Dumping Diet Culture and "The Patriarchy"
My tenth wedding anniversary was this summer. During our ten years of marriage, we moved five times, had three kids and rescued one black lab. Looking at our wedding photos initially brings a smile to my face. We were so young, excited and clueless about the complicated adventure we were starting.
Since our wedding photos, my husband has lost around 30 pounds. I have probably gained the same. He discovered his love of running and I discovered the freedom of not needing to run. While our marriage is stronger than ever, looking at these photos eventually makes me mad.
I am ready to call it quits, not on my marriage, but with a different bad relationship. It’s time to dump diet culture and “the patriarchy”. And not just me, but our collective society.
These systems of oppression place more worth on my husband’s compact, male body and less value on my large, female body. And that’s complete BS. Yes, he is a rockstar runner and he appears physically fit, but I gave birth to and nursed three humans.
It’s total nonsense that over the years, my husband’s body has gained value and mine has lost value.
For context, here are a few (very simplified) definitions:
Diet culture: a system of beliefs that worships thinness and equates it to health and moral value. It promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status and oppresses people who don’t match up to its picture of “health”
"The patriarchy": a social system in which cis men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority and social privileges. It maintains rigid gender roles and expectations which can be damaging and hurtful to everyone
Our patriarchal culture says women’s bodies are inherently less valuable than men’s bodies. The little value they do possess are to look pretty and please men. As they age, men are seen to be handsome, wise and distinguished. Not so for women. We are perceived to only have a brief moment of peak beauty and then our value is gone.
My moment, according to our society, was in those wedding photos.
Women’s bodies are immensely valuable and powerful. Our beauty, wisdom, and strength continue to grow year to year. While the girl in my wedding pictures was lovely, she didn’t know her worth and power. Now I may have lumps, bumps and wrinkles, but I am also a fierce mom, friend and partner.
Further, diet culture whispers that bigger is bad. However, health and weight are not the same thing!
While some diseases correlate with higher weights, being heavier does not make you unhealthy. For robust scientific evidence supporting this idea see the research article by Linda (Lindo) Bacon PhD and Lucy Aphramor PhD, RD titled “Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift.”
True health is a complex relationship of many factors including (but not limited to) stress, coping skills, movement and the variety of foods you eat.
I refuse to buy into the lies that my body is less than because it is female. I also refuse to believe that because my body is heavier it is less healthy and thus, less valuable.
I reject the falsehoods that “the patriarchy” and diet culture tell me. I believe it is important for us all to be aware of this deceit. By being mindful of these influences, we can start making small changes in how we see ourselves and the world around us. This is the first step in helping create real change.
So, I am dumping diet culture and “the patriarchy”. F#$% off! We all deserve so much better.
End note: I am not an expert in either of these issues. If you wish to learn more about diet culture, weight bias, the patriarchy and oppressive systems, I encourage you to read “The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor, “Body Respect: What conventional health books get wrong, leave out, and just plan fail to understand about weight” by Linda (Lindo) Bacon PhD and Lucy Aphramor PhD, RD., and “Burnout: The Secret of Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Amelia Nagoski and Emily Nagoski. Further, I acknowledge that I write from the perspective of a cis female and my experiences may not reflect the complicated intersections of patriarchy and diet culture with other gender identities.