Sunday, 26 February 2012

How The Imperial System Was Repurposed To Keep The Empress Down

I've recently finished reading the archives of the excellent webcomic I Think You're Saucesome by Sarah Becan which she created to document her journey as she attempted to get fit, eat well and confront her body image issues.

I feel it's been a privilege to be invited into her personal life and it's been wonderful to see the progression of her awareness, confidence and acceptance of self and gradual easing of her insecurities and the unhappiness they brought.

And oh my goodness the food illustrations!
Sarah eats a varied and wonderful range of foods from a swathe of different cultures and as she has shared this, I've found myself making lists of things that I definitely need to try.

One of the other things I was reminded of was the treacherous nature of the unit of measurements that is 'pounds'.

I have long thought that pounds was an evil unit of measurement and this has been confirmed over and over again by listening to and reading the way that the women who use it to assess themselves talk about them and how that impacts their self-image and mental health.

For starters, for anyone who doesn't know, 1 kg is equivalent to 2.2 lbs.

This fundamentally alters the way you think about weight gain and loss.

'Oh no I've gained a pound' once translated to the equivalent of metric equals...
'Oh no, I've gained 450 g!'

That's nothing. That's a good meal that your body hasn't had time to process and push out your poop chute.

That's forgetting to take your shoe off.

And the higher the measurement gets, the more marked the effect becomes.

Being able to say 'I've lost 20 lbs' might make it sound more substantial and impressive but it also means that gaining 20 lbs will be more depressing.

Gaining 9 kg can be a bit of a downer in the wrong circumstances but hey, at least it's not in the double digits.

I know that a person who is used to the imperial system won't think that 132 lb sounds huge compared to 60 kg as they have context and know what the actually represents.

But the itty bitty increments, they can drive you crazy.

It seems that it makes you hyper-aware, the slightest shift is noted and assigned a higher significance.

The emotive value attached to each pound is equivalent to or even greater than the value or importance that is attached by metric folk to each kilo.

The actual 'mass to mental/emotional investment' seems exhausting.

And that, I believe is the point.

You think the introduction of the metric system to the United States failed because of resistance from the public or big business or due to a residual cultural impulse to continue to flip Europe the bird?
Not a bit of it.

The pill was approved for contraceptive use in 1960 and the two presidents who attempted to introduce the metric system were Gerald Ford (1974-1977) and Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).

So, between 14 to 21 years on from the introduction of the pill it was becoming apparent that now women didn't have to be worried about being pregnant all the time, they had time to think about other things and ask questions and do things and go outside.

This did not sit well with the traditional leaders of the land, the big movers and shakers in the doodle community, and they knew they had to do something to keep women distracted.
Hence the boom in advertising and the fashion industries that had been building and gaining speed since the 1960s.
If they allowed the shift to metric, what would happen to all their hard work on the importance of female body image?
It would be partially mitigated.

That and the cultural and sociological belief that women have weaker mathematical and spatial awareness skills that could be further confused by the crazy-pants arbitrary measurements that make up feet, yards and miles, cemented the Imperial system in place in the United States.

Yes, that's right, the imperial system is a patriarchal plot.

Designed to over-complicate and over-emphasise what should be a much less involved issue.

I know it didn't start out that way, it was just an adorable set of arbitrary measurements.
The length of a foot, how far a healthy man can walk in a day, the width of three chickens roosting side-by-side...

But after a while, once humankind developed accurate tools for measurement that weren't physically attached to the tallest man in the village, why on Earth would you keep using those units if it wasn't an underlying and sinister motivation?

Because they think they make sense? Pfft! Please!

I'll admit that I've believed some crazy things in my day but I'm not going to fall for that one!

I'm not that gullible!

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