It Hurts Me, Too.

August 26, 2008

Why Men Should Be Threatened By Sexism in the Diet Industry

by Mary Flannery

This morning, I lay in bed watching TV for a few moments before I got up to start my day. It was all the same stuff–news shows, talk shows, commercials aimed at housewives. I’d seen all of it before, but for some reason, this morning I saw things with new eyes. Perhaps it was an extra dose of being in love with my husband because of a weekend spent alone together being sick and a week of emotional support above and beyond the call of duty. Perhaps it was the little sapling of new self-esteem I’ve been cultivating lately. Whatever it was, as the barrage of diet and weight loss system commercials shrieked on, I began to see yet another threatening dimension to these shallow, insulting ads.

Now we all know that the diet industry as a whole regularly vomits all over feminist values and disempowers women to the nth degree. However, what I realized this morning was that these ads also brainwash women into having a very shallow and negative view of men–and not just random construction workers or piggish old chauvinists. Husbands, sons, fathers…these men are stripped of their depth as well.

The most compelling examples came in a NutriSystem commercial that, literally, made me feel sick at my stomach. The first segment featured a fit woman standing next to a “before” picture. This picture showed an somewhat overweight woman in very unflattering clothes. As she extols the virtues of her diet program, she says (and this is a direct quote) “No man is going to look at an overweight woman walking down the street.”

I was stunned. Naturally, there is an argument to this in that there are men who prefer larger women–MS lives in the perpetual anticipation of Lane Bryant underwear ads. But that isn’t all. Besides insulting the population of men out there who are capable of desiring a fat, confident, well-dressed woman (and I suspect her lack of attention stemmed from the latter two rather than the first) this is a patently racist comment. Both the African-American and Hispanic population are noted for preferring thicker women. The implicit message in this segment was that a) no desirable men would look at an overweight woman and b) no brown men are desirable. This is probably why this, and almost all, diet commercials are lily-white.

But more disturbing was the second segment. Every married man and every son in America should be painting picket signs and storming NutriSystem headquarters. Segment two featured another svelte woman next to an unsmiling, poorly dressed, somewhat overweight doppleganger. The best I can do is directly quote her testimony (emphasis my own):

“I became overweight bite by bite. After having my three boys, I started eating the same foods and portions as my men–so why was I surprised when I was almost the same weight as my men?”

At this point, a picture flashes up of “her men”: her husband and grown sons are morbidly obese.

But it continues: “I’m so glad I lost the weight! Now my husband can’t keep his hands off me! He pays so much attention to me–we go out on dates again and we’re in love again!” They then show svelte wife dancing joyously with morbidly obese husband. I’ll just let this sink in for a minute before I really twist the knife. Ready? No you aren’t, but we’ll keep going.

She continues: “And my sons aren’t ashamed to been seen with me anymore! They just love to hug me now!” At no point is there any sort of acknowledgment that maybe, just maybe, these men are behaving abnormally or at least like complete fucking assholes. No–this is treated as the norm and what YOU, fat ladies, should expect from the men you love who, obviously, don’t love you back very much.

There have been many times when I’ve stated as though it were fact that MS would love me more if I were thinner. I was always baffled by why it hurt his feelings so very, very much. To me it was fact and today I realized why: women have been completely brainwashed to believe that men are shallow, looksist beasts who all have exactly the same tastes and are completely incapable of loving someone in a full, mature sense. They are further incapable of being attracted to anything but a body–no men are aroused by a sharp wit, a kind heart, or a brilliant mind. They are solely at the mercy of their physical wants and further, all their physical wants are exactly the same. This is disgusting! I am insulted because this is a slap in the face and a horrible insult to the men that I love. And the men should be just as sickened to be portrayed in this way.

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2 Responses to “It Hurts Me, Too.”

  1. spring Says:

    i know! diets are totally lame. like you can buy weight loss…that’s like buying hunger: “i want to buy 3 weeks of hunger” “are you sure i can’t sell you 10 weeks for the price of 5?” “okay, you got me! what a deal!” it doesn’t make any sense! we pay hard-earned money for products, even ideas, that make us feel like shit, then they keep making us feel shittier and we go back for more…that’s so masochistic and not in a good way at all.

  2. Daniel Says:

    Oh and hey, let’s not forget that they’re all child molesters too. Women, don’t let a man near your child! Ever!!!

    Unless you’re fat. Then the men won’t give a shit about you or your brat. So it’s a catch-22, really. Get skinny so men will like you; then he won’t be able to keep his hands off you! Unfortunately, he won’t be able to keep his hands off your children either.


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