Today my best friend, Nicole sent me this article. It’s about the cultural archetype of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and more importantly, one very smart woman’s experience of buying into the desire to be this stereotype and then finding herself on the other side of it, realizing that she is far more than the manifestation the brooding men of modern cultural production would have her be. The article is sharp and familiar for any woman who’s felt constrained and constructed by media narratives and other people’s opinions and more so, anyone who has abandoned those limitations in favor of a self-authoring approach.
The article got us talking about Manic Pixie Dream Girls. For those of you who don’t know, this is the type of girl introspective, artsy, alternative guys seek in movies. She’s Jessica Day, Ramona Flowers, and that character Kirsten Dunst was in Elizabethtown (this was were the term was coined). She’s the sort of girl that seems like a “realistic compromise” compared to the glamazons, ingenues, Final Girls, femme fatales, and succubi who have often occupied the media landscape, but she is no more real. MPGD has been for many young women of the Millennial and Y generation, a desirable role. However, despite being a clever, quirky sort of girl this is a designation that I am not allowed to participate in because MPDG’s are little.
It is this what I am interested in. A terrific amount is tied up in women’s littleness. Littleness is often considered valuable, appealing, sexy, sweet, delicate, and perhaps most complicatedly, feminine. There are a plethora of positive associations for little girls, and not just little petite, or little skinny girls, but little curvy girls, and even little fat girls. This isn’t about weight though, it’s about bigness. I am a very big person, in addition to being enthusiastically obese*, my thighs are like small countries. I’ve realized many of the negative connotations for larger women aren’t just for fat girls or women as big as I am, it applies to women of many sizes, the 5’9, the size 10, the athletes, the broad shouldered, and wide of rib cage, the long legged, and big footed. However, after much consideration and the my committed goal to think through things positively I’ve realized there is real privilege in being a larger-than-average woman.
There is a particularly poignant Louis CK bit where he talks about the sheer insanity of dating for heterosexual women. He ardently asserts, “there is no greater threat to women than men. We’re the #1 threat to women. Globally and historically, we’re the #1 cause of injury and mayhem to women, we are the worst thing that ever happens to them.” Women learn very early on in life that this is a dangerous world, and that it is simply and sadly just not safe to be a woman in this world. Domestic violence, systemic misogyny, rape – the list goes on. These are all very scary realities. However, I can honestly say while I am aware of these dangers, aware that men could pose a very real threat to me physically, I am not intimidated.
By being a larger woman, I am, in some ways, insulated from some of these threats (not all, by any means – especially considering the prevalence of date and acquaintance rape.) I am also insulated from a great deal of misogyny, it’s simply more difficult to patronize someone who is eye-to-eye, it’s more difficult to belittle someone who physically dominates a space. I don’t feel like men are talking down to me, or encroaching on my physical space. I rarely, if ever, feel physically threatened because I know my body has the outward appearance of a kind of substance and strength women are not often afforded.
While there is no cutesy, make-believe movie character for me, and many things feel alienating, it’s important to remember that in a world where men’s physicality is so often used as a weapon, that women who are able to stand up to that are lucky in some way. It also brings to light how important it is that we move toward a space where a woman doesn’t have to be 6’something with the fortitude of a concrete rhinoceros to be able to safely walk to her car at night, or ask someone to leave her alone in a bar.
*Enthusiastic obesity, or jubilant obesity refers to fat people rejecting the death fat condemnation of our ol’ faulty friend, the BMI index. Go home BMI index, you’re drunk and stop yelling that I’m going to die on the way out.