The Weight of Words

I’m not going to congratulate you on your weight loss anymore.

If you tried to lose weight and succeeded, then I’m happy for you that you achieved what you set out to do. It’s always good to reach our goals. But merely weighing less than you used to is not, in and of itself, praise-worthy. There is no particular virtue in dropping a pants size. I am not going to gush over the fact that you have found a way to look less like me.

I’m also not going to say “thank you” when someone asks if I’ve lost weight. I haven’t and, despite your good intentions, this is not a compliment. I wouldn’t thank you if you asked if I’d pinned my ears or removed a mole or done anything else to fundamentally alter my body to suit your sense of aesthetics. “You look good” is a nice thing to say to someone; “You look good, so you must have fixed what was wrong with you” is not.

And I’m done – DONE – indulging the “I’m so fat!”/”No, you’re not!” scripts we women feel we must follow every time we try on clothes or, heaven forbid, eat a meal. I’m done with the self-flagellation and I’m done trying to reassure you that you don’t look like me. I eat. I wear clothes. Neither of these things requires an apology.

Do not try to pretend any of this is about health. It’s not. Nobody says “Did you lose weight? Because your cholesterol numbers are fantastic!” No, it’s “You look so good! Did you lose weight?” Unless you’re in a doctor’s office or specifically discussing what happened in a doctor’s office, it’s always about looks. Always. That’s how you perceive that someone lost weight and it’s the thing you’re praising. “Congratulations, people will now enjoy looking at you!”

We need to stop linking weight to morality, so I’m starting with the fat girl in the mirror. My body exists for my use, not as a vehicle to prove my worthiness as a person. I weigh what I weigh and that has nothing to do with you. You weigh what you weigh and that has nothing to do with me.

Feel free to compliment my haircut, my lipstick, my earrings, my new dress. If you’re complimenting appearance then mention something whose primary purpose is to enhance that appearance. But my body? It’s for so much more than that, just like yours is. I’m done reducing both of them to only what the eye can see.

No Fat Chicks

I guess I should start by making it crystal clear that I am disgusted by gay slurs and all anti-gay sentiments.

I had to get that out there because I’m not going to write in this post about the damage gay slurs and anti-gay sentiments cause. That’s been the headline in the aftermath of Cam Janssen’s nasty little radio interview, but enough people have weighed in on that already.

Full disclosure: I have not actually heard the interview with my own ears. By the time I first heard about this, the audio and video had already been taken down. But I have read quotes from the interview in enough places that I have every reason to believe they’re legitimate. Janssen’s ensuing apology also supports this belief.

Anyway, like I said, I’m going to forgo commenting on the homophobic comment and focus instead on the line that seems to bother nobody but me: “Damn fat broads, man … [The LA Kings are] the fat broads you just regret banging. I’ve been there and done that.”

I’ve spent more than my share of time in NHL locker rooms, and I am in no way shocked that this kind of crap gets tossed around when a room is soaked in testosterone and every male feels the need to prove he’s an alpha. And to an extent I guess that’s what was happening on the radio that day, too: Three guys who pride themselves on crudeness were closed up in a little room where the whole goal was to sound raw and real.

In fact, the bashing of women in general, and overweight women specifically, surprises me a lot less than the homophobic comments do. People are increasingly uncomfortable with gay slurs, and NHL players in particular have been made acutely aware of how harmful these words are (for more about this, Google Brendan Burke and check out the You Can Play site). The battle to extinguish homophobia is far from over, but at least it’s being fought in a very public way.

There has been some outcry about misogynistic language in sports, too, although not nearly as much. I get the sense that this is a case of people believing it’s more effective to fight one battle at a time, which might be true but makes it no less dispiriting to see women constantly pushed to the back of the queue as the sports community targets offensive language about race, then religion, then sexuality. If a professional athlete gets caught using slurs in any of those categories, he can expect a call from the league office and likely a fine. But “insult” a teammate or opponent by calling him by a woman’s name and most people laugh right along with you. Mike Milbury does it on TV all the time while commenting on hockey and I’ve never once heard the NHL express dismay over it. I can recall exactly one punishment doled out by the NHL in response to a misogynistic comment, and that was really more about the sexual innuendo implicit in the phrase “sloppy seconds” than the underlying sentiment that women are items to be used once and thrown away. Plus, it was Sean Avery, and pretty much everyone was itching to punish that guy for something.

So the sports world is mostly OK, but not completely OK, with guys like Janssen crowing about his skill at convincing “broads” to let him “bang” them, presumably in large numbers.   Make no mistake, though – the sports world is 100% on board with showing contempt for those “broads” based on their weight.

Weight is, after all, the ultimate measure of a woman’s suitability as a potential sexual partner. Macho men sleep not with women but with women’s bodies, and bedding a body that doesn’t look like the ones in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is nothing less than shameful. (That Sports Illustrated publishes a swimsuit edition is a patently scuzzy fact, but I digress.) It could go without saying the decision to have sex with any woman in possession of such a body must by definition be regrettable, but guys like Janssen feel the need to say it anyway, just in case.

The theory, of course, is that overweight people got that way through laziness and lack of self-control, and thus deserve ridicule. Let’s put aside the fact that in any given case this may well be a faulty assumption, and focus instead on people’s need to demean one another based on utterly harmless characteristics. What does another person’s weight have to do with you? About as much as that person’s race or sexuality does. Don’t find overweight women attractive? Don’t sleep with them. But if you do, through some cruel twist of fate, awaken next to one such woman one morning, just politely excuse yourself and go on with your life. There’s no need to broadcast how very humiliated you are over having had such and encounter (which clearly you’re not because – duh – if you were you wouldn’t broadcast it in the first place). And you surely have no cause to discuss the obvious shame of such a tryst in a highly public forum so as to guarantee that all women in earshot who feel unattractive due to their weight (which represents a much bigger segment of the population than you realize) are made absolutely certain that all they can ever be to you is a fleeting regret.

As a Devils fan I always liked Cam Janssen: He seemed like a humble, affable guy who was genuinely grateful to be playing hockey for a living. I don’t like him any more, and I won’t like him again even if he apologizes for his anti-gay comments in such a way that I actually believe he means it. I won’t like him again because I now know that he has no respect for me despite the fact that he does not know that I, specifically, exist. Not that he has any reason to care that I exist; he’s “been there done that” with fat broads already, so I’m of no use to him. That might not bother the overall sports world but it’s still hurtful to me, and in theory I know better than to care at all. Imagine how it feels to the plump 16-year-old hockey fan who just learned that she’s been cheering for a guy who finds her about as appealing as he finds losing a shot at the Stanley Cup.