Thursday, October 4, 2012

Zero is (still) not a size

Ladies, yet again we are being judged for our physical appearances.
In the last few days, Wisconsin news anchor Jennifer Livingston has made headlines for confronting the rude author of an offensive email targeting her weight. Livingston, who aptly pointed out that she is “much more than a number on a scale,” took the high road by using the uncalled for remarks about her appearance to bring attention to Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, which happens to be this October. Livingston admonished viewers who may be experiencing ridicule for any reason, to stand up for themselves.
The email Livingston received not only called her obese, but also a poor role model. Come on, crass stranger, really? The man who sent Livingston that dim-witted email wasn’t privy to the inner-workings of her life and soul. She is a mother of three young girls. You can bet that as she got ready for work that morning, before getting to her office and finding the vile  email, she was packing lunches, signing permission slips, tying shoes, brushing pigtails, giving hugs, fixing boo-boos, settling arguments, scheduling meetings, and asking herself if she remembered everything. She likely shared a brief kiss with her husband, fed the cat and grabbed a Luna bar on the way out to the minivan—because that’s how real women function. No one gets to accuse her of being a poor role model, least of all someone who admittedly doesn’t watch her news show. How would he know what kind of person she is?
But to me, the most heinous part of this whole thing is that a perfectly competent, lovely, smart woman—who does not mirror society’s concept that physical beauty is borderline anorexia—is being called out for her size at her job as a television news anchor.
Since when should a woman have to answer to a random stranger—or anyone— for her size?
Since always, that’s when.
Aren’t you tired of it, ladies?  Isn’t enough enough? And while it’s a complete travesty that Livingston was judged, not by her ability, but her appearance, perhaps an equally deplorable reality is that most of us still try our damndest to stay engaged in some ever-illusive pursuit of a “better” body.
Don’t misunderstand—I’m not discarding the benefits of a well-rounded plan for self care that includes physical activity, rest, nourishing food and some kind of balance between our physical, mental and spiritual selves. I’m very invested in mine, and encourage sane, healthy behavior as much as possible.
Unfortunately, our culture still judges women on the way we look. Just last week, there was a scuttlebutt around Lady Gaga’s admission that she has struggled with an eating disorder since she was 15-years-old. Simultaneously, she was being raked over the coals for gaining weight. Duplicitous media messages about her alleged weight gain flew all over the web prompting critics and fans alike to speak out, and Mother Monster herself to post pictures in her skivvies with a message to fans:
  “To all the girls that think you’re ugly because you’re not a size zero,
you’re the beautiful one. It’s society who’s ugly.”
Amen to that. Besides, zero is not a size. It’s just not. One, five, eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty—all sizes. But zero? Not so much. I recently voiced my concern about this to a very nice sales associate at Anne Taylor Loft, which not only offers a size zero, but a double zero.  A double zero! Less than nothing!
Last night I cruised by the magazine rack at the grocery store. I saw 33 magazine covers featuring women who would qualify as supermodels. Only one was a woman of color; most were blond. I’m certain none of them were even average-sized, which is somewhere around a 14. Designers for Hollywood starlets make samples in sizes 2-4. Maybe Livingston’s critic spends too much time in the magazine aisle at Kroger.
Like many women, I can’t remember ever thinking I didn’t need to lose weight: not when I was 10 years old and far too young to be concerned with such issues; not when I tried (another) fad diet at 13, and threw up at the dinner table; not when I weighed 112 pounds and was as bootylicious as I’ll ever be; maybe not even today. Even as I write this, I’m fresh off a high-intensity workout with a friend. But I do remember what happened to my body to change the way I think about it.
I had three babies. I got pregnant, grew these human beings inside me, ate to nourish both of us, and miraculously delivered them into this world safely, un-medicated and in complete awareness. Then I used my body to nurse them—each of them for more than three years, giving them the best possible start, and if you want to get technical, a boost toward avoiding obesity later.
That changed everything about the way I see my body: every curve, every stretch mark, every gravity-controlled part. Remarkably, it brought about a new confidence, a sense of “I’m pretty frickin’ awesome!”
So, I will continue my frickin’ awesomeness and try not to let the detractors emailing inane comments get in my way. I have things to do. I have to counteract for my kids the idea that they should fit into some cultural idea of acceptable beauty. They are already pretty frickin’ awesome the way they are.
And to Jennifer Livingston, keep that spam folder in your email active, and keep doing a great job.

You’re not a disgrace, you’re not responsible for the physical health of La Crosse, Wisconsin and you’re most definitely not alone.


  1. Preach it, girl!!
    The anonymity of the web emboldens Neanderthal haters like that, and more power to you and Jennifer and Gaga -- strong women standing for what's real and valuable in the world ( meat dress notwithstanding ;-)