I watched part of the Superbowl. It aired during the end of a cast party my husband and I were hosting at our home. I just finished a two weekend run of the play, Dinner with Friends, by Donald Margulies, produced by The Barker Playhouse.
We had the game on in the background and would occasionally look up during the commercials to see what was playing. Everyone left at halftime and I sat back on the couch to relax. Beyonce came on, looking gorgeous, as usual. I looked at my husband and said “no white woman could look like that without harsh criticism.”
I think of the criticism of Brittany Spears at the 2007 MTV music awards, Jennifer Simpson in 2009 with her tight fitting jeans and Christina Aguilera whose co-star Adam Levine on “The Voice” was given kudos for defending her after media commentary that she was too fat. Even Lady Gaga has been criticized for being too fat. On the horrible celebrity site Celebuzz.com, they posted pictures of her and her “curves” in Brazil.
This is the stuff that makes me want to boycott all things Hollywood and all things music industry. And in some ways I wish I could give all the power in the world over to people of color who honestly seem to embrace diversity in bodies with a much broader view than many white women and the very white media. Or maybe just get rid of the white media and see what happens.
Gaga has further gone to develop a website called Body Revolution where she has outed herself as struggling with anorexia and bulimia most of her life and encouraging others to write about their “flaws.” Feministing posted an interesting commentary on it here.
This also begs the question why we have different unattainable beauty standards for one set of women versus another? What are young girls to do with these messages? A young black girl sees Beyonce and is empowered by her strength, her beauty and her talent and then sees Chistina Aguilera and hears people call her fat. How confusing must that be to young girls who don’t see themselves represented in our media in any diverse way?
I want to re-define how we talk about women. I want that talk to be about their talent about their strength. I don’t want our definitions of them to be connected to what size jeans they wear or who “wore it better.” It sometimes feels overwhelming to think about a world where this isn’t what we do and isn’t how we relate to women.
I am connected to many women’s media organizations who are trying to re-frame the paradigm. It is not happening quickly enough for me. On the edge of my 44th birthday, I want to live in a world that helps me love who I am– brain, body and soul, not live in a world that makes me question everything I put in my mouth, everything I put on my body, and how I express that to the world.
If we can’t do it for ourselves and the women we love, can we at least begin some small steps for my nieces and all the girls coming up behind us, who in many ways, have even more pressure that my generation ever did? What small steps can you make today to change this culture?
You can start my shifting the conversation from looks to brains. Try that just for one day. I’ll be cheering for you.