Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Follow-Up on Plus-Size Lane Bryant Ad

The boring title is okay because I come bearing video.

A few weeks ago or so, I wrote an open to letter to the awful, fat-hating comments on a New York Post article about the banning of a plus-size Lane Bryant ad.

Recently, Jezebel reported on a video by comedy group The Landline that takes aim at the "not for chubbies" attitude expressed by the people who banned the ad for Cacique plus-size bras (linked to in my previous post).

While I appreciate, as a chubby chick, the lampooning of incredibly restrictive image standards, a fake ad like this still doesn't sit quite right with me. I mean, I don't know if I would call every VS model I see healthy or physically ideal (I don't love the look of bones sticking out, personally), but I think if we're going to start tackling the issue of body acceptance, we need to make acceptance all-inclusive. Yes, I want to feel more readily represented by the media, but so should girls that are thin, and they shouldn't be made to feel freakish for their thinness no more than someone like me should be made to feel freakish for my fat.

And I do understand that the rights and wrongs of the portrayal of bodies in the media is hard to pin down, there has to be some sort of line. No one deserves to made to feel gross or wrong in their own skin, no matter what their weight. 

Part of the implied issue here is health: most people aren't skeletal without having some demons in the form of an eating disorder-- but the same could be said for many very obese people. A video like this says that if your body is very thin, there's something wrong with you. That's sometimes true. Sometimes it isn't. My best friend, for instance, is 5' 4" and barely 100 pounds, if that. And I can say from a lot of heart-to-hearts and generally having spent a lot of time with her, she has quite the active appetite and there have never been any signs that she's ever been one to purge. She doesn't really work out, either: she's tried to put on fat, in fact, and it's never worked. I would guess because I know someone who is naturally thin enough to have her health questioned ("are you anorexic?!"), there are others. 

Which leads me, of course, to ask WHY anyone's health is anyone's business. I am of the belief that weight can operate relatively independently of health, and that there are healthy and unhealthy people of all shapes and sizes. If, say, at my weight I am healthy, that's good for me. If I'm not, that's my issue to deal with as I please (and, you know, I'm not really obligated to care either, if I really don't want to). We can say that "this is [insert country with socialized health care here] and everyone needs to be healthy 'cause I HAVE TO SPEND MONEY ON YOU," but in that case, I reserve the right to ask you to not drive your car (could crash!), go kayaking (could drown!), own an animal (could bite you!), or walk near windows (could be crushed by falling object!). 

Plus, I think we try to imply this whole health issue because we want an excuse to place a moral value on each others' looks. If fat is bad for you or skinny is bad for you, without exception, then it's easier to say it's gross and that you should change. I think that this is totally false-- and I also think, to be honest, no one really cares. I don't think most people who react with disgust to another person's body are reacting, first and foremost, with concern. You're not going to go up to that person and invite them to the gym or hand them a pamphlet on eating disorders or a free voucher to a nutritionist, even if you had one. Maybe you'll have a flash of concern for them for a moment, but it will pass. That's not the issue.

Anyway, after that digression onto health issues, I'd just like to say that ads like this annoy me because they are trying to attack a system that demonizes a certain body type by doing the same to another.

Simply being "underweight" doesn't make a person a representative of our totally-out-of-control Photoshop culture, simply because people like that are... well, real people. 

We are all real people, regardless of weight or the reasons behind it. If you have an eating disorder, you need help, whether your weight has plummeted, or ballooned, or done nothing at all. But the point still stands that bodies come, naturally, in all shapes and sizes. We need to accept that, and talking trash about skinny girls won't help the fat girls. I'm sorry, it won't. It just reaffirms the fact that body-bashing is okay, and it's not. Ever.

What needs to change? The altering of images. The use of people who are genuinely sick as paragons of beauty. The inclusion of a very small range of body types in the media. The attitudes we have about "real women" and what makes them.


Sarah_J_Evans said...

So very true. It is easy when defending the more voluptuous women in society to immediately resort to attacking the lighterweight women. Not productive or helpful.

Healthy attitude is key - have a healthy attitude towards yourself then maybe the healthy weight will follow (if needs be).

Great post - and I really can't believe people thought the woman in the first vid was fat!!?!



Kelly said...

"Plus, I think we try to imply this whole health issue because we want an excuse to place a moral value on each others' looks"

I hate when people try to pretend it's about health. They're usually just trying to justify their prejudices. I mean, I understand that your weight can affect your health. And sometimes people *can* genuinely be concerned about someone's health because of their weight. But since when does concern translate to being mean? Those people are lying to themselves.

For example, I think smoking is stupid and disgusting and honestly I do think less of someone when I learn they are a smoker. But I don't HATE that person so venomously like a lot people HATE people because of their weight. And if I'm genuinely concerned I certainly don't express that by calling them names.

Katie said...

" If you have an eating disorder, you need help, whether your weight has plummeted, or ballooned, or done nothing at all."

Incredibly true. I remember being in the ED clinic waiting for group therapy and trying to judge who would be going with me. I was shocked to see the variety of shapes and sizes that confronted me when we all entered the room to tell our stories of disorder and dysfunction.
This post told a story not often told and therefore it kicks ass.

Laells said...

Well said, dear. I completely agree with you on this one.

All I have to say is that I still yearn to be as eloquent as you are with words. lol You have an awesome writing style.


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