Before I get into stuff, I want to apologize to y’all for my unannounced extended absence. I won’t bore you with the dull details, but sufficed to say life stuff got in the way of blog stuff.

I also apologize, because I’m about to go on a rant. I know it’s kind of shitty when you haven’t seen someone in awhile and then the first thing they do is start complaining. But I’ve got some thoughts that are making my brain itch, so please indulge me while I purge them. I promise to hit you with some fun stuff (and new developments!) super soon, ‘kay?

Let’s get down to brass tacks…

This morning I read an article by Yummy Mummy Club contributor Kat Armstrong. She writes about Jessica Alba’s recent admission that she wore a corset for three months in order to regain her pre-pregnancy figure after her second child was born. In the wake of this revelation, apparel companies are now developing post-partum corsets so that women everywhere can pretend they never gave birth.

Kat’s take is that this is some straight up bullshit. And Yummy Mummy Club founder/editor/all around cool person Erica Ehm agrees.

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.40.16 AM

I get it. It pissed me off when I read about it too.  The idea that women’s bodies should quickly – or in many cases – ever return to a pre-pregnancy state is awful, body-shaming nonsense. Companies are taking advantage of Alba’s statement to hawk their postpartum corset thingies,  makes me seethe! But it also makes me sad. I tweeted that to Erica Ehm, which led to a brief but interesting discussion:

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.48.37 AM Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.49.06 AM Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.48.37 AMScreen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.49.06 AMScreen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.49.34 AMScreen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.49.55 AM Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 11.50.24 AM

 

I gotta pause for sec here ’cause my inner 12-year-old is having a moment.

 

OMG ERICA EHM TOTALLY TALKED TO ME ON TWITTER!!!

 

As I was saying…

I couldn’t adequately express my thoughts in 140 characters, so I’ll expand on them here. I understand and largely agree with Erica and Kat. As a Hollywood celebrity Jessica Alba is a high-profile woman with a great deal of influence and ultimately she does bear responsibility for her message and her choices. I also wish that Jessica Alba and her privileged Hollywood cohorts would use their power to promote kinder, gentler image standards for their fellow women. But also feel like that’s a lot to expect because despite their wealth and sky-high profiles I suspect that   body-positivity is especially difficult for celebrity women.

I worked as an actor for a good part of my life, including a wee bit of film and television work when I was growing up in Toronto. Even with limited exposure, it became very obvious very quickly that what I looked like mattered as much as – if not more so – than my ability. I was told that in order to work I’d have to “fix” things. My hair was too wild and frizzy. My skin had spots. I once had a casting director tell me that I should lost ten pounds because I was a bit too chunky. “Not for real life. Just for television,” was how she qualified it.

That was my experience as a super, small-time actor and it did a little damage. So I can only imagine the messages someone like Jessica Alba has been receiving about her body as a high-stakes player in billion-dollar image industry.  According to Wikipedia Jessica Alba began working in film and television at thirteen. Imagine that.

 

Like really imagine it.

Imagine being a thirteen-year-old girl going to auditions and being told by casting people, agents, directors and other influential adults that being thin and pretty is part of your job.

Imagine being a teenage girl observing the fucked up reality that in Hollywood getting fat is grounds for being fired.

Imagine being twenty years old and working your ass off as the lead of a television series, but instead of talking about your acting everyone is focused on how hot you look in your costume.

Imagine being a very young woman who’s suddenly very successful, with an agent, a manger and probably a host of other people who are personally invested in keeping you looking a certain way, because their livelihood depends on your ability to get work.

Imagine that every acting job you get come with a big side of mandatory promotional work that is largely about being “hot” and skinny on the cover of various magazines.

Imagine living with the knowledge that if your body changes in any significant way, it will be broadcast worldwide in magazines and on entertainment news shows. Especially if you gain weight.

Imagine feeling that all your money and power is conditional on your ability to look a certain way. And that if you don’t look like that, it would probably get taken away.

Imagine you’ve just had a baby and knowing that the media will be monitoring your “post-baby body”. If you get thin again, you’ll be congratulated. If you don’t, you’ll be crucified. But either way your body is matter of public record and discussion.

So yes, I am angry about Alba’s admission. But the mere fact that she felt this was necessary also makes me feel sad for her. She’s spent more than half of her young life working in an industry that has some pretty fucked up attitudes people’s bodies. It’s not entirely surprising that she places such a high value on regaining a thin figure so soon after having a baby.

Many of us have felt the negative influence of Hollywood and mainstream media standards of beauty. But the people we see in those images have are also being subjected to the same standards, often from a young impressionable age and on a very intense level. It’s no wonder women like Alba resort to extremes in these matter. So while I do share  the rage, I can’t help but feel some bit of compassion as well.

Comments

  1. kat says:

    Hey there,

    I am a (mostly former) model and actress, too, so I absolutely know where that pressure is and how it is intense and brutal. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist or that Hollywood isn’t a vacuum of unattainable beauty. What I am saying, and what I say regularly on my blog about this sort of thing is that we all need to stop feeding into this bullshit hype. Hollywood women especially.

    Yes, part of their jobs is to be “standard” beauties. But when they basically have to torture themselves to achieve it? That’s when they should say no. They are millionaires, every one, and have the means to walk away. Yet they don’t. They continue to buy into this because they feel awful because regular women buy into their hype. They get plastic surgery, they force their daughters to diet and they say things like, “oh god, i’m so fat” when they are absolutely beautiful women.

    We’re not seeing the forest for the trees when we’re talking about the Hollywood machine as being sad and to feel compassion. Part of compassion should include tough love. And I say ENOUGH! Jessica Alba shouldn’t feel it necessary to corset. Kim Kardashian shouldn’t be called a FAT PIG every single day just for being pregnant.

    We should be standing united to rage against this bullshit hypocrisy where a woman needs to not feel enough even after she’s had a child and a 300 year old man-corpse is remarrying his next trophy wife….who he’ll throw away in 2 years when she’s past HER best before date.

    Yes, it’s awful that women feel they need to do this, but we shouldn’t stand by and let it happen again and again and again.

    • Nadine says:

      Hi Kat,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. Again, I largely agree with you. I was also disturbed when I read the original article. I was especially incensed to find out these awful garments are being mass-produced and marketed to women. The pressure on women to have taught postpartum figures is awful. It isn’t something I ever want to see normalized.

      So I’m 100% behind you when you say we need to band together and speak out. This is some seriously toxic shit. I’m glad you wrote what you wrote and as I said, Jessica Alba’s admission pissed me off too. I’m sorry if this post sounded like I was arguing the points you made. It is important to be critical and we shouldn’t let these things go by without calling bullshit. It just occurred to me as I was reading your piece, that people like Alba probably perpetuate this type of oppression because they are victims of it. That thought made me very sad and I wanted to explain why I felt more than anger on this issue.

      BTW, do not EVEN get me started on the Kim Kardashian hate-fest. It’s downright abusive!

  2. I think your empathetic reaction is the only sensible response.

    I look forward to the day when men and women both stop thinking they have a natural right to police, criticize, and shame the decisions made by a competent adult about her own body.

    • Nadine says:

      I look forward to the day when we all realize that other people’s bodies are no one else’s business, period.

      • Steve says:

        So writing an article like this is your way of staying out of Alba’s business?

        • Nadine says:

          Nah. It’s my way of transferring a public conversation to a format where I could express my opinion more precisely.

  3. Brenda says:

    I understand the knee-jerk reaction because- really? A CORSET?! On the other hand, the crazy monitoring of celeb bodies makes my brain explode. First, the baby bump watch, next the baby bump progress report and the comparison to other baby bumps (Kim Kardashian vs. The Dutchess of Cambridge, anyone?), then the post-birth weight watch. I like it when celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker come out and say that, yes, they lost the weight fast but they have a trainer and a chef and a nanny and it’s part of their job to be thin. A least it’s honest.
    Ok, now I’m ranting too…

    • Nadine says:

      One of my favourite celebrity fashion blogs is Tom and Lorenzo. I was SO happy a few weeks back when they posted some pictures of The DoC and straight up said, “We’re tempted to make comments about her pregnancy size but that’s some weak misogynistic tea. Her actual weight/shape/body is none of our business, so we’re just going to do our normal outfit analysis.” That’s a paraphrase, but it was so refreshing to see some media restraint around coverage of a celebrity pregnancy.

  4. GingerR says:

    Jessica Alba is in a hyper-competitive industry, and she’s well compensated.
    Rather than be disappointed in her actions to get back into the profession that she has chosen, I think she deserves applause for having not one but two children. For someone in show business she’s taken a major risk that she’ll be out of the game.

    Consider the minimum-wage Mom with children. She’s got to get back into the workforce nearly as quickly, nobody much cares if she’s got a round tummy, but she can hardly make ends meet. Why should I be outraged that JA put on a girdle when equally deserving women drag themselves back from childbirth and are hardly paid enough to live?

    I think move onto bigger things here.

    • Velda Hunter says:

      GingerR, I agree with you. All Jessica did was prepare to go back to work. I feel that we are overly concerned about choices women make about their own bodies. What if Jessica were a ballet dancer? Would we still be involved in shaming her for her efforts ? Why can’t we take the energy we exert shaming other women and direct that energy to educating and raising our children to be independent and free to make their own choices regardless of what they see in the media?

  5. SamiJ says:

    I don’t see what the big deal is- so she wore a compression garment after abdominal surgery- it was a recovery corset, designed for recovery after surgery. It’s not like she was wearing 3 spans girdles, or was being laced into a bustier. Compression garments are to facilitate recovery from surgery and are for men and women. Sure she may have worn it 24hrs to speed up the process of recovery, but I would give more shoot to ladies who had tummy tucks right after surgery rather than alba-because her method had benefits greater than a flat stomach.

  6. anotherjen says:

    You know how female actors with power could really make a difference? Through collective action. Stop doing all the stuff that feeds the beast, and do it together, with a plan.

    I heard a story once about a European dance troupe who got a new director from America. The American director told them all that they were wonderful dancers, but that they all had to lose weight. The dancers met behind the director’s back and decided they wouldn’t do it, and that they wouldn’t tell the director that. Three months later they were all at the same weight, and the director still thought they were wonderful dancers, and that they were all skinnier even though they weren’t.

  7. Tom Leykis says:

    1. She’s hot.
    2. She’s in the business of looking good.
    3. She wanted to get back in shape and feel good about herself.
    4. You’re not hot and you’re overweight and jealous of her appearance.
    5. Nobody cares what you think.

    • Nadine says:

      1. Correction: SUPER hot!

      2. I’m pretty sure she’s in the business of acting.

      3. Which is fine. What isn’t fine is the way the industry virtually requires famous actors to be youthful and slender, regardless of how talented and experienced they are.

      4. I’m not jealous of any of that stuff, but I am pretty envious that she got to guest star in an episode of The Office. I love that show!

      5. My mom does. So there.

  8. archmage_lo says:

    A corset, eh? I don’t even know how that would help lose weight. Then again, why would I care? What strikes me most is this assumption that Jessica Alba, or any other celebrity, owes us anything other than what we pay for. That sounds as bas a One Million Moms with their constant “we need to force people to do as we will and screw their lifes/beliefs/wants/needs”. It would be one thing if she got up and said something like what’s in this ad http://www.adrants.com/images/cadbury_house_fat_alien.jpg , but seriously. What happened to letting people just live their lives? We all make choices we would prefer not to. We all do things others don’t approve of. Just saying.

  9. StarFscker says:

    Her body; her choice. You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to tell her how she can or cannot dress. You are not the fashion police. You are an opinionated busy-body on the internet.

    You know who is an authority on what Jessica Alba should do and how she should dress?

    Jessica Alba.

  10. coco says:

    Have any of you wondered why rational people dislike all of you? Its because you sound and act like children who had their opinion popped. So now you go around shouting it to everyone now. Please do the world a favor and evolve your thinking. I really hope the bunch of you can get over the hate inside of you.

    • Nadine says:

      Hi Coco,

      Rational people have disliked me for as long as I can remember. I stopped wondering why ages ago.

      Cheers,
      Nadine

  11. Choomguy says:

    This stuff makes me barf. The fact that you, Kat and Erica, are commenting on it, think your opinion matters, and think that you can digitally coerce other free thinking beings on how to behave is a large part of he problem. Women dress, and style themselves for other women, with the possible exception being shallow males. All three of you project this image, I’ve looked. People will do what they want, the only thing that can change that is setting examples, and if people agree, they will follow. Hollywood is certainly not going to change for you or anyone else. So throw away your makeup, dress in a burlap sack, and stuff yourself to the gills, but ,make sure to set good examples. Otherwise, you are just a hypocritical synchophant.

    • Nadine says:

      I can barely convince my kid put on clean socks most days. I seriously doubt my words will effect Jessica Alba’s clothing choices. And that wasn’t really the point of what I wrote. But maybe you missed that because of the barfing. I know when I’m about the hurl the only thing I can concentrate on is getting to a toilet.

      Also? I would never wear a burlap sack. Too itchy. I *would* wear a Hefty Bag – smooth comfort and waterproof to boot!

  12. Dan says:

    It is sad that this even has to be discussed. The fact that anyone got angry with her says far more about those who are angry than it does about Jessica. She dealt with her body how she wants, and no one should care at all.

    Talk about body image, and expectations that her own personal body image should in any way involve them is egotistical in the extreme. I am appalled anyone even thinks discussing this does anything other than make them look foolish.

    I think she did something smart to deal with something she wanted to change. Good for her and her ingenuity.

  13. Jenny O'Henry says:

    So someone does what they want to with their body, and you have a problem with it?

    You automatically assume she was either forced to, or felt she had to because of ‘body issues’?

    Way to infantise a grown woman.

    Go feminism! Where women are free to do what they want as long as it’s approved by the sisterhood.

  14. Gabe says:

    I thought feminism was about equality and giving women the opportunity to make whatever choices they want…and here you are criticizing a woman for her choices. Yes, yes…I know…the “patriarchy made her do it”. If that’s the response you were thinking you might want to think really hard about that one…do you really want to say that women are incapable of making decisions for themselves, that any decision you don’t agree with just can’t possibly be because that’s what she wanted? Blaming everything on the “patriarchy” is just a way for you all to avoid accountability.

    • kristen says:

      Wow, I couldn’t have said it any better. I’m really disgusted by the judgement in this post. Jessica is a grown, professional woman. I think she can make the choices with what she wants to do with her body post baby to get back in the shape she wants to be. Rather than condescend, we should mind our own business.

    • Nadine says:

      After reading your first sentence, I literally stopped and said “the patriarchy made her do it”! Then I read your next sentence and I was like, “Holy SHIT! This dude is MAD psychic!”

      You should have your own TV show or something. You clearly have a gift.