Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why it is not okay to depict women as skeletons

By now, many of you have heard about the Lane Bryant ad that was rejected because it was deemed to sexay for television.  Larger women in many cases have larger breasts, and that does not somehow make their bodies x-rated.  The issue is that we have invested socially in sexualizing the female form because it serves the idea that women are objects rather than subjects.

The following video is now making the rounds.  It plays on the rejected Lane Bryant ad to construct women who pose for Victoria Secret as skeletons.

It is an absolute undeniable fact that in the so-called normal size fashion industry anorexia and bulimia is  an issue; however, constructing these women as walking skeletons is just as problematic as the rejection of the Lane Bryant ad, because it serves to once again discipline the female body.

Not every thin model that is wearing Victoria Secret is starving herself, or engaging in risky behaviour to maintain a specific size.  Some of these women have naturally high metabolisms that result in their thin frames. What is problematic is not that these women are thin, but that retailers like Victoria Secret do not make clothing for a large variety of sizes.   Promoting a thin body over and above bodies that are considered fat is stigmatizing, and helps to promote the idea that fat bodies are inherently unattractive.

How many times have we uttered comments like, she just needs to eat a hamburger when we see women that we have determined is too thin, even though we are not aware of their dietary habits?  How is this any different than suggesting that fat women must diet and or starve themselves to achieve an unnatural body weight for them?

Whether it is attacking someone for being too skinny, or engaging in fat hatred, we are serving the purposes of patriarchy, because we are upholding the idea that women’s bodies should be open to public discipline and shame.  A more affirming message would be one that is inclusive of all body shapes and sizes without the rhetoric of shame. 

When we attack each other in the search for personal validation, it is patriarchy that wins.  As I have said on many occasions, patriarchy continues to be the force that it is, because daily women support its existence with their behaviour.  It’s not just harmless catty behaviour; it is damaging and causes a great deal emotional pain each time our bodies are constructed in a negative way.  You cannot shame one group of women to promote another.  No matter how good your intentions are the end result is only more pain for ALL women.

H/T Jezebel