Revisit: Rowling against Thincentricty

Sometimes, to feed both my Harry Potter obsession and my obsession with my body image, I jump over to J.K. Rowling’s webpage and look up her entry called “For Girls Only, Probably…” So as I revisited it today, I thought I’d write about it. I remember wanting to, way back when it first came out, but I can’t find any evidence saying I did in my other blog. So here it goes…

Rowling makes many good points. First, by discussing seeing a woman in a magazine “who is either seriously ill or suffering from an eating disorder (which is, of course, the same thing)” and how sad it makes her. Next, is the anecdote of a Harry Potter film actor who told Jo about a girl he knows being called fat by her classmates, which baffled him because she “really not fat.” In response to this, she says,

His bemusement at this everyday feature of female existence reminded me how strange and sick the ‘fat’ insult is. I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me…

The first half of this quote reminded me of Joy Nash’s Fat Rant on youtube.
Being fat should NOT define who we are. As women, we give it sooo much power! Jo continues, saying,

But then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’

‘Well,’ I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

This is the saddest part for me. Jo is exactly right. Why was her drop in weight her biggest success? I mean, I personally thought Half Blood Prince was one of her best novels. And having a child should take the cake as more important and interesting. But of course, in our society we are so absolutely OBSESSED with weight, that we can’t even see success past a small weight fluctuation. Why are actors and actresses cast aside after they gain some weight? Why is it a stipulation to everything, “Oh yeah, she’s a great singer. Too bad she’s fat.” How does our weight diminish our capability?

It doesn’t.

Jo goes on to talk about Pink’s song, “Stupid Girls” and how it’s a satire against self-obsessed, thin-obsessed women, and shows that these women should not be held as role models. Then she brings it home:

Maybe all this seems funny, or trivial, but it’s really not. It’s about what girls want to be, what they’re told they should be, and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls. Rant over.

This is my power. This is how I want the world to think. I hope to be a Hermione, and believe that being a Hermione is all I need. She’s a strong, intelligent, brave woman. And so is Jo Rowling. She took a lot of crap from the media for speaking about this, including stabs that all her “fat characters” were evil. I won’t discuss that today, but it makes me mad.

We all need to step out of our fat obsession, get a brain, and try to be Hermiones. I think that’d do us all a WORLD of good.


5 thoughts on “Revisit: Rowling against Thincentricty

  1. It’s interesting that everyone thinks that other people automatically WANT to hear that they’re skinnier… in fact, most people consider that other people LOVE it. And a lot of people do, it seems. In fact, I’d say that, for many people, it’s the one compliment that they’d love to receive above all others.

    Somehow, saying “you have a nice personality,” or “you have a great sense of humor,” or “you’re a very creative/intelligent/sensitive person” can seem stilted or affected somehow, but the compliment “you lost weight” or “you look like you’ve lost weight” is hardly ever considered shallow or unwelcome, even though it’s amongst the shallowest of physical observations.

    Rowling makes an excellent point. What about real accomplishments, and deep, lasting, truly beautiful character traits? Why do we feel so badly about recognizing them? Maybe we feel like it’s too intimate and awkward… and that sort of thing can sometimes seem obsequious, perhaps.

  2. I totally agree, Ryan. It deeply depresses me that people care more about this physical qualifiers rather than the realistic and important accomplishments of an individual. I think it’s very interesting that people do automatically assume that saying, “my, how skinny you look” will bring everyone happiness.

    In fact, although I appreciate the attempt to tell me I look good, I’d prefer to be told I have a great personality, or that I’m smart. Or that I made a truly beautiful film or profound poem.

    Problem is, until we take away the power of the word fat, and reassign it to things that actually matter, we’ll never be able to make that change completely.

    Oh well, at least we all know we’re wonderful people with great, intelligent ideas and beautiful personalities… πŸ™‚

  3. I too am a Harry Fan:-) I’ve experienced this so many times. I wish weight wasn’t such a public issue. I am so confused as to why people feel as though they can just comment on your body as if we were at some kind of public auction. Great Post!

  4. ?Next, is the anecdote of a Harry Potter film actor who told Jo about a girl he knows being called fat by her classmates, which baffled him because she β€œreally not fat.””

    Okay. Two things. One, would he have been not-baffled if she’d actually been fat in his eyes? Like it was okay?

    Two, don’t even get me fucking started on the male privilege inherent in this situation.


  5. Almost the same thing happened to me, too. Someone saw me right after I’d had a child, and then a few weeks later, and told me I had lost weight. I was like, “Well, duh. Wonder why that might be??” It wasn’t until after I’d stopped speaking that I realized it was supposed to be a compliment. I didn’t see it as a compliment because I hadn’t done anything to lose weight, so it was not an achievement in my eyes.

    Aside from that, I didn’t know JKR was that awesome. πŸ˜€

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