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Oct 9

We need to care less about Rebel Wilson’s weight loss. But we never will – Stuff.co.nz

OPINION: The only time Ive actually ever wanted to punch someone is the time when I got off stage after my first burlesque set and a woman said to me: God, its so nice to see a big girl up there on stage being sexy.

I know she meant it as a compliment. She was in the Ive-had-three-too-many-$8-wines stage where some women get both over-complimentary and unintentionally bitchy. And it took every iota of self-restraint that I had to smile, say thank you and bolt backstage before crying.

I was size 14 at the time, and weighed precisely 89 kilograms. (And I know that fat is a relative scale, and for some people thats not even overweight, while for others that makes me a soggy human dumpling.)

Graham Denholm/Getty Images

The public reaction to Rebel Wilsons weight loss highlights the contradictory views many of us hold simultaneously: we want to celebrate fuller-figured beauty, but we also want to be skinny, writes Verity Johnson.

Id started burlesque because I hated how I looked, I knew I should love it, and I also knew I didnt know how to fix that disparity. And the fact that it took me six months to get back on stage made me realise how much work I had to do.

READ MORE:* Rebel Wilson shares an update on her weight loss 'goal' as she continues her 'year of health'* Adele's birthday post reared an uncomfortable obsession ... again* How about a rom-com where a woman who's not rail-thin is attractive even when she's not concussed?

I thought about that moment this week when watching our collective reactions to Rebel Wilsons weight loss. Its a repeat of what happened with Adele a few months ago. And Susan Boyle and Khloe Kardashian and Kelly Osbourne ... and basically any woman larger than a size 8 who manages to break through into mainstream celebrity only to have the audacity to drop size.

They lose weight and we lose our minds.

(And I can tell you this from working inside a news organisation: celebrity weight loss stories go off. Trump may have Covid, the election may be less than a fortnight away, and Lake hau has been ravaged by a fire, what we really cared about was Rebel Wilsons get-fit phase.)

The most traditional, deeply flawed response to her weight loss is to congratulate her. We love the spectacle of the fat clown turned hot clown. We crave the smooth, inspirational, incremental improvement of the female body as she drops dress sizes.

Partly because culturally weve still got very narrow beauty standards that say that thinner equals better. But also because theres something impressive for many people about weight loss as an easy, understandable symbol of how much humans can improve themselves through willpower. As the kids would say, its a problematic fave.

And then theres the other equally irritating response that people have to her weight loss, which is to bemoan her decision as letting down the body positivity movement.

When she rose to fame as a rare example of a glamorous, gorgeous, certified star who was also plus size, we made her a fuller-figured figurehead. We loved her for being big, exactly as my drunken backhanded commentator was trying to say, and we celebrated her for almost doing us a public service in showing us that sexiness doesnt have a size.

But now were grumpy because shes supposed to be happy being fat.

Robert Kitchin/Stuff

Verity Johnson: Whatever she does, [Wilson] cant win. Wouldnt it be heavenly if she could lose weight and us not care?

This expectation on her directly contradicts the reality that nearly all women hold deeply tangled, contradictory and knotty feelings about their own bodies. Many genuinely celebrate fuller-figured beauty, but we also still want to be skinny.

Likewise I was both flattered and deeply humiliated to be a plus-sized poster girl. And this isnt necessarily proof we dont believe in plus-size beauty, rather that we hold deeply felt but utterly contradictory views simultaneously.

So, as soon as Rebel Wilson shows that she also has these deeply human feelings, that she may have been proudly plus-size for years but now she wants to lose weight, we tell her off for not fitting with the ideological narrative weve written all over her.

The depressing reality is that all of these responses enthusiasm, curiosity, disappointment, gawking theyre all nonsense. Whatever we do, were still making her fleshy pocket a symbol of public morality, either to celebrate it for conforming to conventional beauty standards, or to complain that its failing to conform to #selfacceptance doctrine.

Whatever she does, she cant win. Wouldnt it be heavenly if she could lose weight and us not care?

If our response could be the actual, neutral body-acceptance that says, Do whatever you want with your pocket of flesh. But our enduring obsession with stories like hers, through the skinny tea decades and now the #selfacceptance years, shows thats never going to happen.

We cant not take a womans body and make it an ideological battleground for our own tangled, frustrated, insecure notions of size and self-worth.

See the original post here:
We need to care less about Rebel Wilson's weight loss. But we never will - Stuff.co.nz

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