“What’s Good for the Bitch is Good for the Bastard”?

26 05 2009

While I was wandering around in a bookstore the other day, I saw this:

skinny_bastard

It’s by the two women who brought us the Skinny Bitch books (Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven and Skinny Bitchin’), which proclaims “sugar is the Devil” and “soda is like liquid Satan” (Yes, it’s probably not a bad idea to consume less sugar and soda, but is shaming women the best way to go about doing that?).  Skinny Bitch has been a best seller on The New York Times Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous Paperback Best-Seller list for 92 weeks, and has sold  a whopping 1.1 million copies nationwide, according to Nielsen BookScan.  It’s shameful that a book that tells women to “Stop being a moron and start getting skinny” would be successful…It goes to show how much society idolizes and values thinness.

When Skinny Bitch first came out, a lot of my female friends raved about it.  I wasn’t too excited about it, and reading the first few pages was enough to make me put the book down.  It begins with “Healthy = skinny. Unhealthy = fat”.  Not only is that incorrect (healthy can come in different shapes and sizes.  Weight (and BMI) is a misguiding measure of one’s health.)  Being skinny is the desired beauty/body norm, but it does not always mean healthy.  “Fat” is also a subjective term and a social construct.) but it is also very fat shaming.

Skinny Bitch is a vegan manifesto that is very misogynist, fat-shaming, condescending to women, and just terribly misguided in their approach to promoting veganism.  Why can’t women want to try veganism or vegetarianism because they wanted to do so for personal beliefs, their health, the environment, etc. instead of because they were shamed into it?  Why can’t women just feel good about themselves and want to be healthier instead of being shamed by a stupid, condescending book?  But of course, the self-help industry (as does capitalism) thrives on people feeling badly about themselves and the way they look, so the idea of telling someone that they look good, that they are already good enough is simply unfathomable!

And now we have Skinny Bastard which hit bookstores at the end of April.  It is geared towards men and tells them, “Eating well isn’t some ‘girlie’ thing—these Bitches will whip your ass into shape with their straight talk, sound guidance, and locker room language…if you’re man enough to take it.”  This plays right into gender stereotypes – that men are completely independent and individualistic and can’t take/don’t need advice from anyone, especially women.  And it implies that men who can’t get through Skinny Bastard are not man enough.  Here we go with the shaming again – now men are being shamed and their masculinity is being challenged.

On the About section of Skinny Bastard‘s website it says:

So you’re fat. Big deal. Chances are, you haven’t done so badly, despite the few extra lbs you’re carting around. (Women are so amazing—we can be madly in love with a man, despite how he looks.) But don’t kid yourself, pal: A hot-bodied man is a head-turner. So don’t waste your money on a stupid sports car to get chicks; a woman who cares about what kind of car a man drives is a vapid, shallow whore. Invest in yourself. (A woman who cares about how a man looks is also a vapid, shallow whore. But at least you’ll look good.) You have only one body to get you through this lifetime. So quit eating crap and abusing yourself! Even if you never look like Brad Pitt, if you’re eating well and exercising, you’ll be healthier, happier, and more confident. Chicks dig that shit.

This is disgusting.  It implies that being fat is a huge character flaw that stands out most in comparison to other characteristics.  The whole schpeal about how women are so amazing and the “Chicks dig that shit” is so heteronormative.  Also “Chicks dig that shit” should not be the primary or only motivation to eat healthier and start living a healthier lifestyle.  Then here comes the misogyny – “A woman who cares about what kind of car a man drives…[and] how a man looks is also a vapid, shallow whore”.

I agree that we should all be eating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as much as we can but can’t we just do it for the sake of our own health and wellbeing?  Can’t books like Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard, television shows, magazines, etc. stop telling men/women that they 1) suck because they are fat, 2) need to lose weight in order to be healthy, and 3) need to slim down to attract the opposite sex?

I wrote about this before, but I am sick of the constant fat shaming, fatism and ridiculously unattainable, sexist and oppressive gender norms/stereotypes and standards of beauty that pervade society and affect both men and women.  And I am sick of the constant “you’re not good enough” bullshit society throws at us all the time.  It’s disgusting that our patriarchal, capitalist society thrives off repeating to us over and over that there’s always something wrong with us.


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2 responses

26 05 2009
Joe B.

While I agree that the sexism and unrealistic body image standards behind the book are disgusting, I’m a bit conflicted because I understand the desire to work within the dominant (patriarchal) system to promote what is (in my humble opinion) ultimately a more responsible & gentle way of life.

Personally I haven’t read the book, but from what I’ve heard second-hand (admittedly from vegetarian/vegan and not feminist sources), the element of playing to destructive patriarchal standards winds up as second fiddle to the goal of promoting a vegan lifestyle.

I also understand (and agree with) the argument that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. But I’d like to think the authors here are making a misguided attempt to do so rather than actively trying to perpetuate sexist/misogynistic archetypes.

26 05 2009
feminist2

Hey Joe,

Thanks for your comment! I think that this brings up the whole means/ends issue of whether the means justifies the ends. There are MANY great reasons for being a vegetarian/vegan (speaking as a vegetarian myself) – environmental reasons, animal rights reasons, personal health reasons, etc. Too often people conflate healthiness with being skinny which is not always correct. Being skinny should not be the main or only reason someone feels motivated or compelled to go vegetarian.

The authors clearly are making a misguided attempt to market veganism…whether or not they are doing so on purpose is not something I can determine. It’s sad that so many people are buying into their misogyny and sexism.

Friends who have read “Skinny Bitch” and loved it told me that they love the “directness and straightforwardness” that the authors write with (aka writing things like “stop being a moron,” “stop stuffing your face”, etc.) but I just find that degrading and shaming. It also suggests that people aren’t at all capable of making their own decisions about their bodies, their health and their lives and need to be yelled at.

Anyway, thanks again for commenting and happy reading!

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