Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sick Of It All

At least I don't have it as bad as this poor kid, but I am down and out with some kind of cold/flu/black lung disease. However, my mucus-addled brain is perfectly suited to catching up on my favorite blogs (I'm talking about you, Jezebel and Digby) and commenting on some of the intriguing stories I encounter.

According to a March 16 article from the UPI, researchers found that the perception of being overweight among American girls raised the probability of suicidal thoughts by 5.6 percent, the probability of a suicide attempts by 3.2 percent and the probability of injury causing suicide attempts by 0.6 percent. "The prevalence of body dissatisfaction, among special populations of youths such as non-black girls, is significantly higher than the general youth population, even when the underlying weight is in a healthy range," study co-author Inas Rashad of Georgia State University in Atlanta said in a statement. The study, based on 1999-2007 data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System, is scheduled to be published in Social Science and Medicine.

I don't know what else could better illustrate the devastating consequences to self-perception and self-worth that are meted out by the stigma of fatness. It is only a deeply sick, cannabalistic culture that could engrain such a powerful reflex of fatty shaming that girls internalize the message so thoroughly as to despise their bodies to the point of suicide. I use the adjective "cannabalistic" because we are all culpable in cultivating and enforcing the stigma of fatness not only in social contexts, but also, most perniciously, in our own consciousnesses. Every time a mom stands in front of her bathroom mirror berating the size of her thighs as her young daughter watches from the open door, every time a young professional woman feels like a failure as she flips through the pages of her latest issue of Cosmo and compares her appearance to those of the models' Photoshopped body products, every time a guy worries about introducing his new girlfriend to his buddies because she is not shaped like the latest model of "Hot Girl" from the lad mags (FHM, Maxim, etc.), we are sustaining the ethos of self-enforced stigmas and denigration against fat/overweight/voluptuous/name-your-euphemism body shapes that feeds this culture of toxic self-hatred. A cannabalizing media and social culture promotes self-destructive, self-annhilating, and humanity-destroying behaviors because, while explicit enforcement of body image mandates (pay discrimination against overweight individuals, fat camps, harassment of the fat girl in school without the teacher stopping it) are present and potent, this kind of overt discrimination is far less efficient than creating an environment where individuals police and shame their own body shapes and appearances into submission. And then, with the people-flesh primed with fear and self-hatred, the cannabalizing consumer culture strikes for its feast selling the products of insecurity, from cosmetic surgery to diet plans to exercise programs to beauty magazines and their wares. Feast or famine, indeed.

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