Some folks believe gaining weight is the worst thing a woman can do.
One of them is running for president.
Setting the gold standard for misogyny, ( “No one demeans women the way I do, believe me”) Donald Trump has been a fat shamer and critical of any woman who falls outside his definition of “attractive” for decades.
Now the well deserved blowback to this orange bloviator and his fat shaming remarks about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado have been justifiably hu-u-uge.
Flailing around maniacally defending his beliefs rather than evolve beyond them, Trump’s behavior is one we are all well acquainted with.
Women have been dealing with men like The Donald all our lives.
A Weighty Subject
It is still difficult for most women to be body positive in a culture where sadly it seems no bodies perfect. In a culture with a disordered definition of beauty, body shaming has long infected our culture and like a true pathogen it is insidious, chameleon like, and ultimately harmful to girls and women.
And it starts at a young age.
Unless inoculated at birth, these poisonous beliefs enter our bloodstream at a tender age, fed by a life long steady drip of negativity from the media. Due to the constant infusion it is often hard to eradicate.
I know it was for me.
Go Figure Learning – Who Counts
At what age does a girl begin to know her body size matters?
To those of us who came of age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the fat shaming story line being peddled by Trump as though it were gospel, hearkens back to an earlier, all too familiar time when the imperative to be thin was even more exacting.
By the late sixties, our cultures obsession with thinness expanded to include that last remaining group- children, who were given the same messages as adults.
Watching our own mothers join the Metrical for lunch bunch, we girls absorbed it all, including all the pejorative humiliating qualities our culture associated with fatness. Fat was perceived as disgusting and so were those who suffered from it.
A whole generations of girls was growing up with a body standard that was impossibly thin and it was against this standard we measured ourselves. There was only one singular body ideal- thin.
The new standard that made its way into the health world, beauty world, and fashion world even infiltrated our comic books.
Nothing Comical About Fat Shaming
Having cut our teeth on Barbie and her improbable anatomy, it only made sense our next stop was in the comic book world of Millie the Model, preparing us before we entered ground zero of body shaming – Glamour, Mademoiselle and Seventeen fashion magazines.
Beautiful Millie Collins,whose figure was as anatomically cartoonish as Barbies, worked as a model for the exclusive Hanover Modelling Agency.
The comic bore an uncanny resemblance to Archie and Veronica but was slightly more sophisticated only because they were all young working professional and not high school kids, though with their attitudes it was often hard to tell the difference.
Like other Marvel comic book characters with super powers, this supermodel had a power and it was her beauty which gave her powers far beyond those of mortal women. Doors opened magically, problems melted away, rules broken just because of the irresistible power of her envied gorgeousness.
Wherever Millie went she was the center of attention.
Enter the fat friend.
Her best friend and confident naturally was a boisterous big-boned girl named Daisy, the agency’s wardrobe assistant and later Millie’s roommate. Besides being plump, she is less than traditionally beautiful, posing no threat to our supermodel Millie, and is the butt of endless jokes.
Jokes were constantly made at Daisy’s expense always seemingly going over her head. Portrayed as confident, we of course were in on the joke – the poor thing didn’t know how truly unattractive she was.
In this story line, Millie’s cousin who she has never met is visiting from Alaska and planning on becoming a supermodel in N.Y. like Millie. Family legend was that the two were identical.
When it is revealed that she is a much “larger” version of Millie, though equally beautiful of face, it is a laugh riot, at the ridiculous notion that a fat girl could ever dream of modelling.
Actually become a real model? Fat chance.
The lessons learned were simple.
If I wanted to grow up to be the kind of girl girl-watchers watch, the kind that could wear an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini, I better curb my appetite, count my calories, and drink Diet Pepsi.
Next: Be a Model Or Look Like One
By 1970 as I entered my teens the insistence of thinness escalated not unlike the Vietnam war.
It wasn’t long before I traded my comic book models to the equally unrealistic worlds of real fashion models as I primed to dive headlong into the pages of fashion magazines.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.