A SYTYCB entry
I’ve been pondering this question for the past few weeks: How Should We Talk about Bodies? I think the language that we use to talk about bodies directly ties with the way we feel about ourselves. There are so many labels available like fat, skinny, plus size, thin, fleshy, voluptuous, beautiful, healthy and the list goes on. I get frustrated with these labels because I question who defines what these labels mean. What is “fat” and what is “beautiful?” Also, why does “beauty” have to be an ideal? There have been many campaigns saying “Big is beautiful” and as Mika sings “Big Girl You are Beautiful.” My problem with those statements is why do we need to categorize our bodies as “beautiful”? Doesn’t that just perpetuate this idea that beauty is what is most important about ourselves?
I was prompted to discuss this topic after reading an article about Elizabeth Taylor’s Bodaciousness. This article describes Taylor as full-figured, untoned, and uninhibited and discusses the shift in Hollywood to thin, wispy actresses.
A few points of interest for me are:
-Elizabeth Taylor is a cultural icon, and I think it may be more acceptable for her to have some flesh than the “average” woman. Are there exceptions for certain actresses? The tension I am trying to get at here is that I think it is acceptable and considered “beautiful” for some women to be “full-figured” while other women would be called “fat.” I think it goes back to my discussion of how labels are defined and controlled.
-Another dilemma this article raises is that the “bodacious” body can be “sinful” and sexual while the thin body is pure. This is a problematic association. Why are some bodies allowed to have desires and others are not?
This article on Christina Hendricks provides another example of the problematic language used to describe some bodies. It begins by applauding Hendricks for her curves in a hostile atmosphere like Hollywood. It continues to say that she is not “big”, and then Amy Larocca writes, “It is also not to suggest that her figure is attainable to the average duck. She looks the way movie stars used to look.” So, even if Hendricks is a “bigger” woman, her beauty is still unattainable to the “average” woman? Can you see and feel my frustration in the ways women’s bodies are discussed?
Note: I wrote this post about a year ago for a women’s studies course on feminism and body image. I revisited it after reading Jessica Valenti’s wonderful piece, “The Upside of Ugly”.