Far too many women worry about what their physical body looks like, including yours truly, and I’d like to thank Donald Trump for reminding us of why we need to bring this subject to the forefront of conversation. Again.
Since I’m a psychotherapist, I have asked many clients why they beat themselves up over their weight and their looks, and I’ve asked myself the same question. Bottom line, women have body and beauty issues because they feel that if they aren’t small or pretty enough they’ll be rejected or won’t be loved, so the math in our heads tells us that we must monitor and obsess over extra pounds, wrinkles, the color and type of skin or hair we have, the size of our nose, breasts and hundreds of other things … all so we can either find or continue to be loved. Of course it’s nuts!
We are obsessed with these types of things because people like Donald Trump and millions of others talk about extra pounds as a physical defect, overeating as a horrendous human failure of the most shameful kind, and a lack of extraordinary beauty as something we should seek and find if we don’t have it. Then there’s the media, the fashion industry, our families, the comments and jokes about women and their bodies, and of course, there is personal experience.
Let me share some stories from my own history to show you what I’m talking about:
- · My parents obsessed over their weight and commented on the size and weight of others every day of their adult lives. They made their five children miserable by commenting on our bodies and the foods we ate. They continually filled us with fear about what would happen if we became overweight. At the same time, we were ordered or strongly encouraged to eat gargantuan amounts of food at every meal. Whenever one of us did put on more weight than was needed, the entire family would gossip about it. My dad once told me, “I’ve just give up on the idea that you’ll ever have attractive legs.” Another time he dragged me out in the blazing sun and made me play a board game so I could get color on my extremely pale skin. The result was a blistering sunburn. Today my mother is 97-year-old and weighs 100 pounds, and still shames herself and her children over their changing bodies.
- I am 5’5” tall and never weighed more than 138 pounds during my short first marriage at age 24, yet there were times my husband told me he was no longer attracted to me because of my size. If I wasn’t size 6 or 8, he’d seek out other women. He once drove me to a stadium and sat in the stands and demanded that I walk up and down the bleachers “for at least an hour” so I could lose weight and tone myself. I remember resenting him the whole time, but still I did it so I might have love. One of his last comments to me before he ran off with his secretary, was, “I wish your body matched your beautiful face.”
- During my second marriage my weight ranged from bone thin to slightly overweight. My husband told me I needed to face the fact that I had a fat f****in’ a**. He also said that he felt uncomfortable at times when I wore a swim suit around his friends. When I gained 50 pounds with each one of our children (and later lost it) he told me I had, “ruined my body.” At the same time, he complained that I wore baggy clothes and didn’t show off my figure.
I have seen men say “whale alert” or make hog noises when overweight women walk by, and talk in ways that show that once a woman has lost her slim figure or has aged that she has completely lost her value. I am sure every woman in America could match or top the stories of abuse, confusion and cruelty I have experienced, but what really amazes me is why so many people wonder why we’re messed up about it.
The cure for the problem is to get people to stop talking about a woman’s value in terms of how she looks and how big or small she is, and stop making it a crime to be hungry and to want to eat and to scrutinize how much and what we eat. We also need to stop shaming ourselves over these things, and God knows I’m trying.
What needs to become the horrible thing is being the parent, boyfriend, husband, cousin, date, friend, or person on the street that uses language that negatively measures and scrutinizes women’s beauty or physique. People and information sources such as the media need to be called out on it every single time, as does Donald Trump. It’s not funny and it does damage, so what the heck are we – and he – thinking ?
Note: Becky Whetstone aka Doctor Becky is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Arkansas and Texas, a former columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, and hosts the web sites www.marriagecrisismanager.com and www.doctorbecky.com.