I attended an amazing event this weekend, where I got the privilege of spending two days with some of the most accomplished, dynamic LGBTQ folks I've ever met. More on that in a future post, but while I was there, someone asked me what topics I've wanted to address on BW but haven't gotten around to, or that I've found it too hard to write about. I had two answers: (1) Butches and race; (2) Butches and body image.
The former is hard to write about because, as a white woman, it's impossible for me to speak from personal experience about how being a racial minority interacts with butchness. Sure, I can talk about whiteness + butchness, and maybe I will--but I'm still looking for a guest blogger of color to write a post about this (hit me up if you're interested). Number (2) is hard to write about because it's such a touchy topic for so many people. But I'm going to take my new friend up on his challenge anyway, and delve into the topic of butches and body image.
First, my experience. I'm not exactly "fat," and I'm usually pretty active (well, when I'm not dealing with mono, whooping cough, or a broken foot). But I'm carrying around about 30 pounds more than I'd like, and the BMI scale puts me solidly in the "overweight" category. I've lost 12 lbs this year without giving up ice cream (because, like, let's be realistic, people), and hope to lose a bit more. So I know firsthand what it's like to be hefty, though admittedly I don't know what it's like to be obese. (And I really don't know what it's like to be thin.)
I've had multiple butches confide body image issues to me, though always one on one, and sometimes anonymously. There's a sense out there that it's just not "butch" to talk about being insecure about your physical appearance. Most butches don't talk about this with one another; to whom are we supposed to talk about it? A girlfriend in front of whom we're trying to appear confident? A male friend? A straight female friend? Frankly, none of those options sound appealing.
Furthermore, diet and exercise present special problems for butches, which mirror some of the problems faced by straight men. Butches trying to lose weight may think they'll lose butch points if they admit to dieting. The diet industry paints monitoring food intake as something "feminine." I know I wouldn't feel comfortable telling a butch buddy that I'm on a diet. And when it comes to exercise, many of us want to look competent, because physical fitness is "butch," right? But what if we're wheezing after a half mile? What if we can't bench press as much as our femme friends can? Overall, it can be a lot easier to hide behind your butchness than to risk making yourself vulnerable. It's easier to "puff up" as you walk by the gym, but to avoid going in. And don't even get me started on swimsuits.
On the other end of the spectrum, some butches suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. And these folks can feel invisible. It can feel decidedly un-butch to seek help for this. And available support groups may not contain a heck of a lot of people who look like you.
I hope to post more on this issue soon, but for now, I just wanted to get the topic out there. We think about our bodies, too, and a lot of us are self-conscious--and we don't always talk about it.
What do you think, butches? Is butchness and body image an issue you've ever thought about? Experienced? Heard about from others? What kinds of issues related to body image would you like to see addressed on BW?