Women Are Not Sausages
"The older I become, the more I exercise and the less I eat. And yet, the fatter I am," writes Michelle Slatella in an article entitled "I Can't Outrun My Weight Issues" in the November 12th issue of The New York Times. Slatella then proceeds to treat us to a jolly description of her ramped-up workout routines, as well as the combinations of fat-concealing undergarments that she has tried, with less and less success. My favorite was the "Slim Cognito Body Shaping Cami" (if James Bond wore a body shaping cami, it would be this one!), which the author finally conceded was not working.
"Before I knew it, I was wrapped so tightly that one night at dinner I warned my husband, 'If I pass out, call the ambulance and make sure they bring the Jaws of Life.'
'I’ll bet they can cut you out of that stuff in no time,' he said encouragingly.
This could have been the article's turning point. It's a fairly universal story: young women fear the moment when their magical metabolism, which allows them to maintain the weight that society requires by only cutting out 500 calories a day and indulging in an hour of strenuous aerobic exercise (my women's studies professor lovingly refers to elliptical machines as "ovulators"), will go, and they will become chubby monsters, fighting an uphill battle against - God forbid - age. But Slatella instead succumbs to one of the most pernicious aspects of our beauty culture, buying completely into the notion that women's bodies, as they age, become ugly and unnatural. She is not happy about the amount of work that she needs to do to keep her body looking youthful.
"Great. I hate that stuff," she writes. "But I can see this is one of those situations — like when you’re in the late stages of labor and the delivery nurses start yelling “push, push” at a time when you’d really prefer not to — when you can’t ignore the problem until it goes away."
Comparing middle-aged weight loss to childbirth? Really? Why does our society hate women's bodies so much that when something like metabolism change, that we cannot help, that is completely natural, occurs, we consign women to forty years of exponentially increasing self-loathing and disgust? We gain weight as we get older, men and women. It's normal. We need to accept it. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay healthy as we age, but we can't exercise to the point of obsession or collapse, or worse, stuff ourselves into absurd, constricting undergarments (and really, this is different from the corset how?). Slatella's flippant tone is equally disturbing. We criticize Islamic countries for controlling women's bodies with the burqa, but our society is just as blatant - we have no call to be self-righteous when articles like this are being published in the New York Times. We can't outrun our bodies. And we shouldn't try.