Tuesday, May 31, 2016

REVIEW: Dietland by Sarai Walker

Author: Sarai Walker

Alicia Kettle weighs 300 lbs. Her weight, and the feelings that it gives her about herself and the world, rule her existence. Her nickname is Plum. But she believes that after she has weight loss surgery and loses weight that she can start a new life and use her real name. She will dawn as the New Alicia...wear pretty clothes and be stared at because she is attractive, not because she is fat. She buys clothes that won't fit her....putting them in the closet for when she can become Alicia. She eats small meals each day, counting inside her head how many calories she is eating. Her entire life centers around that number on the scale. Diet Meals. Diet Books. Diet Meetings, Diet Plans. Everything centers around Plum becoming someone else....becoming Alicia. She sits alone every day in a cafe answering Dear Kitty letters from teenage girls who think the replies come from the editor of Daisy Chain magazine. No life. No dates. Few friends. All because she is fat.

At least that is how Plum feels.

Then suddenly, she notices a woman is following her. Every day she sees her. She confronts her, but the woman pretends that she isn't trailing Plum wherever she goes. Then the mysterious girl gives her a book. The book will change her life, pulling her down into the world of a feminist movement, a community of women who want to change the way women are treated and depicted in modern culture and media. Plum is given several tasks that she has to complete, and is promised that once she finishes the results will be life-changing.  At the same time a femi-terrorism group called Jennifer is killing men who have victimized women. As Plum's life becomes embroiled in the chaos, she is faced with decisions that will have a profound effect on her life.


I'm not really sure how I feel about this book.  There were parts of it that I really identify with, as six years ago I weighed more than 400 lbs. I would go into restaurants and have tables of teenage boys "moo'' at me.  I was featured on a British weight loss show as an example of what a woman doesn't want to be. Yikes. Then I had Gastric Bypass and I am a normal weight now....no more moo-ing, no more staring, no more depression, etc. I can be anonymous now....and not that "huge woman that just walked in.''  So I identified a lot with the main character -- in the beginning.

But somewhere about the middle of the story, things took a turn that I really didn't like. A feminist terrorist organization forms and drops blindfolded, bound men out of an airplane and begins killing people associated with 100 men on their "Penis Blacklist.''   Not to mention the feminist group Plum joins that published a book titled "Fuckability.''   Things went downhill fast for me at that point.

It seems to me that in trying to find herself, Plum was still weak-minded enough to get sucked into yet another victimizing mindset. Just as she was starting to see that she was Alicia all along, no matter what her size.....she got cornered by this cultish, ultra-feminist underground society that really started telling her what she should think, rather than let her discover it for herself. There is no self-awakening if someone is telling you what your "Self'' is. Then actual terrorist events with people being killed.....I had a real problem with that.  I believe that women have rights over their minds, bodies, self-esteem and life decisions. We are equal with men, and deserve the same opportunities. However, we do not have the right to victimize and kill people -- no matter what those people have done. Terrorism is terrorism, no matter who is committing the violent acts or why.

I enjoyed the first half of this book and was really looking forward to seeing Plum become Alicia, but an Alicia not based on her weight or appearance. But, that never happened. Instead of becoming a woman that was strong and confident in herself, she lost her personality almost entirely. First she was overpowered by a culture that made her feel ashamed.....then she was engulfed by another that made her feel angry and bitter.

So, on the one side, I was glad to see the main character start to gain confidence.....but I was totally against most of the message in the second half of the book. Being a strong woman doesn't mean kicking the shit out of everyone who makes a flippant remark or impedes you in some way. It means being confident about who you are, believing in yourself, and getting the most out of life that you can while refusing to be victimized. Alicia, or Plum, never got that far.  She vaulted out of the "I'm fat and I hate myself'' mentality into the "Fuckers think they can insult me because I'm fat'' mentality. Neither of those thought processes will take her to the "I'm a strong woman and I'm confident in who I am, and if you don't like me, then I don't need you'' sweet spot.

I do understand the point this book is making.  Modern western culture sexualizes women. It trains us to hate our bodies. It manipulates young girls to starve themselves to get just the right thigh gap, to wear the correct size and be beautiful. It trains men to insult and abhor women who don't fit that mold of the perfect woman. And it sets up fat people -- men and women -- to be treated as less than human, as people that should be shamed, as morons that deserve whatever they get. Look at the difference in men's and women's fashion.....do men wear short pants that display their testicles and penis for us to size up and stare at? Nope. But women's fashion?  Tits, legs and ass everywhere.   Swimsuits.....do we women get to look at men's dangly bits at the beach? nope. All covered.  Women -- hanging out for ogling everywhere.

Double standard.

It gets old.  But, women can become successful, confident and independent without throwing men out of airplanes, or reading books about "Fuckibility.''

So, like I said, I'm not really sure how I feel about this book......some of it was excellent.....and some of it went too far.

But.....if a book makes you ponder and think....then it's successful, right??

A solid 3 stars for me.   Might have made 4 stars if men hadn't been chucked out of an airplane (even wankers don't deserve that....nobody does).

Nice to read a book whose point is that women should be who they are, and that we control the rights to our weight, our health, our bodies and our minds.  Fuck anyone who tries to tell me I don't....but I'm not going to throw them out of an airplane.

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