The Weight Loss Cul-De-Sac

I’m subscribed to a charity request service for journalists. They send a message to the list asking for case studies to be included in their articles and features. Sometimes its possible to get a plug for your charity if you help the writer.

The stories in question are mainly for ‘Women’s Glossies’. Here’s a request I just received from a freelancer that is typical:

I am pulling together a really positive feature for a monthly glossy magazine called ‘why thinner isn’t always better’ and I am looking for some very specific women to talk to.

  • a woman who lost weight but has been left with lots of excess skin which she dislikes as much as the weight. Maybe she is waiting for surgery or would like to have it removed but can’t afford to/is afraid of the procedure
  • a woman who says that after she lost weight friends were jealous of her and behaved differently towards her

The message goes on, but you get the gist. The journalist signs off with this:

In all cases I will need a picture of the lady before she lost weight, when she was at her smallest and now.

In many other cases, the request for case studies is accompanied by the promise of a tasteful makeover and photo-shoot, courtesy of the magazine.

On the face of it, this looks like a positive and feminist article. It’s part of a backlash against the propaganda of the beauty industry, a billion-dollar complex that trades on women’s insecurities about their body image. Continue reading “The Weight Loss Cul-De-Sac”

The Contradictions of Beauty

Pickled Politics has a 100 comment debate on the politics of skin whitening, after Bollywood superstar Shakrukh Khan endorsed a product (h/t Tyra). The paradox is that white people spend money getting a tan to make them look browner, while brown people buy these creams to make themselves whiter. The grass is always greener, yet equally cancerous, on the other side of the fence…

Other beauty paradoxes I have noticed: Hair straighteners for those with curly locks, sold next to hair curlers/rollers for the straight locked.

Oh yes, and of course: Women in the supermarket who put make-up, and make-up remover, into their basket… without so much as a bat of an eyelid to disturb their mascara. I’ve always liked this verse from the London-Brazilian slam-poet Hoberto Afiado:

This is the girl who is under age
So she works at the shop for a minimum wage
Who took the job to earn some cash
So she could buy a makeup stash
Who smears the lipstick on her face
So she can go to the drinking place
And when each night is at an end
She’ll rub the make-up off again