Thursday, April 02, 2009

Real women have curves! (Just...smaller ones.)

As I'm writing this, there's a Lifetime movie, Queen Sized, playing in the background. Like any number of such movies (and movements) in recent years, Queen Sized is aimed at young women, and its theme is that you're beautiful and very much worthy of love even if you don't come in the stereotypically "cute/hot" package. This is all part of the "real beauty" campaign we see throughout society, notably in Dove's ubiquitous—and retouched?billboards. Such efforts, again, are designed to help nurture self-esteem in women of all shapes, sizes and colors who've too long felt bullied by the cultural forces-that-be. So far, so good.

Then I thought of yesterday
's Oprah Winfrey Show, which was built around an hour-long interview with Star Jones. Oprah, of course, also has been in the forefront of the "real beauty" movement, trumpeting that same theme over and over in any number of ways: that no matter who you are or what you look like, you're still special, lovable, desirable. In fact one would have to say that overall, Oprah is as loud and as forceful an advocate of so-called "real women's" self-esteem as there is in the broad American landscape.

Which brings us to Jones, who, as you may know, has lost about 4000 pounds in the past few years. In all seriousness, over the course of her final season or two on The View, she metamorphosed into a mere shadow of her former self; the "after" photo, above, doesn't even show her at her thinnest.* And time and again during yesterday's Oprah interview, Jones returned to the same theme: Yes, she's always been popular
but now that she's slim, she's experiencing for the first time in her life a new kind of popularity. A genuinely sensual kind of popularity, where men want to be around her not just because she's smart and funny and interestingattributes she's always hadbut because she's hot, which is a relatively new development. Though Oprah understood this right away, her reaction to Jones' remarks went beyond mere understanding: She sort of grinned and grunted and nodded and "uh-huh'ed" in that unmistakable way a woman has of saying to a member of the Sisterhood, "It's good to have that kind of sexual power over a man, isn't it now, girlfriend?" This became even clearer when Jones added that, while she's always been blessed with self-confidence, she now has a "different kind" of self-confidence. Again Oprah understood immediately.

Maybe I'm overthinking this, but to me, those moments of shared understanding
that mutual acknowledgment of what really happens, both inside and out, when a heavy woman slims downseemed to put the lie to all the uplifting blather Oprah spews the rest of the time. What it seemed to say was, We talk about how we're all beautiful and special and desirable 'in our own way,' but in truth, we all know what hot isand what it isn'tand that's just how life goes. The rest ain't nothin' but talk. To put it another way: Yeah, we're all beautiful, but some of us are a little bit more beautiful. And the more you look like a Barbie doll, the more that's likely to be true. (Incidentally, it may or may not bear adding that both Oprah and Jones appeared on yesterday's show with their hair combed long and straight.)

Or consider this: Sure, they built a nice little feel-good movie around Nikki Blonsky, the zoftig actress who plays the title role in Queen Sized. But you don't see her in too many romantic leads, now, do you?

* After a long period of vociferous public denials, Jone finally admitted that she had gastric-bypass surgery.

12 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I'm trying not to laugh out loud, Steve.

Because your point is...?

Anonymous said...

Queen Latifa seems to be getting a lot of work. What's her secret?

Noadi said...

I suppose I don't need to point out that larger women are desirable in many cultures. Beauty along with being very subjective is also very culturally driven. There are a few traits that are universally desirable like health, youth, symmetry, and waist to hip ratio but just about everything else is culture driven. I will say in Star Jones' case her former size (or possibly how she dressed at that size) obscured those desirable curves.

I like the movement to tell young women that they don't need to be stick thin models to be beautiful. It's generally an unattainable goal because being 5'10" and a size 2 is not normal. I'd like if our culture changed to prize a more normal body type on fashion runways and in movies. I'm not holding my breath though.

Steve Salerno said...

Noadi: Speaking just for me personally, I've always been drawn more to proportion than to sheer size per se. I.e., as long as there's some semblance of an "hourglass" (to use a very dated term), I've never really been that picky about the specific dimensions: just for argument's sake, a 38-29-41 can be as appealing as a 33-24-35. (And let's not leave out the face, which is probably more important overall, at least to me. Anyone can be slim, with enough effort. Not just anyone can be pretty.) I realize that that's still a form of bias--one could say I'm biased against women who don't have waistlines--but overall, I don't think I'm as bad as most guys (or gals, for that matter; women are often their own harshest critics). And let's face it, there's not much we can do about the body types that appeal to us. Until our tastes change.

Eliz: My "point" is that Oprah and many of the others who sing the "everyone is beautiful!" mantra don't even believe it themselves; they're just doing it for effect, or to pander to their audiences. Which is why I should've included the tag "hypocrisy" among the key-words for this post. Or maybe--being charitable--they're just trying very hard to live up to a noble perspective on life (but still failing in the end).

Athol Kay said...

Hetrosexual men just aren't all that interested in runway models anyway, so I really think the fashion industry et al is a red herring as a standard of beauty. Men aren't stealing Vogue to jerk off to. The only kind of ribs we're interested in seeing come with BBQ sauce.

Of course Star Jones is getting better action now. It used to be when she was standing sideways you couldn't tell which was the front and which was the back.

So yes I agree, all much ado about nothing, and it's pretty obvious to everyone what the average guy is interested in.

How are objectively ugly women meant to jedi mind trick themselves into thinking they are beautiful as men run from them? Ain't that crazy hard work?

Steve Salerno said...

Athol, thanks for weighing in; you have an interesting, edgy voice. But you know that. ;)

The problem you have is that you're looking at this logically, which is a major detriment in today's society. If "jedi mind tricks" didn't work--or at least allow people to walk around in a happy state of self-deception--there'd be no such animal as the self-help movement in the first place. And Oprah would still be on some obscure cable channel in Chi-town.

Elizabeth said...

I know, Steve, I was just being (a tad) provocative. 'Cuz the un-PC truth is that obese people are not sexually attractive. (What? I said it, yes. I am allowed one un-PC comment per quarter, no?) And Oprah knows it as well as everybody else.

Yes, they may have wonderful characters, be great people, etc. etc. All true. But when it comes to the sack, an excess of fat is just plain unappealing.

A little of it, yes, why not; but the Oprah/old Star Jones dimensions, or those of the Newman character's from "Seinfeld" for the male equivalent, just do not make our, er, hearts race. So to speak.

Unless one has this particular fetish, then it's a different story altogether.

BTW, Anon, Queen Latifah is talented, graceful and charming, that may be her secret. Of course we don't know much (anything, really) about her sex life.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, Anon, Queen Latifah is talented, graceful and charming, that may be her secret. Of course we don't know much (anything, really) about her sex life."

Not too charming. She is being sued by two former employees for not paying them. She is/was the Jenny Craig spokes person who never seemed to lose any weight! She has a lucrative contract with Covergirl and she keeps getting roles, which is pretty good if you look at her physical size.

Elizabeth said...

Ooh, thanks, (last) Anon. Indeed, hard to qualify that behavior as charming. Obviously you've been following QL adventures closer than I have.

Anonymous said...

'A little of it, yes, why not; but the Oprah/old Star Jones dimensions, or those of the Newman character's from "Seinfeld" for the male equivalent, just do not make our, er, hearts race. So to speak.
Do you have the statistics to back this up.'

Are they actually equivalent?

Who is 'our'

roger o'keefe said...

I find that as I get older I don't mind a woman with a bit more meat on her bones. I was never very fond of rail thin model types to begin with. I'll take Marilyn Monroe over Twiggy anyday. I do think that the change in my own tastes in women is nature's way of adjusting for the fact that we get older and are more accepting of the flaws in others. A woman who truly loves a man doesn't mind if he's losing his hair or getting a stomach, either.

Elizabeth said...

I do think that the change in my own tastes in women is nature's way of adjusting for the fact that we get older and are more accepting of the flaws in others. A woman who truly loves a man doesn't mind if he's losing his hair or getting a stomach, either.

As stunning as it may sound, I agree with you, Roger. :)