Since I have nothing to do until my summer job starts I rot away on YouTube watching cringe compilations to make myself feel better. Cringe compilations are known for capturing the vocal minority of any socio-political movement. A common sub-genre of cringe would be titled something like ‘bodypositive-sjw-feminist-fat-derogatoryword-cringe’. Whenever I watch a body positive campaigner in the said compilation, I partly agree yet mostly cringe at the internalised misogyny before my eyes. I don’t really take issue with their big and beautiful attitude, and I agree with some aspects of ‘thin privilege’. My main problem is when they call a fit body type on a female ‘unrealistic’ and that ‘fuck them skinny bitches’ attitude. I can’t help but think why is that – and why is the discourse target at women? I began to think about this double standard we have in how we discuss men and women working out in social media. For men to have a ripped body is sexy, positive, and natural – no questions asked. For women to achieve a nice body its – did she get her bum done? Did she get her tummy tucked? Did she starve herself? There’s always an assumption she cheated somehow. I’m not here to shove diets down your throats or give you a magic formula to a supermodel body. I want to discuss how our media portrays the female body and how that’s created an environment for internalised misogyny to fester.
Hollywood doesn’t like to see women suffer. Well they do – but its usually for someone else’s gain – see women in refrigerators trope. When it comes to female characters bettering themselves and their bodies, there’s almost no screen time dedicated to that action. Think about all the tv shows where a female character was overweight, and she comes back from fat camp to reveal her hot new body. Think about how Monika Gil in portrayed in friends. Her transition from fat to thin is treated as a shock – a juxtaposition – a joke. Do we see her working out and struggling over a series of flashbacks? No! ….mostly because it’s a comedy… But think about the amount of men that we see train and realistically struggle on screen. There are so many male role models, so many Rockys and sexy 80s montages. Even within the modern day superhero genre, we see the male heroes struggle and succeed with a physical disability of some kind. Tony Stark has a dying heart, Captain America starts out as a skinny boi, Dr Strange had to deal with crippled hands. When female heroes are introduced their skills and body are already perfect – Wonder Women is the best fighter on the island, Black Widow kicks ass. Within nerd discourse how many female characters are accused of being a perfect ‘Mary Sue’. One might argue that these actresses are already rocking hot bods – what’s so unrealistic about that? Something weird happens when we go into the cinema. We have a suspension of disbelief. If that suspension is jeopardised, then everything on screen is deemed as fake. Suffering is realism. When we deny female characters the ability to struggle on screen to achieve a goal we end up infantilising them or putting them on a pedestal like a goddess.
The Bride from Kill Bill is a woman who knows how to struggle. I watched it when I was 10 (don’t tell my mum), and it was the first time I was invested in seeing a female character struggle and win. There’s a poignant scene of the bride struggling to drag her frail body into a car after emerging from a 4-year coma. Million Dollar Baby is another good one. But both films came out in the early 2000s when body positivity discourse was anorexia centric. Apart from a couple of dance films, it’s hard to find anything mainstream, western, that’s come out in the past five years where a female character has physically struggled over the course of the film/series. There’s season four of Nickelodeon’s Legend Of Korra a teen animation – but you’ve either never heard of it or despise its shoddy rushed writing.
Even real-life women aren’t allowed to have ‘perfect’ bodies without having some form of misogyny attached to it. Think about the banner of celeb gossip along the side of the daily mail. Titles will read ‘SHOCKING! X lost baby belly in a dramatic weight loss…’ In general, the words used to describe a women’s weight loss are sensational instead of positive. Allegations of surgery or some stupid liquid diet will be made. Wendy Williams is the epitome of this way of thinking. She is the bane of female society. She does nothing but criticise and sensationalise female success. She starts every sentence with ‘allegedly…’ then spews some bullshit. And her audience – her female audience – eats every word up eternalising that misogyny and spreading around their gossipy disease. Even shows like Supersize vs Superskinny or anything TLC are edited dramatically, in a way that dehumanised the subject. Insta gram models with fit bodies have to deal with thousands of sexualised comments – very rarely do you read ‘damn bb dat cholesterol is low🍆 💧 💧 💧’. Women’s outer bodies are something to ogle at whilst concern for her insides are brushed off.
The final point I’d like to make is on the weight loss industry. Our consumer society wants to pedal as many products onto women as possible. Diets are sold as sensational – women are promised results within weeks. Of course, they get no results when their diet isn’t backed by science. The average woman gives up on a diet by week five. Those ‘cringy’ body positive campaigners are gonna think a diet isn’t realistic because they’ve been sold bullshit. My sister used to be a UK size 22. It took about eight years, strict balanced diets, exercise and getting out of shitty enabling relationships to get to a size 10/12. She started off on sh*tty fad diets, but they never worked – she was realistic and got help from her GP. It was a struggle for her, but she pulled through and finally achieved her dream of having a baby, so she’s been somewhat of an inspiration to me. I’m sure if the media took the time to realistically portray women in their struggle with weight there would be more positive female role models for children to look up to. It’s an important issue especially when the government is calling childhood obesity an epidemic.