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.
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:
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.