To: Feminism, Love: Fat Me
By Melissa Megan
I've never been a member of Fat Club, until now. Ok, until about 2 years ago. At first, I wasn't happy about my new club status. I've spent my whole life avoiding it by exercising, picky eating, and cutting out pages of "perfect" bodies doing exercises that always seemed too hard (for me) to do right. I come from a family full of overweight women and my fear (and constant reminders) that I'd be like them one day caused me to pick at food, like a nervous parakeet, through most of my teen years. My romantic relationships always hinged on whether I was inspiring enough sexual interest in my partner or not, in my mind. I wasted so much time worrying about how I was being perceived on the outside; I ignored all I had to offer on the inside.
3 years ago, I had a baby. I was terrified that I would gain tons of weight and never like myself again. I did gain 50 pounds while pregnant. I shed it all very quickly, and with little effort on my part, thanks to breast feeding a baby who resembled Alfred Hitchcock. I was amazed and proud of my body, that I had done this insane thing and somehow returned to a physical state that I could still feel good about. Then, that baby started moving around, causing trouble, endangering his life on a regular basis. I found myself unable to walk away from him long enough to exercise, eating all the food left over that he refused to eat. When he fell asleep I couldn't do anything but collapse like a deflated mom balloon. I found myself longing for the woman I used to be; the fun, creative person who spent lots of free time reading comics, writing columns, playing video games and fostering friendships with like-minded nerds online - at all hours of the day. If I found myself with 5 minutes to spare, all I wanted to do was grasp on to those things that helped me feel like myself again, rather than the milk and diaper machine I felt that I had become.
This is the point at which many women find themselves devastated and depressed. They look in the mirror and see someone they think is lazy, overweight, and not good enough. In reality, what they are is exhausted, a different shape than they used to be and more needed than they've ever been. If you had asked me 10 years ago how I would handle becoming a mom and gaining weight, I'd say no to the hell no. Somewhere, between then and now, I'd figured out that I'm a feminist. I want to support other women in their challenges, I want to see women treated as equal human beings in all aspects of life, and I want very much to be a part of this ever-strengthening community.
So, what's the point here? I wanted to write this because I'm surprised to discover that, fairly recently, while feminism has given me more confidence to speak up, more clarity in who I am, and more strength to support other women - it has also allowed me to be okay with my physical self. Right now, as I am. I want to be healthy and to help make my pants fit better. Soon. But in the meantime, there are other things that I can offer the world that are, for the first time in my life, more important to me than being attractive to others. I'm an awesome mom. I'm a supportive and helpful friend. I'm a skilled hairstylist and business manager. I'm a decent writer (I hope), and that helps me give back to a community that's accepted me. I'm a competitive gaming partner. I'm also a fairly new member of Fat Club. While I do miss being able to button my pants comfortably, I do not miss my self-worth being as fickle as those skinny jean zippers. Fat Club and I are getting along just fine, right now. I don't plan on staying here forever, but I do plan on leaving the club in my own sweet time - when I can schedule it in between all the other things I value in life.
If you ever find yourself asking 'why is feminism still necessary?', here's one big, fat reason why ... Women still need to learn that what they can offer the world in intellect, skill and passion is equally, if not more valuable, than what they offer in physical beauty. Ask yourself if your daughter, wife, mom or sister believes that their impact on the world around them depends on someone considering them attractive enough. Most likely, there's a woman in your life who you care very much about, asking herself if she's pretty enough or skinny enough or tall enough; most likely she has way more to offer the world that she isn't even aware of. This is what feminism is: a door that opens for all women to explore what they can offer and who they can be, however they choose to and for whoever they choose to, especially for themselves.