Morbid Weight Perceptions

A new study found that about a quarter of overweight women viewed themselves as “normal weight”, while 16% of average weight women felt that they were overweight. According to this article, “[the]¬†survey found that 30 percent of adult Americans in the “overweight” class believed they were actually normal size, while 70 percent of those classified as obese felt they were simply overweight. Among the heaviest group, the morbidly obese, 39 percent considered themselves merely overweight”

Sounds a little surprising to me, with all the messages about body weight in the media and eating disorders, I would have assumed that more women would have viewed themselves as heavier, but ok. It’s actually kind of nice, that women are not worrying about their weight.

What’s worrisome to me is the way that particular article presented the results. The tone was one of concern, that it is not healthy for women to underestimate their weight classification. The article states succinctly,¬†“The problem, according to study lead author Mahbubur Rahman, is the ‘fattening of America,’ meaning that for some women, being overweight has become the norm.”

Yes, the fattening of America indeed.

Take a look at those numbers again. Most of the women weren’t saying they were underweight or ideal weight when they weren’t, they were simply using the wrong term. Is it really that much of a problem if an obese woman thinks she is over weight rather than obese? Or for a “morbidly obese” woman to think of herself as merely obese? (The term “morbidly obese” is of course itself a loaded term that many women, understandably, would want to avoid).

And look at the terms used in the article. The ideal weight range was classified as “normal size”. If, as the author suggests, there has been a “fattening of America”, than perhaps these women weren’t misrepresenting themselves at all, they were simply looking around them and noticing that they do, indeed, look like every one else around them.

The authors, both of the study and of the article, seem to think that it is a terrible thing that women think they are in a lower weight range than they are. I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s time for women to take a positive outlook on their bodies, and if it means telling themselves that they are overweight when really they are obese, I’ll take that.

Women and the Back of The Bus

I guess I like to debate.

With every single roomate I’ve had, I’ve grown closer with them through debating life, religion, philosophy, and other essentials–like which purse goes with which necklace.

Today’s debate revolved around the minute inconveniences in life, and whether or not they are “a big deal”. Some examples that were brought up:

-Religious schools which ask their female students not to “put up or take their hair down” during class, because those are sensual acts which might arouse the male teachers (there are no male students in the particular school in question)

-Women being asked/required to sit in the back of some religiously operated bus lines.

-Women being asked to walk on a separate sidewalk from men.

Each of these things, in and of themselves, isn’t really a major inconvenience to women’s lives. My roommate argued that she didn’t really care whether these policies were imposed against her, because it doesn’t really cause her any harm to comply with them.

Sure, the seats in the back may not be as nice as the seats in the front, sure, it’s not to hard to just step outside of the classroom if you want to adjust your hair, sure, the sidewalk on the other side of the street will still get you to where you need to go, but these are not the problems with these policies. Taken as a whole, the policies represent a blatant bias against women.

Now, some parts of halacha are biased against women, I’ll give you that. Women can’t file for jewish divorce, women can’t count as part of the requisite 10 men of a formal prayer group, women can’t lead some parts of the davening service…Depending on interpretation, the list can go on and on.

But these things in question have no basis in halacha. Nowhere are women prevented from walking down the same street with men, traveling in the same part of the car as men, or adjusting their hair in public (except in the view of those which require married women’s hair to be covered in public, which still, of course, only applies to MARRIED women!).

Accepting these requirements, and even encouraging other girls and women to follow them represents an acceptance of the discrimination against women that runs much deeper than halacha.

I know of many people that feel that halachic observance encourages a discriminatory mindset, and are therefore not orthodox (many are very observant egalitarian Jews). My response has been that no, there are plenty of jews that eschew discrimination against women, yet follow halacha because they believe in the greater good of following a set code of values (divinely given or not).

I believe these comments undermine my previous response. The fact that people, modern, worldly, people, can accept these forms of discriminations as “no big inconvenience” shows that they are completely removed from the idea of gender discrimination. Today it may be hair tying and bus seating, tomorrow it may be schools and workplaces (Oh, wait. That was 40 years ago and is still being settled). I believe that it is a commitment to anti-women halachic practices which encourages this behavior.

And this is what scares me the most, because I too engage in some of these anti-women halachic practices. I don’t count myself in the prayer group, I refuse to lead services, I dress modestly. Will I become one of the seperate seaters? Will I encourage women not to tie their hair infront of men? Will I become one of them?