TACK N°6 : SUMMER IS CALLING : Which body for the summer ?

Wrote by Mayli and translated by Nolwenn.

Always under the spotlight, the woman’s body doesn’t have to be functional, strong or healthy, but pretty. Muscles are necessary to seem toned, but they must not be too prominent, at the risk of not being perceived as a REAL woman. Appearances are far more important to women than it is to men, because they introduced this « activity » in their lifestyles as a task to accomplish. As they say, you must suffer to be beautiful, otherwise you will never find a husband ! Aristotle, who influenced philosophy forever, kindly wrote « the male is separated from the female because the principle of movement, which represents the male in every born beings, is better and godly ; the female merely is the principle representing the matter ». Yet, the matter that is the body, is inferior, repugnant and passive compared to the great spirit represented by the male. From then on, women are only identified by their bodies, as they don’t have enough intelligence to stand out otherwise. To slack, especially on pilosity, is intolerable for women and translates a lack of discipline – for men, its a symbol of virility. Since a few years back, with the injunction to have a perfect body, we’re being asked to love what we have with a two-time guilt-creating #bodypositive : I have to try to love my body when everything I see tells me to change it.

Wanting everybody, but first and foremost women, to look alike thanks to « 10 tips to slim down before summer ! » isn’t an ideal, all the more so as women must tend to slimness, which for Noémie Renard, represents weakness. Indeed, from the start of the 1930’s in the US, when women begin to liberate themselves from the norms, and start to bare their bodies more and more, this obsession with thinness appears. The latter is often perceived as a patriarchal backfire, in which in exchange of certain rights, men then have the right to ask the women to be more obedient regarding their own physical standards for them. As a study demonstrated, sexism and adhesion to social norms are really tightly roped, and the most sexist men only find the slimmest bodies attractive. The philosopher Sandra Bartky, leaning on some of Foucaults’ works, explains that the beauty practices are in fact disciplinary practices, allowing to create more docile, weak and helpless bodies for women. For example developing biceps on a woman’s body is very badly considered since it’s a symbol of strength and we want female bodies to remain powerless. The male body also suffers from some beauty standards – although a lot less – however to be associated with strength – muscles – is a more enjoyable than having to stand with weakness.

THE summer body, as found literally everywhere during the preceding months of summer, only seems to be a matter of will : the will to exercise and eat healthier. Yet, the Arte documentary « An obese world » shows us that obese people for the most part are not lazy nor failures, but they really are not entirely in control of their weight. We are talking about a « liberal society who hates fat but creates fat people ». The conception of being overweight as being fat because we don’t do physical exercise is nothing more than an alibi for the food industry ; the reciprocity of this statement being : if you do exercise, you can eat and drink whatever you want. However, despite all the reality shows showing us the miraculous power of the gym – which can allegedly help us lose dozens of lbs in only a couple of weeks without the yo-yo effect – physical exercise alone, is in fact inefficient : if a 230lbs weighing person was to run 7 miles, they would have consumed 1000 calories, or 2 chocolatines [pains au chocolat here in the South of France, Translator’s note]. To change dietary habits is therefore crucial if a person doesn’t want to intensely exercise for two hours to only barely eliminate their breakfast. Thus, by encouraging fast foods implantation especially in poor neighbourhoods – where obesity levels is already high – the american government is subsidising to this obesity epidemic. Obviously, the poor and middle-class people are the most affected, this can be seen in supermarkets : fatty and sugary foods are far cheaper than organic, healthy and natural foods – complete and organic coconut sugar is five times more expensive than white refined sugar. In many grocery stores in Mexico – country devastated by the American’s sugary drinks industry -,  bottle of water is more expensive than a bottle soda.

Nonetheless, as the culture of diets is well engraved in our societies, a heavy responsibility weighs on those who dare to be physically outside the norms, in an often open fatphobia. Let’s remind ourselves that the argument of health in not valid, partly because the size of an individual’s body doesn’t specifically tell us a lot about their health, but mostly because if the « anti-fats » really wanted to increase humanity’s lifespan, their focus would rather be on economic inequalities – in average, the poorest French people live 13 years less than the richest.


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