2007 was the year of the big girl.
Jennifer Hudson received a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her portrayal of Effie in "Dream Girls." She was also on the March cover of Vogue. (I don't really think Jennifer counts as a big girl. She's only a size 10. But I've ranted about that before, so I'll just leave it be.)
Then there was the popularity of the re-make of Hairspray, starring Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad. With Queen Latifah singing the praises of being "Big, Blonde and Beautiful," who could disagree? And who can forget the hawt cover shoots that Beth Ditto of The Gossip did for British mag NME, as well as two covers for feminist mag Bust? Clearly, big is in.
Along with these portrayals of big girls in the spotlight is a corresponding (and contrasting) message that body image and eating disorders are still a problem for women. Two books came out last year that discuss the topic.
The first book, Perfect Girls: Starving Daughters put forward a very controversial thesis. Feminist author Courtney Martin argues that feminism has had an unintended consequence of contributing to eating disorders in young women. While that argument may sound counterintuitive at first, Martin makes a persuasive case. By telling girls that they can be anything, feminists have unwittingly told girls that the have have to be everything. The wonder woman complex that tells women they can bring home the bacon and fry it in the pan has contributed to this idea that women have to be perfect. And this, in turn, contributes to concern over having a perfect body.
Another book, The Cult of Thinness by Sharlene Hesse-Biber, takes a look at self-esteem and body image and documents how thinness has become normalized in our society. Nothing new here. And, frankly, anyone who has read up on eating disorders will find this to be a bit of a dry read.
One of the most interesting articles that I read this year on the topic was in the Winter Issue of Bitch magazine. Author Lily-Rygh Glen argued that within the fat acceptance movement there is a strong stigma against those who diet for health reasons. For those within the movement, there is an assumption that anyone who diets has an eating disorder, even though there are many legitimate health reasons to diet. The author said that she was ostracized from several fat support groups when she started to change her disordered eating habits. Is this another unconscious effect of the women's movement? Has feminism unconsciously contributed to an environment where those who diet are viewed as self-hating sell outs?
Finally, a study released earlier this year announced that if you have fat friends, you're more likely to be fat yourself. The message here: if you're fat, you deserve to be alone so that you don't spread your obesity like a communicable disease. If you ask me, it's studies like this and media coverage of young starlets that contributes to fat phobia in our society, not the feminist movement.
So I say, if you're a big girl like me: holla! Let's celebrate the fact that our time has finally come and fellow big girls like Beth Ditto and Queen Latifah are making inroads for more of us to take our well overdue turn in the spotlight.
And I do want to add that I've very concerned about the state of body image in the gay male community. Too many gay men I know hate their bodies. And this obsession with thinnness is contributing to the meth epidemic that is killing our community. There hasn't been enough attention paid to this by the LGBTQ community or those within the field of treating eating disorders. So if you're a gay man who hates your body, may I suggestion the same thing I said to the ladies? In the words of Connie & Carla: "worship that body. It's the only one you've got!"