I’m an English nerd and I love the novel Catch-22… if you haven’t read it, you should…
In the event you are unaware, a “catch-22” is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules.
For example: To apply for this job, you would have to be insane; but if you are insane, you are unacceptable for the job.
Crappy situation, right!?
The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes “Catch-22” to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly, and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in making the request and thus cannot be declared insane.
It’s really an interesting read and makes a lot of social statements.
So, I’ve realized that women are in a Catch-22 situation!
Women are scrutinized if they are too fat or too thin! And then, finally, when they are normal… there is still something wrong with them! The interesting thing is – this does not happen to men nearly as much as women!! We hear all about the body shaming of women, but far less about it of men (not that it doesn’t happen, because it does). Why? We live in a culture where the sexualization of women is prominent and a person is made into a object for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making. Advertisement and entertainment media play a large role in the way women are portrayed, and the results have not been good (That’s a blog for another day).
If you’re too fat – you get scrutiny for being unhealthy.
If you’re too thin – you get scrutiny for being unhealthy.
If you’re normal, but athletic or strong, you get scrutiny for being too masculine.
It almost seems like there is no perfect place for a woman to be.
Tina Fey explains the female dilemma quite well in her book Bossypants:
“Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”
A recent example of this: Rhonda Rousey
This woman is amazing! She just defended her championship UFC title knocking out her opponent in 34 seconds (she knocked out another one in 17 seconds). She is a healthy woman who said she actively chose to gain 15 pounds for a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Photo shoot because she feels the most beautiful at 150, not her fighting weight of 135.
That photo shoot:
After winning her fight, she posted a picture of herself (below) enjoying time with her family at a soccer game in Rio de Janeiro and was blasted by the media for being “too masculine.” So… a woman who is 135lbs with an athletic build, who is obviously fit, is also not good enough. So now, any muscle tone means “too masculine.” What about the men who have no muscle tone out there? Are they “too feminine”? Her response was great – she basically said, “screw you, I don’t care what you think!”
In an interview with Cosmopolitan Rousey stated, “I grew up thinking that because my body type was common [i.e., athletic], it was a bad thing,” she said in the interview. “Now that I’m older, I’ve really begun to realize that my body has developed for a purpose and not just to be looked at. It took a lot of time to develop a healthier relationship with food and with my weight. My mind was backward. I thought I wanted my body to look a certain way so I could be happy. But it got to the point where I didn’t feel I looked good at 135 pounds, the weight that qualifies me for the weight class that I fight in.”
Ronda Rousey is so correct! We have to get to a point where we realize that our bodies are not made to just be looked at. Sure, that can be part of it. I’m now at the point where I can put on an outfit and say, “damn, my butt looks awesome!” but that’s not what it’s here to do. My body is here for many more things. My body is here to move me from point A to point B, to hug my friends, to worship God, to teach a classroom full of students, to love my family, to run races, to sit on a beach, and to find infinite new things that are exciting. My body is just a vessel that holds the true person that I really am, but It’s the vessel that allows me to be the person that I want to be. And, because I am the person I want to be, I enjoy what I see in that vessel and feel good going what I do.
This is why we should put down the magazines, get off social media, stop looking at models and start appreciating our bodies for the strength they have. Taking off our clothes and flaunting our bodies (Miley Cyrus…ahem…) does not “take back our bodies and take back the power,” in fact, it probably makes it worse (That’s also another blog for another day).
So, to further my point…. Here is a short list of some pretty awesome people – who are pretty normal – who are apparently all “fat”…
… and they were told they would never make it in their field because of it.
- Jennifer Lawrence – Award winning actress – She was “too fat” to play Katniss in The Hunger Games, her “womanly” body just wasn’t the right size. They said she didn’t look like the starving character she was supposed to portray. It’s okay to roll your eyes.
- Misty Copeland – First African-American Principal Dancer – She was “too fat” and “too athletic” for many dance companies. She was criticized for not having the right body, for having a bust, and how she is the most acclaimed dancer in history.
- Ronda Rousey – Defending UFC Champion – She was told she was “too masculine” even though her weight wasn’t the issue. So, we can be “just right” and still have something wrong according to the standards of the media.
- Kesha – Pop Star – She was told she was “too fat” and needed to drop weight to stay mainstream. This advice from her manager led her down the path of an eating disorder.
- Lady Gaga – Singer – She was criticized for gaining weight after overcoming her battles with eating disorders. She started a movement of body acceptance and compassion.
- Adele – Singer – She may not be the fittest, but she makes the list. The director of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, gave Adele one hell of a backhanded compliment, saying that, while she had a beautiful face and voice, she was a “little too fat.” It wasn’t the first time Adele was criticized for her weight in public, but the good news is that you don’t have to be a size 00 to win Grammys — Adele has 10.
- Tyra Banks – Model – She used to walk the runway and was told to lose weight when she started her career. She refused and still made it. Long after her career was over, she was criticized for being “fat” when her body changed (as we all do). I’m sure the writer who commented on her weight was “totally fit” when he wrote that about her! And, I’m sure he won’t criticize her “fat” bank account.
- Christina Aguilera – Pop Star – The fantastically sexist website AskMen wrote an entire article on how terrible it is that Aguilera has gotten curvier since her “Genie In A Bottle Days” — you know, back when she was a teenager, before she had children! Remind her to care when she’s not dominating pop music.
- Kate Winslet – Actress – She was told she was “too fat” for roles and was passed over. She nailed it in Titanic and has been a sensation for positive body image for women. Too bad those people never gave her a chance, because maybe their shows/movies could have won some Oscars too.
- Rebel Wilson – Actress – The Pitch Perfect star may have been “Fat Amy” in the film, but she’s less thrilled with name calling in actual life. She called out her haters by saying that she’s actually not the concerned with how hot she is — just how entertaining. Amen. She probably has more of a personality than most people doing the name calling.
- Demi Lovato – Singer – once she let go of the pressures of staying thin, she went into rehab for her mental illness and got healthy from her eating disorder. Her healthy body was criticized as “fat” and she has been a body image pioneer since she started her journey toward health.
- Kate Upton – Model – First of all, she’s beautiful. She’s been criticized for becoming so mainstream and not being stick thin. People have been quoted saying, “How DARE she be a bikini model, when she doesn’t have a bikini body!” She was called a “fat cow” by models after she appeared in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show which prompted an outrage and discussion of what body image really is. And, let’s be honest… she’s hot!
So, what’s the lesson here? Define your own beauty. Rousey says it so well – our bodies are for more than just looking at! The easiest way to begin defining your beauty is to get off the internet, close the magazines and close down social media because they are breeding grounds for comparison. In high school I wanted so badly to be a fast sprinter, but I didn’t realize that my body was built to run the difficult middle distance races. Pulling away from everything that breeds comparison allows you to drop expectations and define who you are. When you can finally appreciate your strengths, you can learn to accept your flaws and love who you are.