Friday, December 15, 2006

Eat a Cheeseburger Yourself, Jackass

Lately, I've been thinking about bodies.

Let me explain. The other night, I was working late, with the oldies station playing in the background. The DJ came on and announced that Nicole Richie had been arrested for DUI, and that she had a height of 5'1" and weighed 85 pounds. The DJ then proceeded with one of those "eat a sandwich/cheeseburger/other food" jokes that are never half as funny as the teller seems to think they are.

And that's what got me thinking. Why does this guy feel it's ok to have a negative opinion about a complete stranger's body? Particularly if it's a thin person's body? Why are women's bodies considered public property in America? Men simply don't undergo that level of scrutiny.

My experience in Colombia was different, but no less bizarre. Women there are in love with plastic surgery, and seem to take it as casually as American women treat hair dye. Looks were paramount, and there was no shame in getting a bit of work done. Several of my girlfriends were sliced, diced, and repackaged during their time in Bogota. Several shopgirls out-and-out told me to undergo a breast enhancement (which would make me resemble two bowling balls strapped to a two-by-four.)

Bosnia, by comparison, was a tremendous relief. I don't recall anyone mentioning plastic surgery, or even discussing their bodies at all. Which might be why I find America's relationship with women's bodies so weird. It was a big shock to come back to.

First off, women can't win in this country. One week in the supermarket checkstand, there was a tabloid featuring famous-yet-pudgy women in swimsuits, with all sorts of mocking headlines. Down with Fatties! The very next week, there was a photo essay titled "Way Too Skinny!" Look at the Freaks! What an odd message: if you do what Hollywood tells you, you're instantly grotesque. If you don't, you're merely ugly.

Second, and even weirder, women's bodies are regarded as public property. This is especially true for slim women. Why do I know that Ellen Pompeo is 5'9" and wears a size 0? I can barely remember what show she's on. Why do women I barely know ask me what my dress size is, or what I weigh? Sometimes, they even make guesses! Why is that anyone's business but mine? I am always tempted to guess their dress size in return. "So, you're about a 14?" But, of course, if someone is plus-size, their weight is this huge taboo.

All of this brings me back to Nicole Richie. Why are a two-bit socialite reality star's eating habits so important? Leave the poor girl alone. Let's make "eat a cheeseburger" jokes as taboo as "fat jokes".

Confidential to Trish - hey girl, I'm updating more often for ya. Happy Hanukkah!


Anonymous said...

I have to say that at least as much of this problem falls on the women themselves. Who buys the magazines? Who WRITES the magazines? Who looks in People and says "I want my hair like X." when they go to the barber/stylist? Why do you know her size/weight?

I can say with absolute certainty that none of my male friends gives two licks about Nicole Richie, her weight or her eating habits. Of course I don't think any of my female friends do either... well I can think of one off hand...

I'm losing steam... Er... DAMN YOU SOCIETY!!! Stereotypes are bad! Uh... peace on earth, good will towards all (I'd afraid to say "man" now).

- Theo "Who doesn't want to setup an account" McG (Yes, that one)

Shannon said...

Hey, it's not every day that a girl's prom date weighs in!

True enough - I think women spend WAY too much time bitching about each other. Like the girls who aren't a size 0, who pick and pick at the girls who are. (This is where those stupid "eat a cheeseburger" jokes come in. I know more women who make those comments than men.)

Of course, I think flat stomachs are kind of grody and unnatural, and I have no interest in having Jennifer Aniston's hair. So maybe I'm weird.