body image

Men Body Shaming Women: Just Stop!

gal-mannequin12-620x414It’s been a horrible week on my Facebook timeline for people drawing body shaming stuff to my attention.  First, we get another zinger from Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.

Those poor quality yoga pants, remember the ones that are practically sheer and needed to be recalled? There’s nothing wrong with the pants. It’s just that “some women’s bodies don’t work for the pants.” Say what?  Here he is saying that in all seriousness on Bloomberg TV.

And then someone sent me this piece from the Jezebel archives (it’s dated April 11, 2012) about a special vaginal cleaner marketed in India that includes a bleaching agent to lighten vaginas that are “too brown.”  Not new, but new to me.  What’s especially troubling about this product and its marketing is that the couple in the ad are incredibly light skinned to begin with.

As if vaginal odor, floppy labia, and pubic hair haven’t been constructed into sufficiently unattractive to make women self-conscious about what’s happening down there, now we’re supposed to add color to the list. Here’s what an ad executive said to dismiss people who find the vaginal lightening cream to be offensive and even racist:

It is hard to deny that fairness creams often get social commentators and activists all worked up. What they should do is take a deep breath and think again. Lipstick is used to make your lips redder, fairness cream is used to make you fairer-so what’s the problem? I don’t think any Youngistani today thinks the British Raj/White man is superior to us Brown folk. That’s al” ad l 1947 thinking!

The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness, is this: if you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl’s features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light. I found this amazing difference when I directed Kabir Bedi, who is very fair and had to wear dark makeup for Othello, the Black hero of the play. I found I had to have a special spotlight following Kabir around the stage because otherwise the audience could not see his expressions.

Good grief, has this man been talking to Chip Wilson or something?

And finally, there is this creepy dude in Venezuela who is so arrogant that he literally takes credit for promoting a beauty norm that has women rushing to go under the knife for breast enhancements, liposuction, and other cosmetic adjustments to their bodies. As Upworthy says, “within 5 seconds you won’t like him” and “by the time he laughs at the end you’ll hate him.”

He says that “inner beauty doesn’t exist. It’s just something that unpretty women have invented.”  Why have the unpretty invented “inner beauty”?  One reason: “to justify themselves.” Oh, because if a woman does not succeed in being attractive to superficial men who think that outer beauty is all that matters, she cannot justify her existence on the planet?

A couple of things are worth mentioning here. First, there must be a lot of other pressures influencing women in the direction of cosmetic surgery in Venezuela. And also, it’s not as if cosmetic surgery to correct “flaws” is endemic only in Venezuela.  So dude can’t take all the “credit.” But that he thinks he can makes him seem awfully sinister.

Venezuela’s wildy mis-proportioned mannequins have made the news lately (see here and here), and some think there’s a relationship between them and the surge of interest in cosmetic surgery.

I can’t say one way or the other whether the link is really there.

But I can say that men like this, who body-shame women and try to convince them that they are somehow inadequate if they do not have surgery to “correct” their natural shape, or that the yoga pants don’t fit because there is something wrong with their bodies, or that they need to lighten the color of their vaginas, should just shut the fuck up. Pardon my language.

[image credit: The New York Times]