Posted by HSG on June 08, 2005 at 17:09:36:
When television shows, or films, or magazines, or other media projects depict plus-size women as unattractive, or possessing poor self-image, or lacking in social skills, or dressing in unflattering ways, the creators of such projects often attempt to evade charges of prejudice or bigotry by resorting to a very slippery defence.
They claim that their negative presentations merely reflect "reality."
And what makes this defence so cunning is that it is technically accurate.
Undoubtedly, some full-figured women do consider their looks unremarkable. Some believe that they lack self-esteem. Some consider themselves deficient in the social-graces department. And as surely as some companies are still producing muumuus, some individuals are still buying them.
So, yes, a negative portrayal of full-figured women is reflective of "reality," in a certain sense.
But here is the important point:
It is only a selective reality.
As we all know, (and as the majority of the public would know, if they were ever shown evidence of this fact,) there are millions of plus-size women who bear no relation whatsoever to the aforementioned stereotype. Society is brimming with confident, captivating, curvy vixens who regularly dress to kill.
For the media to portray plus-size women exclusively according to the self-loathing stereotype, and to refuse to represent women who are goddesses incarnate, is a deliberate choice on their part. It is a selection--a selection made by a relatively small cadre of individuals at various level of power, from ad-agency executives (as we have seen), to magazine editors, to Hollywood producers.
And whether the individuals who choose to depict "reality" in such an anti-plus way are themselves bigoted or not is immaterial. Their actions do perpetuate existing prejudices. And until the public sees a different selection of reality, a selective reality that spotlights full-figured women who are beautiful, and confident, and charismatic, then the current negative stereotypes will remain uppermost in people's minds.
Another method of suppressing plus-size beauty by abusing "reality" is a ploy that one might call, constructing reality.
To outline this ploy, we will draw a historical parallel which may seem a tad extreme, but which will make the ramifications of this practice quite clear.
Some of the darker episodes of human history are those in which certain groups of people have been deprived of basic human necessities, and have been forced to live in inhospitable conditions.
(Readers who are aware of some of the more unfortunate moments of human history will know of several tragic situations to which the above description applies.)
During these shameful episodes--as if to add insult to injury--the groups that were forced to live in such circumstances have ofttimes been scrutinized, evaluated, and characterized according to the conditions in which they lived--even though their degrading conditions had been imposed on them.
In a certain sense, one could say that evaluations of groups in these conditions did represent "reality"--but they only examined a constructed reality, not a natural one.
The parallel to the topic of this forum is obvious. Many media enterprises--from television programs, to magazines, to movies--claim to be representing "reality" when they depict full-figured women as being unhappy with their appearance. But this "reality" is merely the consequence of a culture in which anti-plus propaganda is hammered into women's minds from birth, and in which women have been taught to be ashamed of their natural inclinations.
Undoubtedly, therefore, one could conduct surveys, or "market research," or public-opinion polls that would conclude that portions of the public do not yet embrace size celebration. But that would only reveal to what degree modern media efforts at constructing a curve-o-phobic reality have succeeded.
The real question is, how does one respond to this situation? By accepting it? Or worse, by capitalizing on it? By putting all thought of principle aside? Anyone who does so might be regarded as a very sorry excuse for a human being.
The only ethical reaction to this kind of cultural injustice is to attempt to change it--by any means at one's disposal. Thus, a film director should insist on featuring full-figured characters in positive roles. Ad executives should insist on supporting plus-size publications. Magazine editors should feature size-positive editorial and advertising content in those publications. Educators should combat anti-plus practices by their students--or by the school administration. Parents should encourage their daughters to adore their natural figures. And so forth . . .
The only reason that modern "reality" exists in its current form is because the application of human will has constructed it that way. And the onus is on everyone who to finds today's reality wanting to refashion that reality in a different manner.
With these considerations in mind, proponents of size celebration should think carefully before they adopt "reality" ("real" beauty, "real" women, etc.) as a catchword to define their philosophy. "Reality," as we have seen, is prone to abuse, and can be spun whichever way its presenters wish.
And in today's world, the small cadre of individuals who resent Classical beauty have held the cultural tiller for so long, that they have successfully constructed a media "reality" that reflects their own biases. Thus, a good portion of today's social "reality" is nothing more than a reflection of that size-negative indoctrination.
The better approach to combating anti-plus prejudice is to embrace idealty, i.e., to champion plus-size beauty as a superior ideal of beauty--the Classical ideal, the true ideal, the timeless ideal of beauty that held sway throughout Western history, and will soon return to cultural prominence.
Only by letting the world see this ideal--and aspire to it--will today's "reality" free itself from its 20th century molding, and return to its natural form.
Barbara Brickner offering a different vision of reality, for Nordstrom, Summer 2005:
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