Sunday, June 9, 2019

Women and Wellness

Remember the old days, the days of Sex and the City, when Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte got together for brunch. They would dish about men, generally disparaging the inferior half of the human species.

Well, those days are long gone. Now, novelist Jessica Knoll has recounted her Hollywood lunch with movie industry power brokers. She was lunching with women who are strong and empowered, who are seriously successful, not a bunch of brainless twits who stay home baking cookies. Certainly, not the kind of women who stand by their men.

Knoll opens thusly:

A few months ago, I had lunch with the writer behind one of my favorite movies of the year, the agent who made the deal and the producer who packaged the project.

What you really want to know is: what were they talking about? Were they discussing business? Knoll expected as much since they were all powerful businesswomen. She was sorely disappointed.

The consuming object of their conversation-- it was almost an obsession-- was their bodies… the shape, size, form and weight of their female bodies. More specifically they were all involved in one or another “wellness program,” designed to sculpt, shape and hone their aging bodies. One does not know how old they were. One knows that Knoll herself is in her mid-thirties, and that one of the women has just had a baby. They are not exactly bordering on geriatric senescence.

Knoll reports from a world we have never really entered:

Someone was slogging through the Whole30 program, someone had eliminated dairy, and someone else was simply trying to be “good” after a “bad” weekend. The producer said it didn’t matter how “good” she was. She had lost the baby weight and though she may look tolerable in clothes, under the Spanx her stomach was a horror show. The writer said she had so much cellulite on her thighs she looked diseased. I gazed around the restaurant, longingly, wondering what the men eating cheeseburgers were talking about.

What does it really mean? Knoll explains that it’s a con, to dupe smart empowered feminists into becoming obsessed with their bodies. Of course, she is merely begging the question. If these women are so smart and independent and autonomous, how did they get seduced by such a con:

I called this poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear “wellness.” This was before I could recognize wellness culture for what it was — a dangerous con that seduces smart women with pseudoscientific claims of increasing energy, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer and healing skin, gut and fertility problems. But at its core, “wellness” is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.

Consider her salient point: Knoll believes that she was indoctrinated to hate her body. Who, pray tell, was doing the indoctrinating?

In 2019, dieting presents itself as wellness and clean eating, duping modern feminists to participate under the guise of health. Wellness influencers attract sponsorships and hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram by tying before and after selfies to inspiring narratives. Go from sluggish to vibrant, insecure to confident, foggy-brained to cleareyed. But when you have to deprive, punish and isolate yourself to look “good,” it is impossible to feel good. I was my sickest and loneliest when I appeared my healthiest.

As you can imagine, since Knoll wants to turn this story into a feminist morality tale, the fault must lie with the big, bad patriarchy. And yet, why would men, who, if anything have an unhealthy obsession with the beauteous softness of the female body, and who, if I dare say so, are far less obsessed with every gram of cellulite than any woman is, indoctrinate women into hating their bodies?

Women compete with other women to see who is thinnest. They look each other over and praise their skeletal appearances. This hatred of the female body has not been produced by the male gaze, but by other women. Be serious, girls.

The disjunction is glaring, and it is symptomatic.

The wellness industry is the diet industry, and the diet industry is a function of the patriarchal beauty standard under which women either punish themselves to become smaller or are punished for failing to comply, and the stress of this hurts our health too. I am a thin white woman, and the shame and derision I have experienced for failing to be even thinner is nothing compared with what women in less compliant bodies bear. Wellness is a largely white, privileged enterprise catering to largely white, privileged, already thin and able-bodied women, promoting exercise only they have the time to do and Tuscan kale only they have the resources to buy.

OMFG, patriarchal beauty standards. The ghost of Naomi Wolf’s career rides again. Perhaps Knoll missed the most recent Times demolition of Wolf. Paranoid fantasies are not going to make anyone thinner or more lithe or more svelt.

Does Knoll really believe that feminism has made women prey to patriarchal oppression? How does it happen that five decades of feminism has made women so insecure about their ability to attract men. Could it be that they are using their body shapes as excuses for other failings. Moral failings, I mean. If liberated women cannot take responsibility for their own eating habits, what did feminism really accomplish? Moral individuals do not shift the blame, because shifting the blame makes them feel like marionettes, like dupes of the patriarchy.

Anyway, Knoll reaches the correct conclusion:

When men sit down to a business lunch, they don’t waste it pointing out every flaw on their bodies. They discuss ideas, strategies, their plans to take up more space than they already do. Let’s lunch like that.

Perhaps they can achieve this lofty goal by unhooking that feminism drip and living life without aid of an ideology that demeans them.


Anonymous said...

The real secret weapon is the homosexual men we (Patriarchy, Inc.) planted into all their relationships; every gaggle of leftist, feminist women has a good sized collection of gay men who are twice as thin, fit, and body-obsessed as they are. These men are a social must for every emancipated woman. They've been the key accessory for the urbane woman since the mid-1970's.

Gay men acquire critical allies in their efforts to normalize a penchant for casual sex, and the women, in turn, are fed an endless stream of misinformation about what men really want--but from other men who emulate the worst traits among women. And most of these alliances are between women and male bottoms, not women and male tops. Women might learn something from an evening with a top on the prowl. Audrey Hepburn and Gore Vidal star in "Cruising 2"

I speculate that gay men would prefer that single women not marry and go on to have families and children. That usually spells the end of the line for that relationship. The cities are filled with aging, childless feminists and aging, childless gay men; their bond is ressentiment. Feminism is often the endgame of being alone and childless, and guess who is also alone and childless? I think Screwtape would have something interesting to say about this unhealthy alliance.

I lived in Los Angeles, and have seen these desperately thin, food obsessed women close-up, and they possess no sexual attraction whatsoever to a normal man. They just look sickly and tired. None of them have the slightest idea how to eat or how to exercise, and it's hard to imagine any of them could deliver a healthy baby that didn't have 30 food allergies alone. They move from one stupid fad to the next, and sick women attract sick men.

I bet $20 that Naomi Wolf has two big constants in her life: Haagen-Dazs and lots of gay men to come over and cheer her up.

dlsada said...

This is why male dominated societies thrive and female dominated societies ultimately die. Because regardless of how well qualified or ‘intelligent’ women supposedly are, the daily battle with their instincts and innate psychological traits renders them ultimately useless.

Sam L. said...

"Remember the old days, the days of Sex and the City, when Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte got together for brunch. They would dish about men, generally disparaging the inferior half of the human species." NO. I never watched it. I take it that the take on it is that women hate other women.

UbuMaccabee said...

I have too many Ubu's. Cloning is time consuming.

Anonymous said...

A major point in favor of wellness diets conversations is that they are a way safer conversation than politics.

But, got to be careful there too. The other night we were all chatting away about food allergies, the menu at the restaurant... meat.. suddenly a male friend leaned over and said, “shhh, careful, this is a progressive town, you don’t know who might hear..” and then whispered about veal.


Anonymous said...

UbuMaccabee, don't sweat it.. you are still King of the Ubu's.

Leo G said...

Funny, how an article you just published is saying that anti-oxidants are not that helpful. Well it seems that the way to get healthy is to consume more fat and less simple carbs. Maybe the author should keep up with the latest science!