Welcome to re-Prudied where I fix the terrible advice of Emily Yoffe, a.k.a. Dear Prudie, in the dim hopes that the original letter writer will read it and disregard Prudie’s terrible advice. Today’s response fixes Prudie’s dismissive and slightly lazy response to a woman who is about to go on vacation with a bunch of models.
Q. Weekend Away With a Bunch of Models: I’m a pretty confident woman who feels good in her own skin. I’m a rock climber and have a healthy, athletic body. However, I recently received an invitation to a close friend’s bachelorette party. She’s kind, smart, loyal, and down-to-earth, but she’s also a well-known model and all of her work friends are also smoking hot beautiful models, and I’ll be spending a weekend with them in a destination where the primary attire is a bathing suit. This fills me with an uncharacteristic sense of panic. Am I being ridiculous for not exactly looking forward to a weekend of feeling like I’m tagging along with a Victoria’s Secret catalog? Oh and let’s not forget all the pictures they’ll be posting for their thousands of Instagram followers to critique. The feminist in me can’t even believe I’m thinking this way. Any advice on how to get over this petty insecure feeling?
A: Invite me! I could use a vacation, I’ll hang out in my Miraclesuit, and when you stand next to me in all the photos, you’ll feel like Kate Upton. Yes, you’re being silly. You have an admirably fit body, and you say your friend is lovely and down-to-earth about her good looks. So grab your suit, order some piña coladas, and have a great time. If you get a little sick of being in the middle of all the documentary evidence of their pulchritude, tell them to toss the selfie stick, and that you’ll be their official photographer.
Prudie, body shaming is best left to rightwing news and the misogynists. One of the reasons you’re a not-so-great advice columnist is because you dismiss real feelings. Calling someone “silly” for expressing real feelings, especially feelings that don’t agree with your worldview, is insulting and mean. Just because someone claims what she feels is “petty,” doesn’t give you license to agree with her.
LW, you don’t know me from a catalog model, but being athletic is something you do, not something you are. There is no such thing as an athletic body because different types of bodies can do different types of things. What’s worse, “athletic” is a dangerous, loaded, and, worst of all, misleading term.
For example, if you weigh 300 pounds and can climb Mt. Fuji, then you’re physically able to do an amazing feat of strength that not many other people can do. If you’re 5’9”, 120 pounds, doing lines of coke every Friday, self-medicating with screwdrivers, winded after walking three blocks, and literally unable to climb three flights of stairs without stopping, then you’re probably not very athletic at all. (Yes, Natalie*, my always-zoned out friend, I’m talking about you.) Both of these individuals exist, yet take a wild guess at which one gets “helpful” weight loss suggestions and who has never been told, not even by her doctor, that she has an unhealthy lifestyle? (“Whatever. My doctor said as long as I’m not overweight, it’s all good.”) Okay I’ll stop picking on Natalie now.
LW, it doesn’t matter what you think you look like, what you actually look like, and what you do with your body. When you say statements like, “I’m a rock climber and have a healthy, athletic body,” you’re implying that somehow your circumstances would be different for a person who didn’t possess those qualities. Ugh...no. Your statement, “She’s kind, smart, loyal, and down-to-earth, but she’s also a well-known model,” is also problematic. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, though, and hope you meant to say “and” instead of “but” because those personal characteristics aren’t particular to specific physical looks. Maybe it’s time to rethink what it means to be a feminist?
But I get it. You’re self-conscious, and you don’t want to be constantly posing for the camera in what amounts to your underwear. You really don’t want to do it when everyone else allegedly has that “perfect” body and you don’t think you do.
Part of me wants you to say “fuck it” and do your thing, but I know psychologically that’s a lot harder to do. Instead, I’m advising you to go invest in a flattering, but not drapey, cover-up. Find a swimsuit that hides whatever you think are your flaws. Trust me, it’s worth the money to pay for it because you’re not just buying something to conceal what you don’t like, you’re also buying piece of mind.
Then go on your weekend and have fun. Sure you’ll see a picture you think is less than flattering, but remember two things: 1) you never look as bad as you think you do and 2) no one is going to take a magnifying glass to some Facebook photos because no one thinks about you as much as you do.
*Name not changed.