But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful.
Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.
Fey is right. Sizesploitative advertising and attitudes which say, “Beyonce isn’t ‘skinny’ and she’s hot!” just continue to add to the continuously growing list of what women “must” look like in order to be attractive, and complicate the picture of the “perfect” woman even further. (Plus, when people say that Beyonce, Kim, or JLo aren’t thin–I can’t help but face palm.)
In one activity I’ve done with young women in my work, we brainstorm what a “perfect woman” looks like–and make no mistake, girls as young as nine have told me that this mythical perfect woman has a small waist but a curvy butt and big boobs. While I’m sure there are women who have this look naturally, to carry some fat in the breasts and rump but not your mid section at all is an extremely unusual physical characteristic. Telling girls that this is the “perfect” look is no different than a thin ideal. It continues to set them up for feelings of physical inferiority (as it is just not a reality for the vast majority of people.) It contributes to body image issues. There’s just no way around acknowledging that fact.
What I am getting at is this: real size acceptance (and not sizesploitation) would mean a media which contained images of actually diverse bodies. Those people would not be shamed, mocked, or only depicted engaging in weight loss competitions. They would be shown as beautiful, valuable, whole, and not at the expense of other body types. They would be the main subject of movies and TV shows where the focus is not their weight, but rather their full lives and experiences. Larger people wouldn’t be relegated to “before” pictures in advertising. Basically, all bodies would be normalized because all bodies are normal.
This post is a part of the “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.
I write about a lot of super deep topics around here. Rape. Homophobia. Eating disorders. Body shaming. Abortion. Street harassment…the list goes on. However, as it reads in my column intro, I write about both news AND pop culture. I’d like to take a moment to focus on and defend a beautiful peice of pop culture, NBC’s Community.
Earlier this week, I heard that Community, one of my all time favorite TV shows, is in peril. It has been suspended indefinitely so the winter Thursday night line up doesn’t include it. However, as Leah Rocketto wrote on TVology:
The show has not been cancelled. . . yet. According to New York Times television reporter Brian Stelter, the show is simply taking a break when 30 Rock returns on January 12. Stelter did his best to dispel the rumors on Twitter, also mentioning that Community has a slim chance of returning for a fourth season.
This has sparked tons of backlash from Community‘s small but loyal fan base. #sixseasonsandamovie as well as #savegreendale campaigns are all over Twitter at the moment. There are no shortage of voices explaining why Community rocks, just shortages of people watching it, apparently. Nevertheless, I’d like to add myself to the chorus making the case why we’re not ready to let Community go.
When I first heard the news, part of me became deeply cynical. I see Community as an outlier of sorts–the cast is diverse both in terms of socioeconomics and race, so I got to thinking that of course a show of this nature gets cancelled. Meanwhile, 2 Broke Girls, Whitney, and Big Bang Theory are all still alive and kicking, but have virtually no brown characters and the ones they do have are tokens. Then yesterday Dodai Stewart over at Jezebel wrote a wonderful piece much more articulately detailing the importance of Community. She said:
But in terms of what it brings to the table, Community is a rare beast: Wry, witty, nuanced, hyper-kinetic, thoroughly current. And diverse. There are white guys, sure. But also women, black people, actors of Asian descent and a range of ages. On Community, along with Parks And Recreation, The Office, and, to some extent, 30 Rock, men, women, people of color work and white folks all work alongside each other, without a hint of tokenism or pandering. It’s all about sharply drawn characters who bring the funny — a quality that knows no race or gender. In the 1970s, shows likeWhat’s Happening!! and Good Times reflected an underrepresented group in society: Working poor black Americans. Community speaks of a different, more current America, one in which it’s less about where you come from and more about where you’re going. The very premise of the show — that a motley crew of individuals band together as a group in the name of education — touches on an aspect of the American dream. Community‘s strength lies in its utter unpredictability, wackiness and in-jokes; by being so inclusive, racially and gender-wise, it transcends color and sex and becomes about people. And how weird they are. And how we can be thrown together with folks we have absolutely nothing in common with, yet form (dare I say it?) a community.
The name Community isn’t just about the fact that the characters are students at a community college. It’s also a nod to the fact that they are an extremely random crew who have very little in common at first glance. However, throughout their various adventures together, they realize time and time again that they are family of sorts. They are the community. It’s a joke on the show that the school’s slogan is “you’re already accepted” but it could be said that this is the very approach the students take to one another.
The show doesn’t just represent a diverse cast. It has a lot of other really progressive things going on–women who have bodies we don’t typically see in the media, students dealing with drug addiction recovery, religious tolerance, learning to ask for help when you need it, unplanned pregnancies, what it means to be a nontraditional student, as well as sexism, ageism, racism, and every other -ism. Their dealing with these topics is not always perfect. Just like real people, they are trying to figure it out as they go. But above all else, it’s funny. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s just genuinely hilarious and so well written. The creator, Dan Harmon, didn’t just think of a fun little TV idea and write a show. Conversely, he puts so much time, thought, and work into the show that it’s really remarkable. If you are someone who loves geeky things or pop culture, you will be rewarded through references to spaghetti westerns, zombie flicks, animated Christmas specials, and much more.
I don’t know how people who love stuff of this nature–like Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Arrested Development, and Party Down–haven’t learned yet that we have to tune in faithfully and get our friends to do so as well, or what we love will keep being canceled. At the end of the day, that’s what TV is; a business intent on making money through advertising revenue. And if there are no viewers, there is no money. So until executives learn more sophisticated measurements than Nielsen ratings, we’re going to have to play the game or accept that what we love is going to be axed.
But HOLY CRAP do I ever hope Community isn’t axed. Because when you write about really serious stuff, it’s nice to be able to tune into something fun and lighthearted that can make you really laugh. If you aren’t already, I implore you to tune into Community this week and check it out. Catch up on the series through Hulu or Netflicks and join the twitter campaigns. We have enough of the other stuff. Don’t let Community slip away!
This post is among a weekly series of examinations about the effect society’s attitudes has on Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered and sexual orientation Questioning citizens. Each week’s contribution seeks to expose motivations, machinations, malice and complicity among detractors of the LGBTQ community and supporters.
rhet·o·ric [ret-er-ik] n 1. (in writing or speech) the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast.
rightwash [rahyt wosh] n 1. The inability of many leading journalists to report the facts if they upset right wing political sensibilities.
transference [ˈtræns-fər-əns, -frəns] n 1. The redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.
projection [pruh-jek-shuhn] n 1. the belief, esp in children, that others share one’s subjective mental life.
Most of the coverage in this column has concentrated on how the Right makes things up about LGBTs to paint gays, et.al, as villainous threats to society. While their fabrications are based on superstition, hearsay, old wive’s tales, anecdote and personal revelation, few if any enjoy even a hint of a reality based origin and most are infused with hypocrisy. Such pronouncements are often attributed to higher authority that absolves the orator from personal liability over making such claims. It’s often claimed that such judgements, coming from that transcendent power, are based in love, compassion and the hope of converting the hopeless corruption of the afflicted to purity and redemption.
The greater and pervasive hypocrisy among purveyors of anti-gay sentiment is more likely than not transference of the accusers’ own worst attributes directly on the accused. The examples are endless and number right up there with the volume of accusations made.
There is quite a list of active, anti-gay propagandists who have carved out lucrative careers built on baseless slander and hateful rhetoric. Coverage of their antics, and the products they sell, is often presented as just one side of a controversy without ample context describing the background from which these opinions spring.
Scott Lively is famous for The Pink Swastika, Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, co-authored with Kevin Abrams, that makes an unprecendented series of claims long disadvowed by any serious historian. His claims include assertions that Hitler was gay, the Nazi Party was controlled entirely by militaristic homosexuals who were specifically chosen for the SS because of their intrinsic, vicious cruelty. Historians agree that the Nazis made homosexuality a capital crime and murdered thousands of gay men in concentration camps. Lively has been connected with The Family of C Street notoriety and the campaign to criminalize homosexuality in Uganda with the “Kill the Gays” bill.
Lively claims that The Pink Swastika is an examination of history. Of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Lively says they “had run out of racists to go after and they started looking for other targets so they could keep beating that drum getting and keep focusing on getting money from their donor base on the theme of hatred.” Lively has created a niche in the anti-gay industry with books, tours, lectures, sermons, debates and other appearances by which he makes his living, and it’s all based on assertions that have either been completely proved false or have no basis in reality. Referring to an article for which the reporter asked his reaction to being named to the SPLC Hate Group list for a second year, Lively claims he was “smeared here in this community where I lived and worked for many years. On the front page, I was treated as some kind of a criminal.”
One wonders how he views the effects his published fabrications and distortions about gays affect the people about whom he so cavalierly writes?
The Family Research Council and Focus on the Family have both been named hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center “because of [their] dissemination of false and demonizing propaganda about gays and lesbians.” Both groups are sponsored by The Charity Give Back Group, formerly the Christian Values Network, which siphons online shopping proceeds to CGBG associated organizations. This practice led to complaints and calls for boycotts against their number that are, in reality, merely anti-choice and anti-gay associations. Up steps the Catholic League, notoriously active in formulating legislation as well as passing ballot initiatives and referenda to limit women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality and gay rights, in defense.
Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League, spoke with Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins on his Washington Watch radio program, “Radical proponents of gay marriage have taken the culture war to the marketplace,” by having declared “economic war against any organization that embraces the Judeo-Christian understanding of marriage. If these extremists get their way, they will silence the Christian voice. Which is why the bullies must be defeated.”
November of last year saw the Smithsonian remove an art video from an LGBT exhibit because Donohue, specifically, was offended by it. Isn’t that censorship to silence gay art? Donohue doesn’t think so. Donohue also compares Gay Rights achievements to Apartheid, where an entitled few ruled over the many.
Recent polls [one, two, three] have shown American sentiment turning away from evangelical influence on Congress and state governments. More Americans support the Separation of Church and State, as described by the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, than support the take over of government and society by radical Christians. However, a small group of evangelicals support the Seven Mountains theology which calls for Christians to wrest control, or take dominion, of the seven spheres of influence within society including government, entertainment, education and business. Tony Perkins and Scott Lively are both supporters of this effort to prepare America for the second coming. Dominionists, as they are also called, would turn America into a Taliban-like Christian theocracy.
Censorship and taking control of others lives, limiting choices and eliminating diversity is how anti-gay groups operate. While associating LGBT Rights to Apartieid, Donohue denied he’d ever pressured any groups to change their ways by force. He’s accused “extremists” of trying to silence opponents’voices without mentioning his push to censor art with an LGBT theme. Nor did he mention the numerous, to use his terminology, reprisals and retaliation campaigns against companies that extended rights and benefits to gays and their partners. Most prominent among them are Disney over the movie, Priest (1994), 20th Century Fox for Nothing Sacred (1997), The Passion of Christ (2004), The Simpsons Sunday, Cruddy Sunday, (Se10Ep12 1999); Wal-Mart over using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas;” New Line Cinema over The Golden Compass, Miller which sponsored the Folsum Street Fair in San Francisco (2007), Showtime over Sister Mary Explains It All (2001), and threatened CBS over Howard Stern’s possible replacement of David Letterman on The Late Show.
But, that’s not Aparthied, that’s righteousness. Just like creating a god in their own image isn’t projection, it’s true faith.