Defending Britney (and then some)

Jackie Mantey

Marilyn Monroe? Dress size 12. Aretha Franklin? Big and absolutely gorgeous. Jennifer Aniston circa 1994? America’s sweetheart with pudgy cheeks. The good old days of normal-looking famous women? Priceless . and over.

Leave it to American culture to screw all of that up with its strange fascination with women who look like pencils.

Pop music, another confusing phenomenon, saw one of its brightest stars crumble beneath the weight of the world (and a probably a few margaritas) last week. Unless you call a rock “home,” you know about Britney Spears’ disastrous performance and the years of ridicule she will have to endure because of it.

I admit, I got just as much guilty pleasure as the rest of you reading the reports and watching video clips making fun of the poor thing. But as I kept reading and watching, there was one element of the mockery that made me want to defend Ms. Spears.

“Lard & Clear, Loser at VMAs” read a New York Post headline. A Perez Hilton blog post asked if Brit and Miss Piggy were separated at birth. And of course, every stupid tabloid had blown up pictures of a double chin when she was dancing or a hint of a tummy roll.

Living in a culture where one ounce of fat is automatically deemed ugly and that deeming is perpetuated by subliminal examples everywhere (Fiona in “Shrek” becoming “ugly” when she turns green and fat, anyone?) is annoying in and of itself. However, what’s most disturbing about the burning of Britney on the public stake for her chubbiness is the fact that the woman just had two kids. Two kids for heaven’s sake! Women in my family blow up from 110 pounds to 180 after a pregnancy and only move the scale on up after that (sorry, Mom).

We must look not only at what we’re telling our daughters, but what we’re telling ourselves. Young girls aren’t the ones reading these headlines or these blogs, it’s adult women who have or someday may have children. Is it fair to imply that they should be the size of a 17-year-old girl nine months after they pop out a kid? Absolutely not.

Everyone hopes that older women have internalized enough self confidence through their lifetimes that such remarks about a (fallen) star won’t affect them, but the struggle for an acceptable body type is just more hidden. While there are many exceptions to that generalization, a lifetime of living in a culture where the “beautiful people” are rail thin and digging a bigger girl is seen as a fetish (god forbid they just love the idea of a woman with meat on her bones or the woman herself) trickles through, year to year, makes weight an issue even the most self-confident woman deals with at some time.

Point is, make fun of Britney’s poor decision making, make fun of her half-ass performance, make fun of her bad extensions, but lay off her “muffin top.” Her body looked amazing after two kids and years of stress none of us understand. Scratch that, her body looked amazing even if those weren’t factors.

Personal attacks on a woman’s body may be good for a day’s headline or a 30-second joke, but think about what those remarks could mean for the women you love.

Jackie Mantey is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].