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How Thin Envy is Killing Us

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By Kimberly G. Jackson

“Would you please weigh me?”

The physician’s assistant seemed surprised.  She’d taken my vitals, but was going to skip the scale.  She knows most women hate seeing that number, and when she looked at me she saw someone slim thin petite.  That meant healthy in her mind, so her eyes asked the question:  why?

“I’m here because I think I might have cancer.”

It started when I found a lump in my breast, and went for a mammogram.  I was struck by the questions on the form:  Have you had unintended weight loss?  Come to think of it, yeah, all my clothes are loose.  Fatigue? Check.  Shortness of breath?  Check. Night sweats?  Sometimes, but maybe it’s just menopause.  It got me thinking, and scared.  To the extent I’d noticed it at all, I’d thought of my weight loss as good, even though I’m on the thin side to begin with.  After all, they say you can never be too rich or too thin, don’t they?

Like most American women, I’ve lived my whole life acutely aware of my body’s size and shape.  Desirability to men—I learned so early that I can’t remember how—is the most important measure of a woman’s worth. Of course, I’ve also spent a lifetime fighting that idea:  that’s why God made feminism and psychotherapy, and I’ve done my best with both.  I—and the culture around me—have made some progress in my lifetime, for sure.  But for all the attention to celebrity baby bumps and butt implants, ordinary women are still flooded with constant messages that thin is good and fat is bad.  And the effects are dangerous to more than our self-esteem.

The radiologist couldn’t find the lump on the mammogram or ultrasound, so she sent me back to my OB/GYN, where—after the PA helped me determine I’d lost about 10% of my body weight in six months—I got a referral for a breast MRI.  That had to happen in a specialized facility, with a detailed intake questionnaire asking about family history, lifestyle, and weight.  What did you weigh, it asked me, at 18?  How about a year ago, and now? I put in the numbers, handed in the form.

The nurse I met with had a printout.  The model said my risk was low; she figured the lump was a bunch of cysts; she was inclined to send me home.  I said, “I weigh what I weighed in high school,” and she said—remember this is a nurse, a health professional, in a facility specializing in breast medicine—“Do you know how many women would love to be able to say that?”

I kept my cool.  I could feel she was a nice person and meant well.  More than that, I could see that she is what the world calls heavy, and I am not. I have known for years that women’s envy of thinner women is a potent force in our oppression, a powerful tool to divide-and-conquer us.  So, I kept talking, signaling my goodwill, asking her questions, giving her data. She authorized the MRI, and we found out I had cancer.

When my ten-year-old daughter heard the story of my discussion with the nurse, she said, “Mommy, if you hadn’t been so nerdy, you wouldn’t have gotten the MRI.”  She is right.  I have thought with deep concern since then about all the women out there who may not be as “nerdy” or as assertive as I am, and who as a result, may not be getting the care they need.

For I know that my story is part of a larger one, about how men see and value women and—crucially—about how women see each other and themselves.  A friend who has leukemia told me she had never had so many people compliment her appearance as when she had cancer-related weight loss, along with seriously depleted muscle tone and dark circles under her eyes.  Another friend with Crohn’s disease told me the upside of being dangerously malnourished was being able to wear high-fashion items made for the very petite.  And on the flip side, a heavier friend of mine almost died from known potential side-effects of a hypertension medication whose dosage her doctor had recently increased—not because the hypertension itself had worsened, but because the doctor feared it might, given my friend’s size.

The madness of it all really hit home for me the night, a few days after my diagnosis, when my husband, in tears, begged me to start eating more, even if I had no appetite.  I’ve been researching these treatments, he said, and they’re going to make you lose weight.  You should try to gain twenty pounds as fast as you can.

It is one of the great tragedies of my life that when my husband said this, I thought:  he really loves me.  Because somewhere in my head I always thought:  you cannot be loved by a man unless you are thin.   As I reread that sentence, it sounds like a pathetic and embarrassing admission, and I’m tempted to delete it.  But I’m letting it stand, because I think I am not alone.  I think my tragedy is one that’s widely shared.

Our views of women’s size blind all of us, medical professionals and patients alike, from investigating rationally what ails us.  And we cannot let this go on.

So, let’s stop trying to be lithe and willowy; let’s go for blooming and robust.  Let’s remember that any man worth his salt will love us for who we are, and not for what we fit into.

And finally, ladies:  let’s eat.

Kimberly G. Jackson is the author of two poetry chapbooks from Finishing Line Press: Tesseract (2016) and Materfamilias (forthcoming).  Her website is http://www.tesseractpoet.com.

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bibliogrrl
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Chicago!
angelchrys
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Overland Park, KS
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bio-punk: horreurscopes: bender-of-life: horreurscopes: a few fun octopus facts: their arms are...

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bio-punk:

horreurscopes:

bender-of-life:

horreurscopes:

a few fun octopus facts:

  • their arms are similar to our tongues in that their muscle fibers are  oriented in three different directions 
  • octopuses are disconcertingly strong (anecdotal evidence says that a 15 inch wide octopus was as strong as the scientist handling it)
  • on that note that same scientist said that when her octopuses escaped she would have to run behind them, “like cats” (paraphrased from sy montgomery’s the soul of an octopus)
  • aquariums have “octopus enriching programs” so they don’t get bored and fuck shit up in their tanks
  • they are crazy smart like. really. really fucking smart 
  • but we can’t compare their intelligence to ours because our evolution branched from the same common ancestor so long ago we cannot comprehend how they think
  • it’s believed that their intelligence evolved when they lost their shell, and had to adapt to predict how countless of different prey and predators would act, how to avoid them, distract them, lure them or trick them 
  • they visualize how other creatures are going to act, which means they have have awareness that others are individuals which is a type of consciousness but i can’t remember what it’s called right now 
  • like, they use tools 
  • they have distinct personalities 
  • aquarium octopuses are socialized from a very young age and even though in the wild they are solitary creatures they become extremely friendly with enough human exposure
  • sometimes they dislike people for no apparent reason and will shoot water at them
  • they have three hearts 
  • each of their arms has a tiny brain that controls movement and sensory input on its own i shit you not
  • they are color blind and yet they can camouflage their color and nobody knows how 
  • they can change the color and texture of their skin faster than human eyes can keep up with it
  • great pacific octopuses are white when they are peaceful, and red when they’re excited 
  • aquarium octopus have escaped their tanks and slithered down pipes into the ocean 
  • escaped their tanks to eat the fish in other tanks 
  • escaped their tanks to go fight other octopuses cuz they were bored
  • octopus fight club
  • learned how to take photographs
  • cost thousands of dollars by flooding new floors
  • they can feel, taste, and smell with their suckers and all of their skin
  • they enjoy tasting their food by slowly moving it through their suckers instead of shoving it in their beaks
  • they can rewrite their rna. no, really
  • the only reason why they haven’t evolved to take over as the next dominant race is because they’re doing pretty well  in the ocean so there’s no need for them to adapt further 
  • there’s a ton more but i’m so overwhelmed by love i can’ think of any at the moment i’m going to cry
  • read the soul of an octopus by sy mongomery no she didn’t pay me i just love octopuses so much 

Okay this was very informational but here’s the thing that annoys me. The correct plural of octopus is octopi {octo-pie} NOT “octopuses” I only know this because one of the assistant teachers at my school would always stress this fact. He is a marine biology fanatic.

nooooo waaaaaayyyyyy

not to start discourse but… it’s literally not. the word has greek origins, not latin ones, so octopuses makes more sense. if you’re gonna get technical, it’s octopodes, but honestly who gives a fuck. 

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bibliogrrl
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THIS IS WHY I DO NOT EAT OCTOPUS
Chicago!
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The Millipede That Protects Itself with Cyanide – Cool Green Science

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Wildlife

Keep an eye on the ground and any decaying trees as you’re walking the trails of the Pacific Northwest and you’re likely to see bright yellow spots moving along the ground, look closer and you’ll notice those spots are on the “keels” of a dark millipede about 2 inches long. That’s the yellow-spotted millipede (Harpaphe haydeniana) — AKA almond-scented millipede, AKA cyanide millipede.

Just like the bright colors of the monarch butterfly, and other aposematic species, these yellow spots are a warning to potential predators – “Don’t mess with me!”

If you were to pick up a yellow-spotted millipede, it would likely curl into a spiral and exude hydrogen cyanide on you, accompanied by the strong scent of toasted almonds (that’s the smell of cyanide). The amount secreted by an individual millipede is not enough to seriously harm a human, though it may stain the skin or burn and blister if you’re sensitive (wash your hands if you handle one). This amount is lethal, however, to birds and rodents. Similar cyanide producing millipedes in the Appalachians can produce 18 times the amount of the toxin needed to kill a pigeon. The threat is enough to protect these abundant arthropods from most predators (they do have a beetle nemesis).

Cyanide is so toxic to most living organisms that it was once thought that cyanide millipedes were running the risk of killing themselves each time released this secretion; that they must close off the openings that they use to breathe in order to survive. But scientists found that the millipedes are immune to cyanide — able to process it and convert it into harmless chemicals.

Abundant may be an understatement for the yellow-spotted millipede. In some places, yellow-spotted millipedes can reach densities of 20-90 individuals per square meter, an unusually high density for millipedes in a conifer forest. So many millipedes with so few predators eat a lot of food and their favorite food is leaf litter, primarily needles from trees like the Douglas fir and Sitka spruce.

“They are in fact the most important detritivore, or organism that actually feeds on dead leaves and litter and turns it into feces so it can enter the soil decomposition recycling chain,” Andrew Moldenke of Oregon State University said, as reported by the Nature Conservancy in Washington. “From a conservation point of view, they’re absolutely critical.”

Within their range yellow-spotted millipedes eat 33 to 50 percent of all coniferous and deciduous leaf litter. For a millipede, eating is a complex process – they crush their food, filter it, and crush it again increasing the availability of nutrients 40,000-fold. The millipede uses the nutrients it needs and then excretes much of that rich nutrient load onto the forest floor where it becomes part of a complex food web.

And if you think all that is crazy, this is how they reproduce.

“What people are totally blown away by are their mating habits,” Moldenke reports. “They get together by tens of thousands to millions in one spot and mate.”

Despite their abundance and importance, millipedes remain understudied. 12,000 species of millipedes have been identified globally, but estimates of the true number of species out there on Earth range from 15,000 to 80,000 – either way there are at least 3,000 millipede species out there to discover. You can contribute to scientific knowledge of millipedes by reporting your sightings to iNaturalist.

Brewer, M.S., Sierwald, P. & Bond, J.E. (2012). Millipede taxonomy after 250 years: classification and taxonomic practices in a mega-diverse yet understudied arthropod group. PLOS ONE, 7, e37240.

Duffey, S.S., Underhill, E.W. & Towers, G.H.N. (1974). Intermediates in the biosynthesis of HCN and benzaldehyde by a polydesmid millipede, Harpaphe haydeniana (Wood). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Comparative Biochemistry, 47, 753–766.

Marek, P.E. & Bond, J.E. (2009). A Müllerian mimicry ring in Appalachian millipedes. PNAS, 106, 9755–9760.

Marek, P.E. & Moore, W. (2015). Discovery of a glowing millipede in California and the gradual evolution of bioluminescence in Diplopoda. PNAS, 112, 6419–6424.

Moldenke, A.R. (1999). Soil-dwelling arthropods: their diversity and functional roles. In: Proceedings: Pacific Northwest Forest and Rangeland Soil Organism Symposium, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-461. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis, OR, pp. 33–44.

Shear, W.A. (2015). The chemical defenses of millipedes (diplopoda): biochemistry, physiology and ecology. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology, 61, 78–117.

Tags: Nature Pop, Weird Nature

Lisa loves all things citizen science and enjoys learning about everything that goes on four legs, two wings or fins - she even finds six and eight-legged critters fascinating at a safe distance. She has a PhD in Classical Literature and Languages from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and enjoys reading Greek and Roman literature or talking about mythology in her spare time. More from Lisa

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bibliogrrl
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Chicago!
MaryEllenCG
1 day ago
NOPE NOPE NOOOOOPE NO THANK YOU NO NO NONONONONONO
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slowly-and-thenallat-once: the-last-hair-bender: That was...

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slowly-and-thenallat-once:

the-last-hair-bender:

That was really cool.

What tf just happened

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MaryEllenCG
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Greater Bostonia
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bellygangstaboo: This is inspiring to young black artists who...

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bellygangstaboo:

This is inspiring to young black artists who use “non traditional” approaches.

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bibliogrrl
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The Secret Actress: in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein is not an anomaly

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Harvey Weinstein represents a culture in which women are deemed either screen-bait or difficult. If these men are ‘dinosaurs’, bring on the asteroid

The Secret Actress is an Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated actor who lives and works in LA today.

I had a thought the other morning. Yet another actress I know was coming forward with her story of a foul encounter with Harvey Weinstein, and this thought swilled around in the grubby impression left by the details.

Related: Woody Allen forced to clarify comments about 'sad' Harvey Weinstein

Related: The voices of Weinstein’s accusers have torn the fabric of patriarchy | Naomi Wolf

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bibliogrrl
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