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Unless you are hanging out at high schools, you are probably asking about women.
I think it’s a mix of general condition that makes many women never quite happy with their body (even supermodels disclose having body issues) and an attitude of “wouldn’t it be nice if society valued body X.” But of course in reality society actually does value body Y pretty highly, and so you still feel inadequate.
Picture a geeky guy watching a movie where the geek gets the girl and has an amazing life at the expense of the “dumb jock.”. He’s going to be all about it. But, of course, when the movie is over he’s still a geek, he still faces the barriers that geeks face, and he might still feel like he doesn’t measure up to the “dumb jocks” he was just deriding.
People are complicated.
Part of it - and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - is that girls are taught that it is, on some level, wrong to be happy with your body. If you like the way you look, you’re considered (by other girls) snobby, or someone who “thinks she’s so great”.
On the other hand, complaining about your looks/figure/nose/hips/belly 1) gives you something to talk about with other girls as you all complain about your looks 2) gets you compliments when people tell you you’re wrong and 3) says that you aren’t holding yourself to be above the herd.
I agree. I think many women find it easy to commiserate over body issues while also complimenting each other at the same time. (“I wish my legs looked nicer.” “I know exactly what you mean, it’s so hard keeping them toned.” “Don’t be ridiculous, you have gorgeous legs.” etc) If you’re perfectly happy with your body, obviously you won’t be able to take part in the conversation.
Of course, not all women are like this. Most of my friends don’t really talk about their bodies, aside from “Jesus I need to exercise more”-type comments over the winter months when everyone gets a little lazy. And when someone’s getting married, they get obsessed with back fat.
The funny thing is, when I see pictures of Christina Hendricks at the grocery store, that’s what I look like. Maybe ten pounds lighter than me, but yeah - proportionally, I am Joan Holloway. Instead of being all “Yeah, baby! Sweet!” it’s more like “Oh great. If I wanted to, I could girdle this shit up. So now I have this, like, opportunity that I’m missing. Thanks.”
You pretty much figured it out. Self-loathing and jealousy. They are fat, and women who are in shape remind them of this fact. Women are jealous creatures. Therefore, they hate the skinny bitches.
Haven’t noticed this any more or less in fat or thin women, deemed attractive or unattractive by the men in their communities. Some might say that those who are conventionally good looking have more to lose. (An ongoing debate among some black women is whether or not having good black role models in the media means fighting for racial equality in fashion, including catwalk shows and fashion spreads – or, as some people put it, the equal opportunity to feel bad about our bodies. An argument against it is that, for some black girls, the skinny white ideal is so unrealizable it lets them ignore it altogether. Anyway, end hijack.)
It’s not just jealousy. While most women I know would like to be thinner (most are also carrying some extra weight IMO), very few would ever want to be what passes for Hollywood skinny these days.
Completely agree with this. I’ve been a little overweight since mid-high school, and spent a lot of time in my young adulthood obsessing over how to lose weight and hating my body, etc., and I remember feeling this sense of complete shock when I realized that some of my skinny college friends also hated how they looked. I mean, I had assumed that people who were skinny would obviously love how they looked, because hello, being skinny is the ultimate goal, yes? It turns out that a lot of women hate their looks, regardless of skinny/fat/whatever. And I think we are socialized into it from an early age.
Socialized into hating our looks, our just claiming we do to “even the field” with our female friends? I mean, how many of us really hate our bodies the way we claim? I’ve really grown into my facial features in my twenties, from being a slightly gawky teenager - love my eyes, have well shaped eyebrows, nice full lips. So when it’s time for the bi-weekly girlfriend “Ohmygod, I haaaate my thin lips!” “You hate your lips? Look at my Dumbo ears!” I always have to throw in a “Yeah… I hate my big nose” even though I like it; it’s not tiny but it’s not huge and it suits me perfectly. But what else do I do, sit in silence during Body Slam time? Either these girls actually hate how they look this much, or they feel like it’s proper girl behaviour to say they do. But at that point, everyone else in the group has to play along too. These are not bimbos, they are smart, educated women. But I hear the same things from them that I did when I worked with bimbo waitresses. And this is why I spend more time with my male friends.
So yeah, sometimes I look in the mirror and think, hmm, that needs some work. So then I up the sessions on the treadmill, or whatever. And sometimes I think, Da-yum girl, you look fantastic. And what’s funny is that few people seem to actually mention the things that could actually use some work during Body Slam time - the girl who already has nice legs playing the “Oooh, I wish my legs were more toned!” card but has really greasy hair, or the girl who goes on about her small, close-set eyes (when they’re not) has managed to miss whole patches when moustache bleaching. Now, I wouldn’t really notice Ms Greasy Bangs had a problem if she wasn’t fishing for compliments on her appearance.
Hm. Well, I have no idea how much is real and how much is just “playing along”. Speaking personally, I had a very real self-hatred for my body and overall looks until I was well into my 20s. I think it is pretty common, although if lots of people show up to report that they too think of themselves as smoking hot but pretend to hate themselves just to fit in, I’ll concede the point.
I agree with this. I just wanted to add that many of the celebrities whom women pinpoint as a “Real woman with curves” and “truly beautiful” are still, ultimately, skinny.
It’s a test. When a woman mentions another woman’s appearence you are supposed to use that opportunity to point out how the woman you are talking to is better in some way. The other woman is too fat or too skinny. The woman at hand is more “real”.
I think I look fine to awesome, and I pretty much always have. You can never, ever say this in front of another woman though. Honestly the idea of self-hate is a really incomprehensible concept for me. That is to say, I understand it is something others go through, but I’m not sure why, or what it feels like.
When I was younger (and by younger I mean “10 years old”) I wished I had less boobs – because honestly what 10 year old wants boobs? – but I never hated them or found myself disgusting.
I’d like to point out to the bystanders watching that this is not at all indicative of how all women are. While some social groups do sit around criticizing each other’s looks, most women spend most of their time doing the same things anyone else does- talking about work, discussing politics, etc. You’d get the impression from this thread that women are all obsessed harpies.
MsWhatsit - I’m not suggesting I or most others think we’re damn fine, end of story. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, good. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, ugh, bad. Most of the time I look and think, yup, that’s my face. And then i walk away from the mirror and stop thinking about it. Can’t change it, gotta live with it, and I’m fine with that. I don’t love my nose, I wouldn’t choose it out of a catalogue, but it’s not ugly and I don’t hate it. And nothing would ever compel me to start a conversation with a group of friends/colleagues/classmates with “Ugh, I hate my nose soooo much! Isn’t it sooooo ugly?”
I made my prior post from my phone, and in the interests of keeping it short, I think I came off more curt than intended.
This topic is really interesting to me. I think it’s clear that you can’t make too many universal pronouncements about women’s experiences in this regard. There are many people who feel social pressure not to talk about their own positive self-image, and some who don’t feel that pressure. There are some women who can’t stand their own bodies/looks, and many who feel pretty good about themselves.
I’ll admit that it hadn’t really occurred to me before this thread that one of the reasons I’ve always had the vague idea that most women experience some level of self-hatred is that we are socialized not to talk about ourselves in a positive way. That is really interesting to me. Especially when I think about the fact that I have a 7-year-old daughter, and I can see it in action; like, my mom recently complimented MiniWhatsit on her cute haircut, and MiniWhatsit said, “Thanks! It is really cute!” My mom kind of laughed and said, “Heh, kids.” Which isn’t an overt “Ooh, you shouldn’t have said that” reaction, but even a 7-year-old can pick up on that tone of, “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to just agree.” When someone compliments you on your appearance, you can thank them for the compliment, or you can discuss yourself in a self-deprecating way (“Oh, I have no idea why my hair looks good today; usually it’s a wreck”), but you cannot simply agree. Why, that’s bragging!
I am going to think about this.
I think that might be because compliments are often just social, too. What I mean is, it’s not something you would have spontaneously said, but something that you do to make the other person feel better. And, at some level, you expect the other the other person to do the same, whether by thanking you or by complimenting you. It doesn’t quite explain the humble response, though, unless people subconsciously assume compliments are a zero sum game.
One of the things I love to do is look at little social things like this that most people take for granted.
Yeah. I remember when I realized this - it was in 7th grade, in an all-girls gym class, and everyone was getting their school pictures back. All the girls were comparing pictures and complaining about how horrible they look, and one girl was “Wow, that’s a good picture! I like it!” (about her own photo). And I remember being absolutely shocked that she would admit that she liked her picture - you weren’t supposed to do that! Then, I was surprised that I was shocked, and I started thinking about it.
There’s a scene in Mean Girls that addresses this, too - I’ve seen it on youtube but can’t access that site from work so I can’t link to it.