Thursday, September 18, 2008

Even people who get it don't get it

Saw this article in the LA Times today and got encouraged, then read the article and got unencouraged.

In a nutshell: Mary McNamara has just noticed that TV actresses are, like, really thin (no, like *really* thin!) (no, seriously, you guys!), and it's bothering her because it's interfering with her viewing pleasure.

I do think it's good to point out the very extreme average thinness of TV actresses as sort of a reality check, to guard against young women thinking that size 2 is the norm. Too bad they seem to get that idea anyway. But that's OK, according to Mary McNamara, because the thinness of TV actresses doesn't contribute to eating disorders. Her evidence? "We are in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic." Oh. But, I mean, isn't it possible that there's still a real issue here and that we could start to alleviate some of the societal pressures leading young women to develop a poor body image if we had some size diversity on TV (and not just via fat villains, but maybe some real, complex, sympathetic characters in a range of different shapes and sizes)? Apparently not, according to Mary McNamara; after all, "even the Gap carries size 16 nowadays". Thanks a lot for your insightful analysis, Mary.

A lot of people don't seem to understand that insulting thin people isn't really helpful, in much the same way that insulting fat people is also unhelpful. In this article you get insults a-plenty. You get adjectives like "horrifyingly thin" and "frightening," lame cliches, and nuggets like this: "The ladies of 'Desperate Housewives' are so far gone in terms of resembling humans that it's almost laughable to mention them." Yes, the women mentioned in the article are extremely thin. But there's no need for insults. And furthermore, some LA Times reporter has no idea (and no business speculating) on whether a person has an eating disorder. Yes, you might say, but so many actresses are thin that it can't be a coincidence, so they must have eating disorders! Well, some of them undoubtedly do. But let's not forget that very thin women are more likely to get TV roles than larger women. That doesn't mean the thin women all have eating disorders -- there's an element of biased selection going on as well. Correlation does not equal causation. You've heard it here before, folks.

But getting to the main premise of the Times article (I think), the big problem with super-thin actresses is that Mary McNamara isn't enjoying 90210 as much as she would like to, because she is too distracted by the thinness. I'm just going to put an idea out here, as an avid watcher of an awesome show with an awesome lead actress who happens to be really thin (season finale tonight on USA; be there or be square): Maybe Mary McNamara finds it difficult to "concentrate on the drama of the story" on 90210 because 90210 sucks.

Friday, September 05, 2008

You know how sometimes you just don't like a person, and then only later do you figure out why?

I haven't really commented much on the presidential race here, mostly because I haven't been all that excited about it. My candidate from the beginning was Dennis Kucinich, and since he dropped out of the race before the California Democratic primary, I didn't even bother voting. I leaned towards Obama because Hillary voted for the war, but didn't really care which of them ended up with the nomination. After Obama voted for the FISA bill in July, I was pissed off but figured I'd probably vote for him in November anyway, given the alternatives. I did enjoy the Democratic convention -- especially Bill Clinton's speech, but also Obama's, which I thought was really good though somewhat lacking in specifics. But the thing that is finally starting to get me fired up about Obama (and the reason I'm posting about it) is the Republicans, and in particular, Sarah Palin.

In a nutshell: she sucks. She's super anti-choice, doesn't believe in evolution, and is pro-drilling. Worse, she is nasty, sarcastic, and smug. I can't even bring myself to watch her convention speech because the clips I've been have been so deeply offensive -- of particular note would be the crack against community organizers, and her blatant lie about saying "thanks but no thanks" to the "bridge to nowhere" (in fact, she supported it very publicly). There's nothing in her record to suggest she has any business being vice president, and yet she actually has the gall to question Obama's qualifications. When I first heard that she was McCain's running mate, I was reminded of Harriet Miers -- here's some random woman who's super right-wing, totally unqualified for the job, and pretty obviously chosen because she's a woman. But now that I've seen how people are reacting to her speech, I'm thinking she's more like Dick Cheney to McCain's Bush. It's like a wink and a nod from McCain -- don't worry, I have to keep saying this "maverick" bullshit to attract independent voters, but now that I've chosen my VP you can be reassured as to what kind of president I'll be. And unfortunately it looks like it may be working.

But something else was bugging me about Sarah Palin and her fans, apart from her obnoxious speech, and it had to do with her kids. For one thing, she is having her cake and eating it too -- in order to deflect attention from her pregnant teenage daughter, she says people's kids shouldn't be made into a political issue, but then she flat-out *used* the announcement of her daughter's pregnancy to quiet a rumor that threatened to undermine her image of integrity (to the extent she had an image at all). And I don't know how much she's said this explicitly herself, but she is certainly benefitting from all the talk about how great it is that she chose to bear her fifth child to term after finding out he had Down syndrome (here is one nauseating example), and nobody can deny that she's used him as a prop. The Daily Show had an awesome bit last night with Samantha Bee with commentary on how hypocritical it is to praise Palin for making this particular choice when she wants the government to prevent women from having any "choice" at all. But there's another troubling issue here, and Sweet Machine has an awesome piece that puts into words what I was feeling, over at Shakesville. A summary: all this rhetoric about Palin's "choice" is blatantly ableist because it assumes that a child with Down syndrome is inferior and a terrible burden for a parent to bear, so any woman who chooses not to have an abortion "even" if she knows the child has Down syndrome is obviously some kind of saint. I won't go into any more detail, because you should just go over and read Sweet Machine's post.