Breaking up with the Patriarchy…or How I Survived Weight Based Bullying in my Romantic Relationship
So last summer I wrote this angry break up letter to the Patriarchy. I wrote it in the midst of my growing dissatisfaction being in a relationship with someone who wasn’t supportive of my body, my food choices, my recovery from a lifetime of dieting, couching it in concerns for ‘my health’ among other subtler and not subtler forms of rejection. It took me 9 months from writing this to actually break up with the person referred to as ‘the Patriarchy’ and over a year before I could wrap my head around the fact that body shaming is actually emotional abuse.
I share this now to show that healing is a process. I am reclaiming my voice, my sense of self after being with someone who put forth a lot of conditions to my attractiveness…which although I knew weren’t right or true, still had an insidious way of undermining my self esteem.
This Breakup letter is long overdue. My ancestors and I are hereby giving notice, we will not allow our Beauty to be defined by your standards, nor will we suffer from the judgement of your misguided and perverted ways of seeing. What will it take to change the Global Perception of Beauty that you have lorded over us? Will it take an army of fat woman rocking their bikinis on Instagram, Ted Talks on body shaming, body positive media like I Feel Pretty and Shrill, women of all sizes and abilities doing Cat Walks in Trafalgar and Times Square — will any of these things change the hard wiring of men who grew up with Playboy and Supermodels?
To be fair, I grew up with all that Patriarchal imprinting too. My size 8 mom was perpetually on a diet. We had a needlepoint pillow in my home that read “you can never be too rich or too thin”. I was never measuring up. I didn’t feel beautiful because my beauty wasn’t ‘standard’ — I compared myself unfavorably to my blond haired California Girl best friend who already had boobs by the 9th grade. I could barely fill out an A cup and my angst felt unending.
I have a theory that everyone’s body image issues were formed in middle school. My mom was the fat girl from ages 9–12 and then she became a swan during her teenage years…but she has never ever felt thin ‘enough’ to this day. I was a gawky stick figure of a girl with my broad shoulders curled inwards to cover my flat chest. Now I have 40 pounds on that sapling and my body is sturdy and curvy, and my breasts resplendent.
I worked so hard to accept my body let alone love it. I worked hard to own my beauty too. It took me till I turned 50 to get there, and this self love has been growing and deepening in the years since. So then why does my size become an issue with every man I hook up with? And I mean on my side. My concern about being too big for them, worrying if they will accept my imperfections and still find me desirable.
My young lovers loved my body in all its juicy curviness, they reveled in it. They wanted to fuck me in their car, in hot tubs, on the kitchen counter. They wanted me to wear sexy outfits to cook them dinner, to pole dance for them, to take pictures of me while they were fucking me.
But the older guys, they’re the ones who want me to be smaller and it galls them that I’m not aspiring to that. I’ve been there, done that. It galls ME that they are asking for that. I am not interested in taking up less space. Why don’t I attract those men I’ve heard of, the ones that they say ‘like a little something to hang on to’? Must be something still left to heal, in me, in them.
I had to stand up for my Self, my Body, my Pussy. I had to say this is my sacred vessel and I can’t be in a relationship where I am not being revered and respected. I am most certainly not interested in being sexual with someone who isn’t interested in getting to know how to make my pussy happy. Does the patriarchy think it’s fair to receive a blow job every time we have sex and to not reciprocate? Does the patriarchy think it’s ok to get off and not make sure that I do too. Does the patriarchy think it’s ok to tell me what to eat? What to wear?
I don’t believe that food should be pathologized and I don’t believe clothing should be aspirational. I rebel against diet culture and the ideas around eating as a moral issue that the patriarchy has embraced. I rebel against every magazine telling us we need to lose weight for the summer, to get a beach body, a bikini body. I rebel by being a 57 year old menopausal woman with back fat and stomach rolls who dares to walk the beach proudly in a bikini and dares to eat a hot dog and french fries while doing it.
The Patriarchy is afraid. Afraid of being rejected, afraid of being incompetent. Afraid it can’t make me cum. Afraid of going bald and having a dad bod as it holds tightly to its perceived entitlement to young hot thin women, its ideal of Beauty. The Patriarchy can’t enjoy the meal that is in front of it, it wants something it imagines is tastier but without ever giving the mature fruit a bite. The Patriarchy is afraid of being left in the dust when the Goddess rises and claims her true worth and value. That Day is here motherfuckers, we are Risen.
As I said in the beginning, it took me 9 months from writing this to free myself.
What I am still grappling with is how did I accept the terms of the relationship to begin with? How did I enter my second body shaming relationship, see the red flags and still go all in? Obviously there was still a small part of me that believed it when my ex said ‘that’s what all men want Jill’, meaning thinner equals desirable, the end amen.
What do I know now that I didn’t know then?
That I am infinitely happier on my own than trying to fit myself into a relationship where my body is under scrutiny, where my appetite is deemed offensive. That my desire to be a stand for women and girls is a true calling for me. That I am stronger than I knew and being able to validate my Beauty in the face of such abject dismissal makes me a bad ass in my own eyes.
I am an empowered woman and I am here to assert my true worth and value…and I carry the wounds and scars of the Patriarchy. I am trying to heal my wounds and those of other women, to dismantle my own internalized fatphobia and expand our culture’s limited and harm inducing ‘standards’ of beauty. I am here to stand for my — and all women’s — Divine Beauty as unconditional, our Rightness in all our shapes and forms. I choose to believe that there are men out there who would not need me to change anything about my body to find me sexy and I hope I meet them someday. Meanwhile I’m just gonna be over here having a dance party with Lizzo and celebrating my independence. Join me?