I have come full circle. I grew up swimming happily in a New York 1970's feminist soup of literature and politics championing the cause of women as human beings with a full range of emotional and physical as well as psychological and intellectual capacities. Fast forward 35 years later and Hugh Heffner's playmates now dominate tabloid magazine covers as well as reality television, and songs about girls begging to be "victims" of alien sex abductors blare out of the school bus radios that my sons ride each day.
Over the last 35 years I too have gone through so many phases of self-acceptance and self-rejection that I couldn't even begin to count them let alone add them to the experiences of other women. What I do know is that recently, I have begun to see the obsession with body image, weight, and losing weight as a form of "bodyism" not dissimilar to "racism," "sexism," or "anti-Semitism." Not only has the term "health" been used and abused in distorted ways to cover up the obsession and self-loathing people, most particularly women, feel about having excess body weight or, according to the media, being anything less than "hot," women have begun a frightening and abhorrent backslide into a place of self hatred so deep and bottomless there is no end in sight.
Colluding with the shiny, airbrushed images we are bombarded with daily and the pop culture stereotypes of a perfect body, many women discuss their arm fat, leg fat, belly fat and overall disgust with themselves not on a daily basis, but on an hourly, if not minute-to-minute basis.
As the weather warms up and clothes come off, these discussions seem to linger in the air as thought bubbles over comic book characters heads. Our insecurities are real and they can destroy our lives. What's more, we feed each other knowing looks and glances, as if acknowledging how disgusted we also feel about our bodies is helpful and supportive.
But it's not.
Talking badly about yourself is not only counterproductive, it keeps you stuck in the flip side of the narcissism coin, which is pervasive self-hatred.