I have acne, my knees are round, my left breast is bigger than the right one, my abs are not flat (and never will be), but surprisingly enough, Iâ€™m OK with all of these things. Two years ago, though, I would not have been. I am a girl who has gone from being obese to weighing practically nothing. While I did not necessarily suffer from anorexia, I dangerously flirted with the disorder. I felt as though my entire body was socially inadequate, so in high school I determined that the only way to be accepted was to be skinny like all of the celebrities that were in my home state of California. In a mere year and a half I lost 70 pounds, at the end of it I looked like a skeleton and was in critical health. After years of therapy and seeing a nutritionist, I am finally at a healthy weight. Now as a college freshman in Texas, I try to promote more realistic expectations of the female form through my work with the campus Womenâ€™s Center.
At V to the 10th in New Orleans, we had the privilege of attending a panel regarding body issues that was lead by Rosario Dawson (RENT), Kerry Washington (The Last King Of Scotland), Ali Larter (Heros, Legally Blonde), and Amber Tamblyn (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).
These four incredible women were completely down to earth and openly shared their struggles with an industry that pushes young actresses towards obtaining the â€œidealâ€? body. They discussed how they are consistently encouraged to dress provocatively for an audition, or as the agents say, â€œIf you have to wear a turtleneck, make sure itâ€™s tight, tight, tight!â€? All four expressed how little control they had once a magazineâ€™s editors carried off their photos. They spoke about the concept that the media essentially commits â€œvisual violence against womenâ€? by often airbrushing against an actressâ€™s will. Magazines also tend to overstate what they do not enjoy (such as certain fatty foods) while minimizing all of the quirky things that make them more relatable. This keeps actresses who are feminists from ever getting these positive messages to their young fans through the clichÃ© top teenage magazines. As for being criticized for being too fat, they all agreed that we as young women should stop telling one another (and ourselves) that weâ€™re not good enough. Rosario added that not only the media, but her family also gives her a hard time about being too skinny or not looking â€œLatino enoughâ€?. But as she put it, she is â€œperfectly imperfectâ€?, eats a lot, and isnâ€™t giving into the expectations that cultures set.
Throughout the panel, each of them offered advice on how to embrace yourself and tactics on how to resist negative body obsessions. Amber Tamblyn draws attention to how silly the whole notion of being super skinny is through comedy. When sheâ€™s out at lunch and is offered a bread bowl, she will reply, â€œOh, no thank you. Iâ€™m trying to get back to my birth weightâ€?. Ali Larter advocated for all women to â€œembrace [themselves]â€? and to â€œhonor the body that you have.”
When they were just about out of time, Kerry Washington stressed that even after they left the stage, they would continue talking about this issue and encouraged the audience to do the same. Our society is wrapped around the notion that to become famous or well-liked, one has to be flawless. Not only is it far from the truth, it is impossible. Ultimately, we need to focus less on those degrading comments and spend more time creating diverse, accurate representations of women.
(SMU in NOLA are students Jessica Andrewartha, Meg Bell, and Allie Thompson.)