Dietland: Being fat in a world that hates women

My measure of any form of media, is whether it continues to please, alarm or haunt me days after viewing it. Dietland did that for me! After viewing the first episode on AMC this past Monday night, I couldn’t quit thinking about how mixed are the messages we receive as females growing up in a world that tells us to love ourselves while critiquing us at every turn.

Part of me learned about being fat from watching those around me struggle with dieting and self-hate their whole lives. The other part learned about it on a much more personal level in the past few years, as I joined the legions of women starving themselves constantly for “the cause.” But perhaps all of us can relate to some extent to how beauty-focused advertising teaches young girls that we don’t deserve joy. We should instead strive toward “perfection,” no matter how self-destructive that path may become.

dietland baking scones

“Dietland doesn’t merely argue that beauty culture is violent, but also asks the unsettling question of whether the violence that women spend inflicting on themselves is actually a coy display of anger, not at ourselves, but a deeply misogynistic culture.”  — Arielle Bernstein, “Killer Looks, How Dietland Confronts The Violence of Beauty Culture.”

A few things I learned while watching Dietland were disturbing at best. For example, this line by the star “Plum Kettle” about being fat and attracting men: “Men screw women like me, but marry women like my boss,” played by Julianna Marguiles below.

dietland Julianna Margulies

Since I didn’t grow up dieting, I never quite understood the fantasy of those women who have been taught that their lives will be completely transformed as soon as they lose just the right amount of weight. The self-hate is everywhere in this show, and in our cultural bias created by advertising.

“Dietland allows fat women, women like me, who have fallen off too many treadmills and gone to bed so hungry it hurts, the chance to explore a righteous anger; it connects our pain to the bigger issues of a world that hates women.”  —  Laura Bogart, “I see myself in Dietland”

All of this brings up the issue of finding a healthy sense of self-love and respect in a world that doesn’t necessarily believe we deserve it. My biggest issues growing up were around whether I even deserved to be here at all, because I was quite different than most of the girls I met. In my decades-long journey to find and then allow my true self to be seen and heard, few were reassuring. I thank those strong, brilliant women (& Mike!) everyday for speaking to me about my right to be here and to be heard!

Take the greatest risk of all, to be seen as you truly are!

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9 thoughts on “Dietland: Being fat in a world that hates women

  1. Hi Laura Lee! We recorded Dietland and just started watching it last night (haven’t finished the first episode yet) but am finding it compelling. I agree that the messages of self-loathing are highly represented. And the message of consumerism is right up there with it. I look forward to seeing where the story line goes and what the character discovers along the way. ~Kathy

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    • Hi Kathy. I didn’t completely get what was going on at first, but I do now, and I agree with the point they are trying to make. Mostly I’m pleased that some are finally telling it like it is!

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  2. This is a thought-provoking post, for sure. I haven’t heard of this show before, but it sounds pretty interesting.

    As someone who has fortunately (unfortunately?) been on both sides of the extreme– severely underweight and overweight –I can tell you that there’s some people that are never happy with the weight you are. For me, these critical people have usually been rude coworkers or strangers, and never someone who loved me. Seeing that I couldn’t please those outside of me, I simply began to accept myself.

    Great post ✌ I’ll be checking out this show.

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    • I’ve been on both sides too, but that does not change the insights I have gathered by watching how our country chews up girls and spits them out with issues like poor body image, poor self-concept, and constant self-criticism. You’re right! Those who love you, just love you!

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  3. I can’t remember since puberty not being concerned about my weight – I always carried a few extra pounds, and it was difficult to not become obese.
    Now it is a matter of health – if I add pounds, my blood pressure rises and other health issues occur. It is a constant battle…

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