After my last evisceration of an AskMen article, I really tried to contain myself. Numerous ripe and delicious opportunities appeared, and I valiantly resisted. It’s really too easy, like taking candy from a baby, and I’m trying so hard to be a better person. But, they posted “Top 10: Subtle Ways to Tell Her She’s Getting Fat,” and I couldn’t contain myself, because it managed to hit both my feminist hair trigger and my fat hair trigger. So, let’s get started, shall we?
Actually, before me begin, let me back up for a moment and inform you of something which you may not be aware of, at least if you are a regular AskMen reader: people’s bodies change over time. The body does not reach a perfect static point at 20 and remain there, even when people work extremely hard to push their bodies to unusual limits. Therefore, when you enter into a long term relationship with someone, you should be prepared for the fact that his or her body will change. Not may change, will change.
So, when I see an article telling men how to tell their girlfriends that they are too fat, I see a couple of things going on. The first is an opportunity for body shaming, and for specifically using body shaming to control or humiliate someone so that you can gain the upper hand in a relationship. It’s also about reinforcing the idea that male readers have a “right” to have girlfriends that are conventionally attractive, and that weight gain can and perhaps should be used as an excuse to break up, or to pressure your girlfriend into doing something she doesn’t want to do.
And, of course, AskMen has a totally predictable list of “tips,” some of which I’m fairly sure have been published in their magazine before, like buying clothes which are too small so that your girlfriend will feel frustrated and humiliated. The amazing thing about this is that they are totally frank about it, no hiding it as an “incentive to fit into nice things,” just straight up putting “the onus on her.”
If that doesn’t work, you can go on your own diet and exercise plan, because nothing makes fatties want to lose weight more than living with someone who is trying to torment his or her body into doing something it doesn’t want to be. In fact, even hearing about diets and weight loss plans causes us to lunge off the couch, put down the doughnuts, and buy a pair of athletic shoes so that we can start working out.
The magazine really pushes the humiliation angle, with entries like “take her to places where she has to wear a swimsuit,” and suggestions to ask your girlfriend to wear something old that won’t fit her, so that she will have to “admit” that she is gaining weight. Or, you can always leave photographs of her younger, thinner, perkier self around the house and hope that she gets the message.
Things like this bother me on so many levels that sometimes it’s difficult to articulate it. I think that they play into the whole idea that fat people don’t know that they are fat, and are just waiting for someone to tell them so that they can magically be thin again. And they totally reinforce cultural norms about power in sexual partnerships, and the idea that you should use any means possible to consolidate and reinforce your power over other people. Patriarchy, as a commenter on a feminist website I frequent said recently, on a fucking cracker.
If physical changes in someone’s body bother you that much, I personally think that you are pretty damn shallow, because those changes do not occur in a vacuum. They happen over time, and they happen in response to a lot of things. And if you’re the sort of person who dates someone this controlling, someone who thinks that “subtle” hints are going to get them where they want to be, or you where they want you to be, I’m going to borrow a line from Dan Savage: dump the motherfucker already.