Off Topic: The Perfect Body

I normally keep my personal opinions to myself (um, except for the oodles of Obama videos - a girl can't help her excitement), but I have to unload today.

I saw a commercial this morning during my Dr. Phil fix (don't judge me) that really made me shake my head. In the commercial, perfectly sculpted, beautiful, white people are rolling off an assembly line. Two "non-conformists" break free from the pack and run off to lead non-conforming lives. However those free-thinking radicals are just as beautiful, white, and perfectly sculpted as those on the assembly line -- they're just wearing better clothes.

My brain screamed at the TV: THEY ARE STILL PERFECT. They probably spend a lot of time and money to keep their lithe frames, perfect hair, and gleaming complexions. They may suffer from eating disorders, body hatred or dysmorphia, or drug addictions -- or maybe they were born (not blessed) with great metabolisms. But here we are, using them to symbolize what I guess is an ideal.

Just thinking of the commercial raises my blood pressure a little bit because these marketers are sending the message that people should embrace their individuality and take comfort in how they are different from everyone else. Yet the visual message is insidiously opposite: Yes, you should embrace differences, as long as you're skinny and beautiful. Because being skinny and beautiful is normal, of course.

With this on my mind, I heard about Amanda Palmer's fight with her record label because the label refused to release her video due to what they considered her too-fat belly was exposed. Yes, that sucks and it's ridiculous, but what's really great is that Amanda tells us on her blog that HELL NO she isn't fat and if she were there's NO WAY she'd be proud of or show off her belly and that she hates how she looks when she's pregnant.

Dub Tee Eff, people. So you're mad at them for calling you fat, not because they are making a judgement call about what will sell your records? You're mad because NO YOU ARE NOT FAT! And then your fans post their bellies and in 15 or so pages of belly photos, I see no fat bellies. What I see is a whole bunch of defensiveness about how Amanda is not fat and that "fatties don't have cheekbones like that."

Then there's a new book on Feminism for young women and what image graces the cover? A young, trim belly. Why the belly? Why are girls supposed to see in that body that will bring them to buy the book or heed its message? That feminists aren't all old and fat? That you can be a feminist and still be attractive? Because attractive = thin and young, you know.

I think my biggest problem with this whole mess is that I am raising a daughter. A daughter who may grow up with a slow metabolism or an aversion to sports and who may grow a belly much bigger than Amanda Palmer's. And where does she fit? Where in the hell do fat bodies fit in our culture? And going back to the commercial, where do bodies of color fit in? Where were the latino, black, or Asian bodies on that assembly line?



  • gwenschott


    You know, the only time I have body issues is when I concern myself with how I'm perceived by others. Self conscious thoughts take over my otherwise rational brain... no one wants to date a fat girl... the person next to me on the plane is probably pissed they have to sit next to a fatty... I must really look funny walking around with my skinny friends... everyone must notice that I'm the fattest person in the room... etc.

    But when it's just me and my thoughts of myself, and no one else's opinions are in consideration, I have NO PROBLEMS with my body. I have no problems that I'm fat. Sure, I wish I were healthier, but the size of my body doesn't bother me.

    There is a part of me that is glad that I'm fat. You see, I have a 13 year old niece who is my heart. And I am proud to be a living example to her that the size of one's ass doesn't define them as a person. She's a skinny skinny child surrounded by skinny skinny women (by chance, not by my sister's design), but she still looks up to me and I want to show her that I am no different than anyone else just because my clothes are bigger.

    I knew that she "gets it" when her younger brother said to me one day "you have a big butt!" (any excuse for a 7 year old to say the word butt!) and she said "so what?" and gave me a hug.

    If only everyone else could take a lesson from that beautiful little girl!

  • Kelly Miller

    Exactly. It's society's negative perceptions and comments that turns a fat body into a hated body.

    And what's worse is that people say that the reason is fat = unhealthy. But that's not true! I am fat and very healthy! I can't figure a way to get my blood pressure or cholesterol up. I've tried and it doesn't happen. I am not pre-diabetic and don't gorge on cream puffs.

    I just wish that people with power - such as those who can afford national commercial campaigns - would put real women with real bodies on television.

    Imagine the revolution that would start with young girls and boys!

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