Note: Hey there, everyone! This week’s post is, in fact, not from me at all, but a cross-post from Grace over at So Many Heartbeats, a really lovely person starting a really lovely body positivity and feminist blog. Here’s a quick taste of things to come over there, and definitely check out her site when you get the chance! I’ll be back with my own blogging later on, particularly when the madness that is working two jobs and writing a senior university honors thesis calms down just a tiny bit.
There has been a lot of buzz lately of whether or not actress Jennifer Lawrence is a body-positivity heroine or its antithesis. Oddly enough, both sides of this argument cite the same interviews and YouTube videos but interpret them very differently. So, because I created this blog so I could weigh in on topics just like these, here I go.
On one side, J-Law lovers boast about how Jennifer Lawrence is championing over the cruelty that is Photoshop and Hollywood, saying things like she would never lose weight for a role and that society’s ideals for women’s bodies are harmful and unattainable. She talks about keeping her adolescent audience in mind when preparing for her role as Katniss in The Hunger Games, saying she wanted Katniss to be a strong female role model for young girls, instead of another waif of a woman whose main goal is to “get the guy” at the end of the film.
Cool. I’m all about women speaking out and standing up for their bodies regardless of how they look. I’m all about questioning ideals. I’m all about strong female protagonists in films that pass the Bechdel test with flying colors.
But as soon as Jennifer Lawrence’s fans flooded Tumblr in her honor, a whole stream of bloggers emerged saying, “Hold up, your fave is problematic.” Like I did with the first side of the argument, I read their evidence with an open and curious mind. Yes, Jennifer Lawrence did say a pretty trans-phobic statement during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. Yes, she did kind of say that eating disorders are “dumb” rather than serious mental illnesses (which, I admit, really hurt me personally. We didn’t choose to have disordered eating, and we certainly should not be blamed or labeled as “dumb” for our struggles). Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is still an attractive, white woman. Despite not being the Hollywood size 0, she still generally fits into a mold of being presentable to society.
This is where my opinion of Jennifer Lawrence starts to deviate from this line of thinking. The “What does she know about being a fat and unattractive woman in America?” is thin-shaming and has no role in my body positive movement.Thin-shaming and fat-shaming are two sides of the same coin; both objectify women and deem them incapable of cultivating their own opinions and having their own independent experiences regardless of how they look. There’s actually no difference is saying that Jennifer Lawrence can’t talk about body acceptance because she’s not a size 16 and saying that Melissa McCarthy can’t talk about her favorite vegetable stew because she is. [Note: I have absolutely no idea what size Melissa McCarthy is, nor do I care.] You see? Body-shaming is body-shaming, objectification is objectification. Reducing women to their outward appearances and denying the fact that they– gasp!— are capable of producing independent thought contributes to the continued oppression of women worldwide.
So now, I’m throwing my own argument into the mix. Can we stop idealizing Jennifer Lawrence into being a perfect role model? Can we let go of the idea that “perfect” even exists? Can we stop thin-shaming her into submission by nitpicking every word that comes out of her mouth? Can we recognize that she is just another human being who is brave enough to share her unpopular opinions, but will also make some insensitive comments sometimes, as we all inevitably do? Can we all just relax about Jennifer Lawrence?