Small note from SBG: Nick wrote this post ages ago, when the topic was all over the tabloids. Due to technical errors (read: my slow-on-the-uptakedness), I didn’t get this until late last week. It’s still topical and worth discussing!
I’ve been reading posts on Jessica Simpson’s alleged entry into the company of fat people. In the thread to the latter post, someone commented: “It shouldn’t matter what her weight is, but seriously, on what planet is Simpson even remotely approaching fat?! (Totally not the point, I know). To which I replied: “It’s a related point. The beauty standard for women demands a severely unhealthy thinness – one where Simpson can be called fat simply by looking like she’ll live out the week.”
I’ve tended to think of this beauty standard as ignoring the consequent health issues; most critiques I’ve seen do the same. But this time I found myself questioning it, wondering if the unhealthiness of it is a deliberate (or “deliberate”) feature. Because it reminds me of something – how in the 19th Century, consumptive women were romanticised and regarded as beautiful – and just to be clear, yes, “consumptive” does indeed mean “dying of tuberculosis.”
In the 19th Century, there was a wave of feminism which aimed to improve the lives of women, and there is today. In the 19th Century, a beauty standard arose that centred on women’s bodies being hurt, and there is today. So today I’m wondering if the starvation-standard for modern beauty really does ignore the harm it does to women’s health – or if on some levels, that harm is the very idea.