The Bodies Of Others Are None Of Your Business
by Erin Honor
Today’s post may seem a bit rant-ish (not a word, but I’m going to with it), because, well, I’m heated!
Recently, I have started bringing a book to the gym so that, after I finish my workout, I can hop on the treadmill and walk for a bit while I read. This new routine of mine has been so incredible for me. This past year has been rough for me in terms of being able to focus on… well… anything. I am assuming that this is a result of my PTSD finally catching up with me. Studying for tests became a nightmare. I had to read sentences over and over and over again and no matter what I did, I could not retain anything that I read. I stopped being able to write (this I am still struggling with) without getting distracted and frustrated. All things that I used to find solace and peace in became impossible. Escaping into stories being one of these things, I hadn’t finished a book in quite some time.
I have never been someone with a long attention span. Even as a child, I always had to be doing multiple things at once. I would be listening to the teacher while drawing a picture and whispering to my friend. I would routinely run a lap around the basement while I played Pokemon on my Nintendo 64. However, back then I was actually able to get things done simultaneously. Today, I still have to be doing a million things at once. But I get nothing done. Everything seems so difficult and overwhelming and impossible now. Nothing comes naturally anymore.
But I digress, as this post is not about that.
So I have been reading on the treadmill. I find that if I am walking while I read, I am actually able to focus on the story I am reading and this excites me so much. I am going through books faster than I can afford to buy them, and it is wonderful.
Or it was.
There is a small “Lady’s Only” section of my gym. This area is more private, making me feel a bit more at ease while I walk. Every day, I finish my workout and go over and hop on one of the two treadmills in this section. Funny thing is that, regardless of the fact that I am, for the most part, there at different times each day, this one woman is always there.
This woman is there everyday, plugging away on the same elliptical day in and day out. She is probably in her 50s, and she seems very friendly. She is one of those gym-goers that seems to know each and every person at our gym (or at least those who hang out in the Lady’s Only section) and she is also one of those gym-goers that is quite the Chatty Cathy. Now, this wouldn’t be an issue (though I will admit that it is slightly irritating when people try to speak to you while you are gasping for breath on the treadmill) if it weren’t for the content of the conversations that she strikes up.
“Oh you lost weight.”
“Did you lose weight?”
“Do you think that I lose weight?”
“Do my thighs look bigger?”
“Do my thighs look smaller?”
“I can only lose weight if I starve myself.”
“Muscular girls are disgusting.”
I could go on.
I try really hard to not let her get to me.. But I’m not quite there yet. Maybe it’s due to my experience with an eating disorder, but there is something that is just so deeply disturbing to me about this type of conversation. The questions are typically directed towards anyone who will listen (and are normal responded to in a very uncomfortable fashion) and the comments on other woman’s weigh loss or lack thereof rarely receive much more than a mumbled, “I haven’t lost any. But thank you.”
This goes on every single day, and each day I get a little bit more worked up. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was one comment in particular.
She was talking to (or at) the woman on the elliptical next to her about her thighs (are the bigger? smaller? the same? I don’t want the to be muscled) and the woman next to her sighed and said, “You don’t want toothpick legs anyway. They are not attractive.” To this, the woman (who initiated the conversation) responded (for too loudly) with, “You’re right. Have you seen that one really skinny blonde woman who comes in here a lot? I don’t think she eats. She must not. She definitely doesn’t eat.”
I had to hold my breath to keep from losing it.
Here is the thing, I have seen the blonde woman in question. She is definitely unspeakably thin, but I never really thought about it. Why would I? In what way does that impact me?
Why on earth are the bodies of others any of your business?
We lived in a twisted culture today that is impossibly obsessed with critiquing the bodies of others. The magazines on the newsstands are clad with huge headlines of, “250 POUNDS *insert celebrity here* HAS LOST ON CONTROL.” “95 POUND CELEBRITY X ANOREXIC AND DYING,” and, my personal favorite, the oh so wonderful “BEST AND WORST BIKINI BODIES,” with huge red circles surrounding the “disgusting rolls” of a woman bending over (because, I mean, skin totally shouldn’t fold over when you bend over) and other revolting commentaries on female bodies. For some sick reason that I cannot quite grasp, people eat this stuff up (not literally though, because women must eat nothing but Special K and low calorie yogurts and 90 calorie snack bars and “sensible dinners”).
I know for a fact that this woman at the gym is not commenting on other bodies to be cruel. She seems to genuinely believe that talking about nothing but bodies and weight and thighs and calories is commonplace. The sad thing? It kind of is.
Yesterday, as I often do, I was browsing Tumblr and came across a before and after photo posted by one of the women I follow on the site. Unlike most before and after photos, the one was not of weight loss, but rather of muscle gain. Below the photo was a wonderful little paragraph about how much better and healthier and happier she felt now. Below that paragraph was a comment.
“I think you looked better before. So much more soft and feminine.”
Obviously this comment lead to a heated back and forth between the poster and the commenter which ultimately lead to this gem of a comment.
“Soooo I like her body one way and she likes her body a different way but he is allowed to say it but I’m not? That’s makes sense 😂”
How does this make sense? Yes, there is obviously a difference between the poster commenting on how she feels about her own body and some random person on the internet commenting on a body that is not her own.
Again, how does what someone looks like impact you in any way?
You never know how what you say about someone can affect them. For my (admittedly skewed) brain, I take someone calling me “healthy” or “normal” as them calling me fat. I know that this is not rational, but it is the way that my mind works and it really can mess with me when someone comments on my body, even if they mean it as a compliment.
I see the way that the women at the gym react when this one woman comments on their possible weight losses. More often than not, they seem more uncomfortable than flattered. Very few people enjoy having their bodies scrutinized (I would say that no people do… But I can’t know that for sure) and sometimes even what are meant as compliments can make someone feel hurt and uncomfortable.
The same thing goes for commenting of what someone is or is not eating. It is absolutely ridiculous to claim that just because a person is thin that they do not eat. This is a result of our messed up diet culture and the ways that the media tells us that the only way to be slim is to “eat mindfully” and use “portion control” and, my favorite, “trick yourself skinny.” Books and magazines and television commercials tell us to enjoy these “guilt free” snacks (because food, the very stuff that keeps us alive, should TOTALLY make us feel guilty) and to eat less and chew gum instead of eating and all of that nonsense that has lead to there being almost no women left who have completely healthy relationships with food.
It is also horrible to comment on what others eat. You may think that you are doing someone a service by complimenting how they, “only eat healthy things,” or, “would never eat xx.” You may also think that you are being helpful when you tell someone how much fat or calories are in what they are eating. You are doing nothing of the sort. You are doing nothing but projecting your own insecurities onto another and making another human begin feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. You are not helping the other person, and you are certainly not helping yourself.
It just boggles my mind to see just how skewed the general public’s perception of what is okay to comment on is. We truly live in a world where people believe that they have the right to offer “helpful” commentary on others simply because they put themselves out there in the world. Surely if they put a photo of themselves online then it is okay to offer your opinions on what is right or wrong about them, right? Surely there is nothing wrong with that.
It’s just insane and this type of behavior has become so normalized that most people barely bat an eye when the conversation turns to being about nothing but weightless or when they begin talking about Aunt Sally’s weight gain or whatever it may be.
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. What if instead of wasting all of your life-force commenting on what other people are eating or doing or looking like, you take that energy and aim it towards bettering yourself?
Then maybe this world would be a more positive place.