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Mocking fat and showing surprise at too skinny is disingenuous

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.

Schizophrenic? Huh?

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
Also blogging at:
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Emily said…
Photoshop be damned! Own who we are! Redefine Beauty!!

Although, I am, as we speak, surfing the awful entertainment sites, cruising for a new hair style, as I feel my locks have become weighty and bland. I am guilty of telling my husband just last night that I want a style that's, "More fiery and spicy, less Mommy Frumpy." CRAP! I am the grade A hypocrite. (She said as she slinks away in her three inch heels.)
thailandchani said…
I admit to caring about my weight. Because I care about my health.

(Which I differentiate from caring about the weight of others or criticizing it, either way.)

Am I odd for thinking this way?

Truly, if I am to be totally honest, I see these magazines (the same place you do typically) and wonder why it is that so many are apparently so idle that they have the time or space to think about someone else's weight and turn it into a character issue.

I would never think to tell another person that they're too skinny, too fat.. or even "just right".

Of course you're right about the hypocrisy. If suddenly the marketers needed everyone to be "Rubenesque", the social engineering would begin in earnest to get people to gain weight.

There would be articles in the aforementioned magazines, chiding women (not men, likely) for being so skinny.. that apparently they can't take care of themselves correctly and the true sign of health is to have some extra meat on the bones ~ that sturdiness and portliness prove that one is wealthy enough to afford food.

And, by the way, in order to meet the newest social standard (oddly backed up by questionable doctors with discernible belly fat), just buy our product.

You know. It's predictable.



Anonymous said…
First off, you look stunning and radiant and lovely in every way!

This is a constant battle I think we all go through, so I can totally appreciate your honesty here. Having been a "bean pole" my whole life, I am continually fighting the seesaw of emotions after having gained a lot of weight. I am over 40, so I am content with the fact that I will not be a size 4 anymore. And yet, it bothers me too.

I think this is the hardest part to deal with, like you wrote so well. The back and forth. The ups and downs. The understanding and accepting in our heads, but the cringing in the mirror none-the-less.

I wish I knew a way to combat my own demons. All the media in the world could disappear, but I would still cringe because I know what I was like at 20 and want to be like that at 40, however impossible it is. It's my own past that is more of a problem for me than today's media.
Anonymous said…
When I look at the picture I think how lucky you are to be in the company of those other lovely, fun, smart bloggers; and how lucky they are too, to be with you!
Anonymous said…
It is really tough to be a parent of a teen nowadays. I try hard and give my daughter a sense of pride in her body, and let her know she does not have to measure up to these women.

teeth bleaching
Suz said…
I don't know where to begin with how much I love this post. The juxtaposition struck me particularly forcefully after the VMA's where the same magazines that screamed about Nicole R's thinness lambasted Britney for being too fat. I'm also slightly suspicious of those headlines that so and so is too thin, because in the company of the others, they become tongue in cheek, unbelievable, and secretly laudatory.

Personally, I love clothes. I've been turned away from stores that previously welcomed me (and my credit card) because they don't stock my new (larger) size. I would love a pretty woman moment (even though I loathe the movie) where I get to buy a bucket load of me-size beautiful clothes to parade in front of the sales-lady who turned me away. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like this.
Christine said…
"It shames me to say that in a way, that matters to me, probably more than it should."

This is how I am too. I have recently lost a considerable amount of weight, and I find myself feeling so conflicted about it. I have people telling me in one ear that I was "fine" before why did I want to lose any? And in the other ear people saying to go for 5 more pounds. it is confusing and conflicting and . . .hard.

and i saw that same damn magazine today at the store and was so disgusted by it all!

and for what it is worth: you look gorgeous in that picture.

It sucks that your health so screws with you that way.
Kellan said…
Well said, Julie! I couldn't agree more. I think we all feel a bit awkward at times, I know I do. I think it's awful they way it has gotten so out of control in the tabloids and on TV. I'm so glad it has not yet rubbed off on my teenage girls (I'm not sure really why) - but I know plenty of girls (and even a boy) that have eating disorders ... so many people trying to live up to distored ideals. I do it myself, sometimes. We are all human and seriously, we are all just trying to be our very best. It's hard. Good post - as usual. See ya.
Kyla said…
Julie! You? Self-conscious? You look great! I'm not just doing that thing friends do, but I mean it. You look great. If we did that lovely little BMI calculation, I'm pretty sure you're beating me. I might be short, but I have hips from hell. LOL. ;) I never for an instant thought you looked anything less than fabulous. Honest to God truth.

I do hate the influence the media has. If we, as intelligent adult media can't help it from sneaking into our subconscious, what hope do our impressionable little girls have in this society? It scares me.
Unknown said…
sometimes tabloids (et al) make me think of Psalm 1 (blessed is he who does not sit in the seat of mockers). There are some who prefer to sit and mock, but they are not using true judgment, just criticism and ridicule. They don't speak out of what they believe or feel, but out of a pretense, in order to be listened to, it is an artifice - and I hate it.
ewe are here said…
I think the four of you look fantastic!

And I so hate the 'extremes' of the media, like you say: too fat/too thin, no one is ever reportedly 'just right'.

Sigh. Goldilocks run amock.
Anonymous said…
First you are beautiful.

Second, momorexia-brilliant. I pointed out to a friend that all of the woman in our area are extremely thin and their husbands are overweight. And I don't mean rounded out, I mean heavy.
painted maypole said…
excellent discussion of this, and I am in a similar boat as you (minus the extreme ups and downs due to health, for which I am grateful) and struggle with this issue quite a bit. I am not fat, nor am I as thin as I would like to be, and because I am tall I feel HUGE next to my petite friends
OhTheJoys said…
I think it's really interesting the way women (real, regular women) can be so critical of themselves and so forgiving of others.

I am, of course, my own WORST body critic. I find, however, that I think women of many different sizes and shapes are gorgeous.

You would think I could apply some of that logic to myself, but noooooo.
Liv said…
Can I let you know that when I saw Faith Hill in Charleston last summer, she was cute, but not hot? She looked like any other bleach blonde, size 4 mother.

I know, you're reading size 4 and wanting to slap me. But, seriously, it can get old to be berated and scoffed at for being thin. I am at a 4-6 after beating myself into a lather and going through a horrific divorce in the past year. I have earned it. Oh, and it still doesn't make me happy.
Julie Pippert said…
Liv, size 4 doesn't prompt a bitchslap reaction in me. If you were my height and size 4, I'd be concerned. If you are 5'6" and size 4, you have a small build and are fit.

My ideal size is a 10-12. Really. For my size person, that's fine.

The size of clothes? Not comparable across body types and heights. KWIM?

So really, you are fit and look good...enjoy!

Jess, OMG yes, you'd think considering I think so many women are so gorgeous I could be nice to me, but like you said, oh nooooo. Well put.

PM, yes. You come sit by me next time. :)

Kim, Ewe, Kyla, thanks! And yes, Self-conscious. I never think of it actually outside of photos when I see just how different I am. I am not self-conscious unless traipsing in a bathing suit across a pool area or more so when cameras come out. But I want the memories more, and find time offers me a better perspective. So I know I'll be so glad for this photo in a couple of years, LOL.

karen, brilliant.

HTBB soon to comment back to rest...for now, awesome comments (of course) and thanks!
flutter said…
I think you are gorgeous. in and out
Arkie Mama said…
You're beautiful!

I remember wandering with a friend into an NYC shop in which nothing came in anything higher than a size 8.

Not a single saleswoman approached me. (I'm a 12 too.)

They mobbed my friend -- petite, maybe a size 6?

I was so angry by the time we left.

I need to lose some weight just to be healthy. But I will never be someone who's mobbed by salespeople.

And really, I don't want to be. I wasn't meant to look like that.
Catherine said…
Oh, I know. I tend to be on the "are you too thin?" end of the spectrum, not by choice, and even I feel the pounding pressure to look more like a super model. I shudder for the girls growing up today, and tremble for their parents, as we figure out how to speak in a voice more compelling than so many others...
S said…
I think you look LOVELY in that picture. I was so happy to see it. Not for one second did I notice anything off about your weight.

And speaking of men (who never have their weight dissected), how 'bout that Russell Crowe?

And he looks as comfortable as one can be in his own skin. Not her skin, because women, tragically, are never comfortable in their own skin.
Lawyer Mama said…
You look fabulous in that picture. Really great. And healthy for your height.

I don't know why, but I never pictured you as tall in my head. Perhaps because I'm a shrimp and I'm so convinced you're so much like me, you had to be so physically as well! LOL!

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