On Wednesday at 10:15 am (all time zones), I’ll be on the Today Show talking about women and snarkiness: Why are we so catty? Why do we love to hate on other women? What do we get out of all of this schadenfreude? I defy anyone to tell me they’ve never been out with a girlfriend and, upon seeing a woman with, say, obviously fake breasts and tight jeans and stilettos walk by, looked at each other and sniped, “FAKE!” (gigglesnortguffaw) Or gossiped behind a female coworker’s back. Or looked at a pic of an actress with cellulite and secretly done a little mental happy dance. We’ve all done it…but why? (I’ll be on with Dr. Michelle Callahan and comedienne Carey Reilly to discuss.)
Bodysnarking – the act of letting mean and rude (albeit sometimes witty) comments about someone’s body slip through your lips – is basically the new black. I mean, hello? Jessica Simpson, much? Kirstie did it to herself on Oprah, saying that when she got on the scale and saw “228” flash before her eyes, “I was so much more disgusting than I thought!”
So I read this recent New York Times story, “Bingeing on Celebrity Weight Battles” by Jan Hoffman, with particular interest, and I think it’s right up the alley of NeverSayDiet readers, too. Hoffman talks about the mentally toxic environment that is created when women – think Valerie Bertinelli, Ricki Lake, Carnie Wilson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Tyra Banks, Kim Kardashian, Kathy Ireland, Marie Osmond, Kelly Clarkson, Oprah and Melissa Joan Hart (on last week’s People magazine cover in a bikini, weighing 113 pounds and calling her post-pregnancy body “horrifying”), to name a few – put their weight problems on display, publicly berating themselves and only declaring victory when they can zip up a pair of Size 2s and pose in a string bikini on the cover of US Weekly (the modern day equivalent of rolling out a wagon carrying 60-plus pounds of faux fat on it.)
The crux of the piece addresses the trickle-down ramifications of celeb body snarking, asking, “If you can judge celebrities and TV contestants, does that give you license to judge the woman on the street?” Fatshionista blogger Lesley Kinzel, who weighs about 300 pounds (per the NY Times story), tells Hoffman she has to brace herself when she goes out and about in Boston.
“When you have famous people turning their weight tribulations into mass-media extravaganzas, they’re contributing to a culture where passing comments on strangers’ bodies is considered O.K.” No doubt some morons have made it their business to make such a quip or two about Kinzel.
Just what, Hoffman proposes, does it mean for the average woman who perhaps DOES weigh 228 pounds (like Kirstie Alley) but is at peace with her body to hear a celebrity proclaim that weight “disgusting?” Twenty-two-year-old blogger Gabrielle Gregg (“Young, Fat and Fabulous”) is quoted in the article saying, “I’m 200 pounds and I don’t think I’m disgusting.”
Sarah Morice, a 31-year-old doctoral candidate, laments, “I see what Kirstie Alley says about herself and how easy it is for that to become my script. It’s easy to lapse into ‘Oh, my body’s ugly,’ and ‘What’s the use?’ She triggers all those messages for me.”
And Emily Schaibly Greene, 29, a medical lab technician, explains, “Kirstie looks the same as me, to the inch, height and weight. It took me a long time to get there, but I’m feeling good with how I look. But it’s difficult to keep liking the way I look when I’m reading that it’s gross.”
I will never forget the day about 10 years ago when I was going on and on about feeling fat and gross and needing to lose weight (when I most certainly was not and did not), all in front of my friend Ali. Ali, who had stood by me for years through an eating disorder, looked me in the eye and said, “Leslie, I love you. You’re my best friend in the world. But if you continue to talk about being fat, I can’t be around you. It make me feel even worse about myself – if you think you’re fat, what must you think of me?” Her words cut me deeply, but in a crucial, extraordinarily significant way. I realized my words impacted other people and stopped bitching and moaning about my butt for quite some time, finding a therapist who was better equipped to deal with my drama.
But celeb body drama is omnipresent, and short of cancelling our subscriptions and never going grocery shopping or to the movies again, we’re forced to deal with the body woes vomited up by the women we see on-screen and in ads and on the runways.
I guess all we can do is take responsibility for how we respond to what we see and hear…and work on the crap that – however infrequently - we let pass through our own minds and lips.