Wednesday, 6 October 2010

About beauty

Recently, spiltmilk put up a fat acceptance link page about favourite posts on the subject of fat acceptance.

My mind went to a post that I've linked to on more than one occasion and have meant to post about before "Beauty" written by Sweet Machine at Shapely Prose.

I felt like I was passing as a pretty woman most of the time, and the presence of someone who was Certifiably Pretty revealed my true nature. Standing next to M, who is kind and generous and funny and sweet but also very very pretty, made me feel like my mask had been torn off.

Now it’s like looking with new eyes — but of course it’s really my new brain. I don’t compare myself with her; I love myself with her, because she is my friend. When I see those 2006 pictures now, I feel like I look prettier in her company; her beauty includes me now, because I look at both of us with a more generous gaze. We’re not pitted against each other in a zero-sum contest of finite beauty; we are friends in a world that is, at times, heart-rendingly beautiful.

Not only is it a beautiful tribute in it's own right from one female friend to another beautiful female friend without any of the usual snagginess for either, something still too rare. It sums up how fat is a feminist issue and why fat acceptance and feminism should fit together, not least because FA although slight is a humanist impulse. The needing to connect with the way humans actually work as opposesd to how we think we are supposed to is what I thought humanism was about and something that should come above the dictates of religion secularity or atheism.

I'm surprised humanists haven't had some kind of group impulse about this obesity canard and engage with how they fundamentally believe in human beings which I thought was the heart of their beliefs. It seems to me you cannot be a fat hater and a humanist as that would mean that believe in creatures you feel are bovine and corrupt. Insulting yourself at once remove.

More than the piece itself is the way it's the phenomena it describes aspects of which some of us have discovered through fat/self acceptance. Seeing yourself as you are rather than through the eyes of others or your own (internalized) negative feelings and perceptions.

Its disconcerting to look at pictures of yourself and suddenly see you. Ones of yourself as a child seem especially poignant.

Maybe for the first time, you can actually look at pictures of yourself and see what you looked like even though you have looked many times and seen something different, something awful, painful wretched, maybe you gave up looking because you couldn't stand what you looked like.Only you didn't, look like that, you looked like you are seeing now. This is when you begin to realise the feelings and emotions you were looking through and getting lost in.

The surprise is not only the absence of those feelings, but the realisation that they or any feelings can so affect a seemingly automatic process as sight. That self opprobrium can shade in the picture that is you. It can really affect the way you see others too life is better because there is less ugliness in it, that which you unknowingly brought to it. Judging yourself harshly inside affects the way you see others as well as yourself in relation to others.

I sympathize with those who are not beautiful and how much of a toll the nastiness of people can take on you however, we can see that their reactions to you starts within themselves and how they apply the rules to that. This is very true of men too although the rules are different, the effects can be just as devastating, at times more so.

A lot of people have a sense of how mindset alters sight, when it is scattered around as a truism that "fat people are ugly" there's a tendency to claim looks are objectively assessed. That notion is held very dear making it tricky to counter some people do meet conventional standards of attractiveness.

Beauty has a basis of truth.

What Sweet Machine's piece explains is how self acceptance and especially the lack of it, is integral to how we feel about beauty and how we look. I've never quite got the resentment of things like taking advantage of beauty versus brains, as if somehow the latter is any less unfair than the former. Or the anger many seem to have as a general principle against the good looking, they are not sucking up the looks from anyone else. They are not being good looking against you. Hey, that reminds me of other people getting the furies because; you are being fat at them!

I think this is part of the wariness about the conceptualizing the idealisation of thinness as 'thin privilege' it seems to have a similar shape to the anger about beauty that neither illuminates what happens when thinness is idealised, nor what happens when fatness is socially stigmatized. What I like about "Beauty" is it tells us what's in a self/fat acceptance consciousness for those who are not fat (she herself isn't) as well as those who are.

The concept of privilege applied here, obscures the loss sustained by us all and prioritizes what one has been thwarted from attaining-thinness-over fatness. I feel this is too often a tendency of fat people, to escape fatness and look at something anything else. Fatness can seem 'boring', familiarity breeds contempt, except we aren't as familiar with it as we think, just like those pictures of ourselves. We are familiar with the mainstream view of it. It is that and the way it can box us in that is really dull, underneath that things come back to life. Perhaps that's part of the reticence, like when you remove a tight binding and wait for the sting as the blood starts to restore full flow. I think we should learn to stop hiding from what's underneath, especially if we are demanding an end to being down graded and sidelined out of our own lives.

Part of the point of FA must be to bring our voices and what we've learned about being human to the table, along with everyone else who thinks that they need to keep talking at us, telling us PBF's-poor benighted fatties- what life's all about.

That's the distance their poor old minds have to travel from if you are fat you do not understand "eat less, do more" to common conversation. I wish they could hear themselves the way we are forced to(I suppose as with sight so to with hearing).

I consider myself lucky in that I'm not big on jealousy of beauty-my looks although not impressive have not been deemed particularly offensive- and I've never got why being beautiful would aid my body's enjoyment of things. There have been times when I too have felt intimidated and exposed by my own feeling towards beauty.

I'm one of those who would always choose brains over beauty, although after that, you can tap me with the beauty stick if you must.

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