Friend A: Ugh, I look so fat tonight.
Friend B: No, you look amazing! *Sigh* I look gross. So fat.
Friend C: You two are crazy! You're both Gorgeous!...I'm the fat one. Look at my stomach. I need a girdle.
Friend A: You guys! My thighs are huge. I should have never worn this dress. I need to lose like, twenty pounds.
Friends B and C, in unison: You're not fat!!!
Friend B: Seriously. I should have stayed home. I'm sooo fat.
Who were these creatures? I emerged from the stall to discover three beautiful young women, all under the age of 25, applying lipstick and critically examining themselves in the mirror. These women were perfectly lovely, and in my eyes, looked a bit underweight.
It’s almost inevitable: When women get together, the chatter eventually turns to whose skinny jeans don’t fit anymore and who weighs in heavier on the scale. We hear women in dressing rooms, locker rooms, and bathrooms complain about one thing over and over again – their bodies. In a culture that equates beauty with thinness it's no wonder many women are obsessed with the figure staring back at them from the mirror. To many she never seems thin enough, not like the ultra slender women that strut down fashion runways, are splashed across glossy magazine pages, and star in today's biggest movies.
We are told these women are beautiful. We are told that if we are thin we will be beautiful too. So we strive to attain this thin ideal and along the way destroy our self-esteem and berate ourselves for not measuring up to these unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy, bodies. Researchers call this “fat talk,” a term coined to describe a behavior common among Caucasian females.
“We have found in our research that both male and female college students know the norm of fat talk - that females are supposed to say negative things about their bodies in a group of females engaging in fat talk,” said Denise Martz of Appalachian State University.
In a study concerning fat talk among students, Martz and her colleagues showed 124 male and female college students a scene describing three women engaging in fat talk. The test subjects were then asked to predict how a fourth female would respond to this discussion. Forty percent of male subjects and 51 percent of female subjects believed that the fourth female would self-degrade her body.
“Because women feel pressured to follow the fat talk norm, they are more likely to engage in fat talk with other females,” Martz told Livescience. “Hence, women normalize their own body dissatisfaction with one another. If there are women out there who feel neutrally or even positively about their bodies, I bet we never hear this from them for fear of social sanction and rejection,” she said.
In March, a different study found that the more often women engaged in "fat talk," the "greater dissatisfaction with their bodies and are more likely to have internalized an ultra-thin body ideal than those who engage in fat talk less frequently," no matter what size they actually were, according to Science Daily. The research also showed that the women who talked about fat more frequently felt that it made them believe they felt better about their bodies. Complaining that one appears fat, and hearing friends validate that they aren't, might help boost a woman's self esteem. Frighteningly, the study also found that more than 90% of college-aged women regularly engage in "fat talk." The study also noted that there was no association between a woman's actual body size and how often she complained about her body size with peers.
Fat talk has become so social acceptable and pervasive that even respected journalists such as those of The New York Times have fallen victim. In November, dance critic Alastair Macaulay took the opportunity to lament the appearance of a lead dancer in the New York City's ballet production of The Nutcracker:
Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm.
When society seems to go above and beyond to encourage women to fat-talk, it can seem an almost impossible habit to break. How often do you find yourself engaged in fat talk with your friends? Do you think it makes you feel differently about your body? Has fat talk affected your female friendships?
|Thrfted vintage silk blazer; Gap tee; Current/Elliot jeans; Jessica Simpson pumps; Forever 21 necklace; Forever 21 single cross earring|