Kelly Osbourne made a really good point when she told Us Weekly, “I took more hell for being fat than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict. I will never understand that. Now I’ve actually read in some magazines that I’m too skinny. You can never ever ever win.” Why is it so much worse to be fat than risking your life daily with drugs?
Good question. Just how obsessed are we with the idea that fat is the root of all evil? Or is it that women and celebrities are two classes so objectified that when you overlap them, a woman like Kelly Osbourne ceases to seem human at all? She’s just the sum of her entertainment value, and well, we can’t see the drug abuse, but we sure can see that unsightly fat.
The CNN article from which that quote came is a series of snippets from celebrities who talk about how ridiculous the super-skinny standard is. These celebrities are all female actors with the exception of Ricky Gervais, who is hardly a good example if one’s trying to prove This Hurts Men, Too. He states flat out that his recent weight loss had nothing to do with breaking into Hollywood – I love him to pieces, but it’s not like he was ever just a few pounds away from looking like a young Clint Eastwood, is it? And A-list male lead actors never have to be twenty-pounds underweight.
The skinny standard is merciless in its disregard for women’s health. According to recent studies, being what we’ve been conditioned to think of as “overweight” actually seems to promote better health than being “normal” weight, “underweight” or “obese”. Underweight actresses are undoubtedly risking their health for their careers, and based on my own experience of crash dieting, I suspect it’s a vicious cycle. The first thing to go when you’re undernourished is your body’s idea of non-essential functions: your neurotransmitters slow down and get imbalanced. You can’t think straight, and you get overly emotional (or else go numb). You can’t make sound judgments anymore. Suddenly what sounded so unreasonable when you embarked on this plan (“Okay, fine, I’ll starve myself and see if that makes me acceptable”) seems pretty sensible (“Oh, the number on the scales fell, and everyone’s complimenting me today!”). Because your brain is starving.
The standard also bars some women flat-out from careers in film, since not all body types can even achieve this look with any amount of weight loss or body sculpting.
It’s telling that the current title of the article, “Celebs who’ve complained about dieting” doesn’t match the title string in the URL, “celebrities.whine.about.dieting.” It looks like Olivia Allin’s original title referred to these complaints as “whining” and someone later saw fit to change that. I’m glad they did, because these are legitimate complaints.