Just when you thought it was safe to stop thinking about body policing, health, and self-esteem, the Academy Awards blew into town. I personally wasn’t invested in which film won what award (except for The Muppets!), but I was bowled over by one overwhelming media reaction:
Angelina Jolie needs to eat a goddamn cheeseburger.
From individuals on Twitter and Facebook to news sites like TMZ, it was like lolcats had brainwashed the entire internet[s].
Yes, Angelina is thin. But unless you yourself are Angelina Jolie (and if you are, thanks for reading!) OR her doctor, get your nose out of her business and step away from the snark. Two of my friends mentioned that they were sick of people using hamburgers as a universal panacea for being thin. I did a little searching (for “Angelina cheeseburger”, amazingly) and found some wonderful support for my own feelings on the matter.
Kelsey Wallace of Bitch Magazine had this to say:
“Look, I get that Angelina Jolie is thin, and that she also burns the brightest of all of our Bright Hollywood Stars and is therefore subject to more scrutiny than your average woman. However, body snarking of the “eat a sammich, skinny” variety is hardly different from body snarking of the “stop eating sammiches, fatty” variety that we (hopefully) know better than to post in our Facebook feeds.”
BlissTree‘s Briana Rognlin weighed in, and called for a cheeseburger embargo:
“Even if we knew more about the state of her health or body image, telling someone who you suspect has an eating disorder to eat more just isn’t body positive, and it’s not helping Jolie or anyone else.”
Even Bill O’Reilly referred to Jolie as “emaciated” on The O’Reilly Factor, which Jezebel‘s Tracie Egan Morrissey calls “concern-trolling.”
“You’re a little late to the game on this one, but we’re sure you’re genuinely worried about whether or not she has an eating disorder, so much so, in fact, that you’d be willing to call out how gross you find her, physically, on TV because we all know how women respond so well to having their bodies scrutinized. I’m sure she’s stepped up her caloric intake all because of last night’s broadcast. Good work, pal!”
My thoughts exactly. As someone who struggled with body image in college and had more than a handful of friends with eating disorders, the worst thing you can do for someone with disordered eating is to judge them and tell them how they should own their health. On top of that– how do you know if Angelina or anyone else has disordered eating, engages in unhealthy behavior, and eschews cheeseburgers? For all you know, she made the limo driver stop at a drive-thru on the way to the Oscars, and Brad had to help her fish a pickle slice out of her decolletage.
You can’t make a snap judgment on someone’s health based on their looks. A friend of mine who self-identifies as “zaftig” runs over 40 miles a week and has textbook-perfect blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose levels. Another friend, while visually on the tres petite end of the spectrum, has a family history of high cholesterol which wasn’t helped by her cheese addiction.
My point is that everyone feels pressured to conform to a very small range of acceptable– that whole “be skinny, but don’t lose your curves!” message again. This is especially true for someone as visible as a Hollywood star. I’m glad to see backlash for “eat a [calorie dense food]” because the truth is, we don’t really know the truth. I’d rather we concentrated on the industries that create this type of pressure, and work to grow acceptance for bodies of all shapes and sizes.
Judgment in the guise of concern is not the answer. Burgers are not a cure for issues with body image, and disordered eating can’t be solved with a prescription for sandwiches.