Childhood Dieting

We have known the dangers of childhood dieting for a very long time. Restricting calories in children can cause metabolisms to slow down and impact growth and development. Not all children are overweight because they eat too much. Enter Paul Kramer who has the audacity to write and publish a book called: “Maggie goes on a Diet.”

My first question, the one no one interviewing him seems to want to ask, is: what does a pasty, fat white man know about female teenagers and obesity? Talk about white, male privilege. He feels free to reify beliefs about the obese while clearly being so himself. Why does he think he has the right to exploit young women who are struggling with their weight by writing a prescriptive book for them when he cannot deal with his own weight issues?

We have only seen glimpses from this book. However, what we have seen shows that Kramer does not even understand obesity. He shows a young 14-year old Maggie standing in front of the fridge and eating food for comfort. He gives the bullies a pass by forcing Maggie to change rather than holding those who torment her accountable for their behavior. Perhaps worst of all he demonstrates that once Maggie becomes ‘thin’ and a soccer player she gains a certain amount of fame and people know her name. Implying that Maggie is only worth recognition when she is thin is a horrible message to send to young women. I am sure that Maggie has other things going on for her besides the shape and size of her body. What about her mind or her other accomplishments? The message that women are defined by their bodies is one that has over stayed its welcome.

I was that obese child. I was put on diets from age 8 on. Every time my mother put me on Weight Watchers I gained weight. I was never that child eating in front of the refrigerator at night. I would not have dared eat more than what was provided by my parents. Regardless of what they did or what they restricted I did not lose weight.

I was bullied all the way through school. I can remember having to get home before the bullies knew I left or they would chase me down and beat me up. A woman who lived in our complex would let me come to her house right after school. Her house was closer to the school than ours. I would wait there until everyone had cleared before I went home. I never told anyone about the bullying. I tried to solve the problem myself by staying out of their way and being very quiet. It never worked.

I am incensed that a man has chosen to write a book telling young girls to lose weight. I hate his display of white, male privilege. Obesity is a complicated disease. It is not simply a matter of calories in, calories out. If it were, I would weigh 125 pounds.

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Published in: on August 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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Our Justice System – Redux

I have a lengthy comment from Mike which you can go and read in the original post. I was going to answer him in the comments section but I think it would be better served as a post of its own. So here goes.

Mike says:
“I don’t think justice was served here, but I disagree with feminists who use such allegorical “evidence” as proof that western political legal system treats women like chattel. Thats quite a stretch. By in large western legal systems take domestic violence seriously.”

It is in no way allegorical. Our laws our based on English commonlaw which viewed women and children as chattel.There is nothing allegorical about that. Altough laws may be updated, here and there, they are still largely written by men for men. The old boys network is alive and well and protects men like Scott Young.

Mike Says:
“People, especially people in power, get away with doing bad and illegal things all the time. Maybe Scott Young knew the right people, had a good lawyer, or just was lucky. By your line of reasoning I could look to OJ Simpson and argue that black people in the US can get away with murdering white people. I strongly disagree with feminists who use incidences like this to push their narrow self-serving agenda.”

Perhaps rich black men do. But this is not about race – this is about domestic violence. There is no ‘narrow self-serving agenda’ here. Unfortunately, the problem of violence against women, in all its forms, is so pervasive that dismantling it would shake our society to its very core. It is seen in the discourse of advertising, our jokes, our culture, our religions, the way we raise male and female children differently. We are not even aware at times when violence is being perpetuated against women. Open your eyes and look around. It is on tv, on the radio, in the locker room and in our homes.

Mike says:
“No society has ever tolerated violence against women. This is feminist historical revisionism. Rapists in medieval Europe were flayed alive (had their skin removed). The ‘rule of thumb’ myth was taken from a misquotation of statement made by a US judge in the 19th century who actually sentenced the male abuser to jail.”

This society sure as hell does!!! It goes on all the time. Many women don’t report rape as they will just be assaulted again when they come up against the male dominated justice system. Forget history, look at the situation today. Look at the murder suicides where men kill their entire families and then themselves. And before you trot Andrea Yates – she was mentally ill and had had so many children and sufferred such horrific untreated post partum depression that she went crazy. What is the excuse of the men?? Look at the honour killings in the South Asian community in BC. I could go on and on. These are not feminist revisionist events. These are real women dying every single day.

Mike says:
“Women are abusers in relationships as well as men. Domestic abuse has less to do with ‘Patriarchy’ and more to do with disfunctional partners and drug and alchohol abuse. Women stalk, kill their husbands and kill their children too. There are bad people of both sexes the same way there are bad people of all races. Just because in general men are capable of inflicting greater injury on women does not mean that men are the only sex capable of commiting evil, or even that society is run by men.”

Yes, some women might hit some men sometimes. Boo fucking hoo. Look at the stats – men kill and beat women at much higher rates then the reverse. Really, this is just a straw man argument to take us off course. Many men are conditioned to believe that they can treat women anyway they want. Furthermore, they have seen that the consequences are a slap on the wrist – conditional sentence with an 8 pm curfew? What the hell is that about? If this is what our justice system is doing to women when we are watching what is it doing when we are not?

Mike says:
“Society does not treat women worse than men. Men have always been the greatest victims of violence in war, genocide, and crime. The vast majority of victims of violent crime (murder and assault) are men.”

Sorry Mike another straw man argument. Who starts the wars? Who keeps them going? Certainly not women. Yes men die in war. But so do women, civilian women. Rape is an instrument of war and I am pretty damn sure that most of the people being raped are not men. Civilian women and children suffer the most in war. The soldiers have a choice. At least in the case of the US – they signed up for it this time. (This of course would be different if concription were in place as it was in other wars). However, the men are still paid to go to war. Even the women working for the international companies in Iraq are not safe from rape. So, tell me again how it is that men suffer? Oh ya, they get to carry big guns, shoot people, and get paid. Sounds like the wet dream of many a teenage boy.

Pronoun use

I have blogged a few times about the use of language and how it affects and shapes society. No where is this more important than the use of gendered pronouns. Now, I am all for non-gender pronouns but society does not seem to be embracing the use of zie and hir. I really hate it when writers try to avoid the use of gendered pronouns by using plural forms. These uses are not grammatically correct and leave the reader (or listener) confused as far as I am concerned.

The default, not surprisingly, is usally to use the male form. Most things you read (particularly non-fiction) where gender is not important to the material the male pronoun is generally used. Some writers try and say he/she or s/he or him/her etc but most do not. This has important consequences. The constant use of the male pronoun marginalizes women and renders them invisible. I can only imagine what medical text books are like. It is not surprising that the use of male pronouns wound render women and their different medical needs and realities invisible. Most medications are not routinely tested on women who have very different chemical and hormonal makeups. In the same way that children are not ‘little adults’ women are not men.

I am currently reading an amazing book: “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction” by Dr. Gabor Mate. He is a doctor in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver which has one of the highest rates of drug addiction, HIV and Hepatitis C infection in Canada. The stories are compelling and sad and Dr. Mate provides a very interesting and instructive view of addiction – including his own. What is unique about his writing is his use of pronouns. The first part of the book is specific stories of patients he has treated and he uses appropriate gendered pronouns. In the parts of the book that are instructive, in which he explains the pysiology of addiction, he alternates male and female pronouns. I was completely struck by this feature of his writing. At first I wondered why it seemed that he was only using the female pronoun when in fact men are also drug addicts. Everytime I saw a female pronoun in these pages it jumped out at me. So then I went out of my way to notice if he used male pronouns. It seems that he uses both equally.

I think it is sad that we are so used to male pronouns that the use of the female, in equal parts, is so noticeable that one wonders if the author is using male pronouns at all. It speaks to how pervasive the male gaze is even with women and feminists. My hope is that more authors will choose to use both male and female pronouns equally.

Published in: on July 26, 2008 at 11:17 pm  Comments (6)