Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This might be an overreaction but the fat-shaming of women in this country makes me want to scream

I'm currently seething.

I was just thinking that maybe it's time to abandon this blog, maybe it's been too many days where I just don't know how to articulate what's in my head into a meaningful or useful post, maybe I should focus on my creative writing elsewhere and hopefully contribute to some other publications and just shut the fuck up online for a little bit because we all know I secretly believe the world wide web is going to be the end of imagination and creativity and life on earth, or something.

But then I do a quick scan of my Google Reader (that's a lie, I still don't really understand how a Google Reader works so I don't have one, but I think I get the gist and I have some sites bookmarked that I click through quickly every time I turn on my computer which seems to serve the same function, so uh anyway...). And I find out that Star magazine has now pronounced Mary Kate Olsen "bloated." And I want to scream.

Maybe on the surface this doesn't seem like a big deal. Gossip magazines spend their pathetic existences churning out lie after lie about whichever celebrity they can snatch some new paparazzi photos of for that week, and although the American public seems to gobble it all up I'd like to think that most people know that very little of it is the truth. It would also be nice to assume that most of America actually doesn't give a shit about the lives of a few people we have elevated to the status of "celebrity," but sadly I don't think that's the case. So I mean, I know that all "stars" have to deal with reading upsetting and often untrue things about themselves, day after day, week after week, etc. There are plenty of sites online that trash celebs as a way to make a living (yes I'm talking about you, Perez Fucker, but no I will never link to you lest I provide you even a single pageview). This happens a lot. I get it. Star is not the only offender. But that does not make me less mad and it does not make it any less of a big deal.

Just for full disclosure, I'll admit that Mary Kate is my ultimate girl crush. So obviously I love her, but rest assured, I'd be raging right now even if Star magazine decided to assault my worst enemy with their stupidity. There is absolutely no excuse for shaming a woman for her size publicly, whether she is a celebrity or not. There is no excuse for expecting all women to be a specific size. There is no fucking excuse for going out of your way to point out that a woman who used to suffer from an eating disorder has gained weight. Not only is this insensitive, it's both physically and emotionally triggering. It proves that you are a fucking asshole.

My two main issues with this article:

1. It reinforces the idea that there is some magical ideal weight for every person and that if you are even an ounce over it you are fat. Yes, being too fat is not healthy. No, most of the time when people say you can "tell" a person is too fat they are not correct. Our country's vision of a "healthy" body is not based on a truth. It is based on the perception that all women should be skin and bones, it is based on the idea that the only way to be the best version of yourself is through extensive PhotoShopping, it is based on the premise that aging is bad and youth is good and fat is evil and skinny, no matter how you achieve it, is magical. As someone who is overweight, I know the dangers of eating too much and not exercising. I am aware that being healthy means not eating 5000 calories a day and dragging my ass to the gym more than once a month. You know what though? Most of the women and girls I know who are "overweight" are a lot healthier than the women and girls I know who look "awesome" aka super thin. I may be overweight, but I am healthier than a girl who only drinks water all day and then eats some crackers at night so she doesn't pass out. I am healthier than the girls who chain smoke so they don't have to eat lunch. I am healthier than someone who pukes up her meals, healthier than someone who goes to the gym for four hours every day, healthier than someone who starves herself to death because society says thin is pretty. And I am not blaming any of these women–I am blaming the falsehoods we, as a society, pass on to children. When my brother was about 7 years old, he turned to my mom at dinner and asked, "Mommy, why do calories kill you?" What the fuck. What the FUCK?! At the time, as a ten year old, I just giggled, but now as a twenty year old I want to cry. Are we really raising a generation that equates calories, the sustenance and energy that keeps our bodies alive, with death? Yes. Yes we are. And that mentality is far scarier and far more unhealthy than being a little bit overweight.

Which brings me back to the original point that I strayed from a bit: a "healthy weight" is not a perfect equation. Everyone's body is different, so everyone should weight a different amount. Muscle weighs more than fat, some people have bigger boobs, some people have bigger bones. A healthy weight for one person is not automatically the same healthy weight for another person, even if they are the exact same height. BMI is misleading, remember?

2. Why are we obsessed with weight in the first place? Seriously, I am the first one to say that when one takes on the role of celebrity, one must accept the label of "role model" whether it's invited or not. Yes, Miley, even though you are a teenager, by deciding to be a pop star you have made the decision to be a role model to the many little girls who look up to you. It's not fair because you're just a kid yourself, but you put yourself out there and now you do have a responsibility. Yes, President Obama, you are now a role model. Sorry if that's annoying and we all stalk you on the Vineyard, but you knew it was coming, right? Right. Hey, random reality show stars–you signed up for people to videotape your life. And we live in a weird culture where the masses will actually follow through with that bizarre concept–you know, sitting in front of the TV, watching your "every day" life. But we'll judge you on it, too, and you had to know that when you signed up. What celebrities should not have to sign up for? The public monitoring their size. I don't know when our obsession with skinny women will go away (maybe when we're all dead because we stop eating because Star says 5'1" and 130 lbs is fat?) but I find it so upsetting that instead of focusing on what celebrities do–if we're gonna insist they be role models then we should care if they do volunteer work, are kind people, etc, right?–all we care about is their weight. Specifically, females. More to the point: we don't want 'em fat.

The Star article writes, "At 5'1" tall, the formerly superskinny twin–who spent her 18th birthday in rehab–looks like she's tipping the scales at 130 lbs, which is 20 lbs more than her ideal weight, according to North Carolina-based weight-loss expert Dr. Aaron Tabor." Obviously Star can guess MK's weight just from looking at the photo. And we should definitely trust Aaron Tabor to know what MK's true healthy weight would be. And also, we get the subtext–you think us readers at home are Fatty McFatFats, right, because we might weigh–gasp–the same weight as Mary Kate Olsen, a beautiful young women who used to be anorexic. Which, you know, would make us fat. Also, super subtext: you are less beautiful if you're fat, less special, less worthy of a boyfriend, and all around a lesser person. Duh.

You know what? Fuck you, Star. And fuck you, Dr. Tabor. Not only did you just almost make me, a fairly well adjusted and healthy 20 year old, feel bad about my weight (which, without getting too personal, let me just say is a tinyyy bit more than 130 lbs, and I stand 5'1", too), but you also just said that someone who suffered from an eating disorder is now too fat. At a healthy weight. I would like to know where you practiced medicine, because where I come from, you know, The School of Common Sense, it is far preferable for a young woman to stand 5'1" and weigh 130 lbs than oh, I don't know, under 100 lbs.

Fuck American beauty standards. If this sort of thinking is acceptable to the majority of society, then I think we're all fucked. And I just don't know how to fix that.


Sarah Alaoui said...

what an absolutely brilliant piece of writing. you tell 'em girl!!

I feel soooo sad for women who have their thighs "featured" on the covers of these trash magazines for all of us to see. No one should have to go through that.

Ghouldilocks said...

I couldn't have said it better.

Jessica Roy said...

agree totally. i also think it's a fucked up way to treat someone who's clearly and publicly struggled with an eating disorder for years now. it's like they're begging her to be anorexic again (so that they can sell magazines that gossip about her anorexia)