Fat, Media, Miscellaneous, Self-Image

Something to Talk About

Yeah, I’m phoning it in once more, and this is pretty much just another open thread. I will, however, offer some topics for discussion.

-Wednesday is the last day to register for Abundia, a weekend retreat for fat women that will take place in Zion, IL Nov. 7-9. (H/T to Paul there, ’cause I got distracted after the organizers e-mailed me and forgot to plug it.)

-Vesta44 went off on a magnificent rant about the news that fewer people are dieting.

Paul again: Thinking makes you fat. Or not. (Granted, that might explain a lot.)

-Finally, I shall quote myself quoting Tina Fey in an Emmy acceptance speech last night:

I thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate with my looks and abilities. Well done. That is what all parents should do.

It actually bugs me that Tina Fey, in stuff she writes for herself, so often bases jokes on the idea that she’s not thin or beautiful enough to be on screen at all. Because even if she thinks of herself as a geeky underdog — and even if, unlike all the Hollywood starlets who claim to have been losers in high school, she actually was a geeky underdog for a long time — these days, the woman is fucking conventionally gorgeous. Whenever there’s a crack about her looks on 30 Rock, I’m torn between being sad that she apparently doesn’t see that in herself and being pissed off that she’s reinforcing the idea that having brown hair, glasses, and a figure that’s maybe a size 2 instead of a 0 actually equals ugly. (On a side note, I’m hopeful that Christina Hendricks’s va-va-voominess might help Hollywood realize that beauty can at least go up to a size 4 or so.)  BUT. Having said that, I really love this quote, and not only because it cracked me up. First, since she’s being falsely modest about her talent as well, the dig at her looks is softened, and second… it’s fucking true! All parents should do that! It took me 30 years to develop the disproportionate confidence in my looks and abilities that finally turned me into a reasonably happy, reasonably successful adult. No one likes an egomaniac, but frankly, no one likes self-loathing people, either — and it took me way too long to realize that.

All right, Shapelings, what else have you got?

92 thoughts on “Something to Talk About”

  1. Ok, what is Hendricks? Like a size 8? Like America Ferrara before her she is being held up as an example of a full figured woman, and she hardly is.

  2. I doubt she’s even a size 8, vivelafat, though of course it’s impossible to know from a picture. (For one thing, she’s tall — and a tall size 18 doesn’t really look anything like me, for instance.) That’s why I made the comment about her maybe pushing the standard up as far as size 4.

  3. Oooh. My brains are tingling. Well, racing is more like it. I woke up in a heckuva crabby anxious mood today for whatever reason. I think it’s because my little two-day vaca is over and I have to get back to reality, heh.

    But this makes me want to say all kinds of things about the various thoughts and feelings I’ve been having the past week or so. I was getting so much better and now that I have this temp job, I swear, focus in my brain keeps turning back to my looks (all negative) in ways it has not done since I discovered FA, and it’s really starting to bother me.

    Reading stuff like this makes me realize where this kind of shit comes from… but, at least for today, it’s not making it any easier. I think I need to go do something to jog myself out of this mood… I’ll be back later, hopefully in a better frame of mind.

  4. I’m a little worried that the only reason they’re letting her character be curvy on the show is that she’s pregnant. Not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself, obviously.

  5. Oh dammit, I’m one show away from finishing the first season and I’ve not seen any of the second. Joanie is pregnant??? I figured that Peggy was, but Joanie seems too smart for that.

  6. Wait, yeah, I haven’t caught up on season 2 yet — is Joan actually pregnant, or are you just speculating, LilahMorgan? To their credit, they did “let her be curvy” through the whole first, season, so…

  7. Sorry Kate, I was skimming. I read other sites and everyone love to jump on the “Christina Hendricks is full sized” band wagon. I just can’t do it to myself again. So many of the women that I have held up as role models for fuller size women end up either: A. Loosing weight (America Ferrara) B.Championing weight loss (Kristie Allie, Queen Latifah) C. Really only being a size 8 or 10 (Whitney from ANTM) It just gets really hard getting your hopes up, only to have them smashed when the star gives into pressure.

  8. Playing it up more, I meant to say. It’s not like they exactly tried to hide her body.

    I definitely would not argue that Christina Hendricks is fat, btw. She’s not even Hollywood fat. She’s just got bigger boobs and hips than most actresses (like, say, January Jones, who is much more representative of what an acceptable body type is for TV).

  9. Yeah, I hope that’s the case, and there was an interesting conversation in season 1 between her and Penny where Joan tells Penny to lose weight and Penny shoots back “you’re not a stick.” As I recall, her response was essentially that she plays it up in a way Peggy doesn’t. So its been addressed, at least.

  10. I never thought that Fey was joking about not being thin when she said she was “not beautiful”–I thought she was joking about not being hourglassy (especially not being busty) and having somewhat asymmetrical features and smallish eyes.

    I think she’s cute and adorable, but I wouldn’t call her “conventionally gorgeous”–the scar on her face would, all on its own, disqualify her from that label.

  11. Lilah, I thought she looked curvier this season too, but not like Peggy was pregnant, so I think maybe they’re just amplifying it rather than it being a plot point?

    Also it’s already a few months since the latest season started and Joan isn’t nearly as clueless as Peggy, she’d notice if she was preggo… I think.

  12. God, I love Christina Hendricks. I haven’t been watching Mad Men, but Saffron/Bridget/Yolanda was one of my favorite Firefly characters and she’s just SO GORGEOUS. And, yeah, not remotely plus sized but still, it’s nice to see someone with actual boobs.

    “Face it, hubby… I’m really hot.”

  13. I also thin Tina Fey is hot, and so does my husband (and, come to think of it, every guy I know). But she’s also smart and talented which, I’m sure, she wasn’t lauded for when she was growing up (outside of her family, that is).
    It would be great if women like her could be confident, outspoken role models, but show business just doesn’t attract confident people! Most of the folks in the industry are INCREDIBLY insecure.
    And the sad fact is, in Hollywood, the gorgeous Christina Hendricks is considered fat. Because Hollywood is severely fucked up. That’s why I quit acting and moved away.

  14. I never thought that Fey was joking about not being thin when she said she was “not beautiful”

    Naturally, I can’t think of a specific example right now, but I’ve definitely heard her make weight jokes about herself. (Nothing too ridiculous, just the kind that note her relative lack of stick-thinness.)

    And I always forget about the scar, for what it’s worth. Also, arguably, her being in her late thirties excludes her from the beauty ideal, but that’s a little beside the point. She’s a thin, white woman with symmetrical features, who’s had leading roles on TV and in movies. She’s not the Hollywood ideal, but she meets the basic standard, and it’s disingenuous to pretend she’s some kind of schlump.

  15. Also, the thing about Hendricks is that the show is so much about the look of the period, so dressing her in ways to highlight the curves and her figure is also about the different beauty ideals of the period.

    Kate, any thoughts about blogging the Peggy pregnancy/’fat’ story line? I love the show but that really gave me pause, and I kept thinking about your reaction?

  16. One thing I do like about Fey in “30 Rock” is her ability to make jokes about – not her appearance, per se – but how she doesn’t fit the behavioral equivalent of the beauty ideal for women, at least Hollywood star women (the episode where she was astounded at being asked to go out at 10pm, for instance). If the show was making those jokes at some other actress’s expense that would be one thing, but I like that she’s willing to make them at her own expense. Though I agree that when that crosses over into making herself out as ugly, it gets a bit disingenuous, or sad, if it’s not.

  17. I know this has been said earlier and will be said again: Christina Hendricks can have my heterosexuality and throw it out of the window any day. She is one exceptionally attractive person, and I LOVED her character in Firefly. Havent seen mad men, but i would watch it purely for her.

    She’s always been a curvy actress, and Im really hoping she stays that way. She’s near 30, so past the age most upcoming young actresses slim down drastically (thora birch… sob). As its been said before, Some of her appeal is the fact that she is pretty much jessica rabbit incarnate. Though I have to say that she is probably more of a US 8 because she’s a little taller than the usual actress too.

    anyway. I love her. ahem.

  18. Kate, any thoughts about blogging the Peggy pregnancy/’fat’ story line? I love the show but that really gave me pause, and I kept thinking about your reaction?

    It’s definitely been in the back of my mind as something I might cover when I get back to real blogging again. I haven’t quite figured out what I think of it yet. And unfortunately, I read a spoiler about the pregnancy before I’d watched enough episodes to even know she was putting on weight, so I have no idea if I would have figured it out or thought differently about the storyline if I hadn’t been spoiled.

  19. Fey’s scar was a lot more visible on-camera last night while she was sitting in the low-lit audience–it runs horizontally from below her lip into her cheek–on stage last night, and on 30 Rock and SNL, it usually disappears in the bright lighting. Which isn’t to say she isn’t conscious of it even when it’s hard for anyone else to see. She knows it’s there, she probably can feel it when she smiles or speaks, and maybe that magnifies its presence for her.

  20. She’s not the Hollywood ideal, but she meets the basic standard, and it’s disingenuous to pretend she’s some kind of schlump

    I think she feels like a schlump, though. I have friends who are actors, and if they’re not classic beauties they feel like schlumps.

    Adorable, cute, slim, white, with regular features–these don’t add up to “beauty” in the acting world. You have to be busty-yet-slender, have big eyes, and luxuriant flowing hair as the baseline of “beauty”.

    Fey doesn’t meet that standard, and I know that she’s experienced it in her professional career. Same with Sarah Silverman, for that matter. Being slim, white, and symmetrical isn’t enough for “beauty” in Hollywood.

    Add in, for Fey, the scar, and you’ve got someone who’s still convinced she’s unpretty. It’s much more visible in person than it is on the TV, too–in real life, Fey doesn’t wear heavy makeup over it.

  21. Fey doesn’t meet that standard, and I know that she’s experienced it in her professional career.

    I’m sure that’s true, but that’s exactly why I said I’m torn between being sad for her and being annoyed. Because even if she’s not Hollywood Pretty, her audience is not just Hollywood — it’s average people who, every time they hear a joke about how not pretty she is, are getting yet another message that only superskinny (I would argue that busty/hourglassy have been out the window for a long time — look at the new 90210), blonde, big-eyed, whatever women are actually pretty. If she feels bad about her body, that fucking sucks, but there’s a difference between making jokes about the standard for Hollywood Pretty being so ridiculous that even she can’t cut it and making jokes about how wide her hips are or how average-looking she is, when she’s frankly not.

    I get that being around actors who do meet the ideal does a number on your self-esteem and your perception of what’s pretty and what’s average. Hell, the first time I went to L.A., I was a size 6, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt fatter in my life. But the fact remains, Tina Fey is much thinner and much closer to the ideal than the average American woman, so I reserve the right to be annoyed by her making cracks about how ugly she is on a public stage. I can feel sad for her on a personal level and still be pissed off that her self-deprecating jokes only reinforce the impossible standards.

  22. I can feel sad for her on a personal level and still be pissed off that her self-deprecating jokes only reinforce the impossible standards.

    I could not possibly agree with this more.

    But I’m also suggesting to you that your belief that all thin white women feel (or should feel) like they are necessarily members of the group that our culture has described as “beautiful” might be a remnant of the “Fantasy of Being Thin” mindset.

    I don’t think Tina Fey sees herself as “close to the ideal” at all, partly because she has a large, visible scar on her face, and partly because her professional world has an even more unrealistically stringent sense of “the ideal” than the culture at large does.

    So, yes, I think it’s unreasonable and counterproductive for Fey to joke about being “fat” at size 2 or 4 or whatever she is. But the self-deprecating jokes I’ve encountered her making are more about not being “pretty” rather than about being fat, and I think that that’s her anxiety about her scar talking.

    Do I think it’s shitty that we live in a world where a woman with a three-inch facial scar that’s well healed and looks healthy is considered “disfigured” in some way? Absolutely. But Tina Fey’s the one who had to grow up in that world with that scar.

  23. You know what I think it is, though? Fey’s joking about her looks violates the “It’s not all about you” spirit. I’m sure she draws on her own experience of insecurity with the beauty ideal, and it would be very interesting to hear her talk about that directly. But by continuing to make herself the butt of “not pretty” jokes, even if she’s been treated that way, she’s indirectly insulting a lot of other women.

    Not seeing herself as “close to the ideal” is at least partly an apparent lack of self-awareness. Yes, the beauty ideal grinds us all down, including someone as conventionally attractive as Fey — that’s a reason to fight the beauty ideal, IMO, and sometimes I think that her sense of humor about it just reinforces it instead.

  24. Speaking of the new 90210, TV Guide has two of the actresses on the cover with tabloid headlines screaming something to effect of “ACTRESSES TOO SKINNY!” “SHOW FORCING THEM TO EAT!” It’s tragically ironic that the media both encourages and condems women in the entertainment industry for being rail-thin.

    The “walking skeleton” physique has been hammered into our minds for so long, anyone over a size 4 is considered fat and ridiculed by Perez Hilton, TMZ, The Superficial, and 99% of the assclowns that choose to comment there.

    Tina Fey may not be “the Hollywood ideal,” in her mind, and in the mind of many, but I think she’s gorgeous. In today’s extreme fat-hating society, a lot of people don’t even care about the face and hair color as long as the women have no flesh on their bellies and thighs.

  25. Fey’s joking about her looks violates the “It’s not all about you” spirit.

    Exactly! Thanks, SM.

    But I’m also suggesting to you that your belief that all thin white women feel (or should feel) like they are necessarily members of the group that our culture has described as “beautiful”…

    Whoa, where the hell did I say that? It’s a big leap from Tina Fey to “all thin white women.” Yeah, I went through a checklist in comments up there, but that’s hardly the point. The point is, when you’re a TV and movie star, when you have access to top hair and make-up artists, when you’ve appeared on numerous magazine covers — in many cases, in a highly sexualized way — when you get photographed on the red carpet in a body-hugging designer gown, when you’ve made lots of lists of “hot” women in execrable men’s magazines, not to mention People’s 50 Most Beautiful People list, AND you really don’t diverge all that far from the beauty ideal — except by like 5 lbs., a scar, and a pair of glasses? Publicly bagging on yourself for not being pretty enough is uncool.

  26. On a “What else is going on” note: Linda Bacon, the UC Davis researcher who compared a HAES program to dieting, has a book out called Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.

    The book has 8.5 pages of blurbs, including ones from Frances Berg, Deb Burgard, Paul Campos, Glenn Gaesser, Marilyn Wann & KATE HARDING. :)

    I burbled on about it http://living400lbs.wordpress.com/

  27. To their credit, they did “let her be curvy” through the whole first, season, so…

    This was a zillion years ago in the thread, but I realized I should apologize – let was a bad choice of words there. Part of it was that I’ve been wondering if they’ve been actively padding her curves this season, and the rest of it was referring to hiring a curvy actress to begin with and then dressing her to accentuate that (and especially so this season, I think).

  28. I just realized (thanks to imdb) who Hendricks is! She was on ER years ago as a battered neighbor of Abby. I think she is absolutely gorgeous; definitely have a girl-crush on her!

  29. WAIT Peggy really IS pregnant? I was just guessing! Although to be honest, I guessed that when she ate the second sandwich for lunch. Also, I was really hoping that when Pete Jerkface tried to blackmail Don Draper, Peggy would be like, “Dude, I’m totally knocked up but this guy” and Don could be like, “Well, Pete, NOW who has more to lose?????” and then Pete would pout and punch a wall and his wife would leave him and keep their awesome apartment and Pete would have to live at the Y.

  30. Also, I find Don Draper almost (but not quite) as attractive as I find Christina Hendricks and so like to watch Mad Men because there is almost always a stunningly good looking person on the screen. I was trying to convince my husband to start wearing hats to work, but since I asked him while we were watching Mad Men, he was immediately on to me.

  31. Whoa, Simply Mac, was she the woman who was being beaten and Abby kept dithering about whether to call the cops? That is reaching back into my ER-watching days, which were a long-ass time ago. I had no idea she was the same woman.

  32. I don’t really watch 30 Rock, so I didn’t know about Tina Fey’s attitude. In light of that, I find it very interesting that she’s a dead ringer for Sarah Palin, who has essentially said that she presents herself as frumpily as possible, because otherwise she’s so freaking hot noone takes her seriously. Is that difference in perception just the difference in expectations between politics and entertainment?

  33. I agree that Christina Hendricks is not a great example of a full-figured actress, but can we all agree that she’s SUPER MEGA HOT? Because she so is. So is John Hamm. Man, when Mad Men won, that was a lot of hotness. I can’t even decide which one of them I’m more in love with. Past preferences would dictate John Hamm, but Joan is making me rethink a lot of things about myself.

  34. “Is that difference in perception just the difference in expectations between politics and entertainment?”

    Yes. As the saying goes, politics is show business for ugly people. (Attributed to Jay Leno but who knows who said it first.)

  35. My sister ran into Katherine Heigl outside of a club where her husband was playing late last year.

    She said KH was smoking.

    I have no idea if that means anything. I’ve just heard that actresses and ballet dancers smoke to keep their weight “down.”

    Could be the biggest urban legend ever.

  36. Regarding Tina Fey’s self-deprecating humor – I do agree that it’s sad, and somewhat insulting to the rest of us, that someone who is so close to the current “beauty ideal” makes jokes about her unattractiveness. But I do suggest that most of us do it. Most of the folks who comment/blog here self-identify as fat or far from society’s beauty ideal, but it’s always a matter of degree. A lot of people who describe their body types on here seem to me to be pretty thin for self-identifying as fat, and at first I thought that was disingenuous, too. But the more I’ve been reading on FA stuff, the more I’m realizing that everyone’s self image is affected by this fucked up society. I mean, anorexics think they are fat! They’re wrong, but not disingenuous or unfair to the rest of us. I wonder if people who have full facial disfigurement would read some of our posts and think we have no idea what it’s like to be REALLY outside of the beauty ideal. Yet most of us do have these feelings – and experiences – of being ostracized and humiliated because of our looks. I think it’s just one big sliding scale – I’m not sure who the two women on each end of the spectrum are, but for the rest of us, there will always be someone more conventionally beautiful than us, and always someone who is less so.

  37. She said KH was smoking.

    At first I read this and though, “Well, yeah, KH is smokin’! Damn!” and then I realized what you were actually saying. I guess I’ve got pretty ladies on the brain right now.

  38. Funny…I read it as smoking–as in hot–too. But then I flashed to something that was posted here many months ago that showed retouched photos of celebrities next to the original versions. That was a serious wake-up call for me in my (still very new) FA journey. Fuck–if they need to reshape Katherine Heigel’s face to make her magazine worthy (and Beyonce’s legs and Eva Longoria’s waist), why am I kicking myself for not looking like these people? These photos are someone’s art project. And in a way, the people themselves have become a kind of art project too….nipped, tucked, botoxed, veneered into something completely different from their natural selves.

  39. marymette, the thing is that there IS at least a semi-objective standard for fatness – provided by the clothing industry. If you wear a size 4 and are all “OMG, I’m so fat,” that really is a misrepresentation. You can feel fat, absolutely, and that is, thanks to our society’s fat hatred, a pretty horrible place to be, but it isn’t like fat is just a state of mind.

    And self-deprecation as a form of false modesty or questing for validation is certainly done by a lot of people but that doesn’t make it a healthy strategy. Or something that “most” people do – I don’t think there are any stats on that one. *grin* As Kate or SM said upthread – of course it’s sad that Tina Fey might feel unattractive despite ample evidence to the contrary provided by mainstream validation of her aesthetic value. But that simply signals a deep lack of self-awareness on that particular issue and that isn’t to be brushed aside any more lightly than someone who is being disingenuous.

  40. i gotta say, ive given 30Rock multiple viewings & always turn it off when her character gets dumped on for her age & looks…it’s a funny show, but i cant get past that. I thought we came further than this; this seems like a page out of the 70s or 80s, where the joke is to make fun of a woman who is 30, 40, etc… It certainly doesnt make me feel any better to hear the same lame fucking agist shit on tv as the kind i have to deal with in daily life… how am i supposed to relax & have fun watching yet another woman be the butt of agist or fat jokes? I think its more diappointing than it would be otherwise because its coming from a woman, & a woman who isnt conventionally pretty but who has achieved quite a lot.

  41. You know, mermaidfarts, I’ve always interpreted most (not all) of the jokes on that show differently – that they’re satirizing a culture that does put down women for being old or not conventionally attractive. I know it’s a fine line to draw and I might be reading it wrong anyway, but it always reads really differently to me than a lot of sitcoms where the joke doesn’t feel like it has that extra layer of satire behind it. (To be honest, I kind of feel that’s true about a lot of the jokes about Fey’s appearance within the shot itself, though perhaps less so about her comments in interviews and the like.)

  42. she’s the exasperated hapless butt of the joke, from what ive seen. hey how about thisfor novelty: not putting those type of jokes in there at all. it’s slapstick comedy; there isnt any need for it.

    and i can relax & laugh & not feel so fucking frustrated that here is yet another 30 or 40 yr old who is reduced to desperate single-woman-aging-fast stereotypes.
    i think kate has it dead -on with her assessment & it’s long been one of the things ive had against fey. I figured that at first she mightvebeen embarassed to be cast as a romantic lead when there was some -not a lot, just some– speculation that she wasnt goodlooking enough for the role; so she did the shuck & dance about her looks. But its gone on too long & it is irritating.
    btw, jimmy fallon was also overthetop with this queasymaking schtick, too. About how he was mr wideeyed innocent & just always cracking up on camera….ugh, what BS. False modesty. I think tho he does it for more attention, while she does it from selfloathing & fear (dont say bad things to me, i’ll do it myself first so you dont have to!). And yeah, like kate, i used to be that way too.

  43. the rotund: Sorry – I made a mistake when I said “most people do it”; that certainly looked like I was referencing my previous sentence about making self-deprecating jokes. No, I don’t think most people do that. What I should have said was that I think most of us self-identify in ways that some other groups of people would not agree with (for example, a size 16 person identifying as fat, or a woman with a scar identifying as not attractive).

    I guess I sort of do and sort of do not agree that fat is not just a state of mind, because there definitely is a gray area. Even in the clothing industry. Some clothing lines only go up to a size 12, and that size 12 could be 2 sizes smaller than a size 12 in another brand. And them some other clothing lines, still in “misses” and not “plus” sizes, go up to size 20 that is even cut generously for that size. For example, from my perspective (and I’m just talking about me here) a person who is size 16 is not fat (unless they have a very very small bone structure) although I respect that person’s right to identify as such.

    I do have to admit that I have a harder time respecting a size 4 person’s right to do the same. But where is the cut-off line? I guess I’d say somewhere between size 12 and 20 is reasonable, but isn’t that kind of making assumptions?

    It’s funny – my husband and I often have a similar but very un-PC and stupid argument, except for that I’m arguing on the other side. I’ll say that I’m fat, or that someone else is fat, and my husband will disagree. I’ll say, “not fat with all its negative connotations, just fat as a description of size. I – or so-and-so – is objectively fat”. But he will still insist and insist that I am (or so-and-so is) not fat, at least to him, and that fat is subjective. So I see his point somewhat.

    But I do think that anyone who thinks that Tina Fey is fat (including herself) is out of touch with reality, and, actually, is wrong. What I think is less certain to pin down is whether or not her body, face, and over-all looks and demeanor is really close to the media’s ideal of attractiveness. I have to say that I don’t think she fits that ideal (although she has recently started to fit it more and more). So I think it’s ok for her to identify as not fitting it.

    But I don’t think it’s ok for her to make agist or fat-prejudiced jokes, even against herself. A little humor about one’s own frailties and things that are tough but true in life, and not taking oneself or others too seriously, is what makes a lot of comics funny. But it’s a fine line between that and being demeaning or insulting. I think a lot of comedy skirts the edge of this stuff, which is precisely why it is so funny. But right now there is so much prejudice against mature people and fat people that she should be really careful. Better to stick to humor about awkwardness or geeky-smartness, or something, in my opinion.

  44. I recently gave birth to a baby girl. I fully intend to instill in her a healthy sense of self worth. Something I completely missed out on. Feminism is the first step, size acceptance is the second and a well rounded critical education will be the third.

    My husband has concerns that I’ll be raising a little feminist with hairy legs and combat boots. To him I say, SO WHAT?! My daughter may possibly have chances I never had. She’ll hopefully understand that what she has to offer this world has nothing to do with her jean size or her looks. She’ll understand what the patriarchy is well before a young teenage boy accosts her in a school hallway. She’ll have the tools to fight for herself both internally and externally. She will hopefully loudly proclaim herself to be a feminist, something I didn’t accomplish until my 30’s.

  45. It’s tragically ironic that the media both encourages and condems women in the entertainment industry for being rail-thin.

    The EW blog actually addresses that:
    Still, The CW hardly stands alone in holding Hollywood actresses to an impossible standard when it comes to weight: Be thin, really really thin–but not too thin! Which leaves actresses with, oh, roughly eight ounces of wiggle room.
    There really is no acceptable weight/size for a woman in this society.

    You know, mermaidfarts, I’ve always interpreted most (not all) of the jokes on that show differently – that they’re satirizing a culture that does put down women for being old or not conventionally attractive.

    Ehh, sometimes. But a lot of the time it feels like a cheap joke. I’m sure Fey thinks it’s okay to make cheap jokes as long as they’re at her own expense, but as Kate and SM point out, it’s not all about her – those jokes also have an effect on those watching.

  46. Yeah, I hear you Becky, and I hope this isn’t coming off as overly argumentative – I’m more trying to think through why the show doesn’t bother me where a lot do for myself. I think ultimately that when I compare it to a sitcom like How I Met Your Mother – which I also enjoy, but which makes me cringe regularly – I like having a character like Liz who does have the same insecurities I do. A woman who isn’t pretty assured about her own attractiveness, ability to use that attractiveness to manipulate men, and who sees the jokes as being about her rather than being the one who’s making the jokes about less attractive women (or, if not making outright jokes, somehow devaluing the sexuality and the like of women who are seen as less attractive). So I guess for me it works in the opposite direction – even if it’s ludicrous to think that Liz is fat or ugly, I like seeing a character who deals with those insecurities. Maybe that causes me to glaze over some of the parts that really are jokes at her expense, or maybe they make me feel more sympathetically towards her.

    Of course, I haven’t even been able to bring myself to try watching Ugly Betty because I don’t want to deal with people calling America Ferrerra ugly for an hour a week, so this all might be kind of hypocritical.

  47. marymette:

    I think that the point of an objective beauty standard is we are all unacceptable, even if you are a size 0 and blonde and have perfect teeth, there is something about you that the media and the patriarchy and whoever else gets money or power from your oppression will try and teach you to loathe.

    It seems to me that a person who is a size 4 might have a harder time thinking that the standard is bullshit and that they are beautiful because of their imperfections rather than in spite of them. I mean, at a size 4 the goal might seem so much more attainable than it does to me at a size 18, and, from that perspective, it would probably be harder to see how the game is rigged in the first place.

    I came across a poster recently which said: Beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy.

    I am beginning to see that.

  48. So, I mostly do like Tina Fey. I think she’s very talented, in part because she captures the way some women (in particular white, middle class, brainy/geeky women) feel about themselves — that they are right on the edge of being seen as beautiful by a wide audience, but it’s probably their brainy-ness that keeps them from being seen as such.

    I guess I also relate, in an “it’s all about me” way, to feeling that I’m not as pretty/attractive/beautiful as I might actually be. My parents/family members instilled in me (and it was deeply reinforced by peers) that it’s important to know one’s limitations. Also, it’s a (not solely) Jewish-y thing (at least in my family) to not brag or be “too proud” of oneself (in contrast to the stereotype of the bragging Jewish parents). My parents are in fact proud of me these days. The first recollection I have of my mom expressing to me that she was proud of me was when I was 10 years old and had lost 5 pounds on my first diet. Yuk.

    I don’t have a stable sense of my own beauty — in the sense that each of us is beautiful in our own way.

  49. I guess I’m of two minds about Tina Fey’s expressions of her insecurities, which stem from her being someone that girls and women can look at as being rather more ‘normal’ than the average movie star. On one hand, hearing female celebrities talk about their insecurities helped my feminist awakening as a teenager…basically I thought, wow, if [cool female celebrity] is so awesome and talented and beautiful and still doesn’t feel good enough, then our beauty standards as a culture must be all kinds of fucked. And I can see where Tina Fey might be trying to get that idea across, and succeeding.

    On the other hand, I can also see how a female audience could interpret that as if she feels not good enough, surely they should feel even worse.
    Ambivalence. I haz it.

  50. You’re right…I’ve read so many interviews where Hollywood Celebrities™ say they were the were nerdy outcasts in school, and I always barf a little inside. I think everyone feels at least a little isolated in high school, so maybe they are comparing that feeling to being famous and rewriting history? Who knows.

    I’d also like to 24th the Christina Hendricks is luscious sentiment.

  51. I also always kind of figured that it takes a certain amount of drive to make it in Hollywood that you’re more likely to have if you didn’t feel accepted or supported in your home community.

  52. Well, I guess that since I’d rather be self-loathing than an egomaniac, no one will ever like me. It seems that you totally support the complete divorce from reality that is apparently required of normal people to be successful adults (and it probably helps in pre-adult stages a lot too).

    I’m sorry, it was a good post until the end, because telling self-loathing people that they suck because they are self-loathing mostly just gives them more evidence that they are worthy of loathing.

  53. I came across a poster recently which said: Beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy.

    Oh, bellacoker, I LOVE that! What kind of poster was it?

  54. Meerkat, I find your comment disingenuous for two reasons:

    1) “Self-loathing” and “egomaniac” are obviously two extreme poles of the self-esteem spectrum. Those aren’t your only choices.

    2) We are talking *about* Tina Fey, a celebrity, and the effect her work may have on us as an audience. “Telling self-loathing people that they suck” is not what’s happening here.

  55. I had never heard of Christina Hendrick before just now. Now, I like boys, but damn, she’s pretty gorgeous. And no, she’s not even remotely approaching “fat” but I can see where Hollywood holds her outside the norm. She has a serious hourglass figure – hips and boobs galore. Even if her clothing size is a tiny one (my rough estimate would be 6, but I’m not always great at guessing that), her shape is different from the blade-of-grass ideal that is stardom.

    Also, green dress with red hair? Well done.

    But I could be biased because as a redhead, I appreciate that we are a foxy bunch. :)

    (I take no responsibility for any grammar/spelling mistakes or typos. I’m sick, I just got up and I’m only about 1/3 of the way through my first cup of coffee)

  56. For example, from my perspective (and I’m just talking about me here) a person who is size 16 is not fat (unless they have a very very small bone structure) although I respect that person’s right to identify as such.

    marymette, I can understand why you might say that – in a lot of clothing lines, 16 is right in the “regular” rack with the 2s and 4s (except, you know, when it sells out right away and ONLY 2s and 4s are left…grrrr), plus it’s only a size or two bigger than the Average America Woman ™.

    But I don’t think you can put a number on “fat.” Sure, there’s a line where identifying as fat seems ridiculous and can be indicative of body dysmorphia or an eating disorder, but I would put that line much lower than 16, for a few reasons.

    I say all of this as someone who is a 16 and used to be a 24. (btw I hate that I just said “is a 16” instead of “wears a 16” – why am I identifying AS my clothing size? I’m leaving it that way to illustrate that point, though)

    My thighs jiggle, my belly hangs, I have a roll of back fat. I can’t go into any ol’ shoe store and buy boots because they don’t fit my calves. I have to go to specialty stores and pay through the nose to find bras because I have an average back and ginormous cans. Yes, I frequently can shop in “normal” stores and am no longer relegated to Lane Bryant and Avenue (I’ll refrain from a long rant about NYC not having a Torrid). However, I generally wear the largest size those stores offer, so if something runs a little small I am screwed and thus made to feel like the fat chick trying to cram herself into skinny clothes (I’m talking to you, H&M). My ass still hangs into the seat next to me on the subway, I still have to rely on anti-chafing cream or Spanx if I want to wear a skirt without the searing pain of chub rub.

    I don’t know if I have a small bone structure. I don’t think so. If I wrap my hand around my wrist, my thumb and middle finger just meet – I think that’s supposed to indicate average sized bones.

    There are probably some out there who wear a 16 because they are tall, muscular, and have a large skeleton. In that case, 16 probably doesn’t indicate fat.

    I don’t know if, when people look at me, they think “fat chick” or something else, like “redhead” or just “that woman over there.” But when I look in a mirror I still see fat. I’m trying not to, or at least, trying not to see that as something negative.

    But I do identify as fat. Maybe it’s because of my past – I was always fat growing up and my classmates never let me forget it. There’s part of me that thinks I could starve myself to a size 6 (I won’t) and still think I’m fat.

    I know you said you respect someone’s right to identify that way, I just though maybe you’d like to read someone’s explanation of why.

  57. I totally agree with you all that Christina Hendricks is crazy hottttt. And that Tina Fey’s self-mockery is not really appropriate and I don’t think she is aware of how it might make other people feel. And meerkat, what SM said.

    Now, fwiw, would it be possible to stop describing the ultra-thin beauty ideal (which I fully agree is ridiculous) as blade-of-grass thin, skeletal, etc.? I understand where it’s coming from but it’s a little hurtful.

  58. I am not a big fan of Tina Fey. When she was the head writer for SNL, the jokes were still (pretty much) totally sexist, racist, classist, homophobic, AND fat-phobic. And it seems like everyone mistakes wearing glasses for actually being smart and/or geeky. (What makes her seem so smart? And how is being a major celebrity in any way geeky?!) She doesn’t come across as any kind of feminist role model to me–she seems like a lot of the same-old.

    In any case, as far as her self-image is concerned, it is perhaps a little-known fact that Tina Fey used to be “fat” (according to Hollywood standards, at least). She lost a lot of weight (about 35 lbs) before she started doing that fake news segment, Weekend Update, with Jimmy Fallon. So, we might guess that Tina Fey has some body-image (even anti-fat) issues that she grapples with. And while we can surely understand these feelings, we do not have to condone them.

  59. in a lot of clothing lines, 16 is right in the “regular” rack with the 2s and 4s (except, you know, when it sells out right away and ONLY 2s and 4s are left…grrrr),

    Which is probably why at size 16 I feel like I can’t shop at “regular” stores, for pants at least. I can only afford buying clothing that is on clearance. So from my perspective, those stores don’t offer my size.
    Of course, I actually wear 16P so, that makes things even more tricky. (without any sewing skills and with a job with casual dress, but for.. health reasons, I can’t have pants that drag on the floor, or are rolled up, I really have to have the 16 P at this point in time.)

    Of course by this measure I may not really be fat still, because I have a large bone structure (if I put my thumb and middle finger around my wrist they don’t touch.) *shrugs*

  60. bellacoker, while I’m not all into “the gods”, I also love that one about beating life into submission, as it were. *grin* I might have to order a pack of those beauty ones, seriously.

    I am not an anarchist by any means – my personal political roadmap is a twisty one – but I’m not going to scoff!

  61. Cindy, A LOT of actresses take up smoking (and worse) in order to “keep their mouths busy” (ie, to keep from eating). So, yes, it keeps their weight down. Because while cigarette smoke had deadly, cancer-causing carcinogens, it doesn’t have calories.
    Unlike food.
    I fucking hate Hollywood.

  62. Hmmm… at what size is “fat?” How do we measure “fat?” Where is it objective and where is it subjective? Hmm… I’m going to explore this a bit, because I honestly can’t decide who I agree with here.

    I guess I’ll start at a place that makes sense because it’s close to home– the mirror.

    I mostly wear a size 14, though in some clothing I take a 12. Marilyn Monroe, right? Oh so conventionally gorgeous, right? PFFT. WRONG-O. I’m five feet (and an inch, darnit!) tall. And my “structure” is kind of dainty (I do have big feet but my hands are small, my forearms are like pipe cleaners, and my shoulders are, well, not narrow, but modest). But, my lovelies, I weigh in at around 170. The big boobs do not, cannot, account for that.

    So I guess size alone doesn’t make it fat or not fat. Is it shape? Is that why I identify myself (and am identified by others) as fat? There is no hourglass here. I have a GUT. I shan’t mince words there. It looks akin to a bad caricature of a middle-aged gentleman who drinks a lot of beer, which I find disgusting as a beverage btw, stereotypes be damned. It’s (the stomach) grossly disproportionate to the rest of me. I carry a wee teeny bit of extra weight in my upper arms, and some in my thighs (none of course in my butt where it might make me look a little more conventional-pretty “balanced” or more evenly dispersed throughout where at least it might not be so noticeable), but golly gosh, the rest of it sits exactly on my tummy. I’ve learned to appreciate the way I look from the front, but every time I turn in the mirror and see my profile, I still feel shame and dismay and maybe even a little fear… despite all the benefits I’ve reaped from FA so far I’ve still got a long way to go!

    And yet… if I could shift and move the fat, but not be rid of it, if I had a “padded hourglass,” I can bet you there would still be those who would cry “ew, fatty!” Is it subjective then? If so, how does mere placement of the same fat change my appearance from objectively to subjectively fat, since as I am now nobody I can think of disagrees that I am fat?

    You know, I still can’t decide. It’d be a cop-out to go “majority rules” on it (as in, the fact that others label me fat), but I think “fat” might be something more than what the number is on your clothes or scale. Maybe it really is pretty subjective. I didn’t think I thought it was, but now that I’m actually giving some thought to my own thoughts… well, no two people seem to agree on one definition of “fat” so… it’s not like 2+2 or the color green, I guess. Perception is part of it.

    Tra la la. Rambling. Pardon me… er, also, I hope I wasn’t being rule-crushingly harsh on myself there… I’ve been feeling pretty low in the body-acceptance arena the past few days and it’s creeping into my self talk.

  63. Sugar: I think I know what you mean. I’m built like stereotypical peasant stock. I’ve always been an inbetweenie person with a mother who pressured me to diet as soon as I hit puberty, I’ve always identified with fat, even when objectively, I might just be judged as thick or stocky.

    Also, I love reading your posts, and you’re a kick ass woman. If anyone tries to make you feel less than that, they’re lying.

  64. Liza, AR, Sugar – Yeah, I can totally see why you would identify as fat. It sounds like you have a lot of the same problems I have, even though I’m at a bigger size. Why don’t they just fucking make more (and better) clothes in our size and bigger bus seats?

    I’m so damn sick of not being able to find stuff that fits. I’m on a tight budget, so that makes it tougher. I’m a size 44 bra but my cup size is usually a B which is small for that band size. Plus, I need thickly-lined bras because I have the kind of nipples that look like I’m in a wet t-shirt contest, even while wearing a sweater and a regular bra. When I wear seamed bras, the nipples are never in the right place and I get puckers of fabric where my nipples are supposed to go. AND, my doctor told me not to wear underwires because I had been having pain in my breasts and armpits. I can NEVER find this combination of requirements unless I order bras mail order (which is expensive).

    And only recently have I been able to find boots under $100 that will fit my calves (I need extra-extra wide, not just wide calves, and my feet are size 8 medium – not wide). But I still can’t get the boots, because I need a flat heel due to foot problems, and none of the xx-wide calf boots that I can find have a heel under 1.5 inches.

    Also, I was wondering something. I have been reading lots of posts/comments on this blog,in this thread and others, where women talk about having a crush on this or that female celebrity. Or having a crush on women who run other blogs who have their pictures posted on their blogs. Most of these celebrity crushes seem to be based on looks and, I guess, a general opinion of someone that you would get from hearing what they say in interviews or watching them act, or reading what they post. I suppose that’s what makes it a crush rather than true unrequited love. :)

    From what I’ve seen (but I haven’t read absolutely everything on here so maybe I missed some), it seems like the “recipients” of all these crushes are either women who are just a little curvier than the Hollywood standard, or those who are, as someone else called it, “inbetweenies” in size.

    So here is my question. This is not a rhetorical argument – I really do want to know this – are there any women out there who have a “girl crush” on any truly large women that they don’t know? I would really like to know if anyone who posts here has had a crush from afar on a woman who shops at the upper end of the plus-size clothing rack. Obviously I know that people of any and every size can and do find true love. But can they find superficial crushes that are mostly appearance based?

    Just wondering.

  65. marymette, I think part of the trouble is that there are so few larger fat women presented in a positive light in the media. People can’t crush on what isn’t there.

    Dawn French is so spectacularly awesome, Gingembre. I agree with you on that one!

  66. Frankly, if I read about Eva Longoria saying “I’m just fat and dumpy” one more time when asked about her body or her haircut…I’ll scream.

    Oh, and add Gwhiney Paltrow to that list with her gems of “When you’re 35 you just can’t eat and I love to eat so I workout 3 hours a day” blah, blah. You know some women find that inspirational? “You gotta do what it takes”.

    Sorry, Gwen and others I’m not inspired I just find it sad.

    As for Tina, I wonder if she’s fishing for compliments or affirmation. Sorry, if that’ s been mentioned before

  67. I’ve always had a thing for Kevin James “King of Queens” and those dudes in the MetRx “World ‘sStrongest Man Competition”.
    Bodybuilder physiques, they don’t have but I really like that muscle with some meat look.

  68. Dawn French is all kinds of win. It’s too bad she’s experiencing the UK’s current fat hate, being dropped as the spokeswoman for those chocolate oranges in favor of Leona Lewis, who is closer to the “beauty ideal” in terms of weight. We can’t have truly fat people advertise food products you know, because it looks like we’re encouraging obesity.

    There really aren’t a whole lot of women as big as Dawn in the media to represent other super-sized gals like me. I remember when What’s Eating Gilbert Grape came out and the media was all over Darlene Cates, because of her size. Apparently this was her first acting role, and the media was astounded that a very fat unknown was casted as Gilbert’s mom, instead of using a conventionally pretty actress and sticking her in a fat suit. And while Darlene did play a pretty pathetic character, you’ve got to give some credit that they actually used a real fat woman in the movie. If WEGG were made today, they’d probably stick Susan Sarandon in a fat suit, or go with a larger but not 3X and up actress, like Kathy Bates.

    There was one actress in the 80s who did quite a bit of TV shows, but she was usually casted as a mouthy secretary or a similar role. Her name was Susan Moretz, and she was, for the decade, a pretty big woman. I always liked her for some reason. Roseanne, when she first started out, was awesome, until her show went downhill along with her brain.

  69. I’ve learned to appreciate the way I look from the front, but every time I turn in the mirror and see my profile, I still feel shame and dismay and maybe even a little fear

    I can totally relate to this! I seem to carry weight more in a front and back way and less in awidth way. So when I look in the mirror from the front, I think “ya know, I look kind of thing and curvy”. Then I turn to the side and it’s like “shit where did all that come from?
    I’m one of those women in cartoons fooling men by looking all hot from the back and then turning and- surprise! fat! (not that I really look skinny skinny from front of back, but I always think of those scenes when I catch a glimpse of myself from the side in a mirror)

  70. @marymette: I’m bisexual, and I know one thing that helped my FA and body acceptance a lot was realizing that the women I was attracted to were built an awful lot like me.

    Tina Fey did an interview for Bust magazine several years ago where she talked about having to lose weight in order to get screen time. She was quite self-aware about it, critical of the standard, and accepting of the irony that she bought into the standard so she could succeed in her chosen field.

  71. tina fey , along with jennifer aniston, also has been noted saying she hates her ‘fat, greek ass’. i guess bothof the actresses are of greek heritage & they really seem to loath that part of themselves & blame it for supposedly having wider hips? i find this really ugly. you dont hear jennifer lopez speaking about her butt & her heritage in that ugly way, & right on for her.
    and jesus, if aniston isnt the unattainable hollywood standard, who is? i doubt it has anything to do with being greek or not.

    all in all, i really would like to be able to watch 30Rock & not be smacked in the face with the dead fish that is the whole desperate-self-loathing-aging-woman trope. like someone said, it’s the same old same-old, & im sick of it. there’s plenty of humor to be mined without going there, yet again.

  72. Okay, since this is an open thread…

    I normally like the Office, if I can stand the awkward discomfort of watching people say the absolute wrong thing all the time. I’m concerned I might not be able to take it tonight, though, since apparently the premiere is about a company-wide weight loss program.


  73. marymette, this isn’t a girl crush, but I am genuinely attracted more to men who are heavier

    After noticing this guy I was already into has a belly, I began to dig him even more.

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