Women: Love yourselves! (But not really.)

Cyndi Lee, author of May I Be Happy: a Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My Mind, said in a recent NPR interview that while on a mission to find inner peace, she thought about the Buddha’s belief that everyone experiences suffering. But Lee didn’t feel like she was suffering, she said. She had a good life and was pretty happy. “But then I started wondering if while I was here I could lose five pounds,” she said (paraphrased). And that was her suffering, she realized – making herself feel bad about her body.

An ongoing body-acceptance movement asks women to love their bodies. And it seems touching and sincere. “Real women” campaigns embrace curves and fuller-figured women and even one who could be considered “thin”; overweight women garner loud cries of support when they share pictures of themselves online in defiance of society’s (and the media’s) current standards.

This acceptance movement is necessary, of course. We’re still pretty comfortable making fun of heavier people, more so when they’re women. Women who aren’t a 0 or 4 have been given too much crap (and still are) in the media and on the street.

But I can’t help but feel they’re the only ones we want to love their bodies. Except, as far as we’re concerned, they probably shouldn’t truly love them. Not deep down.

Our behavior and reactions toward women seem to indicate that we don’t want easy, comfortable, confident acceptance, but rather, “I can love my body through my hatred of it, through my tears and hardship and struggle.”

There must be suffering, damn it. (And not any of that bullshit “I’m too skinny” suffering.)

But if a woman genuinely has no complaints about her body (bad woman!) or acknowledges that she’s considered attractive (even worse!), we mentally start picking her apart. If she’s heavier, we give her the one-eyebrow bitch look and think, “Well, honey, you should look in the mirror.” If she’s lighter/thinner, we give her the one-eyebrow bitch look and think, “Cankles, narrow upper lip, weird hairline–and a mole! Also: whore.”

Take, for example, the comments to an article by Samantha Brick, who writes about the difficulty of being considered attractive (her article admittedly has an inflammatory headline – “There are downsides to looking this pretty: Why women hate me for being beautiful” – undoubtedly created by the Daily Mail editors). The first comment in a string of 5,725 (!) begins thus:

I am sorry, but this woman is not even remotely attractive, at least by the standards of New York CIty.

Second comment:

Honestly – I would actually not see you if I passed in the street – you are beige – forgettable.

Maybe, contrary to what she writes in her article, women don’t hate Brick because she’s beautiful. But, women, come on. Don’t we hate women if they really think they’re beautiful – or worse, if they actually are? (Unless we think they’re ugly, that is. The uglier they are by today’s standards, the sweeter we find their “confidence,” which you bet we’ll put in quotes.)

We don’t even like it when other people think someone is pretty (triple-plus-bad if she’s also thin). When ESPN commentator Brent Musburger gushed over Katherine Webb in the stands at a football game, saying at one point that “football players get the prettiest women,” women took to the comments sections of online articles.

Comment by “Mary”:
They get the horsiest women. [When Mary was called jealous by a male in the comments section, she replied, “Thank goodness I don’t have those teeth.”]
Comment by “Katie”:
Agreed..hugeee teeth…He(Musburger) probably hasn`t had it in 20years.Nothin worse than a dirty old man..ugh!
On another website with an article about the incident, “Hannah” writes,
she’s alright, i wouldnt say spectacular, ive seen better

Call a woman pretty, and we’ll be right there to tell you exactly why she isn’t.

In her NPR interview, Lee said body acceptance could only come with self-love. And I think women who otherwise feel bad about themselves are getting better at the self-acceptance part. But love?

If we truly loved ourselves, we could truly love each other. But we celebrate the happy very selectively. We encourage, raise, lift, and empower – all good things -, but give us someone like Brick, Webb, or Jessica Simpson, a woman who doesn’t need us to dry her tears, and we’ll tear the poor woman to shreds.

We haven’t quite found the love.

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