start here. "here" being wendy mcclure's column for the chicago sun-times in which she shows, starkly and depressingly, the extent to which i, not-even-to-mention twisty over at i blame the patriarchy, live in a different world from a whole hell of a lot of people.
here are a few charming direct quotes:
[["The only time I want to see a thigh that big is in a bucket with bread crumbs on it," said one Sun-Times reporter, Lucio Guerrero, in a July 19 story about the ads. That same day, columnist Richard Roeper called the Dove models "chunky," and said "If I want to see plump gals baring too much skin, I'll go to Taste of Chicago."
...Though these attitudes aren't always explicit, they do take on disingenuous forms at times. The stickers that defaced the ads in England last year (where the Dove campaign first launched) bore admonishing slogans like "FAT ISN'T GLAMOROUS" and "SELLING OBESITY BY THE POUND," as well as more openly mocking ones like "WHO ATE ALL THE PIES?" -- a case of plain ridicule thinly disguised as public service announcement.
And don't think that the genius who scrawled "Type II Diabetes" on one of the ads in Manhattan is ultimately concerned with the health of the woman in the photo. Whoever did it just didn't like the way she looked, wanted to take her down a notch, and did it in the name of "health." The issue isn't fat versus thin -- it's about the sanctimonious criticism of women's bodies, from calling a size 10 woman "obese" to declaring a thin woman "anorexic."]]
so: those airbrushed, cellulite-less, unblemished, unbulgy women on the billboards? they're obese. actual normal women like me? totally hopeless barring major medical procedures. i know those attitudes are out there. occasionally men are honest and tasteless enough to say it out loud. i have heard "better keep running! you're still fat!" i have heard worse. every day i speak with very smart men who think that fat jokes are still jokes.
the fact that very little of this honesty or tastelessness made it into yesterday's debate at i blame the patriarchy is telling. there the talk centers around the selling of women, of any and every woman, virtually discounting the possibility that dove might, in whatever hobbled-by-capitalism sort of way, be making a radical point. just about everybody at i blame the patriarchy is willing to admit that a size ten (or twelve or fourteen or twenty) can be beautiful, and the discussion has moved on to something larger and farther away, namely, the marketing of women's bodies in general. in the estimation of many, dove is all the more culpable because its campaign says: you too can be an Object!
but i'll restate what i wrote in comments to yesterday's piece: the nature of capitalism is to find what sells and sell it. dove doesn't give a rat's ass about women's body image issues. dove will sell scientifically unsound firming tinctures because that is what dove is designed to do. if dove can find some mostly-palatable little piece of advantageous radicalism to annex in the name of its profit margin, it will do that too. and while i am no big fan of that reasoning, i want to note that, whatever their intentions with this ad campaign, dove has at least managed to put some beautiful normally sized women on big fucking billboards.
you wouldn't think it would be such a big deal. many of us wouldn't have imagined that those women would ever be taken for "fat." but what twisty faster and others (and maybe me, before i read that column) haven't yet realized is that...it's still a big deal. does that mean that the dove campaign is "authentically" "radical"? nope. it does mean that we have to recognize the ways in which it is accidentally progressive. that is a sad fact, but there it sits.