In the words of the great philosopher, Boom Crash Opera, “These here are crazy times”. Here we all are working from our bedrooms, scared that we won’t see our families for an indeterminate period of time, going crazy with the anxiety of the unknown future, how long this will go on for, whether our children’s lives will be forever damaged, when we can hug our friends or ever feel normal in the #newnormal. We have learnt a whole new language which we can use to express our new realities as we WFM to self isolate in quarantine in our PPE. Or as Australians say it “sit in quazzie after using sanny to keep us safe in iso” and wherever we are we are avoiding covidiots and dreaming of enjoying quarantinis.
Yes the world has gone mad.
And yet something about women has remained the same. Although we are in the midst of a global pandemic and people are worried about their livelihoods and families and how on earth the world will recover from this hole we are sinking into, women still preface their conversations with the worry that they are getting fat from all this time at home. It seems to be a kind of reverse superpower to be able to balance those two contrasting ideas in one brain, but I know how good women are at multitasking.
How can this be?
Let me try and calculate. World is ending + learning a new language + anxiety that my butt is growing = cognitive dissonance of such diabolical proportions that perhaps the earth is going to start spinning in the opposite direction.
I used to hate coming back to work after the school holidays. Not because I don’t like my job but because Indonesians are very willing to tell you how fat you are. “Wow Ms Katrina, gendut (chubby) ya?” while giving you the once over. The laughter over how much food I must have consumed over the holidays and possibly even the grabbing of my muffin top would elicit a forced smile and an internal message to myself to stop eating. All of the time I hear Indonesian women judging each other’s appearance: you are fat, you are black, your haircut is so “fresh”, why did you cut your hair short, why do you love him when he is so ugly? Usually it is answered with a laugh. I used to imagine that maybe telling an Indonesian woman that she is fat didn’t run the risk of green lighting an eating disorder or at least a serious obsession with food and how not to eat so much of it.
I don’t believe that anymore.
So many of my Indonesian and non-Indonesian women friends answer my “how are you during this frightening global pandemic where our lives have become unpredictable and we don’t know if we will be able to keep our jobs” with “I have been eating terlalu banyak (too much) and I am getting fat. Oh and yes, Covid is bad too”.
Is this a universal female experience?
This lack of self worth that women are experiencing seems to be caught up in this idea that we are worthless when we are large. Our friends won’t like us, no one will want to be caught dead with us, and that the depth of relationships are based on the girth of our asses. This thinking pervades women’s subconscious and eats away at our self worth and somehow cheapens what we know to be true about our relationships.
We all know where these messages are coming from. We know intellectually about photoshop and the lack of diversity in the media and that the messages that we receive from the media about who we are or what we should aspire to be, mostly come from men. They are the ones who own the media after all and have done so, well, since the media has existed.
If you were an alien from some far off planet and watched this making-profit-by-making-women-hate-themselves media for a few weeks you could be forgiven for imagining that women’s greatest dreams are to find a man to rescue her, that female relationships are based around competition with each other, that their conversations are all about how to snag a man, that they are all white and thin and if they are not, they are either made fun of, or just sidekicks to the true heroes. It’s a tiresome message that the rest of us have been receiving for years.
One of the greatest things about being an adult is that you realise that those messages are total bullshit. But you can’t just erase them from your brain as you have been conditioned to believe it is true. It takes work.
There is a whole new bunch of fabulous media being created. Media created by women. Women of all shapes and sizes, of all colours, with pimples, with cellulite, covering up their bodies or getting their tits out. It is about women learning that they can be who they are, for themselves. You can wear lipstick to feel hot for yourself. You can go out in a tank top with your hot wobbly arms whether you are 10 or 75. That every body is a bikini body and that every colour is beautiful. Women are learning to eat what they want without restrictions and changing their relationship with food away from one of fear, to one of pleasure. Women are leading body neutrality movements; the belief that a body is neither good or bad, it is a body and its function is to get you around.
So listen. If you friends don’t want to be friends with you any longer because you have a big ass. Fuck them. This is your superpower.
But seriously, does that happen in the real world. Do you dump your friends because they got fat in iso? Doubtful. That is not a thing. That is a fear. And anxiety. I get it. Spending months in your house alone is like a long holiday and when you get back to work, you have changed. This can cause anxiety. God knows what my work mates will say when seeing me after 5 months of quarantinis?
But you know what, who gives a shit?
If gendut is the worst thing you can call me, I am all for it. “Fat” does not equal “less than”.
We are all equal.
(except for those fuck heads who make toxic media. They are trash).
Follow some cool people on social media. Follow Lindy West. Look up intuitive eating or the “fuck it diet”. Watch the documentary “Embrace”. Stop following stuff that leaves you feeling shit about yourself. Find media created by women who value women of all shapes and sizes. Who don’t tell you to get your body back or that “curvy is back” or “real women do this” or “thin is in”.
Come back into your body. It’s a fucking amazing thing.