Well my first summer session is over now. It ended last night. I’m sad! I really loved my anthropology class. It was my favorite class this year, so far. It had the most interesting readings I’ve ever had for a class. Some of the books I bought were just fascinating.
One of them is Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession, which is like a small anthology of various writings by different authors, all about how different countries, societies, and cultures view fat itself. It was probably the most interesting book I’ve ever read for a class.
For example, one chapter was called “Talk,” written by Fanny Ambjornsson. She talks about her experience in Sweden, where she worked in a high school for a period of time. In those high schools, girls often engage in what’s called “fat talk” – but not just any girls. Only thin or skinny girls are allowed to engage in that type of talk. Girls whom the other girls consider to be “fat” or overweight can’t engage in fat talk, because the other girls won’t step in and defend them.
You see, girls in those high schools are expected to belittle themselves and talk about how “fat” they feel they are, when they’re actually not. They’re expected to! And when they do talk about how “fat” they feel they are or how certain parts of their bodies are “fat,” other girls in their group speak up and say, “Oh no you’re not fat! You wanna see fat? Look at my thighs! This is fat!”
Another norm that they follow, which I actually agree with, is that they don’t ever say that someone else is fat. That’s looked down upon. They’ll get ostracized or shunned if they say something like that. They can only talk down to themselves, and then expect their friends to chime in to defend them. They don’t associate themselves with the bigger girls, because they think that simply being friends with an overweight girl will cause them to gain weight themselves. So, overweight girls have a harder time making friends.
You see, Ambjornsson explains that they can only have the ability to talk about fat if they don’t actually have it. So, if you do have it, you can’t talk about it. No one will defend you…and we all know that silence often means agreeing. They agree that other girls are “fat” without actually saying it.
So yes, I found that chapter rather odd, and very surprising…and even disturbing. That young adolescent girls are expected to talk down to themselves, around others! In fact, if they don’t do that, other girls consider them to be conceited. Like they don’t have a right there to feel good about their bodies and appreciate their physical features. Wow.
Now, maybe not all Swedish high schools are like that. That was the experience of one school staff member. I’ve tried researching it, but I couldn’t find anything else about it. The book came out in 2005, so it was a fairly recent finding. Either way, I found that chapter fascinating.
I’ll talk about more chapters soon 🙂