Skinny's out, curvy's in and I'm a big, fat contradiction

 Skinny's out, curvy's in and I'm a big, fat contradiction

Back in my women's studies grad school days, I recall reading a quote by a French feminist scholar (Was it Cixous? Kristeva? In this moment, all I can think of are the lyrics to the Caillou theme – damn you, PBS!), a quote that empowered me then and I am reminded of now: It is in our contradictions that we are powerful.

I recall that quote every single time I devour a People magazine or watch red carpet coverage with fervor. I'm a feminist, a thinking mama, a former college instructor on body image and women in the media, a person who believes passionately in empowering women. And yet, there I am, consuming celebrity clips and photos with bliss.

Skinny's out, curvy's in and I'm a big, fat contradiction

I detest Hollywood's (and our country's and our media's and our time's) obsession with thinness that seems defiant of food, age, genetics, gravity, nature, and yet I love to see the celebrities seemingly skating past paparazzi in their finery. I roll my eyes at the elitism at the question of the awards ages: What are you wearing? And yet, I ooh and ahh on the phone with my mother as presenters make their way to the stage: Oh. Mah. Gaw. Did you see Charlize Theron? Stunning!

I do not believe in the bigger picture of judging people – particularly women, already subject to so much superficial scrutiny in the course of their lifetimes – on who they are or at least what they appear to be. And yet, I watch with probing curiosity: Will Julia Roberts show off or conceal her growing baby belly? What is that floofy thing that one actress is wearing?

I believe that too much is focused on ideals unobtainable by real women with real curves and real incomes and real lives, and yet, there I am. To this beauty feature confessional, all I can say is: My contradictions are powerful.

You can imagine, given my politics and lip gloss, that I've taken notice at the swelling coverage of the "emerging" and curvier celebs, alongside the questioning of the too-skinny celebs who are outed by the rags as anorexic, followed in and out of rehab.

I cheered when stepped up to the catwalk, banning models with a body mass index under 18. The government issued a self-regulating code in response to the prevalence of anorexia in the country's highly competitive fashion industry. A similar ban followed for Madrid's Fashion Week (buono!) which was followed by a refusal to participate by the (boo) and a rather vague consideration for some kind of guideline suggestions by a fashion council (bummer).

In the weeks since all this runway talk, the media (and by media, I mean anyone who can push "publish" and put their words out to the world) has blared to the tune of: "Skinny is out! Curvy is in!" and "Is skinny going out of style?" and (God forbid) "Is Curvy Too Fat?" From blogs to "juice" sites to more blogs to magazines to pre-prime time gossip shows, the buzz about celebrity body size is getting louder and louder.

I cringe when I land on sites that track celebrity diets like the CNN news ticker and yet, I applaud when the spotlight is on talented women with fuller, fabulous figures(and not just the talented women with visible ribcages). I'm overwhelmed with curiosity to see what Hollywood's most beautiful look like without make-up and with cellulite and yet, I'm thrilled (thrilled thrilled) when celebrities don't emerge from childbirth skinnier than they were pre-pregnancy. I love to see the smoldering stars of Grey's Anatomy and Dreamgirls and Ugly Betty and many other must-see events, standing proud, being who they are, warding off Hollywood's so-called "norms," getting the guy (as opposed to being resigned to sassy, sidekick status), and in the spotlight. These women feel more familiar to me, much more first-name-basis than unattainable others: America, Sara, Jennifer and Chandra (just to name a few of the new).

Skinny's out, curvy's in and I'm a big, fat contradiction

I'm not sure if I believe the hype. Perhaps people are happy to see more of the on-screen stars (and maybe more of themselves?). Perhaps it is hopeful that the buff and bootylicious Beyonce was voted to have the "celebrity with the best figure" in a survey by And perhaps, if we are going to have all that glitter and flash photography, some of the best dressed pictures should be of women with boobs and booties and bellies. Or, maybe we should stop scrutinizing these images and these bodies so intensely. Maybe we need to focus more on Tyra's business acumen than the size of her waist in one bikini or one little black dress.

I do know that what see and what many have called into question – The Startling Shrinking Celebrity – is incredibly sad, disturbing and influential to women and girls of all ages, in this country and others. While I know that our business here is to support each other in living fully and living fit, maybe this all is more of a public health issue than a hype issue after all.

It's possible that rail thin has run its course and curvy really is the new black. It's possible that the concern over radically underweight celebrities is the result of eating disorder education and real worry for their health and the health of those who idolize them. It is also possible that tomorrow, the tabloids will be touting the next uber-Twiggy. After all, styles are seasonal and sure to change.

It is possible that thin is sometimes triumphant and sometimes scary, that bigger can be delicious and can be unhealthy, that all of this buzz is fabulous and frightening.

It's possible it is all true, all contradictory and all very powerful.

Now, you: What do you think of this weighty issue? Has the curvy girl kicked the too-skinny celeb out of the spotlight? Does it even matter?

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