The Skinny

I found this random rant by J.K. Rowling (the Harry Potter author) on being thin. I want to post it just so I remember to read it at least once a week. Love the message. 

For Girls Only, Probably…

Being thin. Probably not a subject that you ever expected to read about on this website, but my recent trip to London got me thinking…

It started in the car on the way to Leavesden film studios. I whiled away part of the journey reading a magazine that featured several glossy photographs of a very young woman who is either seriously ill or suffering from an eating disorder (which is, of course, the same thing); anyway, there is no other explanation for the shape of her body. She can talk about eating absolutely loads, being terribly busy and having the world’s fastest metabolism until her tongue drops off (hooray! Another couple of ounces gone!), but her concave stomach, protruding ribs and stick-like-arms tell a different story. This girl needs help, but, the world being what it is, they’re sticking her on magazine covers instead. All this passed through my mind as I read the interview, then I threw the horrible thing aside.

But blow me down if the subject of girls and thinness didn’t crop up shortly after I got out of the car. I was talking to one of the actors and, somehow or other, we got onto the subject of a girl he knows (not any of the Potter actresses – somebody from his life beyond the films) who had been dubbed ‘fat’ by certain charming classmates. (Could they possibly be jealous that she knows the boy in question? Surely not!)

‘But,’ said the actor, in honest perplexity, ‘she is really not fat.’

“Fat” is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her,’ I said; I could remember it happening when I was at school, and witnessing it among the teenagers I used to teach. Nevertheless, I could see that to him, a well-adjusted male, it was utterly bizarre behaviour, like yelling ‘thicko!’ at Stephen Hawking.

His bemusement at this everyday feature of female existence reminded me how strange and sick the ‘fat’ insult is. I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’

‘Well,” I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

So the issue of size and women was (ha, ha) weighing on my mind as I flew home to Edinburgh the next day. Once up in the air, I opened a newspaper and my eyes fell, immediately, on an article about the pop star Pink.

Her latest single, ‘Stupid Girls’, is the antidote-anthem for everything I had been thinking about women and thinness. ‘Stupid Girls’ satirises the talking toothpicks held up to girls as role models: those celebrities whose greatest achievement is un-chipped nail polish, whose only aspiration seems to be getting photographed in a different outfit nine times a day, whose only function in the world appears to be supporting the trade in overpriced handbags and rat-sized dogs.

Maybe all this seems funny, or trivial, but it’s really not. It’s about what girls want to be, what they’re told they should be, and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking Chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls. Rant over.

(Do you, beloved girls who read my blog, get this all the time? I feel like whenever I see someone–friend, foe, acquaintance, stranger–the first thing that’s looked over/commented on is weight. So frustrating!)

    • Jennifer O’Harra
    • July 15th, 2010

    Um of course! This is so true and its sad! I know I am always thinking about my weight, everyday and trying not to eat bad, working out all the time and while I enjoy being healthy, I know that having the “perfect” body is not only, NOT going to happen, but stupid to try to achieve anyway. I’ve recently been telling Jamie that usually when you do meet a girl at a party with the “perfect” body and outfit and everything, they aren’t very nice or much fun. (Probably because they are hungry). But I’d much rather hang out with people who aren’t perfect but are funny and can have a conversation with me. Its hard to keep into perspective when all we see and watch is the Kardashians or super thin models but that’s not real and we should all try to remember that. Good post Amo! LOVE

    • Dallas
    • July 15th, 2010

    My favorite piece from JK! I love the line about ‘is being fat the worst thing a human being can be?’ Seriuosly! To girls, unfortunately, it is. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in it all but this always makes me smile. I’d rather be the approachable, understanding girl with a booty than the hungry, self-conscious girl with no personality any day. Amy’s endless reading of others’ blogs does pay off!

  1. Amen JK.
    I don’t think this is something any girl escapes, unfortunately. Even the skinny, perfect bodied ones are paying a HEAVY price of obsession and maintenance to remain they way they are…and consequently too often end up emptying their brains along with their bodies (Seriously, could the girls on The Hills or The Kardashians be any denser or incapable of a relatively deep or intelligent conversation?)

    I think the struggle is to find balance. To find that place where YOUR body belongs, where you’re functioning your best without obsessions on either side of the coin, and the self-acceptance that goes along with it (which for me, will always include chants like “I like my short legs, I like my short legs, I like my short legs…). The place where exercise and healthy eating exist simply to the point of making you FEEL good, and a decent figure and glowy complexion are the appreciated byproducts – instead of the other way around.
    Comparisons are hideous in my opinion, and get you NOWHERE. Only deeper in the hole. I had to trash every damn “Self” and “Shape” and “Women’s” and “Us” magazine before I actually noticed a difference in this department! Fitness magazines make you fat. I’m serious! They only contribute to negative thoughts. You don’t realize it, but with every turn of the page – you are ultimately comparing your reality to theirs – and it doesn’t seem to stack up (because theirs is a manufactured cover with good lighting).

    And last but not least, I would like to remind the female (and male) world of this (but I think the males really have a better understanding of this than us): Skinny, insanely perfect bodied girls are terrible in bed.
    Period. It’s the truth. Low energy, perfectionism and obsessions with thigh radius don’t make for a good romp in the sheets.
    We need to remember that. Because the men we’re supposedly trying to look “perfect” for (or so we claim), could give a damn about our lack of perfection as long as they’re getting a good lay with a girl who knows how to let go and enjoy herself (which once again to draw the connection – if she can’t enjoy herself with food, she can’t in bed either – this is truth!).

    :) My two cents, done.


  2. Oh my gosh, wow. Apparently I had a lot to get out on this topic. Sorry – pregnant with my third child. Body image, change, acceptance, sexuality, and all of that are regular components of my daily existence. haha…

    • AmyMinor
    • July 17th, 2010

    Rae we’re glad you wrote a lot — I think we were waiting for your response! JD even said she was excited to read what you had to say on the subject.
    And I think you’re right on. Balance is absolutely the key. And while I think it’s something that will always be on my mind (I know my mom still thinks about it at 55 years old, AND my grandmas in their 80s…) I think that the peak of struggle for women is during their 20s. I think I’m getting closer to acceptance. And for sure, that acceptance can’t be accompanied with wild abandon or letting go…I think you said it perfectly: To find that place where YOUR body belongs, where you’re functioning your best without obsessions on either side of the coin.

  3. Skinny biotch Shinaenae…what do you think?

    • Nae
    • July 20th, 2010

    Tsk tsk….No need to name call Rachel. I would argue that you weigh less than me and have 2 children so……who’s the biotch now?? :)

    Anyhoo…I read this article back when I was living with you girls in Seattle…can’t remember who showed it to me..Amy or Jamie? I was trying to think about what my original reactions to it were…
    I think it’s sad because we’re ALL guilty of it. Noticing someone’s weight before all else. Jealous if she’s lost a lot, concerned if she’s put some on.

    Rae’s comment about eating healthy and exercising to FEEL GOOD vs. look good is right on. Living in seattle/portland I think it’s hard to not start thinking about it more from a health perspective…I think I would literally be shot down if I brought McDonalds into class.

    Where I am going with this I don’t know….other than to say that I think that shift in perspective is really important. We should be healthy so that we can go on walks, play with our kids, have great sex (Rae’s words..not mine) and live a long long time. Not so that we can wear a bathing suit to Tahoe with the hopes of bumping into someone we haven’t seen since high school.

    May you go in peace now to love and serve the Lord. Amen.

  4. “May you go in peace now to love and serve the Lord. Amen.”

    Ahhh Shinae, how I love you so.

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