‘weighty’ women & “little petty places”


In the U.S., childhood obesity keeps rising precipitously and many parents seem at a loss about what to do except let kids play outside, stop feeding them sugar & processed food at meals and “rewarding” them with treats, spend time with them actually cooking (not heating or microwaving) and sitting down to family meals of both corporeal and cerebral nourishment, empower them with kid-sized life choices and/or make them feel valued & essential to the planet. Barring those, what better way to handle fat than to discuss dieting to little kids. Next stop, eating disorders.

Last year, a book—written by a man—targeted to 4-8 year-olds and entitled, Maggie Goes on a Diet, tells the story of 14-year-old Maggie who bullied about her weight decides to do something about it. Well, we all know boys won’t be reading this book, not with a fat female protagonist. Cathleen Connors, author of HerBadMother.com astutely commented, “It’s so interesting that he didn’t write it about a boy, and that he uses girl-body-image stereotypes to make his point—young girl dreaming about fitting into nice jeans, etc.”

Yes. Even as a life-long thin woman, I can feel the pressure. Telling girls that in order to succeed, be considered healthy or beautiful and—pathetically—even smart, losing that extra weight is the remedy constitutes a dangerous poison that lasts a lifetime.

  • Four out of five U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance.
  • 81% of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat.

First, there’s more than one reason people put on weight and no enchanted pill, trendy diet or exercise program is going to melt all those reasons (or the fat) away—be you female or male, BTW.

Second, imagine what women could gift the world if they didn’t waste their life force “managing” their weight. Don’t hold your horses waiting for this to change. An abundance of this pressure is internalized, passes from mom to daughter, woman to woman and is constantly reinforced by a male-driven media that traffics in women’s bodies not because they care to create an ideal as much they want to exploit fantasy and fear to make big money.

On the male side: porn, driven by daydream bodies that most guys could never touch even if women really existed like that. ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) For females: an unrealistic weight-loss-fantasy-physique that’s about 25% under the BMI. ($33,000,000,000,000+)

Many men I know like “woman-sized” figures—not skinny boy-bodies, not obese bodies. They like to squeeze a woman with actual breasts and hips and thighs. Countless women have real-life dreams that lie dead or dormant before the altar of “thin.”

To celebrate women of all ages and shapes, here’s Lucille Clifton’s 1987 poem:

Homage to my Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

dude! wow man, you guys are really cool!

When the Quasi enters our yard he often greets the chickens, “Hi guys.” Hmmm—what’s off about this phrase?

Give up?

Doh! they’re all females! The Grrrly-Grrrls is their proper group name, if anything. Saying, “Hey girls,” would be way more fitting.

Addressing a mixed gender group by saying, “Hey guys!” is something we’re all so cliché-y familiar with that we don’t even hear it. Let’s turn this around. How about we decide to change-up “Hey Guys” to “Hey Gals” when talking to a combined crowd. Does this sit right with you? Why not?

Because: : : : language matters.

In romance languages, to speak to a blended gender group, the plural becomes male even though nouns have both male and female versions. In English, “mankind” is applied when we mean “human-kind,” “he” and “his” are used if the gender is unknown, and recently people hail both genders by the stupid moniker “dude.” I’m so not a guy or a—yuck—dude.

Placidity is taught. One word at a time. And it begins early. At age 18, I read a suggestion (by a female author!) that when writing children’s books the protagonists should be male because boys don’t relate to *female characters. Really? How is it that girls learned to do so? I’ll tell you. By default–we had to identify with something and there was a dearth of authentic female protagonists. For me: Olive Oyl, Betty & Veronica, Snow White. Sigh.

When my kids were little, I would carefully use pen & ink on the fonts in library picture books changing the genders of pigs, cats, ghosts, whatever—who were all mysteriously males—to females. [Check San Francisco or Denver–guerrilla warfare!] Hello! where did all those boy donkeys, horses or ducks come from anyway? Reverse parthenogenesis?

Later, when I’d read storybooks aloud, I was able to alter the gender without skipping a beat. Once when Dario was about 8, he interrupted me and questioned, “So, is that person really a girl, Mom, or are you changing it?” Drat! Why did I teach him to read?!

So, what can we employ if we don’t want to say “guys” but want to sound casual? Southerner’s use “y’all” or, for real emphasis, “all y’all.” How about, “Hey Gang!” or “Hey everybody.” Fixing “dude?” You’re on your own.

If you think this is too picayune an issue to consider, think again. Sticks & stones don’t break many bones, but words linger in most people’s psyches until…who knows?

And if you believe the matter really is petty, then you’ll understand exactly what I mean if I address men as “gals,” discuss “God-the-Mother,” substitute “women” while discussing humanity. You won’t mind, right? You’ll get used to it. And if you complain, well, then you’re just being “too sensitive.”

*today’s boys appear to identify just fine with Dora and Junie B. Jones.

celebrate the grrrls!

As I finished tucking the seedlings into the garden, I observed the members of the feral honey bee hive that live in my back chimney circle around me to drink out of the bird bee bath that stands in the garden. I usually greet those lovely wingeds as “my girls.”

But now I have five young hens who I call my “girly, girls.”

And I often dub my teenaged-to-women friends, Grrrls.

What’s with all the girls?

  • Honey bees are the only insect in the world that make honey. That’s astonishing! And only ‘girls’ do it.
  • And all the remarkable cheddar, chevre, parmigiano, gouda, bufala, yogurt, quark…all made by cows, nannys, ewes, water buffaloes = females.
  • Chickens, ducks, turtles, fish: each laying eggs humans can use and enjoy from omelets to soup to sushi. All given to us by the girls.

Creating life is something we ascribe to “god,” and in the christian-judeo tradition, that god is—IMHO—erroneously male. Sorry, but that plainly goes against the laws of the universe, or at least the environmental laws of this planet. Most natural food gifts from animals that don’t involve slaughter are ultimately given to us by ‘the girls.’

I’m not saying that the males have nothing to do with any aspect of creation or are even enjoyable (when neutered) [insert smile here] but ultimately and ironically they have been made somewhat scientifically obsolete—in an intrinsic sense—by a mostly male-driven and researched science when they created sperm banks.

Maybe those researchers might turn their talents toward ‘spinning straw into gold’ which is how I view what these ‘girls’ magically do, and that I never cease to marvel that women can actually create new life. Having participated in this process twice and then watched my body produce the needed nourishment for those newly entered beings, well, the awe is still present all these years later.

Celebrate life!