Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Pushy, Overweight Women (and Other Stereotypes)

Seen the trailer for the movie Norbit? New York magazine summarizes for us: "In the recently rejuvenated Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy's latest comedy, he dons a fat suit yet again to play (opposite himself) an overweight, pushy woman who forces him into marriage."

You didn't really think that an overweight woman could land a man on his own volition, did ya?


Anonymous said...

Dr. Stacy,
On one hand I agree, on the other hand I don't think we should be overly sensitive to the point that we lose our sense of humor. The implication to me is not that an overweight woman cannot get a man on her own. If you think about it, there appear to be parts of this movie that convey a certain strength and confidence in an overweight woman too. I think you overdo it sometimes.

drstaceyny said...

anon--I try my best to maintain a sense of humor, but when I see a movie poster with a large woman atop a miserable, helpless looking man, I just can't seem to find the humor in this, particularly given the gravity with which I approach eating and body-image concerns. I think images such as this promote our culture's disordered and damaging constructs about women and their bodies.

Miss Blue said...

Dr. Stacey,
I have to agree with anon on this one. You do yourself and readers a disservice when you comment on a movie that you have not yet seen. When you stretch the message too far, the message gets lost. I think this is a stretch considering we have yet to deal with the much more relevant issues of unrealistic, so-called desirable, unhealthy images of women in fashion and entertainment. Also, not that it directly pertains to this entry, but there is a point at which image and health should be a concern. Like when one is clearly overweight, and approaching obesity.
I think we need to pick and choose our battles, and this is nitpicking.

ae said...

hmm, I'm not sure I've commented on DrStacey's blog before, but I do follow it.

I'm with Dr. Stacey. I think the most insidious messages about all forms of oppression are the ones we almost don't notice, the ones we laugh off, the ones that weren't "meant that way." And I think that seriously contributes to EDs because on the surface women have equal rights and treatment and are no longer an oppressed group, but the truth--as we all know--is that we are bombarded by messages telling us we're not good enough and we and those we love often buy into them.

I will say, though, that it does get tiring when you're constantly combatting oppression and stereotypes left and right...but that doesn't make them okay.

littlem said...

Anon 10:29 IMHO can go straight to the devil. The whole point of possessing a sense of humor is to be able to comment on what's societally funny -- which Dr. S. certainly can -- WITHOUT having to stoop to making someone (or a group of someones) a target of crass and unnecessary ridicule.

(Oh, and as of my latest visit to a tony downtown NYC boutique in celebration of Fashion Week, I currently wear a size 8, so don't even start.)

I'm not feeling Miss Blue's POV either. I checked out her blogger profile. Among other things, bulimics tend to suffer from a distorted body image and as such, are hardly in a position to evaluate -- for OTHER PEOPLE, no less -- where image and health conflate. Especially in this society, where "overweight" and "obesity" are moving targets (Miss Blue, you know that the BMI number where "overweight" allegedly starts was changed from 26 to 25 at the behest of INSURANCE COMPANIES, not health professionals like doctors, right? And that the scale for the BMI that's currently in use was developed by INSURANCE COMPANIES, not by health professionals, somewhere back around 1951, when Americans were not only smaller, but shorter? And that increases in BONE DENSITY -- which makes people WEIGH MORE -- were never taken into account and the numbers were never revised to accommodate them, for cripes' sake?)

Oh, and Miss Blue? The "unrealistic, so-called desirable, unhealthy images of women in fashion and entertainment" have a staggeringly symbiotic relationship with JUDGMENTAL ATTITUDES JUST LIKE YOURS about the relationship between "image", "overweight", and "obesity". Fatphobic much?

FWIW, I work in the entertainment industry. I have seen a preview of this pathetic excuse for a movie. And Dr. S.'s analysis is dead on.

I loved Mr. Murphy's "Dreamgirls" performance but IMO this is like driving the car backwards. The HollyWouldifTheyCould distributors average 4 or 5 writers on a script rewrite and they can't do any better than this dreck?


(Sorry I've been away, Dr. S. Ill family members. Hopefully I can catch up soon.)

Miss Blue said...

Too bad I have to respond here to your comments since you don't have a forum of your own. Out of respect for Dr. Stacy, I will keep it short.
BMI has nothing to do with nothing. I am quite aware of everything you say, and have never used, nor do I agree with BMI measures. I could go on and on about your post. Me being bulimic does not make me unable to appreciate the difference between slightly overweight, possibly overweight, and obese.
In the future, I would advise you to keep deragotory and insulting opinions or words out of your comments. You have a lot of anger, and your directing it in the wrong place.

Miss Blue said...

To AE and Dr. Stacey,
Your comments have made me try to think about this issue a little bit more, particularly AE's suggestion of how subtle, barely there messages can be the most damaging. I'm not sure if I am personally feeling the "overweight and pushy can't get a man on her own" stereotype, but there must be those who can. I'm going to devote myself to trying to find these sorts of messages, and I'm going to see if I can't pay more attention to the ones that pertain to women as well as to other groups. I guess I feel tired, as AE was saying. I want society to get the most obvious messages first, and feel that we can't start pointing out the subtle injustices and prejudices until they get, accept, and agree that changes are necessary with respect to the obvious ones. I'm going to put more thought into this one though, and I guess I'm thankful for this awareness.
It does a lot of good to share and discuss our different opinions. I just wish people like Littlem wouldn't go about it in such a destructive, mean, and aggressive, way. This is not the kind of approach that I find helpful in trying to raise awareness in others. I hope you agree.

ae said...

Miss Blue,
thank you for your thoughtful feedback. I too think that it is important to go after blatant messages like super-skinny models, but truly feel from my own experience that I experienced more direct weight pressure from people who "knew better" than I did from fashion, entertainment, etc.

Littlem, please consider being more respectful in your feedback to others. Miss Blue is a valued member of our community and is both brave and helpful by posting her personal information on her blog in an attempty to heal herself and contribute to the recovery of others. For you to use her personal information in an attempt to discredit her opinions is not respectful or respectable. I have to admit that when I saw where you were taking this--how it seemed like a personal attack on miss blue for sharing her opinions in a public forum--I started rethinking my own post and wishing I hadn't shared a piece of myself either, for fear of what you might do with it. While I appreciate the opportunity to have a considerate discussion around topics such as this one, it is very important to me that this remain a place of support.

Here is something to consider: classic means of oppression usually involve the dominant group pitting their subjects against one another. If we cannot agree that the pressure on women to conform to a standard is a shared battle, then we contributing to the problem MORE than those who brought it on us. Let's please work together, even around our differences.


drstaceyny said...

Hmm. . . ae, I'm so glad you decided to chime in. I follow your blog as well--you're a wonderful writer.

And, you articulated perfectly what I was thinking upon reading some of these comments:

"Here is something to consider: classic means of oppression usually involve the dominant group pitting their subjects against one another. If we cannot agree that the pressure on women to conform to a standard is a shared battle, then we contributing to the problem MORE than those who brought it on us. Let's please work together, even around our differences."

To me, that's head on. I'm all for intellectual debates and critical analyses of ideas--if we didn't disagree, we'd never advance. However, I hope that we can criticize ideas and not each other (and yes, that includes me!)

I do feel that, as you say, some of the most insidious messages are those that may not be so overtly offensive. The packaging of this movie (advertising, blurbs, etc.) is what I'm responding to, not the movie itself. I think it's exactly these types of messages, which over time, and with enough repetition, contribute to eating disorders, both clinical and sub-clinical.

MB--I'm glad this dialogue is making you think. My ideas are not always mainstream, and my hope is to point out how ubiquitous some of these influences are. Like you, I think ae did a good job at highlighting this point.

lm--welcome back. Good points abt the BMI. There are also plenty of healthy, obese people, as well as underweight or "normal" weight unhealthy people, who don't eat balanced meals and/or who don't move their bodies. Our assumptions otherwise are often stereotypical.

CactusFreek said...

I've been overweight all my adult life, and i've NEVER had trouble getting men [relationships, not casual sex]. Good looking ones with nice jobs and great personalities at that! In all my adult life i've had 5 marriege proposals [2 of whitch i married].I think it all boils down to self confidence too. I've always been quite happy to be on my own so i haven't wrecked of desperation like some single women do.The only person my weight has influenced is me.

TrixieBelden said...

I have to avert my eyes every time I see the poster with the overweight woman in a teddy squashing the thin man. It makes me feel like people around me are thinking "That could be her on that poster." This may only apply to me, but being an overweight woman has always impacted my self-perception of my own sexual attractiveness. I have enough issues with whether or not I think I'm sexy and desirable that I don't need posters that put these insecurities out in the open for the whole world to laugh at.

TrixieBelden said...

Oh, and I wanted to also thank Cactusfreak for sharing your take on things. It is great to hear that and it makes me realize that there are other ways to view myself than the way I currently am. The more I hear stories like yours, the more I realize that someday I might feel the same way/ have the same kind of life! :)

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