No female can escape the scrutiny of her body—we're either "too fat" like Kelly Clarkson, or "too thin" like Giuliana Rancic. Why don’t we talk about something else entirely, okay?
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To paraphrase one of our nation’s foremost philosophers, Chris Crocker, “Leave Kelly Clarkson alone!” And while we’re at it, how about leaving Giuliana Rancic alone? And Lady Gaga. And Melissa McCarthy. And Jennifer Lawrence. And Madonna. And Hillary Clinton. And Angelina Jolie. And Gabourey Sidibe. And every other woman on this goddamn planet who doesn’t need your nose all up in her body business, thank you very much.
There is nothing on Earth more scrutinized than a woman’s body. It’s also the most legislated entity on the planet, but that’s another rant for another day. If we could convert into water the amount of ink that’s spilled every time someone in the public eye either gains or loses weight, California would never have to worry about another drought. It’s as if there’s an invisible amendment in the Constitution which guarantees the right to be an asshole about women’s bodies; a well-armed misogyny militia, if you will.
How did we get to a place where women are constantly devalued and reduced from living, breathing, feeling human beings, to aesthetics? Look at what happened to Kelly Clarkson last week. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace and radio host Mike Gallagher decided that a conversation about pizza would be the perfect time to “fat shame” the singer.
Mike Gallagher: “Have you seen Kelly Clarkson? You know the singer, Kelly Clarkson? Holy cow, did she blow up.”
Chris Wallace: “She could stay off the deep-dish pizza for a little while.”
Kelly Clarkson went from working as cocktail waitress at a comedy club to winning three Grammy Awards and singing at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. But to these men, she was nothing but a punchline.
That same week, E! host Giuliana Rancic addressed rumors that she was anorexic by explaining that the weight loss was a side effect of the medication she takes for breast cancer. She was near tears, telling a talk show host “I used to be more attractive. But I’m doing the best I can.”
I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. While leaving the doctor’s office recently, I overheard a woman on her cell phone say that she wished she could take a picture of me to put on her refrigerator door. It stopped me dead in my tracks. This woman had no idea what may or may not have happened while I was in the doctor’s office. She didn’t know if I had just received good news or bad news. She didn’t know if I was elated or terrified. I simply wasn’t acceptable to her because of my appearance. I was an unpleasant visual. Similar things have happened to me more times than I could possibly count and I usually ignore them. I have to, as a form of self-preservation. But every so often, I respond. I turned to the woman on her cell phone and said, “I just wanted you to know that my weight doesn’t affect my hearing.” Her face froze, mouth slightly agape. I waited a few second to see if she’d apologize. She didn’t.
We have no idea what’s going in the lives of the people we scrutinize. We don’t know what they’re struggling with or what they’re celebrating. If they’re happy or sad, content or angst-ridden. Everywhere we turn, there are conflicting messages. You’re too fat or too thin. Too wrinkled or too Botoxed. You dress like a little girl or you don’t look feminine enough. It’s a losing game, and it’s setting up young girls to try to attain impossible standards. Just look at this onesie sold at NYU’s bookstore (WTF, NYU??).
When you reduce someone down to their visual appearance, you take away everything that makes them a human being and all that’s left is the outer shell. And we’re so, so much more than that.
How do we stop this? How do we make the world a less judgmental place for the baby girls who that hideous onesie was created for? I wish I knew because I know how painful it is to be reduced to my shell. We have to be better. Life is hard enough and it’s too short to deal with the constant scrutiny alongside everything else. We have to be kinder, both to ourselves and to others. Kindness just might be the only thing that gets us out of this mess.
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” —Kurt Vonnegut
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