I have a new post up at Global Comment
The diet and exercise industries earn billions of dollars annually. Many of its advertisements attempt to project the ultimate goal as health. However, the high numbers of women featured in their marketing suggests all of this is more about disciplining women’s bodies than anything. Monica Lewinsky, Valerie Bertinelli, Kristie Alley, Lynn Redgrave, and Sarah Ferguson have all been spokespeople for either Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. In comparison, men working as spokespeople for these industries are a rarer sight.
With the weather beginning to change in the northern hemisphere, the bikini is once again being dangled in front of women as a reason to invest in these weight loss programs. Due to the very revealing nature of the bikini, it is suggested that one’s body conform to a reduced weight. Since what is constructed as the ideal figure for the average woman is far from realistic, many women end up binge-dieting in an attempt to conform to this beauty standard.
When one is successful in achieving weight loss as in the case of Sarah Ferguson and Valarie Bertenelli, we understand this to be a laudable achievement worthy of highest praise. Just as we reward some, we are quick to shame others that gain back the weight. Oprah and Alley have both recently come forward expressing shame for not being able to maintain a reduced body weight. In the case of Alley, she has used her desire to wear a bikini again to spur her renewed commitment to getting back on the treadmill.
Each season, a trophy is dangled in front of women as incentive to use weight loss products. From the bikini to the New Years Eve dress, no one can ever be slim enough. There are no pitches to men regarding an outfit or a season that they need to be in the appropriate physical shape to wear or participate in. Women are expected to put their lives on hold and avoid certain clothing or events if they are unable to “control” their weight. To be a fat woman is to be understood as undesirable and unfeminine.