Alex Blaze

Yeah, go ahead, blame the gays

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 31, 2007 7:15 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Beth Ditto, body image, eating disorders, The Gossip

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Bil posted Gossip vocalist Beth Ditto's statement on body image this morning, and it got me thinking abuot the prevalence of eating disorders among gay and bi men. According ot a study published in International Journal of Eating Disorders, 15% of gay or bi men have at one point in their lives had an eating disorder, as opposed to about 8% of heterosexual women. This doesn't surprise me - the pressure that comes from gaystream media of what's hot is an image that could pretty much be the same hairless, bulked up white guy in every ad, every photo, every magazine cover. The amount of repetition of this image makes me wonder why these ad agencies don't just take one picture of one guy and use that photo over and over again.

The perfect body, which is unattainable for the majority of men, is enough to have impressed upon me, and I'm sure many other gay men, the idea that we're just not worth as much as those people who do maintain that body. I remember back in my youth (haha), my attitude on what I had to do before going out completely depended on whether or not I was going to possibly run into other gay men. I knew that I was going to be judged and exactly what sort of body I was going to be compared to, and depending on how I felt about my body at the time, I knew that I either wasn't going to measure up or that I was going to completely flop. I know I'm not the only gay man to have stayed home because he thought he was fat that evening or his hair wasn't right or whatever was the insecurity of the day.

This post was originally going to be a response to Ditto's comments, but honestly I don't even know if we'd be on a level playing field here. I mean, she says that only gay men are responsible for women's negative body image, and then says that Paris Hilton and Victoria Beckham are part of the problem. She said that women are the only victims, but as studies clearly indicate, there are numerous men who have eating disorders.

But I think what's going on in her statement is more than just a little inaccuracy - it's probably internalized homophobia. (Is it internalized homophobia if she's a lesbian parroting stereotypes of gay men?) I'll admit that having a poor image of who queer people really are is easy considering the lack of diversity and the lack of accuracy in our portrayals in the media. Consider the way she blames gay men for size zero:

If there's anyone to blame for size zero, it's not women. Blame gay men who work in the fashion industry and want these women as dolls.
She only needs to give those gay men lisps and manicured dogs for her caricature to be complete. She, of course, completely ignores the straight men who are editors of magazines and producers of television shows and fashion designers who have a lot more invested in maintaining this image of women and a lot more time, numbers, and money to do so. I would imagine that for her, subconsciously perhaps, straight men are beyond reproach. I've seen this so often when it comes to queer people who are critical of something LGBTQueer people do. If straight people do it, do it more often, do it to a greater degree, whatever, it's not noticed or responded to appropriately. But if it's part of the gaystream or mainstream portrayal of queer people, then suddenly it becomes a source of alarm disproportionately greater than when straight people do whatever it is that is being criticized.

I'm all for criticism of queers, I do it often on this blog, but when it comes without a sense of perspective, without an understanding of the lives of queer people, and without nuance, it ends up sounding like a fundie or a hater is saying it. Beth Ditto may be a lesbian, but what she said is just as erasing of poor body image among gay men and just as demeaning and essentializing of our people as when a straight person says it.

Anyway, I'm off to the gym now.

(Photo: The Age)


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I'll agree Alex, Ditto is way off the mark.

In fact, I personally blame women- for following the men on this one.