Straw Feminist Weekly: The Marriage-Hater

Charlotte Hays thinks feminists are going to turn on Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert because Gilbert’s new book is about the ultimate crime against feminism: Getting married!

Wait, what?

Hays:

Will Ms. Gilbert’s fans now spend their book-club meetings plotting to find a man? Or will they be plotting revenge on the supposedly strong, single woman who betrayed them?

Getting married = betraying your feminist readership, apparently. (And/or inspiring them to desperately pursue their own weddings.) I guess that makes sense, if your research into contemporary feminism consisted entirely of a Sex and the City marathon on TBS:

[Gilbert] is a giddy girl with lots of giddy girlfriends. And they are, in the way that feminists always seem to be but hate to admit, boy crazy and sex crazy. When a chipper Ms. Gilbert, having just met Felipe, gives a New York friend with boy troubles some happy-talk advice, the friend replies: “Spoken like a woman who already had four orgasms today.”… Such women rarely remain single—even if they profess to be feminists.

And because of that:

loyal readers may well feel that their heroine has deserted them for a man. But women have been doing this to their girlfriends since time immemorial. Sisterhood is powerful, but not that powerful.

What the fucking fuck? I don’t even know where to begin. Fortunately, Anna North at Jezebel has done a pretty thorough takedown, so I don’t have to.

All of this is actually kind of difficult to pick apart, but what Hays seems to be saying is that feminists equate strength with singlehood, and view anyone who couples up as a traitor. But all feminists really want a man (lesbians don’t exist in the Hays universe), and would cheerfully abandon their feminist values should they find one. Of course, this is based on an outdated and wrongheaded notion of feminist values. Only a very few people still demand that feminists eschew men, and most feminists I know accept the notion that whether or not a woman is in a relationship doesn’t determine how “strong” she is. It’s true that the idea of taking a husband for “male protection” raises my feminist hackles, but the fact that Gilbert didn’t need such protection while traveling the world makes me more sanguine about her marriage, not less. She seems to have gotten married because she wanted to, and because she was in love, and “such women” seem pretty happy to me.

Yep. Pretty much.

Or, as Indiebride.com editor Lori Leibovich told Tracy Clark-Flory back when Jessica Valenti’s engagement was totally! shocking! news!:

I think the people who take issue with feminists like Jessica getting married are the same people whose perception of feminism is completely warped. They are the people, mostly conservatives, who think that being a feminist means that you love having abortions, you hate men, and you do vaginal self-exams for fun, therefore you shouldn’t want a wedding.

Adds Tracy: “In this skewed view, of course Valenti is a hypocrite, because they haven’t the slightest clue what she stands for in the first place.” Yep. Pretty much.

I would write more, but I have to go meet my giddy, boy-crazy girlfriends for our monthly vaginal self-exam party. Oh, wait, who am I kidding? I’m married! My single friends all hate me now! The truth is, my schedule for the day looks like this:

1) Iron Al’s shirts.

2) Clean toilet.

3) Spend hours preparing complicated dinner.

4) Clean up kitchen after complicated dinner.

5) Think of England while Al soullessly bones me in hopes of making a baby that will give my life meaning.

6) Take tranquilizer and go to bed.

In fact, that’s been my schedule every day since December 26, 2008. You’d think that as a feminist (formerly, obvs) I would have seen that coming, huh? But no, I just stupidly went ahead and got married, betraying everything I stood for and all of my feminist readers and single pals. I’d apologize for that, but frankly, I’m not sorry. I’ve got a man! And a ring! YOU KNOW YOU’RE JEALOUS.

Weekend Thread

I’m about to go out of town for several days, and I have no idea what my co-bloggers’ schedules are like, so this might be your last thread for a while. (Or it might not be. I’ll have my computer with me, and nearly every time I say, “Hey, I’m not going to post for the next little while,” I suddenly get inspired to post more than usual. So we’ll see.)

In the meantime, this thread is yours. Fluff, rants, and self-linking are all encouraged.

Speaking of fluff, did you see the Daily Mail headline generator Caitlin pointed out in comments the other day? I must have clicked 100 times now, and it still hasn’t stopped being funny. A few favorites:

WILL FEMINISM DEVALUE THE COUNTRYSIDE?

ARE THE POLES MAKING PROPERTY PRICES OBESE?

HAVE THE GERMANS GIVEN YOUR MORTGAGE SWINE FLU?

ARE MUSLIMS MAKING HOUSE PRICES IMPOTENT?

WILL GAYS HAVE SEX WITH TAXPAYERS?

HAS HEALTH & SAFETY MADE YOUR DAUGHTERS OBESE?

COULD CANCER GIVE YOUR PETS CANCER?

HAS TEENAGE SEX GIVEN YOUR PENSION DIABETES?

Yep, still funny.

Let me fix that for you, E. Jean

So I just ended up on Elle magazine’s website, in search of an interview with Lorrie Moore. Along the way, I stumbled onto E. Jean’s advice column, wherein she answers the age-old question: “What do I do now that my spouse has gotten fat and I’m no longer attracted to hir?”

Every advice columnist gets it. None of them ever fucking get it right. Here, E. Jean starts strong(ish) , but manages to get it even wronger than usual.

The particulars of this story involve a woman who’s no longer turned on by her fat hubby. She’s tried to be “supportive” — meaning she’s cheered on weight loss efforts — but he’s still a fatty fat fat, and she doesn’t want to fuck him. That’s a pretty standard set-up, and let me pause here to offer what I believe should be the obvious answer every time that standard set-up appears in an advice column:

Dear Not Attracted to Your Spouse Anymore,

Get over it or get a fucking divorce. And I truly mean you should consider both options seriously. If you believe it is actually possible for you to get over it — by which I mean, you find a way to reframe the way you look at your fat partner, find him attractive again, and go back to whatever you both agree is a normal sex life — then by all means, work on that (provided everything else in the marriage is good and worth saving, which it probably isn’t if you’re not even a little bit attracted to him anymore).

If, however, you’re so hung up on your partner’s weight that you can’t even conceive of being attracted to him anymore? Get a fucking divorce already. And I don’t just mean that because your partner deserves better than your shallow ass, though he probably does. Believe it or not, I think you deserve better, too — or, perhaps more accurately, you deserve different. Everyone who wants to be in a relationship where mutual physical attraction is a core part of the deal should have the freedom to pursue that goal. Nobody should have to have sex with someone who repulses them (and certainly, nobody should have to have sex with someone who’s repulsed by them). The downside of ending it is that people like me might call you shallow. The upside is, both you and your current partner might be able to find fulfillment with someone better for you. So suck it up, accept that you’re the kind of person who can’t be attracted to a fatty even if you’d like to think you’re better than that, and cut him loose. Neither of you should have to endure a sexless marriage if either of you is not OK with that bargain.

Did you notice how I didn’t include badgering him to lose weight as an option there? Yeah. That really doesn’t work, as you’ve already gathered, or you wouldn’t be writing for advice. Not only are you unlikely to succeed in getting the thin hubby of your dreams that way, but you’ll be fostering mutual resentment out the wazoo, which doesn’t put anybody in the mood. So scratch that.

Work on figuring out how to change the way you see him or get a fucking divorce. That’s it.

Love,

Kate

That, as I said, is my standard response to the standard question. This question, however, goes on to become somewhat less standard:

He wants sex regularly, and I don’t want it—at all! When I explain why, he gets very angry and says if you love someone, it doesn’t matter what he looks like. Occasionally, I’ll let him “use” my body to appease him so he’ll stop arguing and yelling. I hate doing this. It makes me feel like I’m being violated. Is there something wrong with me? Should I still want to have sex with my husband?

As I said, E. Jean’s answer starts fairly strong, the expected fatphobic language and a bit of eye-rolling disdain for “political correctness” notwithstanding:

Sheets, my sweet: Let me get this straight: An “angry” 300-pounder is “arguing” you into sex and you say it feels like you’re “being violated”? No, Miss Sad, that is not a “violation.” That is an immolation. Divorce him. I realize it’s politically incorrect these days to tell a wife to table her spouse because of his weight, but it’s your husband’s anger and his colossal unkindness (you don’t want sex; he forces you to) that are the true reasons you never uttered the word love in your letter.

YES. THIS. (Minus aforementioned irritations.) I don’t give a shit if you’re a fatphobe or any other kind of -phobe or -ist that suggests you’re the kind of person I wouldn’t want to hang out with. If your husband’s demanding sex, and you don’t want it but feel like you can’t refuse, go directly to the “get a fucking divorce” option, because no one deserves that. And that is indeed the real problem in your marriage, not his fat ass.

But E. Jean does not stop there. Instead, she finishes off with this:

Take the man to a physician who specializes in weight loss, encourage him to lighten up; then, if he does not treat you with tenderness and respect, get rid of him.

I’m sorry, WHAT? This woman just told you she’s being coerced into sex, she feels violated, and your advice is TRY HARDER TO HELP HIM LOSE WEIGHT AND SEE HOW IT GOES? Because weight loss might magically make a pushy asshole who’s more interested in getting off than noticing his wife’s distinct lack of enthusiastic consent turn tender and respectful? What the everloving fuck?

Honey, if you are “letting” him fuck you because you feel you are not allowed to say no, that’s called rape. It is not “politically incorrect” to get the hell out of a relationship with a rapist before exhausting every effort to help him lose weight. It’s really not. You can dump that motherfucker with the Queen of the Fat-o-sphere’s seal of approval.

And as I indicated above, if you are similarly disgusted by your fat partner, yet not being raped or otherwise abused? You can also dump hir with my seal of approval — on the decision, if not necessarily on your character. The sad fact is, yes, being unable to see past fat on an otherwise loving, fabulous partner might just make you the shallow shithead you fear you are — and I do say “might,” because honestly, I can’t explain people’s preferences, and I don’t know you, maybe you’ve just got a really strong “type” that doesn’t happen to be fat. But maybe you are, in fact, a shallow shithead — I’m not going to sit here and tell you there’s no chance you are, and you should feel 100% guilt-free about trashing a good person who loves you, just because you think fat is icky. What I will tell you is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a shallow shithead or a delightful, compassionate person with an insurmountable sexual preference for thinness that happens to be deeply unfortunate given your current circumstances, because you will be that way whether you stay or go. If you simply cannot fathom being able to adjust your definition of “attractive” to encompass your own partner’s appearance, then going is the only option that gives both of you the opportunity to find a healthy relationship — i.e., one with somebody else.

This is not rocket science, but it almost always seems to elude advice columnists. Just as nobody wants to be the person who dumped the fatty for being fat, nobody (except Dan Savage*) wants to be the columnist who says, “Yeah, it’s OK, dump the fatty for being fat.”  But it is, for the simple reason that if you are in a shitty relationship that’s manifestly going nowhere, it is OK to end it, whether your reasons are noble or shit-headed. Because ending it might just make it better for everyone involved, notably the fatass you married, who gets the not insubstantial perk of no longer living with someone who finds hir repulsive.

How fucked up is it that the typical advice columnist’s fear of saying that — if you’re not remotely attracted to fat people, don’t fucking date/stay married to them — combined with the pervasive notion that fat people are helpless, undisciplined blobs in need of rescue, can actually lead to the advice: “Take him to a doctor about the weight and see if that makes him stop raping you”? Sweet Jesus, y’all. I am going to go find myself a cocktail now.

*BTW, have I mentioned that Savage recently, no shit, paid me a public compliment?

Elsewhere on the internet

I wrote about anonymous cyberbullying for The Guardian’s Comment Is Free:

Yet all over the web, people operating under the illusion that their identities are thoroughly hidden continue to prove John Gabriel’s famous theory of internet behaviour: Normal person + anonymity + audience = total prat.* And too often, particularly when it comes to misogynistic attacks that not only harm women’s public reputations but drive them away from participating in online communities, citizens of the internet side with the prats. People become obsessed with hypothetical legal arguments about freedom of speech – even the kind of speech that’s never been protected – to the exclusion of looking at a larger, more important question: What kind of internet culture do we want?

And then I wrote about the fake controversy over Michelle Obama wearing shorts over at Broadsheet:

That’s right: Michelle Obama wore shorts. In August. To The Grand Canyon. Which is in Arizona. Which is really, really, really hot. And which is also in the United States, where it’s been common for women to wear shorts in public for decades. Not seeing the news angle? Neither is any other thinking person, but that didn’t stop outlets from the L.A. Times to “The Today Show” from discussing the American people’s ostensibly conflicted reaction (unfortunately, most journalists haven’t been able to locate an American person willing to express an opinion other than, “Seriously?”) or the Huffington Post from asking readers: “Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare legs?” … My favorite part of that poll is that the pro-shorts answer is, “Absolutely! It’s so modern!” Shorts. In August. “Modern.” Did Peggy Olson sneak in and write that copy? Or Laura Ingalls Wilder, maybe?

Talk about those posts, or anything else your heart desires, in the thread below. ‘Cause I am way too lazy to write something new here today as well.

*Gabriel’s phrase is, of course, “total fuckwad,” but the editor cleaned it up in a delightfully British way for me.

Whom we talk to when we talk about fat

I would really love to ignore PETA, just in general, and their latest fat-hating billboard in particular.

peta-save-the-whales

But there’s something about this one I haven’t yet seen addressed in the various denunciations of it*: the language. Specifically, that the “lose the blubber” bit is talking to fat people, but the “SAVE THE WHALES” bit is talking about us.

So it’s not only that it’s complete bullshit that vegetarianism = thinness, as the many fat vegetarians and vegans in this community know too well. It’s that they’re furthering the idea that thin people have a duty to stop fat people from being fat, even though the solution they propose could not remotely effect that change anyway. The point of the billboard, in theory, is to tell fat folks to go veg and “save” ourselves, one by one. But that’s not what it fucking says. It says “save the whales” — as if, once again, fat people are a problem to be solved, not actual individual human beings capable of caring for our own damn selves.

The following line might indicate that it’s a campaign aimed at fat people, suggesting that vegetarianism would make us thin and therefore improve our lives (both specious premises, even setting aside the wisdom of trying to appeal to a demographic by insulting it), but the overall message is clearly aimed at people who are not fat. People who hate, fear, and ridicule fat. People who, in their most “charitable” moments, assume we’re a bunch of ignorant slobs who need to be rescued from our own lack of discipline, because they can’t be bothered to think about fatness in anything but the most simplistic and prejudiced terms.

In other words, the language doesn’t make any fucking sense. If you’re talking about the “whales,” not to us, then there’s no way that a thin person’s individual decision to stop eating meat might “save” us. If you’re talking to us — “lose the blubber!” — then what the hell is the point of recycling a 40-year-old slogan that indicates fatties are not, in fact, whom you’re addressing?  “Whales, save yourselves” would have been far more logical — and clever, for that matter — if no less offensive.

So, basically, this billboard is not merely fat-hating and based on false premises, but completely nonsensical. And in its nonsense, it’s echoing a trend in most of the public discussions of fat, food, and health that take place in this culture — speaking about fat people as if we’re not in the fucking room and have nothing to say on the matter. As if we’re merely a problem for thin people to solve. The only time journalists and advertisers speak to us is when they’re trying to tell us how to lose weight. When they’re discussing THE OBESITY CRISIS in the abstract, then fat people ourselves get abstracted, too — every article and advertisement presumes that the reader/consumer is someone concerned about the existence of fat people, as though fat people aren’t part of the fucking audience.

Which is especially hilarious when half of these discussions start with a reminder that two-thirds of Americans technically qualify as “overweight” or “obese.” I suppose if only the thin third are reading newspapers, that might explain why the industry is dying, but I kinda doubt that’s the whole reason. We’re all just so used to the framing of fatness as “other” that no one bats an eye when people who are actually speaking to fatties only speak about and around us. So the assholes at PETA don’t even notice the logical inconsistency of a directive that goes, “Save the [other]”: “[Take action for yourself.]”

Not that I expect them to notice something that subtle, when they apparently haven’t noticed that fat vegetarians exist, that women are animals deserving of ethical treatment, that immigrants might have greater concerns than potential dietary changes, etc. I mean, railing against PETA is about as useful as railing against right wing radio hosts: There’s no cure for proud jackassery, so you might as well not waste your breath. That’s why in general, I choose to ignore them. But there are a lot of other people out there playing the same game this billboard plays, of humiliating and othering fat people while pretending to be offering us health advice. And some of those people, unlike the PETA folks, might actually have an interest in not being reprehensible fuckwits.

So to them, I say: Fat people are listening when you speak. We read papers and watch news and listen to the radio. We are your fucking audience – two-thirds of it, anyway. So if you’re really so concerned for us, you might try talking to us. You might try recognizing that you are addressing the very people you’re writing about, instead of gearing all of your remarks toward some imaginary audience of The Thin and Deeply Concerned.

I’d suggest that you try listening to us, too, but that might just be too much.

*Note: I started this post a couple of days ago, so people might have made this point 100 times since then. I’m making it again anyway.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Machine!

nibblerFINALLY, A MAJORITY OF THE SP BLOGGERS ARE IN THEIR THIRTIES! (Suck it, Fillyjonk.) You know the drill, Shapelings — champagne, baby donuts, dirty limericks and lots of love for Sweet Machine, who has been making this blog better (as has FJ, who can stop sucking it now) for TWO DAMN YEARS this month. Happy birthday, lady!

A Bit of Clarification

Update: One other thing I want to make perfectly clear, because I’m seeing this coming up a lot: We Are the Real Deal is not sponsored by Dove. It is a grassroots project, and nobody’s getting paid. MamaV approached Dove about sponsoring the panel at BlogHer — which still did not mean anybody got paid, just that Dove put money into promoting it. As part of that deal, we all agreed to put links to Dove on our blogs right before and after the conference, and there was a similar one at WATRD when it launched. That is the full extent of what I’ve done to promote Dove as part of my brief involvement with WATRD. Dove had no input into the content of the panel and is not sponsoring the blog.

Meanwhile, I’m not only seeing claims that the blog is Dove-sponsored, but seeing it characterized as “astroturfing.” That is utter bullshit, and it is incredibly not cool for people to keep spreading that lie. Feel free to criticize the content all you like, and criticize me for getting involved at all, but calling it “astroturfing” suggests that we secretly took money from Dove to promote their products while pretending to be blogging as usual. That is simply false, and incredibly insulting. I’d love to get paid for blogging, believe me, but I would never take money to fucking lie. If you’ve been running around the internet saying that WATRD is Dove-sponsored, let alone that it’s fucking astroturfing, please do your best to correct those falsehoods. Thanks.


So naturally, when I’m offline for most of two days, blog drama happens.

If you didn’t see my tweet yesterday, I have officially quit We Are the Real Deal.

What I didn’t add is, I officially quit days ago, and you’ll note I haven’t posted there in a few weeks. I didn’t just walk off in a huff yesterday. Quite honestly, my main reasons for leaving were that I already did not have time to keep up with what was going on there, and I’ve got a full-time job opportunity on the horizon which, if it pans out, will make that pretty much impossible.

But yes, I was terribly disappointed by the post yesterday, and that inspired me to make a quick announcement about my leaving, because I did not want to give the impression that I endorsed it. And yes, I’ve been uncomfortable with other elements of the content, and with the decision not to moderate comments. Since my time is becoming even more limited, engaging with hostile commenters and further discussing concerns with contributors behind the scenes is just not feasible, so the only choice was to leave.  As I feared I might need to from the beginning.

New Contributor Miss Lori posted a great comment that pretty much sums up how I feel, which you can read (along with a snapshot of what went on) over at BFD. As I just said to all of the contributors in an e-mail, I hope that these growing pains are part of building an inclusive, empowering site. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to be as active as I’d like to be in shaping that vision, and in the meantime, I don’t want my silence to be taken as agreement with everything that goes up there.

That’s pretty much my last word on the matter, and I’m going to be offline all afternoon.

Douchehound of the Day: Satoshi Kanazawa

I’m a little late to this one, but in case anyone missed evolutionary psychologist (really, need I say more?) Satoshi Kanazawa’s devastating takedown of a certain kind of feminist — to wit, the straw kind — at Psychology Today, let me tell you two things about it.

1) The title is “Why Modern Feminism is Illogical, Unnecessary, and Evil.” NO, REALLY.

2) It contains reasoning like the following:

Another fallacy on which modern feminism is based is that men have more power than women.  Among mammals, the female always has more power than the male, and humans are no exception.  It is true that, in all human societies, men largely control all the money, politics, and prestige.  They do, because they have to, in order to impress women.  Women don’t control these resources, because they don’t have to.  What do women control?  Men.  As I mention in an earlier post, any reasonably attractive young woman exercises as much power over men as the male ruler of the world does over women.

Setting aside the ridiculousness of that assertion — for practically infinite reasons, including how heterosexist and indeed anti-male it is (“We all think with our dicks! Amirite? NO-CAPACITY-FOR-HIGHER-ORDER-THINKING-IN-PRESENCE-OF-BOOBIES HIGH FIVE!”) — I’ll just point out the obvious.  You say you’re female but not, for whatever reason, someone generally regarded as a “reasonably attractive young woman”? Fuck you!

I shall not fully fisk (though I’ll certainly have things to add in comments) because I’ve got a busy day ahead, and I’m sure you all can do a more thorough job of it anyway. Gina Barreca gets the fun started here, and I trust this thread will be highly entertaining reading by the end of the day. Go to it, Shapelings.

Happy Birthday, A Sarah!

It’s our newest co-blogger’s birthday, and she just moved to a town where she doesn’t know anyone to celebrate with. So let’s make the Shapeling party count: I want champagne and baby donuts flowing freely (inasmuch as donuts can flow), links to puppy pictures, limericks and revised song lyrics in our girl’s honor, chair-dancing, and all manner of rowdy behavior you’ll regret tomorrow.

And of course, the most important ingredient of any good fatty party: TWO WHOLE CAKES.

twowholecakes

Happy birthday, lady!

P.S. For your birthday, I might even get you a masthead with your name and picture on it, but don’t hold your breath.

Guest Blogger M. LeBlanc: The Fantasy of Staying Exactly As I Am (or, This Far and No Further, This Fat and No Fatter)

I’ve got a problem. And since I suspect I’m not the only one, I want to start a dialogue about this psychological artifact of Fat Hate and try to figure out what the hell we can do about it.

You see, I’m doing pretty well at accepting my body. Which is, to be sure, a fat body. I buy nice clothes that fit. Most days, I feel good about myself and the way I look. Many days, I feel downright sexy. I don’t diet, although I can’t really attribute this to fat acceptance because I’ve basically never dieted in my life. I’ve interacted with food in fucked-up ways, and tried to deprive myself of food, but always pretty much gave in by dinnertime. I have started thinking of myself as a “fat chick” in a non-pejorative way and have rid my friends/boyfriend/family of the “you’re not fat!” monkey response. I told my doctor to bug off when she prodded me about losing weight (Her: are you exercising/eating a balanced diet? Me: Yes and Yes. Look, my diet’s great. I feel great. I think I’m just fat. Her: (look of horror) I hope not! Me: (mentally) God, what a horrible thing, to just be naturally fat.)

But I still feel the instinct to diet and/or to exercise for the express purpose of losing weight. All. The. Time. Is it because I want to change the way my body looks now? Nope. It’s because although I have made peace with my fat self, I can not endure the thought of being any fatter than I am. And I think, you know, someday I’m going to get pregnant, and I’m going to age, and I’ll be even less fit than I am now, or I’ll have health problems, or I’ll have kids or a bad back or bad knees and I won’t be able to exercise. And then I’ll be fatter. Horror of horrors. I think to myself, yeah sure I look good now, when I’m young, with good skin, no wrinkles, good muscle tone, in great health. But what about in ten years?What about twenty?! The horror.

It’s an ever-changing boundary. I’m sure that if I were given a picture of my current self five years ago (when I weighed about 30 lbs less), I would have been shocked and horrified. Now, I’m cool with it. Because you know what, self-hate is a lot of work. And I don’t doubt that however I look in ten or twenty years, I’ll probably manage to be okay with it.

But still, I can’t manage to get away from the bigger-is-worse, smaller-is-better paradigm. It’s kind of hilarious, but I feel like I should lose weight now so that if I gain weight in 5 years, I’ll be back to where I am which I have decided is an “okay” place to be. The upper limit of okay. But okay.

I call it “This Fat and No Fatter.” I didn’t really put a name to the mentality until I started browsing the “women for women” section on Craigslist a few months ago and noticed a disturbing phenomenon. Unlike the m4w section, in which a lot of the posters mention a particular size of person they find acceptable (or say that they don’t care), but a huge portion of them don’t, discussions of acceptable body size are absolutely ubiquitous in the w4w section. It’s either 1) thin or “average” women looking for the same, or 2) fat chicks looking for women “my size or smaller.” These discussions are often disturbingly specific, like “no larger than size 16″ or “up to size 22″ or “under 210 lbs.” And I realized, because self-hatred is hard, women are forced to accept the bodies of other women who look like them to avoid cognitive dissonance. But any fatter? No way.

This mindset has been plaguing me since I was a kid. My dad used to advocate that I diet when I was a teenager because it would be “harder to lose it” when I was older. I don’t know whether this has any basis in fact whatsoever, but I believed it. Actually, I think I can affirmatively say that it’s total bullshit, because dieting doesn’t work, period. The only difference is that if you start dieting when you’re a teenager, you’re more likely to engage in disordered eating and have a fucked-up relationship to food for the rest of your life. But it ain’t actually gonna make you thin. I also think the approach was part of a “she’s okay now, but what if she keeps getting fatter?” mindset. Which I’m sure he’s hysterical about now but, since I told him I didn’t want to hear another word about my weight oh, about, ten years ago, I don’t have to listen to it. (To be fair, my dad lives in an environment with an even more fucked-up attitude towards fat than we have; would you believe that he, at 5’5″ and about 190 lbs, was told that he needed to lose some weight before the manager of the place would let him join the gym? That he needed to diet before he could safely exercise? Jesus.)

I can’t shake it. Even though I know, intellectually, that I’ll probably feel just fine about my body in five years or ten years, because self-hate is way more work than learning to love my body as it is, I feel, emotionally, that my future body will not be objectively okay even though my current body is objectively okay.

The power of social narratives about body image, shame, and humiliation, are incredibly strong. Because those social narratives govern how I feel about the future, while my own experience governs how I feel about the present and the past, feelings of shame dominate, and they infect the present. I feel like getting married while being fat, or being pregnant while being fat, or being a mother while being fat, or being sick while being fat, are all going to be impossibly awful and shame-filled experiences. Even though I’ve already had boyfriends while being fat, graduated from law school while being fat, tried a case before a jury while being fat, had to use crutches because I sprained my ankle while fat, performed in front of hundreds of people while being fat, interviewed for jobs while being fat, lived while being fat.

Fat acceptance isn’t just about accepting your body as it is now. It’s about accepting your future self, the one who might weigh a little more and look a little older. And she’ll be okay, too. Not just good, but great.

M. LeBlanc, if you don’t already know her, blogs at Bitch Ph.D., lawyers in Chicago, and frequently raises the level of discourse in comments here.