Contributing Writer Jenny Stahl is back to share with us her thoughts and observations on how when women gather together the conversations somehow always turns into them talking about either their bodies or other peoples bodies and somehow the talk is never positive. Here is Jenny Stahl on the Bitchfest!
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Body image is as contagious as the common cold. It jumps from one girl to the next faster than you can say, “Cankles.” Just look at a room full of women: Once one starts judging herself harshly in front of the others, it seems like everyone has to chime in, announcing something they hate about their bodies. Suddenly each girl is trying to one-up the last.
“I hate the way these jeans make my muffin top pouf out in three directions,” one says.
“Yea, but at least you don’t have these jiggly thunder thighs of mine,” the next one counters.
“You guys don’t even know how much I wish I could get rid of these rolls,” another whines.
I have to admit, I used to find these body bitch fests incredibly liberating. Finally: I could admit that I hated my wide hips! I no longer felt like I had to hide all of my physical insecurities from my friends. Instead, I could actually say them out loud, sharing all of the dirty, awful self-hating secrets I’d been hiding in my attempt to appear confident. It felt like a 10-pound weight had been lifted off my chest, or rather, my hips.
I also loved learning that I wasn’t the only one who was unhappy with herself. As the self-criticism torch passed around the room, I realized that all of my friends, even the ones who’d seemed so sure of themselves, were actually bothered by their sizes and shapes, too. I found out that even though Melissa always showed off her slender, long legs in short shorts, that was really just a way to distract from her chubbier midsection. And Lila actually wished her backside could grow closer to the size of mine.
But recently I’ve come to the conclusion that all of this group grumbling is in fact a double-edged sword. When I hear that women I think are beautiful actually hate their bodies, it only makes me feel worse about my own: If they can’t even like what they see in the mirror, they must think a body like mine is pitiful. All of their complaining only reminds me of all the things I wish I could change about my body, and sometimes even brings up new insecurities I hadn’t even thought about before. I never felt awkward about my short toes until one afternoon when conversation turned to how unsexy stubby ones look in sandals. I don’t think I wore open toed shoes that entire summer.
Without fail, I notice that as everyone keeps talking about how ugly certain parts of their bodies are, a wave of self-doubt washes over the room. The conversation only ends when it eventually grows awkwardly quiet.
There’s something very female-specific about cutting ourselves down this way. When was the last time you saw a group of men sitting around complaining about the size of their thighs? Um, probably never. But with women, kvetching about body parts seems to be as natural as lending each other tampons.
So the last time that I was with a bunch of my girlfriends and this started to happen, I told them all to shut the hell up. Because as infectious as the insecurity is, the opposite is also true. Whenever I’m hanging out with a woman who isn’t perfect (because really, who is?) but completely owns what she has, I suddenly feel more confident in my skin—large rear and all. Her acceptance of her body, flawed as it may be, reminds me that while none of us got to choose our genes, we can’t change them either. There’s no point in obsessing over the things we hate; bitching and moaning only makes you feel worse. Appreciating yourself for what you are not only makes you feel more confident, but everyone around you, too.