Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bodies the Size of Zero

I was scrolling through Feministing the other day when the post Doing the Unthinkable! caught my eye. While the point of the article is extremely interesting, I want to focus more on this comment made by Samhita:
Furthermore, how come nobody has mentioned the fact that a size 0 means it
doesn't exist. Zero means nothing or that it is not there, so in a way it is
like the metaphorical erasure of women, as though they don't exist or that they
don't take up any space. Just a thought.

A lot of the commenters, who are size 0 themselves, took offense to this. They thought Samhita was saying that they don't exist, or thought that she was bashing them to be size 0.

I hadn't noticed until fairly recently that clothing stores have been changing their sizes so that a larger size is size zero. Some of my friends were happy about this, telling me how they now could feel better about their bodies when trying to find a pair of pants. I don't see it this way. I feel that the sizing of clothes is arbitrary: I never know from store to store what size to look for, it's always grab at least three different sizes and head to the changing room. The new move for size zero, I'm sure, is a way for clothing stores to boost the self-esteem of their clientele so that they buy more clothes--the beauty of capitalism. I can't help thinking, and what Samhita was hitting on in her post, is that in our patriarchal society, being thin is best because when you're small you don't take up space or impose. We are taught to want to be small, petite, skinny because it's beautiful and healthy. There's a lot of different facts out there that can be conjured up that say that bodies that aren't thin are unhealthy and lazy. Our ideas of what is thin and what is obese has become dangerously skewed, for bodies that are perfectly healthy yet larger than what is acceptable have been called obese.

I've struggled particularly with that. My body isn't the same as it was when I was 18: I've put on weight, there's mounds where there were angles. I eat healthy, I exercise every day, and damnit, I should be happy with my body, because it's at place where it wants to be. Yet, that's hardly ever the case, I've internalized the beauty myth, and it's come to the point where I wonder if the yoga I do is for the health of my body or if it's to slim down, tone, or decrease in size. I want to be petite, I want to look like Buffy.

The new size zero wasn't implemented so that women are easier on our bodies, it was put into to place so that we buy new clothes. Whatever. The fashion industry will always be our friend and enemy. Samhita wasn't criticizing anyone for being a size 0, she was just trying to talk about the societal baggage that comes with the size. What I hope to do is to accept my body as it wants to be, and to accept all the different sizes that women are: it's not easy when anyone is seen as too skinny or too overweight.

6 comments:

Mary said...

"Sizes" are modern phenomenon. Before that all clothing was custom made to fit the person who was going to wear it. Something to think about.

100LittleDolls said...

Custom fit clothes--sounds heavenly.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Mary,
You said, "Sizes" are modern phenomenon. Before that all clothing was custom made to fit the person who was going to wear it. Something to think about.

"Sizes" are modern in the last 150 years, since the invention of mass-produced clothing (1850s, roughly). But not all clothing was custom-made. Most were cut out of patterns (whether bought or homemade) in pieces and parts, and were only truly custom-made if you were wealthy. Most lower-income men and women bought their clothes used, or received them hand-me-down from employers. They would tailor them to fit, but only in their spare time, and that wasn't much time at all.

What I find really interesting is that custom-made clothes only have serious cultural capital if someone other than yourself or your family makes them for you. i.e. there's no cultural capital to wearing a dress grandma sewed, despite its custom fit, but the second you pay for it, the price and value go through the roof!

I've always wished I could sew, but I can't even reattach a button without serious pain, injury, and shame...
:)
Ciao,
Amy

Mar said...

You said: I can't help thinking, and what Samhita was hitting on in her post, is that in our patriarchal society, being thin is best because when you're small you don't take up space or impose.

You're kidding me, right? For one, there are and have been innumerable patriarchal societies (such as Rome, certain rural areas of China, some African and Middle Eastern countries, etc.) in which it is considered best for women to be fat. So you can't reasonably attempt to correlate "thinness = beauty" and "patriarchal society", much less propose a causative connection. In fact, the best correlation that can be found is economical - in places where it's more difficult to be fat than thin, being fat is a status symbol showing that you can afford a lot of food. In places where it's more difficult to be thin than fat, like the U.S. (with fast food being cheaper and easier than healthy food), it's considered a status symbol to be thin. It's just like being pale versus being tan - whatever's less common and takes more time and/or effort is considered "better" in that society.

100LittleDolls said...

I see what you're saying, and that certainly makes sense. But I still say that women in our specific society are uncomfortable with taking up a lot of space. We're not supposed to be domineering, looming, a force to be reckoned with.

An imperfect analogy is how some women are uncomfortable with dating men who are shorter than they are.

100LittleDolls said...

BTW, thanks, for adding to the conversation!