“Obesity,” declares Charlotte Cooper, author of 1998’s Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size, “is just a word used by people to medicalize fat.” Extra weight, once considered a genetic short straw, is increasingly characterized as a crisis threatening the physical, political, and moral health of our nation—even as large bodies are becoming increasingly visible in popular culture.
It’s a natural, normal part of life. But people hesitate to talk openly about their needs, their desires, and their concerns because they are so fearful of what others might think. But we all have urges, and we all have questions, and the more we can talk about them, the happier and more fulfilled we all will be. It should be a joyful, tender, and esteem-building part of life, not a source of confusion or shame. Yet it’s hard to get a handle on it, because although there’s a lot of information out there, much of it is judgmental, misinformed, or quite simply false.
You'll recognize the female silhouette that leans against the title on the cover of Ariel Levy's new book, Female Chauvinist Pigs. She's the girl who in recent years has made the move from the mud flaps of big rigs right into pop culture, gracing trucker caps, baby tees, and gold necklaces as an emblem of sexy, empowered womanhood. Or at least that's what she'd like you to believe. But Levy doesn't buy it, and Female Chauvinist Pigs offers her opinions on why this new symbol of postfeminism—the girl gone wild, the party-like-a-porn-star striver, the woman who populates HBO's "educational" reality shows like Cathouse and Pornucopia—isn't nearly as groundbreaking as she thinks she is.
With all the world in strife, one might think the moms of New York would cut each other some slack.... That motherhood, in short, would serve as a safe house where civility and mutual respect rule. Think again. Motherhood, for all its well-documented joys, has become a flash point for envy, resentment, and guilt.
—Ralph Gardner Jr., “Mom vs. Mom,” New York, October 21, 2002
"One might think,” in other words, that mothers could comport themselves in a more seemly manner. Because if we don’t get ourselves under control, we’re going to explode.
When Damali Ayo was 12, her parents sent her to day camp with 20 white kids. The kids were fascinated by the way Ayo’s hair maintained its texture in the pool. Even after she deliberately dunked her head in the water, they were convinced that black hair doesn’t get wet.
This experience stuck with her as she launched her art career in the predominantly white city of Portland, Oregon. Ayo often felt she was the token black person relied upon for opinions and advice precisely because of her skin color.
Talk about old school. In skating rinks around the nation, saucy dames are getting together and strapping on old-fashioned quad roller skates to jam, block, and pummel each other. The roller derby revival is on. More than two dozen leagues operate across the country, with an average of 30 to 40 active skaters each (some leagues even boast as many as 60), and many more are in the works.
See that blonde weaving through the strip on Rollerblades?” writes Details magazine in a March 2005 article. “Please puff up her denim miniskirt just enough for us to drink in the full length of her long, bronze legs.”
No, this isn’t a fluff piece on the latest centerfold hottie. It’s Details’ self-proclaimed “extraordinary” article on professional golfer Mianne Bagger, whose biggest challenge this year was winning the right to step onto the green with other women. In her quest to find acceptance in professional competition, Bagger has overcome the resistance of both golf’s governing agencies and other female pros who worried that Bagger would have an inherent physiological advantage. That’s because, although Bagger has played golf since she was 8 years old, she only turned pro in 2003—10 years after what she calls “a transsexual past.”
It didn’t matter that the outcome was predictable, that Beth Hogan would invariably be crowned Miss America. We competed fiercely, as if we expected to win. A year earlier, when we were in fifth grade, we held séances, but now we staged beauty pageants as if our lives depended on it, as many as four or five a night.
I’m not an athlete. I’ve always disliked team sports, with their conformist, vaguely fascist associations. While as a child I longed to be a tree-climbing tomboy, I had to admit a preference for tea parties, dress-up, and long afternoons at the library.
Then one summer night, three years ago, I played my first game of bike polo. It’s an elegant game: With mallets in their right hand, players ride their bikes up and down the field trying to whack a grapefruit-size ball between two orange cones. It was instant love.