It started (as so many great conversations do) over at Beauty Schooled in this post where she talks about plastic surgery companies who market cosmetic procedures as a way to help you land a job. And then somehow it kept coming up last week….that the reality is that in U.S. culture there is a standard of beauty that includes thinness, and meeting this standards means that you are more likely to find a mate, get a job, that you’ll get paid more etc. It’s reality, deal with it.
I agree, that is reality. My issues is that, in this context, “reality” is thought of as a fixed state and “deal with it” typically means “acquiesce and conform” or suffer the consequences of a reality you can’t change.
And that’s where I disagree. Conforming is not our only option. We could refuse to conform and in doing so challenge stereotypes, confound expectations, and even change popular culture. “Reality” is not unchangeable and I know that because I was wearing pants on the way to my desegregated school when I stopped to vote for the first time.
Obviously, not conforming comes with sacrifice. If you love your body and focus on your health instead of your weight, if you refuse to be a “good fatty“ – always self-deprecating, trying to be thin and telling everyone how you struggle with your weight, or if you stop wearing make-up, or speak your truth, or do anything that challenges the status quo, then you probably will get less job offers, you probably will get paid less than your culturally conforming co-workers, you may get fewer dates. People might very well be nasty to you. Those are big sacrifices and you might not want to make them, and that’s totally ok.
But for change to happen somebody has to do it. Somebody – and then more somebodies – must buck the system.
I watched a really interesting documentary yesterday called “Live Nude Girls Unite” about a group of peep show dancers and their journey to try to unionize. Without giving too much away they sacrificed plenty including time, money, and relationships in their attempt to change reality.
I am very clear that I stand on the shoulders of thousands of people who sacrificed their time, money, relationships, and in some cases lives to create the parts of reality which I now enjoy. I don’t take those sacrifices for granted and I can’t think of any better way to show gratitude then to become part of that tradition.
And remember that it doesn’t have to be something huge. Every little bit helps. So consider organizing a “No Make-Up Monday” at your school or work, or wear a sleeveless shirt and proudly show your arms, tell people your real weight, maybe skip having a neurotoxin that causes paralysis injected into your face as part of your job search strategy. To be clear, I have nothing against those who choose to wear make-up, or try for intentional weight loss, have cosmetic procedures, cover their bodies, or lie about their weight. If that’s what you want to do then I think that’s awesome – what I’m interested in is having the opportunity to choose those things just because we want to, without the consideration that if we don’t choose them, the herd will say we’re baaaaaaaad and we’ll suffer the consequences.
There’s a Garth Brooks song (oh yeah, I went there) called “The Change”. The chorus says:
And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me
I think that’s where it’s at. Maybe I would receive higher scores from dance judges, or more money from jobs, or more dates, or whatever, if I was willing to accept “what is” and conform, or was at least willing to be a good, self-deprecating, I’m-trying-to-lose-weight- so-you’ll-find-my-body-acceptable fatty, Maybe people would think I was less weird. But I, and a lot of other people, are just saying no.
And maybe the sacrifices my friends and I are making will change the world. Maybe we’ll see a fat woman as a leading lady in a movie that never even mentions her weight, or have a National dialog about health that doesn’t center around just trying to have a smaller body, and we’ll feel the same pride that suffragettes felt when they watched women vote.
Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll just die knowing that we lived a life of integrity and strength, part of a tradition of people who didn’t just want things to be different or complain about their reality, but worked and sacrificed for the reality that they wanted. Maybe all we’ll know is that we refused to be whittled away trying to trim ourselves to suit somebody else. And maybe that’s enough.
Not a Garth Brooks fan? No problem. Meet one of my new favorite underdog anthems: P!nk – “Raise Your Glass”
So raise your glass if you are wrong
In all the right ways
All my underdogs, we will never be, never be
Anything but loud
And nitty gritty, Dirty little freaks
Won’t you come on, and come on, and
Raise your glass!