Why does it matter if Adele is fat?

The morning after The Grammys, Buzzfeed published a piece entitled “25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions to Chris Brown At The Grammys”. It’s a disturbing read, but not entirely surprising. Women cavalierly condoning violence against other women is anything but new.

Being a member of our society can be embarrassing. We’re not terribly respectful of each other are we? It’s reflective of our own self-loathing. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for women to be constantly objectified the world over. A woman’s value is determined solely on how she appears. But how much do women play a part in all of this? When you look at it objectively, they’re more guilty than men.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with following the interactions between people on Twitter. It’s frightening how quickly they make false assumptions, and resort to childish name-calling against anyone with differing opinions. Ever the optimist I attempted to intervene on a couple of occasions and had to abort my mission when confronted with irrational tweeters. In some cases I was surprised to learn that the majority of offenders were over the age of 35. I attempted to explain to the most vicious tweeters that their attitude was a poor representation of their character and not the person whom they were attacking. I was branded a “preacher” and as being “arrogant.” Fair enough, but my intention was to raise the level of dialogue from that of grade school antics, to mature thoughtful adult conversation. So much for that.

One of the most annoying and persistent comments was in regards to Adele’s weight. “She has such a pretty face, but she’s too fat,” was a common concern amongst many female tweeters. “I’m really worried about her health,” was another. The latter argument especially bothers me, because it presents superficial people feigning concern to mask their prejudice about size. I myself have been guilty of this in the past and it was only after I had a conversation with Alisha that I learned the folly of my ways.

There are a plethora of unhealthy skinny people with bad eating habits but we never say, “Oh I’m really worried about her health.” Being slim is revered, no matter how it’s achieved. But the impact of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are far more damaging than being 30 pounds over weight. Living in Buenos Aires I’m disappointed with how vain and appearance obsessed Argentines are. Self-worth is achieved with a small waist and big breasts, which explains the high rate of plastic surgery in the country.

The debate regarding Adele’s weight, which coincidentally is no one’s business but Adele’s, is that fat is bad and skinny is good. Where and how did we ever reach this conclusion? Marilyn Monroe was a size 10, and she was considered the sexiest woman in the world when she was alive. Today’s standards are alarmingly unrealistic, asking women to fit into size zero dresses and labelling any woman who can’t as fat.

When did women become so critical of each other? Last year Keith and I were having a beer at our local pub when a group of unruly women nursing hangovers from the night before sat behind us. The conversation turned to Katy Perry and I was interested to hear their opinions about her music, considering that she became famous for a song about kissing a girl, and then made disparaging comments about gay people months later. I was surprised that the only thing these women wanted to talk about was her appearance. “She’s so ugly,” they agreed. Not one comment about her occupation was shared, just a systematic dismantling and critique of her face and body. I was mortified.

Being gay I am well aware of the pressures men place on appearance. Men happen to be more visual, and it’s an attitude we require of them so that we feel attractive. But that’s the problem. We’re rewarding men for being assholes. I’ve had this discussion with countless gay men in Argentina. All horned up and ready for sex they cruise each other with a passion best reserved for reading a good book. They have a very narrow definition of what beauty is, and the appalling thing for me, is that the ones with the highest standards don’t match up to their own lofty physical requirements.

Years ago an interviewer asked Tori Amos what she thought about Madonna kissing Britney Spears at an awards show. The ever thoughtful Amos paused, and then said, “Well it’s not about the music is it?” Here is a woman who learned to play piano by ear at the age of 3-years-old, was the youngest person to ever be accepted to the Peabody Institute of Classical Music at 5-years-old, and the sole composer of over 1,000 original pieces of composition. A prolific singer-songwriter, her soprano voice and live performances have captivated audiences for over twenty years but if you were to read the comments about her on YouTube the only topics people want to discuss is her face, weight and how old she is. As though age is something that will escape the commenters.

“The rules apply to everyone else but me” is the message I’m getting from these individuals. Those who are the most critical are the least likely to accept criticism. I understand the pressures that women face, but what I don’t understand is how competitive and mean-spirited they are with each other. The tweets presented on Buzzfeed were written by women willing to be victims of violence to attract a man. What does that say about our society and our treatment of women? That society has a problem, is what it says.

And this problem is going to persist as long as people refuse to acknowledge their own responsibility. We all need to take accountability for our prejudices and be more accepting of people who look different from the models in magazines and challenge those who make disparaging comments about women’s appearances. The best antidote for ignorance is education.

Adele shouldn’t be judged by how she looks, but rather her talent, which is obviously plentiful. Unlike other pop artists, she doesn’t need pyrotechnics, outrageous costumes and complicated dance moves to distract the audience from the fact that she has no talent. Her mainstream success is going to save the music industry because she’s reminding radio listeners that what matters most in music, is music. Her voice is all she needs to entertain and move her audience. Her size is completely irrelevant.

Let’s remember that, instead of tolerating bad habits we learned in junior high. Shall we?

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2 thoughts on “Why does it matter if Adele is fat?

  1. I really admire Adele because she is obviously ridiculously talented (it’s hardly fair!). I also really appreciate the fact that she really doesn’t seem to care too much about what others think about her appearance. She famously said in the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of The Gentlewoman, “I’m not a trend-setter…I’m a singer….I’d rather weigh a ton and make an amazing album than look like Nicole Richie and do a shit album”. It’s a real testament to her values as an artist and I think other artist and people should take note.
    On the issue of her weight, I find it disturbing how much the public/media critiques it. So much so, that American Vogue felt the need to airbrush the hell out of her to look beyond recognizable in her March cover and editorial. It scared me that I was looking through the images and mistakenly thought she was Jessica Stam, rather then the curvy siren that is Adele. While, I do believe that everyone should take care of their health, I don’t believe that such a high profile magazine such as American Vogue–a magazine that claims to empower woman–should doctor an image to make a star look skinnier.
    Also, I feel like it’s important to mention how disgusted I am of people comparing these 2 images (http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lzdnuhqVDs1qk63ku.jpg) as a testament to how she “caved to the media pressure of being skinny”. Need I remind everyone that when she started in the music business she was 18. She’s 23 now. The changes *anyones* body goes through from teenager to young adult is astronomical and her values and opinions shouldn’t be questioned.

    ..okay i think i’m done w/my rant…
    (on a personal note, I watch the Keith Haring doc, and I loved it. though I wish it spent more time talking about his life/art during his HIV/AIDS years.)

    • There is a documentary out on DVD that chronicles the AIDS crisis in San Francisco called We Were Here. It might have more information. I think the reason documentaries today only casually reference HIV/AIDS is because it’s no longer the death sentence it was back in the 80s and early 90s. People like Larry Kramer for instance have lived with HIV their whole lives, and he’s entering his 80s. Also, there is a great film called Outrage! about closeted gay republicans that is worth watching.

      In reference to magazines, publications like Vogue don’t want to empower women because they remove and cut off an entire segment of that population from their pages. I think it’s hard for women to not want to lose weight because society demands it of them, and belittles them if they don’t fit into our definition of what beautiful is. I could go on and on. It’s the same for gay publications, as a gay man it’s hard not to feel angry over how gay men are depicted as gym obsessed muscled creatures. I don’t look like that, and don’t want to. Does that mean I’m unattractive? You know what I mean?

      Anyway, thanks for writing. It’s early and I’m waiting for my student. I hope I articulately expressed myself.

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