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June 26 2008

The skinny on Hollywood stars. AfterEllen blogger Gina Vivinetto discusses Hollywood's thinness obsession, with a comparison of Amber Benson (who is described as "dreamy") with Alyson Hannigan and Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy.

Even tho I have a completely good password there, they won't let me Log in, but I'll still say it here.

SMG looks better now than she did S-7 but I see their point.

But ALy is just very slim, not bony. She is very solid, especially thsoe abs.

And I worry abotu Amber at times lately.
Worry about Amber? I've seen her a few times in the past year and each time she looked healthy, happy and goodgod, dreamy indeed! Nothing to worry about there.
I understand the idea here, but they're upset with the wrong people. The blame should be on Hollywood, not the actors.

Weight loss is personal, and I really don't think it's anyone's bussiness why a particular actor has lost weight. I don't think it should be judged. Even though articles like this are well meaning, I see them as part of the problem, because they're judging actors just as much as the Hollywood machine does.

For instance, SMG was a bit heavier in the first season, but she was an employed actor and a minor sex-symbol by the end of that season. What would be her motive to lose weight? Why not consider that she was the star of an action show working 16 hours a day doing fight scenes? Anyone would lose weight doing that.

As far as Aly--she looks naturally skinny. And that's also part of the problem with articles like this: they demonize being skinny. Some people just are skinny. There's nothing wrong with how Aly looks, and there's nothing wrong with how America Ferrera looks either. Both are sexy and beautiful and look healthy.

On the other side of this is the entertainment press' glee at outing actors who seem to go too far and lose too much weight. I remember when Angelina Jolie lost quite a bit of weight a couple of years ago, and she was raked over the coals by the entertainment press. Well, it turns out her mother was dying, and her stress and grief lead to her drastic weight loss. The press did something similar to Kate Bosworth when she went through a bad break-up and lost weight.

The focus shouldn't be on these actors. It should be on Hollywood to find diversity in body types. Articles like this blame the wrong people, and are hypocritical IMO.

[ edited by Dizzy on 2008-06-27 01:12 ]
I kind of see the writer's point, but I'm with Dizzy. It is absolutely Hollywood that has perpetuated the skinny trend. And really, it's a pretty recent thing. For example, the movie Clueless had healthy women who were thin and looked great, but did not have chiseled abs. That trend came about a few years later, with the onset of Britney Spears, and it's only gotten worse.

And absolutely some women are naturally slender; AH is one of them. Then there are women like Jennifer Aniston, who looks waaaay different in Friends season 1 versus even season 4, not to mention nowadays. She's Greek--she's supposed to have some curves, for crying out loud! But now she's stick-thin.

If Hollywood weren't so weight-obsessed, we wouldn't even be seeing articles like this. What we'd see is diversity in body type, and it would occur naturally. We wouldn't have a few token "real women" with "real curves" because every actress would be a beautiful, healthy version of her body type.
It's too difficult to blame the trend on "Hollywood," which is hardly a town and more of this surreal embodiment of show business. It's much easier to name names: Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, the Olsen Twins, etc. And how is an impossible body image one of their individual faults?

Really, when you get down to it, there's no one thing or person to blame. There's no changing what's already there. If anything, I would like to see studios, casting directors, etc., employ "healthy-looking" women on popular shows.
Oh, yeah, BandofBuggered, you hit on something I meant to say but forgot. I hate the idea that the only "real" women are the ones with hips, butts, and boobs. How must naturally slender women feel when they read things like that? I understand the point, but it's way misguided. It's wrong to uphold only one body type as "real". I'm not skinny; I'm curvy and proud of it. But my body type doesn't make me a "real woman". It's just what my body is.
I think mainly our culture just needs to get out of the one-size-fits-all mentality. For some women, nothing short of a breast reduction and shaving their hip bones is gonna make them look thinner. (Which is a procedure that makes my hips hurt in faux pain just thinking about it.) Conversely it is unfair to compare them to women who have a smaller frame saying they're skinny and assume they're starving themselves to be that way.

Personally I think all three of 'em are dreamy.
I was completely distracted and ,yes, horrified by the fact that they spelled Xander with a "Z".

But...yeah, Amber Benson looks great. :D
Amber looks better now, but there was a time she was getting very thin.

I'm going to be the dissenter and agree with the article. Yes, some women are naturally thinner, and being very physically active will add to that. But most of the women mentioned in the article used to be a healthy weight and now look dangerously thin.

Queen Latifah is gorgeous in that photo.

Yes, I have curves. Yes, I would like to lose weight for health reasons. But yes, I would like to be reflected in the women I see on television. I'm pretty sure my curvy daughter would too.
I think Hollywood is partially to blame, but some of the blame has to fall on the fans. And it's not just women who suffer. James Marsters has been quoted as saying that as an actor in Hollywood, he's always hungry. And remember when David Boreanaz gained some weight when he had a bad knee?. The fan reaction (of some fans, not all) was appalling.
Yes, but who is anyone to judge that Amber wasn't/isn't healthy? Maybe she was working hard, maybe she's someone who gets so busy she forgets to eat, maybe she had a tapeworm?

I hear the same thing all the time with Jewel. Jewel is naturally skinny, and had to force herself to eat to make herself more rounded to play Kaylee. So many people now say she's too skinny. But she just went back to what she was before she forced herself to eat. I've been in her presence, and she's small, but she is healthy looking.

And the before photo of America Ferrera was from when she was what? 17? So as she grew up, she lost weight, like a lot of women do. And she still looks curvy.

And you know what? I love Queen Latifah. She looks gorgeous in that photo. But if she wanted to lose weight? Her choice, her business. Being overweight shouldn't earn an automatic "you go girl!" It's just a state of being. She gets a "you go girl" for being proud of her body, and she might be just as proud of it if she lost weight, too. She doesn't need to be any particular weight to be proud of her body.

Even if an actor seems to have an eating disorder, once again, I don't get how that's anyone's business. Decry society, or Hollywood, or the press. I'm not happy with this article's focus.

Women come in all sizes and body types, and they're all beautiful. I'd love to see them all represented in Hollywood. But I'm not going to put down skinny actors or those who lost weight as part of the problem.
Who the hell is Zander?

Seriously, I'm with them on the idea that Hollywood drives actresses to be too skinny (I'm one of the many who think that -- while unquestionably still beautiful -- Sarah looked better before she lost the wait), but I disagree on some of their examples. I think that Brittany Murphy circa "Little Black Book"/"Sin City" looks better than Brittany Murphy in "Clueless". I think the "after" picture of America Ferrara looks healthier and prettier than the "before".

I have always thought, and still do think that Amber Benson is simply one of the very most lovely women to grace the Buffyverse -- but I also feel the same way about the razor thin Michelle Trachtenberg.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2008-06-27 02:53 ]
"Who the hell is Zander?"

He was a character played by Rick Brendon on that show by Josh Weadon.
I'm with the article. Hollywood and the fashion industry concentrate the already considerable social pressure to be thin to a dangerous degree. There are women who used to be a healthy weight and now have turned into scarecrows. I don't have any more objection to the article pointing out examples than I do to Paris Hilton being used as an example of the vapidity of current celebrity culture. We can disagree on the examples chosen, bring up the naturally thin actors, or the ones who've lost weight for some other reason, but I don't thibk that article was out of line.
Jewel Staite was very young when she first played Kaylee. Being thin was probably natural. Certainly was for me at that age. I could eat anything and never gained weight.
But as you get older, it does get harder and then the "thin" that I see on some actresses stops looking natural and starts to look like starvation.
Eh, I guess I just don't get the focus on the weight of strangers. It seems too judge-y to me. I do want to see all body types represented in entertainment, as I think all body types are beautiful. But I don't see how it's any of my business to judge someone I don't know as to if they are "healthy" or "ok" or betraying "real women" based on their weight.
Gotta say I agree, Dizzy. This is one of those subjects that pops up here from time to time and never leads to anything good.
Well, lemme chime in here, if I may.

First off - I don't currently have my copy of Nikki Stafford's "Bite Me!" with me (Must remember to grab it next time I'm @the folks') but there's a wonderful bit in the article on Amber, quoting her famous post on the original Bronze when people (I don't want to call them "fans") were attacking her and Tara - calling them "fat" and hating them for "stealing" Willow from Oz. (I'm using both the character and the actor as individuals, because some people were not differentiating.)

Amber was, needless to say, outraged. I'm probably not going to get this verbatim, but the essence of her post was "I'm 5'4", 118, and next to my more petite costars I do look larger. I have boobs and hips and I'm proud of them." She went on to say that Hollywood is very much to blame for the pressure put on young women to strive for an unattainable, and unhealthy, "ideal" image, when what they should be doing is loving the body they do have, and themselves.

When I was at MotorCityBuffy in '05, I brought Amber's post up during the Q&A on Saturday, and told her how much I supported her. When I got to talk to her later she thanked me for bringing it up, because she feels it's still a very important issue.

Now, here's the thing - we're the same height (Well, give or take an inch) and the same weight. (Or, I should say, I'm currently what she weighed when she made her post.) Seeing the two of us together in my photo op you'd never guess it, because I'm what folks would call...uh...under-endowed. But if you look up Marilyn Monroe's stats, you'll see the same thing - 5'5", 118. (140 at her heaviest, which is actually within the "norm" for our height.) should I feel? Insulted when people call Tara/Amber fat? Insulted when the girl at work calls me "Twiggy"? Ashamed of my deficit in the chestal region? According to one friend, I do have curves "to die for," but I think she's biased.

I'm not going to read that article, because I'm already depressed due to the end of a nearly 15-year friendship, but I will say - Amber, Aly, Morena, Queen Latifah, Marilyn Monroe, Jewel Staite and SMG are all beautiful women, but I will not attempt to define their beauty by their body type/size - it's as much their inner beauty as their physical attractiveness.

Now, to balance this out - Tony, David and Nick are all handsome men who've had weight fluctuations in the seven+ years we've "known" them (As did James to some extent). Tony & Nick both blamed it on the snack table since, as Tony pointed out @MCB, it was loaded with "doughnuts and candy and other sweets." It did have healthier stuff, like bagels and fruits, but most of them would rather grab a Krispy Kreme. Tony has said in numerous articles/interviews that he has a wicked sweet tooth. David's weight gain we know was due to his not being able to work out as much with the knee injury. So what? Does being heavier or thinner affect how they act? Does it change their character at all? It wasn't a big enough deal to Joss or any of the other writers to make it a plot point (Other than a bit of ribbing at Nick's expense in Season Six during the wedding planning, and a touch with Giles having a "midlife crisis") so why should any of us care? Only because humans like to knock others down for a perceived flaw in order to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings.
Very well said, ShadowQuest.


I seem to recall that the fans who called Amber/Tara "fat" also called Marc/Riley "skinny".

[ edited by menomegirl on 2008-06-27 05:54 ]
Word, Dizzy and ShadowQuest.

Ugh...this whole topic drives me nuts; thank goodness you'll here seem to have your heads on straight. I went through many a time filled with insecurities about my size (5'6" and between 140-155 pounds). Lately, I've been on the heavier side of that weight range due to injuries keeping me from exercising. And now that I'm older and wiser, I've decided the hell with caring. I know I eat healthy; I'll exercise when I can again.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is that I see issues like this affecting the elementary school-aged girls I work with. I worry that these girls are going to starve themselves or develop an eating disorder to look like their heroes or role models.

I've always thought that AB is as beautiful as any other actress in the Whedonverse. And I never really thought of her as "big," especially since SMG and AH are so tiny that even Seth Green looked kind of tall next to them--and he's a small dude.
Thanks, menomegirl. This particular topic is a bit of a personal sore spot for me, and sometimes I just can't help but "go off" on it.

BandofBuggered Thing is, those "ideal" height & weight charts do a lot more harm than good, because people don't take their frame size, muscle mass or bone density into consideration.

I think the best thing for people is to worry about where they're comfortable, not what some chart "tells" them is where they should be. 'cause, seriously? According to most I should be around 135-150 for my age. But I'd not be comfortable then. In fact, if I were to start walking again, or got back into biking, I'd probably be back to around 110, 111, which is where I was 15 years ago in high school. But with my work schedule (11-7) and a majorly screwed up knee...

I work in a fast food restaurant, and it never ceases to amaze me how many school-age kids come in for their dinner. What ever happened to sitting down to a healthy, home-cooked meal with the family? Why has our society gotten so damn wrapped up in work that being a family is something they have to schedule?

But to get back on topic - you know who else is small? Danny Strong. There's a reason he was cast as a jockey in Seabiscuit. I hugged Tony, Amber, Andy Hallett & Danny @MCB. And it was...up under, equal, slightly up and down as far as arm positions.
Is there any actual point to this blog entry?
Is there any actual point to this blog entry?

Web traffic?
I think it's a really serious issue, and because of the prevasive influence of pop culture, spreading far beyond the enclaves of Hollywood and New york, where it used to be pretty much contained. I don't think it can be said about anyone on any of Joss's shows .... pretty obvious that Aly is naturally tiny (also Amy Acker), and SMG was, by the end of Buffy's seven season run, chronically exhausted.

But did anyone really take a look at the pics of Christina Richi, or remember Calista Flockhart during Ally McBeal or even worse, Lara Flynn Boyle in The Practice, or Kate Bosworth, or Kira Knightly?
This is way beyond "not natural and healthy", this is anorexic (or bulimic), both serious physical conditions linked to mental/emotional disorders, and should not not made light of.
The social/cultural pressures that drive these women to these extremes are twisted and destructive.
Shey, a couple of the examples you've given are exactly why I feel it's no one's business to judge. Calista Flockhart is always held up as an example of someone who is too skinny. But if you look at her before and after Aly McBeal, she looks healthier. She's often said she's someone who loses weight when she works hard, and resents people saying she has an eating disorder. Kate Bosworth was skinny for about a year, and finally said it was a bad break-up that caused her to lose weight. She's since put weight on.

These women aren't symbols; they're humans working in an industry that thinks size 4 is big. They can't win, because if they gain a couple of pounds, their ass ends up on the cover of Star under the headline, "Worst Celebrity Bodies!" and if they lose too much weight, People says "guess who has an eating disorder?" and blogs like this say "t'sk t'sk, guess who sold out 'real women'". Of course eating disorders exist in Hollywood. But I don't see how snarking at Christina Ricci is the solution.
I also agree with Dizzy and ShadowQuest.

I'm 5'4" and about 90-95 lbs, so articles like this infuriate me. They actually make me feel guilty for being naturally thin and in shape. And trust me, I eat a lot.

I don't like how the media (and sometimes fans) feels free to judge celebrities without allowing for circumstances or good genes. It's sad that articles like these sell magazines and create web traffic.

I don't like how the media (and sometimes fans) feels free to judge celebrities without allowing for circumstances or good genes.

Or as far as evolution is concerned, really bad genes :) Anyone who eats a lot and doesn't manage to store anything as fat does not have good genes as far as surviving potential periods without food. Sorry to be all scientific at you.

Anyway, its all a lot of gawking and pointing and is kinda unseemly, IMO.
While I tend to the "it's none of our business" side, there's a clear difference between someone who's naturally thin or athletic and someone who's starving themselves IMO. Whatever the reasons for it, Calista Flockhart in season 1 of 'Ally McBeal' is clearly a petite, naturally thin woman, Calista Flockhart in season 2 or 3-ish and onwards on the other hand is equally clearly too thin even for her own frame. A few morbidly obese people really do have glandular/metabolic disorders but most don't, same with unhealthily thin people.

In general, the tone of the article is judgemental and snarky though and as is often the case in those instances, I just don't really see who they're talking to or what's achieved by doing it in this way.
Honestly, I was pretty upset to see the picture of Kristen Johnson.
Her amazoniah character on Third Rock was one of my all time favorites. Big, blunt and gorgeous, I thought she was fabulous.
Women, much more so than men, are constantly judged on their appearance and encouraged to judge one another. It does not take a great deal of thought to work out why this is – and why the sooner it comes to an end the better.

I have, in the past, come across numerous instances where Sarah Michelle Gellar has been described as being anorexic (this was particularly the case during the period of the fourth, sixth and seventh seasons of ‘Buffy’). This simply indicates that those people making the statement have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of anorexia and other related illnesses. Equally, I have come across suggestions that she is “getting fat” or, much more commonly, pregnant. This shows that there is a widespread inability to look at a picture and make an informed judgement about the body shape of the person in question.

There has long been an assumption that Gellar was “normal” or even a little overweight in S1 of ‘Buffy’ and thereafter became increasing emaciated. This is absolute nonsense. The difference in weight between, let’s say 1997 and now, is I suspect fairly minimal.

She is by no means the only person this happens to. Jennifer Love Hewitt has recently faced a barrage of Internet nonsense about being fat. Amber Tamblyn commented to Hillary Clinton that, “In my business they want me to get back down to my birth weight.” Clinton told her, “Go tell them to jump in the lake.”

Far too much attention is being given to the supposed weight (or lack of) of actresses these days, although it is clear that a problem exists in Hollywood and the attitudes of the business towards its female actors. On the occasions when an actress has spoken out about being told to lose weight, this “suggestion” has invariably come from a male producer or male studio executive. Personally, I would suggest a swift kick to the goolies as the most appropriate response.
I agree on the article as a whole; it's overly simplified and too judgemental, and I have to agree that, how to say this, one or two photos don't tell us enough to name names.

But yes,it is a serious problem, on-going, and worth mentioning, every so often. But this tone of writing can lose the point.

As for worrying about Amber, well, first, given what happened when she first came on the show, the body-image thing is remembered by a lot of her fans. And I know I'm not the onlone of ehr fans who falls into the spooky-obsessive category. So when she appears drawn or haggard, we worry. And I grant the most recent photos aren't the ones that got us going, they were a while back.

I agree that all shapes can be beautiful. From my external viewpoint being a real woamn is at least 58% attitude and 39% actions, elaving at best only 3% for appearance :-).*

And I also agree S-7 SMG was dealing with physical and mental symptoms of work exhaustion; you can see that's not there now. (Comparisons to S-1 are inappropriate; she was a dewy 19-year-old then,a nd hasn't been for a while.) If she thinks she functions fine at Size 0, it's ehr call. The only other people she has any reason to answer to are Freddy, casting directors, and possibly her mother, none of whom are we. (If you're lurking, Mrs. G, I apologize.)

And as I said above, ALy's slim but muscular. Skin and bones don't have that kind of tone.

In general, it's okay to have opinions if you're the type who likes to form them. But broadcasting them to others should only be done for a purpose.

*Egotistical self-reference; In my fic "Never Bet the Devil Someone Else's Head" I have Harmony, who has definite curves, trying to seduce Xander, who in response refers to the more petite Faith and Anya as "a couple of real women" and says Harm is "more of a dust bunny."
I think it's definitely a very important debate and one that isn't likely to disappear any time soon. The problem is that famous people's lives, like it or not, do have an effect on normal people's lives. No matter how cynical or removed you think you are from it, the images we see in the media shape our opinions and have an even stronger influence on the young and impressionable.

So it is worrying that so many predominantly female actresses, singers etc. are becoming thinner and thinner, especially as their male counterparts are rarely subjected to the same body facism, and I think that it's definitely an indicator that sexism is still alive and kicking in 2008.

I accept that some women are genuinely quite petite and small, they never really become much larger than they do in their teenage years. I have a friend who has always been very short for her age, and now that she's 20 she will probably always be quite short compared to most people, and she is quite small generally, but I can tell that she isn't starving herself and looks healthy and attractive, if neither curvy nor emaciated. I can think of another girl who is similarly petite. But I suspect women who are naturally small and slender are in the minority. A lot of famous women try to deny they are underweight or unhealthy by using ridiculous excuses like they can't keep weight on and they regularly eat huge meals (of what- dust?) or that they're naturally so skinny. I think this causes even more damage because they're either in denial or unwilling to admit what they've done is dangerous- again furthering the cycle by making ordinary women think it can be perfectly natural to be so thin, and that being much larger is disgusting.

It's completely wrong when people who have access to good food and healthcare are starving themselves to look good when there are millions of other people in the world starving to death. That might sound harsh, but it's true. I know it's a very personal thing and I would offer all my support and compassion to anyone with an eating disorder, but I have less patience for the industries that are causing them. I think a lot of people need to realise the difference between being healthy and being so thin that it's not good for their bodies.

For what it's worth, I do think men generally prefer more realistically sized women, I know I certainly do. I think feminism has some way to go in empowering women to love their natural size and shape, rather than going to drastic measures to become so tiny- I remember once reading something that hit upon an interesting point- that diseases like anorexica have the sufferer striving to be physically insignificant, rather than strong and healthy.
It may be worthy of debate, but is this the venue where it should be played out?

I just wish all people could be respected, despite their outward appearance. It isn't that we should not care here, but in areas like this, it may be better and healthier to care from afar. After all, these folks have to run and live their own lives. I'm sure they're as sick of their every move being played out in the media as some of us are of seeing it.
Certainly people of vastly varying sizes and shapes can be healthy and lovely. It is unfortunate that the entertainment industry now casts mostly very thin actors (especially women).

It does seem strange that they are nearly all so much thinner than they used to be, and it would be nice, and inspirational, to see a wider range of body types. Marilyn Monroe wore a size sixteen. (Although clothing sizes have been put on a diet too- for vanity purposes, and that would probably be the equivalent of a size 12, or even a 10, now.)

There is certainly no point in picking on individuals- celebrities or not, but the whole business in general does seem to merit some attention.
Julianne Moore recently said that she basically lives off yogurt and granola bars and is "hungry all the time" in order to stay thin enough for Hollywood. She figures most actresses are probably in the same boat. So although it may be deemed politically incorrect to judge these women for being too small that doesn't change the fact that there is something seriously wrong.

My question is: What is it going to take for this problem to change?
Thinness obsession? What about the blondeness obsession? Why were so many brunettes in BTVS and Angel were getting highlights?
I'm still waiting for obese women to be accepted. Most (not all) of this thread are in favor of letting "normal" women and slightly thinner women be left well-enough alone. Not so much of an audience for the obese/hefty women out there.

And, so we're clear, I'm well aware that health issues play a factor into some decisions. But, as mentioned before, underweight people have just as much to worry about as overweight people. And, as zeitgeist pointed out, overweight people will last longer due to their fat deposits (thanks for that).

I have heard the shouts to let SMG, AH, AB, Calista Flockhart be as natural and comfortable their size is, which is anywhere from 4-0. There are mentions of Marylin Monroe possibly being a 10-12 in today's society. Where's the love for the 16-24's? If a person is naturally that way and have no health problems, then why aren't they mentioned?

And, re: health issues, why should one care is they're healthy or not? Sure, we feel for them, but it's not like we'll die for their high cholesterol or mal-nutrition. I just don't get it.

Overall, I'd agree with Dizzy, ShadowQuest, BoB, and zeitgeist, as well as mostly everyone else. I just couldn't help but notice that the defense for figured women was only leaning towards one side of the spectrum.
Fair point Zeitgeist. :) Good thing I live in this century!
Edna Mae, I've also read a quote from Gwen Stefani saying essentially the same thing--that she stays skinny because she doesn't eat, and she's starving all the time. And the sad thing is, she wouldn't be any less gorgeous or talented if she weighed 10 or 20 or however many pounds more would be her normal weight, but she feels like she has to for whatever reason (extrinsic or intrinsic).
DaddyCatALSO, your post made me curious about that fic, but googling the title did no good. Any advice?
Check out this this and this. There's a lot more literature available, but this is the one I'm checking out at the moment. According to Ms. Martin (and regardless of how you personally define "fat"):

• More than 1/2 of American women 18-25 would prefer to be run over by a truck or die young than be fat.
• More than 2/3 would rather be mean or stupid than be fat.

And also regardless of where you fit on the body-size continuum, fat is a feminist issue - but I'm also pretty leery of looking at anyone and deciding I know what weight they should be. I can only decide for myself, and my opinion is very shaky and changeable, depending on my mood and feelings of self-worth.

What I do know is that having any sort of perceived physical "imperfection" can help you to learn how much more you are than your traditional or non-traditional "good" or "bad" looks. It's not the only way to learn this, but it can be one of the ways into this vital self-knowledge.

I have had many physical forms in my life - from pretty, well-shaped young blonde (yup, there's that bizarre societal hair-color preference, too, wtf is up with that?) to substantial, over-fifty heftiness and aging (gracefully, naturally) - and it is fascinating (well, fascinating and occasionally painful) to see how you become invisible or unregarded or differently-viewed as you go from one to the other in this society.

"When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul - and not just individual strength, but collective understanding - to resist this void, this nonbeing, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard." - Adrienne Rich
I can relate, QG (as they said in the old days) :).

Your statistics reminded me of a book I read several years ago called The Body Project. She looks at diaries of American (white) girls through the ages. When Victorian girls wrote their resolutions in their diaries, they wrote about how they were going to strive to be more industrious, more honest, more virtuous, etc. The modern girls wrote endlessly about how they were going to lose weight and take care of their skin.
So, yeah, still got a ways to go.
I'm all for everyone being accepted for whatever size they are (I would encourage them not to go too far in either direction, of course). I would also say that there is plenty of pressure on folks in Hollywood male and female to be certain ways/weights and that pressure, to me isn't necessarily sexist. Its about shallow, simplistic ideas/ideals regarding what defines physical beauty.

Total sidenote, but somewhat tangent: As a Buffy fan and as a human being, I'm here to tell you there was lots of beauty of all shapes/sizes/hair-colors/etc. on display at the Women's Roller Derby event my lovely bride and I attended last weekend. I mention hair colors cause green, purple, blue, and others were well represented.

Fair point Zeitgeist. :) Good thing I live in this century!

:) Thanks for taking that in the spirit in which it was intended. Good to have you aboard the good ship Whedonesque.
All the Jossverse actresses are beautiful, but sometimes I would look at SMG in the last couple seasons of Buffy and sigh. Obviously the character was always misleading looking in that she was much stronger than expected for a girl her size, or most people in general, but in the last couple seasons it sometimes looked like she would barely have the strength to swing Miss Kitty Fantastico. It seemed like keeping a healthy weight should have been important to the character in terms of being at her peak. Giles should have ended training sessions with a donut. :)

I love Amy Acker and, wow, doesn't she have great legs, but her being very thin matched her character in a way that SMG's thinness did not. Great acting chops help suspend disbelief though.
Zeitgeist, for sure it's a shallow, simplistic appraisal of human beings, and these Hollywoodian standards are certainly not confined to or applied only to women, but there is most definitely a sexist component - which is what makes it a feminist issue - in that it is unevenly applied. Women are subject to far greater judgments about their looks and weight, because they are more valued by society for those attributes than are men, less valued for their more profound and meaningful human qualities, and judged more harshly than are men when they "fail" to live up to these standards of beauty.

There are certainly areas in which men are more often expected to succeed, or they are unfairly expected to have certain qualities that are stereotypically male, which sucks just as much - but in this arena - the area of stringent standards of acceptable physical beauty and weight - it is fair to say that women are more often held to them and bear the brunt of society's judgment about them.
Ok, I shouldn't post when I'm this tired. When I said "not necessarily" above, it didn't mean "isn't" ;) It was meant to tangent/segue into a side discussion on other types of pressures, but I didn't actually get there. Sometimes the pressure on these women isn't from men, its from other women. Is that still sexist? Are they merely upholding some sexist standard passed along by men or are they enforcing it for other (sexist? non-sexist?) reasons? Is it simply "the way things are done in Hollywood" and starting to shed the sexism that was inherent in its origins? Is it an outmoded/outdated expectation that entertainment execs push for, but that the people don't really care for? See again, sleepy. Its much later here, did I mention that? :) I don't ask these questions to be flip, I ask because I think that this could be a much more interesting discussion than it ever ends up being.
I've been thinking about it, and as much as I blame Hollywood for feeding this obsession with thin to the public, I also think that clothing designers are to blame. Seriously: I laughed bitterly when I watched The Devil Wears Prada and Stanley Tucci's character proclaims "4 is the new 2, 2 is the new 0, and 6 is the new 14." It's so true: the only person who can wear 0 nowadays is an anorexic midget or an overly energetic 12 year-old.

But it's no fun when you have to go shopping and look for size L or XL. And then there are all these size S left over, because it turns out that nobody can wear those. It leads perfectly healthy women to say to themselves, "Gee, I used to be a 6, now I'm an 8! I've gotta lose that extra weight!"

And even clothes are sexist, since guys mostly shop based on measurements*. If a pair of pants has a 34-inch waistband, it will fit a guy with a 34-inch waist. The inches don't shrink so the guy's all of a sudden wearing a 36. Even with shirts, it will say the measurement so a medium can't be a covert small.

*I base this on helping my brothers and father shop for clothes sometimes. So it's semi-firsthand knowledge.

ETA 'cause z posted first:
Sometimes the pressure on these women isn't from men, its from other women. Is that still sexist?

Yes. And no. I think that Bridget Jones has a pretty good quote about this (going along with my clothes thing) about trying on clothes in communal dressing rooms. And there's always this beautiful girl with her obligatorily fat friend and she's trying on clothes, asking, "does this make me look fat?" when she knows it doesn't.

Women are mean to each other. But it's not just that: I think that any person on the street, at a bar, in a store, etc. is secretly judging him/herself against every other person in sight. There are some things that are not able to be quickly judged, but there are other things to make up for that. Clothing and accessories are status symbols; so is one's physique.

Also, most single women especially constantly feel in competition for attention from any males in the vicinity, whether they're aware of it or not. So women want to be thinner, prettier, bigger-breasted, and [what have you] than any other girl there.

[ edited by BandofBuggered on 2008-06-28 08:11 ]
There is a little wiggle room as a pair of 34s and a pair of 36s from different makers may fit differently. I have first hand knowledge of that. Its an interesting thing to bring up, though. Women's sizes are an abstract and subject to a wider degree of malleability than Men's sizes. Does that feed out of control/unrealistic expectations?
There is a little wiggle room BAD MENTAL IMAGES!! ;) Okay, it's late for me too.

I do think that clothing sizes leads to different pressures/expectations. Many women I know would die before they hit the double digits in sizes. It's a sign of failure--of fat--for many.

And then there's Juniors sizes, which used to be for girls in the 15-25 age range. Nowadays, it's better sized for girls aged 9-14. And that brings up a whole 'nother problem with girls wearing clothes that are too mature for them...

The ironic thing is that people keep getting bigger, what with HGH in the milk and all.
Hee... it must be time to go to sleep :)!
Z: "Sometimes the pressure on these women isn't from men, its from other women. Is that still sexist?

Sure can be... sexism against women doesn't have to come from men only - it's actually a quality that's open to any gender. ; > It's having unfair and unequal expectations of woman - from whoever. (I'm only at the moment talking about sexism against women, as there are, of course, the two flavors. ; >)

And I didn't think you were being flip, Z - truly, you do make it clear when you are. I thought I needed to reiterate my opinion, though, that the bulk of this kindof judgment lands on women. Still think it does.

Not sure I think it's an outmoded concept that Hollywood and its execs are just mindlessly upholding that the populace is getting over - if anything, I think it's getting worse... the divide between the standards of beauty and weight that are being promulgated by Hollywood (and the worldwide fashion industry - and Madison Avenue) and what sizes women actually are is, in my opinion, a growing chasm for a number of reasons, and I think makes for an increasing weight of external and internalized judgment on women that don't fit the mold. And I think we can see that women are internalizing this judgment buy just how man of our young women would rather be mean or stupid or dead than heavy. I doubt there would have been that same large percent even 20 years ago...

I currently work in the fashion industry, and have worked in theatrical wardrobe, and I know from firsthand experience how insanely wide - and increasingly diverging - is the current variance in women's clothing sizes. It didn't used to be this bad - and men's clothing was always better in the reliability of its sizing. To me, it reflects the current chaos and confusion about what women are supposed to be - and then, of course, the various marketing strategies used trying to sell clothes that are, for the most part, designed for smaller women, but have to be sold to women of all different sizes.

Booking models for a photo shoot has gotten nuts - the designer will say they need a 4 model, but show up with their size 4 clothing which is actually like a 2 or 0 - or they will say they need a 2, and show up with clothes that say 2, but would appear to be more for a 4 or a 6. There's no calling it anymore, and most oversized clothes are just clipped in the back for a shoot. If they're too small it's naturally not fixable and bang goes the shoot for that day...

Another thing: samples are made to shop around to buyers in showrooms and so on, and they are being made smaller and smaller, because - well, the designers say it's their rep's fault - that they keep asking for smaller samples as "looking better" and the reps say it's the store shoppers' fault, 'cause they won't look at anything that looks big, and the shoppers say it's the store clientele's fault... and round and round we go.

At the moment, I have clothes in my current wardrobe that fit me that vary from size 12 to size 30 - which is pretty insane.

And here's another issue of the difference between men and women and their clothing: I talked the other day to a saleslady at Macy's about a shirt that didn't fit right, and I said, "Well, but I'm really shortwaisted..." and she said, "That's what women always say - if something doesn't fit right, they blame it on their bodies, but when I worked in men's suits, they thought it was the suit and just asked to have it tailored."

All of this goes to prove nothing, only that it's late, and I'm tired, and if it's late here, zeitgeist, well, then... you must be asleep.

Edited to fix on acounta tiredness...

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2008-06-28 08:54 ]
Its absolutely true (from my perspective) that the bulk of this judgment still lands on women. I went on a bit in hopes of getting just this sort of detailed, fascinating, first-hand account. Sometimes when we agree on an issue to a greater or lesser extent we fall into shorthand and "sexism bad!", while true, is not nearly as interesting as what you posted above. Thank you for taking the time to expound.
Interesting experiences, that's really terrible the way women's sizes are constantly being moved around.

I do think it's getting worse for men too though (just not as bad or as quickly). Male cases of body image disorders are on the rise for instance, presumably for the same reasons the problem exists for women (combined with the fact that men are encouraged to pay attention to their appearance more now than they ever have been previously).

And I think everyone contributes, men, women, the media etc. since a lot of it stems from celebrity culture and the current obsession with who's shagging who, who's lost weight, who's gained weight, who's adopted what and why and so on. In that sense, everyone who's bought 'Heat' (or whatever the US equivalent is) or pored over the gossip columns, or thinks "being famous" is an occupation is a part of this big cultural machine that's intent on (literally) grinding women down to size.

Just as our bodies aren't able to cope with our current surplus of very rich foods and far more sedentary life-styles I reckon our urge to gossip (which is a healthy and necessary part of living in a small community - it makes us aware of cheats, thieves, relationship dynamics etc.) is kind of perverted by our current ability to find out much more information (about people that have nothing to do with our community) than was ever possible before. And cos there's a lot of money to be made by supplying this information and by the manipulation of public perceptions, the deluge'll continue so long as there's demand. Basically, we're all doomed and, as usual, it's our own fault ;).

(and just to respond to korkster, there's no "healthy" for obesity. Practically by definition, if you're obese - as opposed to just "overweight" to varying degrees - then you're going to have health problems, whether it's diabetes, heart problems, joint problems, leg/body ulcers etc. it's just a matter of time. I'm all for accepting folk for who and what they are but a balance needs to be struck and just as it's crazy to tell women they need to actually not have a size by attaining "size zero", it's also banoonoos to say "Hey, you can be 400 pounds and healthy, don't bother about exercise and eat as much crap as you like")
Just a Parthian shot here; Seth is taller than SMidGe, but shorter than Aly by officially an inch. Except for one or two episodes, it seems Oz was usually on a box in the time-hnoroed Bogey-and-Bergmann style.

King of Cretins:Ill describe a link for youw hen I ahev a chance.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-06-28 17:31 ]

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-06-28 17:38 ]
KingofCretins; Ia ctually got the idea of some kind of H-X interaction from "Restless." Topping in his book Slayer pointed out that in Willow 's dream Harmony 's milkmaid is weeping over the body of Xander 's salesman and he wondered if it was significant.

"Never Bet the Devil Someone Else's Head" and three of my other pieces can be found by going here

and scrolling down a bit. And if you get a chance to look at it I'd be really interested in any comments ( + or - ) you might have on that or the others.

Warnings; The seduction I mentioned isn't the whole point of thes tory, just part of what goes on in Chapter 1, and the description does get pretty explicit before the chapter is over. The rest of the story is totally different in focus, altho cahp 1 is emntione dlater, and is set in my "Children of the Dale" AU, which is my main focus in Jossverse fics. The others, if those interest you, "But Wishing Makes It so" is a wish story so it's technically within canon but is actually a teaser for my main AU. "Shadows int eh grass" is set in a world where I wondered how the gang would cope with exile to a heroic fantasy type setting. "No One Knows What It's Like, Behind Wood Doors" is just a season 3 tale I spun for a fic challenge; it features 2 Mary Sue characters for the price of one!

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-06-28 20:35 ]
One more side of this issue - there are actually people out there who encourage women to gain weight. Known as FA, or Fat Admirers, some are men (or women) who just encourage a woman to eat vast amounts of food so she continues to gain weight, while others are called "feeders" and either supply the food or actually feed the woman. (Sometimes this is a very sexual experience for both partners, and the feeder/feedee relationship has gotten a large amount of negative "press" because people misunderstand the concept.)

As to clothing sizes - I have no clue what size I wear. I can wear a small or medium shirt, and anywhere from size 6 to size 10 pants (Depending largely on style/cut). I can wear a men's medium shirt - the sleeve length is generally fine, but it will be a bit long and baggy on me; usually I get a shirt this way to wear as an over-shirt, like a corduroy shirt to wear over a turtleneck. (Although my Packers dress shirt & my Packers suede jacket are both men's medium.)

I have one pair of men's jeans, which are 29X30.
(Sometimes this is a very sexual experience for both partners, and the feeder/feedee relationship has gotten a large amount of negative "press" because people misunderstand the concept.)

Well, erotic asphyxiation is "a very sexual experience" for some people, doesn't mean it's not dangerous. If the concept involves one party over-feeding the other in order for both parties to obtain a sexual thrill, regardless of the health consequences then i'd say it's pretty hard to misrepresent negatively. It's obviously their choice (and more power to them, between consenting adults it's whatever floats your boat as far as i'm concerned) but it is what it is - a fetish and a dangerous one at that.

And clearly some people find all sorts of shapes attractive, from curvy right the way through to obese. Over here people that are attracted to other people solely because they're overweight are colloquially called "chubby chasers".
"Hey, you can be 400 pounds and healthy, don't bother about exercise and eat as much crap as you like"

I really gotta complain about this stereotype. I'm sure lots of people are overweight/obese due to lack of exercise and overeating. That's not always the case.

In my early adult years, I was a "hard working American". Sometimes I worked 3 minimum wage jobs at once. We're talking workdays that compare to 8 to sometimes 16 hours of nearly continuous exercise.

I am a chicken breast away from being completely vegetarian. It's not a matter of health, but a matter of taste. It just so happens that I love what's considered healthy food. I was the weird kid that ate all my vegetables. If there's rice or pasta it has to be unsalted and unbuttered. I don't like the taste of fat or excessive salt or sugar. I can't tell you how difficult it is to go to a restaurant and find something I actually like on the menu. Even the salads are pretty skimpy on the vegetables. When I worked at Wendy's they had a garden salad with broccoli and cauliflower. That's been replaced with salads with chicken, fried noodles, croutons, tortilla strips, bacon, sour cream, chili and every other fracking thing they can think to put on a lettuce that isn't a vegetable.

My body is extremely effecient at turning carbohydrates into energy because that's primarily what I eat. But 7 years ago I started college, and now I'm a computer tech. I sit for 8 hours. And despite exercising 30 minutes a day, I gained 100 lbs in 7 years. 30 minutes is no comparison to the previous minimum of 8 hours a day I was getting. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to make that up. My body just kept storing the carbs in anticipation of using it.

I am 200 lbs and 5'6, and that is not just obese that is severly obese, but not morbidly obese which starts at 248. For my height overweight is 155-185. 175 is the point of obesity for 5'4, the average female height.

I realize you were exaggerating with the 400, but that is the problem. Our perception of obese is so fracked that obese people don't know they're obese and the people looking at them think that person must be 200+ lbs overweight, when they're actually 100 lbs overweight.

My blood pressure is a pinch lower than normal, and my cholesterol is low because I consume very little fat and salt. I've got too much body fat, but it's not actually in my blood stream. It's all in storage.

I'm not saying I'm picture perfect healthy, because I know I'm not. My weight impacts my joints, and I feel that. I jog for 10 minutes, 3 times a week...and that's the most I can do before my knees start screaming. I have a mini-bike (basically, peddles on an "I" shaped frame that sits on the floor) which I use while sitting at my desk in addition to hand weights.

I've gone from 230 to 200 just this year. My body has finally realized that it's not going to exercise for 8 hours a day and there is no need to keep storing energy for future use.

People (primarily women) thought I was overweight when I was 120 in my early 20s. I was around 150 throughout my teen years, but that still isn't overweight for my height. Nevertheless, I was called "chunky" which is now referred to as "curvey", but still synonymous with overweight. I just happen to have a sizable rack and hips that are "good for breeding".

So, imagine how I might've been too complacent when I started gaining weight, since I have always been called overweight. The perceptual difference between 150 and 230 is the difference between chunky and fat. Which frankly, cuts the same way when I hear it. And ironically, people verbalize their judgement more often when they perceive you as just overweight. It's too insensitive or un-PC to call an obese person fat. But if they think you're 5-20 lbs overweight, they'll tell you. (And affirmations of "You look good a little overweight" when I wasn't actually overweight didn't feel like a compliment.)

I'd bet 100 bucks that when I get to 150, someone is going to tell me "You've lost so much weight! You just need to lose 10 more pounds." And keep saying it when I'm 140, 130 and 120. Although I have no desire to be 120 again, because I felt like crap when I was. I mainly just want to be able to take the stairs at work without my knees "crunching".
DaddyCatALSO, while linking to one's own stuff in the comments is acceptable, let's not push the envelope on that too much. Ta.
And ironically, people verbalize their judgement more often when they perceive you as just overweight.

I agree and I disagree. I think that part of the reason that people might judge "overweight" people more than "obese" people is because it seems as though they could go either way--they could make the effort to diet and exercise to burn off the extra fat, or they could eat several gallons of Ben&Jerrys. But, please keep in mind that this is conjecture.

I think that it boils down to how a person perceives him/herself. If a person is comfortable, then it won't matter if someone makes a comment about his/her weight--what do they know? But if you're a person who feels the comments, you're going to take it hard.

I have my own issues with this sort of thing; just this evening I was going through my closet with my sister and lamenting some of the shirts that I have grown too large for, but that fit me great last year.

I too am 5'6". Right now, I weigh about 155. Last year, I was at 140 and I was still continuing to lose weight. However, I was in a car accident last July...then another one in November (neither my fault, I'll add). I have already had surgery on my injured shoulder, but my back still hurts me constantly, to the point where I qualify for a handicapped parking pass because I can't walk very far. This is a marked contrast to last year, when I was exercising for at least an hour a day, dancing at night, and working as an umpire--quite a strenuous way to earn money. I eat the same then as I do now: very healthy, but definitely not skimping on desserts.

So far, no one has mentioned weight gain or loss to me. I think this is because those who know me understand my circumstances, and those who don't know me have no right to comment.

So what's healthy? I have technically been within the "healthy" weight ratio for my entire saga. The only thing that puts pressure on me about my size is my own waistband. Still, I feel it. I grumble constantly because I can't fit into my jeans or my shirt doesn't look as good as it used to. It's my own perception, and it's based on the fact that I miss the days when I had visible abs and could wear a tight top confidently. I'm 20: this is the age I should be looking my best.

So what's the message? Well, if someone told me I was overweight today, it would bother me, even though I know full well I can't do anything about it until I'm healed. One year ago, I would have shrugged such a comment off, as I didn't believe it, so anyone else could just bugger off.
I'm sure lots of people are overweight/obese due to lack of exercise and overeating. That's not always the case.

No it's not (I make a comment to that effect upthread) but it's not a stereotype in the sense you mean either GrrrlRomeo because in the case of weight it actually is true most of the time that most obese people are that way through their own "fault" (the quotes are because what a person eats and why is, to me, every bit as psychologically and even physiologically complicated as, for instance, what a person drinks. Maybe "through their own actions" is more accurate ?). So the common usage of "stereotype" as in a generalisation that's more often not true of particular individuals doesn't apply IMO.

Regarding PC or un-PC, frankly I could care less about a person's weight - unless they're someone I love and it's reached the dangerous stage their weight is up to them. But if I perceive someone to be "fat" then i'm gonna call them fat, just as if I perceive someone to be short or tall or thin or old or young or bald, i'm gonna call them that (clearly I don't wander around the streets saying "You're fat" or "You're bald" or "Jeez, aren't you dead yet Methuselah ?" BTW ;) - I mean how would I characterise their appearance if someone asked me to). Are all of those judgements arbitrary, sweeping and sometimes inaccurate ? Yep but that's judgement for you, s'why we shouldn't rush to do it IMO.

Here's the thing, to boil it down and remove all that glorious individual variation of metabolism, habit, psychology etc. (or luck regarding car accidents ;) - if you consume more calories than you use you'll gain weight. For most people it really is as simple as that (note I said "simple" and not "easy") and so for most people if you work in a sedentary job as many of us do these days (i'm also in computing BTW) then you either need to eat less or exercise more to maintain your weight.

I'm not blessed with one of those "eat anything" metabolisms (bastards ! ;) so if I have a beer heavy week or hit the ice-cream a bit hard or whatever then I put on a bit of weight. So the next week I have fewer beers, less/no ice-cream and walk part of the way to/from work on all five days rather than just my normal 2-3. And would you believe it, the weight goes because i'm using more energy than I consume. It's like this body that nature's been working on for 3½ billion years actually works most of the time, if we just let it ;).

(my weight's fairly stable BTW but i'm no image of chiselled athletic perfection either, I could stand to lose a few pounds myself but i'm perfectly happy to admit that in my own case, the extra weight I carry is because of the weeks I had those beers anyway or couldn't be bothered to walk. It's my choice in other words)
Sodding Nancy Tribe: I didn't think I was linking, since when I checked it just came up as an addy in the body of the post, not as a clickable link.
Saje, since you're not obese, or even overweight in the least, or in the United States, I can see how our perceptions are different than yours.

The Europe and Asian (don't know about Africa) societies are more accepting when it comes to body type, public transportation, and interaction with other individuals. That is not the case here. You might find it in New York City, but not out west. Here, we don't believe in public transportation, but put all of our faith in living as far away as possible. We also don't do "social" that well; we're more of a 3-jobs-at-a-time, work and school environment. When I say "we", I'm speaking for "me", but taking my views on California as I know it.

So, I'm very glad that you're body is more or less at equilibrium, and can reach that with slight alterations in your diet, but that is NOT the case for a majority of overweight Americans. I think our main problem is the lack of education and emphasis on "family time". Growing up, my family dinners were at fast food joints as I went to my next activity (dance, choir, violin, school, etc.). Even as a kid, I didn't have great metabolism, so I was always the slightly larger one. Did other opinions on me at that age take a toll? Yes, but it was always fun to see their face when an obese person like myself can out-dance them with better moves and energy than the skinnies.

Now, in my 20's, I'm still overweight, but I feel like my body has reached an equilibrium with itself, even if it doesn't agree with the government's BMI. So, because I don't fit in the grid, does that make me unhealthy? Even when I'm at my check-ups and the doctors say I'm healthy?

I think it's unfair to use doctor's general trends as facts when they themselves largely makes assumptions based on trends. They make mistakes all the time. Chain-smokers don't always die of lung cancer. Fat people don't always have chronic health issues associated with weight.

I agree with BoB that currently the only effect weight has on me is my waist band size. However, she is in MUCH better shape than I am. I haven't been restricted on physical activities that I've wanted to try.

But then again, I also recognize that I will eventually have to play well with others. So, as I'm pining for a government position that requires a physical, I acknowledge that I will have to get into shape. But it will be to get that job, not to health-ify myself. And, since I'm in CA, where work is encouraged and there is no personal time for lower-class white-ish collar citizens, it will be quite difficult to find a means to meet their demands. I just don't have the time.

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