Welcome to Ms. Opinionated, our weekly advice column dealing with questions of life, love, feminism, and pop culture. Submit your anonymous questions here. This week, Sydette Harry hears from a reader considering major weight-loss surgery.
I was hoping to gather some thoughts. I consider myself a feminist, I campaign for equal rights and I work in the field of sexual assault and family violence. I give thought to things like body shaming and I understand about socially constructed beauty ideas. I would like people to accept me for my thoughts, values and humor.
I really dislike to the point of hating my body. I am overweight and, according to the BMI index, I am obese. I have to opportunity to have astomach sleeve operation, which I know is a drastic measure.
I know that women feel the need to shrink to be accepted. I know that women are forced into a life of less, less food, less space. I don't support women who are told they are less than by not fitting into stereotyped beauty standards. I feel like I went further in my career because I don't fit into standard body type. I wasn't sexualized by men, and I was listened to because of this.
I want to fit into stereotyped standards. I want to feel not different, I want to feel not chuckled about. I want to feel like I don't have to say I'm a "real" girl, because I have curves (which I hate), I don't have to rely on being a funny chick, or and I shall reverse the sexist paradigm, that I'm cool with being the girl in the friend zone!!
I don't want to compromise my ideals and my anger at beauty standards and objectification. But I want to be normal and fit into clothes at normal stores. I want to buy second hand clothes and have a chance in hell at fitting into them.
I would like to look in the mirror an not hate what I see. I would also like to not be a sell out to my feminist ideals.
What do you think? Can I balance a stomach sleeve operation and maintain feminist ideals?
Thanks in advance
Heart on My Stomach Sleeve
I'm writing this to you as one fat girl to another. Whether you do it or not, this surgery will not in any way fix most of what ails you.
I know because I considered/am sometimes still considering it. Because it feels easier. Because it's one less battle, one less thing to have to fight. You'll get to be seen by people, you won't cry at meals anymore, or in dressing rooms. People will be nice to you. I once lost 40 pounds, then gained it all back and then some. I will verify that the difference even that little bit made in how people treated me was enormous. But the difference in how I saw myself, how I saw my body, and how I treated my body was not.
The way you’re asking about this makes me think altering your body won’t transform the way you see it, either.
The way you describe things is troublesome. The first thing that concerns is your concept of the “friend zone.” That definitely isn't feminist. I'm going to tell you (lovingly—hear this lovingly) but no one owes you sex, romance, or affection. Not for being awesome and funny, not for buying dinner, not for being a kind ear, not for being a good friend. The people we want don't always want us. That's life.
You can be tired of being in the friend zone, because it's a thing born of disappointment and entitlement. You're disappointed and really want something. But its just not a thing that really exists. You think you wind up without dates because you're fat. Some of it is that, maybe. But it could be because you're a blonde and not a brunette. It could be because you’re a little short. People are attracted to who they are attracted to and, yep, that’s influenced by society. But there are many, many gorgeous fat girls in happy relationships. And, of course, there’s the stereotypical beautiful women who never seem to get it right.
I'm willing to bet money that you don't like the people who are attracted to you AND that you are so used to being seen as unattractive that people who you would be attracted to could send up nothing short of a signal flare and you would miss it. I speak from experience: you don't see yourself as attractive so you probably can't recognize when other people see you as attractive.
As for the "feminism" of this surgery? I truly don't care and wish you wouldn't either.
Your description of feminism focuses on other women, your romantic struggles focus on imaginary categorizations from other people, even your self validation is about your career and how people find you funny etcetera. Feminism isn't going to live in your body for you.
If you truly can not go on as you are? Have the surgery.
But are you prepared to have it not be the magical cure-all you imagine it to be? Are you prepared to still be uncomfortable in romantic situations? Are you prepared to be more conventionally beautiful and find that intimate partners may be open about just being around for your looks? On top of that, I'm not a medical doctor, but I know about four people who have had the surgery. There are real side affects of the surgery, ranging from diarrhea to vitamin malabsorption to fatigue to having the surgery just not work.
The way you feel about sex and love are going to be the same, with or without the surgery .
My immediate advice to you is to see a professional. Talk to someone about ALL of this and do what feels right. Whether you get the surgery or not, the work of how you feel will be on you.
Wishing you only the best,
Read previous installments of our feminist advice column.