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Fitness culture has evolved into what I like to call the Fitspo Cycle. It’s a series of steps that the public, especially women, tend to get pulled into when thinking about their body image, health, fitness and aesthetics. Once you’re sucked in, it’s tough to get out again. 

The Fitspo Cycle

Step 1: Socialize women to believe that it is their life’s duty to be attractive at all times. Their worth is dependent not only upon their appearance, but on how appealing their appearance is to other people.

Step 2: Socialize women to believe that being thin/slim is the only way to be beautiful. Any woman who falls outside of that body shape will be deemedunworthy, unattractive, and will experience bigotry in her daily life.

Step 3: Constantly and incessantly sell women weight loss schemes. Openly tell them that weight loss will make them happier, healthier, and downright better people. Make it impossible to avoid weight loss and dieting rhetoric.

Step 4: Instead of openly admitting how important a woman’s appearance is, use buzzwords like “fit” and “strong” as a way of describing a good woman’s body and value. Continue using thin/slim images to back up these words, butclaim that the value has to do with earned character traits instead of physical appearance. Use this rhetoric to make a woman’s body inseparable from her personal worth.  

Step 5: Openly mock women who want to be thin in order to fit in. Abuse them by implying that they are vain, shallow and weak. Continue requiring women to remain slim, but bully them into being a special kind of slim. Thinness is no longer enough: Now, women must prove that they are working hard enough to have earned the right to such thinness.

Step 6: But oh god, don’t support women who work too hard. Getting too strong makes women look masculine, which violates Steps 1 and 2 by making them unappealing to men. Whenever women get bulky or large, make sure they understand that they are worthless and unattractive. Push them back to the beginning, so that they understand how little the public truly values their body.

End Result: Women can’t win.

The definition of love: the temporary delusion that one woman differs from another. And trust me: They would bone one of your buddies if they could get away with it. (Happily married here.)

Manslation: My wife loves it so much when I imply that she’s an identity-less part of a borg-like collective consciousness instead of an individual person who has for some bizarre reason chosen to be “happily” married to a huge fucking toolbox like me. (Did I say happily married? I meant imminently divorced.)

I get people asking me “why don’t you just tell people you don’t hate men?” And to me, beyond my addiction to sarcasm for all occasions, I’m not interested in acting like feminism and hating men can’t coexist.

There are women and people I know with severe trauma, who DO hate and distrust men, who are in therapy for such things.

I’m not going to participate in telling people that liking men is a prerequisite to feminism. That you CANNOT want to advance your own rights unless you first declare your love for your oppressor.

No one should have to do that. Loving the people who are in power and benefit from the systems that oppress and devalue you should not be something anyone is asked to do before they are allowed to be “certified” for their own liberation.

Street-harassment and consent

So every now-and-again when I’m doing shopping or walking to university or whatever, a man (and it’s always a man) passing by in his car will honk his horn at me, often accompanied by various gestures and less-frequently with something shouted at me (My hearing isn’t perfect, so I generally miss the specifics. Probably for the best.) As you’re probably aware, a lot of women have been bringing attention to behaviour like this recently. I’d like to talk about one response I’ve seen from multiple men, and why it’s wrong.

“But how am I supposed to tell a woman my opinion of her?”

Some people find this question difficult to answer, and the asker acts as if that fact somehow lends support to catcalling and street-harassment. But the question itself relies on an unstated assumption:

“I am supposed to tell a woman my opinion of her!”

Only if this is true is the first question valid.  Every man who asks the question assumes this to be true. They must. If they didn’t, the question wouldn’t make sense. But they generally don’t state this assumption, because it’s such a fundamental attribute of entitlement that they often aren’t even aware that they’re making it. That said, I want to examine it.

If you are walking down the street, and you see a person passing the other way, what should you do? Try not to walk into them, probably. But besides that? Well, there isn’t really anything else is there?

What about if you find yourself attracted to their appearance? Well, so what? It doesn’t make a difference. You might find that you want to tell this person your opinion. And here’s where the cat-caller goes wrong. They unconsciously equate A: “I want to do this” with B: “I should do this”, and then use the (false) assumption that B is true to move onto C: “How should I do this?”

There is, however, a special scenario that men are happy to bring up: What if the person you see wants to hear your opinion of their appearance? If they do, then surely it’s okay to talk to them?

Yes. If they want to hear it. But none of the men who’ve ever spoken to me have ever asked me if I want them to first. In fact, I’ve never spoken to them at all. So the following two things are true:

I have not told the man I want to hear his opinion.
and
I have not told that man that I do not want to hear his opinion.

The first fact is apparently irrelevant to the men who decide to yell at me. So the second one is therefore the more important one. The fact that I have not explicitly told them not to do this (“She didn’t say no”) is equated with me telling him that I do want him to do this (“Therefore it is okay for me to do this”). The absence of a “no” is misconstrued as a “yes”. Does that sound like a familiar problem? It should.

To hopefully ward off any angry anti-feminists: I am not equating street-harassment and cat-calling with sexual-assault. However, I am deliberately drawing a comparison to the mentality behind those different acts.

On a final note, if a man ever approached and politely asked to tell me something, I’d say probably say yes. If I was in a hurry, or just in a bad mood, I might say no, but even then I wouldn’t have any problem with the man for asking.

For some reason it never seems to occur to them to try that though.

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