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     Volume 6 Issue 43 | November 9, 2007 |

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So What If I'm Fat?

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

What is it about being a woman that automatically makes you free game for comments about your figure and your appearance? In general people love talking about things that don't concern them and also openly discussing the personal matters of others -- i.e. weight, family problems etc. What I want to know is who are these people and why do they think they have a right to so unabashedly pass judgement on others?

While I have to pause here for a second and say that men also have to deal with other people commenting on their weight gain and loss, I will also say that, somehow, it does not seem to be as offensive as when a woman is the target of such remarks. At the risk of sounding sexist, men don't have it half as bad as we women do. In fact a man can get as fat as he wants and hardly anyone will bat an eyelash. It is socially acceptable, almost, to be a “healthy” man. Obviously because it means that whoever the women in question who is in charge of his food -- his mother or his wife -- is doing her job well.

God forgive the woman, on the other hand, who has the nerve to either eat too much or too little. And if God does forgive her you can be sure that no one else will.

Just the other day, I was sitting in the office minding my own business when a man -- I wouldn't exactly call him a colleague because I do not directly work with him -- walked into our cubicle and stopped dead in his tracks. Surprised by the dramatic reaction I looked up only to find that he was staring pointedly at me. “Good lord,” he said, “You frightened me.” Not understanding why my presence in my own cubicle would frighten him I stupidly asked him why. “You have gotten so fat, it is ridiculous. What on earth happened? How did you get this way?” I was stunned. While he proceeded to tell me that I looked much better before, when I was thinner, I just stared at him. After all, how do you react to such rudeness? After a few minutes of him going on in this fashion I came back to my senses and proceeded to tell him -- very politely, of course -- that it was none of his business whether I have gained weight or not and he should not make comments about my figure because it is completely inappropriate. Of course I should not have bothered. I mean, good manners and appropriateness should be completely lost on someone who is boorish enough to openly criticise a woman's weight. And true to his nature he actually smirked and said very snidely, “you definitely looked better before.”

Now, why this man thinks that I would want his approval is beyond me. Furthermore, why he thinks that he actually has the right to be so candid with me is also something that I fail to understand. Perhaps this was his way of being chummy. You know how some people think that by insulting others, they become more endearing? Or perhaps he thought that by telling me that I had gained weight he had done me a huge favour and brought something new to my attention. Maybe he even thought that he was performing some kind of Samaritan act by openly telling me what a fat cow I had become and that I should immediately fix this earth-shattering problem that “frightened” him so. Whatever the reason is, it is disturbing to me that he walked out of the cubicle looking extremely pleased with himself. And no, as much as I would love to just write this man off as a jerk, it is not because he was happy to hurt my feelings. In fact, I doubt he even realised that he said something hurtful. To him, speaking in this way -- meaning speaking obnoxiously -- is natural to him, because he lacks the finesse of good manners.

It speaks volumes about our culture, the fact that men feel like they have the right to talk about a woman's body to her face, being as offensive as they wish. It is a wonder our country is not full of women with eating disorders with all the obnoxious commentary they have to endure about their figures. And what's more, if you have the nerve to be offended and say as much, they will have no idea why you are being so, as they put it, sensitive. Call me silly but I grew up in a home where ridiculing people's physical appearances was something that showed how ill-mannered you are.

Here's a tip for all you men who undoubtedly think that open remarks about a woman's figure is charming. It is not. It is extremely rude and the fact that you have not been slapped in the face for such comments speaks volumes for the woman in question.

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