Can you see health physically?

S. Bear Bergman’s “Part-Time Fatso” really emphasizes the extreme standards society holds for gendered bodies. The drastic differences felt when strangers would react differently to seeing this person as a man versus a woman reveal the disgusting nature of our culture’s need to fat shame women. But can you really see someone’s health? How do you identify that a person is unhealthy solely based off of their weight? Bodies are meant to support us and carry us, not identify us.

So many people are unhappy with how they look because it does not fit society’s standards. Furthermore, these comparisons to “standards” are photoshopped pictures on social media or of women who are also unhappy and comparing themselves to others, while you compare yourself to them. Women go on diets not because they want to live a better, healthier life but because they feel the need to constrict in order to fit in. In addition, the external pressure, as proven in the reading, shows how distinct and upheld the standard is. How comfortable other people are with dictating or “suggesting” what a woman who does not fit into the mold should eat or not eat or wear or not wear.

From an early age women learn that their looks impact and matter. To be exact, other people’s assessments of their appearance influence the way they are treated on a day to day basis and how these interactions generate their opportunities personally and professionally. Bergman shows how while dressing like a man they run into little to no issues with their appearance, however, as a woman they are slandered and judged persistently. Placing such value on a woman’s physical appearance over their physical and mental health is extremely problematic and takes a toll on all women throughout their life. A woman’s identity should not be valued solely based on physical appearance because they have so much more to offer than that.

One thought on “Can you see health physically?”

  1. This was something I was thinking about as well as I read this as well as some of the other readings we’ve read recently. Health and happiness should always be a higher priority than superfluous appearance, but I fear our misconception of weight as inherently tied to health is very prevalent in society. It’s interesting to see the difference in how people judge women more strictly than men in regards to their body weight, but I think it’s also worth focusing on how big an issue this is regardless of gender. While I think examining gender-based differences in experience in this domain is important and worth an in-depth discussion in its own right, I also think the first big issue to address here might be to look at Western society’s mistaken conception of skinniness to health, because I feel like that’s the core of the problem here. It’s a standard that has no medical basis to it and enforces these harsh judgements in the first place. I think it’s a perception that is harmful to everyone when an idea that is so false becomes a standard which many people are socially influenced into measuring themselves against (i.e. men have to be big and/or strong, women have to be thin, etc.), even though each body is different and need different things to be healthy that may or may not match society’s expectations for a healthy body. It’s a problem that ties into how people see LBGT+ people as deviant despite their livelihoods often being as healthy/happy as any other lifestyle, with similarly little basis to support those discriminatory claims.

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