Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A stream of emotions

Over the weekend, we rented the movie Nocturnal Animals.  We saw the trailer as a preview while watching another movie and thought it looked really good.  When we began watching, we were immediately greeted by a sight I've never seen...
Now I have blacked out the nudity so technically there is no nekkidness going on but I wanted to give fair warning because I know I have teachers and others who read at work and didn't want to be like BAM!  

The thing is, I need you to really look at the woman and take in what you're seeing so if you're where someone can see, come back to the post when you can.
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(image via FilmColossus.com)
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In the opening credits, there are either 3 or 4 morbidly obese women completely naked and dancing. They're dressed in sashes and I think a majorette uniform.  There is no context as to why we're seeing what we're seeing.  I immediately got uncomfortable because I was just waiting for them to be the butt of a joke or something.  I mean isn't that the context we usually see a woman in that is my weight or higher?  It ends up these women are part of an art installment and once the dancing portion is over, they are all laying on a platform separately as modern, interpretive art installment surrounded by a full gallery of people, dressed of course and that's that.

Obviously with an opening like that, I had no idea what to expect.  I definitely didn't expect the flood of emotions I would feel from watching the first 5 minutes of this movie.   The woman above is the thinnest of the women that were in the credits.  Now please know that what I am describing is meant with absolutely no disrespect to the women who were brave enough to go full monty for this picture.  (Not because of their weight but any person willing to be naked for entertainment/their art in front of a room full of camera people and crew only to be scrutinized and picked apart by the public get my utmost tip of the hat.)  The thoughts below are what I experienced as an obese woman watching myself represented on the screen for the first time ever in a way that was not utterly demoralizing and disrespectful on purpose.

As I watched these women dance and act sexy for the camera, at first I was obviously confused by the lack of context.  But as it continued, in the sea of flopping tummies, gravity stretched breasts swinging in circles, plump mon pubis areas and rippling thighs all in slow motion...I saw a woman that was pretty close to my body shape.  I saw myself.  I saw myself for the first time...and I was ashamed.   The only mirror I have in my house is from the bust up and that is by design.  I have rented homes that have full length mirrors many in the bathroom where you're naked about half the time.  I am always horrified at what being super morbidly obese did to my body but even what losing weight has done to it as well.  (Nope, not having skin surgery in case any noobies may be tempted to suggest it.  I would have to be hacked up beyond belief to fix what almost 500 lbs did to me and I know too many people who have permanent nerve damage from getting even minor skin surgery done.)

As an obese woman, society teaches you that you are invisible and for the times you're not, they tell you quite bluntly to your face that you have no value.  If you're obese you've encountered one form of this or another at least once in your life.  Whether it's that up and down glance you get from a stranger to the new doctor assuming because you're over 200 lbs. you obviously don't exercise and your blood work up will be a disaster to the people who have had people yell out the window at them as they're walking or had things thrown at them.  "You don't belong and no one will ever want you."  The message is very clear.  That's why seeing those images in your face of these women who are joyful, dancing, feeling sexy and completely free in a way that tells society to piss off is so confusing.  Even if you're obese yourself, you are programmed to think that's not beautiful...you're not beautiful.  We're supposed to not be sexual, hide inside our homes curled up with a box of Swiss cake rolls until we die of our heart attacks.  Because really, it's not like obese people are human, right?  I mean they couldn't possibly live interesting lives, contribute to society or be funny and charming.  {dripping with sarcasm}  Yet even being an obese woman myself, I feel that effing shame not just because that is why my body looks like but that is what my husband is married to.  I felt bad for him and thought "how could he ever find me sexy or attractive?"  It made me feel so vulnerable and exposed even though I was fully clothed.

I apologized to him that I didn't look like a "normal" woman.  He said he was the male equivalent so he was sorry to me too.  But we both know we love each other for the people we are on the inside first, which makes the rest of us automatically accepted.  I mean when we met, we were within about 50-60 lbs of where we are now so it's not like we were both thin when we met and then got out of control.  We knew the struggles we had with food and you'd think with knowing that we would've been more help to each other in the early days but who wants to eat salad with your new boyfriend at 17?  Not me!  I'm getting off track a bit.

So once they showed the context of why we were seeing these women that way, I felt inspired by the freedom they had to just strip down and totally own their bodies and feel sexy and beautiful.  Then I was pissed and ashamed that I fell into that societal bias of "well, these women are fat so obviously they're not beautiful."  I mean, I have no problems watching nudity when thin people are involved.  The most referenced comparison I'm finding is Robin Thicke's uncensored "Blurred Lines" video in which gorgeous young women are letting their boobies bounce around like it's nothing and I have absolutely no problem with it.  Yet I see a representation of myself and what I actually look like and my instant reaction is to be uncomfortable, ashamed and want to hide under a blanket.  What's wrong with that picture?  I have a husband that tells me almost every day how cute, pretty or beautiful I am but I had such a hard time accepting that compliment.  I will sometimes retort with "no I'm not" or laugh more times than I will ever say thank you because as women, it's often taught that unless you have the perfect body and face that you don't deserve that compliment.  Screw that.

I think the answer is that we need to see more of ourselves in every shape represented on the screen and NOT as a butt of a joke or some poor schlub unworthy of being treated like a human being.  As any fat person knows, weight discrimination is still totally acceptable.  They can call it "fat shaming" all they want to put some buzz words in to get people to click on an article.  But at the end of the day you pick any other kind of "shaming" and it will get loads more attention and people on their side because you know, 'fat people did it to themselves so they don't get sympathy.'  So if we can finally get over this barrier and just have every size person in TV shows, movies or in music represented, maybe someday we can just feel like a real human being instead of being fodder for memes, teenage boys who need to build themselves up to feel like men or even our own minds.  We are our own worst critic.  When the jerks of the world who try to make you feel less than stop hurling insults, we often pick up right where they left off with our own mix tape of hate in our brains.

So thank you to those women who took it all off and shook their groove thing for all to see.  Thank you for the lessons you taught me and hopefully will teach others if they stop for a moment to see that we are all human no matter our shape and size.  Oh and screw you internet in the fact that I can find "About 5,810,000 results" for naked women on a popular video site, I could not find ONE clip anywhere for this opening scene.  (Yes I know that would be illegal but you and I both know you can find full movies, clips, gifs, etc for just about anything online but God forbid it's this 5 minutes of a film which I actually saw was cut out of the streaming version according to commenters!  So many people didn't even get to see that scene unless they rented the DVD.)

Have you seen the movie/opening credits?  If so, what were your thoughts?  Do you have body issues you have a hard time dealing with?

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5 comments:

  1. Other things like being a habitual smoker or drinker are easy enough to hide from most of society. Obesity is something that cannot easily be hidden from society, even if we're good at hiding it from ourselves. The thing is, there are so many reasons to be obese but society likes to always blame it on food only and not some of the other reasons that could be underlying. There is no sympathy out there from those who have not been in our shoes. We sometimes fail to sympathize with ourselves because of the same mentality that is thrust upon us as kids. I salute the women in this movie for standing up to all of that for us and showing that they are and have every right to be happy!

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  2. Oh Sweetie, I hear ya! Loud and Clear. Feeling less than human for over 30 years, due to my morbid obesity, as if my opinions, thoughts and life didn't matter as much as someone who was normal sized. And when you mentioned how we continue the self-hate even after the people on the streets' mean comments can no longer be heard. Those comments are never forgotten however, and I used them as fodder to continue to beat myself up. This constant demeaning self-attitude is part of who I am, even now, after losing over 150 lbs. As I continue to fight the scale and FOOD, getting to goal, regaining, losing again, (I'm on my third minor regain right now), you'd think I'd learn, but my addiction is strong and I slip over and over. And with the regain, the self-loathing always returns. I have not seen this movie, but am intrigued now and hope to see it soon. Like your Mr. says above, from those who have not walked in our shoes, there is no empathy or sympathy. In a world that today seems even more filled with HATE for anyone who is "different," it would sure be nice to at least not hate myself.

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  3. It's not just "on the screen" we need to actively seek out different views (be it body shape, race, gender identity) in all aspects of our lives so we can better understand each other and all be better people.

    If you want some great body acceptance (and are on Instagram) check out @biggalyoga She is a beautiful full sized woman who shares her yoga practice. It's fabulous (and she usually tells you where she gets her cool workout clothes. . .not shilling, just sharing. . .which is how I ended up with alien space ship leggings I wear at yoga!)

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  4. I follow Jes Baker (militantbaker) and she's all about body positivity at all sizes. I still have a hard time accepting that. I've been so conditioned to not be okay with how I look that it's hard for me to see it with acceptance, especially in myself. Now that I've lost a lot, it's actually worse than it used to be. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm certain I would have been uncomfortable watching. I do have larger mirrors at home, so I do see myself- I just don't love what I see.

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  5. Oh boy, do I relate to this. I'm constantly met with the look up and down and always stopping at my boobs. For someone with massive anxiety issues, there have been times when I cannot physically get out of the car to go into a store. It is a horrible feeling, and even when I'm defiant and try to pull off the whole self-confident thing, inside I know I'm a fraud on that front. And for me, it's not just comments made about my body below my neck, but I've have plenty said about my face as well. Comments about my teeth, my freckles, my sh*t-brown eyes (yep, actually had that said to me) and my upturned nose.

    I've always admired women who truly ARE confident and have a healthy perspective about themselves and are at a place of peace. I've worked with a few women like that and I'd be in awe of them. That they rebuked the messages society tells them and they just live their own lives. Confidence is incredibly beautiful and it's something I've never ever had.

    Awesome blog as always!!

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