So This is What Fat Looks Like? (May 11, 2010)

Cheryl Burke

I will preface this post by admitting that this is a topic discussed so oft, there is practically nothing fresh to add. However, since our society continues to adopt an ever more sociopathic bent in its idea of female beauty, I feel the need to raise the issue again.

Last night, as I emerged from my post-Tae Bo bath, I received the following text mesage from a male friend who was watching the evening’s broadcast of Dancing with the Stars with his three young daughters.

“Cheryl Burke is looking heavy.”

I immediately replied that my friend is a sexist punk, but curiosity getting the better of me, as it always does, I promptly set my DVR recording in motion to have a look at this purportedly “heavy” woman……What I saw was, give or take, reflected in the image above.

I am almost too exhausted by this injustice to comment, but of course I will. I am 31 years old and far from famous. When I graduated with my BA in 2000, I weighed upwards of 190 pounds and wore a size 16. I couldn’t walk a standard issue flight of stairs without breathing heavily. Obviously, that is unacceptable at the age of 22, and though it took me a few more years to claim ownership of the hard work required, I am proud to say I lost 60 pounds and have kept it off (give or take a few holiday fluctuations) for 6 full years.

I won’t deny vanity played a role in my efforts, but in large part, I stay in shape for the right reasons – my health. I am perhaps phobically afraid of the aging process and the idea of becoming physically dependent one day, but that does not distort my own ideas of healthy womanhood. I might hate the cellulite that lives on my thighs, but I am learning to love Mother Nature’s curves a little more all the time.

How in the hell can Cheryl Burke, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt or Tyra Banks – all media targets in recent years, and all gorgeous women – be called “fat” by anyone?

The argument has been made that standards are different for those in the public eye because they “know what they’re getting into” by choosing a career that in part, requires trading on one’s appearance. Nonsense, and I would think a man with three daughters would know better. Why does it seem that with each passing news cycle, female beauty becomes an ever more abstract concept, to be discussed in academic theory, but never really achievable by anyone? I realize there was never a formal meeting held by the Earth’s males, but it feels at times as if there’s a global conspiracy to keep us ladies held in check by some basic level of worthlessness.

In 2007, when Britney Spears was in the throes of her career meltdown, and bombed performing her single “Gimme More,” live on MTV, she was upset not at her deteriorating mental condition, or her crappy lip synching. No, she was in tears backstage after the show, wailing that she looked “like a fat pig,” as if that were the worst of her problems in that hour. She was about to lose custody of her two sons, but egads! Priorities! Let’s lose those 5 pounds first!

It’s wrong. It’s out of control. Men of the world, I ask ye: please start picking on your own gender. Lord knows there are plenty of uglies to choose from. Ah but yes, I forgot, as long as the man is rich/funny/talented, looks don’t matter. Just ask Jesse James, Tiger Woods or Larry King. Ladies! Let’s stop being complicit in our own destruction. Next time you feel a catty comment about another female’s weight rising to the surface, eat some chocolate instead. It tastes a whole lot better than jealousy anyway.


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