A colleague went home for a vacation a few months ago. She reported that her mother and sister watch television together and just criticize the appearance of every actress on the screen. "Why is she wearing that?" "Her hair looks atrocious." Things like that. And it's all negative; according to two over-middle-aged British women, no professional actress is attractive.
Last week Pink (the singer, not the color) was criticized on social media for appearing overweight, I guess, although I've seen the picture in question and she doesn't appear overweight at all.
First, an aside: so what if she actually was overweight? Well, being overweight is unhealthful, though to differing degrees depending on your individual physiology and the amount of excess weight. Some people might feel it is their responsibility to bring this point to the attention of an obese celebrity. (Although the chances that my social media comment is going to save a celebrity's life are fairly remote.) Secondly, I guess a celebrity who was presenting himself as a sex object should receive feedback about whether or not he was, in fact, sexy. This is why it is okay for me to say that Hannah Davis looks like a creepy mindless doll. But Pink (still the singer; in fact, I don't think I'll end up talking about the color pink at all in this post, so just be aware of that) was photographed at a charity event, not at a bikini shoot. The dress was fairly revealing by some standards, but by modern celebrity standards, it was quite tame. She was definitely not trying to elicit a sexual reaction from anyone, she was just presenting herself how she thought was appealing, in the way that I might paint my house a particular color because I think it looks nice.
Today in class we were watching a documentary on the 1997-8 Asian financial crisis, and it was interspersed with advertisements. One was a really long ad for Dove soap, but I thought, "This is presenting a positive body message to girls, so I'll let it run." Most of my students were like, "What is this?" But at the very end, for some reason, when the Dove logo came up, they burst out laughing. I don't know if it was unexpected, or they think it's ridiculous that an ad for soap would have nothing to do with soap. I don't know. Had they burst out laughing at the concept, I would have stopped that, but as it was I didn't know what to make of it.
I've written before about how strange it is that, while Americans are becoming more overweight and less healthy, they place more-exacting standards of health and fitness on their celebrities. Statistics would lead us to assume that most of Pink's body-shamers are 50-pounds-or-more overweight, but Pink herself is not. No matter, they still feel a need to call her fat.
I could try to tie all this together, but I'm running out of time before the next item on my schedule. Women will say that they objectify women because the "patriarchy" has gotten inside their heads. I don't think so. I read an article on Men's Health magazine that said women check out a stranger's breasts more quickly and for longer than men do. Men basically give them a glance like, "Are they fantastic, 'cause if they are, I don't want to miss 'em." And usually they're not fantastic. In the words of Julia Roberts's character in Notting Hill, "They're just breasts." Women look more like, "How exactly do her breasts look compared to mine?" Maybe it's because they don't know how men actually respond to fantastic breasts, which is to say, "Wow, those were nice. I wonder where I should go to lunch now."