22 Jun 2006, Comments Off on “Anything that’s over 60 kilos I don’t talk to”

“Anything that’s over 60 kilos I don’t talk to”

Author: Helen

The Girlchild is fourteen and in year 9. She’s just taken part in the new Bodythink program, which


is a collaboration between the State Government, the Butterfly Foundation — which supports sufferers of eating disorders — and beauty brand Dove.

(Ironic, much?! The Girlchild was onto that immediately.)


The scheme comes after the Government’s parliamentary inquiry last year into body image recommended the development of a national media code of conduct.
…Footscray City College students, among the first to take part in BodyThink, said it was a good way to build confidence. “People think there’s only one shape — that’s too skinny,” year 9 student Kristie Westlow said.

Image from http://www.thepinupfiles.com/frahm.html

I don’t object to these programs, although sponsorship by cosmetics companies doesn’t do much for their credibility. It’s all good that they address the media and “support sufferers”. But I think there’s too much of a push for those who might be on the receiving end of toxic messages about body image. And although the media play a big part in the problem, there’s something missing. To quote a woman with an eating disorder:


“It was a time of huge change and transition, from school to university,” she said.

“This was compounded by a ranking system that the older guys had at the college where they rated the younger females in the top 10. I was never on the top 10 and at that stage it had a profound impact on the way that I saw myself.”

And of course we were treated recently to the opinions of Letterio Silvestri, drink spiker, sexual opportunist and waste of space extraordinaire:


Letterio Silvestri thought Dianne Brimble had “f—ed up his holiday” by dying in his cabin. He was a man of pride who did not talk to “anything that’s over 60 kilos”.

I don’t think we can blame Vogue magazine for that one.

How incredibly depressing. Of course I’ve crossed swords with MRAs/RWDBs galore, but I don’t talk much to the peaked-cap-and-commodore set, except in a professional setting, where they keep their pussy-hatred in check. I suppose we have the example of various footballers over the years, so my surprise was misplaced. How many men and boys out there are still being taught to think that way (the men in both examples are younger than I am)? Do people who run programs like Bodythink care? It seems to me they’re concerned with “treating” the “victims” rather than attacking the problem at its source. As Twisty would say, they need to do a bit of patriarchy blamin’.

Let’s take some of the focus from how women and girls respond to the female-body-hatred in our society, and pay some attention to the boys. Who is teaching them attitudes like these? Why do they still think it’s normal to abuse women and girls to the point where they need psychiatric treatment? Fixing the problem of anorexia and other eating disorders in our society isn’t just the responsibility of schoolgirls. Let’s put some of the responsibility on the men.

(Illustration from Art Frahm, whose “art” explored the mysterious effect of celery on underpant elastic – as elucidated by James Lileks.)

Comments (0)

  • Laura says:

    I downloaded a PDF (from the Australian, I think) of the entire police interview with Silvestri. Chilling reading. The questions you’re asking here are the urgent ones: where did he learn to think like that? How many ordinary looking men also think that way? And what can be done about it?

    I think the coroner overseeing Diana Brimble’s inquest is doing a good thing by making sure the salient material gets presented so as to hammer home the point that what happened to Mrs Brimble came down to the attitudes held by a number of people.

  • armaniac says:

    Team sports and other ‘male bonding’ activities tend to lead to lots of such banter.

    There is an extent to which body preferences are learned and some inherent attraction issues, in my view. But can I point out that most males like slender women, not rake-skinny women, and most males also like women with J-Lo curves. Women continue to be their own worst critics in my observation.

    That collegy crap is awful, but women through their conduct make the same hierarchies clear. Most males most of the time feel all but invisible, while (especially in high school and early university) the stupid, dumb, violent jocks have women literally lining up to have sex with them.

    That conduct validates those men’s conduct, and teaches other males to be more ‘assertive’, exercise, and try to give off ‘aggressive’ vibes like the big dudes.

    No, I’m not excusing them. I want to see that culture change. But the best training will not come from lecturing but from actions, which speak louder than words.

    And women’s actions in the world of attraction speak louder than anything else. By a factor of 20.

  • Helen says:

    That conduct validates those men’s conduct, and teaches other males to be more ‘assertive’, exercise, and try to give off ‘aggressive’ vibes like the big dudes.

    Have you heard of “Patriarchy hurts men too”?

    Patriarchy isn’t just promoted by males. And that doesn’t mean “put it all back on the women again.” It’s been put on women for far too long. And men ignore how patriarchy hurts them too and puts them in a box, possibly because for them the payoff is greater.

    One thing that many people don’t know is that second wave texts like the “Female Eunuch”, for example, criticised female behaviour. It raised the point that women have to change their own behaviour – being submissive, expecting to be “looked after” and /or supported financially, trying to gain power through sex… In other words, feminism is as much about changing how women behave as how men behave. So the “oh, the poor men” argument doesn’t really go down well with me.

    It’s time young men were encouraged to go through a similar process of self examination. The whole idea of this post is that women, through educational programs, daycare centres for anorexia sufferers and the like, are expected to take responsibility for the whole body-image problem, and it’s not fair.

    I see parallels in some US blogs where conservatives maintain that your reaction to a slur or insult is your own responsibility. That puts the onus on the bullied, rather than the bully, and legitimates abusive behaviour, IMO.

  • armaniac says:

    I just realised what IMO stands for. And reignited my intention to read female eunuch.

    On a lighter note I saw the butterfly foundation founder speak recently, at a seminar of political lobbying, and she’s pretty inspiring and determined.

  • Pavlov's Cat says:

    Still Relevant After All These Years dept:

    There was a joke at the bottom of the page. She read it.
    ‘Gynaecologist to dentist: “I don’t know how you can stand your job, smelling people’s bad breath all day.”‘
    Her legs surprised her: that old, almost forgotten sensation, as if all the blood were draining rapidly out of them, leaving them fragile and chalky, unable to support her. They do hate us, she thought. The weight of disgust that loaded the simple joke made her bones weak. She though, I can’t bear it, I can’t. She thought, I should be able to bear it by now. It has just caught me off guard.

    — Helen Garner, ‘The Children’s Bach’, 1984

  • Helen says:

    Here’s Pavlov’s take on Letterio. I don’t think it can be improved upon.

  • Kate says:

    True story: when I was 17 a boy called me a ‘dog’ and that he’d rather have sex with a horse. Even typing the words now makes me feel quite ill. I shrugged off all the taunts of the other teenage girls fairly easily, but that. It took me years to get over that.

  • Helen says:

    Here’s another example just in.

    Check out the name of the business involved, too. Ewwwwww.

  • TimT says:

    Guys tend to single one another out for dumb insults all the time; when these insults are directed at girls (men, too) in their company, and combined with sexual innuendo, the results could be devastating. Good points all round.

  • armaniac says:

    The result’s often devastating for guys as well, they are just expected to laugh it off if they aren’t big enough to smack the insultor in the gob.

  • TimT says:

    Yes, though on reflection I think I didn’t express myself very well in that post. Normally, guy-to-guy insults don’t have the sort of snide, arrogant sexual implications such as that insult Kate relates. You wouldn’t find a guy saying ‘he’d rather root a horse’ to another guy, it goes against several unwritten social codes.

  • kate says:

    On my way home on the bus, in my final year of school, a boy remarked to his friend that I ‘wasn’t worth wasting a condom on’. He was so shocked when I responded (that he looked about 12 and I was looking for a grown up) as if he’d been getting away with making loud and rude comments about girls for ages without criticism. It bothers me still that I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to respond if he hadn’t looked so short and young (really, I could have squashed him with my school bag). If he’d been bigger than me I probably would have slunk off the bus.

  • Willow says:

    Letterio Silvestri is a pathetic “up himself” waste of space. His arrogance deserves reply, some male to male attention in a dark alley, where his crys for help can’t be heard, a little re-arrangement of his face in prison would also be appropriate. He will suffer a tortured life with some help from the man above.

  • i just googled to try and find stuff on the p&o case, and here i am. i’m glad i found this discussion. lots of good stuff here. i have the female eunuch (borrowed from my mother, which i first read years ago) beside my bed, along with greer’s other books, one on fathers, one on the menopause. even the cover of the female eunuch is a jolting image. what a comment on some of the themes you are discussing here. the female body suit. with pudenda, breasts and square-shaped handles at the hips.

  • Helen says:

    i have the female eunuch (borrowed from my mother, which i first read years ago)

    That so warms my crusty old feminist mum heart, Melbournegirl.

  • Helen says:

    a little re-arrangement of his face in prison

    …or maybe a cellmate called Tiny with many tattoos and one tooth?

  • Dan says:

    One good way for Silvestri-like attitudes to be countered would be for women to reserve their attentions for men who show them an appropriate amount of respect. If men knew that they had to behave properly in order to have any chance of being with a woman, then they’d soon sort themselves out. Instead, lots of them get rewarded for their “bad boy” behaviour. Moreover (and without wanting to sound bitter about it), those of us who do love and respect women often find ourselves overlooked in favour of men who treat women badly.

    I’m not blaming women for the fact that those bad attitudes exist, by the way, just pointing out that they have a great deal of power to potentially change the situation, which often seems to be used to reinforce the status quo instead.

  • Sabrina says:

    I’ve heard some pretty crude and insensitive things in my time, but that Silvestri takes the cake! Seems the attitude is the same the world over, doesn’t it? In Australia as well as in the USA, where I live. I hope he and the other 7 go to jail for very long time!

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