walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Easily the screwiest thing I've read in a long time

From _Body of Truth_. I'll point out the screwy part. It's toward the end. The author is describing a Swedish study done by Kristina Holmqvist and An Frisen about positive body image in teens.

"they reported hearing some negative comments about their bodies from friends and family members, they tended to brush off the comments rather than internalize them deeply ... [they] shared the ability to think critically, especially when it came to body ideals. The reason they didn't tend to internalize the comments from others is that they were more likely than usual to question and challenge those cultural beauty ideals. They didn't accept them as gospel; they were able to step back and consider them more objectively."

Lots of problems here already ("objectively"? What? There is no "objective" in any of this. _All_ of it is subjective.), but here's the punchline.

"That last quality may be the easiest to convey to kids and adolescents."

*head* *desk*

I _agree_ that the crucial skill in all of this is reframing. I'm _less_ certain that critical thinking is the optimal path to that goal. I'm _absolutely certain_ that teaching adolescents critical thinking as a means to accomplishing a goal can never, with accuracy, be described with a word like "easiest".

Teaching critical thinking is NOT easy. NOT NOT NOT.

In fact, I would argue that anyone who thinks that teaching critical thinking is easy is displaying their total lack of competence at critical thinking.

ETA: And you know how most parents and teachers would wind up implementing this program? "Oh, honey. You shouldn't take it so seriously when people call you fat and make oink oink noises." Yeah. That's gonna help a lot. <-- Yes I _know_ that isn't how you would properly implement this program. But that's what would wind up actually happening on the ground.

I'll tell you what will help. All this negativity about body image among children and teens is straight up bullying. It's just that the adults are all participating in it too. Train the adults to stop (and make it a job performance criteria) and then deploy anti-bullying programs against the kids doing it. It won't fix it, any more than stopping adults and then kids in school from using racial epithets ended racism. But it will move the ball towards the goal.

She follows this up with self-congratulations for teaching her class that "the ideal woman's body here in America would be seen as sickly-looking in the desert society of the Niger, where girls' bodies are praised for their lush, voluptuous rolls of fat." (So, so many problems here.) "And the most beautiful woman there would be considered unattractively obese by most Americans today."

Because a horrible, horrible argument about sizism needs to have colonizing racism imported into it. Definitely. <-- Sarcasm.

I'm thinking I'm not going to be recommending this book after all. If you're looking for a book about how ridiculous all the weight/diet advice out there is, read Campos' book. I'll let you know if I find anything better, but I've decided that this is not.

ETA endless more:

"UCLA sociologist Abigail Saguy coined the term "moral panic" to describe the blame, fear, and disgust we're now conditioned to associate with overweight and obesity."

USED, sure. COINED, no. Moral panic, as a term, meaning fear felt by a large group of people about some thing identified as evil, has been around for quite a lot longer than Saguy has been alive.


I sort of wish that at some point in this book, I could be sure the author would unpack the self-denial/self-abnegation the is hyper-involved with being thin for a lot of people who conform to that ideal. Self-denial and enough control to deny one the most basic of one's needs are inextricable from the rhetoric in favor of thin. If the author did that, she'd quit buying into the duality as offered (good/bad, virtue/sin, success/failure, beauty/ugly, health/sickness) and replace it with something more useful (brave/self-effacing, demanding/yielding, active/passive, lively/lethargic, powerful/weak). Thin is identified with self-effacing, yielding, passivity, lethargy and weakness. That frame is _ripe_ for supplanting the one the author has been in thrall to.


"A 2011 study by Rebecca Puhl found, surprisingly, that plenty of teenagers with average and just-above-average BMIs reported being teased and humiliated about their weight."

Ok. So, let's start with, "surprisingly"? In my experience, "fat" is a word that gets thrown around largely independent of whether the target is fat. It is assumed that anyone who gets that word aimed at them will experience some pain, so, point and shoot. Is the author unaware of this? Is Puhl unaware of this? Otherwise, how do you explain all the "you're fat" type insults online, when the person who is being insulted is NOT AT ALL VISIBLE to the insulter?

"Puhl can think of two explanations: maybe current beauty ideals are so narrow, so restrictive, that even the tiniest deviation can trigger shaming."

Nope. When Victoria's Secret angels are discussed online and criticized for being too fat, there is NO ONE who is not going to be targeted because they meet the ideal. No One. "Or maybe teens will tease one another about weight because they know it will hurt; they know it's a vulnerable spot, even if their victims aren't overweight."

Oh, look. Sanity in the analysis. Yay. "Because the anxiety about getting or being considered fat has become so pervasive, even naturally thin children internalize it." *head* *desk*

The author clearly needs to better understand that NONE OF THIS IS OBJECTIVE. NONE. (Honestly, I'm trying to wrap my brain around the idea of "naturally thin children". Because how would you know, when looking at an arbitrarily chosen, low BMI child, whether they were "naturally" that way or whether something "unnatural" had caused that. And what precisely does "natural" or "unnatural" mean in this context -- and how is whatever that might mean in any way not judgmental? I ask this as a person who, while a child, was, with the exception of about a year before my last growth spurt, thin. After the growth spurt -- 13 inches in 11 months -- I was _really_ thin for quite a while. I never dieted until later. Was I "naturally" thin? Was I thin because I was an incredibly, legendarily picky eater? Was I thin because I was allergic to milk products but encouraged -- that's an understatement -- to consume them anyway in hopes that would help me "grow out of it"? Did the milk product thing have anything to do with the picky eater thing or were they independent? Which parts of this are "natural" and which parts are "unnatural"? Who gets to decide? Let's play a little game. What if my parents had successfully gotten my weight back down to thin during that year prior to the growth spurt. Would I be shorter now as a result? What if the milk allergy had been handled with avoidance, so I never had all that diarrhea and vomiting and chronic respiratory crap going on. Would I be even taller?)

ETA I know no one is even reading this any more and I am okay with that.

"Terri ... remembers the feeling of losing eighty-six pounds on Weight Watchers about fourteen years ago. . ."I felt really vulnerable... I didn't like the way people treated me. My identity is I'm smart and capable, and I suddenly felt like people treated me like I was weak and helpless and stupid."

I have a friend who does the kind of work Terri did. And let me tell you, if you are in banking regulation, you do NOT want people thinking you are weak, helpless and stupid.

I would like to point out that this supports perfectly my alternative frame (brave/demanding/active/lively/powerful). Unclear whether the author grasps this, because the next story, about Patrick discovering his friends treated him differently after he lost the weight made him see the world very differently. He "fixed" his problem by moving to somewhere where no one knew he used to be fat. Hmmm.
Tags: not-a-book-review

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.