As long-time readers will remember, we did not find out the Hatchling’s gender prior to her birth. Partly just for the surprise element, and partly because I didn’t want to get a ton of gender-specific baby stuff, because that just makes me cranky. Anyhoo, this meant that I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the gender thang and all of its myriad implications. I really, truly did not have a preference as to male or female; I figure I can fuck up my kids no matter what flavor they are. But, the world being what it is, there are certain things that I’d worry about more with a boy, certain things more with a girl. And me being who I am, as soon as the Hatchling presented her cooter-equipped little self, I locked into my own personal set of things-to-worry-about as the parent of a female child. Tops on this list is something I’d call “bodily integrity,” which is a term that covers a whole mess of things, mess being the operative word. Things like body image, sexuality, abortion, eating disorders, physical confidence or lack thereof – all that stuff that is so damned FRAUGHT if you happen to be possessed of two X chromosomes. Of course, there’s not a whole lot I can do about everything on this list. I mean, I can’t prevent assholes from breaking her heart when she’s in jr. high; I can’t prevent peer pressure; I can’t prevent her from wanting to be popular – I just have to roll with the punches on some stuff. I figure the most I can do is give her a background that will allow her to be resilient, and make sure she always knows how totally awesome she is in our eyes. And I can do my best to model the attitudes towards sexuality and body image that I’d like her to adopt. That latter one is a toughie, since boy HOWDY do I ever have some bad body image. I mean, c’mon: I’m female and fat, and in this culture that pretty much guarantees that I’ll have bad feelings about my body. Until recently I was so benighted as to accept my poor self-image as my just desserts: I “let” myself get fat, so self-hatred and low esteem were the consequences, and I just had to live with it until I could muster up the willpower and self-discipline to lose about 1/2 my body weight.
This, I hope I need not add, is BULLSHIT. First, because we are all worthy of respect as full human beings, regardless of our height, weight, color, sexual preference, creed, yada yada yada. I mean, duh. Second, because, as overwhelming amounts of research conclusively shows, diets really don’t work. (Which is to say: diets do not lead to permanent weight loss for the vast majority of people.) In fact, a dieting lifestyle makes you demonstrably less healthy than a fat one. Because, third: being fat does not equal being unhealthy. No, it does NOT. You know what does? Being sedentary and eating crap. And you can do that at ANY body size.
So anyway, lately I’ve been trying to reject the thin paradigm much as I earlier in life decided to reject the patriarchal paradigm, and for basically the same reason: THEY ARE TEH SUCK. It’s difficult, but it will be so very worth it if I can make it easier for the Hatchling to have a good relationship with her body. Which is why reading this post today made me feel sick.
I am the father of two (local school) students, one of whom is (my daughter), a 6th grader. I am writing to express my extreme concern over a Physical Education project that started this week in Mrs. (Physical Education teacher’s) class.
The kids were to enter their height and age into a computerized program, which informed them of their “ideal” weight and percentage of body fat. They have been instructed to count their daily caloric intake. Wednesday night I picked up a pizza on the way home from (my 2nd grade son’s) little league game and (my daughter) was frantic because the box didn’t indicate how many calories were in each slice.
She and her friends now discuss each other’s weight, body fat, and how many calories they ingested the night before.
WHAT. THE. FUCK. Read the entire post for the father’s justifiably furious reaction. This is where all the ridiculous “obesity epidemic” crap gets us. I’m sure the PE teacher and the school that approved this are well-intentioned, but give me a fucking BREAK, already! This is like eating-disorders 101. And RIGHT at the age when lots of girls are developing breasts and hips and, you know, extra tissue. That is all too easy to be perceived as “fat.” Not to mention that talk of “ideal weight” is about as damn useful as talking about “ideal height.” Sure, I’d like to be 5′ 10″ but my genes only gave me 5′ 4″ so what do you recommend I do about those lacking 6 inches? GAH. I’m going to stop writing because I cannot be coherent about this, but suffice it to say that I will now be on the lookout for this when the Hatchling starts school, and if anyone tries this kind of crap on her or her classmates I will HIT THE ROOF. Now somebody get Mamma some Atavan.