love for sale

love_sale.gif (this image was produced by the great feminist artist Barbara Kruger–http://barbarakruger.com)

So I thought that I would let this blogosphere argument pass me by. I mean, there's a whole bunch of stuff going on that I could blog about. But the reality is that it's been weighing on me since I read about it, (and hell yes, I'm using that pun). So I'm jumping in, although I realize that in internet time, I'm writing about something that effectively happened in the Pleistocene era.

Why? Because I'm a woman not a commodity. I did not 'advertise' myself to my husband, nor have I advertised myself to any of the many people that I've slept with/dated/lived with/given birth to/loved/made out with/flirted/befriended/ parented/engaged in casual conversation with/or ever interacted with in any way in my life.

The idea that I have some kind of money-back return policy, that my husband or lover might have the right to return me if I don't meet his or her expectations of physical beauty, sickens and angers me.

I'm angry that we still have so much commodification of women's bodies in our society, that women have internalized this bullshit, and actually would use the word 'advertise' to describe their own premarital relationship. I'm angry that we focus so much attention on what we look like, we spend so much time dieting and exercising, so much time obssessing about our own weight, that we stop paying attention to the weight of the world.

There's a part of the movie Manufacturing Consent where Noam Chomsky talks about how how sports and fandom prove that ordinary men can understand complicated and arcane issues, since they can discuss complex rules and retain whole seasons' worth of statistics. I think that weight and dieting prove the same thing for women. I can't even ennumerate the number of conversations that I've had in my life with women who knew the calorie and fat content of every thing they put in their mouth. Women who knew every dieting theory under the sun. Women who went on the cabbage diet, on Atkins, on South Beach, the Zone.

What if, instead of worrying about how many carbs we're eating in every meal, we instead decided to memorize the phone numbers of all of our congresspeople and senators? Or we took the time to understand the political situation in the Sudan? What if, instead of worrying about our bodies going to hell, we worried about our minds going south?

Like probably every parent these days, I wonder how to keep my daughter from developing an unhealthy relationship with her own body, and with the food that fuels it. My high school best friend was bulimic, and by the time she was 25, she had to have caps on all her teeth, because they had been so eaten away by acid. Her skin is permanently blotchy from malnutrition. She can never get away from the effects of her eating disorder.

If you think of yourself as a product, how do you keep your kid from feeling like one?

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March 26, 2006. politically motivated.

15 Comments

  1. fidget replied:

    i try hard not to think of myself as a product, damn hard. I never used to worry one iota about what I ate, I don’t know fat or calorie contents off hand, but these days I find myself obsession over what i never really cared I had. Now I feel like it was some sort of false advertising. Why?? I’m not sure. I’m trying to focus my goals more towards health than being ‘unfat’ I’m trying to align myself with organizations of like minded people to work towards a better world but i keep buttingheads with buttheads and morons (refer to my blog post for monday). ok I’m rambling here…

  2. Lena replied:

    The aspect of this subject that for some unknown reason is not being discussed is HEALTH. Yes, we as American women are killing ourselves trying to be the perfect wife/mother/employee/neighbor. Image is everything. Especially where I live. The issue is what we are doing to our bodies in the name of “perfection” – we are starving, we are avoiding grains, we are taking drugs.

    But, the flipside is what are we doing in the name of NOT buying into this diet craze? Are we educating ourselves about humanity and world and country and state to feed our mind, yet feeding our bodies garbage?

    Heart disease is the #1 killer of women – normally overweight women.

    As usual, the key is balance.

    I 100% agree with you about the danger of using a word like advertising. We are certainly not packages as women and as soon as the MAJORITY of us start feeling that way about ourselves, then society will too.

    Excellent post – thanks Landis mom 😉

  3. elise replied:

    I am 45 lbs heavier than when I started dating my husband at 17 years old (but I hadn’t even’t stopped growing). I am 25 lbs heavier than when we got married. But he can’t keep his hands off of me!! He absolutely loves all the mushiness. I really don’t think he’d care how big I got if we could still have sex!
    But….for me the whole weight issue and what we teach our children is very important. I can’t except that we go to an extreme in either direction. I tell my kids that I am a few pounds overweight (5′ 5″ and 155 lbs) but not anything that’s having a big impact on my health. I tell them that if I see if my weight is going up 5 lbs than I watch what I eat (without starving myself) until it goes back down. I tell them my extra 15 or 20 lbs is not a big deal but I try not to get any heavier. I tell them that although a person who is overweight should lose the weight for their health that we should not judge them based on their weight. I tell them that the overweight person is fully aware that they are overweight and we don’t need to “help” them see that.
    There is type I AND type 11 diabetes in my family so it definitely would be a health issue for me and my kids (plus heart disease on my husbands side). It is a very tough issue to deal with and find that balance.

  4. MetroDad replied:

    “What if, instead of worrying about our bodies going to hell, we worried about our minds going south?”

    I love that line, LM. Let’s face it though. We live in a world of increasing superficialism. It’s amazing what people get their minds wrapped around in. This is unrelated to the whole debate about weight and “false advertising.” It’s just something that I’ve been thinking about more and more, ever since my daughter was born. How do I get HER to be more concerned with the serious issues of our time? And still retain a joie de vivre?

    It’s funny that you mentioned Chomsky. A few months ago, I was telling a friend of mine that not only was I going to raise my daughter to collect baseball cards but also I was going to get her a set of Chomsky’s Philosophy cards. Remember those? or am I talking to myself again? Sorry. I’ll stop babbling now.

  5. jackie replied:

    I love this entry, for a fresh radical take on the issue. i worry alot about my daughters’ relationship with food, because it’s such a huge issue for women in America, but on the other hand, i hate that it takes up so much female time and energy and thought. it’s one of the best examples of internalized patriarchal thinking, you know? How best to break the cycle, I’m not sure, but I’m enjoying thinking/talking about it.

  6. Jessica replied:

    What an important post, LM (and, as always so very well articulated). I’ve been noting this same topic appearing on other blogs as well – although I feel like some of what is being referenced (around other blogs, not yours) is a bit taken out of context, I’m still grateful for it – at least it’s being discussed.

  7. Mere replied:

    The bad blogger that I’ve been lately, I didn’t come across this until now. Thanks for writing exactly how I felt when I read the original posts. *My* weight and health isn’t the only thing I worry about. Like you, I also worry about how my child(ren) will view my concern. Will I be able to raise them so that it’s a non-issue. I can only hope and pray.

  8. kdubs replied:

    So well written. I love your thoughts, as always.

    I have said this before but I’ll say my thoughts again.

    I think you are right. Although I do, personally enjoy feeling attractive for my husband, it is not the entirety of our relationship. He loves me when I’m bigger, smaller, blue, pink–whatever. He is just as into me now huge and preggo as he was six months again when I was tiny because what we have goes beyond the physical.

    However, I do believe we need to take care of ourselves. I am a huge heart awareness advocate, as i have posted on my blog. Heart disease is the number killer of women so we do owe it ourselves to take care of ourselves but we don’t have to starve ourselves. Just take care of ourselves and enjoy life. Enjoy good books. Good conversation. Silly conversation. Humor. Love. Passion. Parenting. Joy. Spirituality.

    It’s sad people sum this issue up to appearance. That’s not all of it. That’s one tiny element to something so much bigger.

    It’s so sad after this post, I’m not reading any more. LOL.

    Cheers,
    k

  9. Jennifer replied:

    I didn’t hear anyone else write about the phrase “false advertising” being so incredibly frightening. That’s what struck me, too.

    I was shocked, I mean shocked, by how this carried around the blogosphere. I do not think about my weight except in a joking way, to note that I should probably be eating pure lard (I am the incredible disappearing woman these days). Of course my daughter is only 2 but I never, not for one second, thought that weight would be one of her issues as she grows up. Wow. I must have my head in the sand.

  10. Daydreams and Musings replied:

    I didn’t write about this topic because others said it so much better than I ever could. If it’s possible, I actually agree with you AND MIM on this one. It is a shame that so many women waste so much energy dieting and worrying about how they look. I had an eating disorder in my teens and 20s and want so badly for my kids to skip that part of my childhood experience. If I can help them accept their bodies and treat themselves well, I will have succeeded.

    While MIM may have made her point in a controversial way (I can understand the visceral reaction to the concept of “false advertising” in relationships), her point’s still a good one. There is a ridiculously high divorce rate in this country and one reason may be our focus on individualism. To some extent, we were raised to believe that we can do whatever we want with our lives and our bodies. But when we’re in a marriage, we have someone else’s feelings and preferences to contend with. We certainly CAN do whatever we want but we have to accept the fact that other people may not react the way we want them to. There are consequences to our actions (or inactions) whether we like it or not.

    If I gain 100 pounds because, say, I’m taking needed medication that causes weight gain, my husband will still love me but he may not be attracted to me physically. If I gain 100 pounds because I sit on the couch for two months eating Doritos, my husband might actually leave me and most people wouldn’t blame him. It’s not the weight gain per se that ruins the marriage (unless you’re married to a superficial ass), it’s the change in attitude, lifestyle and self-regard that leads to ruin. I think that’s a big part of the point she was making. And, I think, the follow on to what she’s saying is that we should always be ourselves – whoever that is. We shouldn’t try to be someone else just to get a mate.

    Wow – you bring out the rambling in all of us. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  11. Comfort Addict replied:

    As always, LM, you write with a distinctive combination of passion and reason that makes you unique. Well said.

    Many of the prior comments have voice have advocated health. I’ll add my voice to the chorus. Whether you’re a woman or a man, especially as you age, it’s good to be healthy. Good health helps you avoid disease and enjoy life more. To me, good health includes staying within the range of body mass index (BMI) recommended to avoid potential problems with heart disease, diabetes, etc.

    That said, I agree with you about the terrible things that society does to women (see my post on Great Expectations). Although I know that this post is directed at women, I think that conscious men need to make themselves aware of women’s feelings on this subject on a regular basis. Even those of us who try to be empathetic have been conditioned about whom to choose based on unnatural “ideals.” Posts like yours remind us of the devastating, real effects of those notions.

  12. Bobita replied:

    I have been following the “false advertising” debate running rampant in blogsphere. Your comments so much more clearly represent my feelings on the subject.

    I am so glad that I have found your blog. I appreciate your viewpoint and the way in which you articulate your thoughts.

  13. Sara replied:

    I’ve had big problems with body issues and self-hatred over fat and food, and the idea that I could be using this mental capacity for something else is one of the revelations that has gotten me to a much happier place. I gained about 20 lbs the year after college, and it totally freaked me out. I found myself thinking about it all the time – every time I bent over and felt like my hips were squooshing out of my pants, every time I sat down to eat, every time I remembered the existence of the gym. And not only that, I constantly was making plans for how to lose the weight. I’d promise myself 10 times a day that this was going to be when I would stop being a fat girl, and lose 20 or 30 or 50 pounds – depending on exactly how bad I was feeling at the time. When I realized how much time and emotional energy I was spending on hating myself – and how unnecessary and useless it was – I had to stop and think. (Therapy helped get me to this point, btw.) I mean, with all of this obsessing, I still wasn’t even losing any weight. I was paralyzed by all this second-guessing of myself, and I was miserable. I’m happier now, and so glad to have this time and energy back.

  14. mixednuts replied:

    “The idea that I have some kind of money-back return policy, that my husband or lover might have the right to return me if I don’t meet his or her expectations of physical beauty, sickens and angers me.”

    Incidentally, this return policy still exists in some of the really remote places in my country. Wives who know squat about cooking, farming, and raising children may be “returned” to their families because they are deemed worthless.

    In the cities, this cruel and demeaning practice is immortalized in jokes. A man might laughingly say to his wife, “You’re lucky you’re pretty because your cooking sucks. Otherwise, I’d have returned you to your Papa.”

  15. mixednuts replied:

    Incidentally, this return policy exists in the really remote barrios in my country.

    A wife who knows squat about farming, cooking, and child-rearing may be returned to her parents because she is deemed useless.

    In the cities, this practice, while never openly acknowledged as a reality, has been elevated to the status of a running joke. A man might say to his wife, “You’re lucky you’re pretty because your cooking sucks. Without that pretty face, I’d have sent you back to Papa.”

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