Last week I wrote a blog post entitled Why The Gays Hate Their Bodies. Some people loved it, many people hated it, and what I learned was that everyone else is as sensitive about their bodies as I am. My reasoning for posting was threefold. I wanted to expose the conflicted feelings I have about my own body so that other people struggling with the same issues would feel less alone in their worries. I wanted to point out that there are specific factors to being a gay man that lead to us having a heightened self-consciousness about our bodies. And finally I wanted to poke fun at how stupid this whole thing is by satirizing it. Clearly, I have genuine issues with my own body and my own hatred of it. But I also have issues with my issues, realizing how lame it is to spend time thinking about something so superficial.
There were plenty of responses to my post, most of them biting and witty. The award for best title goes to:
The post itself is deliciously biting at times but mostly a lazily written series of quotations out of context followed by a rallying cry for hating me. Which was productive in that the “me” he was railing against stood for body-conscious gays who judge other people based on their bodies. That’s not really me, but I can imagine how the author came to that conclusion. I don’t resent the article and I appreciate its sentiment. But I do think it could have been more fleshed out because the writer is clearly a clever and analytical person.
The Gawker article written by Louis Peitzman was more thoughtfully written and much more nuanced. Peitzman felt I was contributing to gay body panic, which is probably true considering I was talking about my own gay body panic. He also wrote that I told gay men to hate their bodies. This is completely up to interpretation, and I can see how someone would think that. Sometimes, when we talk about things we hate in ourselves, it makes those around us worry about that very same thing. Sometimes the opposite happens and they realize they are not alone in their worry. This is why the responses to my post were so polarized. Some people felt validated and comforted that I shared their body worries, some people felt that as I was judging myself, I was also judging them. Both are valid feelings that are more about the reader than my original text.
Over at Huffington Post, Derek Hartley wrote the type of post I’d expect a friend (or someone who loyally reads my blog) to have. Basically he understood that it was satire, that I am not a gay body hegemon, and that I was writing to satirize a flaw that I see within myself and my community. After reading articles and comments from so many people who read my post out of context, it was nice to read something by someone who knew my “voice” enough to know I was on his side. I do not want people to feel badly about their bodies. I want the opposite.
By far, the most thoughtful conversations came from the comments field. To be sure, there are a lot of internet trolls out there who got some sweet satisfaction calling me vapid, fat, and ugly, but there were also a lot of people who contributed great things to the conversation about body image. If you haven’t sifted through the comments field, I’d take a browse because there is a lot of helpful insight amongst the angry two-dimensional responses.
Now, I’d like to clear a few things up. A lot of people were wondering if I the post was meant to be serious of if it was a joke. I can see why this was confusing because it was both. Yes, I’m serious about hating my body, and yes I’m smart enough to know what a stupid waste of time that is. When things bother me, I tend to joke about them. It’s always been the way I deal with stuff. I’m self-deprecating about my looks, about how co-dependent I am, and about how sometimes I think about superficial stuff. My hope was that the image of Ursula the Sea Witch and my sarcastic tone would clue people in to the fact that the article was meant as a satire. Of myself. Instead of feeling in on the joke, many continued to satirize me, which was probably the most productive thing that could have happened, proving my point even more that while gay body image is a relevant topic of discussion, it’s also kind of a stupid one.
Another issue most responses (especially the Gawker response) brought to light was that of privilege. My joke about gay men all being wealthy was mainly one making fun of that perception. I think generalizations are inherently funny. It’s like generalizing that all white people love corn dogs. It’s not true but saying it is so ridiculous that it makes me laugh (Sidenote: all white people do love corn dogs. And apple picking. And rural county fairs). The real issue of privilege here comes in all of our privilege to even worry about something like body image. If I had been raised in an area where there was a scarcity of food and I had to worry about where my next meal was coming from, would I have been anorexic in high school? Probably not. The fact that we are even having this conversation is an act of privilege. Which doesn’t mean body image issues are not a worthy conversation. We (most of us reading this) live within our own context as people residing in the first world, and our “problems” exist fully within the context of our [relatively privileged in the scheme of the world] context.
Ultimately, what everyone wants to hear is that we should all just love our bodies. Which is the truth and something we all know. However, if it were really that easy we’d all love our bodies, love ourselves, and be perfectly happy all the time. The fact is that we don’t always love our bodies. We don’t always love ourselves. And unless we talk about why, we’ll never get past all the stupid hang-ups that impede our happiness.
So until we are advanced enough to stop critiquing our bodies and hating them, I will continue to make fun of how much I loath mine. Don’t take it personally.