Happy Hump Day!
In previous posts from about a month or so ago, I mentioned researching connections between food and sex. I have (as I said) found a few somewhat interesting items, but nothing really directly about what I’m searching for. This doesn’t mean there isn’t anything (though there really might not be) it just means I haven’t -at this point- found anything and I will keep looking. If there isn’t anything at the end of my search, I may wind up having a rather useful topic to write extensively about, given where so many different points intersect -both directly and indirectly.
While I haven’t found what it is that I’m looking for exactly, I have found other things…some interesting, some tucked into the card file cabinet of my brain called “Repository of Useless Information.” Such as…
Did you know that the development and production of Crisco was originally intended for making raw material for soap?! Seriously…soap! The word “Crisco” is a modification of the words “crystallized cottonseed oil” — and at around the turn of the 20th century, different vegetables and such were being experimented with for things to make other things. Of course, anyone who has ever watched “Fight Club” understands the rudimentary idea behind the connection between fat and soap-making. Still…Crisco ended up outpacing lard (in sales and use), and wound up becoming the “healthier” product because, you know,vegetables or something.
Turns out, though, lard and other marbled animal fat contains Vitamin D…and with the increased use of Crisco, and the eventual push for consuming leaner meats (and better still, poultry & fish), Vitamin D ended up having to be put into something else …which, as most of us who consume dairy products know, the milk most of us purchase in the supermarkets is fortified with Vitamin D.
That’s what I mean by “useless information.” None of that is anything particularly really helpful or meaningful to anyone…at least I don’t know how it would be at this point. Still, it’s interesting stuff…to me…and so I file it away.
Anyway, I came across the Crisco information as a result of two things. First, a discussion with a friend of mine about lard versus vegetable shortening (specifically with respect to baking a type of cookie I had never baked before), and whether or not using lard would make any difference (since I did not have any Crisco on hand). Second, in connection with my recent entries here about fat shaming, I decided to look into a couple of different comparative items in women’s history in diet/fashion between the 1940s/50s/60s and today, and wound up writing this
. Yes, that little note is public, so if you’re interested in where my thoughts went, feel free to click through and read. I find the comparisons between the generations very interesting and relevant to our lives today (especially as women), but really, that isn’t what today’s entry is about. Oh, and it may be useful to see where my thoughts went if any of the thoughts shared in the next portion of this blog seem disconnected.
While I’m still not finding what I’m looking for specifically with respect to the food/sex connection (and I know they are connected, seeing as they are both essential human needs), I’m seeing something of an indirect connection between “idealized” physical beauty (specifically in women) connected directly with diet (and exercise)…and that is undoubtedly connected with sex. The main thrust of my linked note above is that women today are (socially) held to a rather unrealistic standard of perceived perfection (by whom?) in order to be considered attractive (oh, and “healthy”, but I’ve covered that in previous posts already). And while several of the “Do’s & Don’t’s” in the suggestions “For Every Age” contain basic common sense ideas with respect to healthy eating…the premise is not healthy eating, really…or even health. The idea is weight loss, and being as thin as possible while fitting as closely as possible into “the correct bust, waist, hip and ankle measurements” defined as the “graceful, perfectly proportioned” figure…
…and unless you’re a masochist, do not break out the measuring tape.
Those measurements are from 1940, and looking at today’s glossy fashion magazines, one thing that becomes seemingly clear is that those “perfect standards” are still idealized. Now, in the other vintage magazine article that I was looking at, the one with the “7-DAY MENU” that I’ve been reading women blogging about how they’re faring with it, what they conveniently leave out of their commentaries are the other blurbs on the specific vintage article pages…such the “figure line to follow” addressed to female teens (from the 1953 article)…
“Figure problems in this age-group nearly always spring from bad posture. Stand tall, and you’ll find that this will flatten and raise your tummy, tuck your tail under, and square up your shoulders. You should avoid wearing a tiny suspender belt for all occasions and try a light-weight pantie-girdle with a section of satin lastex in front to keep a flat line over the tummy. Suspenders detach so that the girdle can also be worn in summer without stockings. From the time the breasts start to develop a brassiere should be worn. They are made in several cup fittings to coax both the immature bust and the fuller, young bust into a firmly rounded line.”
(And there are blurbs addressed to women in their 20s, 30s, and…*cough*…the “Mature Years” also.)
Now, I’m all for good posture, since good posture helps with back alignment (trust me on this, lower back problems are no fun)…but every single bit of the above sounds like something my grandmother might have suggested. No mistake, many of my grandmother’s suggestions about many things were really useful and practical…but when it came to posture, body size, and “ladylike” presentation, it was very specifically set up by gender (for example, I don’t recall her ever slapping my male cousins between the shoulder blades to encourage standing upright), and had nothing whatsoever to do health but with “proper form”…which was about attractiveness and desirability. That, at its core, is about sex. (I won’t even go into what a recent study is suggesting with respect to bras and how much they appear to have harmed women in the long-term…or how a bra fitting specialist is worried about potentially losing clients and money, you know, since the study findings are preliminary. Yeah right.)
When I say it’s all about sex, I mean quite seriously that it really does boil down to sex. Desirability and attractiveness (to attract a mate) over a lifetime (to keep said mate), no matter what the potential negative effects on women might be. And…more telling…with no equivalent measure for the male half of the species. Even setting aside my grandmother’s admonitions, my dad is also a strong proponent of the “perfection standards” — and I know he’s not alone in any way — which means that no matter how far we progress, women are still expected to conform somehow to unrealistic norms (by most men)…and I do mean all women…even while all women were not actually the intended target.
What do I mean by that, you might be wondering…? Well, this is already a long entry, so I don’t want to make it into War and Peace with the fuller explanation, but to be perfectly clear: the intended female audience was and is white women. There is a well-documented history of how marketing and perfection advertising was/is geared toward white girls and women…with the overarching expectation that all girls and women conform to that “normative standard.” No matter how harmful…no matter what actual differences reside in ethnic groupings, no matter how age changes women’s bodies in myriad ways, no matter those things, the underlying expectation is that all women force themselves into a very specific (racial) mold…hell or high water.
And no…this is not me saying that the above-noted body type is unattractive in any way, or that women who are genetically predisposed toward that body type are somehow lacking in some way. I’m not saying that at all. I have quite a few women friends who actually fit that mold and I think they are lovely. No doubt. However, what I’m asserting is that A body type is not necessarily ideal to turn into THE body type for perfection to strive for. Talk about creating body shame issues, particularly among girls and young women…and even more sadly, girls and young women of color, whose genetic predispositions may not be geared toward that body type even remotely.
Another problem that isn’t addressed in this perfection striving is the level of smug degradation in terms of female hostilities toward one another. On a long-standing social level, women are (and have been) viewed as “cat-like” in terms of feral hostility toward each other…and that is assumed to be a “natural” disposition of women. I would argue, though, that is not something that is inherent to women, at least not in general. I would argue that the constructions of these models and ideals to strive for have contributed to the creation of a false “perfect”, creating an equally false sense of “good” and “bad”, in terms of what we “should” strive for…so women who fit that model and ideal gain a false sense of superiority…be it a moral superiority (“fat girls/women must be lazy”) or just a sense of “being better than” other women who don’t fit that model for whatever reason.
Think about the implications of that idea over the long-term, generationally. The idea of keeping women “busy” with something or other is not in any way new. We live in a patriarchal society, and even the old sexist “barefoot and pregnant” coin is connected with that idea. While there’s no consensus that I’ve found on the origin of that particularly sticky phrase, it is directly
connected with the idea of keeping women busy and in competition with each other (therefore “out of men’s matters”) ~ with the former (now deceased) Arkansas Representative Paul Van Dalsem saying directly
“We don’t have any of these university women in Perry County, but I’ll tell you what we do up there when one of our women starts poking around in something she doesn’t know anything about. We get her an extra milk cow. If that don’t work, we give her a little more garden to tend to. And then if that’s not enough, we get her pregnant and keep her barefoot.”
If that isn’t a blatant enough statement for you, I don’t know how much more explicit you require. Man-tailored (and more specifically, white, heterosexual man-tailored) ideas of keeping women occupied…busy…in competition with each other…are age old (they predate Van Dalsem’s chauvinistic comment considerably — he just put it directly to words in a way that is really familiar), and are just as sickening today as they ever were.
To use our own bodies against us…so that we are nasty with each other…for hairy-palmed cat-fight gratification…while women play into and seem consistently oblivious to it, and even work toward those same masturbatory ideas that are damaging to us all. I recognize this acutely because, at one point in my life, I was one of those girls who believed that because I was slender (and never really thought about the possibility of gaining weight) that I was somehow…in some way…better. Not because I judged people by weight exactly (I didn’t), but because of how I was taught; I believed I had more “desirability options” than other girls who were heavier than me. This created a type of competition in my head with other women (that I recognize today for what it was) rather than speaking out against the bullshit of body shaming and how it is a manufactured idea…bought and sold to women by men, gobbled up and regurgitated so as to be repackaged, and then sold by women to other women. Instead of simply saying FUCK OFF, because:
…because our bodies alone are NOT a reflection of who we are as people, or what is in our hearts and minds, AND our bodies are NOT sole reflections of actual desirability and sensuality…and sexuality.
Again, I am not -and will not- denigrate women who fit the “perfect” standard expectation. Ya don’t blame someone for their genetic predispositions…they didn’t actually do anything to earn that. *chuckle* They simply inherited it.
I am also not trying to downplay the importance of healthy eating and physical activity as part of overall healthy living. Furthest thing from it. However, healthy eating does not automatically translate to food deprivation or enjoyment of eating. Physical activity doesn’t automatically translate to hours daily at the gym. Healthy living is bigger than a formula, and it’s bigger than a “perfection ideal.” Healthy living is a process…a daily, active, conscious choice we make…and it is more to do with living full lives than it is to do with shrinking waistlines to fit into vintage clothing.
Getting back to one of the main points of today’s entry … today is Day 90 of 100
, and I am excited that I actually remembered to look at my calendar and actually write today’s entry with my “time with Hanne” as part of the grand scheme of today’s Hump Day entry. See, over the past 90 days (more actually…but today is the 90th day I’ve actually been actively thinking on and documenting about being this), I’ve been placing active focus on getting moving. From walking in preparation for the Color Run, and…looking forward…in preparation for being a zombie in September (yeah, watch for pictures of THAT down the road), to getting outside on a regular basis since the weather changed and digging in the dirt, to actually getting elbow-deep into housework and domestic goddessing and not using all of the convenience items available. And whodathunk pulling weeds and mowing the lawn (even with an electric lawnmower) would count as getting one’s body moving? But I’ll tell ya, I sweat and am sore afterward…and it feels good
I don’t feel any need to fit into some outdated mode of “perfection” — I am enough. My mother’s and grandmother’s generation passed these ridiculous ideas onto this generation…and I am seeing the continuation of those ideas sadly being passed on to the next generation of young women. I find that very troubling, and this is one area that I would like to address more fully and fight against…if nothing else, by raising more awareness to the ideas that are mostly harmful.
But to end on a more positive note, and closing up the entry where it began… The opening image of this post is of my second generation of gardening. Meaning, I didn’t have a lot of success last year with my black bean plants or with my attempt at a pumpkin patch…but I did manage to save the seeds of that less-than-successful adventure. The opening image is what is developing so far with those second-generation seeds (black bean on the left; sugar pumpkin on the right) and I am very excited that they’re already sprouting. Who knows? Maybe in a few months, I’ll have images to share that are beyond the dirt.
Until then, I hope you have a VERY Happy Hump Day!!