Who Has It Worse: Men or Women?
A post of mine on diet culture, led to a uproar in the comment section about who has it worse so let's get into it.
At the moment people are fighting in my comments section about who has diet culture worse: men or women? It’s in the comment section of a video I made in response to someone thinking men are intuitive eaters because they were not told to be thin and diet. My counterpoint was that whilst men don’t have the pressure to be thin, they do have the pressure to not be lanky and to be muscley and essentially *manly* (whatever that means) and therefore there is still a beauty ideal and they are still affected by diet culture, just differently. My ending point being that no one in the world is immune from diet culture. At no point did I say men had it as bad as women, and I certainly didn’t say that men were impacted more by diet culture than women were but people hear what they want to hear.
I would say neither of these things because I don’t believe in creating competition in people’s suffering and pain. I also believe that we can have compassion for another’s pain without bringing our own pain into the conversation. I actually think the way we tackle diet culture is by acknowledging that our detachment from diet culture would positively impact everyone.
But since everyone so desperately wants to have this ‘who has it worse’ conversation. Let’s have it.
This ‘who has it worse’ conversation has been labelled many things. You might have heard of the term ‘oppression Olympics’ where people use their marginalisation to determine they have it worse than everyone else. It is supposedly part of ‘woke culture’ (again, a misused term) and it reminded me of a video clip I saw earlier this week of an American senator announcing his run for the presidency in 2024 where he states that ‘Today’s kids are growing up in a culture where everyone is a victim’. I will admit that I don’t know too much about American politics but it struck me as ironic that the commentators were praising him for being more positive than Trump.
That was certainly not a positive statement and nor was it an accurate one.
When people compete with who has it worse, whether they are talking about themselves or someone else, it is not victimhood, it is not woke culture and it is not the Oppression Olympics. It’s none of those things. It’s people trying to be heard.
The reason why people are fighting over who has it worse is because they feel unheard. Even taking it back to the individual level, when you feel unseen in a romantic relationship, you also enter into the ‘who has it worse’ conversation. They throw something you’ve done and you reply ‘you think that’s bad? Do you even know what I have to put up living with you?’. And what’s the result? Neither issue is resolved and it becomes a competition in who can hurt who the most.
We are a generation of people who have not felt seen in the media or in the world. Of course, this has existed for years and people were facing much worse discrimination than lack of representation but there is something specific about being unseen.
Previously, people wouldn’t be as aware of how unseen they are because there was little awareness of other people who existed in a different community or neighbourhood. TV allowed us to see what was happening across the world and social media allowed us to see people who look like us. It is this change that makes you aware of how wide and varied the world is and therefore, with this revelation, comes the noticing of what is missing. We are the first generation that can see the diversity that COULD exist (like on social media) and doesn’t feel represented.
People react in two ways to do this.
You have no idea how bad I have it
Other people have it worse so I shouldn’t talk about my problems
The first set of people are the ones who some people like to determine are ‘victims’ but that is not what is happening here. These are people who have been ignored and when they have brought up their hurts, they have been invalidated and therefore they either get louder or they get more extreme. As I say in the Selfish Romantic
People who have been repeatedly dismissed when they talk about having “a bad day” start to say they had “the worst day ever”. The problem with this is that our language shapes our experience, so when we repeat exaggerated words, we are reinforcing the reality we are trying to move away from.
Then there is the second group of people. These are the kind of people who reply “good” when asked how they are. Even if they are not good, especially if they are not good. They are the ones who felt the most shame in the pandemic because they felt they could never voice any upset they were having because, in the context of the world, people were dying. These people were likely brought up by parents who would remind them to finish their plate by bringing up the trope ‘there are starving people in Africa’. They have been taught in childhood they are unimportant and they don’t matter so they do the job of rejecting for everyone else by never bringing up their problems. They don’t go to therapy because they think there are others that need more help and they are sick enough and therefore they let all their problems build.
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Neither person benefits from their defence mechanisms but what I am adamant about is that this is nothing to do with victimhood.
So what’s the solution? We need to see people. Returning back to The Selfish Romantic, I say:
The solution is to validate people when they say they are angry, so they don’t need to yell. We need to listen when someone says they are sad, so they don’t need to sob to get the attention, love and care that they deserve. People shouldn’t have to exaggerate their situation to feel like their pain is important enough. It starts with hearing them out.
We can address the problems diet culture creates for women whilst also acknowledging that men will have difficulties too. It need not be a competition and the way we all get seen is realising there is space for us all.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Lots of love,