Recently, I was walking down the corridor, manifesting I was in Bali and not in a pandemic. As a fellow employee was passing me, he remarked “my God you’ve lost a lot of weight”, and continued to walk along the corridor. Initially, I did my usual socially-conditioned polite smile and laughed it off saying it must be bigger scrubs, and walked away. Upon reflection, that was super fucked.
I don’t know this individual very well, in fact I had to ask around to find out their name. And yet, a passing comment about my body was thrown around as if that was perfectly normal. It got me thinking about just how “acceptable” it is to discuss women’s bodies. Social media, in the street, in groups or group chats. Nothing is off limits, and seemingly nothing can be done to stop it.
But we need to do better.
I could have lost weight due to mental illness, or physical illness. Or because I damn well wanted to. The reason doesn’t matter. Would you openly comment if I had gained weight, and strayed further from this ideal body that society expects of me? I don’t think so.
Don’t get me wrong – I am sure this individual didn’t mean any harm by this comment. But it doesn’t matter. Women are not for show. We are not zoo animals for public consumption, ready and willing to be commented on. A few years ago, a comment like that would have made my day. Now, it makes me angry.
I used to live for these kind of comments – the external validation that I was on the path of righteousness and being a successful (read: fuckable) woman in the eyes of society. Especially, if I had lost weight. Then, came the questioning: was there something wrong with me before? Does everyone think I’m a fat bastard? Should I keep going?
Obviously, I had my own issues with self-esteem and self-worth, and it is unfair to lump this individuals throwaway comment as the catalyst for my disordered past. However, I sure as fuck know that I am not the only woman who was conditioned to secretly revel in these comments for those reasons. To chase that external validation. To have clear, defined proof that you were becoming what society always wanted you to be.
So where do we go from here?
The patriarchy sadly can’t be torn down overnight. We cannot change what we expect from women as a society quickly. But we can change what we value in ourselves. Call yourself out, and audit your behaviour. Because you just don’t know.