Emotional Awareness

That “Leanest, Liveable Weight” Will Never Make You Whole, But Defiance Will

Bunny McKensie Mack

In the world of “leanest, liveable weight” as self-care advice, women who counsel are paid to push other women over the edge.

graphic by me

Earlier this year, GOOP, a brand launched by Gwyneth Paltrow in 2008, which has come under fire repeatedly for trolling our collective sense of self-worth, published an article called “Busting Diet Myths”. In this article, a Dr. Traci Mann explains that we should aim for our “leanest, liveable weight” which she describes as “the weight at the low end of your ‘set range.”

What the f*** is a set range?

GOOP and Dr. Mann were reasonably criticized for the article because it’s dangerous. If you’re going to give advice and you plan on telling women, who are already conditioned to find self-worth in malnutrition, to miss as many meals as possible, just do the world a favor and cancel your internet indefinitely. Because the tank of equating worth with weight has been fueled and re-fueled enough to last us centuries. No extra gas needed here, please. No one’s entering any post apocalyptic Mad Max scenario. We have enough false messages that tell us that the worth of our bodies is rooted in male acceptance and weight loss. We have enough of those messages to destroy and we don’t need no more.

The fact is that GOOP is living up to its name as the thick slimy shit you try to scrub off your hands before it can seep into your pores and dance into your blood stream. But the irony of us running away from GOOP is that it’s a platform for white women, by white women that repeatedly tells all women to duck and weave love for their bodies as they are. Wouldn’t a brand founded by a woman want us to be ourselves? Well, not always. But why?

All forms of oppression teach us that our acceptance and happiness is based on rules that exist to be followed and enforced and that these rules have been established for our safety and only for our safety.

So, within that kind of society — where the house of white male dominance is set up to win — women become enforcers of conformity because they have been taught that coercing women to follow the guidelines that define their bodies and their worth is a task that society will reward them for. That reward is benevolent sexism, a term that describes social rewards that motivate women to stay in their place. Benevolent sexism exists to teach us:

that a little bit of social reward is better than loving ourselves on our own terms #lies.

that we need the love and approval of men in order to be whole people #falsity.

that it is better to be distracted from thinking about and doing something about a system that exists to keep us from accessing our autonomy.

Benevolent sexism cannot thrive without hostile sexism which is the punishment that women and femmes receive for challenging male power, for refusing to conform to traditional gender roles, for not sticking to the gender they were assigned at birth, and for not worrying how attractive or unattractive they’ll be to the system if they eat the damn bread. The existence of hostile sexism is critical to showing those who experience benevolent sexism what could happen if they decided to resist.

No matter who we are, we all internalize sexism. That means that our first inclination in most situations is going to be to follow what we’ve been told about who we need to be in the world in order to be acceptable and loveable. To be rewarded by this system we are required to demand that other women edit and erase themselves in the name of public acceptance and that sounds a lot like this:

I don’t know how she thinks she’s going to get any job using the f-word in her writing like that. Respect is something you earn.

She looks like a girl. Why is she calling herself “they”?

Are you on a diet? You look great! Wow, weight loss looks great on you.

You don’t like him? Girl, just date him. He seems like a nice guy. Don’t worry about being attracted to him or not. Nice men are so hard to find.

She’s complaining about Brian now? Why would she be alone in a conference room with a man anyway? She just needs to be smarter.

If she would stop being a bitch, and trying to lead us as her employees, she would have gotten that promotion.

You’re trans! Omg you actually look so beautiful. Wow. You look like a real woman. Don’t steal my man, girl!

You set a lot of personal boundaries. I don’t know that seems kind of arrogant to me.

Sexism is a structure of oppression that labels women’s needs, desires, hopes, and dreams as irrelevant and small. It’s essential that we identify, analyze, and throw away the lessons we’ve learned about what it means to be whole. When we don’t do that, we are not only making a decision that negatively impacts our own bodies and sense of self-worth but we are also making a decision to tell other women that wholeness looks like their “leanest, liveable weight”.