Posts Tagged ‘body image’

Teen mom waxes her 3 year old’s unibrow, commences unhealthy body image obsession early

January 7, 2013

“I feel like a good mom,” Farrah Abraham told US Weekly after waxing her 3 year old’s unibrow. And then we all tilted our heads to the side quizzically…

Though it’s not entirely surprising that Farrah — who herself has gotten breast implants, a chin implant, and nose job in the span of two years — is obsessed with body image, it’s extremely troubling that she is instilling that obsession in her child at such an early age. 

“I felt bad for her,” Farrah said, calling the decision to wax her kid’s unibrow monumental and implying that it’s somehow life-changing. Well, (1) you should probably feel bad for her because (2) maybe it is life-changing — studies show that moms can influence children’s body image, and going so far out of her way to physically remove a unibrow she obviously felt was unsightly definitely sends a message to Sophia.

Keep in mind Sophia was totally freaked out by the waxing attempt, which was described as “botched,” and Farrah had to tweeze the rest of it while she was sleeping. Call it wrong of me to judge how a parent raises her daughter… buuuuut it’s probably worse for Farrah to traumatize her child, literally making her live the “beauty is pain” mantra so Farrah herself isn’t embarrassed by how Sophia looks.

I feel terrible for lil’ Sophia, as children often mimic behavior that gets them attention from parents — and if what makes Farrah really happy is when Sophia looks a certain way, then Sophia could become obsessed with achieving a body image that’ll make her mother proud. Though maybe Farrah wants to drive that point home early — in which case I’ll be in the kitchen slamming my head in the refrigerator door. 

16&P: Pregnancy, anorexia, and lacking support from mom

May 27, 2011

I haven’t blogged about 16 and Pregnant in a while because the themes have tended to overlap, but this week’s episode proved much different than any previous episode in this or any other season. This week we met Kayla, who not only has an unsupportive mom to deal with, but also an eating disorder that makes her pregnancy very tumultuous.

“Don’t get fat, don’t get fat, you’re gross”

These are the words that Kayla said run through her mind whenever she thinks about eating. Kayla was hospitalized and then diagnosed with anorexia when she was 13 years old, and her pregnancy proved challenging because of the weight she gained. Although doctors were continuously telling her throughout her pregnancy that she was not gaining the appropriate amount of weight, Kayla skipped meals constantly and at one point was hospitalized for pre-term labor relating to dehydration.

Kayla explained to her friends that even though they saw a baby bump when they looked at her, she saw flab and would stand in front of the mirror crying. “Only fat people get stretch marks,” she said, concerned that the stretch marks she was getting were a sign that she was overeating or overweight (stretch marks are a very common side effect of pregnancy and are often even hereditary). She knew that she had to feed the baby, but her eating disorder was always in the back of her mind.

Not only was Kayla struggling with the judgment many teens receive for being pregnant, but she was also concerned about the judgment people would give her because of her weight. She went to the beach with her friends but didn’t want to wear a bikini because she was afraid people would assume she was overweight — and if they did think she was pregnant, then she might receive dirty looks for being a pregnant teen.

Being pregnant changes a woman’s body substantially — hips widen, breasts get larger, and there’s significant weight gain. Average size women should gain about 25 to 35 pounds, underweight women should gain about 28 to 40 pounds, and overweight women should gain about 15 to 25 pounds. For someone who has an eating disorder and has body image issues already, it’s difficult to deal with a rapid, dramatic, and most importantly uncontrollable physical transformation like that. There’s a constant fight between knowing the growing baby needs nourishment and the desire to control the weight gain, and that’s something that is rarely seen on TV but something many women struggle with during pregnancy.

A mom who’s MIA 

And though her friends were supportive and reminded her she obviously had a baby bump and not flab, that she didn’t look fat, and that she needed to feed her baby, she lacked the support system that she yearned for and that would’ve helped her the most: from her mom.

After being hospitalized for dehydration, Kayla saw a nutritionist about her eating habits (this is just one important recommendation for pregnant women who have been diagnosed with eating disorders). The doctor told her not to eat alone because it creates an air of secrecy around eating and because having people eat with you makes it more difficult to avoid meals, and also that they should have family dinners. Kayla reiterated this to her mom, who made one home-cooked meal — and that was it.

Kayla’s mom was constantly spending time with her boyfriend instead of Kayla, and she was constantly avoiding having to play the mother role when it came to helping Kayla through her pregnancy. With an eating disorder alone Kayla needs a solid support system, and adding her pregnancy makes a support system essential.

But Kayla’s mom resists being that support system; she makes lots of promises and then breaks them. Or, like when Kayla asks her mom for advice about her pregnancy, what she should expect, what she needs to buy for the baby, and says she is really overwhelmed, her mom suggests that she visit a support group. Kayla practically begs her mom throughout the episode to help her and offer guidance, but her mom doesn’t want to get involved. “I think it’s all going to fall into place,” her mom replied.

I suspect this is because her mom was a teen mom, and she doesn’t want to be sucked into raising another child. I think she stays with her boyfriend so she can avoid dealing with reality (I’d say she was relieving the glory days she missed out on, but Kayla says her evasive behavior only started after Kayla got pregnant), and I think she wants Kayla to deal with everything without any help because she doesn’t want Kayla to rely on her too much.

This is evident when she says she will take a week off work to help Kayla with newborn Preston — keep in mind Kayla’s boyfriend Mike works and Kayla had a c-section so is initially going to be limited in what she can do — and then decides not to take any time off work and tells Kayla and Mike they’ll figure it out. But part of me also wonders if Kayla’s mom didn’t have it so easy as a teen mom, and she for some morbid reason wants Kayla to suffer, too. Her mom even forces Mike to pay $300 rent even though they pay for everything themselves; are literally left with no money after they buy diapers, wipes, and formula; and Mike living there and working there is the only reason Kayla can take care of the baby all day.

Kayla’s mom isn’t required to do anything, but most of the parents on the show who were also teen parents are sympathetic to their kids’ struggles because they’ve been there before. Kayla expected her mom to be supportive, and her mom even said her “biggest fear is that [Kayla] wouldn’t keep it.” Kayla’s mom plays into a common anti-choice theme here: She doesn’t want Kayla to have an abortion, but she doesn’t offer Kayla much support once she decides to keep the baby. Kayla does live in her mom’s house, but she lacks any other financial, physical, or emotional support from her.

Stepping up as parents

I was wildly impressed with both Kayla’s and Mike’s attitude toward this pregnancy. Unlike some teen moms we’ve seen in past episodes who felt their pregnancies and babies shouldn’t impede on their ability to have a normal teenage life (Farrah and Jenelle come to mind), Kayla was more realistic. “I don’t think I should be able to be a regular teenager. I’m not a regular teenager,” she told her mom. On the aftershow, Kayla said that it’s weird to go out with friends now, saying, “I feel guilty about it, like I shouldn’t even get to have that fun.”

Being a parent doesn’t mean your social life is over or that you don’t deserve to have fun, but Kayla realized early on what some teen parents don’t: Parenting involves some sacrifice. And usually it’s the teen mom always making the sacrifices (dropping out of school, falling behind in school, not going to college), but Mike made a lot of sacrifices and to his credit was one of the most involved and dedicated teen dads I’ve seen on the show. He moved an hour away from home to be with Kayla, skipped college, and was the support system she needed throughout her pregnancy. They aren’t together anymore, but Kayla says he remains very involved with Preston.

The importance of support

Kayla’s episode really highlighted how important a solid support system is. She had a close-knit group of friends who were concerned about her health, and she had a boyfriend who was committed and dedicated to her and their baby. It’s unfortunate that her mom — an important piece to the puzzle — chose to let Kayla fend for herself while she struggled with both pregnancy and anorexia.

And how Kayla’s mom doesn’t see this is beyond me. In fact, at one point, her mom suggests they go on a diet together. Even Kayla looked at her with confusion — her mother, knowing she’s been diagnosed with anorexia, a disease that leaves you starving yourself and not eating enough food, wants to encourage Kayla to focus on losing weight and “portion control”?

Part of combatting an eating disorder is learning to eat in a healthy way, but her mom suggesting that she (1) needs to lose weight and that (2) Kayla could teach her something because she knows how to avoid food leaves me speechless. This doesn’t support Kayla at all, but merely asks Kayla to focus on losing weight and eating less.

I wish her mom would be more of an all-around support system for her, because her friends are leaving for college soon and she isn’t with Mike anymore. That is, if she can figure out how to properly support her daughter.

For more information on eating disorders, including treatment and support groups, visit the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders or the National Eating Disorders Association.

‘She’s too big, now she’s too thin’

September 3, 2010

There’s a line from Britney Spears’s song “Piece of Me” — “I’m Mrs. She’s Too Big, Now She’s Too Thin” — that is frustratingly true about how the media treat celebrities’ bodies. The media bounces between calling them fat and then ridiculing them as underweight, or between reporting on how miserable they are because they are starving themselves and extreme-dieting to stay thin — on the same pages that praise their “perfect” bodies.

Kelly Osbourne is the latest celebrity to get this treatment — Osbourne recently lost more than 40 pounds:

Osbourne told US Weekly, “I’m f—ing starving right now!” in regard to her new figure, though a few months earlier the magazine did a feature on her weight loss and an US Weekly bureau chief remarked that Osbourne “looked incredible and so slim.” And now, other media outlets are questioning whether Osbourne is too thin.

These comments promote the notion of “your body will never be good enough.” First you’re too big, then everyone is awed by your weight loss, and then everyone is disturbed by your weight loss. But then you’re afraid to put on weight, confused because the initial reaction was so positive and garnered so much attention.

The media shouldn’t be an arbiter of what acceptable weight gain is. They see what they want to see — they find pictures of women from unflattering angles or after they’ve eaten dinner (Eva Longoria has talked about pictures taken of her after she “ate pasta and Italian and [her] pants were too tight,” leaving her with a slight blip in her slender figure that led to rumors it was a baby bump) and shame women for being a little bloated, wearing a baggy shirt, or just not being the same as those women in the magazines — even those women in the magazines don’t look like that, as they are always digitally retouched, unless purposely doing a shoot promoting not being airbrushed.

This type of thinking — you can’t be too fat, but you can’t be too thin, but you also have to be sure you don’t eat so much that a ripple forms in your stomach that could be perceived as a baby bump, but you also can’t wear loose clothing to hide the ripple because that means you look pregnant and fat too — is damaging. It’s stressful. It’s unnecessary.

I’m not saying Osbourne’s weight loss is totally bad — she admits she was an emotional eater and would “eat [her] emotions away,” and she was likely clinically overweight, so healthy eating habits (instead of her previous regimes, such as diet pills, starvation, fad diets) and regular exercise bode well for her health and energy levels.

I am saying, however, that the scrutiny and pressure could take those healthy habits and quickly turn them unhealthy (overexercising, under-eating, binging, etc.). Basically, I despise that media outlets try to show concern over these “too thin” celebrities — the media outlets whose criticism likely drove them to thinness — despite the fact they’d splash their cover with pictures of them with a minor stomach bump if they had the opportunity. Ugh.

Seacrest, Situation show no women are safe from body-bashing

August 27, 2010

It only took two hours of TV-watching yesterday to find two disturbing instances of men using women’s body issues against them in an argument. One was courtesy of Ryan Seacrest, the other courtesy of “The Situation” from MTV’s Jersey Shore. Both enhance female viewers’ body issues, as even two attractive TV personalities can’t escape scrutiny.

On E! News, hosts Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic were introducing some clip, and Giuliana’s intro line included some comment like, “Are her boobs big enough?” in response to a shot of the celebrity with large breasts. Ryan Seacrest replied, “At least she has some.” He then qualified with how he was “kidding” (I think), Giuliana laughed it off, and the world was right again.

Except that it wasn’t funny — in fact, as someone who saw the phrase “boobless” typed into calculators and shown to me more times while I was growing up than I can count, I can say that the awkward laughter Giuliana used to respond to Ryan’s offensive comment was quite familiar and uncomfortable. And sure, he qualified it with “just kidding,” but it doesn’t change the fact that he obviously had taken note of her small breast size, knew it was an insecurity of hers, and then on a broadcast to millions of people called her out on being jealous of celebrities with big boobs.

On Jersey Shore, Situation and Angelina were fighting about doing the dishes. Angelina didn’t want to do them, so Situation told her that she couldn’t be a part of the dinner he was cooking — and then added an addendum that she needed to hit the treadmill. Then, obviously seeing the mistake he made, he corrected himself and said she actually needed to use the elliptical instead.

Could this be typical banter between these two, and we don’t know of some inside joke? Sure. But do we see that on film? No. We just see this guy, obviously mad that Angelina isn’t pitching in around the house, saying that instead of eating dinner with them, she needs to go to the gym and lose some weight. I’m thinking, since they were arguing, that it’s not some inside joke — it’s him playing off her insecurities in hopes it will make her feel like shit.

So we’ve got these two TV shows, one of which (Jersey Shore) is the number one series this summer for people ages 12 to 34, that are watched by a lot of young people and a lot of women. Women watch these kinds of insults and see that (1) the woman laughs it off or ignores the comment without confronting the guy about it; (2) no matter how physically attractive a woman is, guys will still find a way to attack their body in order to feel some sense of power or accomplishment; and (3) it’s dangerously common.

Take a look at Giuliana, who despite having a smaller chest is rail thin and the perfect body size by Hollywood standards:

Take a look at Angelina, who has a large chest and curves but is not at all overweight in any way:

Body image insults are dangerous because women already feel the pressure to be thin and perfect by Hollywood standards every time they look at a cover of a magazine (despite its being Photoshopped and airbrushed to death), go to a movie, watch a TV show, or browse the Internet. We’re always picking apart our bodies, worried that men are too — and here are two beautiful women who can’t escape ridicule. Women watch these scenes and it only worsens body image issues, thinking, “If they can’t escape ridicule, what’s that say about me?”

And I wish these women would have directly confronted Ryan and Situation about their comments — of course, I’m sure if Giuliana had questioned all powerful Ryan Seacrest she would have lost her job or been severely reprimanded, opening a whole new can of worms about how power dynamics in the workplace leave instances of sexual harassment or even sexual assault unreported or ignored, simply because the ones making the comments or advances are the ones who wield the power, and women are forced to chose between standing up for themselves or keeping their jobs.

These two men were obviously playing on these women’s insecurities, and it sets a bad and dangerous example for viewers. It’s bad for men, too, who see these guys’ female body bashing on TV and think it’s the norm or think it’s OK because Ryan Seacrest and that guy from the Jersey Shore are both doing it.

I also wonder if some men — maybe Ryan and Situation included — think that especially when you make a joke or attack an attractive woman’s looks that it’s OK because she is attractive and (1) has high self-esteem and/or (2) knows she is attractive so won’t be fazed by negative comments. If so, I’d like to say that your perception of someone’s beauty is not necessarily the same as that person’s perception of herself (or himself), so those comments can still be hurtful and dangerous.