When the rules are different for men and women I generally have a problem with it. Whether it’s pay, or parental leave or how much sex we’re allowed to enjoy. I’ve always been aware that the rules for men and women are different with food, and right now the rules are changing again.
My boyfriend and I are on a health kick at the moment. We make veggie smoothies together and make funny faces as we drink them. We try our best to drag ourselves out of bed and haul our wobbly bottoms onto exercise gear first thing in the morning. We would both very much like to be thin.
He talks about this, often. He has a bit about how he loves his handsome face, but hates his weird torso. He praises certain shirts for hiding it. It is cute. When he says it, people laugh.
I do not have a bit about it. I do not joke about how the inner part of my arms seem to be on a lifelong mission to attach themselves to my breasts. Even though I can feel them striving for contact under my shirt right now.
Why not? Because I am a woman, and women on diets are not funny. Or fun. When I say something off-handedly critical about my body to all bar my closest friends, it’s as if I’ve announced ASIO are watching my every move. Like it couldn’t be true, it’s unfortunate that I’ve said it, and on the off-chance I’m right, it’s a very bad thing.
You see, women on diets are dangerous.
We're bad feminists and bad dates. The irony of dieting is that women assume you're doing it to be sexy, which isn't okay. While men find the fact that you're doing it totally sexually distasteful. An attractive woman is one with an appetite.
It's like we all got together and agreed that we like girls who eat. Or rather we like girls who talk about being girls who eat, but don't you know... look like it.
That’s what Lauren Bans argues in her brilliant essay “Nobody Wants to be the Girl on the Diet”. She talks about how Jennifer Lawrence is adored for her constant talk of high fat food, from getting Dorito dust on her Oscars frock to really, really loving cake. And how Gwyneth Paltrow is loathed for admitting that looking like Gwyneth (especially past forty) takes work.
Bans also points out that 1 in 2 women in the US are dieters. And that, despite her protestations, Jennifer Lawrence is probably one of them.
Chiming in, Alice Robb notes the situation is not the same for blokes. We love it when Ryan Gosling says “You go to a gym and you lift a heavy thing so a muscle grows, but the only thing the muscle can actually do is to left that heavy thing… After a while they’re like pets because they don’t do anything useful. But you have to feed them and take care of them otherwise they’ll go away. I feel a bit goofy having them, to tell you the truth.”
But can you imagine any woman celebrated for her physique talking about it with the same detachment? What would happen if a Victoria’s Secret Angel said “Yeah, it’s silly that I’ve been eating nothing but steamed chicken for three weeks. But let’s face it, if you couldn’t see my wings through my thigh gap, there’d just be no point, right?”