Girly Thoughts

September 16, 2009

“Guys only want one thing”

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 11:11 pm

Men tend to say this to women a lot.  (This is going to be a pretty heteronormative post.  Perspectives on how this works in other types of relationships is very welcome; I just don’t have much to contribute.) Even men who don’t act in accordance with it or generally believe it.  In feminist circles, there’s also “Male feminists just use feminism to get into women’s pants.”  I’m trying to fight the temptation to guess at the motivation for these statements.  (The truth! you say.  Some men and some women act like this some of the time, but men frequently tell women that all men are like this all time, I reply.)  So I’m just going to look at the results of this.  Being told repeatedly and matter-of-factly that the class of people you’re supposed to fall in love with only cares about you for sex and will cheat on you given the chance is not good for one’s self-esteem. It promotes several gender stereotypes:

  1. Men don’t really have feelings
  2. Men are sex-crazed beasts and thus not responsible for their sex-related actions
  3. Women want to be married more than men do
  4. Marriage makes women happy and men unhappy (blatantly false according to surveys, stand-up comics notwithstanding)
  5. Women will never get a man to willingly enter into a monogamous, committed relationship with them because men don’t really love, but only lust, so women have to lure men into marriage by witholding sex (the only thing men want) until marriage

The feminist version of this mantra also, of course, enforces the idea that men don’t really care about women’s rights.

This idea also makes a nice set-up for the Nice Guy (TM).  The Only Decent Man in the World, you can call him.  Or, the guy who is caught in the Friend Zone.  He is afflicted with a crush, or maybe even love, and convinces himself and those around him that this is highly unusual for a man (newsflash: it’s not) and that he must suffer while watching his special someone deal with men who only want to f*ck her, since of course that’s what all men besides him want.  This isn’t offensive yet – a little middle school-ish, but not offensive – until you add the final bit that has been known to occur in this scenario.  “How could she not like me back?! How could she like that jerk instead?! Women are evil!!!!”

Let’s check the logic here.  A girl doesn’t like you, therefore she’s evil.  Evil implies malicious intent – malicious because you deserve to be liked by anyone you like, intent because she’s purposely controlling her feelings to avoid liking you.  If you believe the first part you have an especially large sense of entitlement.  If you believe the second part you’re working really hard to place blame on someone.  Instead of just saying “it sucks that the girl I like doesn’t like me back”, the Nice Guy in the Friend Zone blames this on the girl for being too stupid to date Nice Guys instead of Bad Boys.  Somewhere in the throes of the ensuing angst this stupidity gets warped into evil.  (Don’t try to overapply this; I’m not claiming every unrequited crush goes this way.)

I’d like to finish with a concluding point but I wasn’t really leading anywhere besides “It really pisses me off when men say that.”  So yeah…I hate that.

July 13, 2009

My heart is still racing

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 3:11 am
Tags: ,

from dinner tonight. My dad decided to teach my siblings about politics a little each night at dinner, and tonight we got into a conversation about affirmative action. I was the lone voice on the pro side. Since I’m probably the least rebellious rabid liberal whose blog you’ve ever read, this was kind of nerve-wracking for me despite how unusually well the conversation went. My dad kept saying he didn’t want to change anyone’s mind, but just to present both sides, and my mom was all smiles afterwards even though she mostly thought my ideas were crazy. My brother thought it was cool that white males tend to vote Republican (we started out with a lesson on the major constituencies of both parties), which I accidentally laughed at because he doesn’t know yet why that’s meaningful to people beyond “Hey, I’m a white male Republican, too!” The worst I got was a “You’re white – even if you don’t want to be – ” as the intro to a question from my sister. Before the election she called me to hear my views so she could make a balanced decision. But then after that she somehow got solidified in her stance that she was so unsure of before, and has since resented it anytime I defend my side, even though I’m always the only one on my side. I must suck at sharing views, huh? And yet here I am writing a blog.

So I may have already written about affirmative action, but I’m going to do it again because it’s my blog and I need the peace of mind that comes from making your argument in writing.

Once upon a time, there were two men, Joe and Jim. Joe stole labor from Jim via slavery. Thus, Joe owes Jim money – back wages that he never paid. He also owes Jim compensation for beating him, and he owes Jim’s wife compensation for raping her, and he owes the entire family compensation for splitting them up. But nobody ever makes Joe pay Jim, or anybody else involved. When Joe dies, he gives his kids a lot of technically stolen money. When Jim dies, he gives his kids nothing. This goes on for generations. Along the way, the government gives money to Joe’s descendants so they can buy a house, but denies Jim’s descendants the same deal because they’re black. Joe’s descendants build equity in the house and make money off of it; Jim’s descendants rent. Joe’s descendants join a union and get better pay and benefits; Jim’s descendants aren’t allowed to join. Joe’s descendants vote for politicians that watch out for their interests; Jim’s descendants are kept away from the polls by force. Joe’s descendants get loans from the Department of Agriculture; Jim’s descendants are denied the same deal because they’re black. Joe’s descendants are raised speaking the language that’s tested on the SAT and expected on scholarship essays and in job interviews; Jim’s descendants are scolded for using their native language.

And then when somebody wants to give Jim’s descendants a leg up, Joe’s descendants decide it’s time to start keeping score of fairness. They don’t hold anything against Jim’s descendants, but they’re firm believers in meritocracy – as of five minutes ago. They never stole from anybody – they didn’t have to, because their ancestors and the government did it for them. But that’s not their fault! Nor is it the fault of Jim’s descendants.

(This is where the difference between the two kinds of guilt becomes important again – Joe’s descendants are in a state of being guilty of benefiting at the expense of Jim’s descendants. But I’m not admonishing them to feel the emotion of guilt over it. It’s true that it’s not their fault that things are this way, but it’s also true that that’s totally beside the point of whether or not things are this way.)

Now, it is very difficult, probably impossible, to determine exactly how much debt Joe’s ancestors now owe Jim’s ancestors. And it is equally difficult/impossible to determine exactly who counts as Joe’s ancestors and who counts as Jim’s ancestors and to what degree. FInally, it is challenging to find a good way to repay that debt, because it is not just a financial one. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it some kind of attempt.

However, if you believe we should not try to rectify any of these wrongs, then you better at least be consistent and not start caring about fairness from now on. It’s not a great stance, in my opinion, to say “It was wrong, but it’s unfixable now. Tough luck.” But it’s downright offensive to say “Affirmative action?! That would be unmeritocratic, and our country is all about meritocracy!” Usually more ignorant than audacious, true, but now that you know, you have no excuse.

This of course does not preclude arguments about how affirmative action should be carried out – as I said before, determining how to go about these things is incredibly complex and I think we would benefit from a lot more argumentation over the how. But instead all the everyday person ever considers in terms of affirmative action is the whether.

That’s what’s starting to get to me in this country. We spend so much time and energy arguing over the stupidest things. I don’t have time to think about starving children, I’m busy worrying about whether the lesbian next door checked the “single” box or the “married” box on her patient information form last time she went to the doctor. Some of this stuff is so ridiculous that I can’t even take it seriously anymore. But then again, it’s not just about people being stupid or latching onto unimportant issues; somewhere, it’s about power plays.

June 4, 2009

Sexism in sterilization

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 10:25 pm

You may be aware that there is a lot of racism in the world of sterilization – eugenics in the past and modified versions thereof in the present.  A lot of people are not aware of this even though eugenics was a really big deal when it was legal; people just conveniently forget to mention it when they write history books because it makes the US look really bad.  But there’s also sexism in sterilization, which I didn’t realize so much until I just read an article in an old issue of Time Magazine.  It’s about a new method of female sterilization that is easier, less expensive, and less burdensome on the woman than tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied).

So the new method sounds great, and I’m glad we have it.  But here’s the problem: the new method is new.  I think it’s fair to guess that most women who get sterilized aren’t using this method yet, or weren’t at the time that Time got the following statistic: twice as many married women as married men get sterilized.

The new female method may be comparable to vasectomies in terms of cost, time, danger, and general burden on the patient.  But the old method is definitely not.  Tubal ligation is more expensive, riskier, less effective, is more invasive, takes more recovery time, and takes more serious anesthesia than vasectomies.  There is just no comparison.  This About site explains.  Although it’s a “women’s health” page, I have never once heard anyone argue that the opposite is true, and it seems to cover both sides fairly.

Twice as many married women than married men.

I can think of several reasons for this, and all of them start with an s and end with an exism.  But more specifically:

1) Machismo and male insecurity.  The idea that if you physically can’t impregnate a woman, you’re not really a man.  Of course some women have the same insecurity (I saw one on that show Clean House the other day) that if they can’t get pregnant they’re not really a woman.  (The poor thing said it’s her responsibility as a wife to bear her husband kids, and she couldn’t, so she felt like a failure.  He felt like a failure because he was injured and couldn’t support her financially.  The result of their adherence to these gender roles was that they were both depressed to the point that they didn’t clean their house at all, ever, and it was on Clean House’s special Messiest House in America.  It was so bad that they didn’t even bother to remove the cat poo from their closet after the cat was gone.)  But women’s feelings don’t matter as much, right?  Plus gender roles seem to work in such a way that being macho is more important for men than being feminine is for women, perhaps not inherently but rather because feminism is working on women more than it’s working on men.  This is of course deeply tied into issues of homophobia and transphobia.  Not pretty stuff, that machismo.

2) The view that women are responsible for all things child-related.  This is biologically ridiculous – it takes two, at some point or another.  But gender roles are very science-resistant.  (Note that even though women are responsible for getting pregnant as well as not getting pregnant, it’s the men who own the kids in many time periods and cultures.  Our naming system reflects this, although our laws have changed.)  These gender roles are of course bad for men, too, as any man who has been in a custody battle in the US is likely to tell you.  Just don’t let him tell you it’s women’s fault: look who’s behind the bench.  Governments which are made up mostly of men make laws that reflect their beliefs about gender, including the belief that women take care of kids.  In everyday life, this belief weighs more heavily on women, as, according to my psych teacher, studies show that even in households where both parents work, women spend more time in caretaking activities with kids and men spend more time in play activities with kids.  Even though women usually win the custody battles, this pattern continues if the kids get to visit their dads on weekends.  You know those kids who resent their moms because those moms are the ones enforcing the rules day in and day out while their dads just show up on weekends to take them out for ice cream?

3) An imbalance of power.  If the husband is the one with the paycheck that will pay for the operation, or if he holds the decision-making power simply because the couple is brainwashed with “women must obey their husbands” shit, then all it takes is a selfish man to make the woman get the operation.  There is no shortage of selfish people.

4) Men thinking ahead?  Maybe some men expect to leave their wives and marry someone younger and more fertile later on, so they don’t want to be the ones giving up their ability to make babies.  That’s lovely.

But wait, you’re thinking.  Maybe people just know about tubal ligations more than they’re aware of vasectomies.  Don’t be so hard on them.

And how do you suppose that got to be the case? I would have to answer.

So now I’m thinking about myself…will I want permanent birth control at some point in my life?  I’m generally not into anything too permanent, so I’d probably have a hard time with the idea, but then again, I don’t know how healthy it is to take hormonal birth control for decades.  Plus I’d much rather not have to worry about it.  If I do want to make it permanent, would I be willing to get this new thing done, or would I be too upset by the way sterilization usually works to let my partner off that easy?  Would he be willing to take one for the team?

Funny, I think that phrase says so much, take one for the team.  I think women are expected to do that a lot more than men are, unless it’s an actual team of only men.  I think that sums up what people told me when I was still Christian, when they were insinuating that wanting full human rights was selfish.  Sacrifice yourself for family unit, or for society, that’s one of the key messages behind traditional views of how to be a good woman.

May 23, 2009

Everyone needs a wife

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 4:57 am

Funny story:  I just wrote how I don’t have anything to write about, and then I remembered something that’s pretty relevant.  A while back I was talking to a couple.  The husband is in his residency and he’s working like crazy.  The wife is in school – she’s behind after transfering to follow him to his residency.  WHILE I was talking to them, the husband mentioned that he might stay here for a certain number of extra years, which was new information to his wife.  He didn’t talk to her about it as if they would make the decision together – he was telling her.  Not in a mean way, but it was clear that the decision was up to him.  This is perhaps understandable, given that by that time she would be out of school and so less tied to a particular location, while it would apparently be difficult for him to move and still be able to do this program he wanted to do.  And doing the program sounded like a great idea.  But still.  I don’t think I need to tell you where my hypothetical future husband would be sleeping if he pulled that on me.

They talked a lot about their hectic lifestyle.  He never gets enough sleep.  She’s his support system.  But she needs one of her own, and he can’t be one for her.  The amount of stress she deals with due to his lifestyle, added to the amount of stress in her own life during this past year, is enough to give most people a heart attack.  I’m not kidding.  She’s very fit, and it’s a good thing.

At one point her husband said he couldn’t do it without her and talked about how he didn’t know how his unmarried friends did it.  I told her that she needs a wife.  I’ve seen people say that before, and I think it explains a lot.  The Chinese character for wife is (or was originally) the character for woman with the character for broom.  In many cases, a wife is a woman who takes care of a man’s personal duties while he works.  Then wives started to work, so now we’ve replaced them with…other women.  A woman to clean your house, a woman to take care of your kids, a woman to schedule your meetings.  The wife still does most of the cooking, cleaning, and childcare that’s left over.  It’s a wonder these men still tie their own shoes.

But it’s not all their fault.  It’s partially their fault, because even in families where both parents work, women spend more time in caretaking activities with kids while men spend more time in play activities with kids.  But even if this husband I met wanted to share duties equally, he physically couldn’t.  It’s a miracle he’s able to do all of his work; how could he possibly do more?  Maybe he was exaggerating, but probably he wasn’t.  The personal is political: the imbalance in this and many other households is enforced to at least some degree by society, a society that expects workers to work as if they have nothing to do but work.  After all, all the stuff that isn’t work used to be somebody else’s unpaid job.  Since men tend to have higher paying jobs than women, a lot of times it makes sense for the wife to take on more of the home duties while the husband works late.  But it’s not fair to either of them.  By extension, the husband’s job is more important, more worthy of moving for.  Our liberation seems to have us kind of in the same place we were before, except somewhat less so.  Of course it’s not like this for everyone, but there are trends.

I don’t know what I would do if I were married to a person with that job.  I would hate the imbalance, but I couldn’t do anything about it, short of leaving him.  It’s not in his power to change the system.  He could of course quit, but who would want to after working so hard to get there?  And finding another job is never easy.  The only way to make things better is to change the expectations on people in jobs that work insane hours.  (My boyfriend is supposed to work something like 25 hours a week, according to his school.  He works twice that when he’s slacking off.  One deadline week, I counted up about 125-130 hours that he worked.)  Each individual should have the ability to take care of his or herself, like a grown-up, without losing their job.

people are not rational

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 4:21 am

I haven’t written in a while.  I keep wanting to, but I’m not keeping up with feminist and other news much lately.  For a while I just had to read it all the time, and then somehow I stopped and now I know that if I start again it’ll make me angry and sad and I’d just rather not.  That may be bad, but then again, I know basically what the problems are.  I’m already convinced that we need change.  What I need is a way to be involved, and I never really found something that I thought would be worthwhile – and that I could pull off – besides trying to influence the people around me, or at least call it out when they propagate misconceptions.  I volunteer some, I donate a little, but I need a real plan, and I don’t have one yet.  So I don’t have many new ideas to get out.

But I thought I’d mention something I’ve been noticing lately.  I know a certain person who has an impressively powerful ability to filter out information that challenges her worldview.  She’ll start a conversation about politics in which she’s arguing for her side with respect to some current event.  Then I’ll counter with information she’s leaving out, and she’ll change the subject to one in which the information I brought up can be construed to support her political party, albeit in a totally different way.  Or I’ll be talking about an issue from my point of view, and at one point I’ll mention something that she agrees with, and she’ll act like that was the only part she heard.  Or I’ll be talking about something from my point of view, and she’ll latch onto a part of it and expand on it from an apolitical point of view.  It’s mind-boggling.  And scary, because we’re talking about a very intelligent person here.

I know we learn about this in psychology, that people pay more attention to what supports their biases than what challenges them, but I didn’t know it could go this far.  Of course, maybe she’s thinking “Crap!  I don’t know how to argue against that!  Find a way out!” but she gives the impression of just not paying attention to anything contrary to her opinions in the first place.  Most people who feel strongly about their politics will engage in debates with the opposite side when challenged, but not her.  She makes your argument into an agreement with her.  Actually, now that I think of it, my boyfriend had a similar experience at work, which is technically school but in practice, it’s work.  His boss put him in charge of teaching something to some other students and told the students that he was their boss.  My boyfriend, who believes in school, said “No, there’s no boss here, and also, I’m not going to make you work too much, because the more you have to get done, the less you learn.”  “Work” here means work for the company that somehow manages to live in this school, not like, homework.  It takes time away from studying and  research, which is sort of the whole reason they’re at school.  His boss said “Yeah, like I always say, the more you work, the more you learn.”

I think it’s moments like that for which the term “headdesk” was invented.  The best explanation I can come up with is that lots of time spent groupthinking and a strong desire to believe what you already believe, over time, can produce this effect.  Please try to avoid it.  Also, you may not want to try to engage in debates with such people, as it will be a waste of time.  But I think we’re better off being aware that this is out there, and that people are just not rational all the time.  Lots of things go into our moral calculus and our belief systems besides pure logic.

May 6, 2009

A feminist fairy tale

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 12:26 am

Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Jane. Jane was a college student and she was dating a young man who lived on the other side of town, where he went to the other college in town. Jane didn’t like to drive and had a horrible sense of direction, so she let her boyfriend drive whenever they went out. She also shared her apartment with roommates, while her boyfriend had an apartment to himself, so usually when they stayed together, she stayed at his place. It was easier for her to park at his place than vice versa, and he had to leave for school earlier than she did, so it made sense. It all made sense. But it still bothered her, every once in a while, that she had to split her belongings across the two apartments. She never seemed to have the right clothes with her. She had spent so much time stocking her kitchen with all the right things, only to end up making do with what her boyfriend had while her tools gathered dust and her milk spoiled. But she adjusted. It was too much fun spending time with her boyfriend for her to change the situation.

Then one night, Jane’s boyfriend picked her up to go to the movies. Jane wouldn’t have known how to get there anyway, since she hardly ever drove anywhere besides the grocery store and her boyfriend’s apartment anymore. Sure, she could have mapquested it, but it was easier to have her boyfriend pick her up, and that’s the normal thing to do anyway, right?

After the movie they spent the night at her boyfriend’s apartment. They snuggled together happily as they fell asleep. The next morning, her boyfriend went off to school early while she stayed in bed, having finished her classes for the semester. Finally she got up and got ready and gathered her things to go back to her apartment. She went to the parking lot and looked around, but her car wasn’t there. She remembered that her boyfriend had driven the night before. Normally when that happened he would drop her off at school in the morning, but she didn’t have school that day, so they hadn’t planned for that. Her boyfriend was now in the middle of a lot of work, and too busy to leave before evening.

“Shit,” she thought. She knew it was too much to ask of her boyfriend for him to take her home then, but she had planned to work on things in her apartment and spend time with her roommates. She didn’t get to see her roommates much since she had been spending so much time at her boyfriend’s apartment. Suddenly, she remembered that there was a bus from one college to the other. She quickly looked up the information and planned to make the next bus. She learned the names of streets that she had walked with her boyfriend, but not known herself, since she had never had to navigate them on her own. She was determined to start taking back responsibility for her own transportation, and this was the first step.

She got to the bus stop ten minutes early and waited twenty minutes past the time the bus was supposed to come. It never came. She spent the rest of the day in her boyfriend’s apartment, waiting for him to get home.

The moral of the story is: keep control over your own life, even when that means doing more work (like figuring out directions, or driving your boyfriend to school sometimes). And don’t trust buses to be on time.

March 23, 2009

Another note to professors

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 10:29 pm

Don’t wait until a week before a thesis is due to tell the student that a part of it that has been in it for the past four months needs to be changed. Thanks.

March 20, 2009

Pleasantly surprised

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 11:32 pm

A few weeks ago I heard people start to talk about domestic violence on some radio show.  I braced myself for victim blaming, but it never came.  They talked about the cycle, they talked about ways to get help, and most surprisingly, they talked about how you shouldn’t blame women for getting involved with abusers or for failing to leave abusers because they can’t be spotted beforehand and because there are so many reasons why women stay.

So just now I stumbled onto a Dr. Phil show on the same topic.  And his first guest was a male minister at a megachurch.  I wasn’t sure what to expect…so far it seems really good.  The minister told the abuser they have on the show that he’s abusing her when he woos her back post-beating, too, because that’s part of the power play as well.  I thought it was a good point, to bring it back to the issue of power.

Normally, when people start paying a lot of attention to the state of a female celebrity’s life, the spread of good feminist information does not ensue.  So good job, everyone.  Maybe there’s hope after all.

January 23, 2009

The “I think I’m ok, therefore I am” fallacy

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 11:19 pm

It goes like this: someone brings up a type of oppression, and a member of the oppressed group says “I don’t believe in opposing what you’re talking about.  I’m a strong enough person that I don’t need xyz/I believe I’m a person of worth even if xyz doesn’t happen.”

I’ve come across two examples of it recently.  First, a woman saying she’s strong enough that it doesn’t hurt her to read gender-exclusive language (that is, when authors say “he” to mean “he or she” and “man” to mean “people”).  Second, a black woman (via a forwarded email, so take with a grain of salt) saying that she didn’t vote for Obama because she doesn’t need there to be a black president in order for her to know she’s a person of worth.

I’m not saying that either of these people, or the other people who use this “I think I’m ok, therefore I am” argument, don’t actually feel ok with themselves.  If a woman can read a book full of sexist language and come out feeling like she is just as representative of human beings as men are, more power to her.  If a black person can see a sea of white faces in government and feel like they can grow up to be whatever they want to be, more power to them.  And since oppressions often work, like most things in the real world, on a probabilistic rather than absolute basis, I can’t guarantee that they won’t achieve just exactly what they want.  But knowing you’re ok is only part of the issue.

Let’s break down the effects of oppression into two sides: the internal and the external.  These people are talking about the internal; they’re claiming to be completely resistant to the psychological effects of oppression.  They may not be familiar with the doll test and other studies in that vein, which tend to show that people DO internalize the negative messages they get about themselves.  Or maybe they are familiar with those studies and they just find themselves to be out of the ordinary, unusually resilient and self-assured.  Which is a great thing to be.

But that’s just the internal side.  We still have the external to deal with.  The external is that which you cannot control.  Eleanor Roosevelt said that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”, but regardless of whether or not that’s true, there ARE other things people can do without your consent.  Loving yourself won’t always stop someone else from hating you.  And if that hateful person has power over you, they can hurt you, physically or financially or otherwise.  So maybe YOUR mind doesn’t need changing, but you can bet that there are minds out there that believe that not all human beings are of equal worth, and among them, there are some who have the power to act on their prejudice.  Admitting this is not “playing the victim”; it’s facing the reality of an unequal distribution of power.

If sexist language, and underrepresentation of black people in government, and so on and so forth, allow and help people to  maintain their prejudices and foster new ones, then these things matter regardless of how strong you are.  If making feminine pronouns and black voices more prominent and frequent helps people to accept women and black people as a normal part of the human race, then these things matter regardless of how happy you are with yourself.  I personally believe that exposure does help to change those subconscious prejudices, probably because I believe that exposure to lopsided stimuli helped create the subconscious prejudices in the first place.  So I do think these things and other similar issues matter, a lot – although I would not vote for a black man just because he’s black, which should be patently obvious given that I didn’t support a woman just because she was a woman.  But still, now that the election is won and we DO have a black president, I’m glad that we will FINALLY see a black face in an unfamiliar position – the top – and start to get more and more used to the idea of white people answering to a black person – not because I’m a self-hating white liberal, but because we ARE used to seeing black people answer to white people and there’s no good reason why our experience and our sense of what’s normal and acceptable should be so uneven.  And I’m getting increasingly impatient to see a woman, an atheist, an Asian person, and more in that position and other positions that they’re usually kept out of.

So, that’s one less argument I’ll be accepting in debates.

January 15, 2009

Hungry is not a monster

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 1:53 am

I know that’s a weird title, and I want to make sure that no one misinterprets anything here as insensitive towards the people known as “the hungry”, that is, people who don’t have enough to eat, not because choose not to eat, but because they cannot access enough food due to poverty, famine, politics, or what have you.  I’d like to do a post on that next to balance this one, but it’s such a complex topic, even if I just choose a part of it, that I don’t know how much justice I can do it.  I’ll look into it though.

So the hungry in the title is actually a reference to the little monster in a Weight Watchers commercial called Hungry.  The ad tells you that you’d succeed in your diet lifestyle long-term diet if you could just overcome Hungry, which is their gimmicky way of saying hunger.  Whenever you’re trying to diet, Hungry pops up all over the place, trying to mess everything up for you by making you do one of the basic functions of all living organisms, ingestion.  Pesky Hungry.  If only there was a way to get rid of it…Weight Watchers to the rescue!  They have advice and products for you, for a small fee, so that you can stop feeling one of the most fundamental signs that you’re alive.

If it weren’t for that commercial, I wouldn’t be writing a post about Weight Watchers, because I don’t actually get the impression that they’re the worst dieting program out there.  And the solutions to hunger that they talk about in the commercial aren’t nearly as bad as the gimmick they used to present them, so if they had had a straightforward “here’s what we have to help you with your diet” ad, I still would not be writing this.  But the gimmick is bad enough that it needs comment.

Hunger is a sign that your body needs food.  Boredom, stress, and discontentment are usually not signs that your body needs food, but Weight Watchers didn’t make a Bored monster or a Sad monster and discuss the importance of listening to rather than drowning out your body’s signals, so we’re going to talk about hunger.  When you’re hungry, you should eat and/or drink something.   Even if you’re on a diet.  The only exception I can think of is if you’re fasting for a medical test (and I suppose if you’re fasting for a religious or spiritual reason, although I must admit I never really understood that – oh, or if you’re doing the Fast-a-thon, which is for charity, which I do understand). Hunger is not the enemy; it is a signal from the system you’re trying to improve, your body.  People who can’t feel pain do harm to their bodies before they realize that it’s happening.  If you manage to ignore your hunger, you will probably also do harm to your body.  I know that I’m not real good at acknowledging my hunger and sometimes I take naps when I should have just eaten something.  Finally when I do eat I realize that hunger was the reason I had no energy.  Energy is good for things like keeping your metabolism going, exercising, getting work done, thinking, breathing, all kinds of things.

If hunger is the enemy, your body is the enemy.  If your body is your enemy when you diet, you’re sacrificing psychological health in your quest for physical health, and I don’t really believe that you’re after physical health, either.  If your body is your enemy, you’re sacrificing your health, period, for your appearance.  Health has become a cover-up for many people who are really just concerned about the appearance of themselves and/or others.  I understand the drive to look different, given how shitty society is to fat people and even to merely not-skinny people (how sick am I of ads about weight loss where the before picture is not even fat).  But it’s still not a good idea, and more to the point, it’s irresponsible of companies like Weight Watchers to promote that kind of dysfunctional relationship to your body in order to sell memberships.  And even more to the point, since I’m aware that Weight Watchers does not care what I think, is that something is very wrong if society thinks these ads make perfect sense.  If I said, “Hey, I’ve got a great way to help you lose weight, all you do is trick your body out of taking care of itself normally so that you can micromanage it according to my rules – for the rest of your life!” would you buy my product?  I’d like to think that, when you phrase it that way, most people would see how crazy it is and stop telling their daughters and friends and whoever to try it out (you know, for their “health”), but I actually think a lot of us are so far gone that we wouldn’t even realize how messed up that is.

At least there’s an alternative.  Here are some links about Health at Every Size, the anti-diet that, unlike diets, is actually good for you (and doesn’t demonize hunger).

A write-up of a study on HAES’s effectiveness (and despite the bizarre title, HAES works for non-Americans too)

HAES for health professionals

The book on HAES

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