AI: It’s My Body and I’ll Cry if I Want To

We’ve had a few posts about body image and what is and isn’t sexy here at Skepchick, and they always seem to generate interesting, intelligent discussion. So I thought I’d base today’s Inquisition on some of the gender dynamics behind body image perceptions and the peripheral issues involved.

This article from Sunday’s Telegraph basically tries to answer the question: “How can a man look at an ad featuring a male model with six-pack abs and laugh, while a woman might look at a photograph of female perfection and fall to pieces?”

Obviously, this premise is based on generalities. Where the cultural conditioning angle the article takes appears to be in line with what we observe, many supporting points seem to rely on “social hearsay”, and the gender differences are explained with some sketchy aspects of psychological evolution. Nevertheless, there is some measure of accuracy in the article’s description of those differences. Many of the readers here (gay and hetero) have no doubt experienced something at least similar to the pre-party meltdown, where the partner looks perfectly fine, but due to some perceived inadequacy/flaw/short-coming refuses to go to the party.

The big question is: “Why does that happen?”

But since the A.I. is all about you. Let’s dig into your experiences and psyche to reveal the answers . . . .

Do you ever have a crisis of confidence about the way you look? If so, what do you do about it? Does it happen often? Is there any pattern to it? What do you think causes/caused it? Can you rationalize it? Is there a way to make your partner/family/friends understand what you’re going through?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Actually I do have a problem with the way I look. I’m flabby, unfit and starting to develop a beer belly. Sometimes I do seriously worry about it and think that maybe I should exercise more.

    When I get those feelings I have to grab a beer and just lie on the couch until they go away.


  2. I hate the way I look. I used to look great. I ran three or four miles a day six to seven days a week. I would spend two or three hours in the weight room at least four days a week and practice karate at least an hour everyday. But I don’t have that kind of time available anymore. I used to have a 46 inch chest that dropped like a V into my 32 inch waist. Now I have a 49 inch chest and a 38 inch waist. I have a belly and love handles and an extra chin. My hair is going grey fast. I have crows feet and lines in my face. I hate to see myself naked. I have cut back on how much I drink and eat and am trying to exercise more. I don’t want the body I have now.

  3. I still think of myself as a 6’3″ 145 pound skinny kid, even though I’ve gained about 100 pounds since I was 18. It’s like my mental image fossilized 20 years ago. I don’t obsess over it though, and I barely exercise. The same does not hold true for my hair. I used to have very long hair, and now I’m bald partially by choice. I hate gerunds, so better bald than balding.

  4. I’m probably not 100% happy with how I look 100% of the time, but I’ve never had any sort of “crisis” and for the most part I’m very comfortable with myself.

    I think I’ve only had a few guys who likely weren’t attracted to me because I am not skinny, but it’s never bothered me much, because for every dude like that, there’s a million others that like big butts. And mine is very nice. Plus I don’t put a lot of stock into myself from what others think of my physical attractiveness.

    And in general, when I’m going out to a party or whatever, it’s to see friends and hang out, not to impress people. I just don’t really consider my looks that often outside of, “Have I brushed my teeth and hair? Am I clean? Do I have any huge zits on my nose?”

    Hell, I rarely wear makeup, except for special occasions, and even then I might not. I’m just not all that wrapped up in my looks. Though, that might be because even I’m aware that I’m attractive if a bit plain — far from gorgeous, but aside from being chubby, I got lucky in the gene department — and even then, I’m far from obese and most people perceive me as far smaller than I am because of my curves. I’m well within the “acceptable” range of chubby (outside of magazines and TV, of course) and I’m attractive, if not gorgeous or very memorable, and I’m pretty aware of this.

    That said, I sometimes get REALLY self-conscious around pretty women (read: women I’m attracted to). Isn’t that weird? It’s around women, and not men, that I never feel quite “good enough” even though in general I’m comfortable with how I look. It’s sometimes like I’m back in 7th grade and madly in love lust with Ruben Lopez, except with pretty girls instead of a nerdy jock.

    I’ve never encountered a friend or otherwise freaking out over how they look. I’m not sure how I’d respond. Probably with confusion and a lot of reassurance.

  5. While there may be more of me than I’d like this has not led to any crises. And as for aging and all that stuff…, well it happens and it happens better to some than to others; and when you’re married or in a long standing relationship it’ll happen to both of you. So IMO it doesn’t pay to be that bothered by things that enlarge, get smaller, greyer, slower or more wrinkled when it’s outside your control.

  6. My wardrobe of long-sleeved Tshirts and jeans has been carefully selected so I can dress in the dark. I ride my bike everywhere so at any time I am likely to have a sheen of snow, rain, sweat, and/or road grime in almost any combination, not to mention chronic helmet hair. It doesn’t bother me at all. My wife, who I adore to pieces, is quite similar. Her clothes are nicer and she some carries some hair wax if we are going somewhere nice, but other than that she’s about as practical-minded as I am. In our 20-year marriage cannot remember a single melt-down about appearance from either one of us.

  7. I’m totally aware of my physical flaws. Lucky for me it seems the rest of the country is getting out of shape at a rate slightly fasther than me so I’ve been hanging out with people that make me look good.

  8. My main complaint about my body is just that because I’m so skinny it’s a real pain in the ass to find clothes that fit. I’ve recently decided I’d like to make an effort to start wearing nicer clothes and not being able to find stuff that fits is really getting irritating. I’ve got some shorts with a 28 waist that are still too loose on me. And finding a belt that fits is even harder.

  9. personally, i could not give a flying rodent’s sphincter about how I look, and if ppl have a problem with it… hee heee hee, I quote the hollly bibbbble.

    If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out!

  10. Most of the time when I look at myself in a mirror there’s more laughing than crying, particularly from the woman.

    I have been with a few women who have had some melt-downs about their looks and I usually diffuse it by saying something like: “I’ve never had a problem with the way you look”, and smile sweetly. awwwwwwww

    And if that doesn’t work, I’ll usually say, “This is America. Deal with it!” and walk away quickly. That tends to confuse them enough that I have a chance to slip out and go for a drink.

    Unfortunately, when I come back, they’ve changed the locks and gotten a restraining order. I’ve gotta work on that.

  11. Yes, it happens.

    The only pattern I have noticed is that those moments come more often when I’m feeling depressed and a little blue.

    When it happens, I try to tell myself I don’t look anyway different then anytime else, that I look good and that I usually like my curves. Make-up and nice underwear helps too ;)

  12. I’m getting much better about how I feel about my body. I used to be much thinner, 5’6″ and 125lbs when I graduated highschool. Then I gained that infamous freshman 15 in college, after I dropped out of college my weight kept going up until I peaked at 190lbs (I’ve since lost around 15 lbs and holding steady). It’s taken a lot to not feel bad about this.

    Part of it was deciding that regardless of my weight I was going to start dressing the way I really wanted to and to hell with anyone who thought I was too fat for what I was wearing. It worked, and when I start to feel a bit negative about my looks I browsing around on Etsy or one of my other favorite shopping sites looking for stuff I want to wear. I don’t always buy anything, I am a poor artist after all, but just picking stuff out to add to my wishlist that I think I would look good in helps.

    A more recent addition is that I’ve started dating someone who thinks every inch of my body is beautiful and that REALLY helps.

  13. To quote Ani DeFranco – I am not a pretty girl. It’s not what I do.
    I’ve got scars on my face, glasses and would be one of the heavier female contestants on the Biggest Loser.
    That said, appearance is a huge factor, especially in first impressions. But I’ve noticed that people respond more to confidence – even if it’s faked – than their initial visual flinch.

  14. I am alot more comfortable with myself then when I was in High School. I’m 5’4 and 127lbs now but in High School I weighed about ten pounds less. I thought I was fat back then — imagine.

    Even in my head I know I am a good size but I sometimes freak out. I blame this mostly on my psycho Mom who told me when I was little “You know, some kids start gaining weight once they hit puberty so be careful!” — When she was in High School she had gained some weight and I think she was trying to prevent it from happening to me. Instead, she gave me a complex.

    She also used to tell me that I had her butt all of the time and that we have “Italian thighs” and they will always be big. WTF? I have always had a problem with pants because they are always too long, and fit perfectly around the butt and legs but huge around the waist so that didn’t help.

    Soooo, I am very conscious about my thighs (even when my husband and brother in law tell me I am a tiny person.)

    Add to that the fact that I am a little light on top (and my Dad still tells me that I have no boobs and look like a 12 year old boy) and I had some self esteem issues growing up.

    My parents never said these things as insults and they were good parents in other ways but sometimes I want to smack them in the face.

    Once, after my Dad was joking about my chest, I countered with his balding head. He just got quiet and walked out of the room.

    I was MORTIFIED. I just wish he still understood that that was how he made me feel.

    My husband loves everything about me though. He says I have a coke bottle shape, loves my butt and says my boobs are a handfull and that’s all he needs (and makes me aware of that ALL OF THE TIME.)

    Despite all of my issues I try not to complain too much because I have this fear of being like my Mom in that respect. I also like the way I look naked (in exception of a few areas but I am generally happy) and nobody has anything bad to say when I walk around topless at Burning Man.

    Take THAT Dad!

  15. Well, I don’t have a confidence crisis, but unfortunately, my back and chest has been ravaged by some skin condition in which it itches a lot, and have some weird mosquito bite like bumps, thereby causing horrible scratch marks and small circular scars in places where I scratched some of the smaller bumps off. The only relief in existence is the hydrocortisone cream. So, I don’t like staying shirtless for a long time.

  16. There will always be parts of my body that I’m unhappy with, and for the most part, those are parts that I can’t change (like my short legs). I recently suffered a bout of unhappiness about my body (mostly because when I went home at Christmas, I was sitting around listening to my Grandma, mom and cousin talk about how they struggled to put on weight when they were in their 30’s, and I lucked out with my dad’s genes that made putting on weight all too easy). Anyway, I got pretty down on myself, then I went to the gym. I haven’t lost much weight in 4 months, but I feel better about myself for going.

    But for the most part, I’m not really that self-conscious about my body. I don’t feel like I look like the size 12 that I am, and since going to the gym for a while, everything’s a little tighter, if not smaller. I went to a bar once with an office-mate who’s totally gorgeous – not super skinny, but very fit and very put together. But she refused to go out on the dance floor because all the other girls out there were skinnier than her. I was totally mystified how a gorgeous person like her could be so self-conscious that it would affect her ability to enjoy herself! I went out and danced anyway.

    I think that one of the biggest things that women need to learn is that they can’t and shouldn’t always try to wear what “teh modelz” wear. skinny jeans will just not look good on everyone, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t jeans that will look good on you. I’ve been working on dressing my body better, and it’s given me a big boost of confidence when I can walk out the door looking reasonably good in what I’m wearing.

  17. I know a lot of women who talk about the unrealistic body that Barbie (and her cohorts) have, and how that affected them when they were growing up and considering their bodies, and it’s often said that men never had to put up with that.

    Unless, of course, you read comic books, where all the superheroes (mostly male) had perfect physiques, rippling in their spandex. And what guy doesn’t want to be a superhero?

    I still read comics and part of me still wants that body, though I know it’s impossible. Yes, I’d like to lose about 15-20 pounds but at least my extra weight is reasonably well-proportioned (eg, no beer gut), and I look a lot lighter than I am.

    I wish I healed faster, though…right now I’ve got a sore back from some activity from about two days ago. When I was in university I would have shook it off in an hour.

  18. @Zoltan:
    Funny you should say that about girls looking at Barbie as a role model and guys at superheros; I’m a girl, and I totally blame the 90’s animated X-Men series for any body image issues I may have =)

  19. Growing up, I was a stick-boy. It wasn’t until college that I actually grew some shoulders. I’m happy with my size; average height, average weight.
    I do have a little gut now that wasn’t there a few years ago but I have yet to see if sit-ups will have any effect on it. Historically, I haven’t given my body much thought and with the exception of my gut, I still don’t. I would, however, like to quit smoking and start exercising regularly, so that’s on the list.
    As far as crisis of confidences go, I have had a few but they were always related to clothing.
    I went from squirrelly skate-punk in high school to bearded semi-skate-punk-looking in the last 15 years and it has not always been appreciated (I’m looking at you ex-girlfriend who thought I was a dress-up doll!) Luckily, the spousal unit couldn’t care less that I wear t-shirts and jeans every day. She sports a look that I lovingly refer to as ‘Sexy Grunge Librarian’. Mmmm…

  20. I spend too much time in a martial arts dojo: the place where bad haircuts and oddball looks are common. Also brutal honesty about body types. Each type has advantages in different situations.. for instance you wouldn’t want a 150kg (330 lb) person to sit on you and try and choke you out.

    I figure after you’ve been there for a while, no-one knocks anyone else’s taste in anything, or body type. I mean, who’s going to tell sensei, or a senior student that anything about them is dumb? It’s just asking for them to demonstrate why it’s an advantage you haven’t thought of :)

    Me: I have the beard Hitler would have grown, if he was to swap his moustache for a beard. I’ve given up caring what other people think of what I look like.

  21. Started standing in front of the mirror and crying about my appearance at the age of around 11. In retrospect I was carrying a bit of puppy weight but I wasn’t the hideous monster I though I was.

    But the irrationality does not go away. A few years ago I was given the once over at the gym and was told by the personal trainers I was “obese”. Not a little bit tubby, not I could do with dropping a couple of pounds (which would have been true – that’s why I joined the gym!). “Obese”. I’m 5 ft and was around 107lb at the time. It was nonsense and I knew it was nonsense, but I still locked myself in a toilet cubicle and cried for half an hour.

  22. When I was a little girl, I overheard my mother tell one of her friends that I couldn’t wear frilly clothes because they made me look like a boy in drag. I think I may have worn a dress or makeup once or twice in the many decades since then. I think she was right. Still, the net result of my personal style is that I get called “sir” all the time. I can’t say I have really come to terms with that.

  23. I can’t say I’ve had a meltdown, but I do feel my gut’s too big. It doesn’t bother me directly, but I do get tired of being overlooked in favor of the other guys. My personality just couldn’t have anything to do with it.

    On top of which I joined the army reserves last year, and lost alot of weight in basic training. Now I’m strugling to keep it off, if for no other reason than I get a councilling statement if I put too much back on. But as my mom likes to point out, our ancestors did survive the potato famine.

    On the flip side, I have a couple good female friends who constantly moan about their apperance, and they’re gorgeous. I’ve come to the conclusion that they complain, knowing that I’ll tell them they’re beautiful. But then they just argue. I don’t get it.

  24. I’m definitely carrying about 15 pounds too many, but a few of my female friends tell me I’m “gorgeous.” Of course, THEY haven’t seen me naked. (Though some of you have, in last year’s calendar)

    I do wonder if this is truly indicative of self esteem, and I’m asking all you posters about this: Have you had dreams where you’re in the mall or at school, and you notice you’re naked? Are you mortified? Or do you think, “Oh well,” and continue as if nothing is amiss? I experience the latter, and my brother (with a Masters in psychology) tells me that likely means I have high self confidence.

  25. I’m in the best shape of my life. I weigh less now than I weighed when I was 16, I have better muscle definition, and I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been. But this was after spending my 20s about 60 lbs overweight. Probably the only thing I’m not happy with is that my boobs have all but buggered off. I would love to have a breast lift at some stage, but I’m not unhappy enough about it that I’ll ever actively pursue it.

    The big thing about my weight-loss though is that I can now watch my favourite show (Buffy) and not spend a bulk of the time despairing over my body size vs that of the female characters on the show. That used to get me down even more than jeans shopping.

  26. the only crisis of appearance that I can remember having was the day of my senior portraits (2000), when the hairstylist was told ‘I’m growing my bangs out, can you do something to make that less obvious?’ and apparently heard ‘give me giant teased 80’s-style beauty pageant hair, and don’t skimp on the hairspray!’ after having a good cry about it, I brushed it out as much as I could, and managed to get through the photos not looking too bad.

  27. The answer to the first question (do you ever…?) is no.

    I’ve never really cared how I looked, I just don’t think about it much, if at all. The very idea that you could have a breakdown about something like that sounds bordering insane to me.

    Speaking of insanity, I ran my first marathon just last Sunday, so I’m in very good shape – I run because I like to run and it makes me feel good. I’m single and not actively looking for a partner, so I don’t ‘take advantage’ of my current looks or whatever. I also have no idea if I’m ‘good-looking’ or not and I don’t care. That would be something other people might care about, how I look, after all I only seldomly look at myself and not for very long anyway, so I don’t see why that would be relevant. I don’t own a weight.

  28. My lack of self confidence is strictly caused by a lack of self confidence, not by worries about the way I look.

    In fact, people often tell me I look good, I just have a hard time accepting the fact they’re not kidding or just being nice to me.

    BTW, I’m 5’7″ and hovering around 135lbs, which for a guy is just at the lower edge of normal. I also look easily 5 to 10 years younger than I really am, so I have nothing to complain about.

    I still don’t feel comfortable talking to women I’ve just met though. It’s odd.

  29. While I don’t have that sort of problem now, I certainly used to. I had confidence in my mental skills, but not in my social or physical, and there were plenty of people of both sexes who were all too happy to remind me regularly through my teens that they thought I was the ugliest thing on two legs. I blame my zero self-image for my first (disastrous) marriage. But now I know better.

    I’ve also aged very slowly. I went from being a scrawny twenty-something to an overweight thirty-something who kept getting mistaken for a teenager. I’m now in my forties, full head of hair with no gray, and I don’t fit into the suit I got married in because my waist is two inches smaller but my chest is eight inches bigger, and I’m an inch taller as well. My wife thinks I’m handsome, and I get a lot more attention from women than I used to, and that’s plenty for me.

  30. I have to be honest, unless you have grown a second head that resembles Sylvia Browne overnight or anything else that might be difficult to explain to your friends, the idea of skipping a party because of how you look sounds completely retarded to me.

  31. Used to worry, don’t now. Lots of that had to do with therapy ;)

    I’m not thrilled with my weight gain and am trying to get it off. It is more for my health, but it would be nice to get some off for self-esteem, I won’t lie. But I have an unusually proportioned body so clothes – even when I’m thin – have to be heavily altered to fit well, so I’d like to get back into those clothes.

    (When I say I’m unusually proportioned, it’s not a distorted perception on my behalf. I mean that the traditional “8 heads high” body proportion is way out of whack with me. All my artist friends notice this. The boutique where we got my wedding dress insisted the designer fit me himself, and he personally did my measurements and muslin fitting during successive trunk shows because he didn’t trust it to anyone else – and I had a REALLY simple dress. )

    I also have a significant breast asymmetry. As a teenager and in my early 20’s that made me VERY self conscious. The only time it upsets me out now is bathing suit season, but it’s more fatigue than anything else. It’s becomes painfully obvious, and I’m very tired of well-meaning women telling me to adjust my suit. I only wear a suit around my parents’ pool these days because I’m tired of having to explain to them I can’t adjust it, and then I have to ease their embarrassment. Does not lead to a relaxing day at the beach or poolside.

  32. If I have a meltdown it’s usually a combination of feeling insecure about my body and having nothing to wear that flatters me. But then I suck it up, feel a bit pudgey/dumpy and just deal with that. And it’s always tied to going into an uncomfortable social situation.

    Like how I’m freaking out about needing 2 nice outfits for a wedding & rehearsal dinner coming up soon. I’m nervous about the events themselves (I don’t know anyone!) so I’m convinced that I will find nothing nice to wear and I’ll look fat and poorly dressed.

  33. @weatherwax:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that they complain, knowing that I’ll tell them they’re beautiful. But then they just argue. I don’t get it.

    Have you read the other comments from other women? I doubt the women you know are complaining just because they want to get a compliment from you. It’s a lot more complicated than that. A lot of these fears are ingrained in women. Women are pressured from a very, very early age to be thin, unlike most men, not to mention the obsession in our society about how women look. I mean fuck, Hillary Clinton is a very intelligent, successful woman, but even she can’t hide from the ridicule and judgement that surrounds almost every women in our society.

    I was heavily bullied as a child, but even though I remember feeling fat sometimes, the focus of the bullying wasn’t really on my weight, and my parents weren’t focused on looks at all, so I think that’s why I’ve grown up to be fairly comfortable being chubby.

  34. This is a serious and growing issue for men. I’m pretty confident about my body, but I am also often called arrogant. My body does not match what you see on magazine covers, but neither do those models’ bodies.

    Men and boys see a movie like 300 or some of these magazines these days and ask, “What do I have to do to get abs like that?” The answer is special effects. Airbrushing and photo-manipulation are as common on male models as on female.

    Here is an interesting link that sums up some of the changes in male body image.

    Quotes of particular interest:
    -If a modern G.I. Joe was scaled up to 5’10”, his biceps would be larger than any body builder in history.
    -a 1976 Playgirl centerfold would need to shed 12lbs of fat and gain 27lbs of muscle to be a centerfold today.

    It is clear that the idealized male body is changing, and moving into the realm of the unachievable. Look at old clips of Sean Connery and compare them to modern enhanced footage of Gerald Butler. Sean Connery as 007 had a body comparable to mine, and well within what is attainable for a real person without developing eating or exercise disorders or causing lasting damage in pursuit of aesthetic “perfection.”

    We should be idealizing attainable high end healthy bodies. Men were considered to just laugh at over-done male bodies in the past, but are now developing the same disorders as women. Why? Because we can no longer approach what we internalize as the ideal. The perfect body of 50 years ago is still so far from the modern ideal that even after the hard work of attaining the old body, we still see the new as impossibly far away. And if nothing you can do can accomplish your goal, what is there left to do but despair?

  35. @Briarking: I actually had a dream recently that turned lucid.

    I found myself walking in an ice cream shop. Then I looked down and realized I was topless. At first my brain went !!. But then I thought, quite clearly, “Fuck! Who cares! I’m dreaming!

    And then I continued to walk through the ice cream shop, topless. I remember it feeling very freeing.

    Then my alarm went off. And I was sad. :(

    The few other “omg naked” dreams I remember actually stem from an incident when I was a young kid (5? 6?): I was in the back yard, swinging, in my panties, and nothing else (I grew up in the middle of nowhere; we had no neighbors within sight). Aaaand, then a friend suddenly came over. A boy. And I was mortified.

    I’ll have a dream about it every so often.

    But it’s more about that moment.

    My other “naked” dreams seem to be more like my topless one, and I do have pretty high confidence (in some ways … I have insecurities, but they just manifest in other ways not having to do with my looks).

  36. @US:

    The very idea that you could have a breakdown about something like that sounds bordering insane to me.

    @B Hitt:

    the idea of skipping a party because of how you look sounds completely retarded to me

    Both of these comments are more than a little condescending (not to mention that using “retarded” as an insult is pretty awful). These comments completely ignore the societal pressures that nearly every women has to deal with on a daily basis.

    Calling women “insane” or “retarded” because of their insecurities is more than a little rude. In fact, I’d say you two were being condescending assholes who either aren’t paying attention to what people have been saying here, or are purposely ignoring comments, and everything else I and several other regular comments here have said on more than one occasion during similar discussions, so that you can feel superior.

    You are clearly better than anyone who dares to feel insecure about their looks, right? Since you feel those who do are “retarded” and “insane”.

  37. I think I look fairly decent when I look in the mirror but since I’m always out with social groups I’m usually in pictures and there I look huge. HUGE. Sure they say the camera puts on 10 pounds but it looks more like 20 to me.

    The image of me in my mind doesn’t correspond to what I see in pictures. Does that mean when I look in the mirror my mind is playing tricks on me?

  38. @spellwight: I have the same experience, depending on the picture. Also, yesterday a friend of mine posted pics of herself online, and she definitely looked bigger in the pictures than she does in actual life. The thing with pictures is that they don’t hide anything, and they tend to enhance the negative stuff. Also, angle and lighting makes a huge difference. A bad angle or bad light will make anyone, no matter how skinny or gorgeous, look awful.

  39. My mom told me not too long ago not to worry about how I look. She said, “Cellulite? Men dont see cellulite. They think that is something we made up in our minds. There are too many GOOD things for them to look at to see a few flaws!”

    I know for my age I look fantastic. But mostly I feel beautiful. My body works well, I have not long term illnessess and I am aging gracefully. I dont want to look like a porn-androgynstic ideal the media sells us. Besides, no one notices how you look. They are too busy worrying about themselves.

  40. @Akiko: “porn-tranny”? Really?

    Can we stop using “tranny” and “retarded” as an insult? Please? Same goes with “gay”, though thankfully I haven’t seen that around these parts. But why is it still acceptable to use “tranny” and “retarded” as insults?! Neither are acceptable. We have several transsexual commenters here, for one.

    Hah! And then you edited the comment to instead say “porn-androgynstic”. Not sure if it was before or after my comment. It doesn’t really matter. Either way: Thank you.

    Also, I like “porn-androgynstic”. Good way to put it!

    Besides, no one notices how you look. They are too busy worrying about themselves.

    However, that’s not true. It really depends on where you live and your lifestyle. A chubby friend of mine has been living in New York for about a year at some big huge firm of some sort, and she feels the pressure every day. She has been accused of not being “professional enough” — while far less professional-looking skinny women aren’t told that, because they live up to the skinny ideal. She’s ridiculously smart, but she gets passed over a lot, becuase in NYC, chubby = bad.

  41. @marilove:

    Did you even read the sentence that came after the one you chose to focus on (hint: it starts with the words: ‘…speaking of insanity…’)? Running a marathon is insane, I openly agreed with a commenter who said exactly that on my own blog just yesterday. I don’t think I’m better or superior, but I know I am very different.

    I’m sure if we met, you would in fact consider me a ‘condescending asshole’. I have Aspergers, so social stuff is not easy for me. If we did meet and you did in fact consider me a condescending asshole however, I’m also quite sure I wouldn’t give a crap. I find it interesting that you’d both criticise me for feeling superior due to my views on these matters – and then at the same time elect to criticise me for being a ‘condescending asshole’. Because unlike me, you clearly don’t think you’re better than me, right?

    “I find people who get really caught up in how other people perceive them very strange because I rarely even think about such things myself.” Is that better?

  42. @US: I have friends who have Aspergers and I don’t think they are condescending assholes.

    They also don’t call people “insane” because of their insecurities.

    And, yes, I did read it, but no, calling running a marathon “insanity” is not the same thing as calling people with insecurities insane.

    And yes, that is better. Calling people insane because of their insecurities is not cool, but it is understandable if you don’t “get” them. Though, you are human; I am sure you have your own insecurities. We all do.

    I wouldn’t call you insane just because you aren’t as good in social situations as I am. Because it doesn’t make you insane, just different. I’m sure you have many positive aspects about yourself, including things that I lack — I may be “better” at social situations than you, for instance, but I suspect you’re probably better than me at a lot of other things.

    And nope, I really don’t think I’m better than you. Just because I found your statement to be condescending and jerkish doesn’t mean I think I am better than you. They aren’t mutually exclusive opinions. I have my own faults and I am well aware of them. But I can still think you were being rude with your comment.

  43. @marilove: &@US: For my part, I’ll say yes, our off-the cuff comments did sound completely rude and use of the word “retarded” is juvenile. Retracted.
    And while it sounded otherwise, I intended my comment to condemn the social pressures, not the individuals who feel that way. It’s deplorable that a person would miss out on something enjoyable in their life because they’re made to feel bad about unimportant things.
    A teacher at my wife’s school told her that she called in sick the other day because she didn’t like any of the clothes in her closet. Clearly extreme, but a shame nonetheless. Not the kind of society I want to live in.

  44. @spellwight: I know exactly what you mean! When I look in the mirror, I am pretty confident. I like the way I look and some days I feel downright HAWT — but then show me a picture of myself and I’m like “Uugghhh!!! THAT’S what I look like?!”

    I feel like I look large, with a double chin (that isn’t really there) and I notice flaws I never saw in the mirror. I don’t understand.

    Part of me feels like it’s the 2D nature of a picture. My husband is gorgeous, way more handsome in person than in pictures. He gets hit on all of the time by other women, but his pictures don’t do him a lick of justice. I’ve tried to pinpoint what is different, and the only conclusion I can come to is that a picture is two dimensional and he is 3 — therefore that added depth perception gives you more to go off of (the shape of his nose, structure of his jaw, etc. etc.)

    I remember thinking this about him before we were even dating. I saw pictures before I saw him in person and the pictures were nice but I didn’t give them a second thought. When I saw him in person I was like: “Holy GOD that is the most beautiful man I have ever seen!”

    I think maybe that’s the problem we run into? LOL

  45. @B Hitt: Thank you.

    And I completely agree. It’s really sad.

    And like someone else mentioned above, men are getting a lot of the pressure now, too, though not necessarily the same sort of pressures, and I don’t really think the pressures are as large or common as with women, but they are getting it. Well, straight men are getting it now, anyway. Gay men have been feeling the pressure for a long, long time.

  46. @Stevie: And some people photograph REALLY well! It really does have to do with angles (of your features, AND how the picture is taken) and lightning.

    I have a really, really round face and high chipmunk-like cheekbones. With the wrong angles, my face looks huge and fat, but with the right angles, I photograph well (at least my face).

    @US: And to clarify, it was your wording that I found to be problematic and condescending, not necessarily you yourself. I don’t know you well enough to say.

  47. @Madouc: Obese at 5 ft, 107? Sheesh. That about describes me right now, and it’s certainly not obese.

    And yet we let them play with our minds, right? I spent a good deal of my life wearing big shirts because I didn’t have the perfect abs and was self-conscious about it. Didn’t keep me from going out, just made me dress a bit frumpy.

    I’m finally getting to the point where I’m looking for clothing that doesn’t hide. Know what turned the corner for me? Watching roller derby. Those grrls don’t worry about other people’s ideas. They set their own definition of what sexy is. Suddenly I realize they’re absolutely right.

  48. @marilove: Yeah, I completely relate! I have chipmunk cheeks and my face looks chubby to me when you photograph me head on. My nose looks very roman/greek though (think a profile similar to Drew Barrymore) so I love profile and slightly tilted headshots. I tried to take pictures like this of myself for my facebook profile and my Dad and husband did nothing but make fun of me for posing.

    I was humiliated so I took them all off — but I still feel like I look the best from those angles.

  49. @Stevie:

    I have chipmunk cheeks and my face looks chubby to me when you photograph me head on. My nose looks very roman/greek though

    Chipmunks are cute, right?

    I on the other hand, have a buck shot face. I’m scarred and mangled and sun-damaged and leathery. I frighten pets and make small children cry. Are you kidding? The mirrors in my house avoid me.

    Mmmm . . . Now that’s good crisis of confidence.

  50. @Stevie: I have a small, very upturned nose, which was actually one of the main focuses of my teasing as a child. (Oink, oink!) However, I love it now (and people in general seem to love upturned noses). I LOVE how it looks in profile. It’s cute. It took a while to grow to love it, but I’m glad I have this nose.

  51. @Marilove:

    I should not have used the word insane, but I can’t shake off the impression that it was not just the wording of my comment that you took issue with.

    Btw., if your standards as to which words one is ‘allowed’ to use in your presence to describe reality, ones views or whatever, are as high as this exchange makes it look, you’re really missing out, because a lot of people (…people I know) will elect simply not to interact with you if they can help it. Right now, I’m not even comfortable writing to you online. So I won’t do that anymore, at least for now. I shouldn’t have commented at all to begin with and most likely will not do so again for a while.

  52. @US: No, it was really just the wording, but I apologize if it didn’t come off that way.

    It’s just really frustrating to -constantly- have people brush off these insecurities, and act like women shouldn’t feel that way, when it’s our very society that causes the insecurities. Women don’t carry around these insecurities for no reason. It’s not just all in their head. Women have to deal with unattainable ideals on a daily basis, but then when they develop insecurities because of it, they are brushed off and told they shouldn’t feel that way. It’s not at all helpful.

    “allowed’ to use in your presence to describe reality, ”

    So are you saying that transophobic words, such words as “retarded” and calling people “insane” are acceptable ways to describe reality? Because I do not. Sure, you can say them – you have that right. And I have the right to think that those who use such language are transphobic, insensitive, or condescending for saying such things – or at the very least using transphobic, insensitive, and condescending language.

    And if people want to “not interact with me” because I find such language deplorable … well, I get the feeling I’d rather not interact with people who find such language acceptable.

    And, really, my standards are not that high. I am not a prude nor easily offended. My sense of humor is intact.

    But if you think being respectful by not using transphobic language or such words as “retarded” as insults, as some sort of “high standard” well … then I probably don’t want to interact with you, because yes, my standards — which aren’t very high, as I’m a total dork and far from a prude — are higher than that. It’s a shame if yours aren’t.

  53. @Stevie: I LOVE strong noses! A good friend of mine has a, well, very stereotypically huge Jewish nose, and I have to stop myself from basically groping it whenever I see him. I have a huge thing for Adrian Brody — tall, skinny guys with big, crooked noses? Oh, dear. *fans self* Same with women: I love a strong nose on a woman. I love Lady GaGa’s nose!

  54. @marilove:

    I DID NOT use the word retarded in any of my comments. I DID NOT call anybody insane. Here’s what I wrote that you take issue with:

    “The very idea that you could have a breakdown about something like that sounds bordering insane to me.”

    The closest I even got to calling anybody insane was stating that _running a marathon_ was insane (I stated that the act of doing it was insane, not that people doing it are insane). I used the qualifier ‘bordering’ in my first comment, as you can read above, and it was THE IDEA of having a breakdown ‘because of something like that’ that I considered insane, not the people doing it.

    I can play that game too, which is part of the reason why I can’t believe it’s just the wording that you took issue with – if it was, you’d at least have had the decency to read what I actually wrote, preferably more than once. Sorry if I offended you in the previous sentence, if I did it was deliberate, as far as I can tell you haven’t treated me very well.

    As to your last paragraph: You’re setting up an echo-chamber here. You’re doing it right now. I think that’s sad, and it’s the only reason I even care to comment. But as I said, I won’t do that for a while after this exchange has ended.

    On a related note, did you even consider the possibility that not everybody who choose to comment on a site such as this one even have English as their first language? I don’t.

  55. @marilove: “Women are pressured from a very, very early age to be thin, unlike most men, not to mention the obsession in our society about how women look. I mean fuck, Hillary Clinton is a very intelligent, successful woman, but even she can’t hide from the ridicule and judgement that surrounds almost every women in our society.”

    I agree completely as a general point. I still remember when Heart was on tour. All the fans coming out raved about the guitar solos, and all the written reviews said “Man she’s fat.”

    But these are women I know very well, and it really frustrates me. The two I’m thinking of in particular are very intelligent, and in most cases don’t give a damm what other people think. But I keep finding myself arguing that they’re not too short, their boobs are not too small, etc.

  56. @US: I KNOW you didn’t use retarded. I was using someone else’s language as an example to further prove my point. Please read the other comments.

    I was just trying to explain to you why the language was problematic, and even tried to reassure you that it wasn’t you I (necessarily) had a problem with, but the language. Also, I even went on to further explain why brushing of these insecurities isn’t helpful. But you ignored that completely.

    And I did read what you wrote, several times, and I even explained why it was still problematic: “And, yes, I did read it, but no, calling running a marathon “insanity” is not the same thing as calling people with insecurities insane.

    On a related note, did you even consider the possibility that not everybody who choose to comment on a site such as this one even have English as their first language.

    And normally when that happens, such a person would say, “Woops, I’m sorry. English isn’t my first language. I didn’t realize it was problematic. I see what you’re getting at. I’ll try to avoid such language next time. Thanks!” And I’d say: “Awesome, that’s cool. Thanks!”

    Sorry if I offended you in the previous sentence, if I did it was deliberate, as far as I can tell you haven’t treated me very well.

    It WAS deliberate? Or it wasn’t? Because I’ve not treated you badly at all. On several occasions I have assured you that it was your language was problematic (though now I’m starting to wonder…). I’ve also given you more than one chance to apologize or even just acknowledge that, hey, maybe it is problematic, but you haven’t done that. Instead, you keep getting more and more defensive.

  57. @weatherwax: It’s probably just a hard concept for you to grasp, and that’s okay. Even *I* find myself going, “BUT WHY?! You are gorgeous!” It’s sometimes hard to imagine that someone who is clearly good-looking might have insecurities. I try to stop myself but even I find it difficult at times — especially when I come across someone who is stunning (while I am plain), and I’m like, “LOOK AT YOU!!!” But then I stop myself and remember that, no matter how gorgeous a woman is, society still thinks they aren’t good enough (small boobs? greying hair? not quite thin enough? etc).

  58. @marilove: I honestly can’t believe you mentioned Adrian Brody! I LOVE that man and his nose!! I used to make wallpapers for my computer of him :-P I want to see the new Predator movie so bad, and Splice because not only is it Science Fiction, but he’s in them ;-)

    I agree with strong noses — my husband is half polish and half mexican and he definitely got the polish nose. In fact I joke with him all of the time that I married him for his awesome shnoz. I also love Michael Sheen’s nose — something about the structure makes me just want to draw it! lol

  59. @Stevie: There is just something about a tall, lanky, slightly awkward-looking man with a huge shnoz that gets me, every time. Plus he’s a wonderful actor. But msotly it’s that nose. Swoooon.

  60. @marilove:

    I get defensive because you refuse to read what I write and continue to misrepresent my views.

    In your comment you wrote:

    “So are you saying that transophobic words, such words as “retarded” and calling people “insane” are acceptable ways to describe reality?

    And the answer to that question would be: The question is irrelevant to the exchange at hand. The whole point of my last comment was that no-one in this thread has called anybody insane and that I did not use the word retarded in my comment, so nothing in that question was in any way relevant to our exchange of views. I couldn’t see how I could think of it as anything but a personal attack on me, because if you’d read my comments, I could not see how you could possibly have asked that question in good faith.

    You wrote in your last comment:

    “And I did read what you wrote, several times, and I even explained why it was still problematic: “And, yes, I did read it, but no, calling running a marathon “insanity” is not the same thing as calling people with insecurities insane.”

    Again, I never called people with insecurities insane. So this is again simply irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

    This is getting tiresome and I will not pursue this further – you get the last word.

  61. @marilove: I think I do have a better grasp of it than most men, and sadly it seems to be a societal trend that we’re going backwards on, not forward. And as you send, we’re extending it to men as well. (Good for the goose, good for the gander, I guess).

    The part that really disturbed me is I usually found it’s the other women who were the harshest judges. Though lately I’ve spent more time with younger men, and they’ve gotten to be real judgemental [email protected]@holes, too.

  62. @weatherwax: Women can be really, really horrible, and it is sometimes worse when it comes from women, because we’re on the same team, you know? And young guys are especially bad at being sexist jackasses, though not all of course.

  63. Mmm, nice topic. When I was 21 I was convinced that I was a fat-assed piece of lard & ugly as sin. I ran, swam, lifted weights, & practiced karate, and I consoled myself with the thought that “It’s not what I look like that matters, it’s what I can do.”

    Now I’m 41. I look back at pictures of myself then, and I see a skinny, fit, not-unhandsome young man with a shy but not-unwinning smile. And I because I stopped doing all that exercise, I now really do look the way that I thought I looked back then.

    But with more hair growing from weird and unsettling places.

    (More proof that there is no god.)

  64. Related to the subject of how we see ourselves, who draws the gravatars for the skepchicks? That signature is too small to make out.

  65. I love reading about people’s expirences with topics like this. I loved my body all the way up to puberty, then it betrayed me. Or that’s what it felt like then and still does sometimes. I grew up against my will and ended up with a pretty nice body.

    It looks good enough, but it dosn’t really feel like its mine if that makes any sense.

  66. I’ve never really had body issues at all, which likely comes from the fact that I was never chided, teased, or criticized for my looks.

    The only time I really think about my body shape is when clothes shopping. Oddly enough, clothes don’t fit me well. It’s not me — I have the ideal hourglass shape, but I guess clothes makers don’t make clothes for women like me. If it fits my chest, then the waist and arms are too big, but if it fits everywhere else, it won’t fit my chest. I’m not overweight either, technically my BMI is 25 (though I don’t like the BMI), but I look fantastic.

  67. @marilove: I have to admit that I might have mis-percieved an increase in young male asshatedness because lately I’ve been to forced to have more contact with people I normally wouldn’t accociate with. Most of them are really great kids, but a few are really smarmy, and generally I just wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

    And most of the men who are really judgemental towards women are miserably unpleasant in general. And they usually think Howard Stern is cool.

  68. I don’t have many body issues. I’m overweight, yes, but it’s because I like food and hate exercise. It’s a choice I’ve made to be unhealthy and happy, rather than healthy and bored out of my skull.

  69. @Mark Hall: Okay, I’m putting the tread mill in the family room where the piano is so I can watch movies, sports or whatever while walking. The piano is being relegated to the garage until we hire a mover to get it upstairs. My goal is a little fitness and a couple inches. We’ll see. Portion control and another glass of wine are other challenges.

  70. I’m about 20 lbs overweight and I dress like a slob whenever I can, but I clean up nicely when I feel so inclined, and I have outfits appropriate for any situation I’m likely to find myself in. I don’t own any evening gowns, but if I had to, I could fake it with what I have. Since I’d rather curl up with a good book (or my netbook) than paint the town red, I don’t really need to worry about it.
    As far as meltdowns, I don’t have any. I have my insecurities, most steming from a childhood Freud would kill to get his Id on if he wasn’t already dead. But the upshot of the childhood from hell is that at some point, if you’re going to survive with your sanity, you learn to tell the world to shove it. I learned that when I was about 12. It saved me a lot of grief in my teens, as I was the typical too-smart nerd girl with her nose in a book all the time because the usual teen stuff was so utterly boring. It was like i had a big target permanently attached to my back.
    So the bottom line is, my self-esteem is not tied up with my looks. I know I clean up well, but I’m never going to be a knock-out. I’ve never really tried to drop those 20 extra pounds, mostly because I know that to do it correctly I would have to change my diet, and I quite like it the way it is. More importantly, I like ME the way I am.

  71. Are there really women who melt down over how they look and refuse to go to parties? I *am* a woman and I always assumed this was a stereotype.

  72. Many of the readers here (gay and hetero) have no doubt experienced something at least similar to the pre-party meltdown, where the partner looks perfectly fine, but due to some perceived inadequacy/flaw/short-coming refuses to go to the party.

    The big question is: “Why does that happen?”

    Simple… they don’t actually want to go to the party… with You.


  73. @ Sean

    These things are never simple, and they are almost never about how the person having the meltdown actually looks at that particular moment. It has been my experience (not with having meltdowns, but with helping those who have them) that it takes more than a bad hair day to bring about that kind of reaction. Neither is it just that they don’t want to go, with or without you. It usually takes deep insecurities, failure to find reasurance, and feelings of dismissal. Of course, it is entirely possible that a meltdown is being faked because they don’t want to go to the party with you – especially if you’ve been dismissive of feelings of insecurity.

  74. @Mark Hall: As someone who was formerly fat, I have to say, this isn’t true. I am skinny through portion control, not cutting out the nummy things. I still beer it up, and eat chocolate all the freakin’ time, but I make allowances for this and maybe cut back on something else. And it makes me appreciate the nummy things so much more now than when I used to gorge on stuff without thinking (not that I am trying to imply that you are a gorger, simply that I used to be).

  75. I’m a bit concerned about my weight for health reasons, but I am beyond oblivious to social pressure.

    As long as my clothes (and my body) are clean, I’m fine. I am aware of this thing called “fashion” but know almost nothing about it.

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