Informal Feminism

{February 6, 2011}   Loving Drop Dead Diva

I want to start this week by saying I am a size 14. I have been a size 14 for most of teenage and adult years. I also have struggled with my size, constantly feeling fatter and bulkier then most of my friends. As a teenage I tried dieting and as I got older I moved to exercise and a proper diet but my waist line never dropped below a 12. The amount I exercised dropped significantly after I sprained my ankle severely a few times but I walk almost everywhere I go, not owning a car, and I also take yoga classes when I can afford them. Despite this my waist line still returned to size 14. I have spent many years feeling negatively about my body, these negative feelings have also been reinforced by people in my life. To put it quite simply I have been called fat my fair share of times. However, after many years of women’s studies my body image was salvaged. I went to classes that discussed acceptance of all body types and explained, which I reiterate in my current job, that everyone’s body is different and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (I would also like to send credit to my mom who also always told me that I was beautiful). Armed with these lessons I have been able to accept my body and understand that I am not meant to be a size 4, I will always have my belly despite how healthy and active I am, its part of me and as such I have accepted it and have begun to see beauty where only fat stood before. Our current media image of women though does not tend to share my views. As I discussed in my last post bodies are tailored by media outlets to represent a certain ideal of beauty. When I go into the trendy stores in the mall, I cant find clothes that fit me right or are designed for my body but size 14 is supposed to be the average size of women in North America. This week though I discovered a show that was quite inspiring to myself and the other fat girls out there.

            I was flipping through Netflix earlier this week trying to find something to kill some time but not wanting a movie, so I went to their television section. In it I noticed that Drop Dead Diva season 1 had been recently added. It was a show I had seen on the showcase website a few months ago but they didn’t have season 1 and so I decided to wait until I could see the first season, then it arrived on Netflix and I was set. I turned it on and have watched the first 2 episodes so far. The premise of this show is similar to a film called Heaven Can Wait, or you might know the remake Down to Earth starring Chris Rock. A young, thin, blond, and pretty aspiring model gets killed and is sent to heaven while another woman, a larger brunette woman, is shot and killed. The blonde, not yet ready to die, presses a button and is returned to earth and shoved into the closest available body, the larger brunette woman: Jane. The show unfolds around the model: Deb trying to come to grips with being in the larger woman’s body. In the first episode she is quite overwhelmed and derogatory about Jane’s appearance and size, unhappy to have been shoved into a body that is so opposite of hers. By the end of the first episode she has accepted that this is her fate and she is destined to be Jane for the rest of her days on earth. However, it was the second episode that really caught my attention.

            The second episode deals directly with the image of fat woman. Deb in this episode is still getting her bearings and trying to navigate through Jane’s world and food cravings. There are two plot lines that run simultaneously throughout this episode the first one being about Deb and her adjustment to Jane and the second is a case that she has to argue, Jane is an extremely smart lawyer, where a woman is fired because of her weight. In the first plot line Deb is being urged by a friend to lose Jane’s extra pounds and fit back into the popular image of beauty. She makes her exercise, scale down her meal sizes and changes the food in those meals. She wants her friend to fit back into the popular image of beauty, thin. The second plot line centers on a woman who has gained 50 pounds in the last year and has been terminated by her employer because of it. She works at a young trendy bar, where all the waitresses are under a size 4. Deb has to argue for her interests.

            Throughout the episode Deb faces the stereotypes and discrimination that larger women regularly face. It is interesting because at one point in the episode she contrasts her former life with her new one. She is in a bar and remembers being given drinks for free because of her ability to fit into this certain body image. However, in her currant body at the same bar she is charged 8 dollars for her drink, while her thin friend receives the drink for free. Her friend who is trying to change her body image also substitutes any sugars that might be in the drink for artificial sweeteners, without asking the constant of Deb. She is ignored by the other staff and looked down upon by friends from her past life that do not recognize her. This is her first experience at being stereotyped and looked down upon and she seems shocked by it. At the same time she is arguing the case on behalf of the woman who was fired. In this case this discrimination is obvious but Jane’s boss wants her to argue that the weight gain is a form of disability so that the woman is protected under the law. Deb/Jane goes this route and is faced with anger from the client who does not want to be classified as disabled because of her weight but regain her position based on the obvious discrimination that she is facing.

            At the end of the episode Deb/Jane stands up for her body type. She successfully argues in favour of the client and secures a deal from the employer that there will be a rule against size discrimination put in place at their establishment. Her client is represented without becoming a disability case and instead regains her dignity when Jane points out that she represents the average size for a woman in North America, not the thin people who populate this particular establishment. She also realizes how uncomfortable someone of a larger size can be in certain places because of the judgement and scrutiny that they are under. She finally confronts her friend and explains that she does not want to change her shape or go on a diet. She would rather come home from work and relax then go right to working out. She begins to get comfortable in her new body.

            This episode was inspiring to me because you don’t see many representations of large woman who stand up for themselves and accept their bodies. More so the depictions are of how they changed their body to fit a certain standard (refer to Why I Love Bitch and Not Cosmo). They are usually represented as if they have no personality and full of shame over their weight. I want to see more shows like Drop Dead Diva  in popular media, I want to see woman who are larger, smart and stand up for themselves and their body. This episode challenges the normal social ideologies out there. Woman don’t have to be thin to be beautiful and worthy of attention.

            I began this article discussing my own weight. While I have learned to accept my body and come to see it as beautiful much of the time, I still do struggle with my body image and my weight in particular sometimes. When I see representations of women in this light though it reminds me that beauty is not about size but about how you view yourself. It is recognizing that the women in the magazines and on the big screen are not representative of the entire population, or even much of it. I want to see more representations of women like in this show, women I can understand and relate to and who remind me that it is not about fitting in but about being yourself and loving yourself for who you are. I know it sounds corny but it is true.


Marnie says:

What a good post! Once upon a time if you had beautiful curves you were worshiped… if you have more body weight than a coat hanger the term “fat” comes up. Shame….to feel you have to live to other people’s ideals. I think corporations are making alot of money off of low body self esteem….most of us suffer from this….men are not immune either!

Its true body image is something that can affect anyone. Thats why I am finding this show so interesting because the more episodes I watch, the more I see them challenging our popular image of beauty. In the most recent episode I watched they made a point of challenging the diet industry and pointing out the harm that can come from crash dieting. I think that body image is so important to discuss with people because you will find almost every person you know has a skewed perception in some way.

Kayly says:

While I’m sympathetic to women who struggle with their body image, in my personal experiance I feel that ALL women struggle with body issues, I was born small, I eat terribly, do not excercise and yet still wear a size 0 in pants (I’m 5’2″) I find while some people may stare at larger women in general most people will not say anything derogatory to them.
Being overly thin however, people seem to feel far more comfortable commenting on my body, while most people are simply just curious (“How much do you weigh?” “Have you ever broke 100lbs?”) I find that larger women can be extremely derogatory.

My first experiance with this happened when I was about 16 working in a Coffee Time, a woman with a fuller body shape came into the store with her breast fully exposed from her shirt, no bra, just pure nipple. I polietly told her that her breast was exposed and got the following response:


She went on and on, I acknowledge that perhaps she was having a bad day, had been insulted by somebody earlier in the day, etc but the point is she was a full grown woman screaming at a 16year old girl, and so I waited patiently until she was finished screaming, and then lost my damn mind on her teling her that she could go fuck herself, how its difficult being small because everything you buy has to be tailored or purchased fromt he children’s section and wondering out loud (and I do mean LOUD) why larger women thing its ok to comment on MY size, but if I had mentioned her size I would be way out of line.

While I have NEVER and I do mean NEVER called a full figured woman “fat” or anything like that here is a list of names women have called me:

-[looks like a] 10 year old boy
-Anorexic (insert expletive)
-Bulimic (insert expletive)
-No Tits
-Skinny bitch
-Skinny little slut
-Go eat a cheeseburger

It goes on an on.

I’m not saying that full figured women don’t have it hard, I’m just saying for every woman who has looked at me and said “I wish I was your size” just know that the grass isn’t that much greener over on my side.

Sorry I didn’t have time to edit this too closely, I’m in class.

I understand your point and completely agree with you. Body image is an issue that is struggled with regardless of a particular size, I have never met a person who did not struggle with it in some way. I did talk about larger women in this post becuase it is the size that I myself identify with but that is not to say that only women of a certain size have body image issues. I would not say that one body size experiences more discrimination then another but more that at some point almost every person encounters someone who will critize their body and image in some way. I think this is partially a result of the media image of women and men and to see any woman on t.v. reconizing that this image is not one of a realistic woman is something to appreciate, which is why I choose the example of drop dead diva because I think it challenges this idea. However, I do agree that many people think that skinnier woman do have it easier and that is untrue, I know many skinny women who have faced the same discrimination as Kayly.

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