Friday, April 6, 2012

Body image and skinny jeans

I own a pair of dark wash jeans that have the power to ruin my morning.

They're labeled a size smaller than I typically wear, due to a weak moment a year ago in a poorly lit dressing room and a little white lie from an earnest salesperson: "They'll stretch to fit." Right.

I put the jeans away before the winter months, anticipating the inevitable weight gain that accompanies my sunlight-deprived, bundled-up misery. But not before pouring myself into them one last time, of course, to confirm what I already suspected. I spent the remainder of the dark, cold winter chastising myself for gaining weight and wishing I lived in southern California.

But then spring arrived, and with that my usual fitness regimen was taken off life support. The jeans came out again, and they fit. Life is good again. I feel vain and shallow for caring about some stupid number inside a pair of pants, resentful that this cultural pressure is placed on me at all and that my other more valid accomplishments seem to pale in comparison in the eyes of our society, but never mind. My skinny jeans fit!

I kicked this idea around in my head for a while, trying to decide whether I wanted to write about it. It's fairly personal, and I'm not particularly proud of the fact that I base a lot of my self-worth on my appearance. But I have a lot of strong feelings about the way girls are socialized with regards to fitness, weight, and body image—much of which, unfortunately, comes from my own life experience. In high school, being told to walk a few laps around a track with the girls, while the boys got to play touch football, was just one example of the underlying message: Boys do; girls are.


Over time, I've learned to stop internalizing that awful crap. (Oh, and for the record, I played touch football with the guys that day.) Skinny jeans notwithstanding, I'm more comfortable in my own skin now than I have ever been in my life.

I think I read somewhere that one way to keep someone weak is to preoccupy them with something trivial (I'm totally paraphrasing). It's true, and I often remind myself of that. But when it comes right down to it, I'm not perfect. I'm just a product of my environment.

Recommended reading: How Feminism Helps My Body Image [Fit-a-licious]; Why Are Parents Less Likely to Take Little Girls Outside to Play? [Time Heathland]