Over the past few days, I’ve seen lots of commentary about overweight women in the media – as spokespersons, as models, as… whatever. If you’re not a Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig project (and we’ve seen how that one goes), you don’t need to be seen.
Your very presence is telling young girls that it’s okaaaaaaaaay to be overweight. This is not something young girls should strive for! They shouldn’t be thinking it’s okay to be fat! Men will not want you if you’re fat!
Let me back track to what caused me to begin this rant.
Gabourey Sidibe – again, with her – is rumored to be working with Bobbi Brown. Why? Because of this:
Perhaps the most surprising arrival of the night was “Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe, who said she had just finished “The Big C” for Showtime. Her connection to the party was apparently through Bobbi Brown, who had done the actress’s makeup for the Golden Globes. There was talk that Sidibe had been in the Bobbi Brown offices that day, discussing the possibility of doing a color cosmetics collection, but no one involved with the company would confirm the report. [source]
That’s reason one. Reason two?
MTV’s new twitter jockey (a position Gregg was awarded by winning the popular vote… emphasis on the popular vote part), Gabi Gregg of Young, Fat & Fabulous, has been the subject of conversations that include sentiments like “roping in the young overweight crowd,” as if she couldn’t have possibly won because she’s.. well, worthy of the position… or because the majority voted for her? (brief sidenote: Congratulations!)
There are countless more – the Lane Bryant incident where networks were refusing to play their advertisements, American Apparel employees comfortably proclaiming that the plus-sized market is “not their demographic” – but as of what I’ve seen in the past 72 hours? Um, I’ve got hairs standing up on the back of my neck. There seems to be this big issue with seeing women larger than, approximately, a size 10 in the media. Allowances tend to be made for women playing roles of elder age, but us 39-and-unders? Pfft.
Of course, now, when I ask the question of “Well, why is there such a problem with seeing plus-sized women in the media, anyway?” You know what answer I get?
“Seeing plus-sized women on TV tells people and confirms to people that it’s okay to be fat… and it’s not. People shouldn’t want to be fat, or think it’s ‘okay’ to be fat.”
So, wait. Wait, wait, wait. Can we analyze what’s wrong with this? Let me take it in three prongs.
If seeing plus-sized women on TV implies that it’s “okay to be fat,” does that mean that that would hold up “being plus-sized” as an ideal? If that’s the case, then what does seeing rail thin women (not just thin, but rail thin) on TV imply? That being rail thin is the ideal?
Now, let’s look at this for a moment. TV is paid for by advertising. TV networks can charge premiums for advertising space based on how popular a TV show is. If the general public has an attitude that says “we don’t want to see X,” the networks aren’t going to show you “X.” If you don’t want to see it, you won’t watch it, and they can’t make money from it. If TV networks learn that you don’t want to see plus-sized women on your screen… they’re not going to show them. If TV is only responding to the general public’s feelings about “overweight women,” how can TV set an ideal for anything? If TV is so controlled by financial interests (as are all companies), why would we, the general-freaking-public, allow them to set any ideals for us?
I can’t with that. I’m on to my next question.
Suppose TV does, by some odd stretch of the imagination, dictate what is and is not acceptable. What does this say to our young girls? Those girls who wanted Jennifer Aniston’s haircut (I grew up in the Friends era, sue me) or gawked at the latest issue of [insert crummy pop magazine] staring at the bare boned hips of some young girl? The thin physique of whatever performer’s hot today? It’s never – never – an athlete’s figure that young girls crave, unless they, too, are athletes and are able to appreciate the muscular features (because, again, muscle is for men.) It’s always some woman with a baby face and a petite body, and our young girls are left questioning themselves and struggling with the desire to look like their body idols.
Why isn’t this equally problematic? We expect the notion of “keeping fat girls out of the limelight” to teach our girls to not “let themselves go,” but we’re okay with the idea that “keeping TV stars exclusively thin” gives our girls body image issues? Really? Why? Because bulimia is one of those dirty little secrets you don’t see unless you hear someone puking in a bathroom?
No, really —
- Black girls were 50 percent more likely than white girls to exhibit bulimic behavior, including both binging and purging. About 2.6 percent of black girls were clinically bulimic, compared to 1.7 percent of white girls. Overall, approximately 2.2 percent of the girls surveyed were clinically bulimic, close to the national average.
- Black girls scored an average of 17 percentage points higher than their white counterparts on the widely used medical index gauging of the severity of the bulimia, the researchers found.
- Girls from families in the lowest income bracket were significantly more likely to experience bulimia than their wealthier peers.
- Bulimia affected 1.5 percent of girls in households where at least one parent had a college degree.
- For girls whose parents had a high school education or less, the rate of bulimia was more than double — 3.3 percent were bulimic. [source]
Why is this okay, and the alternative not? Since we’re clearly not discussing health or maintaining a healthy body image with our young girls… since we’re clearly letting the TV do the talking… why would this invoke a complaint about what’s on TV, instead of compel us to have discussions about health and body image with our young girls?
Again, I can’t even… I can’t. I have one last question, though.
Why the hell are we so impressionable? Why are we so afraid to think? Think about this for a second. We’re afraid of the TV telling us it’s okay to be fat. If the TV tells you to sell me your house for a dollar… are you going to do it?
We’re afraid of our kids being told that it’s okay to be fat? Why aren’t we afraid to tell our kids to stop trying to be like what’s on TV? Why are we afraid to parent? Why not tell our kids to value their humanity more than what their body looks like? Why aren’t we telling our kids to stop paying so much attention to the TV? Why the hell are our kids watching so much TV to begin with?
We’re afraid of the TV telling us that it’s okay to be overweight. Not only do I question why what’s on the TV matters to us so much, but I question why we’d rather question what’s on the TV instead of why we pay such close attention to it.
I’m frustrated that we’d rather make this an issue of external blame instead of changing our internal philosophy. We’d rather make this about what’s on the boob tube instead of simply thinking for ourselves and doing our jobs as parents and guardians of our society. I’m saddened by the fact that, again, all this focus is on looks as opposed to health… and again, the mismatching of the two has resulted in turning people off to conversations about both.
All I can do is take care of myself, and my loved ones. I couldn’t care less what’s on the TV or in the ads, and while my little one is struggling with the idea that everything on TV isn’t as cracked up to be, we struggle together to get her to learn. My daughter won’t know why being “fat” matters, and she won’t know why being “skinny” matters, either. She’ll know the importance of being fit, active, healthy and happy… and if that leaves her with a curve somewhere, we’ll both be happy with it, TV be damned.