walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

A few remarks about _Body of Truth_

I'm probably going to wind up recommending this book, however, it is really problematic. I'll give you the current example to illustrate what I mean.

"...if I asked you which of the two bodies below was the most attractive, we all know which one you'd choose. Which one most of us would choose.

"The image on the left, which you've probably seen before, is a four-inch-high statue known as the Venus of Willendorf, carved about twenty-seven thousand years ago. The image on the right shows American model Marisa Miller."

Two pictures follow. Feel free to find your own. Ms. Miller is wearing a bikini and high heels in the photo supplied.

"We'd choose Miller over the Venus for two reasons: because we're human and because we live in this time and place."

As long as the author was saying, "most of us". I had an out. But by this point in the exposition, that door has been slammed. To pick the Venus of Willendorf is to (since I can't evade living in this time and place) pick NOT being human.

Look, I get the author has a bunch of anxieties and hangups and is trying to connect with an audience that has absorbed a lot of self-loathing and fat-hating, and is trying to move FROM that position to a more accepting position. THAT IS THE POINT OF THE BOOK. But stuff like this shuts out -- very painfully -- any reader who comes from a point of view of body positivity.

Please let me stay human. Let me pick the Venus of Willendorf. My High Priestess self-describes as looking like the Venus of Willendorf as a way of making sure that someone she's interacting with online and contemplating meeting for coffee or tea or whatever isn't gonna show up and be all awful. I think my High Priestess is quite beautiful. I don't know Ms. Miller, but I cringe whenever I see someone that low body fat. This is an easy pick for me.

When an author tells me I have to pick Miller or NOT be a human, I question how much body positivity she is capable of conveying.

ETA: The next couple pages are about evolutionary psychological explanations for why we think certain people are more beautiful than other people. Which is AMAZING to me that anyone even TRIES to do this anymore, after more than a century of just being ludicrously racist and arguing evolution in favor of that and then having to go, gosh, let's pretend that didn't happen. After about the same of just being ludicrously sexist and arguing evolution in favor of that, and now having to go, um, we didn't mean it in precisely that way. You would think by this point, anyone with any sense would go, maybe I should not be making these Just So arguments.

But of course, if they had any sense, they wouldn't be making evolutionary psychologist arguments (or, really, most evolutionary blank arguments. Evolution is fine, but the cultural shit that evolutionists deploy it for make it look so much less reasonable that it actually is.).

There's a lot I could say about the section on doctors and bias, but I'll just keep it short here. If you're dealing with a doctor who hates/treats some patients worse because they are fat, you are probably dealing with a low competency doctor in general. That is, even their thin patients are getting screwed by seeing this person. And don't tell me, well, but it turns out that most doctors have a lot of fat bias. Because I know. And I think that says quite a lot, don't you? Doctors got better when they quit being hazed in the anatomy lab, but we clearly have a long ways to go in re-humanizing them. It is a deeply problematic profession.

ETA: "We are fundamentally visual creatures; there aren't enough words in the world to cancel out the effects of so many thousands of pictures."

This is so spectacularly weird. All you need is a slight frame shift, and she _understands_ how many people are frame shifted into thinking thin is positive. But it's actually equally easy to flip that frame to be repulsed by thin and find something else positive. There's a programming period, and there may need to be some maintenance if you inundate yourself with proana websites or fashion magazines or beauty pageants, but honestly, even those can be hate-consumed in a way that promotes a thin is ugly perspective. It's like she has no control over her own framing _at all_, to the point where she doesn't realize that anyone else does. Which is super weird.

ETAYA: It's especially weird because the book _starts_ with her therapist reframing her with a single sentence. THAT'S WHERE THIS BOOK STARTS. *sigh*

There is this beautiful paragraph:

"And research shows that the more we want to conform, the more likely we are to internalize cultural norms, to not just buy in to them but to defend them with the passion of the true believer. We've invested in them; we may have spent months or years of our lives trying to achieve those norms. They damn well have to be true."

It's a free-floating paragraph, largely unconnected from the rhetorical structure around it, which is probably just as well, because it the idea there was fully developed, it would have forced a rewrite of large chunks of the book. The preceding part of the argument is: we know who we are with reference to people around us (ha ha ha ha ha) and have a "fundamental" need to conform. Then the more we want that, the more evangelical and zealous we are. Then, we get those norms from images. And then we're off to photoshopping, and Israel passing a bill to require ads to label photoshopped thinner models.

So, the real problem IS NOT the images. The real problem is that people consume these images in each other's presence, and through grunts and ooohs and OMGs and so forth, communicate which ones are good and which ones are bad. All these consciousness raising exercises address conscious brain. What we really need is to surround people who need a reframe with a bunch of people just like them (same age, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, whatever) who make barfing sounds whenever an image of someone thinner than obese is shown, and make groaning orgasmic noises whenever someone well into obese is shown (<-- I exaggerate for effect.). I can pretty much guarantee that anyone exposed to that a few times a day for a week or so is going to experience a significant shift in how they perceive pictures of people.

In the meantime, you can conduct this experiment on yourself with a little thought. It is totally worth doing.
Tags: not-a-book-review

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