“LADY GAGA IS FAT.”
Because it’s a hot topic this week, here are some words for your consideration. “I think this reaction provides us with evidence that many people formulate opinions about others based on what they’re shown over and over again. This repetitive exposure could be from media/advertisments/hollywood/magazines etc.
Consider, if you’re constantly shown that white men in business suits are jerks; when you meet a white man in a business suit you will likely expect him to be a jerk. Similarly, if you see over and over again that blonde, tall, skinny women are airheads; when you see a blonde tall skinny woman you will expect her to be an airhead. This is no different then when we see over and over again that women who are performing on stage have no “visible imperfections”; we expect women on stage to have no “visible imperfections”.
When our expectations are not met, we generally have two responses: we are pleasantly surprised or painfully disgusted.
Recall that many of the first female bodybuilders were looked at in disgust. No one expected a woman to look that way. (And for that matter, no one expected the men of the Pumping Iron era to look that way either.) It made people uncomfortable. It didn’t fufill their expectations and it certainly didn’t fit into anyone’s visual context of what a woman or man was.
So how is this relevant? Well for starters, let’s look at how our expectations of a man’s body have changed. Throughout the 80s and 90s and into today, muscular men have been shown in movies and television shows, thanks Arnold. They were portrayed in a positive context by being heroic and muscular, by being macho and muscular, by being tough and muscular, by being extremely sexual and muscular and by being manly and muscular in all their bulging glory. The male muscular body was given context and shown repetitively. Because of this, we expect macho, manly, heroic or sexual characters to be played by more muscular men. (Seriously, you expect Thor or Captain America or Achilles to have a muscular body. If Chris Hemsworth was not muscular and was instead wearing skinny jeans, you would likely be painfully disgusted.)
Similarly, if you saw a muscular man on the street today you would probably not react in extreme disgust because you have been shown that type of body and it has some relevant and expected context.
Psychology 101 tells us that, “Familiarity breeds liking.” -Dr. James Maas, Cornell University. We are, for certain, much more familiar with the male muscular body. It has also been given associated context to fulfill our expectations.
But what about the female body?
Women, unlike men, have been much slower to diversify their body expectations. We are not shown muscular women as being feminine, we are not shown women with cellulite as being sexual, we are not shown women with belly fat as being beautiful, we are not shown women with imperfections as being stage worthy. It’s no wonder that people have reacted in disgust at Lady Gaga’s itty bitty belly. She did not fulfill their expectations.
In fact, even though you might be able to consciously accept her imperfections by working through your expectations, you probably had a gut reaction (pun intended) that made you feel uncomfortable at first. This is the result of being shown, repetitively, what a woman should be. We have undeniable expectations of what beautiful, sexual, feminine, and worthy should look like in a woman’s body. This doesn’t mean these expectations are truthful. This doesn’t mean these expectations are accurate. And this certainly doesn’t mean that these expectations cannot change.
Thankfully, as of late there, is movement towards diversification of our expectations of the female body. There are many body positive campaigns, body acceptance campaigns, love yourself as you are campaigns, and strong is the new sexy campaigns etc. The intention of these movements is worthy and honorable. But what we’ve seen, instead of a large diversification, is the acceptance of an additional and very narrow expectation: feminine, muscular bodies are expected to be not too big, very lean with no fat, no cellulite, no skin imperfections and are not allowed to be 3 dimensional. Oh, and if you’re going to get on stage all bets are off, you better be perfect. SMH.
We are never going to be able to familiarize ourselves with the female human body unless we allow ourselves to be exposed to diversification on a regular basis. So consider diversifying your news feed. Follow lots of different bodies. Start to appreciate their humanness. Each and every one of us is unique. There is only one of you. There is only one of Lady GaGa. There is only one me.
In a perfect world we would leave our expectations aside and approach ourselves and other humans as novel unexpected surprises. We would be present with the human within us, we would be present with the human in front of us, and we would allow ourselves to fully experience and appreciate the uniqueness of one another.