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Sophie Pollitt-Cohen Headshot

Large and in Charge

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Recently, Glamour magazine ran this photo in an article promoting healthy body image.

The majority of the online responses were positive. Even my male friend Baker commented on her nice smile and other weird, irrelevant things like that. But my first thought when I saw it was "What is the dealie with the fat lady in Glamour?"

Why am I being such a hater? I spend so much time thinking about body image and how the man keeps me down, so shouldn't I be all for sisterhood and junk? It would seem that men are the ones promoting these standards for women, as people in power are normally want to do to people without power. As Hawthorne wrote in his story "The Blithedale Romance," about a particularly feminine character, "She is the type of woman such as man has spent centuries in making." If men are making the rules, why are women the ones enforcing them?

It's a similar strategy to that in colonialism. For centuries, conquerors have gotten natives to do their bidding by making them police themselves and each other. People will do what you want if they think it's in their best interests -- and then you can feel both uninvolved and not guilty. Bonus points if you can convert them to Christianity, because then not only do you get to feel unbad, but you get to feel very good. And we all know from Strunk and White it's not worse to use un-negative -- I mean it's better to use positive statements.

Columbus cut the natives' hands off if they were naughty. This worked well if he wanted to have a colony with no possibility of puppets. But sometimes people rebelled against him because they weren't into being mutilated and tortured. Then Cabeza De Vaca found out that actually the cross, not the hand-chop, will best subdue. He used Christianity to convince the natives that obedience to him would make them happiest.

Ben Franklin applied a similar concept of incentive production when he basically invented the American work ethic. As he says, "Men are saved, not by Faith, but by the want of it." Franklin's maxims in Poor Richard's Almanack don't directly say you must work harder--they get you to panic and think OMG I must work harder. But don't worry, they won't turn you into a dirty Animal Farm horse communist.

Poor Richard's sayings are all about why it's good for you to work all the time. Taxes are bad, true, but "we are taxed twice as much by our Idleness, three times as much by our Pride, and four times as much by our Folly." I still feel like I'm taxed the most by taxes, but he has a point. Being productive sounds great when it is presented as something that makes your life more interesting. (And putting in lots of random capital letters makes your ideas seem more important.) After all, "Dost thou love life then do not squander time." Well, I love life, so I'd better get working, especially since "God helps them that help themselves," "Diligence is the Mother of Good luck," and "If we are industrious we shall never starve." (So to all you starving people, why don't you just start being more industrious?)

Whether you're colonizing natives in the New World or trying to keep women down without actually having to do anything, it's always good to make the people you control feel that everything is their idea. It's like makeup or Chinese food--once you see how it happens, you kind of lose interest. Unless you're on a late-night binge, in which case you know but you just don't care.

Now that I know I'm part of the problem, I can't tell who to be mad at: myself, or everyone else, especially men. Maybe my friend Emily was right when she pointed out "We blame men for letting this happen... However, we are grown ass women and need to stop blaming other peeps but ourselves."

That being said, I think it is better to be mad at men than to hate on myself, because depression directed inward slows your metabolism and makes you eat your feelings, whereas anger directed outward burns calories. Everyone wins!

The end.