Botox and Big Booties
I pay close attention to my weight. Like most women, this has been a constant in my life. I confess this with some trepidation because I teach women’s studies and know that our pervasive, manipulative media convinces us that our bodies are never good enough. We are trained to be unhappy with every single body part: hair, eyes, neck, face, stomach, arms, and thighs. And it saddens me that women spend so much time and money on cosmetics, surgery, drugs, and diets to reach unattainable goals.
But no wonder! Even as our media eulogizes young, skinny women it also bombards us with contradictory messages about food. We are encouraged to eat at restaurants that offer thousand-calorie appetizers and decadent desserts. Ads for such meals are often juxtaposed with ads for diets, botox, or some magic pill. Just recently as I was sweating off calories at a gym, a commercial for a fat-reducing drug mesmerized me. The spokeswoman and all of the “real” people who had taken the drug repeated the same message: This pill will eliminate body fat with no lifestyle changes. I was infuriated by this commercial. We are so desperate to find ways to be beautiful and thin we set aside all logic and good sense and purchase these magic pills. You and I know that a pill will not rid us of our fat. It takes a healthy diet and regular exercise. But we frantically want to believe.
I am grateful that I do not feel the need to starve myself or exercise obsessively in order to fit into a size “0.” But I am sympathetic with those who do. I understand why women take on a second mortgage to purchase a tummy tuck. I get why some women sacrifice certain luxuries to afford botox. In fact, I am amazed at those who seem to be unaffected by the incessant drumbeat demanding thinness and youthfulness.
Being thin is rewarded in our society. Employers believe that thin people have more self-control and are more intelligent. Everyone seem to find thin women more sexy and attractive. I suspect many people prefer thin friends.
But the truth is that thinness is not just a matter of determination and sacrifice. Some people are biologically inclined to gain weight and keep it on. Their bodies fight any attempt to lose weight. A recent study showed that when obese people lose weight they have to eat less than those who were never heavy in order to maintain a healthy weight. In other words, after they lost weight their bodies worked diligently to gain that weight back.
Men are slowly becoming more obsessed with their bodies also. Mostly this involves gaining muscle and losing fat. Men do not seek petite bodies — our culture teaches them that a six-pack represents manhood. I know intelligent, successful men who work out at least three hours a day. I recently spoke to one acquaintance who bikes hundreds of miles per week. He sometimes needs calories so desperately he will eat an entire package of chocolate chips by sticking spoonfuls of peanut butter into the package. Imagine mouthful after mouthful of chocolate-chip-peanut-butter goodness — with no guilt!
I want to be a good role model for my students and my two sons. I try not to talk about those ten pounds I’d like to lose or ask too often, “does this outfit make my booty look big?” Like most people I know, I want to remain healthy and fit and so I exercise and monitor my calories. I try to avoid looking at myself with hyper-critical eyes — or, worse, looking at others with those eyes. But it is tough. And if one day I follow the advice of an extremely frank, dear friend and succumb to botox in order to rid myself of those two creases between my eyes I won’t be too hard on myself.
And maybe our culture allows for more alternative messages than I recognize. As Pitbull proudly proclaims in a popular song: “My girl got a big old booty, yeah. Your girl got a little booty.” Here’s to big booties.