What an odd world we live in. As an eating disorder therapist, living and working in Los Angeles, I realize I am in the belly of the beast. From this viewpoint, I can tell you first hand that our society has a long way to go in its view of women and looks. We still place an enormous amount of emphasis, when it comes to women, on looks, clothing, weight and age. As women, we can choose to ignore this, not play the game, and be judged, or cave and adhere to the current standards of beauty.
I think that the internet, blogging, anonymous comments, and the paparazzi (with sites like TMZ), have all contributed to this situation. Anyone and everyone can now comment, anonymously at that, on how women look. I also think that a lot of the mean comments being hurled at women are coming from other women.
What strikes me about the current standard for women is that the "window of hotness" is actually very small. Get too thin and you are no longer acceptable or "hot." Get too heavy and the same thing applies, you are no longer attractive. This "window of hotness" isn't more then 10 to (gasp) 20 pounds, or 2 dress sizes. Take these women for example:
There are the current pictures of Renée Zellweger in a red dress at her movie premiere. Although I think she looks gorgeous, there are all kinds of catty comments about how she is "too thin," "someone feed her a sandwich, please," "scrawny and muscular is not attractive," etc...
Then we have Jessica Simpson. She has gained a bit of weight but is still far from fat, overweight or obese and yet she is getting criticized for being too fat, for having rolls and maybe partying too much. I'm sorry, but this woman is not fat.
Then of course there is Nicole Ritchie, who took an enormous amount of heat for getting too thin. She was looking ill, and who knows, maybe she was, but wow, the mean comments were amazing. She gained maybe 15 pounds and now she looks great?
Remember Cheryl Burke from Dancing With The Stars? She gained some weight over the summer and when she was back on TV, a bit heavier, there was nothing else being talked about. The economy, the war in Iraq, the election, global warming, Darfur, poverty, terrorism, all but gone due to Cheryl's weight gain. Cheryl, at her top weight, did not come close to fat, obese or unhealthy and yet she was criticized and ridiculed for it.
Jennifer Love Hewitt caved. She was famously photographed in a bikini, looking female. She was criticized big time and she came out swinging against the attack. Then she lost 18 pounds and was "hot" again.
If the same thing were going on for men, I wouldn't be this upset, but we all know this is sexism alive and well. This is not about health and wellness; it is mean-spirited judgment and is meant to tear women down.
In my role as an eating disorder therapist, I help seriously overweight people lose weight. Their weight is a health issue and needs to be addressed for them to live full, healthy and happy lives. That is one end of the spectrum I deal with. On the other end are women who are anorexic and/or bulimic who are doing what they can to adhere to these crazy standards and are making themselves seriously ill in the process.
If you have any ideas about how we can change this, please share them. I am hoping that we can truly gain equality someday and yet we have a long way to go.
If you'd like to participate in the research for my new book about the process of weight loss, please visit http://www.eatingdisordertherapist.com/ and take the survey.
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