Pants and Gender

I was going to start this entry by apologising to you, my (hypothetical?) reader(s) for disappearing. But I changed my mind. Instead I’m going to restate that my primary reason for doing this is for me. I hope this helps someone or gives someone something to think about, and I think I may have done that already, which makes this wonderful. I think part of accepting my body is accepting that I can do things for me and not feel guilty about it. I know this next sentence is going to take some of that power away. But, I do hope you don’t mind the lack of apology.

Today, I went pants shopping. It was more clothes shopping in general, but I have a lot of shirts I like, more skirts than I wear (since I generally don’t) and just don’t wear dresses. I am getting older, as people do, and I somehow got it into my head that in order to step toward being a proper adult, I have to start dressing like one. To an extent, this is true. At least if I plan on interviewing in person for white collar jobs and then actually working said job. Dressing like an adult, to me at least, means dressing in something socially acceptable. Something that at the very least doesn’t “highlight” the flaws society says my body has and something that conforms to my gender identity. It also seems to require muting one’s personality. At least, that’s how I see it. Perhaps if my personality were something that conformed more to standards of “acceptable” I wouldn’t think this, but they don’t and that’s okay. If they did, that’s okay too, though I hope that goes without saying.

My current wardrobe can conform. But I don’t wear those pieces together very often. However, I still have some time while my real occupation is student and so I can exist outside of the dress code What Not to Wear tells me about. Now, I’m not saying anything against WNtW; they’re certainly on to something. When I watch I generally do think the “after” looks better than the “before”. But as I’m reading more from the areas of the internet where FA and feminism hangs out, I’m starting to think that seeing these (generally) women the way I see them is problematic. I haven’t been able to look past the “Wow, she looks so much better!” but I see the uniformity all too clearly. Today I was watching the Style network (I think? Cable has too many channels) and it has a similar show. I don’t remember the title, but one of the hosts was reading a letter from the makeover candidate’s daughter that said something like “Mom, if you wear more dresses, I will want to too” as if this were heart breaking and a reason to change the makeover candidate’s wardrobe. I found this hugely problematic.

I won’t lie. This is partially because I have a good relationship with the “wrong” clothes and a pretty bad relationship with the “right” ones. Wrong being clothes intended for men, right being clothes intended for women. Clothes marketed to women don’t fit my body. I am biologically female and I identify as such. However, up until this (fairly) recent trend of longer shirts, shirts to fit women would turn into crop tops on me because they didn’t account for breasts my size. If they made a larger size it was often too boxy and still unflattering (in the traditional sense). Pants designed for women often seem to shout LOOK AT MY THIGHS, and more often than not manage to give me a muffin top even if they’re falling off my body. I (understandably, I hope) hate this. I mentioned my clothes a bit in Two Setbacks, a previous post on here. The pants I talked about being a setback were designed for women (but I didn’t hate them), the shorts I loved are designed for men. When I was 14 or 15 I finally asked my mother if I could try some men’s cargo shorts. I consider that one of the best sartorial decisions I ever made. I haven’t gone back to shorts designed for women. I think I may own a pair and I think they may fit, but I can’t remember wearing then. Pants have been more problematic. As I’ve mentioned in Two Setbacks, pants have to fit more of the body and therefore more can go wrong, so it is harder to find men’s pants that look good on me than it is to find shorts. Men’s and women’s pants are often more similar than men’s and women’s shorts are. And if the only difference is that women’s pants are cut for my body and men’s pants aren’t, then it would make sense for me to gravitate toward women’s pants (even if another difference is that pockets are just more useful on men’s pants).

So, today I went shopping for pants with a healthy FA influenced attitude. I think I did a pretty good job at “ignoring” the numbers. I chose the size I think I would fit best in and my second guess to try on, rather than the size I wanted/hoped I was. I tried on the larger size first. The trauma I saved was noticeable. It’s much easier to go down a size than go up one. Not because of the numbers, per se, but because I didn’t have to see my body in something that squished it into something it wasn’t supposed to look like. Also, pants that are too small are uncomfortable. Pants that are too big are not. I think this new approach saved me. I tried on a lot of pants. Even the ones that were falling off made me hate what I was seeing. I almost pouted my way to jewellery and shoes several times. But I was able to see that it wasn’t my body. It really was the pants. My body wearing shorts “I look good!”; My body wearing pants “I want to cry!”. But I saw that yes, my body is in both those statements so it could not be the cause of the wanting to cry. Thanks FA!

I finally gave up and walked over to the guys’ section. As I was doing so I felt a lot of relief. I also saw a hipster boy in skinny jeans walking over to the juniors’ (teen girls’) section to look at pants. Take that society! The first pair of jeans I picked out and tried on fit better and looked better than any of the pants I had tried on yet that day and quite a few of the pants I own. I also bought a really cute t-shirt from the same section because that’s how I roll.

I feel like there should be a lesson here. But there isn’t. This is just my experience. I am lucky that I’m both willing, wanting and able to shop outside of what’s expected of me because shopping sucks.

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August 15, 2010. Tags: , , , . Current. Leave a comment.

Bad Day

I’m reluctant to write about today, but I keep reminding myself that the whole point of this blog is to publicly (and I use that term loosly) reconstruct my ideas about weight and body image etc.

Today was the first time I stepped on a scale in five months. It didn’t suck. Five months ago, I weighed less, but six months ago I weighed a lot more. I’m pretty much where I always am, and I’m fine with that.

The problem came when my mother was like “But you’re going to lose weight this summer right?” When I offered her a skirt that didn’t fit me and I don’t particularly like anyway. I said “No.” She said “Why not?” I said “Because I haven’t lost any the last four summers.” And then she offered to take me to an endocrinologist because clearly that means something is wrong with my thyroid*.

She also told me I had gained weight since the last time I was home (not true). To me that “No” was hugely emotionally … something. I’m still not over it and it was an hour ago and she apologised for hurting my feelings. I then did 50 crunches. I don’t know if I’m going to eat dinner tonight. I’m going to start jogging tomorrow with my mother since her apology was “I’m sorry but it isn’t like you can’t fix it with exercise.” Since I’m doing it with her, I want to get it over with ASAP. She might be thin, but she’s not in very good shape.

I’ve done this before. Being the friend someone chooses to go running with because they assume since I’m fatter than they are, I’m in worse shape. At the very least they assume I’m not in better shape. It doesn’t make people feel very good when I am. I wanted to play that time. This time I just want to get this over with. I’ll play your game, I’ll play by your rules, but don’t blame me when you quit because I’m winning.

I know I’m being irrational because I was thinking of doing this anyway (without my mother), but the way this came about does not make me happy.

I don’t know if the “No” is a small step, or a step forward accompanied by several steps back.

*Granted, thyroid problems are not unheard of in my family.

June 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Current. 1 comment.

Two Setbacks

So updating is something that maybe I should do at times when I have a blog and all.

Lately I’ve been much more accepting of my body. Partially because it’s been shorts weather (for me, anything above 50 is shorts weather), and I’m so much more comfortable in my shorts than pants. This is because pants have to fit thighs and bellies and butts and then also preferably not extend past my feet too far. Shorts are easier. Shorts have to be baggy, have pockets and comfortably fit my waist. All the other nonsense is covered by their excess bagginess and the fact that they’re short. They’re like skirts without the chub rub (’cause my shorts are also knee length.) I guess it comes down to the fact that I know what I want with shorts but even though I’ve basically been in this body for at least five to seven years, I don’t know what I want in pants yet.

I had one really good week. Every day that week I felt more and more confident in my body. But then it got cold and I was changing in front of a full body mirror and I feel like all the body love I managed to accomplish that week managed to fall apart when I was standing in front of the mirror in those pants. While, as I’ve mentioned before, I generally fit in straight sizes due to my height and what might actually be a tenuous status as a fatty*, I feel like this setback in clothes has made me feel even more strongly about all bodies being able to find clothes that fit them. It isn’t just a question of visibility and versatility, though those are probably the two most prominent reasons. It’s the fact that accepting our naked body is one thing, it’s something only you and those you let in (and also medical professionals) are allowed to see. Accepting my clothed body seems to be a lot harder than accepting my naked one. Because clothing doesn’t always fit right. Because clothing impacts how everyone else sees me. Trousers of all sorts seem to create a roll that wasn’t there before. They seem to highlight the size of my thighs. They throw all the proportions that were fine a second ago into some sort of weird shape I don’t want. It’s not that I’m wearing the wrong size pants, I’ve considered it. It’s that I’m not comfortable with the uniformity my legs get. All the muscle and the fat just gets lumped into one casing. Or maybe that I’m just not comfortable. When I notice this happening to me when I have all the options that I do, I can’t imagine what someone who is solidly plus-sized has to go through.

My other large setback has to do with the fact that my temporary apartment is soon to become my former apartment. This means that I’m having a hard time cooking or going grocery shopping and again, limiting my calories to an unhealthy number. This is part to do with the fact that I keep odd hours and partially because I’ve eliminated meat from my diet for moral reasons and this makes finding a decent sandwich a bit more difficult. I’ve already felt the mental/emotional side effects of the self-imposed starvation** kick in this morning when I had my breakfast with me on the subway and I absolutely did not want to eat it in public. I am pretty far along in this whole body acceptance journey, I think, especially considering that my active and reflective participation has been happening for fewer than six months. That said, I would be a liar if I weren’t hoping I’d lose a few pounds and keep it off for a while if I’m going to do this silly diet*** anyway. I am far enough along though, to say that when I am back in a more permanent residence, I will stop this nonsense. Which is a huge step for me. Usually I’m promising myself that as soon as I can, I’ll halve my calories and double my exercise. It’s liberating going the other way (well, for the food anyway, I still plan on exercising more ’cause it helps me sleep better). So while this is a setback it’s one that’s let me see how far I’ve come.

*I still don’t have enough body and cultural awareness to actually make this call.
**I believe my current caloric intake is around 1,200 kcal a day. So still within “normal” diet rules and starvation might be too harsh of a word, but I’m kind of hungry right now, but nowhere is open and I don’t have any food.
***Diet in this particular instance means what I eat, not a means to lose weight.

May 28, 2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.