The Weight of Self-Worth by Aimee Claire Timmins

The Weight of Self-Worth

Aimee Claire Timmins

Midnight. An eruption of applause! Lights out. I run off, stage right and down the stairs to my dressing room. Filled with both exhaustion and exhilaration. Legs like jelly after curtain down on the second show of the night. I look in the mirror, pull off my heavy disco ball earrings, grab a make-up wipe and begin to clean my face. The dressing room is filled with energy, excitement, and laugher as we all begin to chatter about the evening that had just passed. A vocal audience member, a costume malfunction etc. 2am. I crawl into bed, feet throbbing, heart full.

The next morning, 9.15am – call time. I stand outside the dressing room door with my fellow cast members, we are all still half asleep and somewhat grumpy from the early call time after the late night. The door to the dressing room is open, a set of scales have been placed in the centre of the room, visible to all. Next to the scales stand the wardrobe mistress and her assistant. I am uncertain as to what is happening.

The wardrobe mistress calls us in one by one. By ‘one by one’ I mean the door is wide open, cast members gathered in the doorway, hearing and seeing what is transpiring in the room. Weigh ins! I pause, wait – what? My name is called. I walk toward the mistress; she indicates to step onto the scales. I do, perplexed. ‘136lbs!’ she calls to her assistant as the number is written in a notebook, also visible to all. Wait, what is this, I think to myself. I turned to the mistress and asked slightly confused ‘why are we being weighed?’ ‘To keep track of your costume measurements and or alterations, it’s a requirement’, she answered without looking up at me in a tone of disinterest. I pause for half a second, as I was hearing this for the first time. ‘NEXT’! I walked out in a daze, past my cast members trying to grasp what had just happened. Requirement? At this point contracts had been signed, rehearsals done, and the show had opened. We were well into our contract. So, I was very much at a loss at what to do or handle this situation. Two weeks later, same thing 9.15am call time, ‘weigh ins.’ Then another 2 weeks and another. This happened on a 2-week cycle for 6 months.

A few weeks later, I stepped on the scales, ‘131lbs’ the mistress called out. She rolled her eyes as a look of annoyance crossed her face, along with a huff under her breath. I had lost weight. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. Why is she giving me attitude? She’s not being weighed in front of all her employees. I really couldn’t believe the degree of attitude coming at me, from another woman no doubt.

Another few weeks’ pass – ‘129lbs’! The wardrobe mistress called out for all in the vicinity to hear – it felt like a targeted personal attack. Followed by a large exhale, fuelled by distain and judgement. She turned to her assistant, whispering in a disapproving manner as they looked at their notebook. Did someone say boundaries? Yep, didn’t think so. By this point I felt shamed and humiliated. It was clear we were not being weighed for mental health protection either. In fact, the whole exercise was having the opposite effect to my wellbeing. I was beginning to feel like my self-worth as an employee, artist and HUMAN BEING was measured by the number on that scale. As my weight descended so did my confidence and self-esteem. My costumes had not been altered in anyway either, so that theory was also void. Separately, can we just take a moment to acknowledge that women’s weight regularly fluctuates and these ‘weigh ins’ were happening across a 6-month period. Give us a break! But this really was beyond a women’s issue, I could see cast members of other genders felt similarly. It was a human rights issue. Sometimes we don’t know something is not right till we experience something that is wrong.

Weighing employees, no matter what the nature of the job, is not ok. Period. This is by no means an industry standard, nor was it a contractual obligation, which was blind sighting to say the least. This behaviour promotes low self-esteemed, unhealthy body image and habits, not to mention breaks employer/employee trust. But the way in which this extremely sensitive task was being handled, exposing our weight in front of other colleagues, and then being met with judgement and shame was stressful, degrading, and UNACCEPTABLE. To all the performers and artists out there, your self-worth is not measured by a scale nor is it up for negotiation. You always have a choice and the right to say NO/THIS IS NOT OK. Perhaps speaking up in situations when these boundaries are crossed is how self-worth should be measured, not a number on a scale.

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