Helen Razer: Aishwarya Rai, Samantha Brick, My Big Bum & Why They Just Don’t Matter
Even as we consider our last snack of the week, a prominent woman is in trouble for her decision to snack on anything at all. Again. As you’ve probably read by now in every paper and any news site ever, Former Miss World and Bollywood legend Aishwarya Rai has attracted criticism for her apparent failure to lose that particular kind of fat we prefer to know as “baby weight”.
If you can’t be arsed entering the big top of shame, let JustB give you the short version: a few photographs of Rai looking pretty much like a beautiful 38-year-old woman who had recently given birth were splashed across international media after they attracted scorn via a nasty video to which we have no intention of linking. Believe us: it’s just malicious and a bit dumb and not worth the consumption of a precious 90 seconds of your life.
There were some horrid comments that appended this video that, really, few would have seen were it not for the disproportionate media interest Again, we have no intention of linking to this sort of hate-speech. But NO PROBLEM because the helpful western media have done that for us. And, they are saying that all this fat-shaming originated in India; apparently, a terribly intolerant and backward place, yet the only nation that has access to commenting on something called “Youtube”.
Still with us? Barely seen video calling a beautiful woman “too fat” seized upon by media who used the opportunity to (a) say that India is a terrible place distinguished by its unusual habit of demonising women as “unattractive” which, as we all know, NEVER HAPPENS anywhere else and (b) republish the unflattering photographs to give people the chance to comment “whoa isn’t she fat” all over again.
If you are still having trouble following this sordid tale – and why wouldn’t you? it’s tedious – basically, nothing happened. All that happened was yet another news story about body image was upchucked for no reason than to sate our enormous appetite.
It’s true. We adore stories about body image. Don’t believe me? Perversely, one of the most-clicked “news” stories of the year was that misfortune written by Samantha “I am Pretty and You Are Lime Green Jelly” Brick. Another enormous “story” was Ashley Judd’s rather odd plea to media to understand that her face was puffy due to medical reasons. Uber-lady site Jezebel decried Brick as delusional but praised Judd as a “kickass feminist” for her brave decision to remind us that she was pretty, not that it matters, mind. Down with sexism!
And on it goes. On any day of the week you can go to any news site that courts lady rage and see a story about how the media is making women feel fat and unattractive. There are entire women’s websites, including and especially Jezebel, who have made this stuff their core business. Now, on the face of it, this newest story on photo-shopping or fat-shaming or Jennifer Love Hewitt Goes Makeup Free (which should match her talent nicely, oops, I’m an internet bully) seems positive. But, as the Rai story shows us, perhaps all this “isn’t it dreadful the way women are made to feel about their bodies?” stuff that has become the stock-in-trade of so many publications is, um, actually making women feel bad about their bodies?
You know what? The fact of a dominant mass media ideal of beauty will never change. Sure, it may change shape but, really, what good is that?
You will hear women argue that the Marilyn Monroe ideal of womanhood is something more “realistic” and “attainable” than what we have before us now. I find this illogical on three counts.
First, this argument can readily be ended with a peek at Ms Monroe’s style secrets. A women who suffered painful bleaching, insane corsetry, buttons sewn in her brassiere to amplify her nipples and shoe heels unevenly shaved to create her famous “wiggle” is hardly “realistic”. Second, the spectacular figure is as “attainable” as any slip-of-a-girl you’d see on a Milano runway. Dude, I could pile on a few kgs to match Monroe’s BMI but I can guarantee you that my caboose wouldn’t look like that.
Third, this body-image journalism defies its own goals. It says, ultimately, “make the ideal look more like me.” Make it look more like, whom, precisely? A woman with a disability? A Thai Woman? A ginger woman? A middle-aged blonde woman who rarely washes her hair and writes angry posts about body image for a living. Of whom shall this new beauty speak? Of whom? OF WHOM?
Enough, I say, it’s our responsibility not to click. It’s our responsibility not to engage in this conversation anymore. It is up to us to say “I Give No More Than Three Sevenths Of a Flying Poop” and simply move outside this endless discussion of women feeling bad about themselves.
We can’t continue outsourcing our blame for our bad feelings to “the media”. And, even if we do blame “the media”, we can’t reasonably expect it to redeem itself, can we? If the “making women feel uncertain abut themselves” mission statement has been working so effectively for sixty-something years, it is not about to change.
Ladies. It’s time to leave the conversation. It’s time to think not only about Health at Every Size but Conceit at Every Turn. This week, why not try just loving yourself a little bit sick. You might be surprised by how good it feels.
Helen Razer is an occasional broadcaster, frequent writer and incessant yabber-pants. Follow her on twitter at @HelenRazer or read her blog Bad Hostess.
Miss World 1970 and Marilyn Monroe image via