The following email exchange happened a while back. I realise that I probably overreacted, but what he said still does bother me because a lot of guys do somehow think that an appropriate or relevant response to a girl expressing her low-self esteem is to assure her that they still find her attractive… I’m just going to leave this here without expressing any further opinion on it. You are free to come up with your own conclusions on this.
Me: “My initial response to “I can be beautiful at my healthy weight” was “wtf, no, you need to have a BMI of less than 17 and have visible hip-bones and a thigh gap to be beautiful”.”
Him: You are beautiful now and I absolutely believe you can be beautiful at your healthy weight. And maybe I would fall in love with you then… You know my enthusiasm for girls at/a little heavier than their healthy weight.
Me: I don’t even really care whether [my love interest] finds me beautiful at my healthy weight, and if his opinion on this doesn’t matter…I’m sorry, but yours doesn’t really either. The thing about my issues with weight is that it’s not even about weight. To me, skinny=self-control=beautiful. That’s why I do it. It’s not even about society or media or anything else saying skinny=beautiful, and it’s certainly not the opinions of men! And if you fall in love with me for my body, you need to stop. Love is not lust, and if you think they’re equivalent, you need to seriously re-evaluate how you see women. Also, the world does not revolve around men. Women’s self-esteem does not revolve around men. Women’s desire to be thin is largely based on the fact that this is what other women judge them on, not based around what men judge them for. If men’s opinions were at all important in this discussion, the standards for beauty wouldn’t be as thin as they are. A very large number of men prefer curvy women because they’re biologically programmed to do so, curvy women are more fertile, favouring them favours the passing on of any particular man’s genetic material.
Him: Why is it that you this sensitive over topics that have to do with how men and women interact with each other (I’m not sure that one was brought up here)? I do notice that whenever I say something that has to do with women (I don’t know what exactly about women is it anymore) you do start telling me about how evil and unworthy men are. Do you hate men? And do you believe women are superior to men or something like that?
PSA I posted on Facebook a while ago:
Don’t touch someone without their permission. Do not grab someone without their permission.
If you have already grabbed someone, and they try to pull away, let go; they clearly don’t want you touching them. Someone pulling away is not an invitation to grab tighter.
Some people will not verbally tell you to let go. Some people find it difficult to assert boundaries. If you are obviously making someone uncomfortable, you need to stop, even if they haven’t explicitly told you to.
This happened to me. I would have been less bothered by the whole thing if:
1. They’d let go when I pulled away. That they didn’t tangibly demonstrated that they had no understanding of the notion that many people are unable to establish or assert boundaries. Since I’ve struggled with establishing boundaries before, this is something really important to me.
2. It was the first time that they’d displayed inappropriate behaviour or the first time they’d been called out on it. The fact that this person consistently only ever does it to girls and that this person tends to treat any girl’s objection to this behaviour as not-to-be-taken seriously bothers me. I can understand ignorance, especially in a society that fails to show people what boundaries look like, but when someone has told you before that your level of aggression makes people uncomfortable and that it’s inappropriate, the correct response is to look at your own behaviour and your own attitudes towards other people’s rights to see what needs to change, not to ignore the other person because girls just overreact.
3. If this wasn’t part of a pervasive attitude held by people, particularly guys, in our society. I wouldn’t have posted it on Facebook if I was directing it at the person who grabbed me. I would have settled it privately (I did, actually). By posting it on Facebook, I was trying to tell a wider group of people that this is an attitude that needs changing (in hindsight, I should have hid that Facebook post from the person involved…but what’s done is done).
Long story short, though, for all the people who think feminism isn’t an issue, this is why it’s important. Because women want to be safe in their communities, and they aren’t. I was lucky, this person only grabbed me. But people need to be taught that other people’s right to personal space and to not be made to feel uncomfortable by another person’s actions are important. People need to be taught that women don’t actually overreact, and that if a woman says no, she means it.