Saturday, December 11, 2010

On the subject of weight

How're you doing? Everything good? Sit down, have some tea. Biscuit? Good, it may come in handy. This may take a while.

I've always been active. Some way or another, I always managed to run, jump, and over all get my exercise. I did have a bit of baby fat as a child, which developed into over 40 to 50 pounds of extra weight as a teenager. But I always managed to get some exercise. Be it at Phys Ed class, walking to dad's garage after school, or doing my chores at home (helloooo, yard work!). Needless to say, the extra weight did come with its consequences: I have scoliosis and sundry conditions that were affected by the extra weight on my joints. For me, weight has always been an issue of health and vanity. I get upset because I can't fit into my pants, but I get even more upset when my knees hurt or my back is killing me.

That said, weight is all around us. Or rather, the subject of weight. Whereas before carrying an extra pound or two was a sign of health and abundance (after all, it signified that you were wealthy or capable to afford extra food; you were not left wanting), now extra weight is seen as a sign of sloth and carelessness towards oneself. How did this all change? What triggered this? More importantly, what can we do to change these conceptions?

In the fashion world, the subject of weight is always involved. Even if it is not discussed, it is still there, out in the open. And it is quite a loud subject. It's there, screaming from the ads, the runways, the clothes, and the attitudes displayed by the creators and the consumers. In a way, fashion has become an Idealogical State Apparatus (ISA), and it perpetuates the more of thin is in. Even though there have been attempts to "normalize" weight in the fashion atmosphere (ie, the BMI standard, Crystal Renn, new designers embracing different shapes), we haven't really seen any actual steps forward. We still see hangers walking down the runway. We still have discrimination in the name of business and economics (thanks to the age old excuse that it's better to make a sample size and send that down). And, furthermore, the concept of normalization. What is normal? There is no singular body shape that dominates the world, so why are we trying to make it one size fits all?

It is important to note that I am not condemning the people who suffer from the subject of weight. If you are thin, average, overweight, it doesn't matter to me. What is important, however, is that you be healthy. That is all I argue for. And the fashion industry, to my view, doesn't promote healthy. It promotes underage, undeveloped and excessively thin bodies. Many of these new models are still in the early stages of adolescence. Their bodies are thin, spindly, growing out yet not filling out. Why are they being subjected to the idea of thin and working out at such an early age? Just look at what happened to Coco Rocha. God forbid that she grow into an adult and get some weight on her hips. What is she now, a 4? And she has been mostly marginalized by mainstream runways.

I think that the media and many of us don't realize that our weight is in a constant state of flux. We will never be same weight all the time. Sure, we can be within the same range, which is give or take 5 pounds from our usual weight. But our weight will never be constant. We are machines that intake and process elements. These elements carry weight in and of themselves. Furthermore, these elements and our body produce weight through the process of waste disposal (aka urine and feces). And add to that that some foods and drinks make us bloat, so there. More weight. Water weight! So why are we freaking out because, oh my sweet Dior pencil skirt, we've gained a pound or two or three since Thanksgiving? I don't know about you, but I did an awful lot of eating, so I know I will be bloated and heavier. But it's just my body processing all that I put in it. Why freak out?

This all came to being due to a conversation I had with a close friend some time ago. Ria, whose always been thin, has been really into working out and health issues for more than a year now. She's always been active, but upon starting a new workout regimen, she's become more aware of her body and health. She hasn't lost weight, in fact, I do believe she's gained it. In muscle. And she looks great because she's eating healthy and working out so she can be healthy. She derives great physical and mental health from it, and that's what's important about working out.

Ria and I were discussing the concept of "No Fat Talk" Week and how it may make a small difference, but it's not attacking the whole. It just further cements the divisiveness of the subject. We can't keep putting everything into the fat and thin boxes. We need to talk about the issues and fears underlying these categorizations. By just saying, you look thin or you look overweight, you're making a blanket statement. Why is that person thin? Why is that person overweight. Is it a medical condition? Is it due to psychoemotional issues? These are the things that have to be discussed. Health! Vanity will always be a part of the weight issue, but it shouldn't be the be all and end all.

Our health comes first, always.

As someone who's an academic (my two degrees are in English, specialty Literature, but I focus on gender, minority, and social media issues), an ex-athlete, and a person who has been over and underweight, I always analyze it through those glasses. As an academic, I see the ramifications, the significations, the concepts abounding. Or at least, in theory. The loss or gain of weight in fashion is seen as a subjection or finding of the self. It can also be a protest towards the fashion standards. But then, why do some yield? For all the talk that Crystal Renn has done, she is facing a lot of criticism for losing weight. Same goes to many other mainstream actors, models, musicians, and so forth. And let's not get into the world of dance, what with Alaistar Macaulay's incredibly rude and insensitive comment towards premier ballerina Jenifer Ringer.

I want to hear your thoughts. Are there any steps do you think we should take as a consumer and creator collective to change these perceptions? What can we do? Have you been victimized because of weight? Let's get talking!


Arash Mazinani said...

Fantastic post, I think we're so conscious of weight because like you said it's always in the media. Even weekly mags show celebs on the front cover with a tiny bit of cellulite. As you said the fashion industry always has skinny racks for models. Guys aren't even immune.

Stella said...

Thanks! Oh yes, we are completely surrounded by weight, be it direct pressure to be thin o indirect pressure through the comments made upon others weights. And, no, guys aren't exempt from thin is in anymore. I have a friend who works in the fashion industry; he fell ill once and lost a lot of weight. He recognized that he needed to gain the lost weight, but everyone kept saying that he looked great. Kind of terrifying that they encouraged a sickly look.