On Passivity and Gender

So, I’ll be the first to admit that I have some pretty major body image issues. It’s really hard for me to talk about size and weight in the media because I hate my own body so much and am constantly embroiled in a vicious struggle to lose weight, tone my muscles more, and generally look “better.” (I know that I’m messed up in the head about this. I get it, I really do. I look in the mirror and suck in just right so that my ribcage angles in a bit so that I don’t look so wide from side to side and I think “God, if they offered a surgery procedure to tuck my ribs in, I would get it! I look so much prettier when I suck in my ribs!” You guys, that’s kinda fucked up.) So when I say that it’s hard for me to talk about bodies, I’m not shitting around.

I, like much of culture, frame my obsession with my physique around health. Within reason, this is valid–I don’t like getting winded when I have to suddenly run a block to catch the trolley; I want riding my bike to be pleasurable, not painful; I want to be able to have pretzel-like and marathon-length sex sessions without a post-coital ER visit; I like lifting heavy objects and changing the tires on my car; etc. Being healthy is good! I have yet to meet someone who will disagree with me that having a healthy lifestyle is good. Hell, my determination to be healthy is one of the leading reasons I don’t smoke cigarettes regularly anymore, so that’s a good thing.

Where do we draw the line between healthy in the real way, and healthy in my “oh god you guys there is a tiny bit of muffin top above my belt!” way?

My crush on Amanda Hess of The Sexist continues as she covers wedding weight loss and how, shockingly enough, you guys–it’s not about health!

First off, I really want to see the Groom Weight Loss Challenge. Cause, dirty little secret, I think dudes with guts look WAY SILLIER than chicks with guts. For all that I am obsessive about my own weight and need to be skinny, I think girls with curves can be so gorgeous–I mean, we have boobs and hips and all those nice aerodynamic curves to help even things out. I know way too many dudes who are like a floppy version of the “tits on a stick” porn star idea–they are all gangly skinny limbs and then, like, BLAM. A watermelon. Oh fragile judgmental culture of ours, I don’t want THAT in my wedding pictures any more than I want myself looking like that!

But we’re all pretty chill with dudes looking like that. (Oh hey, health obsession, I’m actually not. I’m a shallow asshole, you guys! I admit it! I consciously try not to be, but I am! I objectify dudes all the time. I’m a bike-by-ogler. The danger is real! Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, there goes some chick, undressing you with her eyes as she bikes by! And let me say, nice tattoos. And the superhero undies? Damn, boy. Unf.) Wow that was a tangent.

Anyways, our culture lets dudes look like that. I mean, we totally celebrate the super fine and extremely foxy of the dudes, I’m not saying that unreasonable dude-spectations do not exist or anything, but it’s by and large okay for a dude to have some paunch or not be perfectly groomed or not conform to an exacting standard.

Cause, like, he’s so QUIRKY and ECCENTRIC. We’re going totally gaga for so-and-so’s rebel-without-a-cause attitude and devil-may-care style! Or something like that. Whatever those headlines are.

Because dudes are busy doing OTHER THINGS. BETTER THINGS than worrying about their appearance. I mean, dudes that are well-dressed and well-groomed and svelte and whatnot are often, in fact, maligned as being too feminine, too fussy, too high-maintenance, etc. Because there are BETTER ways for them to spend their time than worrying about how they look.

Us ladyfolk, on the other hand, get to spend our time on being PRETTY. Which is why it is so amazingly unacceptable for us to carry any extra poundage, to not be dressed just so, to not have our full arsenal of makeup and hair products deployed at every minute of every day. What else would we be doing?

I was at Target the other day looking for a muffin tin. Instead of finding what I was looking for, I found these:

Om nom nom.

Okay, seriously people? There’s a “girl cookie pan” and a “boy cookie pan.” And just look at what you can bake for your pretty little girl! Crowns, flowers, butterflies, castles, a kiss, and purses. What do boys get? Rocket ships, a jet, a sports pennant, a trophy, a shirt with a medal, and a sports car.

The female items are all PASSIVE. Other than the purse, which I suppose you take your husband’s credit card in and out of, you don’t interact with that stuff. It’s just that–STUFF. Pretty things. Flowers! Butterflies! Lips! Castles! Crowns!

So, like, the chances that the little dude you bake the rocket ship cookies for is going to grow up to be an astronaut are ridiculously small. The chances that your little girl is gonna grow up to be a princess? Yeah, NONE. If the little dude holds onto that dream of becoming an astronaut, he might just fulfill it. Or at the very least, he might study astrophysics and engineering and still have a rewarding, exciting life. What do you study to become a princess? What do you major in at college? What extracurriculars do you pursue? (Please, no jokes about sororities.) You don’t. You sit and wait and hope to attract a prince.

We are socialized from the very beginning to be PASSIVE–to sit still, to be delicate, to be proper.

The only time we’re allowed to be ACTIVE, to engage with anything and to do more than just sit and look pretty, is for the sake of being skinny. We’re allowed to exercise. We’re allowed to dedicate all of our activity to improving the quality of our passivity.

Despite the fact that I can sit back and KNOW all this, I am still only eating a half granola bar, a small cup of yogurt, and a banana today, because I’m meeting up with friends later and I expect I’ll probably have some beers and snacks and I want to keep under my daily calorie goal. Because it’s healthy.

That’s some powerful fuckin’ social programming, that is.

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06/11/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized.

2 Comments

  1. All Your Books Are Belong To Us « Bitches Get Stuff Done replied:

    […] with me for a second while I go on a tangent. Remember a while back when I ranted about passivity and gender? How boys are generally steered toward “active” entertainment while girls are […]

  2. Andie replied:

    God, I love this. I’ve been on a weight-maintenance program for a few years now, mainly in the name of better health (I have health problems.. being 230+ on a 5’5″ frame wasn’t helping them) but it drives me friggin nuts now how hyperaware I am of everything I eat, and how I look, and how my clothes fit etc.

    And yeah.. I’m bothered that activity for women tends to be for the sake of exercise and losing weight, rather than having fun and learning something new or in some cases being a part of a team. I take a kick-boxing class and it’s disturbing how many people are in it for the weight-loss and not for the fact that it’s fun as hell and well, kind of bad-assed.

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