Monday, November 21, 2016

Body Positivity: Proud of their Shamelessness

In the world of teenage girldom the name Ariel Winter resonates. To me, not so much. In truth, not at all.

The young actress stars on a television show I have never seen. It’s  called Modern Family. A lot of people watch it. A lot of them care what Winter thinks. Welcome to the age of celebrity.

Apparently, Winter has become the poster girl for what is called “body positivity.” This movement tells young girls not to be ashamed of their bodies. It does not seem, in itself, to be a bad idea. But it also, through Winter and her like-bodied fellow travelers, tells girls that they should show how body positive they are by showing off their bodies, in as near naked a state as possible. Bethany Mandel explains it in a recent article.

Remember the old days when feminists insisted that women be respected for their minds? Apparently, the movement has evolved. Now it is encouraging women to be proud of their shamelessness. Trust me on one thing: when you are proud of being shameless you are showing the world that you do not know how to think.

Here is a shot of the mind of Ariel Winter. Note the embarrassment of the woman on the right, the one who is wearing overalls:

One understands that Lena Dunham counts as a high priestess of the body positivity movement. One cannot avoid thinking that in some cases women strip in public because they are afraid that no one will ever want to see them naked. But, surely that is a pernicious thought that we should all banish from our raised consciousness.

Of course, encouraging body positivity must go hand in glove with the current practice of sexting. If you think that teenage girls should not be sending such pictures around their high schools, even their middle schools, then you ought to reject body positivity.

Apparently, we need to keep saying it. Sexting is not a good thing. Young girls and women who have a sense of shame do not expose too much of their nakedness in public. A sense of shame means keeping private parts private. You do so because you care about how people see you. You care about whether they respect you. They care about how they treat you.

One understands that the therapy culture has been telling its adherents that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about you. They have no right to be judgmental. As often happens, this is horribly bad advice. If you feel good about yourself and everyone sees you as something of a tramp, your good feelings will become self-loathing. Unless, of course, you numb yourself with various controlled substances. 

Shame is not a social construction. You can numb yourself to its consequences, but once you allow a certain image of you to occupy the minds of other people it is very, very difficult to erase it. And once you expose yourself in public people will think less of you. And you will think less of yourself. You will have less control over your privacy. If you show it off to everyone it means very little when you expose it to someone you care about. It does not make them feel special; it makes them feel like the last one in line.

When girls publicize their privacy they become self-conscious about their bodies. They feel that other people can see through their clothes. They start feeling like bodies and lose the sense of being social beings. Body positivity is not a good career move. 

After exposing the problems with the body positivity movement Mandel recommends modesty. Of all things. She suggests that a woman who values her body does not show it off to the world. The act cheapens her. Modesty does not mean that you are ashamed of your body. It means that you respect yourself and wish to be seen as something other than naked flesh. You will elicit far more respect than you will be pretending to be a stripper-in-training.

To be fair, if you have a public persona, if you are a celebrity, if you are famous for being famous, you might need to occupy a certain amount of tabloid space by teasing your spectators with suggestive and revealing poses. One understands the market value of selling pictures of one’s bare butt, but one also believes that if you want to be respected for your talent and your mind, it is best to leave more, not less to the imagination.

Mandel explains that Winter, who plays a demure character on Modern Family has been caught by the body positivity movement and is trying to make her real life into tabloid fodder:

… in real life Winter’s focus is more aesthetic: being fashionable and finding clothing that she believes highlights her “body positivity.” In this case, body positivity is about finding clothes which show off as much of one’s body as possible, no matter that body’s size.

Needless to say, when someone like Winter, or Dunham, overexposes herself, she incites the internet trolls. Mandel recommends neutralizing the trolls by erring on the side of modesty. The body positivists double down on naked and tease them some more:

When thousands of people are commenting online about your body in ways that can be classified as nothing but unkind and cruel, a woman in the spotlight has two options: change her appearance, or double down. Winter has chosen the latter route, wearing more and more revealing clothing in an attempt to prove she cares not what others think. Of course, given that Winter is choosing her wardrobe and showcasing it in public as often as possible in response to these “social media haters,” it’s clear she does, in fact, care what these faceless and nameless commenters think and say about her body.

As I suggested, women are now being told to take it all off lest they be shown not to be proud of their shamelessness:

For women whose bodies more closely align with the Hollywood ideal (skinny), being proud of one’s body means showing it off; increasingly, that means showing as much as possible. Actresses regularly walk the red carpet practically naked. But should women of different body types follow the lead of their skinnier sisters towards near-nudity? Winter clearly thinks so, but it’s too bad she is equating body positivity with undressing to a level of near-indecency.

And yet, Winter and her ilk are not the only role models out there. Mandel cites the example of someone named Mayim Bialik—someone I have never heard of:

Actress Mayim Bialik, of similar body type and profession, could not be more different from Winter in this regard. One of the few women in Hollywood who prioritizes modesty, Bialik has said, “It’s important, especially for children and men and my sons to hear I’m not ashamed of my body, I just don’t feel the need to display it with two tiny pieces of fabric when I want to go swimming.”

Winter is happy to send her message of shamelessness—aka body positivity—to teenage girls through the medium of Seventeen magazine.

Mandel writes:

By contrast, in an interview with Seventeen magazine, a publication marketed towards teenage girls, Winter explained why she’s not only wearing more revealing clothing, but also why she’s active on social media despite bullying she receives over her body type. She said, “My sister helped me understand that people will say those things regardless of how you look. I tell myself every day, ‘I look fabulous’.’’

No, people will not say those things regardless of how you look. They will treat you differently if they see you as a respectable woman. Winter should fire her sister.

Mandel continues, arguing for modesty:

Modesty isn’t about covering up because you’re ashamed of your body, no matter what it looks like; it’s about honoring and respecting your body enough to know that not everyone is entitled to see every bit of it. If Winter and her generation really felt they had nothing to prove regarding their self-esteem, these young women wouldn’t feel the need to make sure everyone saw as many of their parts as legally permissible.

As I suggested, the body positivity movement does not promote coherent thinking. As we speak its adherents are up in arms about our current president-elect. Among other reasons for their outrage, they are horrified because he lacks a sense of propriety The bard would have said that they are “hoist with [their] own petard.”

[I cannot affirm definitively that she was inspired by this post-- or even that she read it-- but a British model named Iskra Lawrence stripped down to her underwear in a New York subway today. Link here.]


Trigger Warning said...

Well, even though Winter is a fat chick, she's better looking than Dunham. Dunham reminds me of a detusked walrus. And I think "fabulous" is an apt adjective, given its derivation from "fable".

But there have always been strippers, always will be. They are a stratum of womanhood whose practitioners have been described as as the least skilled serving the most undesirable.

It's a pity that the Proglodyte writers for young women's advertising rags like Cosmo and celebritoons like Beyonce foist off this airhead lifestyle to girls.

Sam L. said...

I suspect I'm older than you, but I remember Mayim from a show she was in as a teenager ore early 20's. Looked her up; none of the show names look familiar but those I know I never watched.

Anonymous said...

I think there are two camps in the 'body positivity' movement.

On the one side, you have gross and hideous-looking women who are fat, ugly, and ghastly-looking. They want to believe that they are attractive. Okay, fine, but the problem is they want to force the rest of us to agree. Trigglypuff is a good example of such creature:

They are just like homos in this regard. There was a time when homos just asked to be tolerated. But then, they began to talk of 'gay pride' and then demand that the rest of us agree that it's wonderful to be 'gay', and if you disagree, you should be blacklisted and destroyed.

But there is another side to Body Positivity. I think this involves women are reasonably sexy and attractive. And men find them sexy, and other women may be admiring or envious of them.
These women want to show off their assets and garner attention. They want to be seen by men as 'hot' and want to be envied by other girls for their ample T&A.
Ariel Winter belongs in this camp. Though no great beauty and a bit overweight, most guys would surely ogle her arse if she stuck it out.

Anyway, if girls like Ariel Winter just shook their stuff, they would be seen as porny and horny, low class and trashy.

So, they latch onto this pseudo-intellectual 'movement' and pretend that their slutty exhibition is a political act of raising consciousness when the only things they wanna raise are the elevation of puds.

BLM or Black Lives Matter seem to be into the Sound Positivity Movement. It is the politics of shrill and obnoxious noise.

Edgehopper said...

A useful and telling detail you'd know if you were familiar with these actresses' work--they both play genius girls on their current respective shows (Ariel Winter on Modern Family; Mayim Bialik on Big Bang Theory). But Ariel is just playing the part as an actress; Mayim has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. And probably more important, Mayim is an observant Jew. The actress with real intellectual accomplishments and a real source of meaning is the one who doesn't need to seek attention for showing off her body, or to make up meaning by calling it feminist.

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