To make a long story short, there’s this new body-image site, started by this woman. The philosophy of the site, ostensibly, is to have a sort of 101-level discussion about body image and self-worth, with (gulp) unmoderated comments. A commenter on this new site happened to click through the contributors and notice, that with the exception of Harpy favourite Kate Harding, the women are universally, well, let’s say, of a certain white, thin mold. As a result, said commenter suggested, not in the most diplomatic terms, that the site would benefit from some commentators outside of that paradigm.
Here is an excerpt from the highly mature response she received from the blogmistress/founder (it is cleverly entitled “Hey Barbie’s [sic] – shut your yapper”):
I am a barbie and proud of it. But I am not proud of the fact that it took me 20 years to figure it out, all the while letting the Jelly’s of the world make me feel like crap.
The green-eyed-monster will kill you. This I know is true.
Yes Jelly, my feelings are “a whoop-dee-do” — They count. They matter, and your attitude is completely discriminatory –just as you accuse us as being.
And, for the record, I don’t feel sorry for you or anyone else —tell me what exactly I am supposed to be feeling sorry for again? How do you define fortunate?
After reading your words, you know what I was left with? “Ohhhh…whoa-is-me.” How long will you cry in your soup before you wake up and realize you wasted your life being pissed off a the wrong thing?
Hugs and kisses ,
Barbie…the goddess you will never be.
Now, ordinarily I would say to myself, “Self, this is just an asshole on the internet being an asshole. Read nothing into this, Self.”
Unfortunately silly blogmistress’s underlying message rings too familiarly for me to be able to leave it at that.
If one patronizes any kind of women’s website, it becomes impossible to escape discussions of body image and weight because they are so utterly personal to us, and so tied to self-image, because we live in a society where women’s primary mode of worth is as decoration. These discussions inevitably descend into utter clusterfucks, satisfying when one is looking to live through a good old dose of vicarious internet drama but obviously generally useless in terms of getting anyone, anywhere.
I shan’t repeat myself on thin privilege, or on why the perspectives of the not-thin should not threaten thin people so much as they seem to. I get that thin women also have experiences of body image, and I don’t think that those experiences are invalid. But I can say from the perspective of someone who fails the BMI test that I feel like there is plenty of space in this culture already devoting to the airing of the body neuroses of able-bodied white “thin” ciswomen – this is what women’s magazines appear to exist for – and that I find that it’s too easy in the atmosphere of these “supportive” body-image discussions for those same women to insist on centralizing their experiences, and for them to slip into saying things that inadvertently insult/question people of other backgrounds, and privilege certain body types over others.
And I will also say this:
Obviously everybody wants to support each other, and I don’t think the commenter approached the issue in a particularly constructive manner. But, then, I don’t expect as much of commenters on progressive blogs as I do of their masters and mistresses.
I think that the way we really support each other as women is never to presume that our shared gender means that we are immune to other forms of social stratification, i.e. race, class, etc. Among these, like it or not, is the body-type hierarchy, in which, for better or for worse, certain kinds of bodies are more “socially acceptable” than others.
I know that thin women have often said that they too feel alienated by body standards, and I do not discount that experience. Men also feel alienated by patriarchy, probably far more frequently than many of them would like to admit. But just as some man’s personal alienation from patriarchy doesn’t cancel out patriarchy as a force of social power, a thin woman’s discomfort with body standards does not cancel out fat hatred.
Now, were this a blog that claimed to speak exclusively for thin women I suppose that would be one thing. But it’s a blog that claims to speak for all of us. And it’s at that point that my patience with listening to a thin woman’s claims of persecution, and more generally that her experience is sufficiently universal to cover everyone, ends.