Oh boy, did my hairy-lesbian-HULK ever come out to SMASH today.
Today, I happened across an article about a study the National Institutes of Health is funding. Brace yourself. They want to find out why lesbians are fat. And no, sadly, I did not read this on The Onion. In fact, they want to find out why lesbians are fat so badly that they’re funding this study to the tune of $1.5 million dollars. Let me repeat that– ONE POINT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS TO FIND OUT WHY SOME LEZZIES ARE FAT. Holy Crap, and we wonder why the country is broke??
What gets me about this is that you don’t need a freakin’ study to answer this question. You merely need a survey. Especially since they also want to know why gay men, compared to straight men, are less obese. Really now. An hour alone with a dyke and twink and you’d have all your queer mysteries solved. But, no. Let’s spend $1.5 million and treat LGBTQ peoples like lab rats instead of, oh, I don’t know, just asking them why they don’t feel a need to conform to the same beauty standards as heterosexuals. That makes so much more sense.
But don’t fret, dear readers, Jade is here to clear things up. Let’s start with the gay men. I am actually REALLY glad I’m not a gay man– the beauty standards in the twink community are even stricter than they are for women in general. You have to be lean, hairless, tall, fair-skinned… Hmm, ironically (or intentionally?) this sounds an awful lot like the beauty standards women in Western society have hoisted upon them daily. Gay men are expected to work out, obsessively, and spend the same kind of time and financial investment on their appearance as heterosexual women. Yikes! The only way to really escape this as a gay man is to be a “bear.” Bears are big, hairy guys (and often leather men, but not necessarily) who love other big, hairy guys. Bears make me laugh out loud at the idea that gay men must all be effeminate– can you think of anything more masculine than two big, burly guys? This image jumps to mind.
Long story short, gay men are generally less overweight than straight men because straight men are rarely held up to any kind of beauty standard, while gay men are (by other gay men). I guess that’s where the similarity between female beauty standards comes in– both are enforced by men, either gay (for other gay men) or straight (for women). But gay women don’t seem to hold other gay women up to the same strict beauty standards as men do. I’m generalizing, of course, and the media certainly has a VERY narrow view of what a lesbian looks like. It’s actually only different from the narrow view of women already depicted by the media in that they’re sometimes a tiny bit butch (by which I mean they’re wearing pants or maybe a vest). Maybe. But lipstick lesbians are much more likely to show up in media depictions of lesbians because the media is targeted towards heterosexual males and what heterosexual males find attractive is not the same thing dykes find attractive. It’s why we don’t fuck each other.
So moving on to why a higher percentage of gay women are overweight than in the general population of women. If you dare to read the comments in the article I linked to (and I wouldn’t suggest it, unless you really love trolls), you’ll find we already have a number of mindbogglingly ignorant theories. Here are my top three:
An honorable mention goes to “Because they eat out all the time!” which, while I’m sure was written with malicious intent, I chuckled at.
So let’s dissect this. First, the idea that women “turn” lesbian because they’re fat and can’t land a man. It goes without saying that this is utterly absurd. For one, you don’t “turn” gay, you’re either queer (gay, lesbian, bi, etc.) or not from the day you’re born. The only choice involved is whether to embrace your sexuality or deny it. Though, I suppose to someone forced into a sexless lifestyle due to being a raging douchecanoe, the idea of “turning” to a particular sexual orientation might make sense. Secondly, there are plenty of men out there who not just tolerate larger women, but actually love and prefer larger women. Don’t believe me? Check out the Museum of Fat Love.
Point two: All lesbians have been sexually abused and that’s both why they’re gay and why they’re fat. It really pains me that I have to explain this, but here goes: 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in her lifetime. All lesbians are women. Therefore, it logically follows that at least 1 in 3 lesbians has been sexually abused. FUCKING DUH. Furthermore, lesbians are far more likely to be assaulted because of their sexuality than straight women. Hate crimes, anyone?
That aside, the asshats who keep bringing this up are using ancedotal evidence: “Every lesbian I know has been sexual abused.” And how many lesbians do you know? One, two? Are you just assuming they’re gay? Well, guess what, I’ve got ancedotal evidence too. Personally, I’ve seen absolutely NO correlation between abuse, size and orientation, let alone evidence of causation. I have both heavy and thin friends who have been raped but are straight; I have dated both heavy and thin lesbians who haven’t been raped; and me? Well, I’ve been sexually abused by both men and women and am still, historically speaking, attracted to both. But, you know, since I’m not a man, my experience apparently means nothing. Also, the idea that all survivors react to their abuse in the same way is deeply insulting. But that’s another post.
Lastly, lesbians don’t care what men think and therefore let themselves go. You know, this one is actually in the same universe as the real answer, so thank goodness for small favors. It’s true, lesbians DON’T care what men think. That’s why they’re LESBIANS. But that we “let ourselves go” because of that? Missing the mark.
You ready for the real answer? Why are more lesbians fat than straight women? It’s REALLY simple: We’re already othered. Think about it, it’s similar to why more queers are kinky– we’ve already gone so far as to question our heterosexuality, why not question your vanilla-ness too? In this case, it’s a matter of already being othered because of your sexual orientation, so why are you going to adhere to a beauty standard enforced by the mainstream when you’ve already been ousted by the mainstream? Lesbians and gay men are going to follow a beauty standard that exists within our OWN community. For some gay men, this happens to look fairly simliar to the mainstream beauty ideal held up for women.
But dykes? I mean, there are certainly plenty of femmes out there who love to shave and do their hair and wear make-up. I do not mean to exclude the femmes. But as a butch, I can tell you that this isn’t generally expected of femmes the way it’s expected of straight women. And body size definitely goes out the window. (Again, there are exceptions to every rule and if you read the comment thread on that article, you’ll find some douchey lesbians trying to gain access to male privilege and approval by trashing other lesbians.) But as a dyke, let me tell you what I’m attracted to: Natural faces (i.e. no make-up), hairy bodies (I love it when my GF doesn’t shave!), curves and cuddle-ability (I can’t fuck somebody I’m afraid I might break, and I love to cuddle), queerness (anything outside the gender binary) and an unabashed willingness to be yourself.
Notice how NONE of that fits into the beauty standard we’re taught as young, assumed heterosexual women? And no, I don’t expect those things to be attractive to the average male. But, NEWSFLASH, lesbians aren’t trying to attract men! A point the troglobites commenting on this article seem to be deliberately missing.
I know, on some level, it’s silly for me to get worked up about this. Haters are gonna hate, and my anger is exactly what they want. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the perfect storm of bigotry, ignorance, prejudice and hate since the trolls get to talk about women, fat and homosexuality all in one place. I certainly have plenty of my own privilege, white and able-bodied, to name a few, but as a fat, butch, lesbian, I know there is little love for me in the world. What I truly can’t wrap my head around, though, are comments like, “Imagine a world without fat lesbians.” Huh? What is it to you, straight dude? Sincerely, why in Trogdor’s name do you care about what women who will never, ever, EVER sleep with you look like, think or do? How does it impact your life? Why the hell can’t we all just mind our own business? You know, live and let live?
Maybe I’d understand if I had a penis and the world revolved around it. Thankfully, mine is detachable so I’m allowed to re-engage my brain afterwards.
Moral of the story, Asshole Institutes of Health? Some dykes are fat– get over it!
says the macho little broad who looks like uncle fester.
don’t feel too bad about it… you line-backer looking chicks still amuse me.
So, recently I got myself into a fight on a forum about the way butch women are addressed in personal ads. That is, I’ve noticed a trend of people going out of their way in a personal ad to say they don’t like butch women, and then usually throw in an additional insult about how they like their “women to look like women.” First of all, way to be heterosexist as all hell. Secondly, and this was the point I made in my original post, if you’re looking for a femme, why the hell don’t you just say that? Say what you want, rather than what you don’t–you’re so much more likely to get it that way! But no. That would be too simple, wouldn’t it?
Anyhow, I post this plea to common sense and was, naturally, met with a bunch of asshat, heterosexist, narrow-minded comments. Female masculinity is not for everyone, I get that. But why do you have to hate on things you don’t understand? THAT is what baffles me.
As you can imagine, dear reader, when one party (me) is trying to have an open dialogue about what is an issue near and dear to my heart and the other parties are just slinging any insult they can come up with (including, but not limited to, “ugly-ass dyke,” “like you really have any to offer anybody,” “I’m married to a hot little thing and you’re not! HA HA!” and my personal favorite, “If you can’t eat it, drink it, smoke it or fuck it, what the fuck use is it?”) the conversation quickly devolves into… well, I guess it wasn’t much of a “conversation” to begin with, eh?
What interests me are all the assumptions being made here. I’m defending butches, and going to the trouble of pointing out that butch women are, in fact, women, therefore I must be: butch (fair enough), ugly, single, lonely, useless, little and still somehow built like a linebacker. Well if that isn’t one huge string of assumptions! I know plenty of butches who in no way fit this stereotype. Ironically, though, I’m not one of them.
I am: butch (most days to most people), single and kind of built like a linebacker. I constantly make jokes about not being a “real girl,” but the truth is I don’t feel like a “real” girl, whatever that means. Sure, I have a few curves, but not many, and I have tits, but they’re pretty small, and my face has what my mother always referred to as “classic” feminine features, but I still feel like a fake. I’ve rarely been attracted to “girly” things (see: ISO Girl Genes), but in the end, I think it comes down to my genetics.
I have polycystic ovaries (PCOS) which means I was bathed in testosterone in utero and I have more of it in my system than your average girl. Common symptoms of PCOS, all of which I exhibit, include hair growth in unusual places (for women–yeah, I have to shave my damn chin like a dude), insulin resistance (i.e. weight retention and difficulty in losing weight), depression and irregular periods. It can also lead to male pattern baldness in women and even infertility if not treated. Then there’s my ethnic heritage. I’m German and Russian. Have you SEEN German or Russian women? They’re built like oxen! Which I kind of think is great–I’m tall and I’m strong and build for physical labor–but this is not what women are supposed to look like, based on everything I’ve learned from the media.
So between the broad shoulders, the narrow hips, the small breasts, my height and my chin whiskers, I feel pretty unfeminine most days. Even if none of this were true, I’m still a big girl and need to shop at stores that offer “plus” sizes. If you’ve ever been forced to shop at plus size stores, you know that very few of them make clothes that are both flattering and stylish for women of size. If larger women are fashionistas, they generally make their own clothes for just this reason. On some level, I do feel like the clothing industry forced me out of feminine clothing. Nothing flattering for my size, and nothing that fits me even at specialty stores. After all, if you’re a big girl you have big hips and big breasts too! Right? Of course! Anything else would be ridiculous! One size fits all!
Yeah… Long story short, there is no such thing as feminine clothes for Linebacker Chicks. Which isn’t to say I went “butch” just because I couldn’t find clothes I liked. But I couldn’t find clothes I felt comfortable in, until I tried men’s clothes. And, for the record, shopping in the men’s section as a woman is NOT fun, so I best be committed to it. Men’s clothes are more closely designed for my body than most women’s clothes (though even my small breasts usually require me to buy a size up), so it’s certainly a logical choice for me. But it all still feels so complicated…
Some days, like today, I find myself wishing I were “real girl.” I see the girls on TV, in magazines, on the street, and they all look the same way: short, petite, thin, long hair, big breasts, nice curves, enough hips/ass to be attractive, etc. and then I look in the mirror and I can’t help but think to myself, “If I’m a girl, why don’t I look like one?” It’s not something make-up is going to fix.
And that’s the point about butch women I was trying to make in the first place before it turned into senseless insult-slinging: that butch women ARE women–that we are not trans or impersonating men. My trans friends and allies are easily some of the most important people in my life. My respect for them is endless. And I am so very fortunate to have been given a body that matches my mind (mostly). True, there are many times I don’t feel like a girl, but it’s not because of a disconnect between my body and myself: it’s a disconnect between the images we are fed of what women are “supposed” to be and what I see when I look in the mirror or at any of the other queer women I know. We don’t fit, we never have, and I don’t know why I find myself wishing we did…
Perhaps it seems simpler to me than trying to reconcile my true self with the world at large. A lot of people think like these asshats I was fighting with–if I don’t bother to follow the rule that I’m supposed to be pretty and aesthetically pleasing for all the penis bearers, then what purpose could I possibly serve? And if women were no more than the sum of our conventionally-accepted beauty, then they might have a point. Fortunately, women are fully formed human beings with big, fat brains to go with those breasts. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting a tiny bit.
So in an effort to buck that bullshit, I’m going to go ahead and claim this title of “Linebacker Chick.” Because, really, if you’re going to tick off a feminist, should it really be the one built like a football player? Here’s a hint: Back in middle school, no boy every played me in basketball more than once if he wanted to stay out of the nurse’s office.
“People changed lots of other personal things all the time. They dyed their hair and dieted themselves to near death. They took steroids to build muscles and got breast implants and nose jobs so they’d resemble their favorite movie stars. They changed names and majors and jobs and husbands and wives. They changed religions and political parties. They moved across the country or the world — even changed nationalities. Why was gender the one sacred thing we weren’t supposed to change? Who made that rule?”
― Ellen Wittlinger, Parrotfish
My childhood consisted of what was probably the height of Disney’s great animated feature length films. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, and, of course, Beauty and the Beast.
BATB was always my favorite. I told people it was because I was Belle. You know, brown hair, brown eyes, lovely singing voice, sense of adventure, wore a dress my favorite shade of blue, and was the quirky, bookworm outsider. There were certainly parallels. But I am not the most beautiful girl in town. The gal the town jock is trying to win over? Hardly.
It was a lie. Belle wasn’t the one I identified with… it was the Beast. And not “the Beast” as in “Prince who got transformed into a monster,” but as in a Beast. Misguided, sure, but a Beast nonetheless. And the line that always stuck in my head?
Who could ever learn to love a Beast?
In that story, the answer is Belle. In mine… I’m not sure. Admittedly, I haven’t done a great job of Loving myself. In fact, that benchmark is kind of high. I’d settle for not hating myself most days.
Likewise, Phantom of the Opera has always been a love of mine. The Broadway play is my favorite, but the book is good too, though very different. Of course in both you have the Phantom, the talented, yet hideous, creature who lives beneath the Paris Opera House. Seeing a pattern here? All these creatures with supposed “hidden beauty,” looking for Love. The Beast actually finds it–Go Figure!–but the Phantom is not so fortunate.
I guess real life isn’t as dire as fiction. I might not be the leading lady, but I do have a nose and I’m not that hairy (even without shaving). Yet, like these characters, I’ve never really felt like the real me was all that visible.