Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bucking the system

A recurrent theme has been how different books interact with my learning and thinking. We're going to have some more of that today.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife (by Diane Ackerman) because we went to see the movie. That happened because we saw a trailer for it before A United Kingdom and thought it looked good. We then heard nothing about the film until we remembered to look and found it was playing at the second-run theater, so saw it a bit later than we might have otherwise. Seeing there was a book, we requested it from the library, where there were many holds. This happens with books that inspire movies even when they seem to be flying under the radar. That is why I did not read it until the end of August.

I read it a month after reading The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, which meant that when I read that Antonina was orphaned during the early days of the Russian Revolution, I was familiar with the Bolsheviks killing the Poles resident in Russia. I can't tell you now whether that was actually in the book, or if it was something I encountered when trying to sort out the Intelligenzaktion when Nazis were killing the Polish elites and the Katyn massacre, when Soviets were killing Polish officers and intelligentsia. Nationalists and Communists are supposed to be opposite, but then when you are reading about them there are so many mass killings that it can be hard to keep them straight.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife not long before Hunger and not really that long after Beauty Sick, which may have made the part about the rations stand out more.

During the German occupation of Poland, there were daily calorie allotments. In 1941, that was 2613 for a German, 699 for a Pole, and 184 for Jews. That was in the book, but in other sources too. Ackerman phrased it as something like "The only thing required of you is to disappear."

As much worse as it was for the Jews, you can see the Poles weren't highly valued either. They would have eventually been intended for extermination too, but I suppose the difficulty is that you can't gas everyone at once or shoot everyone at once. Logistically you can't bury everyone that quickly, but if you transport some, and crowd some into bad conditions where some will die on their own until there is room in the camps for the rest, and then once all the Jews are gone you start on the Poles, and hey, there is a logic behind it. Incidentally, this is why it is reasonable to assume someone identifying with Nazis is a bad person.

But that's not what I'm writing about today.

Today I writing about how many girls have put themselves on rations like the Nazis put on the Jews.

I know there is a sickness involved in taking on the level of self-infliction, but that sickness is in keeping with the demands of a society that doesn't value women. When the standard of beauty is always smaller -- more delicate, easier to look around, easier to push aside -- that is not a society that values women.

I tried to imagine a society where the beauty standards favored greater health and heartiness, and it just wouldn't happen. As long as we have a society where someone has to be on top and power is important and classifications like gender and color affect the balance of power, then having a beauty standard that is literally diminishing is completely logical.

Not everyone gets a diagnosable psychological disorder from it, but it creates a lot of unhappiness for the well, too. Frankly, under this kind of order the diagnostics become harder. That is how you end up with a diagnosis like EDNOS - eating disorder not otherwise specified - not specifically adhering to previously understood disorders, but still seriously ill. But that compulsion to be less would not run nearly so deep if there weren't already so many reminders, and so many people invested in maintaining that a woman is already less.

That is why our feminism needs to be intersectional. We will not resolve any of the bigotries until we quit needing to push down someone else to feel good about ourselves. There are probably going to be many, many posts revolving around that.

For today, just know that if a system requires you to be less, you need to buck that system.

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