And I’d Do It Again
Twitter: Being a Sexist Pig Is OK. Being a Woman Who Won’t Take It Is Not.
Yeah, what I wrote to this person was pretty rude. But why do these people who don’t know me feel it’s their right to comment on my body?
Twitter, it should be said up front, is a private company that provides a free service. It is under no obligation to allow a user access to their free account.
Twitter is also a place where the leader of the free world can vaguely threaten a nuclear war with a foreign power, and where Richard Spencer can post video of himself and his pathetic little gang of Nazi pals trying to take over again in Charlottesville.
It is not, however, a place where a woman can tell a troll to fuck off. That’ll get you suspended. Now, to be fair, I didn’t just tell someone to fuck off. I told this person, “Hi, I’d like you to find your nearest kitchen implement and fuck yourself with it. I am happiest and healthiest at a size 16. Suck it.”
It was certainly rude, but it was after an exhausting exchange that had culminated in this person telling me to “stop spreading BS” after I said it was OK for women to eat some cheese sometimes. After 10 p.m., it’s possible that I have less grace than I might otherwise have.
A fun thing about being a woman with any kind of public profile is that strangers will come tell you about your body, even if you’re a married mother of two in her mid-thirties who’s never once asked the world at large to comment. It’s an iron rule of womaning; the average American woman is a size 14, but the average acceptable size for an American woman is a size whatever-the-man-who’s-commenting-prefers, which is usually a 6 or below. That is how we got to things like Amy Schumer being called fat when she’s well below the national average. That’s the landscape we live in.
It is permissible in this society for a stranger to tell us that we’re fat and ugly and unrapeable even, but what we must never as women do is react too strongly. That would be abusive. We must not hurt the feelings of the people who want to tell us how worthless we are. Women aren’t supposed to be mean, or biting. We are not supposed to return a volley with equal fervor. We’re to be polite.
I feel perfectly OK with my body after having my two kids. My hips are broader than they used to be. That happens in nature; womens’ bodies release hormones during pregnancy that widen the hips to make birthing easier and less death-inducing. It’s not a new discovery in medical science.
Not that it’s anyone’s business, or at least it shouldn’t be, but for the record two babies also left me with what I call “floppy elephant tummy” and “wonky tits.” This does not negate the fact that I am full-on glorious in the altogether; this body has given life and I’ll take a few scars and stretch marks for that. Since a stranger—and the Twitter help desk—has made my relative confidence into an issue I must discuss, I would further say for the record that I never will have any time for a stranger who feels entitled to comment on my body.
It’s a hard-learned lesson; I spent ages worried that I wasn’t hitting the supermodel standard before I realized that I cannot diet my way into daintiness, that my body’s value is that it is strong and stocky and capable of doing anything I need it to do. I am beautiful not for my narrow shoulders but for the strength in my thighs. There is a grand awe-inspiring dignity and delight in a body like this one. When I am in the right mood, I stop traffic.
Our bodies come in all types and there’s nothing anyone can or should do about that.
Still I am a woman in public and so we must talk about my waist-to-hip ratio and whether it’s healthy, and I must allow this as though it were part of the normal professional course of my life as a working writer. My areas of expertise, by the way, are poverty and class. I have just turned 35 and I have never had more options available to me as far as how to do this whole woman thing. I’m not constrained by the world around me because I’m old enough to not care much for anyone’s unsolicited opinions. I worry about how I feel about me, and whether my partner is happy, and everything beyond that is irrelevant. It’s an intoxicating freedom, this feeling that if anyone saw me and disliked me that would be their own bad judgment and no shortcoming of mine. It is new, and I am still treasuring it the way you do a new flirtation. It feels full and right and audacious.
I’d been talking about the fact that I am happiest when I have a beer and a burger even though I am smallest when I am stressed and barely eating. Someone felt it was necessary to let me know that stressed and unhealthy is good, actually. I told them to get bent. Healthy and slender are not synonyms.
Twitter thought that was dangerous.
It’s a hell of a world when a woman who doesn’t hate herself sufficiently—and who won’t allow others to judge her either—is more of a threat than white supremacists who spew their hate and rage at whatever target they see fit, or sexists who harass any woman they think too uppity.
I have never been a polite woman and it’s very unlikely I start now. Twitter restored my account when I deleted the offending tweet; in the meantime, these hips are wide and lovely and I will walk confidently down the street supremely unbothered by the idea that someone who could never hope to touch me finds me unappealing. If anyone has a problem with that, well. Find your nearest kitchen implement, and fill in the blanks.