Every week I have to go to the grocery store to get perishables. Every week I have to stand in line alongside a plethora of gossip crap tabloids (sorry if you like Enquirer and Star, really sorry). Every week the covers of these magazines wallow joyfully in the muck of other people's lives, in a completely schizophrenic way.
You see, alternating issues---or worse, sometimes even the same issue---mock "fat" celebrities and then turn around and castigate "too skinny" stars. (They do the same for make ups and break-ups.)
The articles are always so surprised and confused, even faux-concerned, "Why are these women so thin? They need to get healthy!"
Let those same stars gain a little weight and VOILA! they are back on the cover, mocked as fat.
Take, for example, Tyra Banks, who, as I once said oh-so-eloquently is so not fat. And yet, people of her size (i.e., me) are often treated as though we are large as in oversized as in FAT.
Take, for example, the time I had a salesgirl act as if my size---a regular size, mind you, not plus (not that this is a problem), okay it's a 12. I wear a size 12. I am almost 6 feet tall and weigh 160 and wear a size 12. I should probably lose another 10 pounds but I struggle enough to be at this weight thanks to my thyroid and pituitary and adrenal gland issue(s). I tend to grow large abdominal cysts, too, thanks to the pituitary, which is screwed up and causes these horrible growths that swell and hurt, cause me to bloat terribly, and appear seven or so months pregnant at times. Like in the photo Kyla recently posted of us. Two days prior to that? I weighed 8 pounds less than in that photo. Today? I am five pounds down. Yep up and down like a yo-yo. My record is 12 pounds up and down in a three day period. I never alter how I eat. I don't falter on my exercise. My body just malfunctions that way. It sucks, to tell the truth. I have no less than three sizes of clothing in my closet to accommodate it, sometimes wearing all three in one week. I am self-conscious about it, horribly cruel to myself at times about it (what did I do? what can I do? oh my god I look horrible! ) and feel not only bad physically but also emotionally as well at times.---(do you recall the original thought before I got so far off on the tangent? it was about the salesgirl and my size) the salesgirl acted as if my size was so enormous that she wasn't sure her store could accommodate me for the fashion show my group was doing.
So. We can harp at these salesgirls and these magazines but the truth is they are just saying aloud what I think many if not most of us think.
Additionally, I think there is a disproportionate emphasis put on women's physique. My husband says men get it too, but I still think it's less and not as vicious. I think there is a sort of indulgence for men rounding out a bit.
I haven't noticed tabloid covers mocking male celebrities who have passed 30 and rounded out at the edges:
Of course, there is no tolerance for fat, be it male or female.
But I'm talking about that extra rounding many of us get about the middle of our bodies after a certain age.
And that's what these magazines go after. That's what is on their cover. That's what the papparazzi are photographing on the beach.
And like nasty little sorority girls using permanent marker to circle body areas that need improvement, the magazine uses big red arrows to point out "fat" spots on bathing suit-clad celebrities, with all cap headlines that yell, "Butts & Bellies!"
I had to search for a cover that included a man, because I wanted to talk about that. I notice that in this case, the man is the "good" example next to those women, who clearly we must be appalled by (gag). The truth is, the photos are usually of women, usually in bathing suits. Tyra Banks (for context, her 5-foot, 10-inch frame weighs in at 161 pounds) in the swimsuit is the most famous example.
My sister recently coined a new term: momorexia.
This is the disproportionately high number of disproportionately thin women Jimmy Chooing it around the upper middle class neighborhoods. Like other women, I am not so immured in my role as mom that I am okay with sliding into frumpiness completely. I've argued the entire vanity issue before. I've also argued the MILF issue. Moms today want to retain that "hot" part of themselves, the part where they feel attractive and think they look good. To others.
Is this really what we think of as beautiful?
I know where this comes from: the accepted practice of mocking fat, or what our distorted lenses tell us is fat.
We women have a big image issue to overcome, every single day. It can be a battle.
I shudder to think what the tabloids would have to say about me in this photo, were I worth talking about in the tabloids, which thank all the stars I am not. Were I worth talking about anywhere, it would probably be more for what I have to say than for how I look.
Although I consider myself attractive enough, I would never trade on my looks, could never do so. Not just for the type of person I am but for the looks themselves and cultural standards of beauty. It shames me to say that in a way, that matters to me, probably more than it should. As much as I don't want to care and only want to see a woman happy, having a good time in this photo, I don't. I do care about how I look and am critical of it.
I knew, as the largest person at the table, that I ought to run around behind the smaller people. But I didn't. I forced myself to sit where I was. I forced myself to not be vain, not be silly. I can't force myself to not care, though, and I look at this photo and oh how I wish I'd darted behind my friends, instead of emphasizing how much larger I am by remaining prominent and in the front. I want to be truthful about this because I want to demonstrate how these things affect even an intelligent woman who is reasonably confident in herself. I want to say them aloud in case you feel this way, ever, too. In case you look at photos of yourself and are horrified.
It doesn't matter that I know magazines Photoshop even the gorgeous, the stunningly beautiful, the Faith Hills. That's what our eyes have been taught to look for in photos of women, and you don't overcome that distorted expectation overnight.
Let's keep trying though.
And let's ban Photoshop, shall we? Faith doesn't need it. And neither do you or I.
Make sure to read Jenny on this topic, too.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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