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Replacing racism with sizeism? Not cool, Wonkette

7th June 2010

Replacing racism with sizeism? Not cool, Wonkette

by Rachel

So, the blog Wonkette recently opined on Prescott, Az. city councilman Steve Blair who used AM talk radio show to advocate for the removal of a black child’s face from a downtown mural.  Arizona isn’t exactly considered a bastion of racial tolerance right now, what with the passage of SB 1070, a stringent law many (myself included) would argue only legalizes racial profiling of Hispanics.  But the case of the mural, which was drawn from the photographs of actual children enrolled at the nearby, racially-diverse Miller Valley School, is especially egregious.  Blair’s call for the removal of an African-American child figured prominently in the mural was met with a wave of Waspian support, with even the school’s principal pressuring the artists behind the mural to lighten — a.k.a. whiten – the faces of children depicted (the principal has since backed down).  And this is just the latest insult — the children who worked alongside the artists were repeatedly subjected to drive-by racial slurs and epithets during the months-long project.  Read more on this affront to decency here.

Wonkette, like so many others, was naturally outraged by the blatant racism, as was radio channel KYCA, who promptly and appropriately fired Blair from his radio show (he still remains a city councilman).  In an blog update about the firing, Wonkette had this to say about Blair:

HE SHOULD BE DUMPED IN A CESSPOOL FILLED WITH BOILING BP CRUDE, etc.

But whatever, look at this fat fucking hunchbacked pig, and pity him if you have that kind of generous soul.

Not to take attention away from this horrible display of racism, but is anyone else struck by the inherent hypocrisy of Wonkette replacing one form of -ism — racism — with yet another form of -ism — sizeism?  There are plenty of slurs with which to hurl Blair’s way — racist, bigot, uninformed, xenophobic and spineless, ignorant twit, to name just a few — but commentary on his size and appearance should not be among them.  Not only are these remarks entirely irrelevant to Blair’s speech and actions, such comments, in fact, only perpetuates the  exploitive hegemonies and ideology of domination that buttresses all forms of discrimination.  As Shirley Chisholm once said, In the end antiblack, antifemale, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing – antihumanism.

posted in Body Politic, Fat Bias, Race Issues, Rachel | 14 Comments

14th April 2010

Healthy Media for Youth Act: Can I get a ‘Hell Yeah’?!!

by Rachel

Here are the facts:

  • 90 percent of girls say the media places a lot of pressure on girls to be thin.
  • 55 percent of teenage girls admit they diet to lose weight
  • 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy to lose weight
  • 37 percent know a girl with a diagnosed eating disorder.
  • 66 percent of girls report being dissatisfied with their bodies.

France and Britain are currently debating laws to regulate airbrushed images in advertising and now a few of our own esteemed Congresswomen are bridging great partisan political divide to take up the fight across the pond.  Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) have introduced the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925), a bill to improve media literacy for youth and to encourage the promotion of healthier media messages about girls and women.

The bill, which draws  on research by Girls, Inc. and the Girls Scouts Research Institute, takes a three-pronged approach to promote healthy media messages about girls and women:  through a competitive grant program to encourage and support media literacy programs and youth empowerment groups; research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect youth; and the creation of a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media, which will develop voluntary standards that promote healthy, balanced and more positive images of girls and women in the media.  Read the bill in its entirety here.

The bill asks for $40,000,000 each year from 2011 through 2015 — a mere drop in the bucket compared to the billions we’ve given to banks and corporate fat cats.  Among its highlights:

Congress supports efforts to ensure youth improve their media literacy skills and consume positive messages about girls and women in the media that promotes healthy and diverse body images, develops positive and active female role models, and portrays equal and healthy relationships between female and male characters.

Grants will be awarded to nonprofit organizations to support programs that:  educate youth on how to apply their critical thinking skills when consuming media images and messages; promote  healthy, balanced, and positive media depictions of girls and women among youth; and counter the perpetuation and damaging effects of narrow, restrictive gender roles, stereotypes, and expectations, including the sexualization of female children, adolescents, and adults.

The Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in coordination with the Director of the National Institutes of Health and the Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, shall review, synthesize, and conduct or support research on the role and impact of depictions of girls and women in the media on the psychological, sexual, physical, and interpersonal development of youth in areas including: childhood development; academic performance; media depictions and their affect on minority boys and girls; and how food marketing and obesity campaigns affect girls’ and boys’ body image, nutrition and exercise.

While I think that this bill is made of pure awesomeness, I’m a little wary on the emphasis on promoting “healthy” body images what with all the hoopla about childhood obesity and the prevailing delusion that the only “healthy” body is a thin body. That the Centers for Disease Control will be involved in defining and filtering these “healthy” depictions of girls and women in the media is all the more cause for concern given the center’s sorry history of launching misguided programs that only foster and even enable greater economic and social discrimination against people of size.  And as we discussed yesterday, even those on obesity task forces hold negative views and disrespectful and assumptive stereotypes of fat people, so I’m concerned that these kinds of morally-based beliefs might bleed over into programs and research supported by this bill.  However, I’m reassured by the inclusion that the bill will also promote the depiction of “diverse” body types and recognizes the potential of anti-obesity campaigns and legislation to inadvertently promote eating disorders.  I’m also heartened to see that the bill encourages a greater focus on girls and women of color and from certain socioeconomic status groups and that it also does not neglect the impact of such harmful imagery on boys.

All worries aside, this bill is certainly a step in the right direction and I encourage you to lend it your support.  You can track the bill via OpenCongress and Washington Watch.  The Girl Scouts Advocacy Network as also created a draft email that you can send to your representatives urging their support of H.R. 4925.  And be sure to send thanks to Congresswomen Baldwin and Moore Capito for putting partisan politics aside in an effort to enact real change.

posted in Body Image, Body Politic, Class issues, Eating Disorders, Feminist Topics, Mental Health, Race Issues, Rachel | 6 Comments

23rd March 2010

Chicken pills and big bottoms

by Rachel

NPR yesterday launched a new online series called “The Kitchen Sisters“, which seeks to explore the hidden world of girls around the world and the women they become. The first series premiered yesterday and focused on girls and women in Jamaica, who go to amazing — and dangerous — lengths to achieve a cultural standard of the idealized woman.  Read the story and listen to the clip here.

In some African cultures, being fat is a symbol of wealth and beauty. Indeed in Nigeria, young women there often enter “fattening rooms” for six months to a year and are sometimes even force-fed before they are considered robust enough to marry. This trend of associating fatness with wealth and prosperity is most often seen among the more have-not developing nations, but for a long while also proved to be the cultural norm in the U.S.  In Jamaica, the “healthy body girl” is at least between 160 and 210 pounds and men especially admire women with “big bottoms.”  Carolyn Cooper and Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, lecturers of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, and Carol Turpin of St. Catherine, Jamaica, who is the head of the 4-H Club, explain in more detail:

“Most males, they love to see women with big bottoms. The whole idea of Coca-Cola bottle shape,” Turpin said. “I don’t want a meager woman,’ that’s how the men would speak. … They’re figuring if you look meager, you look poor, in the sense that you’re not being taken care of.”

“If you have a big bottom that means you’re sitting on a lot of power,” said Cooper.

“If you have no meat on your bones, the society can’t see your wealth, your progress, your being,” said Stanley-Niaah.

While it might be refreshing to know that me and my fat bottom would be crowned queen in Jamaica, it’s important to remember that beauty ideals exist precisely because they are often unachievable for most people.  And in Jamaica, a dangerous trend emerged in the 1990s among Jamaican girls and women desperate to pack on the pounds in the form of “chicken pills” — the same pills farmers give chickens to make them grow faster. The Jamaican government has banned the chicken pill for both chickens and women, but it’s still available across the island in farm stores and on the street.  Dr. Neil Persadsingh, a dermatologist in Kingston, says the pill, which contains arsenic, can have severe side effects, ranging from numbness, diarrhea and dermatitis in people. And arsenic is a cumulative poison that can build up in the body and cause cancer.

But as globalization takes hold of the island nation, another competing form of beauty is emerging: the idolization of white thinness. Although rotundity is still seen as beautiful, slim and trim is also quickly coming into vogue, as well as the longtime goal of appearing “whiter.” Donna Hope, a lecturer in reggae studies at the University of the West Indies says that, like women in all cultures, Jamaican women are using all kinds of artifice, hair extensions, eyelash extensions and skin bleaching as a form of enhancement. The cosmetic concoctions – a mix of toothpaste and curry powder — and are sold in unmarked plastic bags in downtown markets. They’re rubbed on the skin and “work” by literally burning the epidermis.

The complicated body politic in Jamaica might seem polarizing at first, but it isn’t all that contradictory when you consider that the nation emerged out of slavery. Here’s Cooper again:

“There’s a kind of anorexic, Eurocentric model of beauty. Also, a much more Afrocentric body type that is valorized,” explained Cooper. “We still have a racist legacy in which the perception is reinforced that the lighter your skin is, the more beautiful you are, the further you can go in the culture, the more socially accepted you are. Still, in Jamaica, a lot of positions of power are occupied by people who are light-skinned. And the attitude is, if light skin is in, I can get it, too.”

But Cooper sees signs of optimism, too. Jamaican beauty contests traditionally crown lighter-skinned contestants, but three years ago, Zahra Redwood — a Rastafarian woman with organic dreadlocks, broad nose and full lips – won Miss Universe. Fifty years ago, that kind of image would never be paraded on a stage as beautiful, says Cooper.

Fat bottoms. Chicken pills. Bleaching powders. It all may seem strange and bizarre to the rest of us, but the whole discourse of dissatisfaction and anxiety about the body is a common thread among most, if not all, cultures.  In Jamaica, women take chicken pills.  In America, we down Fen-phen and diet pills.  If women have anything in common with our sisters worldwide, it’s that the natural body is never enough.

I’m excited to hear the rest of the series — and they’re looking for more stories. Call the NPR Message Line at 202-408-9576 or share your photos, audio and video here.

posted in Body Image, Fat Acceptance, Feminist Topics, Race Issues, Rachel | 11 Comments

25th February 2010

Quick hit: Nation’s top doc a HAES supporter?

by Rachel

MSNBC interviewed U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin about weight and fitness and her “vision for a health and fit nation.”  Benjamin, you may recall, was attacked and criticized for her weight after her nomination (she appears to be about a size 18).  But while Benjamin is enthusiastically joining the “nation’s war on fat,” I’m glad to see that she’s more even-keeled and sensitive about it than, ehem, others.

So how do you reach more people?

If you talk to the average person, what’s clear is we need to give them tools to make it easier. We need to get people to make good health part of their lives. I’m showing my age, but I remember going out dancing, doing the hustle and sweating off my makeup. That was fun. People need to exercise and eat well because they enjoy it and they want to be fit. It could be taking a walk in a park. But we need nice parks. We need people to buy better foods. But a lot of communities don’t have access to fresh produce. Right now, it’s very difficult to find a meal that’s healthy and competes with a “dollar meal” like a burger and fries. We need to ask the communities and food manufacturers to offer more healthy choices not as alternatives, but as first choices.

Your weight was made an issue when the President picked you for the post, and you said it was hurtful. So how do we talk to our kids about a sensitive topic like weight?

I’m very secure in my own self esteem, but yes, it was hurtful. There were some mean comments. But what about those kids who will be looking at me as a role model? They may be very discouraged by some of those comments. I exercise regularly, at least four days a week. If I didn’t I probably would be a big blimp. And I try to eat pretty healthy, as much as I can. I know the things that I’m doing. I tend to stay on the elliptical as long as other people. I’m not out of breath. You can be healthy and fit at different sizes. The real message is that you don’t want to limit yourself by your dress size. You need to be comfortable with yourself and have a good body image. Don’t have some dress manufacturer tell you what size to be. Be a size that makes you fit.

I dislike Benjamin’s near exclusive focus on obesity — as if Not Getting Fat is the only worthwhile reason to encourage people to make healthier choices — and I am vehemently against workplace wellness programs and challenges, which she also promotes, but I’m glad to see that not only does Benjamin appear to support HAES, she also seems to recognize the racial, environmental and socio-economic forces at play that contribute to body weight.  Now if we could only get her to heed her own words and redirect her health and fitness outreach efforts from just fat people to all people.

posted in Body Politic, Class & Poverty, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Race Issues, Rachel | 4 Comments

23rd February 2010

NEDAW: Eating disorders’ forgotten victims

by Rachel

This month is Black History Month and this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and Stephanie Armstrong addresses both in an interview on “Saturday Mornings with Joy Keys,” an interactive, live Internet talk-radio show that focuses on “providing people with tools to enrich and advance their lives mentally, physically, monetarily and emotionally.”  Stephanie  is the author of the new memoir Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia, in which the now 40-something, recovered, married mother of one daughter and two stepdaughters documents her descent into bulimia in her early 20s and describes her struggles as a black woman with a disorder consistently portrayed as a white woman’s disease.  The Brooklyn native also examines the “bootylicous” black woman stereotype and why the black community’s “code of silence” often leaves black women with eating disorders suffering in silence.  The work is being hailed as the first book by and among black women about eating disorders.  You may remember that Stephanie also answered the-F-word’s questions a few months ago.

Guests included Stephanie and Laurie Vanderboom, program director for the National Eating Disorders Association, which sponsors and coordinates National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  A few interview highlights

Joy: What do you (NEDA) see when you have these programs?  Do you see a lot of African American women coming to the programs?

Laurie: We’re just beginning to and we’re just beginning to reach out.  There’s so much shame involved in an eating disorder that people hesitate to step up.  Stephanie, wouldn’t you agree that no matter what your racial make-up…

Stephanie: Absolutely, but especially coming from a culture that doesn’t support therapy, that doesn’t support getting outside help, and risking falling outside of the strong black woman archetype that we’re raised believing and have to become.  It’s hard to disassociate yourself with that image to get the help you need.

———————————-

Stephanie: One of the things I always talk about, especially in the black community, is that we don’t have an awareness of what exactly bulimia is.  It’s like you go to someone’s house and they’re drinking that dieter’s tea.  That’s bulimia.  Laxative abuse is bulimia.  Diuretic abuse is bulimia.  Compulsive exercising is bulimia.  It’s like we think it’s just throwing up, but it’s not just throwing up.

———————————-

Joy: I was talking with a professor of mine and he mentioned that psychologists don’t diagnose African American women properly with eating disorders, because they’re not used to seeing a African American woman coming to their office with this issue. Stephanie, do you feel that that’s the case?

Stephanie: Absolutely. Absolutely. I am constantly talking to women — some who are therapists, some who are young — who are constantly misdiagnosed. I’ve had doctors say, ‘Oh, you don’t have an eating disorder. African Americans don’t have eating disorders.’ I had a young woman call me yesterday – she goes to Clark Atlanta College and she’s at the American University in DC working on an exchange and she’s doing a paper in journalism and decided to do a paper on blacks and eating disorders because her aunt was bulimic and died from it. She calls me up and she said her teacher said, ‘Well, the problem is that there aren’t really that many black women with eating disorders, so that’s going to be a hard paper to do.’ It’s that overall belief that we don’t exist. (she briefly cites a rundown of research showing the prevalence of eating disorders among black women and girls, including this study) …the research is seeping in, but it’s still not getting the attention.

And it’s not just black women with eating disorders who are thought to be virtually non-existent.  Running Tiptoe recently posted a review of a recent “Intervention” episode featuring an Hispanic woman with an exercise addiction and a history of bulimia.  In her review, she offered this link to this 2006 study of “eating disturbances among Hispanic and native American youth,” in which it was found a much more significant pattern of disordered eating behaviors than previously thought.  There are more stats and studies on Hispanic women and eating disorders listed in this 2003 news report.*

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, eating disorders continue to persist in public opinion as a disease young, white girls from middle-class and wealthy backgrounds develop.  But eating disorders are the great equalizers: food is one of the few legal “drugs” out there; everyone needs it to survive;  and in industrialized nations, at least, is widely available and relatively cheap.  That, combined with the constant affirmations of weight loss as morally good and idolization of thinness saturating virtually every facet of our lives, and it’s no wonder that  those with emotional issues and unfulfilled needs might turn to food and the body to express a pain they cannot put into words.

Black girls and women with eating disorders.  Hispanic girls and women with eating disorders.  Adult women with eating disorders.  Boys and men with eating disorders.  Orthodox Jewish girls and women with eating disorders.  Poor girls and women with eating disorders.  We. All. Exist.

* For more information on eating disorders amongst non-white populations, see here.

posted in Anorexia, Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia, Class & Poverty, ED-NOS, Eating Disorders, Gender & Sexuality, Interviews, Mental Health, New Research, Purging Disorder, Race Issues, Rachel, Recovery | 5 Comments

26th January 2010

Employees who weigh less, pay less at Whole Foods

by Rachel

I love me some Whole Foods’ vegan General Tso’s chicken, but I seem to have lost my appetite after reading that Whole Foods is discriminating against its fat employees by offering their thinner coworkers as much as a 10 percent additional employee discount.  Jezebel has the scoop.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey explains the program in a letter, reproduced below. Apparently it’s part of an initiative to reduce health care costs, which is interesting since Mackey is against the health care reforms that would actually reduce costs for all people.

Note that Mackey knows BMI isn’t a perfect measure of health, but at least it’s cheap! Even more fun, though, is the poster for the new Healthy Discount program, breaking down exactly what BMI range his minions need in order to get various discounts on his Tofu Pups.

If your BMI is above 30, you’ll get to keep the original 20% employee discount, but you’ll paying more than your thinner co-workers, who can knock as much as 30% off. Because if public health research has taught us anything, it’s that reducing people’s buying power totally makes them healthier. Stay classy, Whole Foods.

(copies of the announcements are available after the jump)

To put this into perspective: to receive the maximum 30 percent employee platinum discount, a 5-foot-4-inch Whole Foods employee would have to weigh less than 140-pounds and a 6-foot employee less than 177-pounds.  That is, of course, assuming they also meet the attendant platinum levels cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure requirements.  And because this is all in the name of health, say that same 5-foot-4-inch employee meets all the cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure requirements of the platinum level but they weigh 175-pounds, which means that they have a BMI of 30.  Their added discount?  Nada.

Whole Foods is careful to point out that they’re not penalizing employees who do not participate or who do not meet their admittedly “imperfect” bio-markers for health — all employees will keep their basic 20 percent discount — but, in effect, they are penalizing these workers by selectively rewarding those who hand over their private medical files and meet incentive requirements.  Whole Foods CEO John Mackey cites an attempt to curb rising health care costs as the impetus for the program, but do the ends justify the means?  Ironically, the company’s plan to slenderize employees by dangling before them an organic carrot may actually work to increase health premiums in the long run.  Remember that many an eating disorder begins as a simple diet and desire to “eat healthy.”  Now consider that eating disorders alone cost U.S. companies about $3.8 billion a year in lost productivity.

By rewarding a BMI of 24 — a full point below what is considered the benchmark of “overweight” — Whole Foods is not-so-subtly indicating its preference that a lower BMI is better and ideal, thus contributing to an atmosphere in which employees who do not meet this standards are made to feel ostracized and targeted.  These blanket standards also ignore genetic, gender, age and ethnic differences across groups, thereby directing this sense of corporate hostility, however passive, toward those employees who may already be among the most vulnerable in the workplace: minorities, women and senior citizens.  Would we tolerate this kind of “incentive” if it were directed at other groups of workers?  Consider this: in at least half the states, marital status isn’t a condition protected by state or federal anti-discrimination laws.  Many other states, like Ohio, are “at-will” employment states, meaning that workers can be fired without just cause (so long as its not based on unlawful discrimination, which even then must be proven).  Whole Foods could also save a lot of money both in terms of productivity and health care costs if they offered similar incentives to employees who make the “lifestyle choice” to remain single, childless or who limit their family sizes to a number that’s more cost-effective for the company’s bottom line.

Absurd!, you gasp.  Unfair!  A person’s marital or parental status has nothing to do with their work performance!

Exactly.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Eating Disorders, Fat Bias, Gender & Sexuality, Mental Health, Race Issues, Rachel | 41 Comments

18th January 2010

“One Big Happy Family”: Inspiration or fatsploitation?

by Rachel

From the station that helped destroy the Gosselin’s marriage comes a new series called “One Big Happy Family.” The series, which premiered last month on TLC, documents the efforts of a black North Carolina brood, in which all four members weigh in at more than 300 pounds, to slim down. The show’s producer, Mike Duffy, likened it to the TLC show “Little People, Big World,” saying that “One Big Happy Family” is instead “about big people living in a little world — fat people living in a skinny world.”  Show clips are available here.

The Boston Herald calls it “TLC’s latest attempt to exploit a family for ratings.” Monsters and Critics says, “Trainwreck reality TV doesn’t get much bigger than the TLC effort, One Big Happy Family.” Variety says, “One Big Happy Family joins a TLC lineup that often seems devoted more to pithy titles than anything else.” And a CNN report last week drew attention to “big” concerns whether or not the show is “potentially exploitive of the family, whose ‘fat and happy’ attitude has drawn comparisons to the comedic Klump family from the Eddie Murphy film ‘The Nutty Professor.’”

Granted, the Cole family’s attempts, at times, can seem like buffoonery. For instance, in the clip above, the family is shown eating a voracious amount of pancakes, which mother Tameka says the family can work off later with a walk around a local water park (an excursion undoubtedly suggested by show producers). Once there, they indulge in a big, sugary piece of funnel cake. Chairs break beneath their weight and the family is turned away from a water park ride for their size. But weight-loss reality shows are, by their very nature, exploitive, which begs the question of why the sudden concern and criticism over this weight-loss reality show.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Body Politic, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Race Issues, Rachel, Television & Film | 19 Comments

28th December 2009

Open Post: What are you reading?

by Rachel

When I was younger, our parents would have us fill out our Santa wish lists weeks before Christmas.  As the sole bookworm in the family, I, of course, always requested a long list of books — Oliver Twist in the third-grade, Shakespeare at the age of 9 and later, in my teen years, Stephen King.  My list must have not made it to the North Pole because instead I got things like a makeup brush kit or a t-shirt screenprinted with a picture of a black labrador.  One of the joys of marrying a man who used to do all his Christmas shopping at Walgreens on Christmas Eve is that now all I do is fill out my Amazon wishlist and know that most, if not all, will be wrapped and waiting under the tree.  I’ve already devoured the two fiction books I received — Stephen King’s new book, Under the Dome and The Strain, coauthored by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro — and am now ready to dig into my non-fiction gifts.  In no particular order…

So, what’s on your reading list?  Any recommendations for the rest of us?

posted in Book Reviews, Class & Poverty, Eating Disorders, Fat History, Feminist Topics, Food History, Race Issues, Rachel, Recovery | 30 Comments

30th October 2009

Is bingeing in the eye of the beholder?

by Rachel

Matthew Tiemeyer, the about.com Guide to eating disorders, poses an interesting question about the definition of binge eating disorder and how it’s diagnosed.  He writes:

Here’s something I hadn’t thought about before. The definition of binge-eating disorder (BED) says that binges involve eating more food than most people would expect you to eat in a relatively short time. So what if all of the people in your world don’t find your eating out of the ordinary?

Another way of asking this question: Could the definition of BED be culturally-dependent? A blurb about a recent study suggests that black women meet BED criteria less often than white women. One of the project’s researchers says, “These (black) women could be binge eating, but they may have less anxiety and distress surrounding their eating habits, so they don’t recognize it as an issue.”

So I have to ask: If there’s no distress, is it really binge eating? Is it really an issue?

It’s irksome to find that the primary concern listed in the aforelinked blurb isn’t for the mental health or emotional wellbeing of women who may have binge eating disorder, but rather for the fact that OMG! they’re getting fatter! As for Tiemeyer’s question… what are your thoughts?

posted in Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia, Race Issues, Rachel | 54 Comments

9th October 2009

From Hollywood to Bollywood: The whittling waistlines of Indian actresses

by Rachel

If I could travel to any part of the globe, India would be it. But as much as I love Indian food and culture, I’m not all that hip on Bollywood and the representation of Indian women in film. Luckily reader Kara (a.k.a. Filmi Girl) is a big fan. About 15 years ago, a friend gave her a cassette tape with the soundtrack from the 1980s hit Bollywood film Maine Pyaar Kiye. She was hooked. A few years later, she began watching the films the songs were centered around, and after realizing that her real life friends were uninterested in hearing her gush about Aamir, Preity and Rani, she started a blog. The 30-year-old librarian now spends her limited free time reading about her latest interest and watching large amounts of deliciously, over-the-top Indian films.  She guest blogs today about the ever whittling waistlines of Bollywood actresses.

I began watching Bollywood movies about 10 years ago. Amidst the colorful songs and costumes and dramatic storylines, I began to realize something else that appealed to me about these movies – the actresses were all of normal and healthy weights. By “normal weight,” I don’t mean Hollywood normal, I mean real life normal. From Madhuri Dixit, whose ample thighs supported her beautiful dancing to Kajol’s sturdy tomboyish frame to Karishma Kapoor’s gawky slimness, the actresses all appeared healthy and well nourished. Being beautiful included a variety of different weights and shapes and sizes, rather than a single hard-to-achieve standard.

Yet, something disturbing has happened over the last few years, the variety is disappearing and in its place has taken root something very familiar – the new global standard of beauty.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Arts and Music, Body Image, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Pop Culture, Race Issues, Television & Film | 11 Comments

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