I know Bossypants is kinda 2011, but 30 Rock is back with new episodes (thank God — does anyone else start to despair and watch The Big Bang Theory reruns on TBS ad nauseam during the dark days of December? Just me?), and so my friend Kate and I started discussing this Tina Fey question via email the other day. So, seeing as I’m tres busy making my new website all pretty for you, I thought I’d reprise that email into a blog post and… go!
Tag Archives: beauty standards
Apologies to the friends who were sharing the New York Times around my breakfast table over the weekend and thus, have already heard all of my rantings on the subject of Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Fat Trap.”
But for those of you who missed that diatribe — or perhaps, just want to digest the more articulate I’ve-had-my-coffee-now version — here’s my Never Say Diet take on the weird left turn she makes in that piece. Which is mostly, so excellent. I just read her “Behind The Cover Story” Q&A with the Times‘ 6th Floor Blog and it makes me like the first three-quarters of the article all the more. It’s the first time I can recall a major media outlet taking on a story like this. And we really do need to be talking about all of the research that shows, over and over, why permanent weight loss is such a moving target for most people: Because “a number of biological factors that have nothing to do with character or willpower can make it extraordinarily difficult,” as Parker-Pope explains.
Where Parker-Pope and I part ways is in what we want to do with this information. She views obesity “as a medical condition” and thinks the kind of all-consuming, food gram-counting measures adopted by the people she profiles are inspiring, if exhausting, preventive health strategies. So she wants to use this new scientific understanding of why weight loss attempts almost always fail… to keep on trying to lose weight. Even though it will be really difficult and ineffective for the majority of people.
In contrast, I think* the jury is still out on whether obesity itself is a medical issue (at least 20 percent of obese people have no health issues at all, and there are studies show that overweight women actually live longer than normal or underweight women) or whether it tends simply to correlate with lifestyle habits that are bad for our health in other ways. And since we don’t know for sure, but we do know for sure that diets don’t work and the war on obesity has mostly just led to a war on obese people, why don’t we stop chasing the weight loss dragon once and for all, and instead focus on the specific lifestyle habits that definitely do impact our health’s bottom line? Continue reading
On page 160 of the December issue, Glamour invites you to “design your best body,” explaining that the difference about — weight training? society’s expectations? democracy? it is unclear — today is “you can pick your look.”
So. Big decision time. Do you want to be a tall, leggy blonde like Gwyneth? Or a tall, leggy blonde like Cameron? Are you confused by the many, many options here? We can go over them again. Slowly. Does it help to know that Gwyneth has wee little muscles (aka “mini”) while Cameron’s bulkier brawn was apparently named after a feminine hygiene product? No? Then however will you decide?
Surely, you aren’t still wasting time loving the body you currently have, no matter how lacking in blonde legginess it may be. Glamour set us all straight on that notion months ago.
Oh lady mags. Surely, we can raise the bar just an inch or two more?
Today in Never Say Diet, I’m talking about the findings in The Allure New American Beauty Survey: When asked about their attractiveness, African-American women were three times as likely as Caucasian women to rate themselves as “hot.”
I don’t think the reason for this — if, indeed, we can prove it’s true beyond the perhaps not quite nationally representative sample of Allure Magazine poll takers — is as simple as the whole bootylicious thing, where women of color get to celebrate their curves in ways that white women don’t. Whether they’re demanding you be fat, thin, or somewhere in between, beauty standards are problematic because they demand that you be something and it’s impossible for everyone to be that one thing, all the time. So Beyoncé only helps us so much.
I think this stat speaks more to what happens when women are forced outside the traditional beauty narrative, which can happen for a million reasons… though race and size are probably the top two. When you live outside the beauty myth, maybe it’s easier to stop judging yourself by the beauty myth. Because it’s not like you have a ton of other options.
So I’m curious to know: Is there any aspect of your appearance that falls outside the Beauty Myth? And if so, have you gotten to a place where you find this at all liberating — because when the rules don’t apply, you get to make up your own?
Obviously, as I shared last week, the part of me that falls outside our culture’s definition of beautiful would be my midsection — and judging from the awesome comments (keep ’em coming!), I’m not alone in this. I wish I could say that I’ve found this failure to make the beauty grade 100% liberating, but alas. Most of the time, I just wish I had a damn waist. It would make more sense with the rest of my body and I’d have a hell of an easier time buying pants.
So this is not to say that I think it’s easy for the black women in the Allure poll — that’s some hard-won body confidence they’ve got. And I am finding it inspiring. Because it suggests that somehow, somewhere along the way, women are starting to broaden our definition of beauty and move away from restrictive standards. Starting with ourselves.
PS. No photo again today because I remain stymied by CaptureMe. Sorry! My little Macbook Air and I have been on a journey of tech support adventures as of late. (One of the joys of self-employment.)
I am beginning to think somebody needs to be in charge of an Official List of Fake Body Parts Created To Make You Crazy. Someone official. And archival. Like the Library of Congress. Or Tim Gunn. (He’s still a professor, right?) Because this sh*t needs to be cataloged for the ages, so seven generations from now, they can look back and say, “Oh that’s when our ancestors forged the first boob pillow. Can you believe they used to be made out of polyester?”
Maybe that’s why the paper of record is reporting on this issue? Can we call cleavage wrinkles an “issue?” That’s not an overstatement? Anyway, archiving for the ages or not, the Times piece sure comes across as a ringing endorsement of some pretty unrealistic beauty standards.
So go get my take on that in today’s Never Say Diet post.
Looking at “perfect” models in women’s magazines (or ahem, on women’s websites) makes you feel better about your body — but twist! Only if you’re already on a diet. Because you don’t like your body. Wrap your head around that one over on Never Say Diet today.
You know how problems can feel so impossible when they’re rattling around in your head and then as soon as you talk it out, you feel a million times better? That’s the logic for Body Confessions, the anonymous group blog where people share those tortured thoughts about what they’re eating and how they feel about their bodies on any particular day. It’s powerful, addictive, sweet, funny and crazy relatable. And it’s the brainchild of novelist Diana Spechler — who I’m interviewing today over on Never Say Diet.