Friday, March 5, 2010

Down with Planet Barbie!

I know the title of this post is kind of weird, but I wasn't sure what else to call it (I almost named it "The Last Bastion of the Flat-Chested," but changed my mind). You see, while I watched the Olympics during half of February, part of what caught my eye wasn't the dazzling rhinestones on the skaters' costumes or the stunning accuracy of the shooting during the biathlon. It wasn't even my amazement that curling is apparently popular enough to be broadcast round-the-clock while so many of the other sports had hit or miss coverage. It had to do with the faces beneath the ski hats and the bodies in the Lycra outfits and my thrill at realizing the women actually looked like humans. Granted, they looked like uber-fit humans, but still...I didn't notice a single Pam Anderson among them.

So many celebrities these days have surgically altered faces and bodies that I'd pretty much gotten used to seeing females on-screen that resemble full-sized Barbie dolls. While at the doctor's office recently, I read the People magazine with "The Hills" reality star Heidi Montag on the cover, and I couldn't help but wince and whisper, "You poor, messed-up girl" under my breath as I learned about her Christmas head-to-toe makeover that had her under anesthesia for something like two days (okay, it was more like seven or eight hours, which sounds bad enough). Heidi had previously undergone a nose job and chin job, according to reports, before this latest Frankenstein-esque reconstruction that included Botox to multiple areas of her face, another nose job, cheek implants, chin chiseling, ear pinning, breast enhancement, liposuction, and God knows what else. The girl is only 23. Yet, she looks like a very well-preserved 40 year old porn star.

And the scariest part of all? (And, no, it's not the fact that her mother didn't even recognize her when she returned home to Colorado with a camera crew from "The Hills" tagging along.) It's that she doesn't think her newly-built DD boobs are big enough. She wants to go back for more. Gulp.

I am seriously afraid for girls today, thinking they're not worthy unless their chest sticks out so far that they can set a tray from Sonic atop it and comfortably eat. I heard just the other day that breast augmentation has surpassed rhinoplasties as the number one surgery. Something like 335,000 boob jobs were done last year, and it keeps going up. Every time I watch an awards show or a sitcom, for Pete's sake, all I see is cleavage. If aliens can get Us Weekly and People online, or if their satellites pick up "The Girls Next Store," "Dr. 90210," "The Bachelor," or any number of TV programs (or beer commercials), they'd think our gender was comprised of an army of plastic fem-bots.

I'd hate to be growing up now when there are such unrealistic body images. When I was in junior high in the mid-'70s, my feminine ideals were the stars of "Charlie's Angels"--Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, and Farrah Fawcett--who looked gorgeous and different from each other and natural, if you know what I mean. But today...geez, I can't think of an actress off the top of my head, other than Meryl Streep, who hasn't altered her face, breasts, or other body parts in some way. How sad is that?

Which is why the Olympics were so great. Not that female athletes look anything close to average (I would kill to have a figure skater's legs!); but they look strong and fit and, best of all, real. Not like they were taken apart and reassembled on a Beverly Hills surgeon's table.

My hope is that young girls who watched Olympics' coverage will see what I saw and will not only be convinced that women should come in various shapes and sizes; but that character and determination are even more important than large bazoombas and zero cellulite. Maybe they'll put up posters of Joannie Rochette, who won a bronze in figure skating days after her beloved mother died of a heart attack. Now there's real.


  1. I'm so with you. I thought about this yesterday while watching Survivor, during one of the challenges I happened to notice that there was one girl who had to have fake boobs, because all the rest of the woman looked "normal" in a swimming suit top and hers were nice and round and perky. Of course, a couple of the woman are soo totally thin it's disgusting.

    I hope girls watched the Olympics and noticed how totally fit the woman were, not thin, fit. Maybe that will help some start to workout towards a healthy weight too.

  2. Anjali Kapoor-DavisMarch 5, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    You had me laughing out loud and nodding in agreement the whole time. I remember reading "Are you there God, it's me Margret" and all my friends chanting "we must, we must, increase our bust". I was in elementary school so the "girls" wouldn't make an appearance for a few years anyways but that didn't stop me from hoping. Body image is such an issue for girls and has been for ages. You're right about athletes and I certainly hope that girls are inspired to model after them intead of Barbie. Thank you!

  3. Kris, I haven't watched "Survivor" yet this season, but I have watched it often enough in the past. IMHO, they pick the women for that show based on their bodies (since they're usually dressed in little more than bikinis), adding a couple more "normal" women who usually get kicked off early on. I enjoy the show more when they have women like Sue, the truck driver! She was awesome!

    Anjali, I'm glad I made you chuckle! :-) We used to chant that, too! Do girls do that anymore? Probably not since they just figure they can go to the plastic surgeon at 16 and increase their bust! (Oy!) I remember being 13 and about the size I am now (I grew fast then stopped!). I had the "biggest" boobs on my gymnastics team. It gave me a complex for years! Hard to believe when you see my picture, eh? ;-) It's too bad we can't all learn to relax and appreciate being healthy, whatever our shape. Although I doubt the fashion magazines will ever embrace normalcy! And that's too bad.

  4. You said it! Ditto! I'm sure my jaw hit the floor when I read about Heidi while in the checkout line at the grocery store. And your stats are staggering. I thought medical treatments are really expensive in the US. How are those 300,000+ women paying for those boobs? Do they just neglect their other health care or do the fake boobs make them virus-proof too?

    The rest of that chant: "The bigger the better to fill the sweater, the boys depend on us!" You know. I'm now thinking a boy wrote that...

  5. Zita, just from listening to ads by plastic surgery centers around St. Louis, it's pretty clear you can pay off your surgery in installments or put it on your credit card. I'd venture to guess that before the recession, people were using home equity loan money, too. They make it way too easy! I'll bet you're right about a dude writing "We must increase our bust." I must Google and see if there's an actual author attached, or if it's a boy called Anon. ;-)

  6. I used to be able to spot the "altered" in my aerobics classes 'cuz they were the ones who, when we lay on our backs to do sit-ups, continued to stick up toward the ceiling, perfectly perky. One slipped off her top in the locker room and she didn't even wear a bra. They were so high she could barely chew without bumping her chin. When Lindsay Lohan got anorexically thin, she still had these kind of pathetic pods stitched to her chest wall.

    I'm with you, Susan...I love to see women with great muscle definition in their arms, who look strong and fit. I worry for young girls, but I also worry about the impact of the rest of these Barbie bodies, where the girls are so unhealthily thin. I'm in favor of a movement where older women, who comprise a huge demographic,refuse to purchase clothes (or other products, like CARS, maybe?)from any manufacturer who markets them using too young, too improbably models.

    We can vote with our pocketbooks. Even Eileen Fisher, who used to use real women in her ads, in now using scarily thin girls.

  7. I'm with you, Kate! Too skinny isn't healthy. And it looks completely freaky to see someone so thin with fake breasts. I'm not sure whose feminine ideal that is! (It's scary to think it's anyone's!) We're such a country of extremes that people are starting to look like cartoons or caricatures of real people. How about those wrinkle cream commericals that use women who are too young to even have a wrinkle on their faces? Oy!

  8. Hear, hear!!! *standing ovation*

    The girl is only 23. Yet, she looks like a very well-preserved 40 year old porn star.

    This cracked me up! :)

  9. Thanks, Tori! Well, ya know, it's true! ;-)

  10. I was listening to Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air today in an interview with Avatar director James Cameron. She asked about the small breasts of his Na'vi female characters, noting that the convention now is larger is better. Cameron laughed and said the Na'vi have "athletic breasts." I like that term. Who knows? Maybe it will catch on.

  11. Well, good for James Cameron! I'm all in favor of it catching on, too.