thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Interlude: BIG SEXY

In gender, girl culture on August 27, 2011 at 8:25 am

Chelsea H.

I must confess, I haven’t seen this show yet.  In fact, no one has, because it doesn’t premiere until Tuesday.  I’ve only seen promos.  But I want to think about the messages this promo conveys, because I am both in support of and resistant to its potential impact.

What I like: These women love their bodies!  They have learned to resist, or ignore, or laugh at, the judgments American society makes about larger bodies, especially for women.  They, I would bet, would laugh just as hard at the idea of low-calorie brownies as I did in my last post.  They consider themselves beautiful and sexy and worthy of fulfilling relationships, or just flings, and that is wonderful.  Good for them for loving themselves and having a strong support group to hang with.  Their lives look like a lot of fun, and I think their decision to take on the problematic, thin-obsessed fashion industry in New York is a brave, and needed, attempt.

What I don’t like: I want to say this cautiously, because my intention is not to offend.  I don’t think judgment based on body size is good, I don’t believe in cookie-cutter shapes, and “normative” is a word that shouldn’t even exist because pretty much no one is.  However, I can’t avoid, and nor should anyone watching, that this is a reality show, and therefore these women are on display.  Maybe they want to be – maybe part of their aim is to bring attention through showing themselves – but there is the same kind of potential for objectification that occurs with every reality show: they are on TV, being watched and judged by people who they can’t see, can’t know, can’t respond to, and probably can’t even imagine. What does that do to the message they are sending?  Does it glamorize their lifestyle, and does it do that in a healthy or unhealthy way?  Does it make them desirable and admirable, or does it make them products of voyeurism?  I can’t decide.  Judging only from the promo, there seems to be a equal promise of girl-power, body-image-busting positivity, but I wonder: is that too good to be true?

So the question is, and I put it to you gals: is this a promise of empowerment, or is it just a new direction of objectified sexuality?  Is Big Sexy positive or not?  Would you watch it?  Why?  Why not?

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  1. Good breakdown, Chelsea… I’m also not sure yet about the show based on the commercial, but I do think that it’s problematic to separate reality show subjects based on body types — real progress would be casting that features people with a variety of body types without making a big deal about it, it seems.

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