IF LOOKS COULD KILL
Looksism: The Most Personal Oppression
Men teach us that there are intrinsic standards of beauty (“aesthetics”) that apply to people, but these standards are political and manipulated, and aren’t an innate part of ourselves. If we don’t think them through, we’ll just accept them and think they come from inside us.
Patriarchy couldn’t exist without a complicated network of lies that are made to feel so familiar that they’re taken for granted as the truth. When you believe those lies, you believe in patriarchy. When you support those lies, you support the rule of male over female and the rule of the more privileged over those they oppress. But when you decide to question and reject patriarchal beliefs, you challenge patriarchy at its core.
In order to improve our lives and to even survive, we must challenge every lie we’re taught. Changing the basis of what you’re taught to believe is “natural” or “unnatural,” “normal” or “abnormal,” “beautiful” or “ugly,” changes everything. Recognizing patriarchal cons as universal, rather than our own personal problem, is Radical Feminist. We don’t just accept other lies we are taught, like that sado-masochistic feelings are innate and inevitable – we say no to them.
Fear of being oppressed by being called “ugly” is part of what motivates many women to be looksist by “othering” and marginalizing women with the least looks privilege. Yet, what if we could create more camaraderie and empathy among us, instead of the usual competition? We are all in this together — all women are vulnerable to looksism. Unlike most of the other issues that divide women, no woman is guaranteed looks privilege forever.
This is an oppression by which girls and women torture themselves, mutilate themselves, and kill themselves – because of focusing their self-hatred (driven by patriarchal rules) on themselves.
Some consider looksism a trivial issue, but it reaches right down into the heart of who is loved and who is rejected. It is one of the major weapons that patriarchy uses to divide women. Other oppressions are linked with looksism, but looksism is the most difficult to get political acknowledgement and support about. The politics of looksism is connected with genocide and gynocide.
Most women never feel attractive enough, because male standards of beauty are unnatural and keep changing. The patriarchal media and corporations make billions off selling women surgery and toxic products that damage their health and, ironically, their looks. These stinking products also literally kill, and pollute the earth and water.
Yet women could be freed from this self-destructive game if they used basic Feminist politics to examine and reject male “beauty” standards that, in reality, are often quite ugly. Most women are afraid to even think about what is truly beautiful because it completely disturbs their sense of reality. Some question particular standards, but don’t question what is named beauty itself in patriarchy. I see so many feminists talking around the issue, but clearly still believing the artifice that what men tell us is beautiful, in reality, is.
Mainstream media shows us almost no images of Lesbians or women just looking ordinary. Women are portrayed grotesquely altered in ways that men never are, and women are judged by completely different standards than men are. In the media, the more sloppy and “unattractive” (by the standards set for women) that men are, the more attractive and “manly” they are considered to be. Even ageism seems to not be problem for old men if they are rich enough.
Because of the pressure on all girls and women to alter ourselves, mothers police their daughters, and women police other women, including friends, to fit the various male standards of looks and femininity. The more natural and unaltered a woman tries to be, the more policed she is. Her weight, hair, clothes, shoes, etc. are all criticized in an effort to make her obey male rules.
When I explore issues that affect Lesbians and women, I think about who does it serve — and who doesn’t it serve — to believe what men, and women allied with patriarchy, tell us about how we should look and about what is attractive or “ugly.”
I grew up seeing that my mother’s measurement of value for herself and other women was based primarily on how they looked. Were they “’good-looking” or not? Her standard of what was considered “good looking” was rarely based on what I considered to be intrinsically beautiful – a girl or woman who was natural, courageous, strong, kind, and loving, who thought for herself, no matter the opposition, who fought for justice, and was radiant with a love of life and nature. A female who glowed with love for other females added to her handsomeness. And she did not follow or reflect the demeaning artificiality women use who obey patriarchal rules of “beauty.” She refused all signs that would mark her as a man’s woman.
I remember my mother calling one of the first girls I was in love with (when I was five), “homely.” I didn’t know what it meant until she told me, but I remained convinced that that girl was beautiful.
When we are trained from our beginnings with propaganda about what beauty is and what ugliness is, and who to trust and who to fear, we are also taught what our roles are to be in patriarchy. Grotesque Disney cartoon images and later animation teach us what “normal” women are supposed to look like, even if they are a travesty of a female hippopotamus with a bow on her head and garish lipstick on her mouth. No female animal ever looks or sounds the way they are portrayed in patriarchal media. But when you grow up with bizarre, unnatural images, it’s hard to not internalize them. Even later animation that attempts to be less sexist still shows females, including animals, in some form of traditional male-defined feminine role that hurts all females.
One day I went with a group of Lesbian friends to an aquarium. I saw some of the most amazing beings I’ve ever met – cuttlefish, who are cephalopods, related to squids and octopuses, and considered to have primate-level intelligence. As soon as I saw them I again wondered how anyone could believe the story we’re taught that “man” is the furthest evolved of all animals. Humans are animals, but men are so obviously not the pinnacle of perfection.
The cuttlefish were soft and sensuous, swimming by gently rippling the edges of their bodies, with ever-changing patterns and flashes of color flowing over them. They use their colors to communicate, and can decide to show intricate designs and colors on one side of their body which are completely different from the other side. Even though they were captives in a sordid place, there was a deep sense of peace about them. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any being as beautiful.
I moved closer to the glass, and a cuttlefish came up and looked deeply into my eyes. She had to work hard, undulating the edges of her body so that she stayed at eye level with me. I felt that she was speaking to me, but I couldn’t understand. I wanted desperately to free her and the others. I was in awe of these exquisitely beautiful beings.
As people passed by, I began to hear their comments. “God, I’ve never seen anything so ugly. What is that weird thing?” The hatred aimed at these luminous beings was a shock.1 I’m used to Lesbians getting this kind of treatment, but not usually animals. This was an example yet again of people obeying patriarchal rules about what is considered beautiful and what is called ugly.
I wanted to protect the cuttlefish as I want to protect Lesbians and all females. I felt more clearly than I ever had before that some men and some women’s alliance with the worst men means they don’t just hate us — they hate all life — except, of course, that life which is useful to them. To protect ourselves from such hatred we have to change everything we’ve been taught by patriarchy about what’s “beautiful” and what’s “ugly.” That changes how we relate to each other and to life itself.
The Politics of Beauty
Hetero-patriarchy is based on lies: the lie that patriarchy is inevitable, the lie that males are superior to females, the lie that all females are naturally meant to be het and/or mothers, the lie that Family is good, wholesome, and necessary, the lie that racism and classism are inevitable, the lie that christian European-descent peoples and cultures are superior (even though their “superior” technology is destroying the Earth), the lie that all animals and plants are inferior to mankind, and the lie that a Higher Power has created innately good and innately bad people on Earth who are easily recognizable, because god bestows “beauty” on the “Good” and marks the “Bad” with “ugliness.”
One of the earliest, cruelest lies we learn is that we should fear and hate those who are different from the hetero-patriarchal norm – even if it’s our own selves. From fairy tales to the film industry, the “ugly,” “deformed,” or old person is depicted as evil, while brutal men who have the power of life and death over us are considered “attractive” and “charming.” The courageous witch is called “hideous,” while some of the most dangerous men on Earth are called “handsome.” And of course, Dykes are portrayed as unnatural and horrible, if we’re mentioned at all.
Children are barraged with this destructive propaganda in cartoons and animation, so most children quickly learn that children’s society often means the popular, “attractive” children ally in groups who exclude and sometimes bully the less “’attractive.” (Classism and racism and other oppressions also greatly affect who is popular, including how children appear, whether they wear more expensive, new clothes versus used, shabby ill-fitting clothing, to having surgery to correct “defects.”)
In a recent blog post a feminist described why she was accepted in a male group: “I was exactly what a Boy’s Club wanted. I was a young, not-hideous woman who passionately supported their cause.” I’m still in a bit of shock that a self-described feminist would use the term “hideous” to describe other women and am still wondering what she actually meant. Certainly, by the context, old women might be considered “hideous,” but I’m also thinking Lesbians, women oppressed by racism, ableism, etc. What kind of feminist thinks other women who lack her privilege are “hideous”? This is more than just projecting and spreading how the men would think, but reflect her own thoughts and politics. It’s horrific that any feminist would use “hideous” to describe any women. But that reflects how acceptable looksism has become.
Looksism is often ignored even by politically aware Radical Feminists, partly because it isn’t considered a valid oppression by male political groups. Yet looksism is intensely political, and is used to perpetuate all other oppressions, including heterosexism, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, classism, imperialism, ableism, ageism, and fat oppression. The people who are visibly a member of an oppressed group get the worst treatment. Those who are clearly more Butch, fat, dark, disabled, older, or not yet adult, and poor are more oppressed than others of the same group who look less blatant. Those who look the most female – the most like Dykes – get treated far worse than those who look effeminate and who obey the rule of male-defined “femininity.” It’s no coincidence that gay men attacking in print Lesbians who they had never seen, called the Lesbians both “man-hating and “ugly.”3
When men control governments, they control the cultures of their countries. The most powerful countries also influence and control the cultures of others. Men in power decide which faces and bodies are to be loved and admired, which are to be tolerated and pitied, and which are to be shunned and despised. Those decisions are based on what will serve men, regardless of the pain and oppression they cause. In many parts of the world, white/European-descent gentile men have enforced the idea that pinnacle of perfection is rich, thin, young, able-bodied, het, christian, light-skinned Euro-descent men, even though, as a group, those are the most selfish, hateful, thieving, murderous, and destructive men on Earth. This propaganda protects patriarchy by setting up women to fight each other on behalf of “their” men.
Instead of bonding together, oppressed people who are more privileged than others in the patriarchal hierarchy are more likely to despise those that the men in power designate as beneath them. That’s how oppression continues: the rich woman knows she’s not worth as much as a man, but at least she feels superior to a poor woman. The poor woman is treated badly, but if she’s thin and has “good looks,” she can pride herself on that. The fat poor heterosexual woman knows she’s despised, but at least she’s “normal” and not a Dyke. The lowest in status are those who are the most oppressed and who suffer multiple oppressions – the racially or ethnically oppressed, never-het, Butch, lifelong Dykes who are fat, poor, old, disabled, and considered ugly.
One of the cruelest aspects of patriarchal hate propaganda is that it can even make one’s own group seem alien, while the more privileged group appears in the media as cozily familiar. Studies were done in the U.S. using two sets of dolls that were identical except for color, with one group dark-skinned and the other light.3 Young children were asked which doll “you would want to be, you want to play with, is a nice color and would take home if you could.” In spite of African-American Pride movements, 65% of the African-American children chose the light-skinned dolls. This is alarming evidence of the effects of institutionalized racism in which everyone in the U.S. is taught that European-descent, especially WASP, appearance and culture is the best. (There is a excellent more recent video of African-descent girls talking about the effects of racism on themselves and the idea of beauty — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjy9q8VekmE)
Racist propaganda has been going on for hundreds of years. History is re-written so that the accomplishments of racially oppressed cultures not only are hidden but are often credited to their oppressors and the invaders of their countries. Many light-skinned peoples pride themselves on the lie that the ancient civilizations of Egypt were created by people who looked like them. Much of the evidence of the truth has been systematically destroyed over the centuries, yet there are still many portraits and sculptures that survive, showing dark-skinned ancient Egyptian queens and kings. Drawings from several hundred years ago show the face of the Great Sphinx of Egypt to be clearly African, and not Arabic or European.4 The Sphinx was not eroded into unrecognizability by weather and time, as so many historical and archeological books claim. Invading soldiers deliberately used her for target practice until she was no longer identifiable as African.5 African and African-descent researchers have made this public, but most white/European-descent historians still ignore and deny these facts – just as they deny proof that humans were in the Americas for over forty thousand years and came from the south and central Pacific as well as from Siberia, as if that gives Euro-descent people more claim to the land they stole. Their painters and sculptors even portray their Jewish god and followers as looking northern European.
Racism fuels some lies, while male-supremacy fuels other lies. Male historians deny the existence of female-centered cultures before patriarchy existed.
Who knows what else has been changed? There are still a few statues of female sphinxes, but most ancient representations of women from many cultures throughout the world have been altered or destroyed, leaving us little evidence of the time before men took power. (Max Dashu’s Suppressed Histories Archives is a wonderful international comprehensive counter to patriarchal lies.) Male historians also attribute as many of women’s accomplishments as possible to men, and when they can’t ignore certain women in history, they make sure they are portrayed as heterosexual and devoted to men, even when they are well known to be Lesbians. A more recent version of this male re-writing of history is when the transgender cult describes Dykey women and Butches from the past as being “transsexuals” or “transgender,” and actually calls them by male pronouns! Nothing like desecrating the memory of dead women on behalf of men.
The politics of the European christian gentile ideal of beauty developed when the European aristocracy decided they needed excuses for oppressing their own poor people and the people in the countries they invaded. When the Roman Empire had invaded and controlled most of Europe, northern Europeans were considered uncivilized and inferior savages by the imperialistic Romans, but when they themselves later became invaders, they also called their victims “savages,” making those people less human and somehow deserving of the atrocities the Europeans committed against them. (Other patriarchal cultures, such as Islam, were also spread by invasion from Arabia into Africa, parts of Europe, Asia, and reaching to Indonesia, and did similar things, but the European dominance, which is still affecting many of us, went beyond imperialism into genocide.) Most European cultures became competitive, cruel, greedy, and domineering, and met anyone different from themselves with only conquest, theft, slavery, and murder in mind. (As Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
Many christian European and European-descent social scientists have written about people’s so-called “natural” fear and hostility toward those who are different than themselves, but it’s European christians who’ve displayed this quality the most consistently and cruelly. In many countries where Europeans invaded they were at first received with friendship, generosity, and courtesy, even though they looked very different than the inhabitants. Meanwhile, Europeans named anyone who looked different as “ugly.”
In Europe, the lightest skin was considered “beautiful” because only the rich could be extremely pale, since they didn’t have to work outdoors in the sun. During the Industrial Age, factory workers were pale from lack of sunlight, while the rich had leisure time to sun themselves at the Riviera, so suntans became “attractive” — as long as it wasn’t someone’s natural skin color.
It’s very likely that thinness became a status symbol because rich European men’s wives were supposed to look fragile and weak, showing that they didn’t need to do any work. The woman’s thinness also made her husband look and feel more powerful by contrast. That mania for thinness is still related to class, nationality, and race.
The supposed “beauty” standards of female facial features are based on the qualities that distinguish gentile Europeans from most other racial and ethnic groups. Some characteristics of “beauty” and “ugliness” don’t seem to fit into set formulas that further racism or ethnicism, because male rule thrives on hierarchy and inequality, so that even in racially similar populations there still have to be standards defining the hierarchy of the “most attractive” to the “least attractive.” When most people accept those rules, it’s then very easy for them to know their place or be put back in their place if they try to escape. It’s just like hierarchical school play-ground culture – if you don’t like what someone says you can always try to humiliate them by making fun of their looks.
What’s in a face? A face can tell you almost everything about someone – her sex, race, age, class, whether she’s a Lesbian or het, and how female-identified, Lesbian-identified, and Butch she is. People project their inner selves into their facial expression so that you can sometimes tell if you could like or trust someone just by the look on her face. Expressions can reflect directness and honesty, or manipulation and pretense. If a female chooses to cover her face in make-up and literally change her features through surgery and electrolysis, then she’s making a definite statement about who she is and how she’s likely to relate to you. If her own face isn’t good enough for her, what will she think about yours?
Fear of Nature
I believe that in dominant Euro-centric cultures, we are fed patriarchal lies when we are little girls, which teach us to transfer our reasonable fear of the men and boys who threaten and assault us (often in our own families) onto harmless, innocent little animals — many of whom are revered in other cultures. Most girls are sexually assaulted and all girls are sexually harassed. It is terrible to be living in continual fear, often with no one to go to for support. Why else do girls and women shudder at the thought of certain animals or their body parts, such as snakes and little useful tails on rats and mice, rather than the more dangerous claws and fangs of more popular animals? Films and television producers love to show women screaming in terror at the sight of sweet little animals. Alfred Hitchcock even got women to be afraid of birds!
We are not instinctively afraid of nature and animals. Until fairly recently, nature was the home of humans for millennia, and no one would waste time being afraid of harmless creatures. If it wasn’t for being bombarded with horror stories, we would not be afraid of spiders, rodents, bats, etc.
How many readers just shuddered reading what I wrote, when they envision those animals? How many shudder when seeing media images of males being worshipped, including sometimes their pricks, and women pornified into grotesque objects? (Girls and women did used to feel horror or disgust at seeing pricks, knowing what they represent. That is what I think we have an inborn fear/revulsion of – not little harmless animals.)
In Laurel Holliday’s book, “Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries,” she includes a woman’s story of how, as a little girl, she and her family hid from the Nazis in the sewers of Warsaw. This was a short piece, and yet she mentions how the sewer rats (Rattus Norvegicus, also the domestic rat, lab rat, “pet” rat) were her “friends.” She didn’t say if they brought her food or just kissed and cuddled her to comfort her during such a terrifying time, but it was touching that she included them in her story. Knowing rats’ capacity for kindness, I am sure they could tell how afraid and lonely she was, and so gave her that special deep love that rats know how to give.
(Since originally writing this, I found out about the Rat Community, which is 99% women, most of who are involved in rescuing rats and who go against rat-phobic patriarchal propaganda. Rats are amazingly intelligent, loving, thoughtful little people who are hated and feared by humans who’ve never even known them personally, as also Lesbians and other oppressed peoples are feared and hated.)
Cable television channels that used to show beautiful and informative nature documentaries, now mostly portray wild animals as evil monsters who deliberately want to hurt humans and who therefore must be conquered and destroyed by “courageous,” posturing, cruel men. The men look silly when you recognize that the terrified animal being filmed is clearly trying desperately to escape the hunters, so they rev up the music and intersperse shots of scary close ups of eyes and fangs, often of clearly unrelated species, and repeatedly say how “dangerous” the poor animal is. Most of the remaining channels on animals, science, and nature also show men as conquerors of nature, stalking, hunting, experimenting on, torturing, and killing wild and domestic animals for sport.
Various methods are also used to train people to think of animals as “other” – as not being a person we could identify with or love unless we own them. Instead of saying an animal in a documentary is “eating,” they are described as “feeding.” “The deer were out feeding in the twilight….” When did this ridiculous, pretentious crap begin? Feeding is what somewhat does when giving someone else food, not when they’re eating. And why do people repeat it without thinking?
Instead of using common sense and experience to know that of course animals think and feel emotions as we do, we are ridiculed into believing that it is “anthropomorphizing”6 to recognize what is obvious until we obey “the expert” and stop. We are taught to disconnect our own experience from what we then believe. This is a basic lesson in patriarchy – ignore your own female wisdom and common sense.
Even animal lovers sound embarrassed and apologize for daring to say the truth that of course animals think and feel. And then too often people believe and repeat the lies that some animals are superior to other animals, so that women who think it’s wrong to eat mammals or birds, happily eat fish and kill spiders. When asked why, a friend told me, “Fish don’t feel as much.” This was a longtime Radical Feminist who surely knew the history of male scientists lying when they wrote declaring that women felt less than men, and that people oppressed by racism felt less than Euro-descent people, and slaves felt less than slave owners. I asked her if she had ever seen/been with fish in their own environment and she said no. Yet she repeated the propaganda against fish, a people she did not even know.
I have swum/snorkeled with fish and saw every emotion in fish in that short period of time that I have seen in humans. I saw curiosity, affection, anger, outrage, happiness, fear, jealousy, and even embarrassment. I spoke to fish I’d never seen before, offering them love, and they immediately responded by coming to me and swimming around me, touching me with what felt like a loving answer. I am very impressed with fish, but I certainly was taught to think of them as barely alive. (And I had only met fish who were lonely, mentally ill captives in tiny containers, bored and terrified, deprived of everything that would make them happy, including being fed what they would chose in their own home. That does not help us to see the complexity of fish emotions.) I have had interactions with insects who I met only the day before and who clearly recognized me and came to me. Animals are amazing if we only bother to notice them.
I know my friend who denied fishes’s feelings had been bullied by a vegan activist who had also given her photos of tortured chicks to bring to our dinner, so I think she was trying to rationalize continuing to eat food she loved and that her body needed, while dealing with the contradiction of animal lovers eating animals. Plants also feel, but unfortunately, we all need to eat someone to survive. I’m not suggesting anyone be vegan since human bodies are designed to be omnivore like many other species, and we do less harm to the environment and other living beings if we are ethical omnivores than if we end up supporting Big Agriculture, including Monsanto, which is cutting down rain forest to plant GMO soy.
Many people also think of plants as not feeling or barely being alive, and some are actually afraid of plants, as they are afraid of nature in general. Plants must be “tamed,” altered, damaged, and made unnatural for humans to feel safe and comfortable with them. So many people are obsessed with pruning, shaping, and distorting plants, which literally hurts the plants and opens them to disease and infection.
Many men happily destroy forests as a way to mark territory. They desecrate and pave land so that no beings can live there anymore. They transform beauty into true ugliness. Wild, free nature makes them uncomfortable.
Who does it serve to think of animals and plants and nature herself as something only to use or to fear?
Most animals are terrified of humans with good reason and are just trying to live in peace, which is impossible when their home is being destroyed. But even some feminists seem to lose their sense and politics when they want to kill every wild animal on “their” land, without realizing that their new property already had inhabitants who have nowhere else to go. A particularly ironic case was a Lesbian couple who were about to have a baby, who hired men to trap and remove – which meant, by law, killing – two baby raccoons who we heard crying all night, in separate traps without water or food. The hungry babies had committed the terrible crime of lifting up newly laid sod to look for grubs and slugs to eat. Planting grass in the Bay Area is not a good idea anyway since it needs an enormous amount of water in an area that gets no rain for over five months a year. I managed to talk the women into letting me release the babies into our yard, where I hoped their mother and siblings would find them. Eventually, I fed all six by our front door and became close with their mother, who would hold my hands when I would feed her. (She was a bit rough with her claws the first time, but stopped when I asked her to be gentle – and she remembered the next year, even after I hadn’t seen her for months. I believe the two trapped babies were permanently traumatized though.)
As a girl, I went from loving every animal I saw, to being terrified of spiders. Finally, when I was eight, I decided that I couldn’t continue living like that. I forced myself to learn about spiders, and, after watching them, my revulsion and fear quickly turned to love. Instead of reacting with fear of being hurt if a spider startles me, I react with fear that I’ve accidently hurt or terrorized her. I worry if I’ve torn her web, and try to offer water or anything that might help her. I see their emotions and tell them I love them. I’m trying to make up for having asked my parents to kill them when I was little, and as a result I’m always meeting little beautiful creatures who I consider my friends. I can handle them without fear and I enjoy learning new things about them. (I’ve discovered that Araneus Diadematus, the beautiful large orb weavers, can dramatically change color to camouflage, and Pholcus Phalangioides seem to mimic the female pheromones of other spider species to entrap males to eat.) If a species is in our house who would not do well, I take them to a safe place. If they are a species who is happy in our house, I water and feed them. I can also grab bees and wasps to take to safety if a human is about to kill them.
I know women who are afraid to walk on trails because they think wild animals will attack them. I treasure every encounter with wild animals, including rattlesnakes (who always try to escape without striking), and tell women that the only real danger on trails is the same as it is in the cities: male humans and dogs off leash.
Stopping being afraid of nature is incredibly freeing and spiritual. It’s also fun.
Don’t let patriarchy control you and turn you into a murderer or accomplice.
Nature Is Female
Patriarchy’s goal seems to be to destroy Nature and replace her with as artificial a world as possible. Its media are cults of superficiality in which appearance is everything. Depth, intensity, independent thinking, intimacy, and feeling are all avoided. In magazine ads and on television, emaciated models pose with vapid, cold, arrogant, and cruel expressions. These are the looks that we’re told are beautiful. We’re shown “perfect” bodies that are literally manufactured by men. That’s how men want us to be – as plastic and unreal as their machines. (There are an amazing number of films, television series, and animation/cartoons that portray machines as having human emotion. Men are obsessed with this idea and I can only wonder if that is partly about their own search for the feelings that most seem to lack.)
In their phony world, men have left no room for the natural differences that exist in real bodies, including disabilities. The revulsion patriarchy shows towards people they call “disfigured” is actually part of their revulsion towards Nature herself. We come in all sizes and shapes, with the infinite variety that Nature loves. What’s truly repulsive and boring is the image that hetero-patriarchy presents to us as the “perfect woman,” who is shaved/waxed, plastic-surgered, skinny, yet with enormous toxic bags of silicon attached to her chest, pretending to be breasts. (That’s part of what’s so wonderful about going to a large gathering that’s mostly Lesbian, like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. It’s one of the only ways to see a small part of the incredible variety of Lesbians who have not changed their natural bodies.)
If we go along with what we’re told, agree to love the bodies they want us to love, and agree to hate the bodies they tell us to hate, then we’re supporting patriarchy, heterosexism, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnicism, fat oppression, ableism, ageism, and even classism. Then we’re serving the male ruling class and we’re despising women who deserve our love and support and who can love and support us. We end up despising ourselves.
If no female is ever good enough – no hair quite the right texture, no color quite right, full lips surgered, while thin lips are injected with poisonous silicone — then more toxic products and plastic surgery are sold to women, and insecure women are more vulnerable to male predation. Now women who don’t even need glasses are urged to get contact lenses to make their brown eyes look bright blue or green, even though contacts are uncomfortable and harmful to eyes.6 Changing fads mean big money. They’re also necessary to keep women obsessed with fitting in and competitive with each other.
Even though many of us have exposed the effects of women contributing to looksism, too many feminists’ attitudes are still that it’s all a matter of different likes and dislikes, tastes and attractions, or that it’s our “’feminine” prerogative to change ourselves. Some women just “happen” to like looking the ways men have decided women should look. If it’s a fad among hets and/or gay men, then it’s “fun” among Lesbians. We’re supposed to believe that bleaching hair couldn’t possibly have anything to do with racist attitudes of “blond is better?” Or that women dyeing their hair when it starts to grey is not about ageism? (I’m not blaming women for trying to avoid more oppression, but blaming patriarchal attitudes that influence women to harm themselves and other women.)
Some women wear make-up because they say they look awful without it, but don’t seem to realize that it marks them as much as wearing a sign saying “I’m a man’s woman.” Why else are cosmetics designed to make women look sexually aroused if not to send a message to men? Besides the usual reddened cheeks and lips, many women mimic high-fashion models who wear make-up on their cheeks that look like bruises. But then men do like to beat women and sado-masochism is an essential part of heterosexuality.
Women against prostitution should be aware that some forms of male-identified femininity that have become mainstream were once signals of the ways that prostitutes were willing to service men, with lipstick for oral sex, red nail polish for hand jobs, etc. Why would any woman want to participate in that? Yet women are now considered to not look proper in some settings without lipstick.
Even someone as courageous as Rachel Maddow has to wear makeup and low-cut blouses on television. Women are never presented as full equals anywhere. Women on the Supreme Court wear ridiculous-looking white ruffles on their chests, as opposed to the dignified ties the men wear. The more you look for the expected differences in appearance, including body language, stance, expression, etc., the more you see.
It’s even more harmful to change our bodies permanently, through surgery and electrolysis, or temporarily, by applying burning, poisonous chemicals to straighten, curl, or color our head hair or to remove our body hair. Of course, to get a job we usually have to remove our facial hair, but too many women make changes in themselves that are not based on survival needs and are instead based on betrayal of and competition with other women.
Many Lesbians and most het women drastically change themselves because they’ve been convinced that there’s something unnatural about the way our bodies naturally grow. The male medical industry tells us that we’re not supposed to have facial hair, and that if we do it’s a sign we’re “abnormal” because of having too much testosterone. Lesbians are particularly likely to be hit with this insult. As usual, there’s a double standard. Since men now prefer thinness, they would never consider telling skinny het women with small breasts that they’re deficient in estrogen! Meanwhile, the fact that some of the Dykes with facial hair also have large breasts, which is a sign of ample estrogen, is ignored because largeness in females is feared and hated.
Men love having reasons to tell us we’re abnormal, and they have the power to declare us normal or not. So they’ve hidden from us the truth that it’s quite natural to have facial hair and “unacceptable” hair on other parts of our bodies. Even male medical studies show that one-fourth of “normal women college students” and three-fourths of women over 60 have facial hair.7 The truth is likely to be even more, since most women remove facial hair and would be unlikely to admit having it if questioned. Yet even in these studies, men persist in referring to a quality shared by one-fourth to three-fourths of women as “abnormal.” But then oppression is never logical, nor are men.
Now they’re telling us that we should be completely hairless, except for scalp hair, eyelashes, and, occasionally, eyebrows (although they are often permanently misshapen or shaved off to be painted back on). We’re even expected to have naked pubic areas. Advertisements constantly flash naked outer labia at us and it’s almost impossible to see a media image of a woman in a bathing suit that doesn’t clearly show a hairless pubic area. Are they going to tell us soon that female pubic hair is unnatural? Or will they be satisfied with implying it’s ugly, while getting women to fit into their porn fantasies? Is the motive simply more female-hatred and a new billion-dollar industry? Or is it a not-so-subtle message that men want adult women to resemble the little girls men like to rape?
This is becoming so mainstream that I’ve read women who call themselves “feminists” who insist it is entirely reasonable to pay money for other women to wax or shave their outer vulvas. Girls who are athletes in sports that force them to wear revealing costumes are also are expected to remove their pubic hair, which means that girls who refuse will be forbidden to do their sport.
Even our voices expected to be unnatural. Many women pitch their voices higher than is necessary or natural, to prove their “femininity,” making them sound more like little girls. Then Dykes with naturally deep voices are treated as if they are the abnormal ones. Only certain accents, dialects, and languages are acceptable and anyone who talks differently suffers constant ridicule until she changes. Just like changing your natural appearance, changing your accent denies and betrays your connection with your class, racial and ethnic group, region, country, and your own self.
One of the most bizarre things in terms of looksism, is that many parents are now ordering breast implants for their daughters’ sixteenth birthdays! Besides the health risk of surgery, and the humiliation and degradation of girls being pressured to have grotesquely large, fake breasts for the benefit of boys and men, silicone implants are so toxic that they have killed women and made others disabled with chronic illness. Once banned, they are again the most common form of implants in the U.S., since money is always more important than girls’ and women’s health and lives.
This is all about making girls and women saleable to men in the most horrifically grotesque, sado-masochistic, and pornified ways. It reflects male desires to have women pay to harm themselves to look bizarre and unnatural in order to fit in with male fantasies. Even more upsetting, women agree to damage their bodies as a way to compete with other women. Some women have even gotten breast implants so unnaturally large that they can hardly walk. It’s bad enough for women to do this to themselves, but to their daughters?
Now some women are actually having parts of their toes removed and metal pins inserted instead so they can fit into tiny designer shoes.8 Women are also getting parts of their labia cut off if they are “too big” – or as a woman I heard interviewed explained, “so I can be more pleasing to men.” When apologists for such self-hating/female-hating women say it’s about “beauty” and not misogyny, how else would the increasingly popular hymenplasties be explained?
These surgeries are about obeying men and betraying women. Many people understand boycotting and not supporting companies that harm women, but not when it comes to the surgeons, clinics, hospitals, etc. who participate in dangerous surgeries with the only goal being mutilation of female bodies to fit unnatural male demand. Female Genital Mutilation, including clitorectomies and infibulations, are horrific crimes against girls and women that are done against their will, and which can leave life-long pain as well as causing death. Women who voluntarily choose to have their labia cut to fit disgusting female-hating male standards trivialize Female Genital Mutilation and are collaborating with our enemy.
If patriarchy announced it was going to limit females’ food in order to control and damage us, there would be a tremendous outcry. But since it’s presented as a way for us to look “beautiful” and be more “normal” and “healthy,” women eagerly starve themselves, and starve and harass their daughters.
Feminists have written great articles against fat oppression, but they, and the excellent feminist anthology on fat oppression, Shadow on a Tightrope, are either hard to find or no longer known by most feminists.10
Patriarchy wants us to waste our time and energy on feminine obsession with “beauty” and thinness, and to avoid thinking about what’s really important in our lives.
There is so much hatred against fat females. The fatter a women is, the more visibly female she is. As a result, many women not only want to be thin, but to look like adolescent boys (I’ve heard feminine women proudly brag about this.) Meanwhile, females are suffering discrimination and literally dying because of fat oppression.
The medical industry makes a fortune off diets, drugs, and dangerous surgery for fat women. Even though lies about health hazards of being fat have been refuted, there is still far more money made in killing and maiming fat women, so most doctors continue supporting the lies.
Following the medical industries’ recommendations (until recently) to diet and eat trans fat, low fat, soy, and high carbohydrates, such as grains, beans, etc. has greatly increased the amount of people said to be dangerously “over-weight” in the US, but those people are starving nutritionally, while the diet industry tells them the opposite health advice they should be getting.11
Doctors recommend people eat low fat, ignoring that organic saturated fat is one of the most important nutrients we can eat, stabilizing blood sugar, preventing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.12 People who restrict their fat intake often end up desperately binging on high carbs like sugar (with the fat taken out of dairy products then sold back to them in ice cream, etc.), further depleting their health.
Cholesterol has never been proven to be a cause of heart disease, yet Big Pharma with doctors are making a fortune off prescribing statin drugs which cause stroke, cancer and dementia. Those with the highest cholesterol live the longest. If your cholesterol is very low, doctors will congratulate you, even though one reason could be cancer.
A friend who was in a women’s cancer support group saw most of the women die after following doctors’ advice. One woman, who had had lymphoma, was “treated” three times to chemotherapy, as well as having many radioactive scans – all of which could have easily caused the different cancer that she ultimately died from. Her cholesterol dropped so low that the last doctor she saw said that it looked like that of a famine victim. He was the only one of the many doctors she saw who realized that cholesterol that low was indicative of very serious illness: she had metastasized breast cancer.
“Before looking at the connection between blood cholesterol levels and heart disease, it is worth highlighting a critically important – remarkably unheralded – fact: After the age of 50, the lower your cholesterol level is, the lower your life expectancy.”
“Perhaps even more important than this is the fact that a falling cholesterol level sharply increases the risk of dying of anything, including heart disease”.13
One of the greatest obscenities about fat oppression is that while people are dying of starvation, literally dying of thinness, fat is despised in rich countries. Even when there was such panic about AIDS, with famous people in the last stages of AIDS looking skeletal, fatness is still feared and hated. (In some parts of Africa, where fatness is still associated with good health, AIDS is called “the slim disease.”)
Damage attributed to being fat is actually caused by years of constant dieting, with rapid weight loss and gain. It’s fat oppression that kills, not being fat, but most people don’t know that.14
Lies continue to be spread and are just accepted, like the myth that high cholesterol kills, when the opposite is true. If health concerns were really behind the harassment and oppression of fat women, then smokers would be yelled at on the street and people who drink toxic diet sodas and other artificial “food” would be lectured at the way fat women are.
In 1981, my lover and I became ill with matching symptoms of flu that that lasted for months — low grade fever, exhaustion, aching, etc. (This was before Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, or Lyme disease were known about). The Lesbian doctor we saw said that nothing showed up on the blood tests, so nothing was wrong with us. She me to just lose weight (I weighed about 140 lbs at the time) and advised my very thin lover to drink coffee. Luckily, I didn’t lose weight since my symptoms also matched the early stage of some cancers – except that I hadn’t had the weight loss associated with cancer.
I suspect our illness was a combination of toxic exposure and either viral or bacterial infection (My lover eventually got well, but I never did. I now know a lot of women with the same chronic symptoms.) If the incompetent doctor had known anything about nutrition and health, she would have told us to eat the opposite of what doctors usually order: only organic food and as much saturated fat as possible, plenty of meat15 and vegetables, no thyroid-toxic, estrogenic, carcinogenic soy ever, no other beans and grains, nothing high in carbohydrates, no transfat or polyunsaturated oils (like canola, which is usually rancid). But doctors are so fat-phobic that another doctor was horrified when I said I ate an avocado a day, because “they will make you fat!” (The irony is that the more saturated fat someone eats if their carbs are low, the more weight they lose.16 But never trust doctors to know about nutrition or health.)
Fat females are accused of being mentally sick as well as physically sick. This propaganda means when thin people look at a fat female, they make immediate insulting assumptions that she has some “mental or emotional problem” she’s “compensating for,” in addition to believing the lies that fat people eat more and exercise less than thin people.
Why this unreasoning fear of fat? If you look at the most ancient statues from across the earth, they are of fat women.They are clearly not “fertility” symbols or pregnant effigies, which male archeologists irrationally declared for years, or any other bizarre theories17 –they are simply, gloriously fat women.18
Fat men are oppressed, but much less so than fat women, and most of the anti-fat propaganda is aimed at women. This also has a direct economic benefit for men, because of the billions of dollars spent on the diet industry, as well as for clothing manufacturers who make money selling women more expensive and shoddier-made smaller clothing sizes. Cyril Magnin, a U.S. department store owner, boasted that in the 1930s he removed all women’s clothing in sizes 16 to 20 from his stores and replaced them with sizes 8 to 14. He was one of the first to do this, and it set a trend, which permanently affected the standard of “women’s” clothing sizes in the US19 and therefore in countries influenced by US culture. Meanwhile, they make money by selling smaller amounts of material. Buying a mini-skirt or short top that exposes the midriff is supporting this con as well as being demeaning and exposing female bodies for male consumption.
Men are always measuring things, from their pricks to their nuclear missiles, and saying “bigger is better.” They want everything to be huge — except women. Women who are the same size as ordinary large, muscled, healthy men are considered fat and unhealthy. And women internalize these lies. In one study, 70% of women interviewed saw themselves as fat, while only 20 to 25% of them were seen by others as fat.20 The patriarchal standard “healthy and fit” female looks emaciated compared to the standard “healthy” man. Men want us to be invisible, except as sex objects — but fat women are blatantly present. Fat women are an offense to mankind. Men want us small and weak, with just enough strength to serve them, so they can push us around. They don’t want us to have fat any more than they want us to have brains or muscle. And they’ve been breeding us for thousands of years, just as they’ve bred “domesticated” animals to be almost unrecognizable compared to their original, natural selves.
Men have bred dogs into forms that would never occur in nature, making caricatures of wolves to fit men’s bizarre fantasies. The most valued dogs, the certified pedigrees, are the least natural and the least likely to survive on their own. Men’s cruel genetic interference has resulted in painful disabling deformities common in some breeds. All this is done in the name of being “animal-lovers” and “dog-lovers.” But then men say they “love” women too. Man has been tampering with nature for as long as he’s been able to. How do we know how much the many years of enforced selective breeding have changed our own female bodies?
Men’s preference for controllable women was the reason for footbinding in China and painful constricting corsets and high-heeled shoes in European-descent countries, and is also the reason most women diet in countries that are dominated by European-descent male culture. One U.S. diet ad aimed specifically at women said simply, “Waist away.” Ads for products to increase weight show men, while ads for diet foods and diet drugs show women. In many places in the world, men and boys are given the first choice of food, including meat, while women and girls eat only what’s left. This means more females die of starvation than males, and they also die sooner than starving males.
Gynocide includes the systematic underfeeding of females and overfeeding of males. An Italian study showed that baby girls are breast-fed less than and for briefer periods than boys, and girls are also weaned earlier: “On the average, the breast is withdrawn at 12 months for little girls, at 15 months for boys. Duration of nursing at 2 months is 45 minutes for boys and 25 minutes for girls. Nursing at 6 months: 8 minutes (girls),15 minutes (boys.)” Studies in Egypt and Jordan show that mothers’ breastfeeding is continued “longer for boys” and they are “generally better cared for.”21
“When is a child worth keeping?” From a 1990 survey22 of parents: Only 1 percent would abort on the basis of sex. 6 percent would abort a child likely to get Alzheimer’s in old age. 11 percent would abort a child predisposed to obesity.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency food consumption charts23 show that young adult males eat approximately 50% more than the average U.S. citizen — yet 80% of 9-year-old girls in San Francisco are on diets24, which will create a new generation of females who are smaller, weaker, and more susceptible to disease than ever before. Lack of sufficient nutrition in a growing body prevents it from developing to full size and makes it much more vulnerable to illness.
As the decades go by, we see how younger women do seem to be suffering the results of enforced starvation, as well as the effects of soy in so many foods and plastic leaching into foods. Soy is thyroid toxic and both soy and plastic are extremely estrogenic, which means they are serious hormone disrupters and carcinogenic. I believe that’s why almost every younger woman I know has excruciating menstrual cramps, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, and/or serious emotional and mental problems.
Endocrinologists are seeing many cases of stunted growth in girls caused by their dieting. Some doctors worry this will prevent women from reproducing, which would affect future generations of males. But where’s the concern for the girls? Many girls are tormented into dieting by the incredible fat hatred which exists in primary schools. In a recent study of nine-to ten year-olds, thin children were called “smart” and fat children were called “icky, too much, ugly, and lazy.” In the film, “Portraits of Anorexia25,” one young girl said, “They called me fatso or blubber. I just stopped eating so they’d stop calling me names.”
In a television report, a group of girls and boys about 10 years old were shown pictures of fashion models and asked what they thought of their body size. The girls said the models were “skinny” and that, “you can see their bones.” The boys, pointing to the same parts of the pictures said “their legs are too big” and “humongous.” These girls described being called “chubby” and “too fat” by boys at school, even though they were very thin.
One II-year old girl who looked like a Barbie doll said she became anorexic because she didn’t want to be an “Amazon.” That’s likely to be her way of saying she didn’t want to look like a Dyke and would rather look weak (male-identified feminine) rather than strong. The girls also talked about wanting to be attractive to boys. Another girl ate so little in her effort to be thin that her hair fell out. These particular girls were choosing to diet, but very often it’s the parents who force girls into dieting by depriving them of food.
One researcher says that anorexia nervosa dates from Victorian times in England, when the feminine ideal meant weakness, fragility, and illness. Lord Byron (a 19th century English poet) said, “A woman should never be seen eating.” It was an insult to call a class-privileged woman “robust,” because that suggested she looked working-class. Women in privileged countries have lost their instinctive fear of starvation. When women students in the U.S. were shown pictures of starving, emaciated women from the 1930′s Depression, they saw them as attractive rather than starving.26 Today, in the U.S., 100,000 more girls develop anorexia nervosa each year and, of that group, 6,000 die from starvation.27
Meanwhile, doctors pressure fat women to take diet pills and to have intestinal bypass, stomach stapling, and liposuction. By 1987, several women in the U.S. had already died from these tortures.28
“Lesbians are fat” is actually one of the male/het stereotypes of us.29 This is one case of an oppressive stereotype reflecting the truth — Lesbians ARE less likely to diet than het women since thinness is a heterosexist value. As usual, men take a positive, self-loving Dyke tradition and use it to attack us. Yet many Lesbians do diet, talk of diets, and make fat-oppressive comments.
Ironically, many Lesbians and women are smaller in height and bone and muscle mass than they would have been because of trying to be healthy and/or being vegan for years. Many long-time vegans also have chronic pain and spine, joint, ligament, and tendon damage, as Lierre Keith describes happened to her in her book, The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability. She also talks about vegan rages and severe depression. Patriarchy could not have come up with a better plan to weaken women while pitting us against each other since this issue has divided feminists more than any other. Radical Feminist omnivores have even been physically threatened by vegans, and Lierre herself was attacked by three cowardly masked vegans at the Anarchist Book Fair while she was speaking. (Her spine damage is well known, yet they ran from behind and each smashed her in the face with “pies” full of cayenne. They videoed their attack to humiliate her, but that backfired.)
Mainstream medicine teaches the function and importance of all body tissues and organs except for fat tissue because of fat-hating male prejudice.
Fat is literally protection against death. When people are dying of cancer, they usually waste away and die from starvation as much as from the other effects of cancer. So if you’re fat and you have cancer, you’ve got a lot more time than a thin person has to try to get well. Yet even in this age when cancer is a modern plague where more than one in three people in the U.S. getting it and most of us know many women who have died from it, we’re still pressured to be thin.
Fat is a vital body tissue that protects our bodies. It cushions muscles and internal organs, insulates us from cold, and helps us to float, making swimming easier and drowning less likely.30 Fatness strengthens our bones. Osteoporosis, the weakening and thinning of bone tissue is a major cause of injury and disability among older women, often leading to death as a consequence of hip fractures. As our weight increases, so does our bone mass, protecting us from osteoporosis.31 That’s one reason our bodies naturally get fatter as we grow older.
Our bodies know what they’re doing. Male thinking, so obviously reflected in male religions, teaches us to hate and distrust our bodies. We’re told to separate our minds from our bodies and treat them as two beings: “The mind should be the master, and the body the servant.” (This is schizoid thinking — and men call women crazy?)
Fatness is also protection against famine, which is why people who’ve gone through periods of starvation often become fat – bodies naturally interpret dieting as starvation and so guard us against future famine/weigh loss by regaining the lost weight and more as soon as possible. Our bodies then become reluctant to ever lose weight again by permanently slowing our metabolism – which is why the more you diet, the harder it is to lose weight, and the easier it is to gain it back.32 I believe our bodies carry this lesson into future generations, so that the descendants of people who have survived famines will tend to be fatter and more prone to gaining weight as a result of dieting.33 These, after all, are the people who survived.
Fighting Looksism ls Dyke-Loving
Lesbians, by our very nature, have separated much of the truth from the lies. Choosing to come out meant finding or returning to our true selves. Some of us had already refused the male-invented feminine uniform which is designed to demean women, but is also a signal of submission to men. Other Lesbians rejected it as they became more their own being, and no longer wanted to please or attract men. That changing of appearance is a powerful personal and political message to the world that we choose to be naturally female instead of being covered in the layers of artificiality men call “feminine.” As those layers are refused or removed, the truth appears. Away go the constricting, exposing clothes and the painful, limiting shoes that distort female bodies. Away go the cosmetics that mask real faces and bodies. Refusing male identification means becoming solid, real, direct, and honest in body and spirit.
Men tell Dykes we “look like men” because we look natural – only men are permitted to just look like themselves, including looking their true age. What is more unnatural than dousing ourselves with toxic chemicals to destroy our natural aromas, hair, and skin texture and color, etc.? There’s certainly never been any medical argument about why we’re not supposed to have armpit or leg fur, but men and their collaborators (too often our own mothers) have pressured us for years to cut or poison ourselves removing it. If it’s so “unsightly,” then why aren’t men expected to be equally hairless? Standards of “beauty” are as phony as “beauty parlors.” Men reserve certain appearances only for themselves. How else is anyone to know immediately who’s lord and who’s lackey? Only men are supposed to have facial or body hair, just as only men are supposed to wear trousers and sturdy shoes. By insisting on being ourselves in such a small thing as keeping our own body and facial hair, we’re threatening men and their women supporters at their fragile cores. That’s why they react to Dyke-identified-Dykes with such unreasoning hatred.
Lesbians need to think about who we’re hurting and stop it. Do we really want communities where anyone who doesn’t look like a mannequin feels like an oddity? Do we only want to be around Lesbians who fit male-identified standards of “pretty”? What about the incredible handsomeness and realness of the diverse faces and bodies Dykes are born with, that reflect the multitudes of races, ethnic groups, ages, sizes, and shapes living on Earth?
Is it right for disabled Dykes to be rejected by non-disabled Dykes? Should older Dykes feel as out of place among younger Lesbians as they are in the het world unless they try to hide their age? Should Dykes with ample hair on their bodies continue being made to feel like freaks? And do we want fat Dykes to injure their health and torture and kill themselves because too many Lesbians believe men’s fat-hating, female-hating lies? As Dykes, we know what it is to be feared, hated, and attacked because we’re “different.” We know what it is to be the alien group that’s ostracized and stared at. So we, of all people, should never treat another Dyke that way.
Men call Dykes ugly? Look at them! We already know they hate us, and we can’t change that. What we can control is avoiding internalizing that hatred and turning it on ourselves and other females. Even if we try to accept fatness in other Lesbians and only hate it in ourselves, then we still do men’s work for them. And, besides, it’s not possible. If we hate our own fat there’s no way we can accept fat Dykes.
We’ve already rejected most of men’s commands and lies. Dykes have questioned and fought lies and injustice more than any other group of people. We’ve been in the forefront of challenging all forms of oppression. The more we continue fighting the lies, the stronger we become, individually and as communities. Why not “let ourselves go” and really be our natural selves?
Looksism Kills Females
It’s the story of patriarchy: males hate females. They want to own and control us because, though they hate us, they need us for their survival and creation. Why then do so many females do men’s bidding and take into themselves men’s oppressive ideas of what’s beautiful and what’s ugly? If women didn’t continue doing men’s work, patriarchy would end immediately.
In choosing to serve the masters, women are rewarded by being given a higher place in the male hierarchy. Women get privilege only at other females’ expense. There are no upper or middle classes if others are not forced to be lower class. There is no racial privilege without racism. Het women gain status according to the degree Lesbians are oppressed. “Beauty,” like other privileges is never neutral or “just the way things are.” No one can be considered “beautiful” if someone else is not called “ugly.”
Lookism is wrong, hurtful, and cruel. No woman should participate in it. The extremes that some females have gone to in order to make themselves acceptable – not even to be “beautiful,” but just to fit in – have killed them. Don’t be a victim of patriarchy, and don’t victimize other females on behalf of patriarchy.
There are new endnotes added since the printing of our book in 1990. Most of the references can be looked up to find more recent versions.
1. Most women love their ” pets,” the dogs and cats they own, and proudly think of themselves as animal lovers, — yet too many don’t seem to care at all that their cats and dogs are relentlessly torturing and killing local native populations of birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and insects, many of who are perilously near extinction as a result. Cats have exterminated all reptiles and amphibians where we live, as well as also killing many birds and even squirrels. It’s very upsetting to want desperately to have a tiny wildlife refuge in our yard, but be unable to because of neighbors’ cats. I’ve actually read feminists brag about how often and how many animals their cat kills. Others may be momentarily upset, but not enough to stop the slaughter. Even a kind friend said, after her cat killed a baby mockingbird, “There are plenty of birds, aren’t there?” The mother of the baby had been frantic for days, as her baby was starting to fledge, but could not protect her.
This isn’t about “survival of the fittest,” but about non-native animals exterminating vulnerable native animals, as well as depriving native carnivores of food.
Well-fed cats can kill up to 800 small animals a year. At least one cat on an island caused the extinction of an entire species. From Wikipedia: Feral cats introduced to such islands have had a devastating impact on these islands’ biodiversity. They have been implicated in the extinction of several species and local extinctions, such as the hutias from the Caribbean, the Guadalupe Storm Petrel from Pacific Mexico, the Stephens Island wren; in a statistical study, they were a significant cause for the extinction of 40% of the species studied. Moors and Atkinson wrote, in 1984, “No other alien predator has had such a universally damaging effect.”
Another study (Leon Jaroff , “Attack of the Killer Cats,” in Time, July 31, 1989, found that the five million house cats in Britain kill and bring home at least 79 million small animals, including 30 million birds, a year. One cat brought in 400 victims a year! A US study says that the number of native animals killed may be double since cats bring home only half their victims. This is even more serious where cats and dogs are not native, but have been introduced by men. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, a single pet dog killed at least 150 endangered kiwi in just a few weeks in 1985. Until the government started removing cats from Stewart Island, feral cats yearly killed half of the remaining Kakapo, one of the three remaining indigenous parrot species in Aotearoa that are almost extinct. Just a few dozen were left by 1985.
This is not the cats’ or dogs’ fault, but the humans who breed them, release them, and don’t protect their potential victims.
Yet anyone who objects to the inequality of owning “pets” and who protests the number of animals killed by cats and dogs is likely to be accused of being an “animal-hater.” That’s because generally only mammals domesticated by man and introduced into countries that didn’t previously have them (as part of European nations’ imperialist invasions) are considered “real” animals.
Meanwhile, as those whose cats have disappeared know, cats kept inside are safer from disease, predators, cars, cruel humans, etc
I’d like to credit Linda Strega’s wonderful article “Pets: Mine, All Mine” which questions the ownership of other beings as pets, printed in The Lesbian lnsider/lnsighter/ lnciter, January. 1981, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Eileen Anderson’s, “The Politics of Pets,” Lesbian Connection, Vol. 12, issue 1, July/August, 1989.
2. The April, 1987 issue of the Bay Times, a San Francisco (LGBTQWTF) newspaper, printed a letter from a gay man criticizing Lesbian support of Nancy Pelosi for Congress — “How dumb: the man-hating dykes (ugly ones at that) do the obvious: back Pelosi.”
3. One study was by Darlene Powell-Hopson, and the other was by Mamie and Kenneth Clark. Both were reported in Time, 4 September, 1987. 74.
4. The Mansell Collection, The World’s Last Mysteries, (The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1981), 200:
5. Chambers Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana. Kurt Mendelssohn, The Riddle of the Pyramids, Praeger Publishers, NY., USA, 1975), 54.
6. Since writing this chapter, I’ve read When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson with Susan McCarthy, and Animal Talk by Tim Friend, which both describe beautifully how ridiculous it is for scientists to claim that animals don’t feel as much as humans do, and as I’ve thought, they question whether they feel more since we don’t see animals experimenting on other animals.
7. There has been a barrage of U.S. television ads, and Newsweek, 30 November,1987, had an ad saying: “Decorate your eyes this holiday season.… contact lenses can change your eyes from brown to baby blue, green, hazel, aqua or new sapphire blue.”
Meanwhile, we’re still learning about the full extent of the dangers of contacts. They’re known to weaken the cornea and make eyes more susceptible to infections and cataracts. Even short-term usage causes loss of the blink reflex which means eyes become more vulnerable to any object which comes towards them.
8. Lewis B. Morrow, “Hirsutism,” Primary Care 4, (1977),128.
9. Smithsonian.loveme.com – Smithsonian magazine, October 2012 The Distressing Worldwide Boom in Cosmetic Surgery, by Joseph Stromberg.
In ancient China, where foot binding was invented, a stunted foot signified a prized comeliness. In modern Manhattan, the pursuit of beauty has led some women to surgically shorten their toes and secure them with metal pins to fit more easily into three-inch Jimmy Choo stiletto heels (Kristina Widmer’s foot, post-surgery).
For his new book, Love Me, photographer Zed Nelson traveled to 18 countries over five years, documenting extreme measures undertaken in the quest for cosmetic perfection. Nelson’s unsettling images of plastic surgeons, beauty queens and bodybuilders underscore the seduction of narcissistic compulsion. “Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry,” he says. “Body improvement has become a new religion.”
Nelson’s project began when he noticed, while travelling internationally, that global standards of beauty had become eerily homogenized: He saw skin-lightening products in Africa and surgical procedures to “Westernize” eyes in Asia. The popularity of rhinoplasty in Iran was especially apparent…“When I arrived in Iran, I was amazed,” Nelson says. “My interpreter had had a nose job, as had her mother, her sister, and her two best friends. People were proudly walking in the streets with bandaged noses, excited to be the new owners of small, chiseled, American-style noses.”
… Banks now offer loans for plastic surgery. American families with annual incomes under $25,000 account for 30 percent of all cosmetic surgery patients,” he says. “Americans spend more each year on beauty than they do on education.”
Notice how Nelson keeps referring to “beauty” and “body enhancement,” and never questions that these surgeries are the opposite. I believe many men find artificiality more attractive than reality.
10. Megan Mackin, dear friend, Radical Feminist, and Fat Activist wrote this powerful poem in the tradition of the Radical Feminist Fat Activist movement:
chiding eyes that look away, tell you how you don’t belong; scowling,
sneering, smirking their silent cues nonverbal; you are wrong!
snarl the narrow turnstiles, booths and halls — the seats that bruise
you, rip your tender flesh; you are outcast, cursed and boundless –
fat that cannot be accommodated within the normal span of chair, or
sizes in the normal styles of clothes; but helpful experts will appear
with their troops prepared and waiting, they will snip you, carve you,
tuck you, band your organs, bind you mentally and starve you;
they will cost you sums of money you cannot begin to know; they will
cost you much, much more in terms of suffering and sorrow;
then, when all your bills are tallied and you reach the journey’s end, you
will find that more than likely you’re still fat — and so you must begin
but now you have the blessing of some of those you’d feared, since, as a
repeat patient/ customer you’ve gained respect from those endeared –
not to you but to the money — behind the pockets you have lined; just
perhaps you’ll be like others who have spent their lives and health to find
that the real problem isn’t that your body size is wrong; instead it’s with
a culture that cannot abide its women being either big or strong;
it’s with a culture where corporations can demand compliance,
and taking space gets perceived — and named — as pure defiance;
it’s where self-absorption, thin-obsession, is demanded from the masses,
to allow the rule, unfettered, of the distant upper class …
there are many ways, of course, to name the problem, and though we
maybe won’t agree on its form, exactly, we can still begin to see
that bodies are more real than all the chairs or booths that people make,
and sizing them too small is certainly the true mistake.
self-hatred isn’t necessary, it’s coerced beneath our skin by the powers
seeking profit, naming fatness (in the guise of “gluttony”) as “sin.”
every body has its beauty, its unique and artful form; everyone deserves
to know this, to distrust the money-manufactured norm;
if you can’t yet see you’re handsome, then simply know that others do;
cannot find your worthiness, please trust that we believe we see that, too.
12-something a.m., Sunday February 22, 1998
11. Layna Berman’s (with Jeffry Fawcett, PhD) radio show “Your Own Health And Fitness” has provided so much valuable health information, including warning people about transfats years before the AMA changed its mind from pushing it. I feel like she has saved my and friends’ lives. Your Own Health And Fitness broadcasts Tuesdays at 1pm on KPFA 94.1FM, Berkeley, California, and on KFCF 88.1FM Fresno. (Check their list of stations that carry the show for other dates and times.)
From Layna’s website:
“Your heart is big business. Its care is dominated by the theory that cholesterol causes heart attacks. Yet even as the theory holds fewer and fewer advocates, the treatments stay the same.”
12. Mary Gertrude Enig, PhD, author of Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol, is a nutritionist and early trans fat/hydrogenated oil researcher, warning of their dangers before they were widely accepted. She pushed for improved labeling of trans fats on products, which has now become mandatory on products in the U.S. and in Europe.
Enig also disputes the widely accepted view in the medical community that consumption of saturated fats contributes to heart disease. She believes both butter and coconut oil are not eaten enough and are good for heart health, and criticizes the use of polyunsaturated oils, which most doctors and diets recommend, because they are rancid, and also argues that many who follow low-fat diets feel low on energy because they are “fat deficient.”
13. The Great Cholesterol Con and The Great Cholesterol Myth by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick (Scottish doctor and author of The Great Cholesterol Con, 2008, graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1981, has been a general practitioner for over 25 years, and has woked with the European Society of Cardiology) documents the misguided use of statins in primary care, citing evidence from many trials and World Health Organization data to show that statin drugs do not increase life expectancy overall, and do not prevent heart disease in patients without cardiovascular symptoms. Kendrick states that widely varying levels of cholesterol are inversely correlated with deaths from heart disease, and correlated with cancer mortality, as well as strokes and dementia. His findings show that within a reasonable range, higher total cholesterol is associated with lower cancer mortality, but lower rates of deaths from heart disease—the opposite outcome that one would expect if cholesterol were a causative agent for coronary heart disease.
Gary Taubes and Robert Atkins also have written excellent articles and books recommending organic high saturated fat as good for health.
14. Our Imaginary Weight Problem — www.nytimes.com This study illustrates just how exaggerated and unscientific the government’s claims are on the relationship between weight and mortality risk.
Dr. Paul Ernsberger, “Is it Unhealthy To Be Fat?” Radiance, Winter 1986, 12-13. A graph with 4 weights of females, 110 lbs., 122 lbs., 224 lbs, and over 287 lbs., shows that the fattest (at over 287 lbs.) live longer than the thinnest (at 110 lbs.). Those in the 224 lb. group outlive the “insurance ideal” weight of 122 lbs.
Jan. 2, 2013 — Could Being a Little Overweight Help You Live Longer?
Also, very thin women have higher rates of lung cancer and osteoporosis than fatter women. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 3, 1987.
CDC: Dangers of being overweight overstated.
Stigma and obesity-associated disease
Death rates by weight (range)
Linda Bacon’s Paradigm Shift
15. China Study refuted: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/
Other studies that purport to show meat is unhealthy do not differentiate between toxic non-organic meat laden with hormones and antibiotics from animals fed GMO grains or highly processed meat full of toxic nitrites and nitrates from healthy organic pastured meat.
17. Male scientists go to the strangest lengths to alter the truth. On the BBCTV series, “The First Eden,” David Attenborough claimed that the famous manybreasted statue of the goddess Diana at Ephesus actually has a chest covered with testicles! (Shown on PBS television stations in the U.S., December 1987.)
18. Carbon dated to at least 35,000 years ago…These figurines were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone or ivory, or formed of clay and fired. The latter are among the oldest ceramics known. In total, over a hundred such figurines are known; virtually all of modest size, between 4 cm and 25 cm in height. They are some of the earliest works of prehistoric art.
19. San Francisco Chronicle, 30 March, 1988.
20. Dr. Dean Edell’s Medical Journal, KGO-TV, San Francisco, 10 November 1988.
21. This study and the following one are quoted from a thesis by Marianne Lens of Brussels, Belgium, 1981-1982, titled “Perspectives D’Analyse de L’Ideologie de Ia DIFFERENCE, Comme Fondement de L’Hetero-Patriarcat.”
L. Van Loon and Van Pee-Grosjean, “La Femme: Objet de Sante Publiquet,” Germ, Lettre de Information 99, June, 1976, 18-19.
E. Gianini Belotti, Du Cote des Petites Filles, (Paris, France: Ed. des Femmes, 1977). Marianne says “Of course these results are of a planetary nature, since patriarchal oppression itself is omni-present.”
22. Newsweek Special Edition on “The 21st Century Family,” Winter/Spring 1990, page 98.
23. Dietary Consumption of Selected Food Groups for the US Population (Purdue Research Foundation for the EPA, Washington D.C., Feb, 1980).
24. A report on KRON-TV, San Francisco, June 6, 1987, said that 80% of nine-year-old girls are on diets. In Newsweek, 27 July 1987, a study by Laurel Mellin of the University of California at San Francisco, stated that “81% of the 10 year-old girls were dieters.” “More than half the girls described themselves as overweight, while only 15% were….”
Corinna Kaarela found that in a study of 500 “middle-income, parochial schoolgirls,” 89% of the l7-year-olds were on diets. UC Clip sheet, Vol. 62, No.1, 9 December,1986.
In Time,14 July,1986, Dr. Michael Pugliese reported that “restrictive diets …now account for one-fourth of the cases of failure to thrive seen at the hospital.” (North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY) “…the youngsters were all on low-fat, low-cholesterol diets and getting only 63% to 94% of the calories they needed.” A 21-month old girl had “…failed to gain any weight in nearly 6 months.”
25. By Wendy Zheutlin, Fat Chance Productions.
26. Joan Brumberg, in a KALW, San Francisco, radio interview, 16 August 1988, about her book, Fasting Girls: The Emergence of Anorexia as a Modern Disease.
27. KRON-TV, San Francisco, news feature on “Eating Disorders,” 11 November 1988.
28. 20/20, ABC-TV, U.S.A., 1 January 1988.
29. In the May, 1986 issue of San Francisco Insight, one het woman commented on another het woman’s feeling good about her weight increasing to 150 pounds by asking, “Has she gone gay?”
30. Wearing only a bathing suit, Lynne Cox swam the two miles of the Bering Strait, from the island of Little Diomede, Alaska to Big Diomede, Siberia, in the summer of 1987. The water temperature was 34 degrees Fahrenheit and, although people usually die in such cold water after 2 hours, Lynne swam for 2.12 hours and was fine. Doctors said that her layer of fat acted as an internal wetsuit. She weighs about 209 lbs. Kathleen McCoy, “Making Waves,” Radiance, Spring 1988, 25.
Update from Wikipedia: Lynne Cox (born 1957 in Boston, Massachusetts) is an American long-distance open-water swimmer and writer…. She has twice held the record for the fastest crossing (men or women) of the English Channel (1972 in a time of 9h 57 mins and 1973 in a time of 9h 36 mins). In 1975, Cox became the first woman to swim the 10 °C (50 °F), 16 km (10 mi) Cook Strait in New Zealand. In 1976, she was the first person to swim the Straits of Magellan in Chile, and the first to swim around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Another of her accomplishments was swimming more than a mile (1.6 km) in the waters of Antarctica. Cox was in the water for 25 minutes, swimming 1.22 miles (1.96 km).
31. Patricia Hausman, The Calcium Bible, How to Have Better Bones All Your Life, (Rawson Associates: New York, U.S.A., 1985), 36-37.
32. A 1986 study by the University of Pennsylvania of adopted children and their adoptive and biological parents showed genetic inheritance had a far greater influence on children’s weight than environmental factors such as amount of food eaten. San Francisco Chronicle — 12 November 1986.
A study of Danish people found that the genetic tendency for fatness is passed most strongly from mothers to daughters. “Genetic influences from fathers, and from mothers to sons, are apparently about half that of mothers to daughters.” What could more clearly prove that fatness is a specifically female characteristic? Charles Petit, “Genetics’ Role in Contributing to Obesity,” San Francisco Chronicle, 31 March,1989. A5.
33. Alvin Feinstein, “How do we measure accomplishment in weight reduction?” Obesity, Causes, Consequences and Treatment, ed. Louis Lasagna (Medcom Press, 1974), 86.