Caution: Woman Eating

This post is a little different from what I usually offer you.  I don't normally tend to get overly political on this blog, although sometimes I can't help myself. However, I also believe that it's impossible to really extricate politics from life, so I don't really try.  If you're not in the mood for a rant, you might want to move on and come back a little later when I'll have a tasty little kidney bean number waiting for you.  If not, stick around...

Somehow I find myself subscribed to a whole mess of newsletters and mailing lists on the internet.  I usually just delete, but lately I've been taking the time to unsubscribe.  This morning, when I clicked on the link to unsubscribe from JCrew's mailing list, I was redirected to a website, presumably their last chance to make me change my mind.  I could have screamed.  Waiting for me at this pivotal moment, when I am supposed to decide if I really want to banish their e-mails from my inbox, was this image:

This emaciated, sickeningly thin model, with sunken eyes and arms so frail they couldn't be trusted to life a Le Creuset from the oven (wait, that sounded sexist. They couldn't be trusted to life, well, just about anything.) is supposed to convince me that I need JCrew in my life.  She's also supposed to convince me, I suppose, that the fact that I do not practice self-starvation makes me less desirable.  A condition JCrew just might be able to ameliorate, if only I would take them back.  

My stomach turns just looking at her razor-sharp collar bones and rubber band-sized wrists.  I want to grab her, sit her down at my kitchen table, and, well, feed the crap out of her.  I want to tell her that her body, and presumably her spirit, would be better served if she took care of them with an eye toward her own well-being rather than punishing herself for the sake of advanced capitalism's insistence on her own objecthood.  I've always had a sneaking suspicion that our society's obsession with the sickly woman as object of desire (as that's how I'd describe her) has a whole lot to do with punishment.  With putting a women in her place by depicting all women as something less than human.  With forcing the burden of guilt on her if she dares to give in to her own desires, rather than literally starving her body into submission for the desiring gaze of others.  I can think of few things more repulsively violent.

And for some strange, inexplicable reason, JCrew is trying to shove this guilt down its unsubscribers' throats.  JCrew feels the need to align themselves with this kind of damaging imagery, proving that we just have not come all that far.

So to JCrew and all others of its ilk: yes, I want you out of my inbox.  In fact, I want you out of my magazines, off of my television, away from my billboards, extricated from my subway ads.  I want to see real women who refuse to punish their own bodies, who are capable of individuality, health, independent thought, and enjoying a nice plate of food.


Dana Treat said…
I really appreciate you posting this. My husband doesn't understand why I have a hard time being happy with my size 4 body - I'll just show him an image like this one so he can understand! We are constantly bombarded by women who look like this - even though there are so very few of them. Actually there are many of them, but they are actually starving instead of starving themselves.

Thanks for keeping it real!
Anonymous said…
You need to find a recipe that is relevant to your rant.

Perhaps, chocolate glazed pork rinds with a butter milk tart filling?

Ox kidney's cooked in beef suet.

Or, caramel banana and pecan cream topped pork loin medalions.

Just a thinkin' thought.
Andrea said…
Dana, I've seen pictures, and you're beautiful.

JerryNJ, honestly, I'd be happy if she ate just about anything. I do have a couple of cookie recipes on deck, although I don't know if they'll quite live up to those standards!
Ellen said…
i agree! jcrew's models have gotten increasingly thin over the past few years. i have noticed that they have different (slightly healthier looking) models for their yoga clothing and swimsuits. it's as if they admit that their models are unnaturally thin so they can look like a mannequin!
Anonymous said…
I am so glad you wrote this.

I am struggling to overcome an eating disorder. I have been punishing myself for many years, and I'm sick of it all. I'm so tired of the competitive cattiness and brainwashing that have come to define what it is to be a woman, to experience femininity. It's awful. I am 23 but I look like a creepy 13 year old. I want to look my age, to be curvy, but that means undoing years of the brainwashing. Not counting calories. Listening to my body that I have worked for so long to destroy. I don't know, it's just so messed up :( But I think that it needs to be talked about more, and to be addressed like you just did. This actually just made my day.

I love to cook, too, and so that's really hard. Learning to use my intuition to make things, even though my eating disorder says I shouldn't "too much" olive oil in that, or I "can't" ever fry stuff. It's just so exhausting when I know I am craving stuff for a reason, and it's healthy to eat what you want. Eat what you want, in moderation. But I am just always on a diet. Ugh.

Anyways, keep representing the fight. I appreciate it.
Joie de vivre said…
Amen sister. I agree, she does look sick. Like a walking skeleton. Her skin is just stretched over her bones. I was looking at the LaCoste ad in Vogue just today thinking the same thing you thought after this JCrew photo.
Andrea said…
Liz, thank you so much for your comment. My heart really does go out to you. I wish you a healthy recovery, I know things like this don't fix themselves overnight, and that it takes time and effort. My wish for you and for all women, is that one day we'll live in a world that doesn't place so much emphasis on the size of our jeans. If you need anything, please just ask. I know there are many people who want to give you their support.
Maia said…
From one food-loving woman to another, my kudos to you for this post. As the wife of a former chef, I eat frequently, well, and with relish. I do not deny myself. I need to qualify by saying that I have the benefit of tall, somewhat lanky genes, which makes it easier for me to say this lightly. But I am not the sort of person who doesn't gain a pound no matter what I eat. If I eat more, I weigh more, just like most of us. Nevertheless, I consider good food to be one of the greatest pleasures in life, and I have no intention of denying myself that sensual pleasure. Few of us are 100% happy with our bodies...but I tell you what, I'm much happier enjoying a good meal than I am worrying about whether I'd be more attractive if I were somehow able to drop ten pounds. Bah.
Anonymous said…
as a recovering anorexic, i'd just like to add to the conversation that girls/women who develop this disease don't always do it in order to become an "object of desire." in fact, many do it to disappear, quite literally, from massive problems with coping in their personal lives.

that said, thank you for fighting the good fight. our culture needs to embrace images of healthy women.

(note: i don't appreciate the distinction between "real" women and anorexic women. we are real, too!)
Andrea said…
Anonymous, thank you for the comment. To clarify, the distinction I'm making is not between anorexic women and "real" women, but between real women and the impossible ideal our society holds us to, all of us. And although it is clear that anorexia is not a result of wanting to objectify oneself, the depiction of impossibly thin women in the media certainly is. I'm not passing any judgments on those who have been most adversely effected by this aspect of our culture, but on the culture itself. I wish you nothing but the best in your struggle.
I just don't know why sickly thin is so in, and continues to be in. I will never be a size 4 or even a size 8, but I don't want to be that thin. But I am 5'11" tall. I wish this phase would go away. I do appreciate you posting this.
Dewi said…
Andrea, don't be too up set dear!. It's their choice to be or not to be.
jenniferhoiyin said…
i love this post. i don't think i really realized my own demise and conforming ways for a long time.
I especially love being pregnant. I'm so at home in this body, even though it's very different I feel more beautiful than ever.

i especially love the connection between body and spirit that you make. it's not something that people realize is there, but it's so powerful.
Anonymous said…
I worked at JCrew in college for a few months...I remember the store manager was kind of like the woman in the picture. I asked her how she stayed so thin... she said to me, "honey, I've been starving since I was thirteen." She was always on was probably because she was under-nourished. Being healthy and slim is one thing, but the woman in the picture looks far from healthy. She is also probably a lot younger than she looks.
I usually dump my jcrew email without evening opening it, but I'm going to unsubscribe too. Then I'll come back and read your red kidney and wine post!
Anonymous said…
I agree with every last word of this post. I love their clothes and find it ironic that their best "model" of all is our healthy, strong First Lady Michelle Obama who is probably (I'm just guessig) a size 10 or 12. JCrew models are disgustingly thin. Pity they don't have more women like Michelle Obama on the pages of their catalogs.

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