Body Competition as Anti-feminism: A Pinterest Round-up

A reader recently suggested a topic for The Fat Word, namely the incessant fat-shame/thin-shame nastiness that is flung back and forth in the name of “self-love”. Now, while I do not consider “fat shaming” and “thin (fit) shaming” to be truly comparable (a topic for a future lengthy article in the works), I do think the struggle represents something else even more unsettling. Not only are we allowing societal norms to dictate how we feel about ourselves, we are allowing a gut, reactionary response drive us away from fellowship with other women. Somehow, body empowerment has become a form of anti-feminism.

I myself have a bit of a Pinterest addiction. I use it for many diversions, including fatshion/style, home decor ideas, and as a depository of fatbulousness in the form of The Fat Word pin board. I have created a new board in search of the sort of divisive body “positive” propaganda that undermines the progress of women in society. I would like to share a few particularly aggravating images, along with a brief discussion.

This is probably one of the more aggressive pins I have found on the “fit” side of the fence. The pin reads:

“Fuck yeah, I’ll show off the body I slaved for. You can cry all day about my so-called arrogance, but if you worked as hard as I did for what I have, you would be flaunting it to (sic). Enjoy your jealousy. I’ll enjoy looking good.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Come on, girl! I am proud of you! You clearly work hard to maintain a certain body type. Hard work is commendable, and feeling proud about your hard work is natural. You have obviously received some degree of flack for your body, but do you really think jealousy is the problem? Maybe your “jealous” critics simply feel bad about themselves because of unrealistic societal expectations? Oh perhaps, they feel bad because they are being aggressively told that they AREN’T working hard, and that this perceived lack of effort makes them inferior in some way.

As you can see, us chubby chicks are equally responsible for this divisiveness. This pin reads:

“Thigh gaps are so last year.”

Um, what? Firstly, I am pretty sure the lack or increase of thigh gap-iness isn’t something in the Sportsbook at Ceasar’s. It’s not something that varies year-to-year, and certainly isn’t a fashion trend. Thigh gaps, or a lack thereof, are physiological. They aren’t something invented by the Fashion Industrial Complex, and they definitely aren’t something you can pick up at Macy’s. The insinuation here is that a certain physiological feature makes one more or less fashionable. This alienates thin women, rather than unites all women together against the common cause of fashion bias.

Here we have a double-whammy (really, it’s more like an exponential whammy) of two different “Love Your Body” campaigns smooshed into a single pin. If that isn’t direct comparison, I am not sure what is. First of all, my body doesn’t look particularly like the body of any of these women, so there is some alienation right there. Each ad by itself is harmful because it proclaims what “real” beauty is. The mad-pinner that mashed them together is the real trouble-maker, however. Together, these images create the message that there are super-thin women, and “regular” women, with “regular” women being more deserving of respect and admiration. The point of this pin is to make the viewer of the pin look at one graphic or the other and say, “Ew”.

Here is another highly aggressive pin. The stance is aggressive. The facial expression is aggressive. What it literally says is:

“Fat? No, I prefer too wide for your narrow mind.”

This pin does not say, “Cross this bridge with me.” Instead, it seems to say, “Get off my fucking bridge because I am hot and you can’t handle it.” This pin is divisive because it tells people their perceptions are not only incorrect, but that they are, in fact, stupid. As a hypothetical thin woman, am I supposed to feel unity with this pinner? Shouldn’t it be women vs societal oppression rather than aggressive, militant fatty versus poor, thin victim?

Okay, y’all… one more and I promise the torture will stop.

I think this is technically a “thinspiration” pin, to help motivate the pinner to work out and lose weight. It reads:

“Make them regret the day they dared call you fat.”

There are so many layers of malcontent discord-mongering in this one pin, I feel like I need a toothpick to hold it all together. First of all, who is “them” in this scenario? A particular person? Ex-lover? High school bully? Or is it society in general? If it is the latter, then doesn’t “them” encompass everyone viewing the pin with the exception of the original pinner? Secondly, I am really fixating on the phrase “make them regret”, as it implies there will be some sort of dire consequence exacted by the pinner against all who implied her fatness, because “fat” is a terrible, shaming insult. This pin suggests that being called fat is something so egregious that a POUND OF FLESH SHALL BE EXACTED FOR EVERY POUND OF FLESH IMPLIED. Again, a wedge is being driven between women of different body types under the guise of “fitness”.

If we really want to make progress in the arena of body positivity, we need to stop driving a wedge between ourselves. This isn’t just an issue of body type, it’s a fundamental feminist issue. We shouldn’t be on Team Fit, Team Thin, Team Curvy, or Team Fat. We should be on Team Woman, working together towards goals that will benefit ALL women, not just a small subset. Petty infighting will only further the agendas of others who look to oppress women and keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

8 thoughts on “Body Competition as Anti-feminism: A Pinterest Round-up

  1. Another excellent post, Shiloh. What’s interesting to me about these images is that they all reflect the large number of people/corporations who are making large sums of money telling women how to be. Notice how all of these are designed to shame SOMEONE for how their body looks.

    Thin is in! But not TOO thin — nobody wants to see those ribs, Twiggy! Better eat our yogurt and do this aerobics tape to get Michelle Obama arms!

    Fat is where it’s at! But not, you know, FAT fat. Like, curvy and REAL. But not too real, because nobody likes a fattie. Here, have this diet pill!

    It’s dizzying, isn’t it?

    Like

  2. Super great post, Shiloh. This really is a feminist issue and ladies need to know that we don’t need to shame one another to feel better about ourselves. Body positivity should come in all shapes and sizes and not at the detriment of someone else.

    Like

    • What’s more alarming to me is that it’s a reflex, something ingrained into us by society. So much of our entertainment is about judgement. We compete for money. For jobs. For friends. For lovers. We compete for attention. It’s almost natural for us to turn on one another based on looks.

      Like

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