Tonight, I was walking out of my cultural theory class and I had a conversation with one of my classmates that went something like this:
Classmate: My legs hurt.
Classmate: I’ve been working with this personal trainer. I’m trying to become a better person.
Me: Through working out?
Classmate: Well, I can’t treat other people right before I learn how to treat myself.
My first thought, as I suppose you can tell from my immediate reaction, was that going to the gym is not the way that I would love my body. This is because gyms contain 2 things that I dislike most in life: (1) exercise machinery and (2) large groups of women in spandex.
Secondly, I don’t think there is anything wrong with working out or attaching a certain level of pleasure to it (although I don’t understand it). But, it seems to me that there is something very dangerous about employing it in this context. If we gauge our own ethics by the way we “treat” our bodies, do we then make external judgments about the bodies of others?
Being a vegetarian I feel like I walk that fine line. Although, my commitment to vegetarianism has more to do with my impact on the world than that of my own body I have to be very careful about not making judgment about what other people choose to put into their bodies.
My classmate, who is also my friend, derives her belief about exercise from a distinctly religious context. She, too, is a vegetarian, because her religion equates diet with the way she treats her body as well as the way she treats the world. She extends this tenet into a belief that working out has some sort of attachment to morality based on this relationship.
Did I mention that I just got out of cultural theory class? Sorry if my academic brain took over there. The point it that this is certainly not the first time we have all heard this logic before. That looking good by this narrow, exclusionary standard of beauty makes one a better person. And when it is explicit in that way it is very easy to critique because it seems so transparent. But the subtle ways that these ideas permeate our culture at so many levels…That really scares me.I really believe that it is this subtlety that allows violence against people who don’t fit these arbitrary standards to not warrant the sort of reaction that those of use in the fatosphere would expect.
And because I was not able to share my thoughts with my friend during our short goodbye, I am so grateful to be able to flesh out my thoughts here. So, with that I am going to attempt to recover from the worst flu and get some rest.