Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: anorexia

A Little Anorexia is Hot

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I’m beginning to think that magazines intentionally choose articles to make their readers feel insecure, buy their magazine, and eat up the products advertised in the current issue. (I’m sure some blogs do the same thing)

A few days ago, I mentioned the Details magazine article which theorized that man’s happiness is directly related to the size of his member.  Of course, since most of us never reach that nine inch status, we need to compensate by buying Axe cologne or a sports car.

It’s all pretty ridiculous.  First of all, most men keep their private parts hidden in their pants until the third date, so no women really knows what’s up (other than in the Middle Ages – Renaissance when men tried to fool everyone with codpieces).  In modern times, men use this “dating” process for their own purposes, suckering the always emotional woman into overlooking any other issues with the male body, as they “fall” for you.

Joking, uh… ha ha.

Women have it tougher than men.  Men do judge women by how they look.  But — I’m not sure they do as much as you think.  Different men like all different types of women.   Some like all women!  Despite what men talk about when they are drinking beer in Hooters, a woman with a good sense of humor is much sexier than a pair of fake boobs.  Not that men don’t like boobs.  That is a given.  I just think that women’s magazines go overboard in setting up a feminine “ideal” that is not essential to being attractive to men.   Perhaps women are forced into all this more from peer pressure of other women!  And unlike men’s magazines, women’s magazines don’t give a woman an out– our culture doesn’t say that a woman owning a sportscar can ever compensate for a woman’s physical “faults.”    Instead women have to buy, buy, buy beauty supplies and diet, diet, diet. 

I’m pretty insecure about myself, but I’m surprised how confident I sound when I IM with some of my female blogging friends!  I’m about as dorky as they come, but even I don’t think it impossible for me to be with any woman I wanted to — if the situation was right.  When I was watching the Grammy Awards last week, I was thinking about this exact thing when Beyonce was singing.  Now that is one beautiful, talented successful woman!  And I was sitting there thinking — “You know what.  If circumstances were different, and we were in the same social circle, and I had a little more money, and if we had something to talk about, I bet you I could woo Beyonce.”  Do you find that crazy?  I think most men wouldn’t.  This is why some men come off as cocky — because even I — the most insecure person you’ll meet — have this insane, unrealistic male ego.  Do I think I will ever date Beyonce?  Of course not.  But in my mind… it is possible.

Do women think they could be dating Brad Pitt if things were different?  I think it is harder for women to have these crazy thoughts, because the media is harder on your psyche.  Our culture makes you feel that you aren’t worthy of being considered attractive if your body shape isn’t a certain type.  This is not a new discussion, either on blogs or on Citizen of the Month. 

I can hear the thoughts already.  “Brad Pitt would never want me because I’m a size 12!  Maybe if I lost weight.  I really should go to the gym… today.” 

You would think that women’s magazines would be “with the times,” advocating the sexiness of real women, like in those Dove ads.   You can be sexy being thin and athletic.  You can be sexy being full-figured with a squeezeable ass.  So, I was surprised to hear about this article in March’s Elle magazine, written by Amanda Fortini, which touts the idea that “men prefer anorexic women.”  Huh?  Is that really true?  Is this the same research company that came up with the results that Hung = Happiness?  Or is this written in the magazine solely to make women feel insecure and renew their subscription to Elle?

From the article (via Jezebel):

“Many men, I quickly learned, really do like frighteningly lean women, whatever they may claim to the controversy. As an average, medium-size young woman, I was unremarkable, innocuous. As a skinny slip of a thing, I was something of a sensation. In restaurants and at parties, men flirted at me extravagantly.” Men in media and literary circles hit on her frequently and audaciously, (one of them with the awesome line, “You remind me of a heroine from a Joan Didion novel.” (You know, “all bones and big eyes.”) “As a male friend once put it to me, semifacetiously,” she writes, ‘A little anorexia is hot.'” 

P.S. — Let’s keep an anorexia count on for tonight’s Oscars!  At least it will make the always boring show interesting…

Size 20

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Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier was controversial yesterday at his 30th anniversary show during fashion week in Paris.   Amidst all the size 0 models, Gaultier included one size 20 woman, wearing a sexy black corset.   Some writers have said that this is a positive development for the fashion industry, opening our eyes to different images of beauty.

I frankly think it is a gimmick, more of a joke at the expense of those wanting to ban “underweight” models from runways.   Everyone knows that size 20 is not going to be the norm for fashion models, so this is just a one-time gag.   It would have been a serious move to actually USE a size 12 or size 14 model, but no way — that would freak out the industry.   Here, everyone can play with the concept in a cute way, but not really do anything about it.

In other news, CNN, in a attempt to add more diversity to their broadcast, has signed a prominent African-American to read the news on Friday evening.

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Neilochka vs. Nicole

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I have nothing against Nicole Richie.  Really.  I actually thought she was pretty cute in those reality shows with Paris Hilton.  And Nicole was pretty funny.  And a hundred times more interesting than that dopey Paris Hilton.  I’ll even admit that I had a couple of Lionel Richie albums.  I liked him.  And I loved him when he was with the Commodores.

So, please stop emailing me, saying how I hate Nicole Richie.

The problem started with this post:

And then this post:

I didn’t mean to pick on Nicole Richie.  She was just the skinny actress du jour.  She is more a metaphor for skinny actresses everywhere.

If you look to the right on the page, you’ll see that I use a WordPress plugin called "Most Popular Posts."  The plugin uses some complicated formula based on hits and comments to come up with this list of most popular posts.  I don’t make any of the choices.  As you can see, "Too Skinny" is my most popular post.  It is also my worst post.  It isn’t particularly funny or interesting or touching.  But tons of people come to read it.   At first, readers came to make jokes about these skinny women.  Then, some people sounded sad about what women do to their bodies.   But then the tone changed, after I was linked by some pro-ana sites.

I had no idea what pro-ana was until I looked it up:

Pro-ana websites were first developed to counter the many support websites which encourage recovery from anorexia. Many anorexics believed that the desire to achieve an unnaturally slim figure was not a mental illness, but an alternative lifestyle. Doctors who treat anorexia see pro-ana as a life-threatening danger to current and potential anorexics.

These were young women who were advocating excessive skinnyness — calling anorexia a lifestyle — sort of like being gay or a Teamster is a lifestyle.  The whole concept of ana seemed pretty silly to me, until I started getting angry emails.  Most played the victim card:  

"You would never call someone fat in public.  Why do you feel it is OK to call someone "skinny?"

Yes, that guy on "Lost" is fat.  So, there.

Here’s an "ana" forum that discusses one of my dumb silly posts about Nicole Richie, Teri Hatcher, and Mischa Barton.  Here’s one of the comments:

Has anyone noticed that most of the people complaining that the three were too skinny were chicks?  I thought that was kinda amusing. i think its stupid how chubby people complain about how girls should be more womanly and all that jazz but secretly they themselves want to be just as pin thin as the supermodels, but won’t admit it.

I hate having that "Too Skinny" post as my most popular one.  I’ve tried to cheat the system by hitting some of my other posts dozens of times, hoping to push them up the list.  But every time I do that,  ten more people come to read about "skinny woman."

And each day, I get an email telling me how good Nicole Richie looks since she lost the weight.

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On a related note, he is an amazingly touching post about a lifetime of weight isssues written by Kristy.

And to start the weekend right, here’s another gag at Nicole Richie’s expense, via Justin.

The Body Woman

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My most popular post is titled “Too Skinny” – about the too skinny Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.  Weight and body issues are an important subject for many women, particularly young women who look up to these actresses and feel ashamed of their own bodies.     The average dress size of the American woman is size 14.  Women are beautiful in all sizes.  Luckily, there are advocates who can speak to women about the importance of being comfortable with their own body – someone like Oprah.   Did you know that only three women were on the Discovery Channel’s list of the Top 25 Greatest Americans:  Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and… Oprah Winfrey?!  (TV Guide, June 26, 2005)

I spoke to my friend, Brenda, also known as New York City’s #1 Oprah Fan.  I was surprised to learn that Brenda’s not Oprah’s #1 Fan anymore.

"When Oprah was fat, all she talked about was being happy with who you are.  Once she got thinner, she changed her tune.  Now, she’s like a recovering alcoholic, berating people for being fat.   If only you exercised more, ate less, did everything right.   That, and have a personal trainer and chef at your disposal!"

OK, so maybe Oprah is no longer an advocate for women on this subject.   Surely there are others who take the fashion industry to task for only designing clothes for very skinny women.  Take Cathy Horne, the New York Times fashion critic.  She used to weigh 190 pounds.   Oh, but then she started to feel like a phony.  How could she write about fashion if she was couldn’t — oh my god — fit into the designer clothes she reviewed?

Unlike art or music or other fields that receive critical appraisal, fashion is visually as well physically expressive. It necessarily involves the body. And I had been using only my brain to evaluate clothes. Because I had little personal experience with the physical side of fashion: the fit, the movement, indeed the pleasure that it can give.

What led me to think about this and to question, at least retrospectively, my fitness for the job was that in the last eight months, after a decade of slowly inching downward, I have lost about 30 pounds and now weigh 137. For the first time since my early 20’s, I can wear a size 8. People in the industry have noticed and complimented me on the change. But the picture wouldn’t be clarified until I went to see Andy Port, a friend and editor at The Times Magazine, to ask if she thought there was an article in any of this.

"Oh, definitely," Andy said. "Especially given your job and the way the fashion industry views weight." She added, on the verge of a shriek, "I mean, just think how many times a designer, after getting a bad review from you, said, ‘That big fat bitch!’ "

Now, Cathy Horne is a happy and fulfilled woman.  It was the fat that was holding her back from being the ultimate fashion journalist.   As a writer, I can absolutely relate.    To better write this post about weight and women, I have gained 30 pounds and undergone a sex change operation.  

If there is going to be a strong advocate for women being happy with their own bodies, it must come from the feminist movement.  I remember how my Aunt Tilly used to go on marches with Bella Abzug and complain about the male dominated society.  What I didn’t know was that the Bella Abzug is as old school as Run-DMC. 

The representatives of the “third wave” of American feminism are Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, writers of the well-received Manifesta:  Young Women, Feminism and the Future.  Baumgardner and Richards are popular speakers on college campuses.  They separate themselves from older feminists by saying its OK to dress pretty and flirt with boys.  On their own website, they give another reason for their popularity.

Jennifer and Amy agreed to visit the class. What a night. One student said afterwards, "It was wonderful how they didn’t look like feminists."

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(photo by Ali Price)

I’m sure my Aunt Tilly would be the first to admit that Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan weren’t lookers.  And look how thin Jennifer and Amy are!  They look great!

Amy Richards also has an advice column titled “Ask Amy” on a feminist website.  Finally, we found a person who can help young women overcome their body issues.

Many years ago I used to get so many emails from girls saying: "I’m ugly, I’m fat, I hate my body." and I kind of towed the feminist line for a long time, which was: (saccharine voice) "Oh, that’s not true! It doesn’t matter what you look like! It’s what’s inside! You are a beautiful person!" And then I realized- first of all, when I would write that back to people they would, like, never write me back, ’cause I think they could just see through the phoniness.

In other words, the new answer is  “We’re feminists, but you’re fat.”

My Ice Cream Post Worked!

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(Nicole Richie with two scoops)  
(via Perez Hilton and INF GOFF)

The word is out.  My previous post about ice cream in Los Angeles has had an unexpected result.  Along with all your suggestions, we have single-handedly solved the anorexia problem in Hollywood.

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