The Most Political Thing for Women in Washington Today

by Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

Seven hours ago, a woman tweeted: I'm tired of looking and feeling fat. Maybe talking about it publicly will keep me on track as I try to be more disciplined. Off to the gym.

That woman was U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.

This isn't trivial, and neither is she. What woman reading this hasn't "felt fat" at some point in her life? I mean, gee, it's not like advertisers spend billions annually on a message telling women success is beauty, success is communicated by the shape of our bodies, that the best possible measure of our success or even worth as a human being is not the joyful news that we exist, and breathe, and dream (even if those dreams of getting elected U.S. Senator come true) ... no, to be successful is to get your body under control.

Women are not at fault. This body shame is being forced upon us with a pernicious and overwhelmingly toxic media that uses unrealistic images and messages of beauty and body, and that overemphasizes the role of beauty and body in a woman's life. Systematically women are trained to believe that we are worth less if we do not look "perfect," and when in turn we acknowledge it, we are given a message that is almost equally insidious: it is our fault. It's not.

Fifty percent of girls age three to six complain about being fat. By the fourth grade, more than 80 percent of girls have tried a fad diet. Research has demonstrated that after watching TV and reading magazines, women feel worse about themselves than before we started. This is not what equality feels like.

It's time to value women for who we are: full human beings. I am deeply saddened to see Senator McCaskill is feeling the weight of the oppressive emphasis on women's appearances today, yet I am also thankful she started this discussion. The personal is political. In so many ways, the undervaluation of women is the most political thing for women in Washington today.

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Comment from: cabaret voltaire [Visitor]
I've noticed another disturbing trend. I know women in school who'll eat less food during the day because they want to go out and drink that night. I guess they count calories and decide to eat less so they can drink as much as they want without putting on weight. They end up getting extremely drunk because they have no food in their stomach to absorb the alcohol.
05/12/11 @ 23:09
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Comment from: onlinewithzoe [Member] · http://onlinewithzoe.com
As Erin knows, I didn't wear tee shirts until the National Equality March. I had to wear one and even though the world told me I was too fat to wear one, I did it anyway.
I am so glad I broke through that artificial barrier. (and it was a rainbow NOW shirt) Since then I have a dozen tees and I am proud to wear ones that show support for the movement. I even ordered one with Alice Paul on it, and then one with Frida Kahlo, now I am looking at one of Gaga.
Yeah I am fat. and I am ok. all at the same time.
05/13/11 @ 03:10
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Comment from: colorlover123 [Member] Email
I hate the media when it does that! I tried to read vogue before but it's just a book designed for Propaganda!
05/14/11 @ 23:45
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Comment from: colorlover123 [Member] Email
I hate the media when it does that! I tried to read vogue before but it's just a book designed for Propaganda that shames women readers.
05/15/11 @ 10:44
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Comment from: moore79 [Member] Email
Well that's an interesting view and it is true in some ways that media is using skinny women only for marketing purposes. But to say that women as being shamed into feeling that way is going over board. I've never heard any father tell their daughter that "hey if your if you not beautiful then you won't be successful". In the end the media is gonna do what they want to do, you have no control over that. No one has control over any one's happiness but that person themselves. If they chose to be unhappy with their weight that's there problem, not societies. Eventually as people mature acceptance for who they are and people around them come into play and for the first time their happy. I can't express the word "acceptance" enough. I know I complained about a lot of things in my earlier days but it didn't get me anything but a big headache and stress. In the end its not worth it. You can't change everyone around you.
05/22/11 @ 19:51
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Comment from: glad_to_be_here [Member]
I think participation in sports can counteract this heinous message.

I'm a strong supporter of sports for all ages. I think kids who embrace athleticism learn early to value their body for what it can accomplish, not how it looks.

@onlinewithzoe: your post makes me smile. Next step: cutoffs! (you control the length of your shorts)
06/12/11 @ 14:03
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The most political thing in Washington today is the possibility of a war. The US economy is taxed to a limit, if we are to believe the reports - and it seems quite unfortunate the unsettling situation involving among others China, Japan and even your neighbour Canada... I am hoping this is not going to happen !! Best wishes and thanks for including me in your mailing list.
06/23/11 @ 09:39
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