Saturday, 31 May 2008

faith and reason

It amazes me sometimes how many contradictory thoughts I can contain.

I'm a fairly intelligent woman, certainly a thoughtful woman, a woman who sees both sides to an argument. On one level, what I believe about women's inherent value and about the body fascism that is so prevalent in our society is very clear and simple to me, and I can articulate that easily.

What I usually don't mention, however, is the violence of the conflict that rages inside me – me versus me, forever at war - on this subject.

Here are some things I believe:

I believe I am not really this fat woman.

I believe I am a much fatter woman.

I believe being fat is not a moral position, nor is it an inherently unhealthy one.

I believe that I am not putting in enough effort, that I'm failing and that I am probably killing myself.

I believe that fat is ugly.

I believe that many fat women are beautiful.

I believe that my husband is very attracted to me.

I believe that no one in their right minds could be attracted to me.

I believe that it's more important to have a healthy relationships with food and eating than to be the "right" size.

I believe that it's quite possible that I would kill someone if their death meant I would be thin.

I feel like half a dozen different people on this. There's someone in there who is clearheaded and reasonable, looks at the facts, considers the arguments, can be dispassionate and logical, and who has it all taped.

But there's also someone in there who agonises every goddamn minute over how fat she is, how her arms jiggle, her thighs sway, her boobs rest on her stomach when she is braless. Someone who sees herself in the mirror and wants to cry.

And someone who is so angry about all that self-hatred.

Someone who thinks that she should just be what she is, yet wears make up every day, in the hopes that maybe she will still be pretty.

I honestly don't know who the fuck I am some days.

The thing is, all the arguments are very clear, and that's great. It's good to have clarity and logic. And I can present with that. It's just that faith, you see, is a different thing. And faith and reason rarely live together easily. And I still cling to the vestiges of a childhood faith in my own shameful fatness which should be hidden and repudiated and expunged. It doesn't seem to matter how much reason I have to defend against it, it still creeps back in.

I don't suppose it's helped by the fact that most of the society I live in shares this faith, and presents a set of arguments about it that are quite convincing also. We all sit together in some kind of bizarre mass in worship of beauty and youth and thinness which undermine any notion of personal value if we do not fulfil those criteria, and afterwards list all the reasons that these beliefs are logical.

I suppose this is the thing about a disorder - at least about my disorder. It can be justified with reason ("thinner is healthier"), but it isn't really about reason at all. That's only its outer garb which makes it more presentable to the world. At its heart, it is about faith, faith in fatness, faith in my own unworthiness, faith that I can't ever conquer either my body or my feelings about it.

Of course, I've left a faith before, which shattered my life for a couple of years, but in retrospect, was a blessed relief. I suppose the difference is that you can walk out of a church, but you can't walk out of your body. But I would like to rediscover that courage that allowed me to get up from a faith my life had revolved around for twenty six years and walk away from it.

Friday, 30 May 2008

c is for cookie

As a general rule, I am very conscious of food. Like, all the time. If there's food on that table over there, even if I'm not hungry, even if I'm busy, part of my mind is eyeing it and muttering.

And all my eating struggles are about the fact that eating relieves [insert objectionable emotion here] and once I start, it's very hard to stop. So stopping is something worth noting, in my book.

So having said that, let it be noted that today, I bought two freshly baked chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips at 9am. I then ate my breakfast and started work and forgot all about them, until 11.45am, when I ate one. ONE, mind you. I could've eaten the other one, but I wasn't hungry, so I just put it back in the drawer, and forgot about it AGAIN.

At about 12.30, I was talking to someone in a room where there was a large box of various fresh cookies, and she offered me one. And I didn't take one, because I'd just had one a little earlier, I didn't feel like it and I was about to have lunch.

It is now 2.45pm, and I am eating the second one.

I have never bought two of those cookies and not eaten them both at once before. In its way, this is a kind of miracle.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

art and body judgement

I take a pottery class on Wednesday evenings, nothing major, just messing about with clay and occasionally making a vase or something to take home. Well, last night, I finished my candle holder - just needed to go to firing - and so I had to start something new. So I decided to try my hand at a little sculpture.

Now, I'm not the most visually inclined person in the world - my visual recall is somewhere about the level of the three blind mice and I can't draw for toffee - so to be honest, I wasn't expecting it to go that well. But I started anyway, and decided to make a fat lady, mostly because one of the other women in the class had made one previously and it looked pretty cool.

So I got my lump of clay, and I was playing with it, and rearranging it, and trying to work out where boobs go on a person. Obvious, you would think, but I'd never really given it any consideration, just from a purely technical perspective, where breasts land on a body, or how a stomach curves, or how hips swell.

And it hit me as I sat there trying to make my little clay woman's breasts fall right - not too perky or sticking out like basketballs - I'd never looked at a woman's body like this before. I'd never just looked.

Every glance I've given to every woman's body I've seen, whether real or an image, has been steeped in judgement: too big, too small, too flabby, hips too wide, boobs too big, bum too flat, bum too big, boobs non-existent, wow just right. Doesn't matter whether what I saw was positive or negative in it, every single encounter of my eyes with women's bodies, including my own, has contained judgement. I have never in my life before looked at a body and just...seen its components.

I mean, I looked at that Julian Freud painting of the fat woman and thought "damn, she's fat". Never occurred to me to look more closely, just to see how it all fitted together.

It has never occurred to me to just see what's there for itself without any of my or society's bullshit heaped on top of it. Just what's there.

So this is a challenge to myself: try to look at women's bodies and see what's actually there without putting a value on it. Don't look for good any more than I look for bad. Just...see.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


I'm different to a lot of the fat acceptance bloggers I read, who seem to live healthy lifestyles, eat in a happy and sensible manner, enjoy exercise, all that palaver. I don't eat happily or sensibly. Sometimes I do, but mostly it's a constant tug-of-war between the part of my brain that thinks I should be on a strict diet and the part that knows that that would lead to bingeing at best, and I'm pretty consistent about eating more than I "should". Yes, "should" is problematic in and of itself. There are plenty of thin people who eat lots of crap and are still thin. But even if I was thin, the way I eat a lot of the time would not be healthy, because it isn't. (Though to be honest, the past couple of weeks have been okay. I actually attempted a binge today and completely failed because I was uncomfortably full. Which was kind of nifty.)

It's just that...for me to follow any kind of diet that puts a restriction on anything isn't psychologically healthy, and results in a diet that's way worse than the one I already have. But it makes me wonder if it's even possible for me to be "healthy at every size", because I've been consistently UNhealthy at every size. I suppose it's a question of whether that "health" includes mental health. I've been prioritising my mental health for some time now, and I'm sure that's come at a cost to my physical health; but on the other hand, if I hadn't made it my priority, I would probably be even worse off. So there's that.

I think this is what makes fat prejudice so complicated. I'm not going to get into whether it's harder or easier or more or less socially acceptable than any other form of prejudice, because that's an impossible discussion, and would no doubt leave me with my privilege showing. But prejudice against the fat is complicated, and the main reason it's complicated is this: most people believe that fat people can be thin people if only they would work harder.

Most people do not believe that women can be men (transgendered people facing a whole other set of prejudices), or that black people can be white. You can see class prejudice (or at least money prejudice) showing in the same way - there are a significant number of people who think that poor people wouldn't be poor if they weren't so darn lazy. And you can see it in some people who are homophobic - for some reason, they think that being gay is a choice, and that being the case, it's just weird or wrong or both that people would choose to be gay.

It is complicated to be part of a group of people whom the bulk of society, including ourselves, believes both can and should change. Twiggy recently said something along the lines that with all the medical knowledge about the disbenefits of being fat, there's no excuse for it. And a lot of people believe that.

So it's wrong to be fat, it's unhealthy to be fat, and yet millions upon millions of people, despite all the knowledge to the contrary, continue to be fat...apparently by choice. Because it's just so much fun to be fat.

I'm not particularly healthy in my habits, and I still don't choose to be fat. Certainly, when I was an unfat adolescent who was put on a diet, and who spent every day from that to this obsessed with her weight, I didn't choose to be fat. Even if I ate perfectly and got even more exercise than I do, I'd still probably be what society calls fat, and although I'm pretty comfortable with where I believe I'd end up (which is just as far away as actually being thin), given a choice, of course I'd still choose to be thinner, because it would just be easier.

The problem with fatness being perceived as a choice is that people assume that all it takes is making the "right" choice. They can't comprehend why anyone would make the "wrong" one, so it must be down to a moral flaw, laziness or greed, because clearly, when the choice is so easy, what else could it be?

But it's not a choice. It doesn't really matter whether you became fat like me because your relationship with food is fucked up beyond recognition, or whether your genes just say "look, we're going to have a lot of padding, I don't care what you say", or whether your means are limited so that you can't make some of the healthier choices Twiggy gives you no excuses for not making. It's a rare person who says "yep, fat is the look I'm going for". Why would we, in this fat-obsessed culture? We're not masochists. We're not stupid. We know it would be easier for us - people wouldn't call us particular kinds of names, or suggest we lose weight. And goodness knows, compared to some of the stories I read, I suffer very little at other people's hands as a result of my weight. Why would we ever make a choice to be fat if being thin was as easy as all that?

I have friends who have lost a lot of weight, who have worked very hard to do so, and are proud of themselves for doing so. And I'm proud of them too, in a sense, because I love them and I know how hard they have worked. But, damn, they've worked hard. They've worked harder on that than on anything else in their lives. They've restricted their food intake, they've worked out for hours daily. They've had to make being thinner the focus of most of their life. It's not easy, even for people who take the trip successfully.

And for me, and others like me, it comes, if it comes at all, at a huge and unacceptable price. My ability to function in a normal way, to focus on the things that are actually important to me, to not want to kill myself because I want to eat a block of chocolate, that's too high a price to pay. Part of me wants very much to be thinner, and maybe one day I will be, if I get this disorder under control. But only then, because I can't sacrifice my mind to create a thinner body.

Monday, 12 May 2008


Two in one day, whoohoo. Actually, they were both written several days ago. I keep writing things and not posting them. Anyway:

This morning, one of my co-workers, who is more than a little obsessed with dieting and going to the gym, said "you look like you're losing weight."

"Oh," I said, "really? Maybe it's just that I'm wearing black."

"No," she said, "you definitely look trimmer."

"Oh," I said, very conscious of not wanting to greet this with OMGYAYTHANK YOU, and yet wanting to be polite, "well, thanks, I haven't really been trying to."

"Oh," she said, "really?"

Hell, I might be losing weight, I really don't know. We don't own a scale, and I'm not measuring or anything. My clothes feel about the same. I haven't taken any particular action – I mean, I walk everywhere, and I'm trying to eat more fruit. But that hasn't necessarily resulted in me eating any less of anything else.

What struck me, though, wasn't the tone of the compliment itself. She really meant it as a compliment. What she meant was "you look nice". It's possible that I look slimmer – maybe I have lost a few pounds, or maybe it is the black, or maybe I do just look nice and she associates "nice" so heavily with "thin" that it amounts to the same thing.

No, what struck me was the tone of her voice after I said I hadn't been trying to lose weight. That "oh really" was loaded, let me tell you.

There was a layer of "you're that fat and you're not trying to lose weight, are you crazy?"

There was a layer of "you're losing weight and you're doing nothing, how is that fair?"

There was a layer of "why aren't you more happy that you're losing weight?"

There was a significant slice of indignation that I wasn't more grateful for the best compliment a woman can be given, after all. And that right there is a horrendous statement, that the best thing you can say to a woman is that there's less of her, that she is taking up less space.

Fabulous. I know she meant it as a compliment, but it just felt hollow. Nothing complimentary about it. I want to feel better and be healthier, I really do, and if that leads to weight loss, okay, and if it doesn't, I have to learn to love myself that much anyway. But the assumption that there being LESS OF ME is inherently better is disturbing to me.

sneaky beast

Eating disorders are sneaky things. I've been having a fairly good week, till yesterday, when I did a bit too much grazing, thanks to an extremely frustrating and boring job.

But then this morning, I was walking through the pouring rain to work, and happened upon a Mars Bar in the street. Which is to say, it was half eaten, and lying on the filthy pavement in the aforementioned pouring rain.

And I thought, "I could totally eat that Mars Bar."

I didn't, I'm pleased to say, but it was touch and go for a moment or two, and that, let's face it, is pretty disgusting. I'm not really sure why it was touch and go. Especially for a filthy, wet, half-eaten chocolate bar, given that I'd been in a shop with plenty of clean, wrapped, brand new Mars Bars about five minutes earlier and hadn't even been tempted, and was about to be close to the work canteen, which also has plenty of clean, wrapped, brand new Mars Bars.

And after getting to work, I didn't even want one. I just ate my Special K, and had a biscuit when it was offered (wafer with white chocolate coating and chocolate cream). Hell, I actually have a clean, wrapped, brand new Toblerone with fruit and nut in my bag, and I haven't touched that.

It's baffling.

It's sneaky in other ways too. I get a fair bit of exercise, which is largely incidental because I don't drive and therefore have to walk everywhere, but I keep thinking I would like to branch out a bit. Consciously, I think this because of the thing itself. Consciously I think I would like to be more flexible, more centred, have better balance, strengthen my painful feet, stretch my painful back...There are many benefits to exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss.

But there's this niggling little voice in my head all the time, what if it doesn't work?

"Work?" I say to myself. "What do you mean, work? Dude, if I do a little yoga and/or a little Tai Chi every day, it'll work. I'll be more flexible, better balanced, stronger and probably in less pain."

"Yes," says the little voice plaintively, "but will you be thinner?"

Of course, to make matters worse, I have a feeling that, contrary being that I am, there are many kinds of exercise I've avoided doing over the years because, if I did them, I would probably have lost weight. There are things I stopped doing, for no apparent reason, while they were achieving the exact effect I allegedly wanted.

For me at least, this disorder is a sneaky, subtle and contrary beast. On the one hand, it's a rare day on which I don't feel desperate to lose weight at least part of the time, even if I'm shoving food into my mouth at that exact time. On the other, this seems to have developed in such a way as to prevent that loss. I guess I could put that down to rebellion or determination by some inner goblin to be loved for itself, not for its body, some battle for control over my body against a mother who was determined it should be different than it was.

I don't know, I really don't. It's like living with a highly erratic and completely unreliable relative who has burdened you with their presence for twenty odd years without ever explaining why the hell they can't just go live somewhere else, or contributing in any way to the running of the household.

My father, who is a psychologist, says that all behaviours originally served an important purpose. We could argue, perhaps, that my eating problems started as a kind of war for territory against my mother. He says the problem is that they often persist long past their usefulness. Assuming that my eating problems are the war for territory, yeah, this is long past any usefulness it may ever have had. It's beyond useless at this point. I'm thirty two, I'm married, and I live on the other side of the world from my mother. Furthermore, I've told her in no uncertain terms that there should be no discussion of my weight and that she shouldn't buy me clothes. So as far as my original war is concerned, it's over – I won. I'm fat as a baobab tree, and my mother does not try to influence what I eat. The territory is all mine. Whoo.


I keep writing these long, rather rambling posts that come to no clear conclusion lately. I don't have a conclusion yet. As much as I can look at events or people in my life and say, "hey, that's how this started", I haven't yet figured out how to make it end, even so many years after the starting points have ceased to be relevant.

I'm just so tired of being ambushed by myself, and I don't know how to get me to stop.

It's interesting, though, in the light of some of the recent Fatosphere discussion about dieting and fat acceptance, to wonder where someone like me fits into that. To be sure, I've been anti-diet longer than I've been remotely interested in fat acceptance, simply because diets make me crazy, and also fat. Actually, I suspect they make everyone crazy, but I know they make me crazy. That knowledge hasn't stopped me wanting to lose weight. Finding FA hasn't made me stop wanting to lose weight.

Fundamentally, you see, I don't believe that I really should be this fat. It would be easier to be accepting, in a sense, if I was also sure of that. And when I say "should be", I mean "my genetics may give me a predisposition to being overweight, but I don't believe that without compulsive eating, I would actually be the aforementioned baobab lady." I'd probably be on the bigger-than-curvy side – there would still be a lot of people who would call me fat. But not THIS fat.

Then again, maybe my current ideal body of size UK16, something I feel I could live with, is just as ridiculously out of range as a size 10 was in the days when I was size 16. Maybe the point of the entire thing is to learn to live with myself as I am, because it would change nothing if I was a size 16 and still felt like this about myself, or a size 10 for that matter.

No less crazy, no less ambushed by this sneaky beast which tracks me all day and all night and everywhere.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Made of Honour

Made of Honour...well, this isn't a review, so I'll just say it's a fairly friendly romantic comedy, with the usual hearty helping of people being total bastards. This bothers me about romcoms - they're usually full of jerks. Anyway, that isn't really the point of this post. There will be spoilers ahead.

The point of this post is the totally gratuitous and unkind treatment of the single fat person in the film. I guess you could argue that it's a rare thing to have an actually fat person IN this kind of movie, but to be honest, I'd rather that we weren't represented than that we're represented like this.

The fat person in question is bridesmaid Hilary, played by Emily Nelson. She's pretty cute, right? Certainly not freakish in any way. She's short and plump, with one of those hourglass figures. She's not done any favours by the fact that she has to stand next to two very tall, slim women, but she's pretty normal looking, and for a brief flickering moment I thought, it's nice that she was included in her friend's ceremony because she's her damn friend.

The moment didn't last, because Hilary's presence in the film is purely "comic" relief, and all the "comedy" revolves around her being fat.

First it's "funny" that she's a size twelve, but she wants to wear a size eight bridesmaid dress. It's "funny" that she's on some kind of liquid-only diet throughout the film - people comment once or twice that she should eat, and she clearly isn't feeling one hundred percent, but they also think it's normal that she should want to be thinner, so they don't really make a thing of it, and certainly no one says, "Hilary, you're fine as you are", because they don't think she is. She's funny because she's fat, y'know.

Then, to add insult to injury, it's funny that she manages to squeeze into her size eight dress, only to have it split down the side, revealing hilarious fat flesh, when she sits down.

And really, that's it. She doesn't have any emotional moments. The bride isn't ever seen with her. No one tells her she looks fine. She declares early on that she's going to meet a Scottish man and be happy, and that's supposed to be funny too, but they don't bother to let her actually meet the Scottish man, which might've made me feel slightly better about it.

It's just a case of, shit, we need some comic relief in this supposed comedy...let's make fun of the fat chick!

I came across some site the other day with "BBW" romance novels. Unfortunately, the samples I read were absolutely horribly written, so I didn't spend any more time on it. But this kind of thing makes me wonder - how well would a romantic comedy about a fat chick do? If she was just the lead, and no one made a huge deal out of her weight, if she just met the hot guy and fell in love and had all the usual stupid romcom crap happen, and she was just a normal, beautiful, fat woman. Well, I suppose My Big Fat Greek Wedding did very well, but she's not fat. On the other hand, she is pretty normal looking. Would fat women everywhere go "hooray" and run to the cinema to see Patrick Dempsey make out with a woman they thought they could actually be? Or are our fantasies dependent upon our being thin, so we'd rather see him make out with the skinny chick we could never be? I really don't know the answer to that.

Either way, is it really necessary to pretend that public humiliation like having your dress rip in church is funny, that it wouldn't really embarrass poor Hilary and, since, given her liquid diet, she clearly is not accepting of her own body, destroy her self esteem further?

I would probably have enjoyed this stupid movie in the way I generally enjoy stupid romcoms, but it's left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Bones and Ownership

Contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Bones, "The Player Under Pressure".

I was watching Bones last night, which is a show I generally like, and was struck rather unpleasantly by the conclusion. The story was about a murdered basketball player, who turned out to be murdered by the father of a girl who was blowing him immediately before the murder. The motivations were somewhat unclear – the father seemed racked with guilt over the fact that in his youth, he, too, had been an enormous man-whore of the use-'em-and-lose-'em school of seduction, and was devastated to discover that his "baby girl" was just as susceptible to the attractions of the team's star as everyone else.

But despite the subplot about how Brennan was dismissive of athletes as immature and Booth's feeling were hurt by the idea that she thought "guys like him" were perpetually trapped in childhood, no one, least of all Brennan (who really should've been all over this), actually pointed out the fact that it is completely, entirely fucked up for a grown man to be so involved in his daughter's sexuality that he fucking killed a guy over it. I mean, damn, I know Brennan doesn't like psychology, but if that's not a case of projection, I don't know what is. Everyone just treated it like it was a logical reaction to the situation, not an extremely fucked up way to view your daughter. I could almost grasp it if he'd committed suicide, having realised that he was a total bastard, but murdering the guy his daughter was blowing is just...weird.

Look, I grasp that the athlete was an arse, and probably deserved a kicking. I grasp that there are men who use and women who are used, and professional athletes get a lot of opportunities for that sort of thing. I grasp that the guy was portrayed as being a bit of a heartbreaker, at least in relation to another young woman, so he could be presumed to have failed to be clear about the fact that he just wanted to get laid.

However, I really, really resent this notion that somehow a man has the right to kill a man who fucked his daughter, and it really felt like the show and its characters tacitly approved of this murder.

Firstly, I am tired of this notion that sex is degrading for women. Now, the girl in question, a cheerleader, may have been conned by the athlete, but that's never spelled out in relation to her - the only person heartbroken is someone else entirely, someone who is outside the circle of athletes and cheerleaders, and who presumably didn't know his reputation (and you can't tell me that any of the cheerleaders hadn't heard about that). The only information we're given about the two of them was that she was blowing him under the bleachers. Whoop-di-do. She had a fiancĂ© herself – there's no particular reason to believe that she was in love or unaware that he didn't want anything more than sex, or that she wanted anything but that herself.

Secondly, the girl was an adult – a college-aged adult, but she was old enough to decide to get married, certainly old enough to decide to have sex. Her father's place in her sex life should be non-existent. I'll grant you, it would be pretty icky to discover in that particular way that your daughter cheating was on her fiancĂ©, especially in a public place, but that doesn't make her father's reaction any less fucked up and bizarre.

And finally, the implication of the father's final confession – "it's different when you see your baby girl..." – is that, well, he never really understood before that using women like toilet paper was wrong, and now doesn't understand that it's wrong because women are people who shouldn't be treated with disdain (not that casual sex isn't fine if both parties are fully aware what it is when they're going into it), but because his "baby girl" has fallen prey to it. Well, probably, we don't really know, her motivations are never explored. But he only feels bad – is apparently only driven to murder – because, OMG! Turns out? Men using women is bad if it's someone's daughter. Because it's not like every goddamn woman you meet is someone's daughter.

(Aside: I had a boss once who had his fourteen year old daughter at work with him at his video store one day, and some lout came in and was making suggestive remarks about her, and he replied "that's my daughter", and the lout quickly back-pedalled with "oh, I didn't mean anyone's daughter, mate, not anyone's daughter…")

I am squicked out by this. I realise that it's probably not an unrealistic portrayal of a certain kind of man, and it's not that I don't think that kind of man should never appear on film – I just think that in a show like Bones, in which our extremely tough female lead is perfectly comfortable criticising the sexual behaviour, not to mention the emotional development, of most of the male characters in the episode, it is very peculiar to have no comment from her on this subject. I feel let down by it, to be honest. Brennan can be annoying with her insistence on viewing everything through the limited glass of her profession, but honestly, couldn't she pull it out when it matters? Wouldn't this actually be a really important thing for her to comment on?

Strangely, this actually does have something to do with eating disorders. I've seen a lot of comments lately from possibly well-meaning, possibly trollish, men on fat acceptance and feminist blogs which amount to "why do women want to be skinny? Men don't like skinny women, so it's not our fault that you've all got fucked up relationships with your bodies and with food". On one level, I understand the protest – probably the individual males making the protests don't pressure their significant others to lose weight (although I'd be interested to know at what point they would consider it acceptable to start that pressure – I doubt very much that most of them are into fat chicks, and they probably still have a notion of what makes an attractive woman, which probably doesn't include "size not important").

But at the same time, it's a disclaimer that I distrust – partly because the assumption that it's all women's own fault that we have body issues implies that only women should have to take any action (I also doubt whether these guys are actually telling women of all shapes and sizes that they're beautiful OR that being beautiful isn't the most important thing in a woman's life), and partly because it comes back to the same old bullshit that was bothering me on Bones last night: many men, I daresay most men, still think they own us.

Hell, they still think they own women they've never met, to the extent that they think their approval or disapproval of our bodies is what should define our relationships with said bodies. They sound like they're disclaiming ownership because they're disclaiming responsibility, but actually, the crux of the question isn't "why do you want to be skinny?" but "men don't like...". The question doesn't mean "why have you developed an impossible goal for you, why can't you love and enjoy yourself the way you are?"; it means "why are you doing something that might actually make you less attractive to some men than you are now? Isn't being attractive to men the most important part of your life?"

The worst part is that it's not an entirely stupid question. It's an offensive question, but not an entirely stupid one, especially for those of us whose battle with our weight has been at least partly motivated by a desire for the attention of the opposite sex. My own father was the one who told me I had to lose weight or boys would never be interested in me. He was wrong, as it turned out, but I believed him. Part of me still believes him, even though I'm married now to a man who thinks I'm gorgeous.

But there I am again, you see. I'm still wrapped in the question of what is attractive to men, even if it's just one man, who has already agreed to spend his life with me, so clearly likes me quite a lot.

Not all eating disorders come from the same source, or have the same goal, of course. My sister was anorexic in her teens, and that at least partly resulted from being raped at the age of twelve. I doubt that she was interested in more male attention just then, and her recovery didn't begin until she took up martial arts and felt some kind of control over her own body again. But a lot of my own self-loathing over the years has been rooted in the notion that I could never be attractive, and I would never be worth anything until I was.

Lately, as well, there's been the wholly disturbing "Open Source Boob Project", which is apparently a group effort to make scifi and fantasy conventions as uncomfortable as possible by forcing women to actually answer the question "can I feel your boobs?" to anyone who cares to ask. (Yes, you can wear a badge that says "don't ask me", but honestly, shouldn't the default assumption be that this is a fucking stupid question to ask a stranger? Ask me and you'll get your fingers broken.) Again, this question of ownership hasn't gone away, even amongst men who tell themselves that they are enlightened and not at all sexist.

But the lead on the "project" also commented in the now-deleted comments that he wouldn't feel up someone who was unattractive to him, because he "doesn't do pity gropes".

I know I said in my last post that I was getting away from anger, and I still am. This is...not anger, exactly, a kind of weary frustration, born of a gut feeling that this is just wrong.

Most of the time, I hate my body and I can't control my eating. Most of the time, this may not be about what actual individual men like or don't like. It's not even about what my husband likes or doesn't like, because all the internal evidence suggests he likes me just fine, at any weight, at any level of craziness. But it is, to a lesser or greater extent, to do with the fact that in my heart – as opposed to my head, which is outraged – I still believe that being attractive to men is of primary importance for a woman, and that being fat is fundamentally unattractive, and you can't disentangle that from the fact that it is still considered appropriate for men's opinions of our bodies, what they look like and what we do with them, should be proprietorial. Fat is still a feminist issue, because regardless of whether an individual man is going to find me or any other individual woman attractive, our culture is still founded on the notion that the opinions of men at large about the bodies of individual women are important, whether it's because they're telling fat OR skinny women that they're not attractive.

And I don't accept this notion that it's all women's fault, because, oh dear, we're putting pressure on ourselves to be TOO thin. We're also putting pressure on ourselves to have bigger (or smaller) breasts, and smaller (or bigger) bums, shiny hair, perfect skin, bigger eyes, not to mention every other damn thing, and it's got nothing to do with what YOU, THE INDIVIDUAL MALE, find personally attractive and everything to do with what SOCIETY, of which you are a part (as am I), says is attractive. If you're genuinely that offended by the notion, try to get some of the companies promoting these images to put some of what YOU'RE actually attracted to into their advertising, or, better still, start encouraging the women of your acquaintance to love themselves as they are, regardless of whether they fit into any social standard of beauty. You can't disclaim responsibility while you're still claiming ownership, and you're still claiming ownership while you assert the importance of what you (or men) are attracted to in relation to women in general, as though, as we already feel, what we look like is really all that is of importance about us. That you don't like "skinny chicks" doesn't make you morally superior, as much as fatter women may often like to make you feel it is. We want people to find us attractive too, and we're more likely to like you if you seem like you might, because it makes us feel better. You're still asserting a proprietorial right to judge, even if you seem to be judging in our favour.

(I do wonder sometimes if I would find this whole thing easier if I were a lesbian, or if I'd just find a way to feel like women couldn't find me attractive either. I don't know. But the lesbian gaze doesn't yet have a strong enough hold in culture at large, so doesn't really come into this entry.)

I'm not blaming individual men OR women (apart from those of either sex who glaringly deserve it, who individually harass individual women or make their partners feel bad for being heavier than they think they deserve etc) for a society-wide issue that crosses nations and continents. But I don't believe that women's investment in being attractive, even if we're individually hit and miss with men's supposed requirements (as though those are universal), is purely a woman-created problem – how could it be, in our still male-dominated society? Men as a group feel quite free to dismiss us if they consider us unattractive, whether it's by leaving "men don't like skinny women" comments on our blogs, or criticising our bodies from building sites, or dumping us because we are too fat/thin/short/tall/ugly for them. Even our concerned commenters seem to feel quite free to dismiss slender women, as though they're somehow lesser because they're thinner than the commenters themselves find attractive. If they're really that concerned, they should find a way to be sympathetic to the pain of those obsessed with their weight and attractiveness without dismissing the concern because "men don't like skinny women". That doesn't engender confidence in slender women, it doesn't make fat women feel any better because we may not be skinny but we're probably still too fat, and it doesn't move us any further from the fundamental position that men's opinions of our bodies are still paramount.

This is a sticky business, because attraction is obviously still pretty important to the human species. Without it, we come to a dead end. I'm here in a blog no one is reading, muttering about television shows and my own struggles with my weight and my eating, and I have no real answers. I just know...I'm tired of this. I'm tired seeing the assumption of male ownership of women plastered everywhere, from stupid TV shows that can't be bothered to question a man's possessiveness about his daughter's sexuality to advertising which uses women's bodies as a kind of public message board about what's acceptable and isn't solely in order to make us buy things, to commenters who disclaim their part in women's obsession with being attractive because we're not doing it the right way for THEM, to my own despair when I look at my body or the newly forming lines on my face. I'm not even angry. I'm just tired.

So far my fat positivity has not come around to the notion that I could be devastatingly attractive at any weight, or that it doesn't matter a fuck if anyone ever finds me attractive because I'm clever and talented and a bunch of other good stuff. If I ever get there, you'll know I've recovered. And that I've reached a new level of personal evolution in which I understand in my heart as well as believe in my head that my attractiveness to men, or lack thereof, is not the most important thing about me.