You Must Be This Thin: >< To Perform (But If You Are There’s Something Wrong With You)

Every Friday on my LJ, I’ve been hosting a “Friday Discussion Question” to various levels of success. This is today’s.

Ah, yes. The age-old discussion about the beauty standard. Although this FDQ was not inspired by the whole Britney Spears thing (I meant to post it last week but got distracted), that mess is certainly very relevant to what I’d like to discuss today.

We live in a world where we constantly push the concept of “you can’t be too thin” on women. Advertising features slender models in come-hither poses. Major magazines take perfectly-normal looking women and photoshop the pounds off (to some frightening results: Hot but not hot enough - America Ferrera from Ugly Betty and Redbook Shatters our Faith… with the photoshop job done on Faith Hill [be sure to check out the animation at the bottom]). Dove does a series of ads with “real women” in them and men freak out and say they don’t want to see ‘that’ on their morning commute. (And that ads showing women in Size 6 and 8 are promoting the obesity epidemic in the US. O.o?)


In this post I talk about a woman on my flist who won’t eat in public because she’s slender and people make assumptions that she has an eating disorder based on what she eats. A Rabid Mouse talks about being invited to join a ‘Down with Size 0′ group - except she is a Size 0. When Britney Spears was on stage six years ago there were criticisms that she was too thin. Now, after having had two children, she’s apparently too fat.

It seems like the standards are setting women up to “fail”. If you’re thin, you’ve got an eating disorder. If you’re not thin enough, you’re too ugly to be seen in public in anything that shows some skin. If you’re a mom, you should only wear “appropriate” mom clothes. Don’t be sexy, unless you’re a Yummy Mummy, and even then, it’s not appropriate. How dare you, anyway? Women over 30 should be covered up anyway, because only the young should be showing off their legs, but please, let’s wring our hands over the sexualisation of our children.

[The late Dr Violet Socks has a very valid point to make about that in Like Lambs to the Slaughter - I really recommend you read it. It’s short. She makes her points faster than I do, probably because she is dead.]

I’ve read about female star after female star crashing herself against the Beauty Myth, and I’ve watched my friends and flist struggle with the same issues.

Too thin? Too fat? Not healthy? Should I do weight lifting or will I get ugly muscles? I need to lose 20 pounds before I can get married! My friends think I’m too thin and now I feel ugly. People tell me to stop losing weight, that I’m ‘thin enough’ - what should I do?

I’ve talked before about how I think advertising is a big factor in all of this, as is Hollywood and airbrushing and the general idea that women are “supposed” to be attractive - and thus anyone outside of that attractive is to be punished, but those who reach that attractive must have something wrong with them because the ideal is set so high.

What are your thoughts?

Important Note:
I usually am pretty okay with whatever people want to write in response to these posts, because they’re supposed to be general discussions and not ‘please toe party line’ things. However, I want to nip two things in the bud right now:
1. NO. It does not make me feel better that a small, but significant and growing, number of men also suffer from eating disorders. Don’t imply or state otherwise.
2. As fascinating as a discussion about what different people find attractive in women, varying from body size, hair colour, and personality, can be, this post isn’t really about that. It’s about society and pressure on women to appear in public looking a certain way and then punishing them when they don’t. It’s not about what you, I, or any other particular individual finds attractive or appealing. I don’t want to get bogged down in that.

Slightly less important note behind the cut:

Slightly less important note:

Things I’ve Heard Said About Britney:

“Did she have the body for that outfit? I don’t think so.”

The interview they link to has OK magazine editor arguing that sure, it’s bad to have stick figure girls as our role models, but she didn’t have the body for that outfit.

“I don’t look at that outfit and think ‘mom’. Just me.”

“Where’s the apron, that’s what I want to know.”

“And she’s being criticised for her clothes, or lack thereof.”

“She actually chose this outfit, she actually didn’t think the outfit MTV supplied her was sexy enough or skimpy enough, and she decided to go onstage in this ensemble which amounts to little more than just some bedazzled undergarments. And, was she fat? Listen, I’m not going to call Britney Spears fat, but did she have the body for that outfit? I don’t think so.

One Response to “You Must Be This Thin: >< To Perform (But If You Are There’s Something Wrong With You)”

  1. shelby Says:

    i honestly think that brit looked fine and that she is still beautiful. yeah she has gone through hell but what person hasnt right? she has bee through so much and she really doesnt need everyone criticizing her for the way she looks the ideal woman is almost impossible to be unless you are extremely ill you cant achieve being the ideal woman in todays society.
    also, for the record it doesnt matter how big or how small you are if you love yourself then nobodys opinion should matter but yours!!!

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