"Inside Edition" recently reported on bride-to-be Susanne Eman and the custom wedding dress that is being created for her Big Day. The outlet chose to highlight Eman because, at 800 pounds, she is not just getting married this summer, she's also on a quest to become the world's biggest woman.
What troubles me about this story is not Eman's chosen quest, though that is concerning as far her health and longevity is concerned. What worries me is how "Inside Edition," and other outlets that have since picked up the story, are talking about her.
As "Inside Edition" quipped: "Susanne Eman isn't the blushing bride -- she's the bulging bride."
The coverage of Eman's wedding preparations -- and the creation of what's being called "the world's biggest wedding gown" for her upcoming nuptials -- reminds us that women who are antithetical to society's typical picture of a "bride" are treated like freaks who deserve to be gawked at.
If Eman was going scuba-diving and needed the "world's biggest wetsuit" or was getting her Master's degree and needed the "world's biggest graduation gown," I doubt that her story would receive this kind of attention -- if any.
Certainly, if Eman were a man, her upcoming wedding would be treated far differently. When Manual Uribe, who was the world's heaviest man in 2006, got married in 2008, BBC News reported that Uribe wore, "a white silk shirt and a sheet wrapped around his legs," and that the groom did not dine on cake, as he had been attempting to lose weight. The article about his nuptials was straight-forward, without judgment.
Eman, however, was described as if she were not a person but a circus sideshow. "Inside Edition" recounts her "squeezing" into the car with her sister to pick out her wedding dress -- a garment that would require, lest we forget her size, "yards, and yards, and yards of fabric." In fact, before the article divulged details about Eman's body, readers are ominously warned: "Brace yourself for her waist size." When discussing her diet, the article references "mountains of food soaked in butter." You know, in case we didn't already understand how disgusting we should think Eman is.
Of course "Inside Edition" is a different type of media outlet than BBC News, as it typically relies on shock value to capture its audience. However, the differences in the coverage of Uribe's wedding and Eman's planning highlight how the physical standards set for brides on their wedding day are far higher than for grooms.
At the time of his wedding, Uribe weighed just over 680 pounds (down from his Guinness-record-setting size of 1,234 pounds), which, yes, means that he was technically lighter than Eman will be on her wedding day. Uribe's size still prevented him from wearing a tux, so it's puzzling that Eman's size -- and her self-confidence thereof -- is treated as a character defect, while Uribe is treated with respect.
While it's true that Eman made a conscious decision to attempt to become the world's fattest woman, and therefore one could argue that she brought this kind of attention over her upcoming wedding upon herself, I think the disparity between Uribe's and Eman's stories highlights a greater issue.
More than any other role that women will play throughout their lives -- mother, wife, co-worker -- their brief stint as "bride" is the one moment during which they are compelled to look their "best." Being beautiful on one's wedding day -- which means being thin and without imperfections by modern standards -- is one of the biggest "shoulds" women must deal with.
The way Eman's story was framed highlights a fascination not solely with her un-bridely size, but a fasciation with the fact that she is getting married at all, that -- gasp! -- someone could actually want to marry her, despite her appearance.
And it's this focus on physical bridal perfection that encourages women to accept that they should go to extremes in order to attain it for their big days. The recent New York Times piece on brides losing weight by embarking on juice cleanses and, yes, even having doctors outfit them with feeding tubes, illuminated how willing women are to go along with this socially constructed mandate.
In addition to profiling women who used these alternative methods to drop weight before their weddings, the Times piece cited a 2007 study out of Cornell University that looked at 272 engaged women and their pre-wedding weight loss goals. Seventy percent of them wanted to lose weight, typically 20 pounds.
When you compare Eman's pre-wedding attitude to that of one of the women interviewed for the Times article, Eman's attitude toward her wedding is actually quite refreshing. When describing how she wanted her dress to look, Eman said that she preferred something sleeveless. As she tried on different veils and tiaras, she said, "I'm feeling like a bride. I can't wait."
Meanwhile, in the Times story, one-time bride-to-be Colleen McGowan, 36, said she used various means to lose 20 pounds for her wedding.
"There was no way I could imagine seeing myself in a strapless bridal gown," she said.
Watch "Inside Edition's" coverage of Susanne Eman below and tell us in the comments what you think.
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