Monday, February 20, 2012

open letter to Glamour magazine

Dear Glamour,

I just read your article by Mindy Kaling. I dislike her character on The Office, but having no other reference for her aside from that show, I figured I'd read it to see what she has to say. I was truly disappointed.

I grew up as a competitive ice skater. Having always been the fat girl in the ice skating world, I'm a bit weight sensitive. Now - as both a mother and a social worker - I try to suppress those self-hating tendencies even though I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been at a size 10, which I admittedly often fail at. But at least I know better and try to model better attitudes. I'm also very aware of the inundation of media messages telling girls to be thin, and aware of the damage it causes.

Anyway, I read this article where she repeatedly calls herself "the chubby Indian kid" and says how much criticism hurts her, so I mistakenly expected her to have some sort of agenda to promote body acceptance or rail against the ways Hollywood makes her feel inadequate. Silly social worker, not everyone in the world has a do-gooder outlook.

 With tidbits such as:
"I spent the next 3 weeks running intervals on the treadmill eating lean proteins and vegetables with a handful of berries as a "treat". It was a pathetic and unhappy time during which I was endlessly grouchy. I recommend it to no one.  But it was worth it for the gown"
"my body looks slammin and I'm smiling and that's all that matters"
I was literally horrified at what I read. Actually, I was subconsciously adding up how many calories I could burn if I ate nothing but berries for 3 weeks to see if that would really make a difference in my jean size while simultaneously chastising myself for not working out like I used to and being the size of a small hippopotamus.

 *Then* the educated part of my brain took over, and I got angry. I expect this type of written trickery from the stick thin waif-like models. Of course they can survive on celery and chai tea, their metabolism stopped working years ago! But from the alive-looking women I expect more of a Kate Winslet attitude. You know - "screw you Hollywood, don't Photoshop me!" But here, this woman is talking about wanting to be as fashionable as the Kardashians and her best outift coming from a custom cinched waist. And my inner 10yo girl who would cry when nobody was looking because I was curvier already than the other girls and who knew every calorie count to every piece of food known to man instantly woke up and whispered "you'll never be good enough."

The thing is....if something as ridiculous as a fashion magazine article can do that to me, who (at least I would like to think) has a slightly more sophisticated world view with a broader range of acceptance and a great deal of knowledge about women's issues and the ways society contributes to their negative self image - if I can revert to that angsty pre-teen in a matter of minutes, then what does it do to the actual angsty teenagers who are reading this too?

It's not right. I've spent years working on my body issues that were in part given to me by the world I grew up in. It's hard to be an ice skater with a figure. The criticisms and comments still resonate years later, and it's not the kind of thing that ever leaves your head. But when you know better, you do better - for the next generation. I don't want my daughter growing up with the kinds of thoughts that are in my head that say that my worth is inversely proportionate to my pant size. I don't want this generation of girls to grow up thinking that endless amounts of running on the treadmill and a diet of celery, lettuce, and lemon juice will bring them any sort of sustainable happiness. I want to be part of what teaches them that their worth lies in their actions, their friendships, their honesty, their dreams.

I’m sure Mindy Kaling thinks she’s being cute or humourous to preemptively laugh off any potential criticism, but she’s not. Like it or not, she’s in a position of influence being a woman in Hollywood. As such, she should be ashamed of herself for promoting extreme dieting and exercise to attain such superficial beauty. Glamour magazine is read by thousands of young girls and women each month – when will your articles start to encourage them to love who they are instead of adding to the disillusioned standards that society already holds us to?

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