Their Bodies, Ourselves

Following on from our discussion in class, and after watching and thinking about the Jhally documentary, I’ve been thinking a lot about the bodies of female celebrities, particularly how these bodies are discussed within cultural discourse.

In particular, I was thinking about these comments by Mindy Kaling, which have been floating about on tumblr. Kaling is responding to questions about her confidence which she interprets about a comment on how she is confident in the face of her marginality; not only her ethnicity and status as a woman in comedy, but also because of her size. This reminded me of the Jhally, insofar as Kaling is always being connected, due to her gender, to her body, both in terms of size and of race. Her intersectionality and the margins that she represents seems to discomfort people enough to question how she can be so confident and defiant, when the role she is meant to play in dominant ideology is quite different.

Image

As an aside, Mindy Kaling’s weight is the fourth Google autocomplete suggestion, which really tells you all you need to know about her place within the culture (the others of course being related to her appearance and her relationship status). 

Furthermore, as I mentioned in class, it doesn’t seem like you can mention female celebrities bodies these days without mentioning Lena Dunham. Dunham often is asked about her body (see this Playboy Q&A where she is asked what she would do if she woke up with the body of a Playboy bunny). At the recent Emmy awards, the New York Times asserted that Dunham supplied beauty in “abundance”, if “somewhat sloppily”. Moreover, according to Elizabeth Wurtzel, Dunham has “inexcusable thighs”. It seems that for every mention of her work, there are several more about her weight.

ImageI feel like there’s a theme here with the obsession with weight, appearance, and relationship status… 

Where does this leave the rest of us, given that the ideal body type is one that a very small percentage of women naturally have? Mostly, I think the negative reaction to these bodies (which are non-normative compared to the rest of cultural texts nowadays, but are certainly more representative of the general population than most models) is a way of striking out at women who are trying to create a new visual language that doesn’t necessarily depend on male sexual desire.

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One thought on “Their Bodies, Ourselves

  1. I love that you used screenshots of Google searches to prove your point. It’s such a simple thing, but so telling about what the majority of people focus on when it comes to female celebrities. I just tried it with George Clooney and Brad Pitt and nothing about either of their appearances came up (but networth was in the top 2 for both, which I think brings up another issue entirely).

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