Friday, January 14, 2011

Parts in the Press

In keeping with the theme of the month, I thought I'd post some articles that deal with a body image and weight loss topic that always seemed ridiculous to me: pregnancy and weight gain. Sure, too much weight gain during pregnancy and a person can develop gestational diabetes- not fun- but too little weight gain and that person isn't really doing their future child (or themselves) much good. But since most countries in the "West" are obsessed with weight, high expectations are often set by the media and enforced by our peers (and, lamentably, our own inner voices) about how our bodies should look before, during, and after pregnancy. Here are some links, with commentary.

First, commentary from Amy Adams about pregnancy and her upcoming movie revealed more than intended. Not only did she play up the uber-motherhood angle (especially being "vulnerable" and "softer"), but she also revealed that she loved the physical changes she underwent while pregnant: "The whole purpose of my body was no longer to fit into a sample size. It was to nurture another being. So I always felt great, no matter what I was wearing." Hooray for admitting that being bigger felt good! Unfortunately, that message is quite lost in an article that's filled with photos of her looking skinny and quips from the author about "just how much weight" Amy's lost.

Second comes the "let's conceal the pregnancy bump!" from Natalie Portman. The article lauds Portman's choice of dress at a recent awards show because it "artfully" conceals her baby bump. To this I have to ask: when someone's pregnant, what's wrong with their baby bump? Are they not allowed to have a bump because they're a celebrity or because they're human? Since when is it considered a wise choice to try and hide a pregnancy that's already been announced to the world? If you're pregnant and announcing it, why bother?

Third isn't really a news link, but an example of how hegemony culture has valorized skinniness to the point where doctors and nutritionists have to warn us not to try and lose pregnancy weight the way celebrities seem to. Unfortunately, the article still focuses on "getting your body back," as though pregnancy and childbirth aren't things that can alter your shape forever. Think about it: the process of being pregnant stretches your skin, loosens your ligaments, and even alters your bone structure. Looking the same as you did before pregnancy not only hides the fact that your body's done something incredible, but also buys into a culture that suggests that the physical act of becoming a parent turns your body into something shameful because it's no longer been used just for sex. Remember: bodies are pleasing and fun, but bodies do a lot more. Valuing your body for all that it's done (and will do) is a much better idea than lamenting the fact that the hegemony doesn't categorize you solely as a sex object anymore.

And beyond pregnancy, I bring you a very exciting article from (of all places) the Daily Mail, in which Raven Symoné of "The Cosby Show" and "That's So Raven" says that she liked her figure better when she was heavier. Read that again. She liked her figure better when she was heavier. How many people can claim that, both publicly and shamelessly? I think it's especially encouraging that she pointedly talks about the gazes she receives, and how before she lost weight people "were actually looking at me for a real reason" instead of just looking at her body. While I'm not sure I believe her story about why she lost weight- she claims a lack of stress- I like what she has to say. Wouldn't it be great if we could all like our bodies the way they are?

This concludes our brief journey through bodies in the news. If you're wondering why so much of this article is celebrity-focused, think about it: not only are celebrity bodies a constant topic of conversation in the gossip press, but in a world where Americans are surveyed to find out which celebrities they want to get plastic surgery to look like, how celebrities are shaped and talk about their figures- and how newspapers, tabloids, and we talk about their figures too- has a great deal of influence over how we view our own.

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