Lady Gaga’s tweet about exercise and diet has turned some heads and with good reason. Not only is she perpetuating unhealthy ideas about health and exercise, but for someone committed to fighting for the underdog–you would think she would be sensitive about making casual mention of not eating enough. And as a role model, you would hope she would realize how much people internalize her words. But despite these transgressions and what she may want us to believe, Gaga is a human being–one that is functioning under extraordinary pressure to fit into a certain body type. Despite, concocting an image that is supposed to be anti-mainstream, she still embodies mainstream standards of beauty, namely being thin. And it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that she has to work hard at it.
Jezebel discussed yesterday how, while her tweet was problematic, it is unfair that when women talk about being healthy they are chastised for it.
I’m sure Our Lady of the Gaga didn’t intend to set off a firestorm with those words, but her faux pas illustrates an unfortunate point — when it comes to talking about diet and exercise, it seems female celebrities must adhere to a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy or risk offending the masses. Once again, we lady-types just can’t win.
Perhaps there is a stigma to talking about health and exercise–but I don’t think it is because the feminist mafia dominates the airwaves. Instead, I think, if there is a cultural shame around talking about fitness it is because we are supposed to believe that the bodies of women in the public eye are attained somewhat effortlessly.
But, ultimately, I don’t think people are shamed for talking about their diet and fitness regimens at all–they talk about it constantly. There are entire magazines and articles dedicated to how Eva Mendes stays fit, or who is doing what cleanse or Gwyneth Paltrow not eating anything that casts a shadow. As a culture, we are obsessed with staying thin and all the myriad ways we can get there.
There is no shame is talking about all the work you do to be thin and there shouldn’t be, but we should be very critical of how health and “what you look like,” seems to have become the same thing. Doing what it takes to look like Lady Gaga and “being healthy” are two very different things. The problem is that our fat hating culture has fused these two things together–as though what you look like and how thin you are is an accurate measure of your health.
This grand gesture has made those critical of a culture that makes false generalizations about health and perpetuates unreal standards of beauty very aware of the tropes and images that are drawn when people say someone is “healthy.”
Yes, being healthy is great–and something that we should all be focused on–living happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. But what is healthy for each of us is a much more personal thing that is based on your needs, you body and your genetics. General health and fitness advice would be great, but it tends to perpetuate a culture that privileges a certain body type over others as opposed to actually being about getting healthy. Advocates of “healthy lifestyles” often miss the larger point which is the images we see in the media of fit people shouldn’t be our models for success. They are often unrealistically thin and a far cry from what you have to look like to be healthy. Instead we should be working towards solutions that prioritize self-acceptance.
It is not surprising to hear that Gaga doesn’t eat much and works out a lot to maintain what she looks like. But it is sad that women still face so much pressure to look a certain way which often comes at the cost of living a truly balanced and healthy life, instead obsessively focused on staying thin and fitting into a very specific aesthetic.