Sometimes I wish I had a male body. I wish I didn’t have to work twice as hard to be half as good at the sports I enjoy. I wish I could eat three bowls of cereal before I go to bed and not get fat. The cultural ideals I wish I fit into are those essentially easier for males to accomplish.
As I was thinking about this, I read this post by 100LittleDolls: Bodies the Size of Zero. She says:
I’ve struggled particularly with that. My body isn’t the same as it was when I was 18: I’ve put on weight, there’s mounds where there were angles. I eat healthy, I exercise every day, and damnit, I should be happy with my body, because it’s at place where it wants to be. Yet, that’s hardly ever the case, I’ve internalized the beauty myth, and it’s come to the point where I wonder if the yoga I do is for the health of my body or if it’s to slim down, tone, or decrease in size. I want to be petite, I want to look like Buffy.
I could have written this paragraph, except I want a strong, tone frame with muscle definition. I’ve finally found a sport I love–biking–and rode at least 50 miles a week in the summer. I lift weights, do crunches, and stretch every day before I go to bed. I eat fairly healthy, even for a vegan. Perhaps I indulge myself in treats too often, but for the most part I eat three meals a day, stopping when I’m full and have had enough to give myself mental and physical energy. Yet, with all that, I still don’t look like Starbuck.
The picture above is me, playing Dance Dance Revolution this past Friday.
I don’t own a scale. We never had one growing up because my mom says scales give people low self esteem. I see what she means. I went to my university’s health center this past week, and they weighed me. “Oh,” said the nurse. “You do weigh 160.” She wrote the number down. “I gained that much weight? That worries me.” I said, and she said nothing. Admittedly, I know my clothes probably added five pounds. But I can’t get that number out of my head. 160. At 5’7″, that’s a fat person’s weight, at least on a woman. I should weigh 130. I can’t shake that I think I’m 30 pounds over weight, but I don’t see where I have to lose it.
I don’t know the history or politics of weight being used as a measurement of health, but I feel robbed. This number pits me against other women in a competition to be the lightest, the best at depriving herself. It does nothing to measure my fitness, my muscle mass, my health, my humanity. I feel like I’ve failed at feminism and pro-fat-acceptance in letting it get to me, in being unhappy with my weight. I should be happy with my body, and trying to change beauty norms so what comes easier for real women is accepted as beautiful. Instead, Iâ€™m jealous of my male friends who donâ€™t know how to make themselves throw up, who donâ€™t have to walk around in a state of low functioning hunger because theyâ€™re trying to send themselves into a calorie deficit to make themselves look good.
I never really felt athletic until I started biking. I’d never felt such pride and power within my own body before. It’s frustrating knowing even if I train twice as hard as my little brother, who is a semi-pro mountain biker and cat-3 road racer, I’ll never be half as good as him at something I love. I think this is telling: women have to work twice as hard to enjoy things that are much easier for men, yet we’re still second best in their world.
17 thoughts on “My Weight and Jealousy of Male Bodies”
“160. At 5â€²7â€³, thatâ€™s a fat personâ€™s weight, at least on a woman. I should weigh 130.” Good lord, then at 5’7″ and 275 pounds, I must not exist at all. I view 160 as quite thin for a woman of my height.
Why is it their world? I’m here watching my roommate look at some sort of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Tryouts. And there are beautiful women on there; fit women, who’re being told the uniform is unforgiving and that they could all stand to lose 3% more body fat off the cuff. Before they were even measured they were told this. And one woman was told that they’d never heard of a cheerleader that weighted 150lbs. Never mind that quite a few women would and probably have killed (other people or themselves) to get a body like that.
Why is it their world?
Why is being fit and healthy not enough? And what happens to those of us who can’t be fit and healthy because we’re not healthy through whatever fault; genetic, muscular etc. I for one am not at a healthy weight. I’m fifty pounds over my ideal weight. And I can’t do as much about it as I’d like. Because heavy sports play and yoga in my youth have left me with cartiledge deficientcies that mean that movement is painful for me. And it’s odd enough to realize that my ideal weight comes from hindsight of when I felt the healthiest even though then I still thought I was too heavy.
I know I have body dysmorphia issues from growing up with a mother who had body dysmorphia issues. But daily as I get better, I realize that women who don’t have to go to a doctor to get better, seem to have self images of themselves that aren’t that far distorted from how I look at myself. It’s been quite a surprise.
The sad thing is, I know I’m fairly fit and to some even slender, yet it still isn’t good enough according to the messages I get every day from the media and health care. I’m sorry if my post made you feel invisible. 🙁
If it makes you feel better, a lot of that weight is probably muscle.
I love that picture. If it were not for the economic and Nat’l security arguments I would love to date a person like you.
You are NOT fat.
You should be a body muscle-fat ratio to be something other than either a useless twig model or a glutonous slob. I think you are neither of those so you are fine. But I realize my opinion has to get past body self image psychology. So translate this as I like the picture.
If there’s anything in that picture that needs to think about its self image, it’s that DDR pad. The ones with an inch of foam between them and the floor are much more responsive and don’t move around half so much — and they’re easier on your feet to boot, so you can really get stompin’ without worrying about damaging the pad or the soles of your feet.
I know how you feel though. Hell, I’m 5’3/4″ and around 125/130 (depends on the time of day, etc.) — and I still feel too pudgy. I don’t look that bad, or so friends reassure me. But I try to DDR regularly in an effort to get rid of it anyway.
When I’m in a good mood, I can say “To hell with the scale. It’s not what I weigh, it’s how I carry it” — and I mean that emotionally as well as physically. Maybe it’s something to keep in mind when your spirits are low?
It’s just a number. An artificial indicator of health. Don’t listen to it. Just ignore it; it can’t hurt you. You’re healthy and beautiful. Stop working so hard to fulfill an illusive image that teases you by pretending to dangle the key to happiness over your head. It’s just another celery stick. (It sounds like the effort is getting you down.) I also like biking because it makes me feel like a little kid again. I still have issues with my post-breastfeeding boobs, but getting softer and rounder is okay by me.
When in doubt, eat a cookie. And enjoy it. (Or drink a beer if that’s your thing – I know it’s mine!)
I agree about the scale being a source of anxiety, and a symbolof how we measure up as women. We have a bathroom scale, but rarely use it anymore (thank god!). When my partner was dieting (she lost 100 lb.), she weighed herself 3 times a day, and ultimately her obsessions of counting of calories and calling herself a fat pig even after her weight loss (at 6′ and 160 lb. she was skin and bones) really tweaked my own self image to make me more critical of myself. She’s doing better now, but it was a battle. And she finally understands a little about what it did to me to have her standing there — the same weight as me and 10 inches taller — complaining that she was a lardass.
I grew up with fewer body image issues because I was isolated from and wasn’t interested in a lot of the media (magazines, TV, the works) girls are traditionally exposed to, but hell if I don’t have a few now. I try not to think about the calories, eat a high proportion of real/nutritious food as opposed to junk, and get out and moving a little each day. I’ve gained a bit of stress-related weight and I’m certainly out of shape, but I feel mentally & physically healthier than if I were also obsessing about every ounce.
Sometimes I wish I had a male body. . . . I wish I could eat three bowls of cereal before I go to bed and not get fat.
We can do that?! SWEET!
While I empathize with body self-image issues, you may be idealizing what men’s bodies are capable of doing just a tad. We’ve all got different builds and different metabolisms, and some are considered a lot more ideal than others.
OTOH, I am glad we don’t have to deal with the same societal pressures you ladies do – those just seem to suck all around. :-T
Rant. Anonymous because it’s a bit personal and absurd.
I’m in a similar situation and I’m a similar size. I’ve been trying to lose weight for almost a year now, and following a very strict calorie-counting plan for the last few months, and based on all the information I can find on losing/maintaining weight in a realistic way (blah blah BLAH eat this many fresh veggies blah blah blah drink water cut out empty calories blah blah blah six meals a day no fewer than 1200 calories burn 500 more calories than you eat each day blah blah) I should be *skinny.*
I’m not. I’m 5’6″ and 155, and though some of it’s muscle, the rest is just… frustration. I’m jealous of guys in general because their RDA lets them eat more calories, but specifically, I’m more jealous of my skinny, skinny female friends who never exercise and carelessly slurp down non-diet sodas and eat cheeseburgers and fries. I watch my friends complain about their weight even as they eat over half of my daily allowed calories in one sitting. Why do they get to be skinny when I’m doing everything right and they’re doing everything wrong? How does that even work?
And it’s funny you have Starbuck as the example up there. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing comments elsewhere about how she’s not skinny and how it’s good to have a solid-looking heroine for once. I don’t get it. Sure, she has a slight amount of muscle when she flexes, and she’s slightly toned, and her ribs don’t show through her back like 6’s ribs do, but she’s still *tiny* – am I looking at the same woman that these people are? What the HELL.
Also, good post, but I have a quibble:
It’s not true that men are more than four times as physically strong/fit as women, which is what your closing paragraph adds up to. So if you train twice as hard as your brother, I’m sure you’ll be better than him unless he’s exceptionally genetically gifted. Men do have a natural strength advantage, but they also have the lifelong advantage (or “advantage” for some guys) of being pushed harder in sports, of being encouraged to perform physical activity that actually builds muscle and endurance, of not being told things like “if you MUST lift weights, you should do 5 sets of 20 with the pink 3-pounder in the corner there so that you just get toned and don’t get bulging muscles, okay hun?” You’re just starting to get into biking and he’s semi-pro – give yourself time!
If that’s not what you meant, ignore all that.
This irks me, ever so slightly in a quibbly way. Being a man, and having to deal with the same thing every day (particularly one male friend with no body fat to speak of who continuously complaining about getting fat), the title and initial premise seems somewhat erroneous, and insulting to those of us who go through the same things on this side of the gender aisle.
Which I hope doesn’t come across as discounting your actual point about body image, and second point about the frustration inherrent in dealing with genetic differences, especially in the case of skill based competition that one is very passionate about. In a world where every fat man on television seems to have a runway model for a wife, and Danica Patrick finishing 4th in her first Indy 500 ever is considered proof that women can’t compete in the sport, I have no actual argument against you. I’d rather approach this discussion from a gender neutral perspective. Especially given that the distribution of preternaturally over-active metabolisms seems to be fairly evenly split between males and females, fully aware that the societal pressures towards thinness are more extreme for you than they are for me, I still find the comparison to and idealization of male metabolisms troublesome.
I would also like to second a’s comment, all of it
I agree with a few of the others that said that just being a male doesn’t necessarily mean that one has an advantage over women in being fit and trim. I’m a runner and I regularly get beat in races by women older and younger than me, and they don’t all look like Runner’s World cover models.
Perhapse one advantage that men have is in clothing – men tend not to wear fitted or clingy clothing that many women do, so adding a few pounds is not as noticeable on a man. Just my $0.02. Great blog you have here!
I wasn’t trying to do any math, but part of what had me frustrated was a conversation I had with my brother about his abilities compared to those of women. His abilities are not much behind those of the fastest mountain biking woman in the world (and he’s only been doing it a few years). So that really illustrated, for me, the impossibilities of catching up to him.
What should be most important is health. And what’s most important for good health (i.e. long life) is a certain range of body fat percentages. There’s no easy *accurate* way to measure this directly and quickly, which is why the BMI (body mass index) is used as a kind of rule of thumb for body fat. It combines weight and height into one “shape” number, and the rule of thumb is that 18-25 is the healthy range. There’s a lot of fuzzy room here though, esp. if you’re not quite ‘typical’. In your case, you work out, and you may have more muscle than other ‘typical’ women. Muscle weighs more than fat (per volume), meaning it’s *expected* that you’d have a higher BMI than ‘typical’. According to the numbers you gave, and taking the 5 lbs for clothes into account, your BMI is about 24.3. Considering that with some extra muscle you can pretend that the 24.3 is really, say, 23.3, compared to less muscular women. In other words, you’re fine. Keep doing what you’re doing. And guess what – you look great on the photo too!
I should add that guys also can’t eat a lot before bedtime and not notice! It’s a killer…and as a guy conscious of his looks, I can also tell you my self-confidence is also tied into how closely I match the ‘ideal’ body image, but I try to allow for my own instincts about it rather than get obsessive.
Thanks Travis–and everyone else who replied I didn’t response to, I didn’t feel like looking at this post again after I published it. I appreciate all the encouragement and help breaking this crap down.
I am almost convinced that the recommendations for women’s “ideal” weight is skewed in a very sexist manner. Lemme ‘splain:
I was, when I graduated high school, 5’ 8.5″ and 127 lbs. And, did I mention, too skinny. Model skinny. Collarbones entirely too prominent skinny. I was not particularly fit at the time, but I was skinny.
Now I’m a bit taller (5’9.5″) and howering around 203. In between there and here I’ve weighed 175 twice: once (on the way up) I was a very unfit size 14, and the second time was during an intermediate downtrend, when I was relatively fit (but still not athletic) and I was almost back into a size 10.
I am losing weight now for my health, and my goal weight? 175 and fit. Now, that is still about 25 lbs. higher than the “ideal” weight for someone of my frame (medium), but last time I was 150, I was the same size as I was when I was 175, but fit.
The given healthy weight range for me is 140-160. 160 I could see, but 140 sounds unhealthy for an adult woman of 30 years.
The only way I could get down to 140 lbs again is to lose muscle mass.
That being said:
I think women are expected to be less fit.
Less muscle = less mass = less weight
Less muscle ALSO = less strength= less power = WEAKER
The correlation between societal standards for women’s weight and those for women as the “weaker sex” isn’t hard to see, from that perspective.
(This rant may continue one elsewhere. I’ll post here if I blog on it.)
Jo, that idea seems a little obscure. Everyone is built differently. I’m pretty sure whomever designed the ideal body weight didn’t have a secret agenda to make women weak. I’m twenty pounds above my ideal body weight (male, 17 years old, 5’7 and 179 pounds), yet nobody knows I’m overweight until I tell them that.
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