This evening on my drive home from work, I was listening to the radio as I usually do. The deejay asked his listeners if they had ever felt let down when they saw an actor or actress naked. He gave his own examples: Elizabeth Berkley and Michael Douglas. He even likened Douglas’ body to a days-old balloon shrinking in a corner. After the next song he took a call. The caller said he was disappointed when he saw a nude of an older Farrah Fawcett. The announcer agreed and added another actress to his list: Lindsay Lohan in Playboy magazine. He said she looked like she had over-baked in the sun.
How dare he? How irresponsible of him.
Listening to this deejay made me feel angry. These celebrities might be intangible to us, regular, people living in some shitty town in Massachusetts’ ass. These are real people, though. How horrible it must feel to know your naked body is just “disappointing.” At your most vulnerable, someone feels it necessary to point out how unappealing you look without clothes on. How sad would it be for someone, maybe they worked very hard to feel confident naked, to have someone else criticize their appearance.
How much worse is it to be criticized on your nude body, based on photographs that were never meant to be seen by millions of people?
Why does anyone think it is alright to publicly critique someone’s naked body like they’re a summer romance novel or a Lifetime Network movie? Like they’re just objects and not people.
My first instinct is to want to see this deejay and publicly criticize his physique. That would make me no better than him, though. So how then do we get people to realize their criticisms like this hurt not just the person they’re insulting, but the people who are listening to them?
Let’s face it–the majority of us do not look like celebrities. I know I don’t. I’m not in any sort of delusion that my body is any sort of desirable, but it would probably feel good to have a body I would be proud to show off–maybe like Lindsay or Elizabeth. But if those bodies don’t even look good, well then, what does? What if, after lots of hard work, I managed to attain a body I feel is reasonably attractive when I see it naked? Hearing disapproving comments about a celebrity’s body would probably cause me to feel apologetic about my own body when I did reveal it. It doesn’t make me feel better that these celebrities, whose job it is to look attractive, failed to impress some jackass on the radio.
But there it is. He. Is just. A jackass. A jackass with a microphone. Desensitizing Americans against women. He is substantiating the problem that views women as objects that we have the right to critique, instead of viewing them as people with feelings. And when women aren’t people anymore, they are marginalized. They are assaulted. They are harassed. They are humiliated. And no one bats an eye.
Don’t feed into it. Don’t be one of them. Imagine some radio deejay announcing over the open airwaves that your sister’s body was such a let down when he saw it naked. Imagine him saying how gross your daughter’s body looked in a photograph she posed for. That your mother used to be beautiful, but now that she’s aged, she should keep her clothes on because her body just ain’t what it used to be. She’s a big turn-off now. Unattractive.
I don’t think the solution are these body image projects that show regular women in their underwear so more regular woman can see them and relate to them. I don’t think the answer is to print photographs of celebrities without makeup on. I do think, however, that it would help if there weren’t television programs on air whose purpose is to judge every celebrity’s appearance, either positively or negatively. I don’t think there should be a negative. If a celebrity makes some bad fashion choice, say “bless her heart” and move on. If a celebrity has some bloat going on, let’s not splash a magnified image of her “baby news” on all the websites and magazines, because it’s probably just your run-of-the-mill cheeseburger baby that she’ll dump out in a couple of days. Focus on maybe how beautiful her hair looked, instead of honing in on her least flattering feature that day. It breeds ugliness and hatefulness, and eventually, eating disorders and self-loathing.
Let’s think before we speak. Before we publish. Before we influence.