Women who want to be thin are not stupid, and can be feminists

When it comes to how we feel about ourselves, emotion trumps logic almost every time

Sometimes the youtube algorithm brings me a real gem. Not that it's a good algorithm. For a few weeks earlier this year it went through a phase of suggesting almost exclusively content which is diametrically opposed to my areas of interest - videos with titles like 'social justice warrior gets owned' and 'dumb feminist reveals her hypocrisy' and didn't stop until I'd hit the 'hide this content' button about 30 thousand times. So much for its pledge to become more 'advertiser friendly'.

This morning though, Youtube suggested the brilliant Ted X talk below to me, and I enjoyed watching it/listening to it while cocking up my eyeliner so much that I had to share it with you guys. 

The speaker makes a lot of the usual points about the time body concerns take up in women's lives, and the epidemic of self-objectification we're all having to grapple with, but one point that really jumped out to me is that a preoccupation with weight is 'not a failure of information processing'. I think we all, as women, know this, but it's a point worth making more loudly, because one of the more pernicious aspects of the whole horrible patriarchal body policing mess we live in is the idea that only stupid women really want to be super thin. 

Because clever women would know better than to think magazines are real, right? Or (an even more unhelpful version of the same notion) proper feminists would know better than to want to starve themselves into a beauty standard they can patently see is impossible?

Answer: they do know better, but it doesn't help. Women do know that photoshopping is a thing, and they do know that the beauty standards our culture adheres to are insane, but that kind of logical, intellectual and ideological armour can hardly withstand the day in day out emotional bombardment that the media subjects us to. 

When it comes to how we feel about ourselves, emotion trumps logic almost every time, even when we don't realise it. Logical, conscious reasoning is simply too taxing on the brain to be used in minor day to day judgments, so it reverts to emotion-driven decision-making whenever it can. Think of how much energy it takes to do your 8 times table versus deciding which of the cast of friends is your favourite. Arguably your 8 times table is simpler - there are far fewer details to take into account and no nuance whatsoever - but the subjective, emotional decision (Ross for the win) is easier, because your brain is geared towards quick, emotion-based survival instincts over maths. Illogical, emotional-led snap judgments are the path of least resistance for all of us. q

So no, women who want to be thin, even though they know airbrushing is bullshit and even though they've read everything Caitlin Moran has ever written, are not dumb. They're just normal humans with normal human brains. This is not a women-being-illogical problem, as it is so often characterised. It's a skinny-naked-airbrushed-women-on-a-billboard-every-20-feet problem. It's not our fault ladies, it's just that all the logic and reason in the world would crumble under the pressure the media and advertising puts on us. 

Hope you enjoy the video x