, what a bad idea!

    For crying out loud, Elmo had three of the four food groups for lunch! The same goes for the original with Eddy’s Spaghetti . . . except Eddy’s Spaghetti HAD vegetables! What do they think that red stuff is? Grr. Or sob. Or something.

  42. I think I horrified a woman today as I was having lunch in a restaurant.

    I had been talking to my friend about what we were going to do in Chicago this weekend, and without noticing had twirled a large amount of spaghetti onto my fork—not so much that it wouldn’t all fit into my mouth or anything, but not a DLB.

    I paused with the fork about halfway to my mouth to finish what I was saying, looked past my friend, and noticed a woman at the next table watching me.

    I raised my eyebrows—did I know her? No—and she glanced away, then went back to looking at me with this odd expression on her face. I looked at her, took my Robust Large Bite, chewed, and swallowed. I didn’t slurp, let the ends hang out of my mouth, or drop anything on my shirt. I was just a large woman eating pasta.

    She turned back to her table of colleagues, and said something that had a few of them looking over at me.

    It wasn’t just in my mind—my friend noticed this, too. “What’s her problem?” she asked.

    “I guess I shouldn’t be eating,” I said, picking up my garlic bread.

    And maybe that was it, since my table manners are fine (largish bites notwithstanding), there was a blank wall behind me, and I can’t imagine anyone would object to our trip.

    Perhaps if I’d twirled one strand at a time? Stopped with the salad course? Eschewed (instead of chewed) the bread?

  43. A Sarah, re: your comment “Thing is, when you’re white and middle class and you go into spaces you don’t know and haven’t been asked into, full of condescending fantasies about (for example) “these inner-city kids who don’t even know where food COMES FROM!”…. ”

    I agree with you that the unasked aspect of this food proselytising (for want of a better phrase) is patronising, privileged and misplaced.

    However, and this is a huge however, in the UK it is very often the case that inner city children do not know where food comes from. Often inner city areas do not have supermarkets, instead kind of mini-marts and 7-11s that sell predominately processed foods and hugely overpriced produce.

    We had a programme by a leading chef Jamie Oliver called Jamie’s Dinners I think, where he went around the country, trying to improve the standard of school food. When he did improve the menus, he found that the children in these inner city areas didn’t like the healthier, fresher food (and I’m not talking low-fat and preachy I mean not Turkey Twizzlers, reformed 12% turkey things! and frozen fake chips (fries)) to the extent that some parents were pushing McDonalds and KFCs through the school fence at lunchtimes!!

    So he did a little investigation, visited the kids in their homes and questioned them and their parents about food knowledge. Quite literally these kids didn’t recognise a leek or a carrot or know that beef comes from cows! The parents never cooked fresh food, ever! Always processed, often frozen. It was either cheaper, easier to get than fresh food or the parents genuinely had never been taught to know food or cook it.

    So while it is wrong to food proselytise and bound in to communities uninvited, I don’t think it’s unreasonable, certainly for the UK anyway, for there to be big concern about levels of food knowledge and access in inner city and other areas facing deprivation and so try to improve this. We sure have a big enough huge problem here that some kind of urgent action is needed!

    On the subject of the dreaded DLB, I like my food way way too much to give a monkeys left testicle about what is considered an appropriate amount to eat in front of teh menz, particularly on dates. Actually we don’t really have dates in the UK, but that’s a different topic. But you know what, I think I view it like this. If a guy I’m with is shocked by how much I’m eating, if my appetite is to their mind wanton and inappropriate, then I want to be shot of them sooner rather than later. Otherwise it would be literally and metaphorically holding in my stomach for the duration of the relationship. And sooner or later you just have to exhale!

    The discussion on all this, DLB, Bordo’s book etc, just serves to underline for me, however, just how pervasive the censure of women’s bodies, appetites, behaviours, everything.

    I sometimes wonder if it is ever possible for women to ever truly free themselves from all the disapproval that comes from family, friends, media and society in general? Is the only answer to live in a feminist, anti-racist, hippie commune?! Surely change can happen, but I’m pessimistic as to how!!

  44. 1. Intriguing analysis, Nia.

    2. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t relish his/her food. It just seems unnatural.

    3. For many, many years, people would watch me eat my normal-sized meals, – with unashamed enthusiasm, generally – and exclaim enviously , “how do you eat so much and stay so trim?? ” The answer: because every woman you know eats AT LEAST this much – just not IN FRONT OF PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!! And it’s just fucking sad. In 21st century America, people will cop to drug use, sex addiction, family dysfunction – no end of TMI that really has no cause to be out there in public – but they won’t take a second doughnut if somebody’s watching. what the hell is wrong w/this picture?!

    My husband, who considers my eating habits to be the standard for normal, is skeeved out when he sees women who order food at restaurants and then don’t eat it – he says the waste, AND the lack of joy make him sad. I tried to explain to him that this is the majority’s way of doing business, but then I figured, why justify it?

  45. In response to AnotherKate on “DLB in Shopping and Spending” – have you noticed that the latest Scary Stereotype in TV ads and sitcoms is the cute, otherwise normal seeming girlfriend who turns out to have REALLY BAD CREDIT that winds up ruining her man’s life and relegating him to a life of poverty in his parents’ basement? It pisses me off, especially b/c I worked in the debtors’ & creditor’s rights industry and I can state unequivocally that bad spending habits transcend every gender, age, race, and culture.

  46. I read *anything* classified as ‘dainty,’ little bites or otherwise, as white and middle-class. Also, in its usage as an adjective for foods in the early to mid 20th century, as pale, soft, bland, sweet, and in small quantities. Or, there’s its usage for any feminine, small, and ornamented thingamabob, such as, say, a muff pistol. Then too, ‘dainty’ was also widely used to mean, clean and well-washed; as well as, to refer to any fine garment, and especially underclothes, though any made of fine, fragile, white or pastel fabric would qualify.

  47. I really hear where you’re coming from, A Sarah, on the fruits and vegetables thing–which I know wasn’t the point of your post but the discussion has been really interesting. We have WIC, which provides milk, cheese, eggs…you probably know already. Now, I’m white, formerly upper middle class, currently very underemployed (me = adjunct, husband = grad student), but my friends are generally, well, not people who qualify for WIC. One of the most common reactions I get from those well-meaning friends when they hear what the program provides is an indignant “They should be providing fruits and vegetables!” Because obviously poor people are stupid and wouldn’t know that they should eat fruits and vegetables otherwise. When pressed, I have had people fess up to that. Poor people need to eat more healthy foods! This is from the same school of thought as You shouldn’t be able to buy just ANYTHING with food stamps. You should only be able to buy whole grains and organic produce, dammit.

    Meanwhile, the WIC program is about supplementing your food supply with sources of protein, some of which are fairly costly (milk, cheese) and others of which aren’t (beans, lentils). The point is the program has a specific and clear rationale, the first reaction often seems to come from a place of nutritional condescension.

    For the sake of full disclosure, in the summer, I do get $20 to spend at the local farmer’s market. Which, given prices at my local farmer’s market, might get me a couple of tomatoes. Ah, well.

  48. Anastasia–

    There is no reason WIC shouldn’t be able to cover milk, bread, meat, etc–AND fruits and vegetables. Most people I hear complain about this complain that you can’t use them to buy “specialty goods” like fruit. I don’t see this as a “poor people are stupid,” I see it as “fruits and vegetables are expensive (because of our agi system) but are not luxuries we should deny those in poverty.”

    Personally I put the blame squarely on the corn, soy, and sugar lobbies who have skewed the system. There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to buy just as much OJ with stamps as soda.

  49. I’m going to second everyone who said anger.

    “You’re so cute when you’re mad,” and varients, are totes examples of DLBs.

    Women mildy, briefly – dare I say DAINTILY upset – that’s not just okay, it’s desirable. But a woman who’s good-and-truly pissed as hell? GOD FORBID.

  50. I would ask anyone who’s about to read this comment to know that I’m attempting to look at it from an intersectionality perspective, and not trying to be bitchy (I’ve been hit with that 3 times today already, but I’ve been notified of 5 deaths of friends of friends, so I’m still ahead on percentages).

    But with the exception of a “muff pistol” — about whose function, although a girl, I will have to plead screaming ignorance — in the WASPiest of Anglo-American culture, as far as women go, all this

    I read *anything* classified as ‘dainty,’ little bites or otherwise, as white and middle-class.Also, in its usage as an adjective for foods in the early to mid 20th century, as pale, soft, bland, sweet, and in small quantities …Then too, ‘dainty’ was also widely used to mean, clean and well-washed; as well as, to refer to any fine garment, and especially underclothes, though any made of fine, fragile, white or pastel fabric would qualify.

    at least as defined by TPTB, is really “supposed” to be all of a piece — isn’t it?

    Which seems to me to be part of the reason why anything — drinks “too much”, smokes “‘too much”, makes “too much”, spends “too much”, “too” tall, fat, dark, loud, “wild” — that does *not* fit within those parameters gets shoved so easily – but still so harshly – right into the NOT WOMAN box.

    So is it important for each of us to ask ourselves how much of that we cling to as the “ideal” womanhood model, and, IMO, more importantly, why??

  51. Back in the days when affluent women carried muffs to keep their hands warm, muff pistols were small, usually single-shot, usually ornamented pistols intended to be carried in them for self-protection.

    Think that’s funny, try ‘hand cannon.’ That’s my fave. And, come to think of it, almost the opposite: it’s a very primitive, early European type of handgun, literally a tiny cannon to be held in the hand.

    (My father was/is a gun nut. I grew up with this shit.)

    @littlem, in my more bitter moments I think it’s not only NOT WOMAN, but NOT HUMAN. Coz we’re all cats, cows, and crows.

  52. Hey, I like Captain Vegetable. But I do wonder why he’s pushing carrots and celery, the two most BORING vegetable snacks in the WORLD. I personally would rather eat cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas and radishes, you know, the ones that DON’T require Ranch dip.

    As for the DLB, I’ve noticed another interesting pattern growing up: women are supposed to take a dainty little bite of darkness or edginess. I remember in high school, all the guys were into David Lynch and serial killers and rockabilly music, and so was I- but instead of thinking, “Oh, cool,” they thought that was WEIRD. The other girls would tolerate that stuff because their boyfriends did, but they always had to say, “Oh my God, you guys, that stuff’s messed up, you’re weird,” and step back from it without even trying to appreciate or understand it, because they were too busy talking about Sex and the City. Because that’s what girls do. Even today, as an adult, you’d think I could meet more men who appreciated that I have unconventional interests, but most of the time the responses I get are patronizing “Why do you know so much about this stuff?” kind of sentiments. I’m sure liking food doesn’t help either.

  53. Okay, two things, basically on point.

    The first is a brag. My employer (a government) just sent around an email offering staff a wonderful opportunity to benefit health charities and our own health — attend a seminar by personal trainer and nutritionist blankety-blank. The poster stressed that his method was all about “interval eating” and that the pounds would “melt away”. So there’s your dainty little bite advocacy in full bloom. The brag is that I wrote a complaint to the organizers about pushing a weight-loss program rather than a health program and sent them the UCLA meta study and was generally no fun at all. *grin*

    The second is that I very recently finished reading “Sex and Bacon” by Sarah Katherine Lewis, which is all about the female appetite in all its glorious forms. Heartily recommended.

  54. Somehow, reading about the “crunchy eaters”, I get a picture in my head of people sitting around in cellars, hidden from the world, eating Captain Crunch, Nestle’s Crunch, crunchy tacos …

    Not that I have anything against carrots, celery, apples, etc. Just that these are not the first images that spring to mind when I think of “crunchy” and “food” in the same thought.

    Also, re: the “Dainty Little Bite” — Scarlett being stuffed before heading off to the barbeque so that she wouldn’t be able to eat at the dinner table made quite an impression on me the first time I saw GWTW as a 9 or 10 year old. Message to me was that ladies don’t do certain things in public, including eat. Perhaps the ladies glowering at spoonfork for daring to do so learned etiquette from a movie about life in 1860.

  55. From Harry Enfield’s comedy series in the 1990s. Made a big impression on me, and this conversation reminded me of it.

    [in the style of 1930s/40s newsreels] LOOK, LISTEN, AND TAKE HEED.

    [posh/RP* voiceover] An ordinary dinner party. The sort of occasion we all enjoy. The men are exchanging witty stories. And look at the women; aren’t they pretty? Look at the way they laugh, they’re delightful. But now the conversation turns to more serious matters.

    [the men adopt Serious Faces]

    “I wonder if the Government should return to the Gold Standard…”

    “I think it should.”

    “Good. Then we are all agreed.”

    But oh dear… What’s this? [woman is pulling a face, as though thinking...] One of the women is about to embarass us all…

    “I think the Government should stay off the Gold Standard, so that the pound can reach a level that would keep our exports competitive.” [she looks around and realises What She Has Done... the men look angry, the other women look ashamed]

    The lady has foolishly attempted to join the conversation with a wild and dangerous opinion of her own! [The men pull increasingly disgusted faces] What half-baked drivel! See how the men look at her with utter contempt! [she begins to cry, covering her face with her hanky]

    “Daphne, we’re going home!!” [he grabs her by the arm and drags her away]

    WOMEN. KNOW YOUR LIMITS.

    Look at the effect of education on a man and a woman’s minds [rudimentary graphic of a man's head with an arrow labelled INFORMATION pointing at it. Dashed lines are coming out of the arrow and into a brain-shaped space, which fills up like a glass left out in the rain.] Education passes into the mind of a man. See how the information is evenly and tidily stored.

    Now see the same thing on a woman. [similar graphic.] At first we see a similar result. But now look. Still at a reasonably low level of education [the space fills to about 5% and then scribbly lines start appearing all over the picture, going outside the proper space AND EVERYTHING and a siren starts] her brain suddenly overloads. She cannot take in information, and she becomes frantically and absurdly deranged.

    Look at these venomous harridans. [footage of four slack jawed, glassy eyed women in some sort of institutional garb, with crazy hair and ZOMGFATS] They went to university. Hard to believe they are all under 25. Yes, over-education leads to ugliness, premature aging and beard growth.

    Now, lets see the proper way. [returns to the dinner party]

    “Good. So we’re all agreed. We should return to the Gold Standard.”

    [Daphne simpers] “Oh, I don’t know anything about the Gold Standard, I’m afraid, but I do love little kittens! They’re so soft, and furry.”

    [her husband takes her hand] “What a delightful thought, you dear, sweet, fragile little thing! I adore you…”

    WOMEN. KNOW YOUR LIMITS. In thought, be plain and simple, and let your natural sweetness shine through.

    *RP= received pronunciation, aka BBC English – the classic “Brittish Accent” which was the only accent allowed to be used on BBC News and other broadcasts until relatively recently.

  56. I know I’ve gotten invitation to some (SOME!) women’s book clubs that are all about taking dainty little bites of literature. I’m not sure I know how to explain what I mean, exactly… it’s kind of like, they’re about reading books that are serious enough to warrant a woman’s having a night out with other women, but not so serious that they threaten the unquestioned domestic order that the women return to.

    It seems like there’s a side issue DLB there, too, where women writers are expected to write books that are serious but not books that are too challenging. Like frigging Jodi Picoult who can write (or get published) a book all about how cancer affects a family and the tough ethical issues that could arise, but can’t actually engage with or resolve those issues in a real, potentially alienating way. (Yes, I am bitter about the ending of My Sister’s Keeper, why do you ask?)

  57. littlem, bouncing off your comment, I, uh, watched Spice World the other day (I was sick! I needed something that required absolutely no engagement whatsoever, and it had Alan Cumming in it! Since MJ died I’ve been having 80s/90s nostalgia!) and I was struck for the first time (probably because when the Spice Girls were actually famous I was busy strenuously ignoring them) at how the only woman of color in the group, who had natural hair and a northern accent, was called “Scary Spice.” Scary! And everyone just went with it! So when you wrote drinks “too much”, smokes “‘too much”, makes “too much”, spends “too much”, “too” tall, fat, dark, loud, “wild” — that does *not* fit within those parameters gets shoved so easily – but still so harshly – right into the NOT WOMAN box, all I could think of was Scary Spice, being too dark, too tall, too Leeds, too buff to get a “girly” identity. What kind of girl is scary? That kind of girl.

    (Side note: the movie was really terrible for the first half, but the last act was actually pretty funny! And my god, the shoes they wore were unreal.)

  58. Heh. SM, I have the great good fortune to be personally acquainted with the mighty Scary, and she is way cool. But I digress.

    I notice some brave, brave people here gently, gently, eeeeedging up to peeeeer at the really really hard question — you know, that last one, that looks like it has fangs — to see if it will bite.

    I will put it in another box for you (with my own bare hands!), as a gesture for reassurance.

    So is it important for each of us to ask ourselves how much of that we cling to as the “ideal” womanhood model, and, IMO, more importantly, why??

    I’ve tried to train it pretty well, so I don’t think it will bite.

    But I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

  59. @ LilahMorgan — I have to stay on top of books and publishing as a professional duty, and I have noticed that as the “chick lit” genre has grown (and become more fluffy at the same time), more and more of the books marketed at women are either classics (think Jane Austen) or a sort of “Dainty Little Book” — a female protagonist with just enough “flaws” (and consequent insecurity about them) to be a bit more dimensional than the stereotypical romance novel heroine, but with an immensely predictable plot that usually entails fixing a “flaw” (weight and assertiveness are common) and then getting the guy/job/baby. Its like these books are all saying, en masse that women are allowed to have dainty little bites of reality in their books, but no more than that.

    On both a professional and a personal level, this drives me nuts.

  60. Heh. SM, I have the great good fortune to be personally acquainted with the mighty Scary, and she is way cool.

    She did seem like she’d be hella fun to know in person.

  61. Oh, BTW – I apologize for having been away and for missing the NYC event. One frequenter to the blog knows I have a REALLY good excuse.

    Really good.

    Actually, really bad. I will share privately with more soon, should they wish to know.

    (If anyone has been wondering “Where the hell has she been to be butting all in with her narrative and her boxes now?”)

  62. littlem, does Mel B. have a take on the “Scary” moniker? I remember the criticism at the time–OMG, the only nonwhite Spice gets called Scary, etc.–so I’d be interested to hear if she thought it was a problem.

    SM, I enjoyed the Spice Girls movie for some reason. Alan Cumming is always enjoyable. I enjoy my mother’s enjoyment of him as the host of “Mystery” or whatever it’s called now. She’s pretty cool but not the *most* queer-friendly person, and so I love imitating him for her: “I’m a pan-sexual sprite for the new millennium!” With Scottish accent. :)

  63. We had a programme by a leading chef Jamie Oliver called Jamie’s Dinners I think, where he went around the country, trying to improve the standard of school food. When he did improve the menus, he found that the children in these inner city areas didn’t like the healthier, fresher food (and I’m not talking low-fat and preachy I mean not Turkey Twizzlers, reformed 12% turkey things! and frozen fake chips (fries)) to the extent that some parents were pushing McDonalds and KFCs through the school fence at lunchtimes!!

    As I recall, it’s a little more complicated than just “These people don’t know what food is!”

    First off, there’s unfamiliarity. Even in his initial program in the test school, he found that changing everyone’s diets all at once didn’t go over well, the kids were baffled by the new food. It took some extra time and getting them interested/involved in the food to get them willing to try it and enjoy it instead of automatically rejecting the new. Many kids are very scared of new foods!

    There’s also the deep frustration of having the food you like taken away. If you liked the original food, you’re probably going to be annoyed when someone swoops in and says “That’s bad. You can’t have it anymore, ever.” and replaces it with what they think is more “appropriate”. So of course there was some backlash.

    IIRC, some people complained that the new food was, in some cases, crap – because the kitchen staff didn’t know how to cook.

    Naturally there are some kids who have no idea that beef comes from a cow. There are also kids who can’t tell you who the Prime Minister is, or find England on a map. Child knowledge is often full of weird holes.

    Jamie Oliver can be a bit of a dick at times when he seems to assume that the only reason anyone is fat is because they’re utterly ignorant.

  64. “Shit, piss, fucking, eating, bleeding: these are all parts of being alive.”

    Women shit??? Noooooooo!

    Actually, when my husband was a kid he didn’t believe females pooped until a male friend sneaked him in the girls’ bathroom after school one day to show him the poop in one of the toilets. I kid you not.

  65. Yeah, I got in a massive interweb argument after Jamie’s “ministry of food” program’s first episode (I couldn’t watch it due to THE RAGE, I think he’s a well meaning sort of chap but, you know, bit of a concern troll…) with some people who were going on about this one family whose children ate a LOT of takeaways and everyone was SCANDALISED that they *ate their takeaway food from the boxes, sitting on the floor*, “like ANIMALS”. They didn’t seem to understand my point that, well, regardless of what they’re eating, there’s actually no reason to go on about the fact that the kids were sitting on the floor to eat as it’s only a bloody social construct that says sitting at a table = Good and Normal and that actually going on about the way they eat is counterproductive if anything because, well, if you were that mum and someone comes and tells you that NOT ONLY are you POISONING YOUR CHILDREN WITH NONFOODS but even if you start feeding them Good And Correct Food, you still aren’t good enough because FOR GOD’S SAKE WOMAN, THEY ARE EATING ON THE FLOOR!!!

  66. littlem, does Mel B. have a take on the “Scary” moniker? I remember the criticism at the time–OMG, the only nonwhite Spice gets called Scary, etc.–so I’d be interested to hear if she thought it was a problem.

    I honestly think that’s a question for her and not me? But i know she’s been doing solo tours — at least she was prior to chasing small people about — and I bet if you caught her at one she’d be very amenable to responding.

    (Just don’t be surprised if she says something that shocks the water out of you at the same time as you are laughing near-hysterically.)

  67. Actually, when my husband was a kid he didn’t believe females pooped until a male friend sneaked him in the girls’ bathroom after school one day to show him the poop in one of the toilets. I kid you not.

    Like Jonathan Swift!

    Thus finishing his grand survey,
    Disgusted Strephon stole away
    Repeating in his amorous fits,
    Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!

  68. I didn’t quite finish my sentence, there, basically if you were that mum and someone said that then the chances are you would think “well, fuck off then!”

  69. Intelligence and anger.

    For me, those are the things I get hassled about the most. I also eat like a horse, in public, but since I’m skinny most people seem to find that charming rather than the opposite (either that or they think I’m puking it up and are secretly applauding my fictional eating disorder, but I choose to believe otherwise).

    The intelligence thing is a big one with me. I know so many smart women who won’t talk about subjects they know well if it means embarrassing a man who’s talking out of his ass. I will, and I’ve actually had one friend tell me that she gets a vicarious kick out of the takedowns. But she won’t speak up herself because she’s afraid of alienating those assholes. And it does alienate them; I’ve been blessed to be antisocial enough that I don’t usually care if random strangers like me, but it can be really difficult for women who just want to get along.

    Anger is a big one too. Another blogger I read posted something a while back about the ‘cute little lady anger’ phenomenon: that it’s okay–even sexy–to get angry as long as it isn’t real anger that requires actual attention and could do some damage. Women are supposed to get angry about stupid things so that men can feel all cool and in control while they talk us down; we’re not supposed to get pissed off about anything real.

    Really, I’m not big on dainty anything, metaphorical or otherwise. I don’t keep my opinions to myself, I won’t take small portions when I’m hungry, and I can’t keep delicate clothing intact. It’s almost like I’m a human being instead of an ornament, you know?

  70. I’m also supposed to be content with dainty little bites of employment.

    It’s all well and good if I work, but I should be silently cheerful about how having my kids has utterly derailed my career- I can have the leftover 1/4 and 1/6 positions that my (mostly male) colleagues didn’t want (after all, they have families to support?)

  71. Another dainty little bite: Career

    A couple of people mentioned management, but I think career deserves a serperate mention.

    We should have a career that is deeply meaningful and brings us untold joy, but we should also be able to drop it at a moment’s notice if our Womanly Skills are needed elsewhere (childrearing, taking care of elderly/sick parents/family members, etc)

    Also, while we should find our “true calling” it shouldn’t monopolize our time so that we don’t have time for a husband and children. God forbid a woman prefer her job to driving young children around all day… that is NOT a dainty little bite of career young lady!

  72. Oy. Making veggies and fruit available to everyone who wants them is a completely different animal from shoving them down people’s throats because you know what’s good for them.

    It would have been one thing to let churches and other organizations in inner-city neighborhoods know that there’s a service available that will provide them free veggie or fruit boxes on request; that’s fine. Assuming everyone wants them, though? Not very swift. “Gee, you know, thanks for those ten heads of broccoli and everything…except that my kids hate the stuff and I’m the only one in the house who’ll eat it, but I spend ten hours a day on my feet as a CNA and the last thing I want when I get home is to chop veggies that only I’m going to eat, plus the other nine heads of broccoli will just attract fruit flies while I’m trying to get through the first one. But really, Nice Clean White Person, thanks.”

  73. I agree w/aebhel re: intelligence and anger, and would add that a lot of idiots tend to combine and confuse intelligence, anger, and “scariness” (in the Not Woman) sense when it comes to women. I deal with it by basically ignoring it, and being as smart, angry, and scary as I damn well please. Some people – male and female – like it, others are surprised to realize they like it, and some don’t like it, hence I have the pleasure of getting them out of my hair.

    I don’t mean to start repeating here, but has anyone mentioned Humor as a category where DLB are expected? Many of the same idiots heretofore mentioned seem to think that a woman with a “good sense of humour” = a woman who laughs at Mr. Alpha Male’s jokes. Vulgar jokes, as somebody mentioned, are a Little Too Much, but if you object to some asshole’s vulgar, sexist (not funny) joke you get to revisit the old “feminists have no sense of humor” bullshit.

    “Q: how many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: that’s not funny”

    Now, same joke, revised for Shapeling purposes:

    “Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: the same number it takes to shove that lame joke up your tired ass.”

    Did anybody read the profile of Tina Fey in Vanity Fair a few months back? The writer seemed to think he was doing her a favor by constantly referring to Fey’s good luck, as though a.) that were a surprise and b.) that somehow made it all right for her to be funny.

  74. hi bronislawa, agree with your post but just wanted to mention that “lame” isn’t a word we use round here as it has a disablist origin (as in, I have mobility problems and thus might once have been described as lame). A lot of people don’t realise this, so just a friendly heads-up :)

  75. I was a nutritionist at WIC for several years–the protein isn’t because this is what is lacking in people’s diets. People don’t lack protein or calories. They lack nutritious food, and often knowledge of how to cook that food.

    The food is NOT healthy overall; it is a subsidy program for the dairy and other ag industries first and foremost [politicians who fund the program admit this]. We were constantly counseling against what we gave. All that juice we gave spoiled kids’ appetite for real food and rotted their teeth. Kids got iron deficiency anemia from so much calcium (from the milk and cheese)–and they did need access to fruits and veggies, which are more expensive. So I think the criticisms of WIC are right on. Their support of breastfeeding moms is also poor, but that’s another story–the money spent on them is a pittance compared to formula users.

  76. I totally agree about the Jodi Picoult happy ending phenomenon (it’s not just the one book). It’s sufficiently annoying that I won’t buy the books (but will borrow them and occasionally not bother reading the last chapter).

    Another DLB: crying. Women are supposed to have the cute little hiccup sob and the tears that daintily stream down the face. I remember trying to cry like this when I was little (it wasn’t very satisfying since I’m a wailer)

  77. See, the thing is, though, I grew up in a rich suburb and hell if I “knew where food comes from” as a kid, in the sense of knowing what Brussels sprouts look like on the plant or what kale is. My school cafeteria was burgers and tater tots frozen and shipped from God knows where. My science classes, as far as I can recall, were a lot more about gerbils and space than about, you know, “Hey kids, vegetables come from the GROUND!” I was in my twenties before I knew anything about what fresh basil looked like or that you’d have to use, like, a whole lot more of the fresh than you would the dried stuff to which I was previously accustomed.

    And now I know all that stuff, and use the knowledge often, without being the beneficiary of any special program or “service project” undertaken by strangers out of a concern for my welfare and that of my demographic group. Why? Because as an adult I came into regular contact with people for whom knowledge of fresh produce was a social norm, such that possession of it opened doors and lack of it closed them. Food connoisseurship marked you as someone who was thoughtful, worth hanging out with, socially responsible, in touch with the deeper meanings of things, and a person of taste. It was a cool social activity to shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and of course I lived close enough to it that I could. When I was part of a university community and lived in a group house, of course there was a gardener in our bunch, and so we grew a few things. I learned to cook by watching Martha Stewart’s television show, and she waxed poetic about haricots verts that she grew at her estate. Add to that the fact that it’s interesting enough knowledge to have, so, you know, it wasn’t a chore to learn. So, yeah, I got the knowledge. I figured out that, in the same way that I’d better be able to talk about national politics to be thought smart and appropriate among a certain set of people, I’d also better know farmer’s market etiquette and be able to name at least one kind of heirloom tomato.

    It just seems to me people mostly learn things that are directly pertinent to their lives and relationships, and that if someone’s life circumstances demand that they know about a local varietal of rutabaga, they find ways to learn. And if someone’s life circumstance does *not* demand that they know about a local varietal of rutabaga, then… lots of things may be going on. It may be that that person doesn’t especially need to know about rutabagas in the very very specific way that foodies (or farmers or gardeners) do. Or maybe they do, or maybe rutabagas would make their lives better for some other very specific reason. Or, yeah, maybe (and in some instances certainly) there are all these systemic things keeping the rutabagas in some places and not others in ways that aren’t fair and close off options.

    But what is probably *not* going on, is a simple case of the insufficiently-impressed-by-rutabaga person just needing a more-enlightened do-gooder to explain The Wonders of Fresh Produce… without the do-gooder being pretty damn clear on where s/he is located in all this, and how her/his own perspectives and tastes have been formed.

    (Of course I was also, at a different point in my life, on WIC, and in our town you could use WIC checks to buy certain produce at the farmer’s market, and the nutritionist was a doula and lactation consultant. I know some people have VERY different experiences with WIC – see above comments – and so I guess it’s possible I live in Bizarro World.) :)

  78. Another DLB: crying. Women are supposed to have the cute little hiccup sob and the tears that daintily stream down the face. I remember trying to cry like this when I was little (it wasn’t very satisfying since I’m a wailer)

    Heather, OMG, I was just complaining about this to a friend of mine today! When I cry my nose runs and I sob and my nostrils go in and out in a most embarrassing – but not at all dainty – fashion.

  79. I love the discussion that’s gone on so far! But I have a question for you all. Clearly there are many things that women may only have a Dainty Little Bite (DLB) of, but what are the things that you think we are actually allowed to have a Big Honkin’ Plate (BHP) of? First thing that comes to mind for me is motherhood and babies. I happen to be one of those who just adores childen, and unlike just about every other thing I enjoy (food, horseback riding, playing chess, reading, studying sciencey things, etc) I have never felt even remotely chided for my interest in children by the powers that be. Obviously that is largely due to the barefoot in the kitchen fantasy that the dominant culture idealizes, but I think there’s more to it. As others have mentioned, we are supposed to enjoy sex (for the benefit of men, mostly) but only a DLB worth of it. Why are other “good” activities, like motherhood, not restrained to DLB proportions? Why don’t we have to be dainty about everything?

  80. ooooh, Annie, I love it! Off the top of my head, I’d say I feel allowed to have the BHP-sized portions of both:

    1) water, and
    2) the task of reading and tending to everyone else’s emotional needs without thanks or recognition

  81. When I cry my nose runs and I sob and my nostrils go in and out in a most embarrassing – but not at all dainty – fashion.

    I always joke with Mr Machine that crying clears out my sinuses like nothing else. In reality I usually get a splitting headache after I cry, but I seriously think that that’s because it gets all the junk trapped in my sinuses moving for once!

  82. I totally agree that the scenario of the black man being phoned up by clueless white colleagues wanting to bring “fresh food” into an inner-city neighborhood is all too common. And clueless. And bad.

    But I feel the end of this post diminishes just how bad food deserts are. At least in my city of Chicago, my own concern about food deserts isn’t that people are “eating in ways that are icky.” It’s that in some neighborhoods, there literally isn’t a fresh vegetable for miles. It’s completely unjust and ridiculous. No one worth her salt is judging the folks who live in those neighborhoods and don’t get the nutrients they need. But we need to acknowledge how shitty those conditions are.

    That doesn’t change, of course, how cluelessly privileged those folks making cold calls may have been.

  83. Trabb’s, it would be pretty awesome if you were to post some or all of your letter of complaint, so that I could shamelessly crib off it for inspiration when I unleash my missive of GIANT GREEDY CHOMPING MOUTHFULS OF RAGE against my employer and their “wellness.”

  84. A Sarah–

    I get what you’re saying, but I think it is important for middle class kids to learn “where food comes from” as well. They need school programs about it and lunches with produce just like low income kids do.

    In the US, no one automatically learns about food anymore, because it isn’t a critical survival skill in a life or death way, just a social cachet thing. (oooh look, I know about rutabegas! and organic local farming!).

    But on a larger global scale, it IS a life or death issue–knowing the problems in our food supply, the control of factory farming and agribusiness–these are all things that will determine the food supply of the next century. I’m not a big proponant of “organic” or any of the other yuppie labels that have become a way to mark health/thin/white/etc ad infinitum, but I DO think knowledge of our food system and access to decent produce that doesn’t destroy the planet is a basic right.

    Now, to relate this to the DLB issue: I think that when we tell low-income WOC, “eat this organic local kale,” but would shudder in horror if they then cooked that kale with a pork shoulder and/or some rice and beans, are reverting to this DLB paradigm which is essentially based on whiteness/white women as its default.


  85. (Of course I was also, at a different point in my life, on WIC, and in our town you could use WIC checks to buy certain produce at the farmer’s market, and the nutritionist was a doula and lactation consultant. I know some people have VERY different experiences with WIC – see above comments – and so I guess it’s possible I live in Bizarro World.) :)

    Oh my. I think you might have been. I don’t qualify, but my old neighborhood (crown heights) had almost everyone in the store buying with WIC, and they definitely could not buy produce. A lot of it had to do with needing to cover the basic amount of calories needed–fresh produce was so expensive it was a luxury (and often as not WIC didn’t cover it).

  86. things I am allowed to have BHP of:

    1) desire for children. NOT children themselves–I better stop at 2 or 3 or else I’m just not so ladylike.

    2) desire to breastfeed said 2-3 children–just not past a mythical ever changing deadline past which I will be a pedophile.

    3) desire for Prince Charming–but I’d better settle or become an old maid.

    4) desire to be thin–not thinness itself, too much of that would be Scary, but the Desire should be limitless.

    I’m noticing a pattern here–I am allowed to have BHP of *desire* for socially appropriate things, but I am not allowed to *fulfill* those desires past a certain set point. Interesting.

  87. WestEndGirl,

    It’s a bit interesting about kids who didn’t know meat came from animals or that milk came from cows. My husband has a similar story from grade school; for him, though, it’s part of how he learned that living on a farm made him a “country” kid and his pampered classmates were “suburban” kids.

  88. @Ellen — Well, and you’re right, I’ve just never been in a setting where there is no fruit or vegetable for miles. I’ve lived in places that Nice White Do-Gooders would consider and have considered likely places of “service,” but not like that. I don’t know quite how to walk the line between apologizing if I didn’t take everything into account, and not wanting to apologize for my husband’s colleague’s anger at what he rather ingeniously called a “drive-by fruiting.”

    So maybe I should just say this: knowing this colleague I really think that he’d both know and take into account whether this was a situation where the questionable motives of the do-gooders paled in comparison to the dire need for produce. And that’s not what he came away saying — he was pissed off, in fact — so I’m inclined to trust his take while also acknowledging that, no, I’ve not really felt the sting of the food desert situation you described and that probably caused me to gloss some things over. Thanks for removing the gloss. :)

    @chava — Might we basically agree, though? I’m really only bothered about the privilege and nice white lady-ism in some “fresh veg to poor folks” efforts. If there were tons and tons of people saying “Rich white kids need to learn where food comes from,” and if that were doing the same work as the “poor city kids need to learn where food comes from,” then I think my beef would go away.

    I mean, I get that *you’re* saying both in the same breath, which is why I think we might basically agree. But what I hear a lot more of in real life is basically a slightly-less-obvious version of, “Oh those poor stupid urban brown and black people who I’m pretty sure eat nothing but KFC and have never seen fresh lettuce. Let’s go help them, my dear white crunchy college-educated sisters!”

    Now, if there ALSO isn’t in fact lettuce available then absolutely, that’s a problem, but that’s a separate problem from white do-gooderism and unexamined privilege. And I think we can talk in detail about the latter without having to immediately follow every critique with, “Oh, but vegetables ARE good for you!’ (Not that I’m managing to do it successfully, mind you… I’m just saying, someone who isn’t at the moment so scatterbrained and glum and tired as I am could do so.)

  89. I am allowed to have BHP of *desire* for socially appropriate things, but I am not allowed to *fulfill* those desires past a certain set point

    chava – that’s awesome. And you’re totally right. Women desire things but can’t have those desires fulfilled, because then we stop buying the things that we believe we need to have to reach those desires. Or turn our attention to something other than perfecting ourselves (possibly to the fact that people starve to death, that there’s massive inequity in our country, etc.)

    DRST

  90. I’ve changed to Heather#2(?) since I realized there’s at least one more Heather here.

    More things you can have a BHP of:

    Cooking: particularly made from scratch cooking (but not BBQing)
    Cleaning
    Gardening (but not landscaping or lawn mowing/maitenance)
    Shopping: in all 3 major domains! Home decor, clothing and general knick knacks for gifts and personal use
    “Artsy hobbies”: such as knitting, sewing, quilting

  91. But I feel the end of this post diminishes just how bad food deserts are. At least in my city of Chicago, my own concern about food deserts isn’t that people are “eating in ways that are icky.” It’s that in some neighborhoods, there literally isn’t a fresh vegetable for miles. It’s completely unjust and ridiculous. No one worth her salt is judging the folks who live in those neighborhoods and don’t get the nutrients they need. But we need to acknowledge how shitty those conditions are.

    This. I know there’s an area in the city I live where there’s literally NO supermarket at all, only 7-11 type places that, if they have fresh produce at all, have a couple of apples and a banana and are charging ridiculous prices for them as part of some kind of lunch meal package. (Like, $2 for a single apple.)

    (What makes it worse is many of the people in that area work downtown, where there is also NOT a supermarket. So they can’t even shop after work and bring stuff home on the bus.)

    So I think there really is an issue of just not having access to things, never mind the question of where something comes from. (Which plenty of people don’t really know, and is almost a separate issue.)

    There is going to be a supermarket going into that area in the next few years (finally) and I’m wondering if they’ll use the model that another store in a similar area does – they have a little mini kitchen built into the store and host local chefs and cookbook authors and put on demonstrations with seasonal items fairly regularly. It seems to serve a combined function of helping people figure out what to do with unfamiliar ingredients and at the same time draws in people from areas further away who can afford to drive a bit for groceries, so the store isn’t totally dependent on lower income shoppers for financial survival.

  92. Couple of random comments:

    1. Captain Vegetable was always one of my very favorite Sesame Street sketches! No joke! My sisters and I still sing the song all the time now, and I used to kind of wish he would pop in and assault my lunch someday, not because I necessarily wanted more vegetables, mind you, but because, c’mon, purple rabbit with a unibrow! And I think Sesame Street should have stuck with the rabbit. John Leguizamo is adorable, but his costume is terrifying and he seems to be having trouble keeping up with the music…

    2. On the other hand, I totally hated that other Food-Enforcement Sesame Street superhero, the one who kept trying to make the little girl eat breakfast and wouldn’t let her get a word in edgewise. He didn’t give up until she finally told him it was ‘TIME FOR LUNCH!’

    3. Thinking about the ordering-steak-on-a-date phenomenon: Presumably when the men in the magazines express their preferences regarding their date’s choice of food, they are also assuming they’re out with women who are physically attractive to them. Hot women. Now, of course, it’s going to depend on the individual man what he thinks of as a hot woman, but supposing the woman who he imagines choosing between the salad and the steak is a conventionally attractive woman, ordering the steak becomes a signal of her unassailable beauty and femininity. The salad-picker, see, might only be physically satisfactory to the man because she keeps her appetite tightly leashed, and if she becomes exhausted (or lazy!) about controlling herself this way, will EAT THE WORLD, become fat, and TAKE HALF OF HIS STUFF! But the steak eater proves that her virtuous feminine form has the power to DISAPPEAR WHOLE STEAKS! A moment on the lips, and nowhere to be seen on the hips! That’s the woman the guy (well, the douchehound, anyway) wants: the woman whose metabolic magic promises him never-altering satisfaction with her attractiveness. Would this explain why an ordinary woman with fairly common insecurities would want to present herself as a steak-eater, when she’s really the sort of woman who reins and controls her appetite(s)? She wants to appear to have the magic; she wants it to appear that she has crossed swords with those archnemeses of HOTNESS, fat and calories, and come away without a scratch on her slender, statuesque maidenly virtue! (Because if you didn’t get fat, you clearly didn’t eat too much!)

  93. The salad-picker, see, might only be physically satisfactory to the man because she keeps her appetite tightly leashed, and if she becomes exhausted (or lazy!) about controlling herself this way, will EAT THE WORLD, become fat, and TAKE HALF OF HIS STUFF! But the steak eater proves that her virtuous feminine form has the power to DISAPPEAR WHOLE STEAKS! A moment on the lips, and nowhere to be seen on the hips! That’s the woman the guy (well, the douchehound, anyway) wants: the woman whose metabolic magic promises him never-altering satisfaction with her attractiveness.

    Gods, yes, that’s IT. Not only do you have to look fabulous in a slinky size 6 nightgown, but your metabolism had better burn calories like a brush fire. What these guys don’t figure is that a woman in that much demand is, in all probability, eventually going to dump HIS ass and STILL get half of his stuff.

  94. Women are supposed to be islands of calm. This means we aren’t supposed to have large helpings of any particular emotion – but particularly not the negative ones. So another thing we have to take dainty little bites of is joy. We can’t be too happy, either. One is supposed to be content.

    [Side note: as a chronic depressive, I do tend to aim for "content" as a goal, but that's because my normal *default* is "damn miserable". For me, "content" is an improvement. As a way of living, it sucks big time.]

    I came to the conclusion years ago that I couldn’t manage being socially middle class. Too damn annoying for words, with the amount of stuff you have to keep out of everyone’s notice, and the amount of things you have to do in order for Mrs Grundy not to be offended. Too many appearances to keep up, and too much effort to put into doing the silliest things. Instead, I’m going back to my family’s working class origins, where if you do a job, it’s to put the food on the table, and if someone’s offended you’re not able to keep up appearances, that’s their bloody problem not yours.

  95. Sorry to thread hijack, but I must sound off about Jamie Oliver. He is more than a ‘bit of a dick,’ he’s a sadist asshole. Under the guise of ‘educating people about where food comes from,’ he hung a live chicken up on a hook on his television show. The bird screamed until he slit it’s throat, not humanely.

    If I ever meet him in the street, I’ll be hard-pressed not to give him the same treatment.

  96. Fucking hell, minervaK, I hadn’t heard that. That is all kinds of fucked up.

    Me, I like Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall. He’s an utter foodie who grows all his own produce, but he somehow manages not to be a complete patronising snobby cunt about it (possibly because he has occasionally acted like one, been called on it and ACTUALLY LISTENED and modified his behaviour)

  97. Gods, yes, that’s IT. Not only do you have to look fabulous in a slinky size 6 nightgown, but your metabolism had better burn calories like a brush fire.

    What the guy also doesn’t get is that most metabolisms change over time, so eventually the size 6 woman will probably gain weight, no matter what she eats, but then it will be all about the “You put away that whole steak! And did you really need those mashed potatoes honey? You were so beautiful the first 20 years of our marriage. Now you’re 50…old* and fat**, what happened?”

    *I don’t really think 50 is old.

    **Also, I’m tired of men who complain about how much their female partner’s body changed after pregnancy and birth. Fucking duh!

  98. I loved Claire Daines in Romeo and Juliet because when she cried her face went red and her mouth went square and she produced more wail than weep. Just like me only, admittedly, prettier.

  99. DLB= Makeup/Cosmetics. You are SUPPOSED to wear makeup, but not too much. One of the big stereotypes on tv is men, real and characters, and some women making fun of women’s cosmetic stashes. “Oh, I do not know why they put all of that gunk of their faces. They buy so much weird stuff for looks.” You are supposed to make an effort and be hot, naturally and with makeup, but you should only use a little makeup or YOU ARE A FRAUD AND FRIVILOUS!!!111 *sighs*

  100. For some reason this post makes me think of the ideal woman in Proverbs 31, who “girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong” (v. 17)

    And that always makes me think of the Westinghouse “We Can Do It!” poster (not technically Rosie the Riveter).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:We_Can_Do_It!.jpg

    I love that lady. And in context of this post, that makes me think of another lady I’m fond of:

    http://emptyeasel.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/sybildetailofthesistinechapel.jpg

    From Michaelangelo’s work on the Sistene Chapel, along with Tim LaHeye’s claim that “Michaelangelo was gay, and couldn’t paint women.” And to ask a (rather OT) question of my own – How have Christians so completely abandoned the Word of God when it comes to female beauty?

    I do think that the “dainty little bite” thing is primarily about “women shouldn’t have an appetite of their own,” but I think there’s a strong strand of “women shouldn’t be strong and grounded” as well.

    I’ll go read the comments, now.

  101. “DLB= Makeup/Cosmetics. You are SUPPOSED to wear makeup, but not too much.”

    YES. One time a guy I was dating and I started talking about THE POINT of make-up (which I wear a lot of, but because I am also a part-time make-up artist and I know how to do it ARTfully), and he actually had the audacity to say, “Make-up is effective if guys don’t notice it, right?” Uh…

    It also makes me think of this novel by Kobo Abe called The Face of Another, about a scientist whose whole face gets burned off in a lab explosion, and he becomes fascinated by faces and the psychology of facial structure and all this other abstract philosophical stuff. But at one point he writes about how women wear make-up as a mask, thinking nobody realizes they’re wearing any make-up, stupid women. And towards the end his wife catches wind of this statement and is like, “No, idiot. We’re not dumb enough to think that NO ONE can see our make-up. You don’t get women.”

    Wow, the more comments I read, it seems like we have to take a DLB of EVERYTHING, huh?

  102. You are SUPPOSED to wear makeup, but not too much.

    This is because on the one hand we’re supposed to aspire to, and work to achieve, something as close to the feminine ideal as possible — and yet, at the same time, do so with the current acceptable minimum of artifice. Which last changes over time, thus necessitating our continued attention and effort.

    And it applies to everything. Not just our bodies.

  103. farfalla, on July 7th, 2009 at 10:16 pm Said:
    Women mildy, briefly – dare I say DAINTILY upset – that’s not just okay, it’s desirable. But a woman who’s good-and-truly pissed as hell? GOD FORBID.

    I think women are allowed to be “angry kittens” – i.e., they can throw a bit of a fit, but only if there’s no expectation that their anger is going to change anything. A woman’s right to anger ends way before that anger is likely to have an impact, and she for sure is not allowed to be “proactively angry” – temper tantrums are far preferable to, “Okay, I’m pissed, and and there will be consequences.”

    A woman who is calmly angry and walks away from the causer of her anger or otherwise simply takes action to change the situation will get far more grief over her anger than one who fusses and fumes but essentially lives with it. That’s the point where her anger ceases to be cute, for most guys, seems like.

    Particularly when the guy is the cause of the anger –
    he likes to see DLB of anger, because that means he has an impact on her – but if she decides she’s not putting up with it any more? She’s cheating, she’s changing the rules, she’s over reacting, whatever.

  104. @ m.leblanc:
    “It really makes me angry the extent to which we’re supposed to refrain from acknowledging or indulging our own humanity. Shit, piss, fucking, eating, bleeding: these are all parts of being alive. But we are to pretend they don’t exist. And god forbid we acknowledge them as funny or capitalize on that humor.”

    I would respectfully offer this thought: Dignity and good manners are important, not only in and of themselves but because they create the framework for humor. The main reason that the things you listed are funny is because they disrupt our social space as defined by manners. Acknowledge shit, piss, etc. too blatantly, and you end up losing the funniness of them, because you lose the contrast between mannerly public and unmannerly intimate space. So, I think “refraining” is a good thing in its place.

    Re: the DLB: I wonder if anyone else is familiar with Japanese food programming? At almost any hour of the day you can find on Japanese TV a closeup of a beauty’s mouth as she takes a huge, greedy bite of some dish and chews (mouth closed… manners) and then goes “YUMMMYYY!” Women Unapologetically Enjoying Food is basically the main theme of these shows. My Japanese women friends are totally self-indulgent in this respect, too. It’s great. And that goes for skinny girls and plump ones. In fact the only one taking DLBs is usually moi, the skinny Westerner… hmm yes, I would say DLBs might be linked with whiteness :D

  105. Lucy, on July 7th, 2009 at 10:53 pm Said:

    As for the DLB, I’ve noticed another interesting pattern growing up: women are supposed to take a dainty little bite of darkness or edginess. I remember in high school, all the guys were into David Lynch and serial killers and rockabilly music

    I’ll take your “dainty little bit of darkness or edginess” and go in a slightly different direction with it – women are not allowed Serious Angst. We were watching a (dreadful, I thought) movie based on one of eldest son’s favorite computer games, Middle daughter and I were grumping about the hero’s unrelenting angst, son protested, saying that the hero had SUFFERED, I promptly named a number of heroes who had SUFFERED – and suffered much worse than this dude – who still did not see their pain as the center of the world, and whose pain is not the plot.

    But plenty of guys get the “Poor Boy Has Suffered” card that excuses all matter of stupidity and self-centeredness – women who’ve dealt with roughly the same past pain get the “Just Get Over It” card instead. Guys are allowed and even encouraged to wallow in the angst – girls are not.

  106. Hey, shiloh? This:

    A woman’s right to anger ends way before that anger is likely to have an impact, and she for sure is not allowed to be “proactively angry” – temper tantrums are far preferable to, “Okay, I’m pissed, and and there will be consequences.”

    A woman who is calmly angry and walks away from the causer of her anger or otherwise simply takes action to change the situation will get far more grief over her anger than one who fusses and fumes but essentially lives with it. That’s the point where her anger ceases to be cute, for most guys, seems like.

    …was really really awesome, and just sunk all the way in for me. It’s also pertinent to some stuff going on in my life, so thanks. :)

  107. Quote: “DLB of the urge for violence – starting with tiny girls. I don’t mind that one, but I think boys should be trained into it too, because a world where boys are allowed and encouraged to express violence and girls aren’t? Yuk.”

    Interesting point – I love Atwood’s Cat’s Eye for its examination of female child violence, which of course is just as sadistic as what occurs between boys – but which is more often concealed in sugary friendship.

  108. I love this post. I’ve been thinking about it since last night!

    Until recently, I was a master of the DLB, to the point where I didn’t even want to chose a place to eat, less it look like I wanted to eat. In high school a friend, who had known me for over a year, once remarked upon seeing me eat lunch on a field trip, that the turkey sandwich was the first thing he had ever seen me eat. And I was so fucking proud of that, you wouldn’t believe it.

    But plenty of guys get the “Poor Boy Has Suffered” card that excuses all matter of stupidity and self-centeredness – women who’ve dealt with roughly the same past pain get the “Just Get Over It” card instead. Guys are allowed and even encouraged to wallow in the angst – girls are not.

    This is so true.

  109. Has anyone mentioned sneezing?

    Many of the women I work with sneeze with these dainty little muffled sounds, some of which even have a little soprano choo at the end. Ladylike sneezes—cute, almost flirtatious sneezes.

    When I sneeze, walls tremble, observers are knocked off their feet, and small children cry.

    I believe I learned this from Dad, whose sneezes are epic. Oddly, or maybe not, I can’t ever remember my mother sneezing . . .

  110. Wow, this whole thing is fascinating to me. Sometimes when I read here I wonder if I’ve been living under a rock. I’ve lived my life adamantly anti-dieting, and now that I read this, apparently anti-DLB (possibly a bit too far, simply because I often don’t eat intuitively, I eat “anti-diet” which, I just now learning, isn’t the dame thing).

    I never really understood until reading this why people sometimes looked at me funny. I’m big, I’m loud, I tend to dominate conversations, I’m smart, I’m strong, I love to eat, love to drink, I love to argue and debate… basically I’m your classic Boston Irish GUY. No one ever told me that I wasn’t supposed to be just like all my uncles, so that’s how I am. But yeah… over the years I’ve noticed that a lot of women give me funny looks (oddly, I’ve never actually met a guy that it seemed to bother… or if I did, they were too scared to mention it ;). I’m not sure exactly how I feel about this new understanding. Sad for them? Annoyed? Belatedly embarrassed?

    Fascinating stuff.

  111. I suspect one reason there seem to be Dainty Little Bites prescribed for nearly everything is that it actually makes good sense to do ‘everything in moderation,’ no? I mean, as far as anger, physical violence, greed, etc. go, I think most of us would agree that extreme displays of certain appetites harm others, harm society, and possibly (depending on your moral psychology) harm the one with the immoderate appetite. (Certainly, once an appetite controls you instead of you controlling it, it’s not so much fun anymore).

    So the question, for me, becomes: who gets to control these appetites? Who gets to set the limits on what is seemly? It seems clear to me that moderation should be achieved by adults suiting their appetites – and the expression of their appetites – to the situation. If you are ENORMOUSLY hungry, it’s probably, we say, for a *reason.* Your body is telling you something important, so go ahead and eat your fill (to the degree that you have enough food available to you). If something is truly outrageous, it calls for true outrage – not a pout-and-shake-your-curls display of kittenishness! Meanwhile, there are some situations that, I would argue, certainly do not call for outrage, and I really don’t think someone would be wrong to tell me to rein it in, if I were to become outraged at one of those situations. (Like the time in the airport, many years ago, when I had to swap some books from one of my suitcases to the other in order to meet the luggage weight requirements, and while I was awkwardly opening and repacking my luggage on the floor by the counter, my dad suddenly got screaming mad at a poor little old man with a cane, who didn’t even seem to speak enough English to understand that my dad was complaining about him going around me to the head of the ticket counter line. I was honestly afraid my dad would hit this guy. It was not a Dainty Little Bite of anger; it was not even a Many Big Bite of anger, it was just plain WRONG. The little old man had done nothing to deserve it).

    So what concerns me is not, ‘How dare society regulate my desires and behaviors?!’, because, I dunno, I don’t particularly want to fall victim to somebody else’s unregulated greed, anger, capacity for violence, or sexual urges, but rather, ‘Why is it that women aren’t trusted to perform the function of basic self-regulation to the same degree that men are?’ The Dainty Little Bite seems to be a symbol of a pervasive social fear that women will want as much as or more than men, and that getting it will maybe not only take something away from the mens (waaaah!), but will *despoil* the women, making them into… not-women? Not feminine. Not, themselves, desirable. In response to this fear, society seems to be pressuring women always to err on the side of deprivation.

    So what, exactly, is the pattern between all the different kinds of DLB? I’m definitely still chewing this one over, but I think the above anecdote about the angstfest hero of the video game gives me a couple of clues.

    1) The male hero has REALLY SUFFERED. His Grievous Angst is permissible because it’s proportioned to the Grievous Tragedy of his circumstances. The male perspective on Grievous Tragedy is seen as reliable, perhaps because manly men don’t, you know, get teary-eyed over ABBA songs. Which is something I did yesterday. Yes. True. So if a woman like me were angsting in the video game, her perspective on the Angstworthy would not be considered reliable. (Classic Simone de Beauvoir, that). After all, you might have to talk to this hypothetical video game woman (and listen!) to realize that idle tears shed over the Mamma Mia soundtrack aren’t really the same for her as Deep Grief, and shouldn’t be taken as an indication she can’t tell the difference.

    2) Full expression of the manly-man’s appetites doesn’t interfere with his role – with what we keep him around for. Angst may make the action hero dreary company, but men aren’t for company, dammit! They are for ACTION! And as every woman in a refrigerator knows, angst doesn’t take away from a man’s capacity for ass-kicking revenge. On the other hand, women are supposed to be pleasant to be around. When a woman has a big appetite – be it for food, sex, display of emotion, ambition, violence – it detracts from others’ maximal enjoyment of her. It’s awkward and inconvenient. But when a man’s extremes of emotion or appetite are awkward and inconvenient, silly woman, you just don’t appreciate the real gravity, the SIGNIFICANCE of the inciting circumstances.

    Which brings me to 3) Big appetites are for people with big NEEDS. When men are allowed and encouraged to enjoy their food and sex, among other things, I think there’s an accompanying notion that men really need these things just in order to keep going – what with their enormously exhausting and difficult lives. Being so strong and whatnot is hard work! When women display big appetites, society seems to make a little double-take: ‘Wait, what? What could you possibly NEED that for, you wee slip of a frivolous thing?’ Is a woman who displays a big appetite seen as erring in her estimation of her life’s actual demands and significance???

    That’s all I’ve got for now. ;o9

  112. I completely agree about DLBs of intelligence and anger. Passion too. I have been called “scary” literally hundreds of times in my life for being “too” smart, “too” angry, “too” able to (gasp!) advance an intelligent opinion in an argument, or for knowing/caring “too” much about things (all the way from sexism, fat rights, racism, homophobia, the importance of science, etc to musical theatre, reading, language, tv shows, the internet — basically, anything I give a shit about).

    Men have in-depth hobbies or interests and know a lot about things; women are permitted to have a passing interest in socially acceptable areas, but never so much that it distracts them from their eternal focus on pleasing The Menz, or — HEAVEN FORBID — enough that they would feel comfortable CONTRADICTING A MAN on the subject.

    This is because on the one hand we’re supposed to aspire to, and work to achieve, something as close to the feminine ideal as possible — and yet, at the same time, do so with the current acceptable minimum of artifice.

    I think it’s more with the appearance of the current acceptable minimum of artifice. If it takes you eating 800 calories and exercising for two hours a day to stay a Socially Accpetable Shape, then that’s what you’re supposed to do, we just don’t want to know about it.

    Although, I suppsoe you can brag to other women about it and get Morality Points for your suffering. It’s more the same guy who thinks he gets to judge you based on whether your choice of entree is accepatble to him who doesn’t want to know that you’ll be throwing up that steak afterward, or doing two extra hours in the gym tomorrow to “make up for it”. He wants to enjoy how you look; he absolutely doesn’t want to know about the reality behind it. (Because women aren’t human, you know.)

    A woman’s right to anger ends way before that anger is likely to have an impact, and she for sure is not allowed to be “proactively angry” – temper tantrums are far preferable to, “Okay, I’m pissed, and and there will be consequences.

    God, shiloh, you are so incredibly right. SO right. “Proactively angry”, what an amazing way of putting it. I seriously might print that out and stick it on my wall.

    And yeah, women are allowed to be exactly as angry and frustrated as can be fixed by a hug, a pint of ice cream, a bath, or a nice dinner. (Sitting down and figuring out how to change things for the better is not on the cards.)

    Fuck that noise. I’m an actual human being; I sometimes have *entire emotions* that can’t be fixed by those four things.

  113. Per make up and salad nibblers mentioned above. I once read a “How to Get a Man to Love You” article. It told the reader to keep modern looking, streamed line cleansing products in her bathroom rather than girly looking jars and potions. How ridiculous on so many levels. Was it written to take up space or did the author have special insight based on her love life? Who knows? I despise when women police other women for their own good. Apparently there are standards that must be maintained.

    I told a co-worker about a new swim suit I bought. She said “you are not going to wear a bikini, are you? I explained that it was a tankini which in my opinion is a great invention. I appreciate it most when I have to pee. Anyway, she expressed relief and said she was worried.

  114. If something is truly outrageous, it calls for true outrage

    On the other hand, women are supposed to be pleasant to be around. When a woman has a big appetite – be it for food, sex, display of emotion, ambition, violence – it detracts from others’ maximal enjoyment of her. It’s awkward and inconvenient. But when a man’s extremes of emotion or appetite are awkward and inconvenient, silly woman, you just don’t appreciate the real gravity, the SIGNIFICANCE of the inciting circumstances

    Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

    Also, it detracts from others’ maximal enjoyment of her — this, I think, might be part of the reason that people get so weirded out by women who have real, in-depth, marginally obsessive hobbies (the way men do all the time), or know a lot about things — because it suggests a life and interests outside of being maximally enjoyable for others at all times. If you’re focusing on something that’s important to you, you’re not focusing on my needs, and THAT IS WHAT WOMEN ARE FOR.

  115. I have been called “scary” literally hundreds of times in my life for being “too” smart, “too” angry, “too” able to (gasp!) advance an intelligent opinion in an argument, or for knowing/caring “too” much about things (all the way from sexism, fat rights, racism, homophobia, the importance of science, etc to musical theatre, reading, language, tv shows, the internet — basically, anything I give a shit about).

    Annnnnd, that’s where I lost it. The combined insights of Shiloh and Caitlin have just made me engage in a (very undainty) sob fest.

    Because I’m saying goodbye to lots of people right now, people whom I care about and will miss, but whom I know or at least suspect find me verrrrry intense and “scary” smart and TOO EMOTIONAL and why must I overthink things so?, etc.

    And, you know, if you find me too intense on a day-to-day basis just imagine how I am when I’m saying goodbye, right? So I sort of feeling like I’m alienating people I love in the process of saying goodbye to them, and it sucks.

    Eh, I know, cry me a river, it’s so hard to be meeeee, blah blah blah. I’m not saying it’s up there with the plague or anything. It’s just what Caitlin’s comment made me think of. Well, anyway, thanks for the therapy, Internet. :)

  116. littlem, I love you for this:
    So is it important for each of us to ask ourselves how much of that we cling to as the “ideal” womanhood model, and, IMO, more importantly, why??

    It is vitally important to the acceptance of everything that we, as women of all races, creeds and sizes, are. The othering of anything that does not meet with white male middle-class approval (and, by extension, female approval by women who maintain the status quo) is used to control us, to make us “desireable”, and to ensure that we don’t rise up as one and take over. Anything that sits outside that very narrow parameter (size, race, disability, sheer orneriness) must be squashed or rendered invisible by playing on insecurities and the myth that having a man approve of us is all that matters. The DLB is used by the patriarchy (which hurts men as well as women – how many men would prefer not to have to take honking huge bites of stuff, but would prefer to share it equally? Okay, not enough, but still) to dictate how much women are allowed to have of anything, and still retain privileged status.

    Lives proscribed by the DLB are not lives, they’re half-lives. And acceptance of the DLB perpetuates our own othering.

    (Uh, long-time reader, first time commenter. Love this blog.)

  117. Welcome to commenting, Laura M! :) Dang, way to start with a bang… I think I need to stitch your comment on a throw pillow, and then bonk myself on the head with it whenever I find myself giving a rat’s ass about being 100 percent Dude Approved.

  118. 100 percent Dude Approved.

    Hee.

    (That is likely to be my only contribution to this thread, which was already WAY too smart for me by the time I started reading it.)

  119. @Jmars: That’s exactly what this post made me think of! In the book, Gone with the Wind, Mammy goes into great detail about how Scarlett has to eat so she only takes DLB of barbecue, while Scarlett says she really WANTS to eat the barbecue, but Mammy says ladies don’t do that. Then Mammy laces Scarlett into her corset, to look skinnier for Ashley.
    And I was in jr. high when I read it and saw the movie, going on my annual grapefruit diets my mom put me on. (heavy sigh).

  120. Another DLB that I don’t think has been mentioned yet is exercise. Being a ‘gym bunny’ is ok, looking superhot because you’ve been to the gym is ok, ‘taking care of yourself’ is ok. But God forbid you go too far, do exercise because you *enjoy* it or if you end up too muscled, too thin, too strong (look at the uproar at Madonna’s arms vs. Michelle Obama’s perfect arms, for instance. One is just enough gym, the other way too much).

    I think the food=sex appetite thing is really interesting. It really feeds into a lot of the negative images we have of black and other ethnic minority women, who are stereotypically a) fat and b) sexual predators/insatiable/oversexed. It’s a WHOA! OUT OF CONTROL FEMALE! response.

  121. Not sure about exercise but definitely muscle… once you’ve taken more than a dainty bite of muscle people feel authorized to say that you look like a man. Which is probably partly about the muscle, and partly about the fact that that level of muscle implies a kind of excess, which unless it’s an excess of sentimentality is pretty much the province of men.

  122. @Laura M so well and succinctly put; (and, by extension, female approval by women who maintain the status quo) is used to control us,

    The concept of “female approval” is of great interest to me. It absolutely makes me cringe when another woman tells me how she hates women bosses or that she will never work for one again. This disdain for women managers is based on stereotypes, confirmation bias and a belief that women are less than and that is more prestigious to have a male boss.

    Anyone have a witty, insightful remark that will challenge this way of thinking?

    I am woman who supervises employees and I am not like that never seems to work.

  123. Eh, I know, cry me a river, it’s so hard to be meeeee, blah blah blah. I’m not saying it’s up there with the plague or anything. It’s just what Caitlin’s comment made me think of.

    A Sarah, I think you were taking a DLB of attention! Your problem doesn’t have to be as bad as the plague for it to be important and worth discussing.

    But I often feel that way myself. While it is great to keep our own issues in perspective, lest we risk defining the world by our own experiences, I think women are expected to take it to the extreme. We can mention our issues, but we must be sure to downplay them, as nothing we experience is really that important. If we demand attention in any way, as previously discussed, we are too scary, too demanding, too selfish…

  124. We can mention our issues, but we must be sure to downplay them, as nothing we experience is really that important. If we demand attention in any way, as previously discussed, we are too scary, too demanding, too selfish…

    Omg, this is so my life right now.

  125. Thank you A Sarah! I very much appreciate that you consistently get me thinking. At the age of 33, I am finally realizing that the DLB is just not for me. That, in fact, the DLB is a construct, a fantasy for which I was not consulted. That I don’t have to try to fit into the conforms of “a lady does it this way”. Bahumbug. A lady does it however she damn pleases (no animals were harmed in the production of this film – of course).

    A friend of mine is preparing for a home birth, she is very pregnant, emotional, excited and a bit nervous. Anytime she tears up (even just a bit), raises her voice an octave in excitement or even picks up her tempo (just a tad), her mother says “calm down, lets just calm down…” HELLO!!!? This is her baby thats about to be born, its a beautiful wonderful and excitment worthy event. Yet her mother feels she needs to “calm down”.

    DLB my Arse!

  126. No no no, they just heard from other white crunchy virtuous eaters, and saw on the teevee, that there were poor people of color in the inner city who were miserable wretches in need of produce. So they decided to help. Without being asked.

    Yes, ‘without being asked’. There’s the rub.

    Ironically, people who garden often have tons of extra vegetables they want to get rid of. It doesn’t have to be about crunchy virtuosity at all, but handwringing over the poor veggieless inner city people is so thoughtless.

  127. I have been called “scary” literally hundreds of times in my life for being “too” smart, “too” angry, “too” able to (gasp!) advance an intelligent opinion in an argument, or for knowing/caring “too” much about things (all the way from sexism, fat rights, racism, homophobia, the importance of science, etc to musical theatre, reading, language, tv shows, the internet — basically, anything I give a shit about).

    Caitlin FTW. The word used about me is “intimidating”. Because I’m so boorish about stating my opinions? I don’t think so. Because I’m so forceful about speaking up? Almost never happens, actually. Because I don’t listen to other people? Um, nooo….

    It seems to have something to do with my demeanor–like if I SAY something instead of asking? without making my voice go up at the end of the sentence? like I’m deferring my right to have an opinion to whoever’s listening? Yeah.

    I do something I’ve come to call (in my head) the Mommy Voice because that’s the only venue in which a woman’s allowed to sound firm or confident in her knowledge or abilities. It’s firm and kind, even sweetly engaging…but it’s confident. It sounds like the speaker (me) is assuming that she’ll be listened to because she’s a person and she’s talking. And THAT is what’s scary, apparently.

  128. @Jae: A Sarah, I think you were taking a DLB of attention! Your problem doesn’t have to be as bad as the plague for it to be important and worth discussing.

    WAH! omg, Jae, you are so right… I totally was! (I love SP so much for being the kind of place where these kinds of things get said.)

    @Cara: It doesn’t have to be about crunchy virtuosity at all, but handwringing over the poor veggieless inner city people is so thoughtless.

    Well put. And incidentally I think you and chava and others have drawn the distinction better than I did originally. Am I right in thinking the “icky” bit in the end of the original post was what came across as most dismissive? Because it’s true, not every white middle class person who is concerned about food justice issues does so because deep down they like thinking of their own refined eating habits in contrast to the boorish habits of those whom they imagine living a certain way. I appreciate the discussion on this because it’s clarified and corrected some of my thoughts, so thanks y’all.

    SP love all around, is what I’m saying.

  129. (And of course not every person who cares about food justice issues is white or middle class, but I was sort of figuring that went without saying and we were talking about a particular phenomenon of white middle-class do-gooderism.)

  130. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the “dainty little bite” = “non-threatening woman” angle (though Nia’s historical analysis seems to touch on this). I thought that society wants women to be small. (If you’re tall, the pressure to be rail thin is even greater than if you’re short … don’t argue with me, I’m tall! :) ) A woman with a voracious appetite (for food) is threatening because she may also have a voracious appetite for sex that the man can’t satisfy (or just one man can’t satisfy), and anyway if she continues to eat like that, she might grow into an enormous blob whose gluttony can no longer be supported by the family. That unconscious stuff.

    Of course, today it is fashionable for a man to be impressed by a woman’s voracious appetite (for food), because that means she might be a tiger in bed, too. But only if she’s small. See? Somehow, you have to pay. The woman must be smaller than the man, so that he does not feel … you know.

    And don’t you think (asking sheepishly, just as an aside) men suffer from the “dainty little cry” problem more than women?

    Thank you for the discussion, A Sarah.

  131. its okay to take a DLB of self-reliance. Be smart, socially acceptable appearance (i.e. pretty, thin), have a nice career, your own place, etc, but only UNTIL a nice big strong man comes to marry you and then “take care of you.”

    To be a self-reliant person and not want a husband is seen as ‘wrong’ – don’t you want someone to “take care of you”

  132. We can mention our issues, but we must be sure to downplay them, as nothing we experience is really that important. If we demand attention in any way, as previously discussed, we are too scary, too demanding, too selfish…

    Yes – this my life right now also

  133. We can mention our issues, but we must be sure to downplay them, as nothing we experience is really that important. If we demand attention in any way, as previously discussed, we are too scary, too demanding, too selfish…

    Yes – this my life right now also

    Thirded. I’m about to go on a family vacation, and I set some boundaries, and my younger sister came back at me saying I am “limiting myself”, and “making myself a victim.”

    Hmmm. That leads me to another thought. Definitely examine the DLB, and figure out why you’re looking at taking a DLB of anything…and then, if you truly only WANT a DLB, that’s fine too. You don’t HAVE to take a BHP all the time, to prove your FA and/or feminist cred.

  134. “We can mention our issues, but we must be sure to downplay them, as nothing we experience is really that important. If we demand attention in any way, as previously discussed, we are too scary, too demanding, too selfish…”

    I read a book by Deborah Tannen about communication and miscommunication between mothers and daughters. She referenced an interesting study which showed that the long-standing pattern of family dinners that included, “So how was everyone’s day?” was really more like, “Let’s everyone tell Daddy (who was at work all day) how our days (at home) were,” and for the most part, it would be the mothers who were talking more at length about their problems, their frustrations, etc. So a lot of girls kind of subconsciously get the message that “demanding” a lot of attention is negative, in other words, they don’t really want to be like their mothers, so they’ll be a little more restrained in expressing their anxiety. Interesting that maybe even the same mothers might tell their daughters not to be such drama queens, yet they themselves may have dominated dinner with exaggerated retellings of all the minutiae of everything that had happened to them all day.

    That said, there is nothing wrong with exaggerating the minutiae of your day for comic effect. Or being like your mother, for that matter.

  135. littlem, I love you for this:
    So is it important for each of us to ask ourselves how much of that we cling to as the “ideal” womanhood model, and, IMO, more importantly, why??

    Heh. I’m glad somebody does.

    Because for all the other scintillating points that are being made in the thread, I’m still seeing an awful lot of DLD&D – that would be “dainty little ducking and dodges” – around it.

    And perhaps the prevailing consensus is that it’s not as interesting or immediately compelling a subtopic as some of the others.

    (With which I obviously disagree, or I wouldn’t have raised it – I think it’s actually central to the topic, especially if one is going to discuss the assumptions that support kyriarchal oppression, and particularly the collusions that hold those assumptions together – but …)

    And it’s probably pretty clear by now that I have my own thoughts as to why some of the DLD&D dance variants might be going on, but I’m far more interested in what you all think.

    (And for those thinking “And you are …?” please see comment upthread – I’ve been away awhile, but I do have a doctor’s note. :D)

    And, as has already been said upthread re: the rest of your comment , Laura M. — way to start out with a bang.

  136. I hate the word ‘dainty’ with a vengeance, because when I was growing up it was everything a woman, sorry, lady, was supposed to be and I wasn’t. Yuck.

    Fat Nutritionist: I know this isn’t quite what you meant, but what you said immediately got me thinking of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – civilisations going through the stages of Survival, Enquiry and Sophistication,summed up in the respective questions: ‘How can we eat?’, ‘Why do we eat?’ and ‘Where shall we have lunch?’. Adams was probably onto something there.

    Kudos to Anwen for the Mr. Cholmondeley-Warner sketch. Classic. And on that note, a DLB that strikes me and that’s also demonstrated there, as well as intellect, is speech. Suitably frivolous subject matter, and the whole thing of giving off witty, bright, appreciative little soundbites, but not hogging the conversation or, heaven forbid, arguing. (I think of Liz Lochhead’s poem ‘Men Talk’ – even the words for supposedly typically ‘female’ speech sound small and trivial, is part of her point, I think.)

    Also, volume. I don’t know about anyone else but I was raised with constant shushing and ‘Don’t talk so loud!’…and only when I joined a theater company in my 20s did I discover that the ‘shouting’ I’d been raised to avoid was normal speech and that I’d more or less been going round whispering.

    Also, it detracts from others’ maximal enjoyment of her — this, I think, might be part of the reason that people get so weirded out by women who have real, in-depth, marginally obsessive hobbies (the way men do all the time), or know a lot about things — because it suggests a life and interests outside of being maximally enjoyable for others at all times. If you’re focusing on something that’s important to you, you’re not focusing on my needs, and THAT IS WHAT WOMEN ARE FOR.

    Caitlin, being a woman with what I now realize is most probably Asperger syndrome, looking back over my life there have been two prevalent messages people have tried to drum into me: ‘Be more sociable’ (even when it was difficult for me) and ‘Don’t be so intense’ (meaning don’t have obsessions, or at least don’t let them show). It’s ironic that the behaviors they were trying to prevent might not have raised eyebrows in a lot of the boys I knew, yet that Aspergers is still spotted more often, and earlier, in boys – it’s believed to be because girls experience such huge social pressure to be ‘normal’, which means being as other-oriented as possible even if you’re not made that way.

    And on the real and complex link between appetites for sex and food, a little OT maybe but the description of obese women in this made me angry, not in DLBs but big steaming dollops with extra chilli:
    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/relationships/article6623338.ece

  137. It seems to have something to do with my demeanor–like if I SAY something instead of asking? without making my voice go up at the end of the sentence? like I’m deferring my right to have an opinion to whoever’s listening? Yeah.

    LOL, Cara.

  138. @littlem — I’m so glad you’re back, and I’m curious about that Dr’s note. :)

    I did a dainty little duck and dodge because the plain truth of it is, I still try to be dainty because I want some man to really really really like me a lot and to say, “WOW, I totally GET you and you’re AWESOME and I LOVE your intensity even BEYOND its entertainment value to me, and also even though I’m HARD TO GET TO KNOW, you, A Sarah, YOU have penetrated all those hard-to-get-to-know layers and showed me the person I didn’t even know I was and FOR THAT I will always ALWAYS love you and confide in you and make you my SPECIAL SOUL MATE PERSON!”

    Because somewhere along the line I learned that it doesn’t count as much or reflect as well on me if a woman says all that.

    So the dodge is because that’s sort of ouchie to admit, and also embarrassing.

  139. (If you’re tall, the pressure to be rail thin is even greater than if you’re short … don’t argue with me, I’m tall! :)

    I’m not trying to argue, Lucy *ducks* but I’m not sure it’s comparative.

    I’ve seen as many of my short GFs struggle with “don’t eat that, one pound looks like five on you!” as I’ve seen tall GFs struggle with “well you can’t get *fat”, you’re so big anyway; you’ll scare everyone!”

    (I’m of medium height. Which is “too tall” for a dancer, but i digress.)

    I just think it’s more powerful to focus on the collective oppressions *everyone* faces, assuming we’re ultimately aiming for deconstruction, than to focus too much on the divide-and-conquer technique of differing type or degree.

    (IMO comparisonitis is at the center of capitalism run amok and awry and one of the central reasons most women are miserable, but that’s another rant for another day.)

  140. BTW, Lucy, I am typing really fast b/c I have to run to a meeting and meant to give you a compliment of gratitude –

    “Interesting that maybe even the same mothers might tell their daughters not to be such drama queens, yet they themselves may have dominated dinner with exaggerated retellings of all the minutiae of everything that had happened to them all day.”

    TYVM!!!! for saving me a couple grand in therapy bills right there. For serious.

  141. Thirded. I’m about to go on a family vacation, and I set some boundaries, and my younger sister came back at me saying I am “limiting myself”, and “making myself a victim.”

    Oh Lord.

    I also am about to go on vacation with my family, for the first time in forever, so I can definitely relate. Especially since we are all in a family room. There is already talk about the needs of my dad, who has insomnia, and how maybe all the rest of us gals might stay in one half of the suite so that he can have the other to himself in case he wants to fall asleep with the TV. And I am having such trouble bringing up my own need for privacy and a sleeping space that doesn’t have four other beings crammed into it, without getting the “bad daughter” face.

    So a lot of girls kind of subconsciously get the message that “demanding” a lot of attention is negative, in other words, they don’t really want to be like their mothers, so they’ll be a little more restrained in expressing their anxiety.

    That is so interesting, though I do wonder: what does it say about fathers role in this? If the father was really interested in the mother’s day (in the situation described in the book), it seems like girls would get the idea that people want to listen to them. I imagine that disinterested nature of the listeners really reinforces the DLB situation of attention.

  142. littlem, I love you for this:
    So is it important for each of us to ask ourselves how much of that we cling to as the “ideal” womanhood model, and, IMO, more importantly, why??
    well, to be fair, that model of womanhood isn’t always something you get to pick-it’s pretty hardcore pushed on at least us richer white womenfolk. And there can be real and tangible consequences for breaking it-as I’m sure most fat women know. so it’s easy to say “yeah, that’s a f-ed up model” but nobody asked my vote, ya know? Now does that mean nobody should question these ideals, not at all. but it does mean that sometimes we have to start with smaller changes. Does that count as a duck and dodge? maybe. but I still think it’s an important fact of life to acknowledge-that not everyone has the ability to be radical. The consequences can be too great.

  143. DLB of our time and energy. Think of the concept of “me time” and ponder how it implies that the vast majority of our time belongs to other people.

  144. I’m about to go on a family vacation, and I set some boundaries, and my younger sister came back at me saying I am “limiting myself”, and “making myself a victim.”

    This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Talking about your needs and saying that you plan to get them met and how you plan to do it is making yourself a victim.

    It’s like saying “peacekeeping missiles”. Or “freedom is slavery”.

  145. A Sarah you’re dead on. I don’t even have much to add accept to say that I physically can’t eat in front of other people. So I totally avoid going to dinner with colleagues, coworkers etc because I know I’m going to be nervous about people judging me for what I eat.

    I’m also a woman who’s mother asked her before a date ‘honey why don’t you show your softer side to this young man?’ She also told me that I need to wear makeup the other day because ‘everybody looks better with it.’ I know she was trying to be helpful but I’m fluent in Fatsmartchick-momese and I know that the translation of those two statements would be ‘you’re a pushy, plain looking, fat broad who men are scared of… so your spinsterdom is all your damned fault…but I hate your dad and men are worthless.’ It’s a very subtle language and takes years to learn. Uh huh.. yep… struggled with an eating disorder… and so did she. I don’t think its a coincidence.

    I so need to comment on this:

    snip>”it brought to mind another image of women’s “appetite” and “desire” that I have been mulling over. I’m thinking specifically of the “girls kissing girls in order to turn on the boys” phenomenon (GKGTOB). I have no problem whatsoever with girls kissing other girls (I’ve done it and enjoyed it quite a bit), but I do have a problem with the “in order to turn on the boys” part of the phenomenon.”> end snip

    IN-FREAKING-DEED!

    And here’s what I think really highlights the inherent sexism and homophobia in this trope: you rarely find two men who are willing to do this for a woman. Now, I’ve changed my name up top because this is so personal and I’m totally outing myself.

    There is nothing hotter to me than two dudes together. 9 times out of 10 I watched Queer as Folk hoping to see boys getting it on. In fact, I’ve been known to watch a little gay porn along with my lesbian porn. (and for the second wavers out there.. yeah I have issues with it too and I wrestle with that and I’m kinda torn on the whole thing*pace Andrea Dworkin*) And maybe I get a little too excited about watching Taledega Nights than most highly educated feminists…

    Occasionally I cruise Craig’s List casual encounters because I like to daydream that someday my vanilla lesbian sex will blossom into something else entirely. And I always check to see if there are two dudes out there willing to get it on for me or just ask me to join in. (The MM4W section for all you CL regulars.) None. It’s either straight couples or two dudes who really just want fill two holes together but never touch each other. I haven’t looked at other cities but if TV is any indication you’re never going to see Usher make out with 50 cent and Justin Timberlake on TV ala Madonna et al whether you live in Birmingham or San Francisco.

    Now, my gay pals will say ‘its because we like men’. Fine. I understand. I know you’re not attracted to women. I won’t go into details how i know this but I know first hand that more than a few men have bi-tendencies and will act on those given the right circumstances. But I suspect that we see few of the MM4W scenarios because it totally turns the tables on how women are supposed to behave in the sack. Suddenly women are the consumers and gazers and men are the objects of desire. Two men even! It’s like eating a whole pizza- unheard of! Shameful! It’s only acceptable if she allows herself to be a human PVC pipe ( and that’s totally okay for those women who may like those scenarios and I’m sorry if I appear to be making light. I do think that in terms of porn it usually looks dehumanizing but I’d be totally okay if you’d like to set me straight on that) because then she’s the dirty girl who’s going to hell anyway. right? ugh.

  146. kb, I definitely agree to this….”but I still think it’s an important fact of life to acknowledge-that not everyone has the ability to be radical. The consequences can be too great.”

  147. This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Talking about your needs and saying that you plan to get them met and how you plan to do it is making yourself a victim.

    @Cara – I think the actual problem is, I talked about my needs, and how to get them met, and asked my family not to discuss one certain topic with me. Therefore, requiring effort and restricting my family’s rights. What about my right to good mental health?

  148. Another thing to add to the DLB list: music and movies. Apparently only boys are connoisseurs of musicians and indy film makers. I just thought that was normal because all of my gal pals were obsessed with new music, getting bootlegs, going to shows- whether the bands were hot or not. As I got older I was wierded out by how dudes thought my obsession was ‘novel’ or ‘quirky’…witness ‘High Fidelity’.

    “I don’t mean to start repeating here, but has anyone mentioned Humor as a category where DLB are expected?”

    Hello… Judd Apatow! As much as I love his movies, how many more funny nerd boy high school movies are we going to get? How about some movies about funny high school girls? My friends and I were just as funny as those boys and probably much naughtier… The only one that came close was Nick and Nora but it still was all about a het love story…and the blonde shiksa was a dumbass… so still a lot of hackneyed tropes were slayed.

  149. “So how was everyone’s day?” was really more like, “Let’s everyone tell Daddy (who was at work all day) how our days (at home) were,” and for the most part, it would be the mothers who were talking more at length about their problems, their frustrations, etc. So a lot of girls kind of subconsciously get the message that “demanding” a lot of attention is negative, in other words, they don’t really want to be like their mothers, so they’ll be a little more restrained in expressing their anxiety. Interesting that maybe even the same mothers might tell their daughters not to be such drama queens, yet they themselves may have dominated dinner with exaggerated retellings of all the minutiae of everything that had happened to them all day..”

    Personal observations on this from the mother at home perspective: 1) you’d better exaggerate and make it dramatic because we all know that things that women do, especially in the home, are intrinsically unimportant and boring and must be made more entertaining if anyone is going to listen. 2) Where did the message that demanding attention was negative come from? Was Dad listening to all this with barely concealed boredom? 3) Who gets to say what’s minutiae? 4) Maybe Dad doesn’t participate much because getting him to share anything is like pulling teeth. (How was your day? Fine. Did that project go well? Yes.)

    I reiterate that this is from my perspective, and I appreciate that there are mothers out there that do squelch their daughters, but there was just something about the way the study was framed by Tannen as a problem created by the mothers that rang a little bell….

  150. “i love your intensity even beyond its entertainment value” THIS.
    Whenever I take anything seriously, I’m told off for it, for being too intense, that I need to lighten up, like everyone else here I’d wager. I can just hear my ex telling me he liked the fact that I got passionate about things-except when it got in the way of course. Except when it meant that I didn’t approve of things he was doing, and said so. Not that entertaining, after that.
    I think the part of life where people expect me to take DLBs is anything related to conversation/intelligence/disagreeing with teh menz.
    I’m well-versed in a lot of subjects, mainly because I spent the best part of my life shut away from people reading books, due to shyness-and it just doesn’t register. It drives me crazy. It doesn’t help that I’m only twenty and look young. Most men I meet assume that i’ll respectfully listen to their views and ideas, and it just doesn’t compute when I disagree. And then I get told off by the group for “not letting him express himself”.
    Fuck that noise.
    (first comment here-not adding much to the discussion, but can I say you’re all awesome?one of the most interesting comment threads ever.)

  151. “No one ever told me that I wasn’t supposed to be just like all my uncles, so that’s how I am. But yeah”

    Yeppers! And its a catch 22. On one hand you’re applauded for being 100 percent dude approved. On the other hand you get shit from men and women about not being feminine enough. You also get stuck in the friends category very easily (cause guys don’t want to date women they actually might be friends with- that might mean they’re gay LOL Better to be with a woman who’s penis- approved that you hate ; ) )

    On Jamie Oliver:
    I’m sad he did that to the chicken. On the other hand, at least in the states, that’s pretty close to how fowl are slaughtered because they’re not covered under the Humane Slaughter Act. They don’t have to be stunned prior to slaughter. Its also why poultry is forbidden in my home. (and when I saw this I’m usually labeled a soft hearted hippie chick who doesn’t understand how rural life works because I’m a city girl…and ‘real’ women eat meat)

    As for getting kids to eat more veggies, I think its a sadistic kind of concern troll that refuses to realize that a LOT of veggies like spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts etc taste like SHIT to a child’s pallet. It’s literally torture to make kids eat some of the ‘healthy’ food we think they should be eating. I’d rather a kid eat what they truly want and expose them to things as their pallets mature than torment them with things that some grown ass adults don’t even want to eat.

  152. Susan Bordo rules OK, but she’s not the be-all/end-all of cultural studies and fat/gender– Some sources I think are even better on DLB issues are *Am I Thin Enough Yet?* by Sharlene Hesse-Biber, *Never Too Thin* by Roberta Pollack Seid, of course the classic *The Obsession* by Kim Chernin, and a book on advertising and female bosy image that I can’t find now (with far less excuse than you have for Bordo)–aaargh– Ah, *Putting on Appearances: Gender and Advertising* by Diane Barthel.

  153. @Older Than Dirt: “but there was just something about the way the study was framed by Tannen as a problem created by the mothers that rang a little bell….”

    Oh, I agree with much of what you say. The idea of taking a dainty little bite of complaining or exaggerating reminded me of that part of the book. I think you’re right, that much of the reason mothers would “exaggerate” has to do with their husbands’ lack of participation in the dinner conversation. I know that with my dad, his excuse was always that he was “tired.” He didn’t want to talk about his day, because he (like a lot of dads, I think) didn’t want to talk about work at home. Men’s worlds are compartmentalized like that, where they traditionally deal with work at work and home is a work-free sanctuary where they retreat to being cared for by women. So not only could my dad not talk during dinner, he also couldn’t do things like get up to answer the telephone (even if no one else was home, even if I was in the middle of practicing piano, even if my mom’s hands were covered in goo from dinner prep or she was downstairs folding laundry and couldn’t even hear the phone) because he was “tired” from “work.” Mind you, my mom worked full-time too. My sister and I were in school and then tons of extracurricular activities until late in the evening and then we still had homework, so it’s not as if he was the only one in the house who was “tired” from “work.”

    I did identify with a lot of the book, though, being a daughter who’s not a mother yet myself. Among other things, it taught me, “Don’t marry a man who’s a verbal and emotional cripple if you don’t want to comparatively look like a neurotic psychobag when all you’re doing is healthily expressing yourself.”

  154. Not sure about exercise but definitely muscle… once you’ve taken more than a dainty bite of muscle people feel authorized to say that you look like a man. Which is probably partly about the muscle, and partly about the fact that that level of muscle implies a kind of excess, which unless it’s an excess of sentimentality is pretty much the province of men.

    FJ,</b if you haven't seen it already, you are JUST going to LOOOVE this

    http://jezebel.com/5308505/foul-ball
    .
    ASarah, I heard you. Both times. You are vewwy bw *haave, even if your nostrils flare when you cry.
    *hands you extra Kleenex box from a drawer full*

    I didn’t used to understand therapists who said “the first step to healing is awareness” until I realized the people walking around doing the most damage, who mean well, seemt to be the ones who aren’t even aware of what they’re doing. (Which is another reason I brought this thing up. There are deliberate so-called “survivalist” conformists (as well as the real ones, before anyone here thinks I don’t know anything about Stockholm Syndrome), there is other stuff, and then there are the people that don’t even know what’s going on (although this is a pretty self-aware bunch). So the fact that you not only know about it, but are willng to admit it (and everyone, of course, has a few different issues to unpack with this)? I’m not in charge (I’m never in charge, I’m sure it’s obvious why) but if I were you would get a big lollipop and to get to go to the head of the class.

    I will be back.

    kb, I’m not sure I have it in me to unpack your entire comment, and I’m not sure that’s my place.
    *lodges tongue firmly in cheek*

    So I will just say this:
    1) “that model of womanhood isn’t always something you get to pick”

    Well … yes, it is.

    Not saying that there will not be evil, ugly consequences — especially in North America (although I’m not so sure I’d fling “rich and white” so quickly and inescapably together if you’re running around with wealthy people from abroad if *I* were you, but that’s just me) if you don’t. Not only do I agree with you about that, but I think it’s one of the core points of the entire post.

    Also, however, I do think that assuming that people wrestling with the choice are either all rich or all poor, and/or all white or all another color (which for us multculti types also nudges yet another set of issues – but I digress) also oversimplifies the issue.

    A great deal. Sometimes to the point of derailment. I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty.

    (However, when those layers are added to the discussion, there are additional nuances to deconstruct — and I get the sense you’re already “feeling made uncomfortable”, which is the scourge of DLB-etiquette — so I’ll stop there on that point.)

    2) I am fascinated – fascinated – by what you’ve decided to define as “radical”.
    Where did that come from, anyway?

    I mean, where I come from, “radical” is Mary Daly. Angela Davis. Ms. Bhutto.
    Or, if you’re one of those doobs from South Carolina, Secretary Clinton or our FLOTUS in her Princeton days.
    How does an epithet sharing such noble company attach to my little description up there?

  155. I reiterate that this is from my perspective, and I appreciate that there are mothers out there that do squelch their daughters, but there was just something about the way the study was framed by Tannen as a problem created by the mothers that rang a little bell…

    I thought I’d read that book pretty thoroughly, and I don’t remember Prof. Tannen saying it quite that way (though I’ve read several of her books, and she does have a tendency to generalize, and I’ve never liked the “let’s blame Mom for everything” model).

    Is that a quote? Did she really phrase it exactly that way?

  156. About DLB’s of attention/speech, I think one of the biggest places I’ve witnessed this is in classrooms. Women will preference their question with qualifiers like “Maybe I don’t know enough” or “Correct me if I’m wrong” which leaves people the ability to answer simply with “You don’t” or “You’re wrong” (which unfortunately I have seen people answer with). Often, women also won’t continue talking in an attempt to understand where they might be wrong because it would be taking up valuable class time and surely it’s just a problem with the woman and not something that other people might be wrong about or the woman may in fact be right.

    This was actually pointed out to me by a female prof when I was in undergrad and I’ve worked really hard to not preface my questions in such a way and to think if I’m misunderstanding something, chances are a lot of other people are to.

    Regarding clinging to the “ideal woman”, I think two of the hardest parts I have letting go of are hairlessness on the body and the ability to trust myself in dressing myself.

  157. cause guys don’t want to date women they actually might be friends with- that might mean they’re gay LOL Better to be with a woman who’s penis- approved that you hate ; ) )
    *laughs herself sick*

    I’m sorry. So many other things that you said were SO awesome and insightful fur sirius. But this just shone the light on so much that I have wondered about (well past teenhood I mght add) for soo long …
    *laughs some more*

  158. The word used about me is “intimidating”. Because I’m so boorish about stating my opinions? I don’t think so. Because I’m so forceful about speaking up? Almost never happens, actually. Because I don’t listen to other people? Um, nooo….

    It seems to have something to do with my demeanor–like if I SAY something instead of asking? without making my voice go up at the end of the sentence? like I’m deferring my right to have an opinion to whoever’s listening? Yeah.

    Yes. This. I don’t dominate conversations, I don’t talk over others, and I’ll change my mind and say if I was wrong. What I do do is state my opinion as if it is valid, knowledge-based, and a legitimate contribution to the debate, without any apologies or simpering or excusing myself before I’ve even started. This, apparently (coming from a woman), is just too much.

    Think of the concept of “me time” and ponder how it implies that the vast majority of our time belongs to other people.

    Wooooaaahhh. *mind is quietly blown*

    I think the actual problem is, I talked about my needs, and how to get them met, and asked my family not to discuss one certain topic with me. Therefore, requiring effort and restricting my family’s rights.

    Oh boo hoo for them. Adult human beings have needs they are entitled to have respected, especially by people who theoretically love or care for them. Until your family are ready acknowledge that, massive well done for setting boundaries to protect yourself.

    but there was just something about the way the study was framed by Tannen as a problem created by the mothers that rang a little bell….

    Mothers are always the problem, OlderThanDirt. Didn’t you get the memo?

    And then I get told off by the group for “not letting him express himself”.

    Oh god, yes. On a related note (and this is a rant for another time), late week my aunt went off on me about how “you look awful; that’s a fact”, “you eat too much”, “you used to look better” etc etc — 10 minutes of unprovoked abuse (until I got out of the taxi) — and then SHE tried to claim that I had been rude to HER because when I asked her to stop speaking about my body that way and stop abusing me to my face I WAS DENYING HER THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS HER OPINION.

    There is such a strong trope in our society that if you fulfill certain conditions (female, fat, non-white, etc) any fucker is entitled to say whatever they like to/about you, but contradicting them or trying to take your fair share of the conversation is in some way opressing THEM.

  159. @Bernadette Bosky — Dude, you just saved me like five hours in the library for a thing I’m working on! *blows kisses* Thank you!

  160. I think one of my comments is in moderation, perhaps for a link, but possibly also because I did not take DLBs of
    - attention
    - language moderation
    - emotion
    - rantage
    *cough*

    in that comment.

    But even though I’m not sure the thread is half-done, and even though I’m not sure there is such a thing, because it clearly touches on so many issues with which so many of us seem to struggle, I would hereby like to nominate this here post by ASarah for 2009′s Annual Best of the Fatosphere Awards.
    :D

  161. littlem, I don’t see it in the queue… Are you sure it didn’t get swallowed by the internets? I’m not sure why you’d have the impression that we’d delete one of your comments for being the opposite of a DLB.

    ETA: Found it–it got mistakenly caught by the spam filter. Hey everyone, FYI, if you’re a regular and your comment seems to have mysteriously vanished, do let us know so we can check the spam folder.

    ETA2: Now that I have found it, I’m not really sure what this is all about: ASarah, I heard you. Both times. You are vewwy bw *haave, even if your nostrils flare when you cry.
    *hands you extra Kleenex box from a drawer full*
    Seriously?

  162. I’d like to second Cara and Caitlin on the “intimidating” thing. I mean, wtf? I’ve gotten “scary,” “intimidating,” “agressive,” and ” too willful” ad infinitum (ok, “willful” was my mother in law, but still).

    For the longest time I thought people were talking about my physical presence and was somewhat flattered, not being a bodybuilder and being possessed of desires for large biceps…

    Then I thought that perhaps there was something wrong with ME, that I dominated conversations in a deeply unpleasant fashion or the like. Tried to change that for many years.

    Finally, reached a point of tentatively concluding that a woman who is both sexually confident AND intellectually assertive is just too damn much for most beings with a penis.

  163. “littlem, I don’t see it in the queue… Are you sure it didn’t get swallowed by the internets? I’m not sure why you’d have the impression that we’d delete one of your comments for being the opposite of a DLB”
    Oh dear.
    Don’t think I ever thought – or said that I thought – that being moderated meant being deleted.
    (OTOH, I guess you learn something new every day.)
    I’ve been “stuck in moderation” on other sites that included links, and I just assumed it was going to take a little extra time to get through to a main thread. It was NOT an insinuation, nor a dig. Repeat.: NOT an insinuation, nor a dig.

    “ETA2: Now that I have found it, I’m not really sure what this is all about: ASarah, I heard you. Both times. You are vewwy bw *haave, even if your nostrils flare when you cry.
    *hands you extra Kleenex box from a drawer full* Seriously?”

    Um. Seriously?
    Oh dear 2.
    This is the third internetz in three days where I’ve said something that’s been completely misinterpreted.

    (Interestingly enough — particularly in light of our discussion here — it does seem to keep happening where primary readership is female, not male. But I don’t have enough linguistics left in me to parse that one this evening.)

    But you know what we say about relationships. And also about writing.
    If several people don’t get it — whatever “it” is — you (and by “you” I mean “me”) are the factor in common.

    For fear of being further misinterpreted, I’m not even going to try to explain.
    I would like to refer you to my most recent comment before this one, in which I nominate this post for one of the Best of the Year, if my intentions are still in doubt here.

    But other than that? If you think I’ve said something inappropriate?
    Delete it.

    I think I’m done for today.

  164. (I posted this comment last night but I never checked to see if it showed up, so I may have failed to hit “submit” or it might have disappeared into the ether. Either way, I’m sorry if this is a repeat.)

    WestEndGirl wrote: I sometimes wonder if it is ever possible for women to ever truly free themselves from all the disapproval that comes from family, friends, media and society in general?

    Due to the utter impossibility of controlling what other people do, say, or think, we will never be free of judgements. We simply physically can’t stop them.

    What we can free ourselves from is caring, or letting them limit us. Or letting them define us. Yes, of course they’ll judge us on that. We can also be free enough to tell them where to stick those judgements.

    I’m another person who can’t take DLBs of intelligence. I call people on their crap. Especially if they’re making up data. I HATE that and I don’t care whose fragile ego is bruises – don’t bullshit me.

    And I don’t take DLBs of…oh, what do you call those not quite crass remarks, designed to shock a bit in a social situation, and the proper response if you’re a woman is supposed to be to blush a little, giggle a little, and pretend like you’d never think such a thing? Mostly made by men? I’m most likely to come back with something in the same vein, only a little bit more so – taking that manly bite and one upping it.

    Yes, that habit probably cost me some dates back in the day. But it earned me respect. And yes, I apparently come across as intimidating at times. It bothered me when I was younger. Not any more.

    I’m lousy at being a lady. I’m lousy at restraint for restraint’s sake. (I’m good at it when there’s a good reason, and there are, but the pseudo-reason “because it’s not done” is not a good one.)

  165. I had it very strongly brought home to me today how VERY MUCH TOO MATHY I am. I’m taking a summer math class that’s on the “secondary education” track — that is, it’s intended for future junior-high or high-school math teachers. The class is mostly women, and the study group I joined, and met with this morning, is all women. But I was the only one who said anything even remotely similar to “I like math” while we were working on our homework (… okay, actually I said “I LOVE MATH! IT’S LIKE MAGIC!” which was not a DLB at all), and the rest of the group in general treated me like I was some kind of exciting but possibly dangerous new species. The impression I get is that we’re allowed to be interested enough in math (and probably this goes for science, too) to want to spend large portions of our lives explaining it to kids and teenagers who don’t especially want to hear it, but actually enjoying it is kind of suspicious.

  166. “Women will preference their question with qualifiers like “Maybe I don’t know enough” or “Correct me if I’m wrong” which leaves people the ability to answer simply with “You don’t” or “You’re wrong” (which unfortunately I have seen people answer with).”

    This. One of my very dear, very talented, hilarious friends had the horrible habit of prefacing every single query she had with, “This is gonna sound like a really stupid question, but…” and she prefaced every single statement with, “Okay, I’m totally an idiot, but…/this is totally terrible, but…/I know you totally have better things to do, but…” And then she wondered why people were weird and distant around her. Dainty little bite of self-worth, anyone?

  167. Dainty little steps on dainty little feet was a minor theme of my mother, maternal grandmother, and aunt (mother’s sister) in my preteens and early teens. My mother and aunt compared feet, with the smallest foot as the winner, and included my younger sister and I. We were suggested not to go barefoot outside as we got older, as our feet would get bigger. My grandmother disapproved of my ‘masculine stride’, and urged small feminine steps.
    Though I liked my walk, at that age I found myself approving the dime as esthetically preferable (daintier, though worth less) than the quarter, and other aesthetic judgments I made at that age were similar – diamonds over hearts, spades over clubs, birches over oaks – and so on. When I was pregnant, hearts became beautifully rounded to me.

  168. I came to this thread late and have nothing new to add, but I wanted to say that the comments here are *amazing* and I am sitting and thinking deeply about stuff I hadn’t thought about before. And that is very awesome.

  169. Thanks, OlderthanDirt. :D Wanted to say something, felt too tired to care.

    Hope Tannen didn’t write it that way– her whole reputation is built on understanding of linguistic gender stuff, not mockery of middle-aged “hysterics.”

    The thing with the white concern-troll doing the drive-by fruiting is hilariously infuriating.

    You know, white people are wrong about food all the fucking time.

    Was flipping thru my copy of “Laurel’s Kitchen” the other day, the mid-80s edition, which was written at the start of the low-fat craze.

    Laurel, bless her heart, and her gang are exactly the kinds of white people who pronounce, and they pronounced dietary fat unacceptable. For fucks sake, her Lentil Loaf recipe comes with a caution: “This is much too rich for every day!”

    lentil loaf with a warning label! The H and I laughed about that for about fifteen minutes.

    All the science was on their side, because that’s where it always is, though. Everyone knew fat was to be avoided at all costs.

    Twenty years later, it looks to me like a funny little book that was a product of its own time and place, not a sweeping prescription on what human beings must eat in all times and places.

    Nowadays, white people in the know aren’t low-fat evangelists so much. I haven’t even met a vegetarian under the age of 40 in several years now.

    Now we’re all so sure that local, “sustainable,” organic shit will save the planet, free us all from bondage, save our souls, too. Hm.

    That said, my kids are obliged to eat some vegetables and fruit in the course of a day, but I think it’s possible to allow that much of this fixation on Green Veggies is more folkway than universal moral obligation.

  170. Oh! And as far as dude mags (and dude blogs) go, you gotta remember that the dudes who write that dreck are appealing to their audience’s very lowest common denominators. Sex, and status-seeking.

    I would hate for anyone to figure out What Women Think from reading “Cosmopolitan” and “Good Housekeeping,” for similar reasons.

    By the time your average guy turns fifty, he’s not looking so hot himself, and most of the ones I know are a lot less judgmental about the “older” female form at fifty than they were at 21.

    I remember Henry Rollins once saying he really wished he could take back some of the high and mighty judgments he passed when he was 20, that you’re lucky in life to have SOMEONE who loves you, even if they don’t measure up to some fantasy standard, because you finally realize you’re not such hot stuff yourself!

    One of his books has this passage where he excoriates “fat moms” and their “pasty white thighs” for having the temerity to EAT in PUBLIC and how it made him want to vomit. I read it when I was about thirteen.

    It’s horrible and misogynistic and it stayed with me for YEARS; reading his humble midlife apology for what a jerk he could be at 20, well, it made a lot of difference to me in a personal kind of way.

  171. I’m a woman with a larger than average appetite and it always wierds me out when, every once in a while, people react to that with visible discomfort. It’s more often women than men who comment negatively, but because of that on the rare occasions I hear it from a man I’m always sort of taken aback. I bet that I would hear it a lot more often if I was fatter (understatement much?), but even when I’ve been rather thin I’ve still encountered the “you eat like a man!” comments.

    What’s really disturbing is when women are praised for the Dainty Little Bite in such a way that it reinforces ED. I have a friend whose family always seems to have seen her tendency not to eat much as charming – they apparently remarked on it a lot when she was a child, how cute it was – and I think that allowed her ED to flourish. I doubt that a boy in the same environment would have been allowed to get away with eating so little without a whole lot of concern from his family.

    Also I’m totally with Emily on the reasons why men see ordering streak on a date as a positive. I’ve actually seen a lot of that lately, men insisting that it’s not enough that a woman is thin now, they need to know that she’ll always be thin, thus they want to know what size her mom is etc. It’s odd when you think about it – they’re basically admitting that weight is mostly genetic, which would seem to be an improvement, but at the same time they’re just using it as another way to mark women as not good enough.

  172. Oh, and another thing women are supposed to take DLBs of – knowledge of any subject matter area that is traditionally male. I do music journalism, and damn does it piss a lot of men off to realise that I know more about music than they do. Ditto politics, philosophy, anything else that men think of as their intellectual territory. In fact, confidence in your own knowledge and intellect is most definately something women are supposed to take DLBs of – insecurity is so draining for men to deal with, you know, but that doesn’t mean a woman’s being confident in her opinions isn’t emasculating. That razor thin line, walk it or else.

  173. I’ve actually seen a lot of that lately, men insisting that it’s not enough that a woman is thin now, they need to know that she’ll always be thin, thus they want to know what size her mom is etc. It’s odd when you think about it – they’re basically admitting that weight is mostly genetic, which would seem to be an improvement, but at the same time they’re just using it as another way to mark women as not good enough

    Plus, the misogyny is getting in the way of the facts in this charming little exercise. You inherit DNA equally from both parents. My mother is thin; my mother’s family are thin (all 6789540000 of them — Irish Catholics). My father and my father’s family, though, are all about the same size as me and my sister.

    So some douchebag can look at my mum all he wants to see if I’ll “always be thin”, but all he’s going to get is a WTF? moment at how small she is compared to me. I know society likes to tell us IT’S ALL THE WIMMENZ FAULT, but in this case the father is actually, unequivocally playing 50% of a role.

    (And obviously even if both your parents are thin you may have a medical condition that affects your metabolism, you may have to go on medication that has weight gain as a side-effect, your body may react differently to pregnancy or aging than your mother’s did, or any number of other possibilities. But hey, if your property doesn’t stay the way it was when you bought it, you’ve every right to get pissed off, especially if you did the homework beforehand! Amirite?)

  174. Elsajeni …actually I said “I LOVE MATH! IT’S LIKE MAGIC!” which was not a DLB at all

    Oh, I so hear you on this! It is magical isn’t it?! Being a woman and doing a maths degree gets some seriously weird reactions, from both men and women. Women are usually bemused, in a “why on earth would you want to do that” kind of way. Men generally seem to think it’s cute, in an “oh lookit the liddle gurl she finks she can do maffs” kind of way. The condescention from (mostly male) tutors gets old pretty fast – although happily they’re not all like this.

    And also, this is why I am thankful every day that I found Shapely Prose. You have blown my mind in new and exciting ways more times than I can count! I honestly feel like SP is making me a better person.

    Now I’m going go chew on the DLB some more…

  175. About Deborah Tannen, I haven’t read the book, I was responding to Lucy’s report of what she remembers. I hope Tannen didn’t frame it quite that way. I did read her book on men and women communicating a loooooong time ago and remember it as being shaded a little toward what women needed to do to be better at communicating man-style. This is a very tricky area because you can just be describing what’s happening and sound as if you’re criticizing. I know that I’ve read things since then that say that women don’t get things because they don’t ask out right despite the fact that studies have shown that women who ask outright for things can be perceived as bitchy. So I may be putting that on Tannen when it wasn’t there.

  176. @OlderThanDirt, littlem-

    It’s been a little while since I did read that Deborah Tannen book, but I don’t think she was really actually blaming the mothers. She talked a lot about how mothers who haven’t had the opportunity to reconcile a lot of their own insecurities will doubly project them onto their daughters in the form of being overly critical or guilt-tripping, but it certainly wasn’t blame. Like I said, since I’m just a daughter and not a mother and I was able to identify with a lot of what she was saying as far as my relationship with my own mother goes, I think that part (the daughter perspective) stood out a little more for me. However, the mothers were once only daughters and not mothers too, so she’s able to trace how their mothers might have affected them in a similar way.

    She also talked about how it seems like parental critique as a veneer for protection seems to be cross-cultural in a weird way, and derives from traditions and superstitions that involve, for instance, mothers saying out loud, “What an ugly baby” about their children and other peoples’ children, because if they were to speak out loud and excessively about how beautiful their baby was, the Evil Eye or the Spirits or the Fairies or whatever might come and take the baby as punishment. So (this is total thought paraphrasing, but this is what I remember/logically come to) under your mother’s picky “criticism” of your fat body or your curly hair or your big tits or whatever, she’s not necessarily really trying to tell you you’re ugly. It’s possible that she really does think you’re beautiful, but she’s aware that other people (modern-day Evil Eye) might think the thing she criticizes is ugly, or she remembers that she was criticized for the same things, and she’s trying to in her own weird way protect you from being totally surprised and hurt when someone else comments on it. But of course, that’s cold comfort, and it’s hardly ever interpreted that way. Or something. I’ll have to reread the book.

    One thing I said before, though, about mothers encouraging their daughters to take dainty little bites while they themselves are taking big honking plates, of anything: since I have no children, I wonder about where that shift occurs in motherhood, where you stop monitoring your own dainty little bites and transfer it onto your own children. Is that maybe part of what society would see as “letting yourself go” when you have kids?

  177. I hope I’ve never tried to encourage my daughter to take dainty bites but it’s been a conscious effort. By that I mean that I’ll think of something I want to warn her about or tell her to take care or shout, “Look out!” and I stop myself from saying it. I don’t say it because feminism has shown me that a lot of the caution is just another way of saying stay scared and don’t dare and keep down. She went abroad for the first time recently to a very large city and I nearly died with anxiety. I was extremely proud of myself that I never said a word about how she should restrict herself or behave.

    I do think that mothers try to protect their children from all kinds of hurts, but I am also quite aware of mothers that think that kids are there for you to talk to without any filters at all. You don’t have to be polite, you don’t have to be considerate, they’re your kids. I’ve heard people say things to their children that have made my jaw drop. Of course, they’re probably the people that don’t realize that their kids are people and not possessions but that’s a whole other discussion.

  178. ASarah, littlem, thank you for the kind words. This post has been really awesome to read.

    littlem, I think for a lot of women, it really does feel radical to drop the approval of half the people you meet – more than half, actually, because there are many women who will brutally police a woman who doesn’t take DLBs of life. I’m going to be 40 this year, and it took me until my mid-30s to realize that I could not be dainty or little enough to please people, so it was better to ferret out the people who accepted what I was as soon as I met them, and keep those people as friends. I do not have time for a man who will not accept my intelligence as equal to or higher than his.

    However, a lot of women don’t have the support goup to be able to choose this route without significant social losses. We’re taught to seek approval – we’re group animals, and being part of the group is vital for our psychological survival. Sometimes, when surrounded by people who demand that women minimize their impact, it’s hard to see beyond that group and even realize there’s another group out there. So, we conform.

    …But you knew that. Your comments make that clear. :)

    So, we conform in many ways, but self-minimization is one of the biggest (ironically). When I keep that minimization training in mind, it makes sense to me that refusing to buy into the DLB idea seems radical – it’s demanding space, demanding to be taken seriously, and demanding your fair share. Giving up the safety of group approval when you’ve been trained all your life to do anything you can to achieve it – that’s pretty radical.

  179. “Now, to relate this to the DLB issue: I think that when we tell low-income WOC, “eat this organic local kale,” but would shudder in horror if they then cooked that kale with a pork shoulder and/or some rice and beans, are reverting to this DLB paradigm which is essentially based on whiteness/white women as its default.”

    This is what my grandmother ate. My family is very, very white. We’re from the south. This isn’t all about race. My extremely rural Appalachian, dirt poor, hosiery-mill working, WHITE grandmother would cook biscuits, and pork, and beans, and cornbread. It’s southern food, not just “black” food. People from more urban areas would look down on her, assume she was eating in the “wrong” way, try to give her food bank food, etc, etc, despite her whiteness. I’m not saying there’s no race issues, but to pretend it’s all “dainty little white people being terrified of the blacks” is overly simplistic.

  180. I make a point of shoveling in big bites and cleaning my plate of heaping portions when I am eating in front of others, to prove to them that I am not depriving myself. I also do not make visits to the bathroom after eating around people I don’t know well.

    I like to think this is less fucked-up than restricting my intake when eating in front of other people. But is it really? Why do I feel the need to disprove the assumptions people make about my weight or eating habits? Why do I care so much that ignorant people gossip about my anorexia because I took half my sandwich home? And no matter how hard I try to make it obvious that I am not starving, most people don’t notice that I eat well and am athletic and go on thinking I am sick.

  181. I always assumed that DLB of actual food meant showing how little you need in the way of resources. It’s like sitting on the bus with your arms folded and your knees together so that your flesh doesn’t overhang the edges of your seat. Or always speaking in soft tones that can’t be overheard by someone you aren’t talking to. Or not laughing loudly enough that it startles people.

    It’s all about being small and unobtrusive and not needing care or consideration from others. It’s unseemly for women to take up space, use resources, or draw attention to themselves, or have private time when they don’t have to attend to the needs of husbands and children.

  182. 2) Full expression of the manly-man’s appetites doesn’t interfere with his role – with what we keep him around for. Angst may make the action hero dreary company, but men aren’t for company, dammit! They are for ACTION! And as every woman in a refrigerator knows, angst doesn’t take away from a man’s capacity for ass-kicking revenge. On the other hand, women are supposed to be pleasant to be around. When a woman has a big appetite – be it for food, sex, display of emotion, ambition, violence – it detracts from others’ maximal enjoyment of her. It’s awkward and inconvenient.

    This makes me think about the old saying that Men are supposed to DO things, while women are supposed to just BE. In other words, a man’s primary purpose is accomplishment, while a woman’s primary purpose is to please those around her.

    So if a guy wants to make a garden, he goes out, makes a garden, job accomplished.

    If a girl wants to make a garden, she goes out, makes the garden, and THEN has to find someone who finds the garden aesthetically or emotionally pleasing. The job isn’t done until she’s justified it – if the garden isn’t aestheticly and emotionally pleasing to SOMEONE ELSE, then she’s just a slacker.

    Same logic applies to science. A male scientist who does his job is praised. A female scientist who does her job extremely well may be praised, particularly if she’s pretty, but if she’s not pretty (and even if she is), that praise may be laced with an underlying, “This really isn’t the best use of your time” fretting. Because no matter how good she is as a scientist, her REAL job, her REAL responsibility to the universe is to look pretty, have an attractive personality, and otherwise PLEASE OTHERS.

    Any other accomplishments just don’t really count. And any sacrifice it takes for her to accomplish the pleasing-? Well, we all must suffer for our calling, right?

  183. @Medb nThanks for bringing that up! So true.

    But in terms of the whole kale issue, collards are the more precise green although I can’t tell much difference. I once mentioned how much I loved kale and collards. My friend who was a black woman from rural Georgia set me straight when she said ‘How can you eat kale? That’s nasty. Kale’s what you eat when you get home on Sunday after church and you don’t have any collard green or at least some mustard greens and you don’t want to go back out,. You still want some mustard greens to mix in with that kale.’

    Thereafter, this was known as the Greens Hierarchy.

  184. littlem-now that I finally saw. no, I’m not at all uncomfortable. I’ll talk about why I put rich and white in there-because the “dainty little bite” model of womanhood seems pretty specifically classed and raced as far as I’ve ever seen it. Who is considered capable of that ideal womanhood is not universal-even if the pressure is applied to everyone to fit that mold(I would say yes, but not able to really argue either way, as the only perspective I’ve lived is in fact, not poor and white. I’ve heard claims by women of color that they’re out the door for being considered real women because this ideal is raced. but I can’t speak for that experience) I am not trying to claim that only rich white women matter, or for that matter that all rich women are white, or all white women are rich. and okay, yes, you could just deal with the consequences of choosing another mode of womanhood, it sounds like. but being able to risk losing your social support takes individual resources that not everyone has. Maybe they’re working to mentally build that strength, maybe they need to stay married to someone who demands dlb to pay rent. There’s lots of situations that could make saying “I’m not doing that, deal with it or leave” untenable. And maybe that’s not what you mean by not choosing that model of womanhood. I’d really like to know, if you were trying to say something else. because I do find this idea-how to make your values compatible with survival fascinating. but I am not willing to claim that there is nobody for whom it’s either or. If this would be better in another forum, tell me, and it doesn’t have to derail here.


  185. “Now, to relate this to the DLB issue: I think that when we tell low-income WOC, “eat this organic local kale,” but would shudder in horror if they then cooked that kale with a pork shoulder and/or some rice and beans, are reverting to this DLB paradigm which is essentially based on whiteness/white women as its default.”

    This is what my grandmother ate. My family is very, very white. We’re from the south. This isn’t all about race. My extremely rural Appalachian, dirt poor, hosiery-mill working, WHITE grandmother would cook biscuits, and pork, and beans, and cornbread. It’s southern food, not just “black” food. People from more urban areas would look down on her, assume she was eating in the “wrong” way, try to give her food bank food, etc, etc, despite her whiteness. I’m not saying there’s no race issues, but to pretend it’s all “dainty little white people being terrified of the blacks” is overly simplistic.

    Uh, yeah–my family (on one side) is from Dixie, poor and white, etc, so I know how people eat. That doesn’t change the fact that the urban, northern PERCEPTION of that eating is very racially coded, which is what I was getting at.

  186. There have actually been a few “food wars” over who “owns” soul food, actually, and whether the poor black or white communities can claim it as their own. It’s probably a mixture of both, but of course niether side wants to cede a single biscuit to the other.

    In any case, I think you might have hit on something else entirely in the DLB paradigm: the idea (in the North) of all Southern women as poor, dumb, incestuous, and toothless (or, alternatively, “Southern Belles”).

  187. “That doesn’t change the fact that the urban, northern PERCEPTION of that eating is very racially coded, which is what I was getting at.”

    Except no one indicated that forcing food on people who don’t want it only takes place in the northeast, so why are you assuming that “northern perception” has any bearing on the situation? What about the food banks in Knoxville that did that to my grandmother? That wasn’t northern perception and it wasn’t racially coded – it was rich white southern people doing it to poor white southern people. No northerners or racial coding involved, same problem. I think this indicates that class plays a huge part in addition to race.

    Race can be be a factor, but so can classism and regionalism. You yourself assumed a northern “default” despite no region being named. I would argue that the marginalization of corn bread, beans, and collard greens isn’t strictly a race thing. It’s also our culture’s tendency to assume that southern = backwards hicks with no common sense. Everything about southern culture is considered inferior in mainstream culture, and it’s not just due to race.

  188. I think it’s interesting that we both slid back to “north” as “mainstream” at the end of our comments. Your last sentence “everything about southern culture is considered inferior in mainstream culture,” for example. “Mainstream culture” being defined by the liberal Northeast and West Coasts? I think these days Middle America has more in common than not with the South.

    I assumed “north” because the local, organic craze is primarily an upper class Northeast/West Coast phenomenon, and the two “coasts” seem to make up their own cultural discourse. Further, people not from the South do tend to see soul food as “black” food.

    I find it interesting that for you those foods were marginalized at the “top” of Southern society. I was at a wedding a few months ago at the very, very upscale country club in Birmingham, AL–and all those foods were served. It may have changed with time.

    Yes, class is important, and the intersection of food/class/race can be a tricky one to untangle. Still, I think that in the U.S., (as I said originally) the upper class white woman is the model for the DLB. I read back over my previous comment and I did not include class as a factor along with whiteness, I should have–they are both important, but you cannot discount race either.

  189. The whole Soul Food genre came about in the 60′s in the Black Pride movement. They were reclaiming African American ethnic traditions. Most of those leaders were from the urban north and the west coast. Unless someone knew that that those food traditions were based on the experience of being poor and living in the south, they would most likely always associate biscuits, grits, cornbread, fried chicken as black cuisine.

    Chava I would suspect that the people who put on the wedding in AL wanted to give a specifically authentic southern experience for their guests. But there would definitely be no collards or cornbread at a wedding in my neck of the woods. That’s what you eat in your home with family. And those foods were definitely not eaten by my friends in upper class homes growing up. LOL definitely not.

    This all ties back to dainty little bites. The African American community gets a lot of slack in the obesity epidemic news for ‘soul food’ because its fried, smothered, cheesy, buttery whatever. (for what southerners that usually abbreviated to ‘fried everything’ and not much more detail is given) Of course that totally de-contextualizes how the food is/was prepared traditionally- ie: not at KFC or Popeye’s. And because its considered ‘home’ cooking (read: domestic and female) we’re supposed to just abandon those food traditions because its ‘making us fat’ and we’re ‘addicted’ to sugar and fat. Adopting the foods of middle to upper middle class folks on the coasts is much more rational. That way us fat rednecks and fat black people won’t be taking up so much of their space and nobody will have to think about poverty or regional disparities in resources, labor, blah blah blah.

  190. “It’s probably a mixture of both, but of course neither side wants to cede a single biscuit to the other.

    Genius.
    (IMO, of course. ;D)

  191. @ fatsmartchick–

    Hm, that is a thought, it may have been an attempt at “authenticity,” although most of the guests were from AL, so perhaps it is a fad or something.

    Growing up my friends’ parents (all white, Bham was so segregated you never would have a chance to meet, let alone befriend, a black kid) would serve biscuits, but not collards. Fried chicken, but with a salad and some punch. Pulled pork sandwiches, but at a luncheon with petit fours. Macaroni, yes, chicken fried steak, yes–but again, with a big ham roast and a fancy dessert. Never chitlins or pork skins.

    So many of the same foods, but in a different context with different things around them.

  192. To add, just to be clear–

    I lived in the deep South about half my life and one side of the family is from there, but I never did quite master the cultural norms or get past the “err, where ARE you from, dear?” stage, so I’m by no means an utter authority on the matter.

  193. “I never did quite master the cultural norms or get past the “err, where ARE you from, dear?” stage, so I’m by no means an utter authority on the matter.”

    Bwah! Hell both of my parents grew up in the same exact town as I did (although my mom did live in the north for a couple of points in time). My great uncle looked at me one day out of the blue and says ‘you don’t sound like us! you sound like a northerner!’. He was quickly sushed as my grandmother quietly explained that ‘She can’t help it. Her mother lived in Ohio, Tommy’

  194. I’m only conscious of the fact that I’m not doing Dainty Little Bites when I’m eating crab legs. Crab legs are always messy, and where I live there aren’t any blue collar restaurants that offer them (cept that one Chinese buffet I can’t get to). So I’m sitting there in my good outfit cracking away messily and gnawing at shell to get the meat out while horrified upper crusters look on. And I’m NOT STOPPING because I love crab and it’s usually my birthday.

    I think the DLB goes hand in hand with all the other class signifiers I no longer can pull off. Good teeth, nice clothes, hair I didn’t cut or dye myself, nice shoes, actually carrying a purse, and of course, not being fat at everyone. (Or at least, not being inelegantly fat at everyone.)

    The DLB is also tied to dating behavior in my mind. If I were still on the market, I might be nibbling on an iceberg salad or a tiny piece of steak while trying to pay attention to my date. I finally quit doing the meal date in favor of screwing guys first and then finding out if I wanted to talk to them. Another class boundary crossed, oh noes! (Also, dudes are clingier than you think! Like I promised them twu wub forebbar! I don’t miss dating.)

  195. Oh poo, forgot to add, that church can come to my neighborhood with fruits and veggies! Or just offer to church-bus a bunch of us to the grocery store once a week, that would be better! We could afford produce if we weren’t paying $3 for the bus every time.

  196. I finally quit doing the meal date in favor of screwing guys first and then finding out if I wanted to talk to them.

    Ahahaha, I started out doing this.

    (And I’m middle-class! DLB: I’m dooin it wrong.)

  197. Okay, I am about five days late to the game as usual, but I’ve been thinking about this, truly. I knew the Dainty Little Bite think resonated deeply in some way, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

    But I think this is symbolic of it: About ten years ago, I was about to get a tattoo. I showed my mother the design, and she was verrrry negative about the whole idea, but then she saw that she wasn’t going to succeed in convincing me not to get it, so she said (in a sort of “let’s be reasonable now and compromise” sort of voice): “Well, why don’t you just get them to make it very SMALL?”

    There. That is probably my most classic example. But it’s the tip of an iceberg. I think we have all kinds of DLBs in place regarding being different, being original, owning our lives.

    My daughter is now one year away from being officially, legally grown up, and she is tattoo crazy. Where we live, the law says that one CAN get tattoos at 17, but only with a parent’s signature. At 18, no signature is needed. I signed for two TEENY and inobtrusive ones when she turned 17. Then she wanted more.

    I think she’s wrong. I think she’s being compulsive. I don’t want her to get any more until she’s a lot older. and most of all, I don’t see why the hell she can’t wait even one portion of one more year, till she’s 18 and can do it without harrassing me about it.

    I told her all that, and more. She said…oh, that classic phrase… “it’s my body”. And, to (I think) my credit, that stopped me in my tracks.

    Yes. It’s no less ‘her body’ at 17 than it will be at 18, or 28. I don’t own any part of her body, and I’m not even really the custodian of it anymore, because she does all that custodial stuff rather well herself.

    It is her body. And if my signature is needed to aknowledge that, and to release it from my control, I’ll sign. What else can I do? I’m just not enough of a hypocrit to do otherwise.

    I think she may or may not regret the tattoos. I think 17 is much too young. I think 30, which is how old I was when I got mine, is a much better age. I think it all might be a mistake. But, if so, I think it’s not a mistake she particularly needs protecting from. It’s not a mistake that can kill her or harm her.

    I think that is one of the major DLB things for women. Mistakes. Or.. potential mistakes. It’s certainly a DLB for children. Well, no, maybe more of an outright Thing to be Avoided at all costs. But why?

  198. @chava and fatsmartchick:

    I hate that I missed out on your convo. I’m living in B’ham now — I grew up here and moved away for a while. As far as the “fancy soul food” goes, it’s part of the Southern equivalent of the slow and organic foods movement. Most of the high-end eateries are cooking local veggies and trying to work with local dairies and such. And local veggies means tomatoes, greens, and okra, and peaches and blackberries, etc., because that’s what grows best here.

  199. Sorry for the multi-post, but…

    I forgot to add that, additionally, B’ham has a small, but strong and growing urban farming organization that’s trying to help with access to produce in downtown neighborhoods. The founders have been instrumental in educating and working with local chefs, so that’s part of what’s driving the trend here.

  200. You know I’ve been poor, lived in the inner city, and had a child who “didn’t know where food came from”, other than from mom.
    Does it really matter that he “didn’t know where food came from”? What mattered to him was that he was HUNGRY. And toddlers can’t live on just fruit and vegetables.

  201. Fascinating thread — I just spent about two hours reading all of it.

    Not to jump too hard on the societal “blame mommy” bandwagon, but we middle-class white girls often absorb a lot of messages about food, bodies and DLBs from our mothers, along with the communication patterns that Deborah Tannen studied.

    Lucy, I appreciated your invoking the evil eye metaphor for mother’s cautionary strategies, and it helps me understand part of my very problematic relationship with my own mother:

    My mother was one of those who decided we should diet together when I was about 12 or 13. (She posted our weights on the inside of the medicine cabinet. I don’t know how tall I was at the time, but I was still growing and I weighed 119. She weighed 133, and she’s 5’6″, so you can see how skewed her idea of overweight was). I of course ended the diet a lot fatter and more food-obsessed than I started, and had to live with her constant disapproval.

    A few years later, through some combination of cigarettes, drug use, exercise, undereating and teenage metabolic freakishness, I lost a huge amount of weight and fit alarmingly well into mainstream norms of female beauty. I contended with overwhelming amounts of social approval and compliments, but my mother, formerly so concerned with getting me to an acceptable weight, was strangely silent.

    I confronted her several years later on her refusal to ever notice that I had “succeeded” or acknowledge that my borderline anorexia had (temporarily) gotten me to become what society considers beautiful. What she said, essentially, was that although she did think I looked beautiful she didn’t want me to be over-confident. Like somehow hating myself (or withholding approval from myself) would offer me some protection from future disappointment.

    I also think her self-hate is so great that she hates me by extension, that she thinks that anything she has had a hand in creating must be flawed, and that she can’t accept me as I am or trust her own judgement of my worth.

    My mother is a classic product of the 1950s in a lot of ways, and I truly believe that she has been deeply wounded by patriarchy, but I am still really pissed off at the ways that she has passed that along to me, especially the ways that she has undermined my self-confidence. I think that a part of her wants me to succeed, but I also think that a (possibly larger) part of her wants me to fail. Not just in terms of having a socially acceptable body, but in terms of my career as well.

    I’ve taken more than just a dainty little bite of space on this thread, and I’m tempted to apologize for that, but instead I’ll just ackhowledge that if you weren’t interested in my mama-drama you probably just skipped over it.

    As it’s my first time posting I’ll also just say that my moniker? It’s part of my trendy white-people foodie thing. I was a vegetarian starting in those Laurel’s Kitchen days of the ’80s, but now I’m more of a locavore/flexitarian/CSA type, like those well-meaning/condescending white folks who wanted to do the “drive-by fruiting” probably were. I do have a real commitment to food justice issues, though, and I think it has a relationship with FA. Food deserts are definitely a real issue in the cities I’ve lived in, as are community organizations who are making fantastic efforts to combat them. I wish that instead of calling the one black man working at an unrelated charity they had looked for a local food justice organization and asked what they could do to help! There probably is some kind of need, and it probably would require more in terms of time or effort or self-inquiry than just showing up with some veg and getting to pat oneself on the back.

    Thanks for the blog, Shapelings, I’m addicted! I came to the site today to see what y’all think of these studies saying that food deprivation prolongs life, with the pictures of the starving (but apparently long-lived) monkeys and all.

  202. what lowbudgetcyborg said. why, having never heard this term, do i understand it so fully? and get so damn pissed off by it too.

  203. Urban farming is a really great initiative in many cities now. I wholeheartedly like the idea. It needs to be monitored carefully, though, because a lot of city soils contain hazardous levels of pollutants unsafe for growing.

  204. The thread is dead, long live the thread… ;)

    When men are targeted, the metaphor goes in reverse: eating delicious food is depicted as a sexual conquest. (The examples for this include hilariously awful ads of men whispering sweet nothings to their Betty Crocker desserts.)

    I am a lady, and I frequently speak of eating sexually. (I just made love to that Burger/Sushi/Chicken Salad with my mouth!) That’s not a counterpoint, just an observation. I do a lot of things that are considered “dudley,” something I used to find complimentary (back when I was a “guy’s girl” and said things like, “other women are so petty.” Oh guy’s girls, sometimes you need to look within and think that the problem is not all other women) until I thought about it more.

    Sleep was suggested as something we are supposed to take dainty bites of, I cannot agree more. I tend to sleep 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep a night, and often more on weekends, and you would not believe how judgmental people are about this, despite the fact that it’s only a little more than doctors say you *need.* But tell that to a friend who only sleeps five hours a night and they sniff something about luxury and “must be nice.”

    No dude, it’s necessary. Different bodies need different things. Believe me, if I could get by on five I would love to. Much as I’d love to have stopped expanding at a size five.

    Now, of course, it’s going to depend on the individual man what he thinks of as a hot woman, but supposing the woman who he imagines choosing between the salad and the steak is a conventionally attractive woman, ordering the steak becomes a signal of her unassailable beauty and femininity.

    Yes. So well articulated. Beauty must be perfect, but also effortless. You can never show the work, ladies.

    About DLB’s of attention/speech, I think one of the biggest places I’ve witnessed this is in classrooms. Women will preference their question with qualifiers like “Maybe I don’t know enough” or “Correct me if I’m wrong” which leaves people the ability to answer simply with “You don’t” or “You’re wrong” (which unfortunately I have seen people answer with).

    Yes, my pet peeve, which I’ve curbed my own use of, but which I hear ALL the time: “I was just going to say that….”

    You were not just going to sat it! You are saying it. So say it!

  205. How much do I cling to DLB things as the ideal of womanhood? Well, once upon a time, I did. I grew out of that in my early thirties when I finally noticed that it was making me miserable and sick.

    I don’t diet any more. I eat what I feel like eating in the quantities that I’m hungry for. I order large plates of messy foods in front of whoever, including my boss, and devour it all. I belly laugh. I’m loud. Well, never mind the whole list, my motto is “live as fully and joyously as possible.” Some times it’s more possible than other times, but I do my best.

    I wear black and a nose ring and combat boots. This makes me happy. If someone else finds me grotesque, I figure it’s their problem. Dainty is inadequate. I need foods and music and sex that rock my socks, and I will have them!

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