Imagine meeting someone for the first time and revealing your innermost thoughts – should they even enter your mind – about that person’s physical size. 'Hi, isn’t it cold today? I love your shoes! You’re at least 15kg lighter/heavier than expected.'
It’s laughable because that would be a display of outrageously poor manners, not to mention the fact you'd sound like a dick. Depending on that person’s body image, it could also land as cruel, possibly even dangerous.
So why does a significant contingent think otherwise? Granted, the offenders are generally boomers, prone to ‘bloke jokes’ and banter, with a lifetime of social privilege to thank for so effortlessly taking the liberty to share their unsolicited commentary. It’s mostly men, but not exclusively so, with one easy target: the famous. To them, anyone in the public eye chose that life and is therefore fair game. Right?
Wrong, actually. Last week in the UK, 19-year-old Strictly Come Dancing contestant Tilly Ramsay elegantly shut down radio host Steve Allen, 67, after he called her a 'chubby little thing' live on air when answering a listener. There was no passing it off as a joke, the context of his words were insanely inappropriate, spoken for effect – i.e. to rile up discord and serve him column inches – a pitch perfect example of a broken media system. He has since issued a private apology.
Earlier in the same week, actor Jonah Hill, 37, posted a statement on social media. 'I kindly ask that you not comment on my body… good or bad I want to politely let you know it’s not helpful and doesn’t feel good.' The star has been open about feeling more body confident and mentally stronger following 'years of public mockery about my body by press and interviewers,' calling out past scrutiny for negatively affecting his self acceptance. Hill’s post led Sharon Stone, 63, to immediately miss the mark and comment, 'can i say you look good cuz u do 🔥.' Um, how about we all just… not? Perhaps it’s people over a certain age not grasping the concept.
Hill’s sister, Beanie Feldstein, is currently starring as Monica Lewinsky in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story 3: Impeachment. The series is fuelling a cultural reckoning on history concerning the treatment of women, highlighting facts we can now see as horrifically unfair, not least regarding the media treatment of Lewinsky. Aside from an onslaught of slut-shaming endured from 1998 onwards, by her own admission it was the fat-shaming that damaged her self-worth more.
For those in need of further clarification as to how much words can hurt, directly or indirectly, allow me to point you towards the case of Brittany Murphy. The star of iconic ’90s and Noughties films like Clueless and Just Married was 32 in 2009 when she died of severe pneumonia, anaemia and 'multiple-drug intoxication' – the subject of a new HBO Max documentary. Murphy’s story remains one of the toxic era’s most sinister to reconsider, yet another example of misogyny playing the body shaming narrative’s North Star.
After a powerful Hollywood agent’s humiliating comment that she was 'huggable, but not fuckable' – something Murphy told Interview magazine at the time – she soon had a dramatically slimmer frame. In the two-part film, deputy medical examiner Dr. Lisa Scheinin, who conducted Murphy’s autopsy, explains that her anaemia had become life-threatening, which Scheinin attributes in part to the fact that Murphy was extremely underweight.
Removing body commentary, no matter the intention, from acceptable conversation is not bowing to oversensitive snowflake culture, nor is it limiting freedom of speech, or the recipient being unable to take a compliment. Unless explicitly asked for an opinion, the intentions of the person commenting are insignificant, unimportant, and driven only by their own ego to share.
Weight fluctuates for many more reasons than vanity. Grief, medication side effects, hormonal change being just a few, none of which fall under ‘anyone else’s business’. Self identity standards have changed for the better and if you think otherwise, apologies, but you’re hideously out of date. RIP your unwanted opinion.
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