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Stop Telling Angelina Jolie to Eat a Cheeseburger

In a tragedy of poor itinerary planning, I spent most of last night's Oscars on a plane, which meant I had to catch up on the ceremony online once we landed. And if Twitter, Facebook, and Google are to be believed, a major takeaway from last night's festivities is that Angelina Jolie is "too skinny" and needs to "eat a cheeseburger."

tweets about Jolie and cheeseburgers

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. Yet I've seen lots of people across the World Wide Web today—including people I know to be smart, savvy feminists—crack wise about Jolie's arms, legs, and weight as if, because she's beautiful and thin, policing and commenting on her body is more than acceptable.

According to the not-all-that-credible-except-for-maybe-Oscars-news outlet US magazine, "Jolie's bony body ignited 3,399 tweets per minute." Clearly a lot of folks are "concerned" with Jolie (an adult woman) and her lack of cheeseburgers, but they shouldn't be.

angelina jolie with cookies flying around her head
Don't like cheeseburgers? Have a cookie then—you have to EAT!

In this image-obsessed culture, we have to fight against some pretty unrealistic and prevalent beauty standards, and the fat acceptance movement is helping us get there by reminding us that you can be healthy at every size. While pushing back against these norms, though, we have to remember that every size means every size, and it's no cooler to tell an adult woman (or anyone) what to eat or how we think her body should look than it is to tell an adult woman she's too fat. So stop telling Angelina Jolie to eat a cheeseburger! For all we know, she ate three of them on the way to the ceremony. Or maybe she hates cheeseburgers. Or maybe it's not our problem and we shouldn't worry about it. (It's not our problem and we shouldn't worry about it.)

Making a fake Twitter account and pretending to be Angelina Jolie's right leg, though? Hilarious.

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76 comments have been made. Post a comment.


THANK YOU. I am so fed up with everyone judging each other. There is no IDEAL or PERFECT way to be.
Judging people based on some kind of assumption, is ignorant, unrealistic, and UNHEALTHY. Knock it of ya meanies!

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Another take

I don't know... I kind of disagree. I mean, don't get me wrong, the tone of a lot of these "jokes" is not cool, but I think it might be right for us to call her out on being unhealthily skinny and thus perpetuating the unrealistic image of beauty to little girls. She's under scrutiny because she's not only a VERY popular movie star, but she's also a humanitarian who a lot of people would tell children to emulate. I adore her, but she has to be well below what is healthy for her height, and I think her appearance plays into the constant bombardment of little girls with images of super skinny women. And for most girls and women alike, achieving that would only mean starving themselves. Certainly I wouldn't dare speculate on why she is so skinny -- I assume it's a conscious effort on her part, but if that's the case, then it's an effort to fit into the standard of beauty that is so unachievable and dangerous for most people.

So, while I am very gung-ho about the healthy at every size movement, I think it has to be about each person's body and being okay with that. In this case, I think Jolie has stretched what her body is capable of in order to fit into the model-body standard. And to me, that's a dangerous example to set. My two cents. Thank you for always having such awesome dialogues!

No, no, no. First: "I adore

No, no, no. First: "I adore her, but she has to be well below what is healthy for her height..." That sentence should stop at "I adore her." This is because you don't know what is a healthy weight for her height just by looking at her. This is exactly what the writer was discussing: the presumptuous attitude that the public is qualified to judge what is healthy--be it fat or skinny.

Also, I cannot articulate how much bullshit it is to say a person is setting a bad example by how she looks. Reasonable people accept the fact that we cannot say a fat woman does not make a good role model because she is fat. Why do we think we get a pass on talking about skinny women? As far as whether she is being a good model: she is not constantly doing these abominable "how she got skinny!" stories that so many other celebrities do; in fact, she is fastidious about maintaining her and her family's privacy, making a conscious effort not to be too open about her lifestyle. This, in combination with being a good parent, humanitarian, and generally decent human being tells me that you have absolutely no ground to say she is setting a "dangerous" example.

Also, not that it makes a single bit of difference, but Jolie has always been very, very thin.

This. Exactly.

This. Exactly.

Agreed, Nessa.

Agreed, Nessa.

No, she hasn't always been

No, she hasn't always been very very thin.

She simply has NOT.

Look at her from her Lara Croft days. She was thin and FIT and healthy. Compare her arms today with her Lara Croft-era arms. Totally different. The difference created by weight.


Yeah you're right she was not as thin in the Tomb Raider movies. Yet if you read up on her time filming those two movies you'll know Angelina worked her ass off to bulk up to look that way. The way she is now is pretty much natural for her. Tomb Raider, while spectacular, was NOT natural and she was not interested in maintaining the heavy effort required to look like Lara Croft.

I always get annoyed when people harp on how OMG skinny she is. She is what she is. There are people in Hollywood who are thinner and seem to make an effort to be that way (unlike Angelina who is never seen going to the gym or exercising neurotically) but it's only ever Angelina who is a target of the too-skinny jokes.

I've been the butt of too-skinny jokes and told to eat already, and when I did eat big meals (I'm a food fan) I was asked if I was bulimic. It's friggin' annoying.

I have a very hard time

I have a very hard time gaining weight myself, even when i LOVE eating, and when strangers tell me that I need to eat a cheeseburger or that I'm like a stick, it really puts me off and makes me extremely self-conscious. Its hard to love my own body when people keep pointing that out.

I would never tell a random fat person how fat they are and that they should go hit the gym and pump some iron.

I think that there is a

I think that there is a significant lack of sympathy for anyone who struggles to put and keep on weight. The same people who know that it is never appropriate to go up to someone and say "Wow, you are so fat! What's wrong with you?" have no problem going up to someone and saying "Wow you are so skinny! Don't you eat?"

Sometimes people don't necessarily notice that they've lost weight, and you might think that you are doing them a favor by pointing it out, but this certainly isn't the way to do it. Commenting about someone being skinny is so often meant either as a complement or a way of shaming someone (like those twitter remarks), that it makes it more difficult to either approach someone with the concern or take it seriously if you are approached with it.

Always Skinny?

Hackers? Gia? I think it was some time after filming girl interrupted I'd she really start to get that skinny. It's not a good look for her.

I agree with your comment,

I agree with your comment, except about it being only Angelina who is picked on. That certainly hasn't been my observation, especially in the UK tabloids (particularly the Mail - but please don't delve into that paper if you value your sanity!). They always have a story about how some famous(ish) woman is too something, either fat or thin. Victoria Beckham is another one who gets slagged off for being very thin. There are others, but I try not to pay attention to tabloids.

I agree it's annoying about the eating thing - why the presumption that people would lie about what they're eating? Why is it anyone's business anyway? I'm lucky, I've escaped the snarky public comments but I'm a fat woman and I usually wonder if someone is idly thinking that of course I'm fat because I'm out eating a burger/steak/big restaurant portion of something.

Before you go assuming I just

Before you go assuming I just made that up, take a look at this gallery of what appears to be a 15-year-old Jolie with an incredibly high metabolism.

And Bitch wouldn't let me submit that link, and called it spam. Whatever. Google the phrase "young Angelina Jolie."

This. So much this. :-) What

This. So much this. :-)

What we need is to focus on achievement that is not of the 'I made my body look like this' variety. I patiently await that day. :-)

THANK YOU NESSA. You couldn't

THANK YOU NESSA. You couldn't have said it better. completely and utterly agree with all your points.

Well said Nessa I agree 100%!

Well said Nessa I agree 100%! Thank you!!!

wait a minute...

Your comment sounds pretty much exactly like any of the fat-bashing ones I see all the time - to summarise what you said 'it's fine except it's not because it's not healthy and others might try and copy her' (which gets thrown at the FA folks a lot more than I'd have thought possible!) It is Health At *Every* Size - I have no idea why Jolie is the weight she is, whether she wants to be that weight, whether she's happy with it, whatever, but actually it's none of my business.

If you wouldn't speculate, than don't assume

"Certainly I wouldn't dare speculate on why she is so skinny -- I assume it's a conscious effort on her part"

Or she has any of a dozen health problems that make gaining weight next to impossible. Or her body is naturally maintaining itself at this weight and she gave up trying to bulk up. Or any one of a zillion other things, other than a conscious effort on her part. So don't assume.

I think you're right and the

I think you're right and the proceeding comments aren't well thought out. If ANY size were healthy no one would die of obesity or anorexia/bulimia related health risks. And they do. Just ask the families she tries to assist in starving nations.

People don't die of obesity per se...

...but rather, they die of obesity-related complications. (A fine point of difference, I know, but I still think it's relevant to point out.)

Also, the families she tries to assist in starving nations? They're not suffering from eating disorders but rather a terminal lack of food.

If she is anorexic, yeah, that's not good. But we have no evidence of that. And I eat quite heartily, but my arms aren't that far off hers skinny-wise.

You know what, I hate shit

You know what, I hate shit like this, too. "I agree with you. And because you are right, those other comments aren't well thought out."

Don't tell me I didn't think about my ideas before I posted them. I've spent countless hours thinking about these issues, so lay off with the ad hominem crap, kay?

P.S. The other reply to this is correct--those people aren't suffering from eating disorders, and likening the two issues is beyond the pale, offensive.

While pushing back against

While pushing back against these norms, though, we have to remember that every size means every size, and it's no cooler to tell an adult woman (or anyone) what to eat or how we think her body should look than it is to tell an adult woman she's too fat teeth whitening


Thank you for this. it is time for us to find cohesion around this body stuff. For so long we have had to work towards fat acceptance and as a fat girl I have been ultimately grateful for the hard work and ally work from non-fat people. Also, as a body ally I am really encouraged to see this and I hope it gets populated all over the internet in hopes that the message will be torch carried to every single person who needs to see it. Every body has a right to exist as it is and the soul inside it deserves protection and freedom from harm and shitty remarks.

I am so grateful for Bitch Magazine and especially in this case, to Kelsey Wallace for the always real talk. This is what feminism is all about.

False Equivalence?

Does this strike anyone else as a false equivalence? Sure, it's weird that the public is so hyper-critical of celebrities (if it wasn't "Angelina is too skinny", it'd be "too fat" or "her lips are too big" or "I bet she's had botox" or whatever) but that seems like a completely separate issue than fat acceptance and the disadvantages overweight people have to deal with.

Interesting points, Adam!

Interesting points, Adam! Privilege definitely plays a role in the fat acceptance movement, and as someone with thin privilege, Angelina Jolie is of course viewed differently by society (and given far more advantages) than if she were fat. However, the notion in fat acceptance that we should accept people at whatever shape they are—skinny or fat—does apply here, I think. Telling her to eat a cheeseburger isn't accepting Jolie the way she is, it's asking her to change to conform to a specific body ideal, similar to the messages we send to fat people about losing weight to conform.

Hope that helps clarify!

Kelsey Wallace, contributor

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Thank you!

Thank you for this. I'm skinny, and while I usually greet policing of my body with a hearty "fuck YOU very much," it does hurt to see my body type derided as disgusting, unattractive, unhealthy, and un-"real." I've even had "friends" jump down my throat for exercising, since I don't "need to" due to my weight, and, even worse, snark about my "eating disorder" behind my back.

My body is awesome. It can ride 100s of miles on a bike, tolerate an impressive amount of beers, and squeeze through my kitchen window when I lock myself out. I hope that those who are evidently not as content with whatever their own lot is find a better way to deal with it, other than snarking on people's bodies.

You're fab, jordanpattern.

You're fab, jordanpattern. :-) This fat woman says keep on being real and fuck the haters. :-)

Yes, it does!

It absolutely strikes me as a false equivalence.
Saying "body snarking of the 'eat a sammich, skinny' variety is hardly different from body snarking of the 'stop eating sammiches, fatty' variety" is oblivious and glib - as is the comparative emphasis placed on the issues faced by people considered "too skinny" and the lack of emphasis placed on those faced by anyone considered "too fat". Eat-a-sammich snark is still very different in actuality, if not in theory, because it lacks the full power of the almost-universally-accepted contempt felt for - and unapologetically enacted upon - fat people.
Additionally, a lot of this "eat a sandwich!" crap is, I think, a badly articulated way to express concern for the overwhelmingly popular and dangerous idea that Jolie's body represents Perfection - to say "look, this is not perfection; this is just thinness." While it sucks that "I wish people would stop thinking everyone needs to look like this in order to be worthy of respect or love" ends up articulated as "gross! she's so skinny!", the context of that statement needs to be considered if posts like these are going to express any alliance with, or understanding of, what Health at Every Size means in the world we actually inhabit.

Thanks for your comments,

Thanks for your comments, Frankie! I agree that thin and fat are treated differently in the culture at large, and that fatphobia is a huge problem, especially in an image-obsessed climate like Hollywood. I certainly didn't mean to erase thin privilege here or equate fatness and thinness in any way. However, I still think that body snarking because someone doesn't fit the standard you think she should comes from a similar place (a body police station, if you will) whether that person is fat or thin.

Great point about some of this "concern" about Jolie being a misdirected pushback—I'd bet that's where some of the feminist friends I've seen commenting on her looks are coming from.

Could you clarify what you mean by this? "The context of that statement needs to be considered if posts like these are going to express any alliance with, or understanding of, what Health at Every Size means in the world we actually inhabit." In my understanding, HAES advocates the idea that health and size are not directly correlated, and that one can be healthy at any and every size, fat or thin. However, I'm not an expert, so please let me know if I've missed something.


Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Agreed. If you look at

Agreed. If you look at Angelina from her "Gia" days and then look at her now (after twins and a singleton) , this is not "natural" thinness. This is a concerning thinness. I just hope she's OK.

Yes, this. I was one of the

Yes, this.

I was one of the many posting tweets about Angelina during the Oscars.

My tweet was not about eating at all, but rather concern something may have been wrong with her, because she looked a)smaller than previous photos I had seen of her and b) sudden weight loss can be a sign of health issues.

Is this the oppression

Is this the oppression olympics? Who the hell are you to tell me, or anyone else, that being told I am too skinny, to eat a cheeseburger, is any less harmful than what a heavier person experiences? What is your point? Do you want a medal? I have had body dysmorphia since I was a teenager due in part to nasty comments about my lack of breasts, my "flat ass", my chicken legs, no hips, etc. and it hurt. It hurt so bad I wanted to die and yet, according to you, I have priviledge that heavier people don't have and therefore my pain is not as great? Fuck off.

Thin privilege exists...

"according to you, I have priviledge that heavier people don't have and therefore my pain is not as great? "

Different commenter here. There are two parts to your last sentence.I would say yes, you have privilege over me, a fat person. But that doesn't necessarily need to negate your individual pain.

I don't agree with the top-level commenter that says it's a false equivalency, because there really isn't any mention of fat-shaming in the original article. I don't think ANY body shaming of ANY person should be tolerated.

That said, I definitely agree that thin privilege exists.

Have you ever been denied hospital care due to medical equipment not being able to hold your body/weight?
Have you ever been wrongly diagnosed with something because your doctor was preoccupied with your weight?
Have you had to endure people mocking your body shape with pictures of people that look like you, but with their heads removed? Usually accompanied with "obesity epidemic"? (google headless fatties)
Do you need to buy special equipment so that planes can accommodate you safely?
Do you get singled out on a plane and publically humiliated if a passenger can't fit next to you?

I'm guessing no.

yes, i have

i haven't experienced all of these and i am not trying to diminish the inexcusable behavior you have outlined, but i do have some experience with this. i was misdiagnosed by doctors because they thought i was lying about my eating habits/had an eating disorder. it wasn't until i was in the E.R., being told i would have to have part of my colon removed that anyone believed i was being honest about my eating habits and the lack of control i had over my weight.

i'm still very thin. i work with the public and i have been called anorexic, told to "eat a bagel," etc. I have seen (probably well intentioned) people post pictures of people who look like me (with other heads or heads removed), pointing out how ugly "stick thin" bodies are, in the hopes of promoting healthy body images.

I'm not trying to equate anything, here. All I am saying is that the focus on appearance over heath and the number of assumptions people make are incredibly painful--for anyone who has experienced them.

I don't see it as a false

I don't see it as a false equivalence in that the insulting behaviour and possible effect on the person insulted is the same but I do observe that the two loads of insults seem to be motivated differently - it is presumed that fat-shaming is done from disgust and that skinny-shaming is done from jealousy. Both are wrong.

And of course I'm making sweeping generalisations, which *always* have exceptions... ;-)

Hell to the yeah.

Women cannot win. We are too thin. We are too fat. We wear too much makeup. We don't wear enough makeup. We are too assertive. We are doormats. We are too old. We are too youn...OK, we're never too young. My point is that the media keeps us so busy being not too much or not enough. We are all fine, just the way we are.

I had to stop someone from bashing Angelina on my FB feed today. It's Eating Disorders Awareness week and I said I would not put up with fat talk. A feminist I admire said, "Except for Angelina. She needs a sandwich." I replied that if I didn't want people to comment about my body then I would not comment on hers. I'm no fan of Angelina's, but she has a right not to be body snarked, just the same as any other woman.

Thank you. You took the words

Thank you. You took the words out of my mouth with "Women cannot win." Can you imagine what would happen if in the near future, a tabloid got a hold of Jolie actually eating a cheeseburger? I bet the headlines would go something like this: ANGELINA PIGS OUT! NO MORE SLINKY OSCAR GOWNS FOR BURGER-BINGING JOLIE!!!!!111!1 I'm so tired of seeing womens' bodies bashed in all ways--too thin, too fat, etc.--when I'm checking out at the grocery store. I didn't know it was Eating Disorders Awareness week, but now it hits extra close to home for me.

Just another feminist here to

Just another feminist here to say that you are so right, women cannot win! We can be our own worst enemies sometimes. I once enjoyed one whole year of having a normal, ideal body weight--after gaining the Freshman 20 in college years ago (yes, 20). I've always been at least ten pounds underweight, sometimes twenty, and I can't get by on less than 2,000 calories a day, but it's never been a clinical concern--that's just metabolism for you and everyone is an individual. Women come in all sizes and have all kinds of stories that you just can't always know, and we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.

yo dawg i heard you like

yo dawg i heard you like policing so we put some policing in yo policing so you can police while u police.

seriously, isn't telling other people what is/isn't okay to say just a different kind of policing? also, i'm pretty sure angelina jolie doesn't give two flying shits.

"isn't okay to say just a

"isn't okay to say just a different kind of policing?"

No, it isn't remotely the same thing. I'm not oppressing nosy, uppity, sexist people by telling them their behavior hurts other people, and they need to STFU.

I actually have to

I actually have to respectfully disagree. Though you've made an excellent point, and one that I guess I hadn't considered before, you did say that we need to promote the "healthy at any size" ideal. I couldn't agree more... The keyword, however, is healthy. Angelina Jolie did not look healthy. I can pick out any number of the women on the red carpet (most of whom are, of course, thin "I wanna be her" Hollywood starlets) who did not look like that. Michelle Williams is tiny, but looks healthy. Gwyneth Paltrow - in my opinion, she's never looked better. Therein lies the difference. Jolie is a lovely woman, but she hasn't always looked like that. (And I'm not just picking on her because I'm not a fan of hers - Zellweger got sick skinny as time went on too). Yes, it is extremely important for young women to ignore images they see and work on being happy and healthy. When Angelina strutted out onstage, people were in awe of her dress and her leg. I immediately wondered if she was ill. Happy and healthy is a great goal for women... "is she sick or not?" is not a healthy goal.

Another big 'but'

Why is there always a 'but'?

Unless you're a doctor or something I don't think there's a lot you can tell from someone's health just from their appearance, even then there's a limited range of signs that are visible. What I'm saying is that it's not possible to judge someone's health based on their apparent weight, so can we not? I wouldn't tolerate it if one of Hollywood's fat stars was being snarked at liked this so why should we get to slag off a thin star?

It's actually kind of depressing, the constant talk of role models and examples. (Not just from you, Page, I mean in general) Do we not trust our young people to have some sense? If it's truly so 'obvious' that someone looks unhealthy at whatever weight why do we assume people *want* to emulate that?

I agree with Page. My very

I agree with Page. My very first reaction (albeit, to myself and not all over Twitter) was that she did not look healthy. It was just my personal reaction and I had no idea that it was spreading all over social media networks at that point. People saying "eat a sandwich" is just a stupid cliche, but I think many people had a similar reaction for a reason; someone we have watched on screen for years suddenly looks like they are withering away. Oscar night is based heavily on appearance, so it's hard not to notice things like nipple slips and bony arms. I very much appreciate the article & discussion though! One final note: do any of the male actors get this much backlash? In my opinion, Nick Nolte did not look (or sound) too healthy either, although it appears the media does not target actors as much as actresses on the red carpet.

Who's definition of healthy.

Who's definition of healthy. Maybe that is very healthy for her. Why is it okay to tell her what kind of healthy she is supposed to look like. You wouldn't go up to Melissa McCarthy and tell her to not eat again for the rest of her life, why is it okay to tell Angelina to pick up a sandwich. Maybe she isnt healthy, but that isn't anybody's business. Really it has to stop.

I sort of said this is a

I sort of said this is a comment already, but I'm going to say it again because it is important. The twitter comments were not concern for Jolie being articulated by her doctor, her family, and her close friends. They were not comments meant to express concern to her that she may have lost an unhealthy amount of weight, whether or not you think that would be okay. They were body-shaming.


Thank you, Kelsey! A good point that needs repeating.

I'm such an eejit though - saw a pic of Jolie yesterday and thought for a minute she was Jerry Hall. :-) Facial recognition is not one of my strongest skills. ;-/

thank you

Having been every size from 18 to 0, I want to say thank you. I honestly have to say I have gotten the meanest,nastiest comments from women about being thin. I have been a size 1 for the past five years (due to a major lifestyle change to fix an illness~ I am now healthy). I work at a health food store, and I see people EVERY DAY that want a magic pill to loose weight, there isn't one. I think some people are jealous of her. If Angelina is comfortable, and healthy, leave her alone ! Society is jacked up. and it completely bothered me when I saw all the Angie is too skinny buzz. If any one had said 'WOW 'So and so ' is the size of a truck now ! she needs to cool it with the cheese burgers" there would have been major bullying shit /anti sensitivity going around. , and what not.

The american human race is mean, to large AND small girls, and IT NEEDS TO STOP!

I would say its not alright

I would say its not alright to make jokes, but its hardly out of line to point out that someone seems underweight. I find it incorrect to say "you don't know what is a healthy weight for her height just by looking at her." There are medical health standards given your height, age, etc...but if you saw a child with their bones poking out all over would you not think they're malnurished in some way? And the doctor would tell you even though your kid's a picky eater or what have you that you still need to try different ways to teach them to eat properly. This new way of thinking that women can be "healthy at every size" is great and can be true most of the time...but there are grown adult women who can be unhealthy and it's not bad to discuss it. Yeah I'm skinny and I understand that some people can eat all the junk they want and never gain weight, but I also watched my cousin die of anorexia over years and it can't hurt to point out when you see someone who looks like they're starting to waste away.

It's either we women are too

It's either we women are too skinny or too fat. We can't win. Our bodies is NEVER ours. She could be an incredibly healthy individual or not. It's not anybody's business. This is sad on so many levels. This is the wrong message to send to people with eating disorders or those trying to lose weight. Really, leave women alone, especially other women.

Regardless of whether Jolie

Regardless of whether Jolie is healthy or not healthy, eat a sandwich snark doesn't help either her or us. For her, there are a number of possibilities: she's actually healthy and has just been working out a lot for a role or something (in which case she rolls eyes and moves on); she's suffering a physical illness (in which case, you're really not helping); she's actually suffering from an eating disorder (in which case those comments further entrench her determination to lose yet more weight, congratulations you for pushing someone anorexic even further into anorexia!) For us, it creates an atmosphere where one type of body is not accepted, where women that are healthy and skinny are scorned and those that are unhealthy and skinny are not offered substantive assistance but are instead given the message that all they have to do is pig out and all will be well - something that is untrue given their mental or physical condition. So, you know, Jolie's position as a role model (dubious in any case) is no excuse to abandon our own responsibility to treat others with sensitivity and care. Stop policing other people's food, people, whether you think they eat too much or too little.

RESPECT at any size, not necessarily health

So, it should be a GIVEN that it's never okay to snark or demean another woman's appearance.
However, if the premise of the Health At Any Size idea is that any size IS healthy, I think we're setting ourselves up for failure because it simply flies flat in the face of what most of us instinctively sense.

EVERYBODY, regardless of how they look and how healthy and unhealthy they may be, are deserving of respect and a lack of mean snark. That doesn't mean that we have to pretend that EVERYBODY can magically be healthy at ANY size. Logically it doesn't even make sense - some sizes ARE unhealthy for some people, and a lot of people are unhealthy at hte moment, at both ends of the spectrum, and we, as a nation, have gotten increasingly unhealthy in the last three decades. I mean, that is just a plain FACT,

Personally I look at Angelina and I see a person who's underweight, to the point that it might not be healthy. I have this instant, visceral reaction that I think is pretty deeply rooted, - just a "wow, that looks painful". I deeply associate that very gaunt look with someone who's sick, someone who's survived a famine etc.

BUT I'm not her doctor and not her lover so I have right to tell her what to do, on facebook, in person, or in any other media. It's my personal opinion, and not relevant to Angelina or cyberspace. BUT, it's also totally unrealistic for the HAAS movement to expect me to not have that, or any, initial gut reaction, to tell me that you can be as bizarrely under-weight or massively overweight and still be healthy.

What I am happy for the HAAS movement to tell me is that I have no right to snark about, to comment, to judge harshly, to gang up on anyone - and I think that's common decency too.

If we dial down the snark, the vicious comments, the merciless gotcha games, then I think a safe(r) space can be opened up to discuss, with solidarity, compassion and empathy, what we think is healthy and what might not be.

Because everything can't be healthy, that would then completely empty the meaning of the world and concept "healthy". Some things - some ways of eating, some ways of physical patterns, ARE in fact unhealthy. And not just unhealthy for the individual, unhealthy for society. I'm thinking both of obesity on the scale of making it impossible for people to walk and disordered eating on the scale of killing women from self-imposed famine. If I look at a young girl who's starved herself to death, there is just no WAY that this movement can convince me that "you're not her doctor, you don't know what is healthy for her" - same as if I look at a woman who is so massively overweight she needs to use a mobility chair to get around. But putting those women down isn't hte answer either!

We NEED, desperately, a space and a way to talk about those issues, as this misunderstood,, hurtful "eat-a-hamburger" kerfuffle demonstrates. Even IF people are unhealthy they still deserve respect - duh!
We don't have to manically pretend that everything and everybody are healthy, to spread the idea that everything and everybody deserve respect. So I think Angelina looked scary skinny - doesn't give me an excuse to run my mouth off and snark about her. But I do need a way and a space to talk to my young niece about she shouldn't beat herself up about looking like herself and not like Angelina or Laura Flynn Boyle in a tutu. I do need a way to talk about what might in fact be healthy and unhealthy - for her. The kicker is that putting Angelina down will NOT build up my niece or myself.
I'm still unpacking these thoughts so I hope that you'll weigh in and be gentle in your analysis and criticism.

"If we dial down the snark,

"If we dial down the snark, the vicious comments, the merciless gotcha games, then I think a safe(r) space can be opened up to discuss, with solidarity, compassion and empathy, what we think is healthy and what might not be. "

People HAVE been talking about the economics of food, and the correlation between income and body size. It would be a good start to read up on political blogs and the corn lobby, and pitch your "we, as a nation, have gotten increasingly unhealthy in the last three decades" spiel there.

That's a very good point

and super-relevant too. I'm very interested in the whole inter-play between, say Monsanto and food deserts and agricultural subsidies and demographics and basically the whole enchilada. I'm sure that I have tons to learn in that respect, but that wasn't was I was driving at here - I was talking more about popular culture and how we as a nation process, culturally, the idea of healthy and unhealthy.
I can agree with you that the rise in obesity is largely fueled by political factors and structural transformations beyond the scope of the individual to magically change instantly - but I wasn't trying to blame any one individual in the first place, either for being "too fat" or "too skinny"! That's sort of the whole point of my post - and I'm really sorry if that was not evident. BUt thanks for your suggestion on reading up on these things, you reminded me to really look into the series of articles the NYT has published on Monsanto in the last weeks.

You're still missing the

You're still missing the point though, and your original comment is tremendously ableist.

No one owes you or society an apology for needing mobility assistance to get around for any reason, nor does the fact of a fat person's needing accomodation or assistance give you free rein to judge that person's body or decide whether she is "healthy." The idea that fat disabled people are somehow less worthy of deference or respect that any other people with mobility-related disability stems from a deep-seated (and off-base) cultural assumption that fatness is volitional.

A lot of work has already been done on access to nutritional food. And it isn't just that people with lower income are more likely to be "overweight"--which is true, due to a variety of factors--but poverty itself is a FAR more accurate indicator of poor health outcomes than body size. Poverty consistently correlates with increased morbidity and mortality, yet culturally we're fixated on fatness and the "obesity epidemic."

In the US, we treat healthcare as a privilege instead of a human right, yet we also narrowly define "health" and treat that definition of health as a social obligation. The structural problem lies in that two-fold paradigm. Fatness itself (to any degree) does not automatically equal poor health and you cannot tell if a person is "healthy" just by looking at her, because the definition of "health" is necessarily individual. Think of people who live with chronic disease or disability; personal "health" occurs within the parameters of an individual's unique circumstances.

But certainly there are unhealthy fat people and people for whom body size itself causes health problems. Those people have a right to not to be judged or policed as well. Their bodies do not become public spaces on which you can inscribe your ideas of what you think they owe society.

I'm confused

And I don't mean that in a snarky way at all - is fatness not at all, even to some minor degree, volutional? Taking as a premise that we agree on everything you mention regarding poverty etc?

But seriously, is the worldview you are operating with that fatness (or thinness for that matter) not subject to the individual's preference AT ALL?

IF so, I think we have to agree to disagree on philosophical points here. My framework of reference is that there are very strong structural reasons for the recent change in America, reason to do with changes in demographics, industry, politics - you name it. But I ALSO hold out some space for individual agency. Which is not the same as ascribing blame or shame.

I'm honestly curious if this is where we differ markedly.
OF COURSE no one ever gets to call out, snark, comment, give unwanted advice etc. I really don't know how I can make that clearer. Basically I think nobody should comment on anyone else's body, ever. What I was talking about earlier was the futility of expecting people not to have opinions, in the privacy of their own head. IT seems a bit totalitarian to assume that I wouldn't or I shouldn't. As far as being argument was that while it's incredibly hard to judge someone's health based solely on their appearance, I think it's unrealistic of you to expect me not to conclude that those of my family members who have gotten obese to the point of not being able to move are not healthy. I don't ascribe to the idea that as logn as you're skinny you're automatically healthy and as soon as you're deemed overweight you're automatically unhealthy - I know from my own life that it's not the truth. But losing the ability to move independently only because of overweight simply IS more unhealthy than being the same person and less overweight and able to move.I just have a hard time coming up with a scenario, medically, where that isn't the case.
IS me thinking that in the privacy of my own head as I visit family in GA "inscribing my ideas about what they owe society?". And if so, who elected YOU the thought police? As long as I do my inscribing on the inside of my head and don't push my opinion on other people?

Where we might misunderstand each other is on the point of whether or not I ascribe some kind of morality to that call that I occasionally make, about health. I don't. My friend with MS who's also unable to move unassisted would agree that he's less healthy than, say, me, but obviously that doesn't mean anything more than that (others in his position might disagree with him and that's none of my business obviously). He's not less worthy, equal, wonderful, awesome or entitled to a full life. The same goes for my family members. Both are less healthy than they want to be, both have some agency about how to deal with their condition, both are full citizens deserving of the kind of respect and common decency that everybody deserves and in terms of how healthy or unhealthy they are, the only salient point about how they got where they are is what it means for their own ability to affect their health positively, should they chose to. My friend can't really ever escape the reality of his MS. My family member have more relatively more choices in terms of reducing obesity.

As for health care being a right, not a privilege. Well, funny you should mention that. I grew up in a country where health care IS a right (Denmark). I can tell you that this means that personal health becomes much more..public. Smokers are seen as not only willfully and stupidly destroying their own lungs but taking health care funds away from innocent children dying of leukemia. Because we ALL pay for everybody else's choices and since there isn't unlimited money to go round, society has to make priorities so it becomes much more accepted to have an opinion your neighbor's or citizen's choices. The state itself is a lot more hands-on in terms of using social engineering to further its own goal of a healthy citizenry. Talk about inscribing what you owe society..everything from the so-called fat tax to subsidized bikes and vegetables etc. IT runs the gamut of what Americans would view as horrifically interventionist and communist and really benign and supportive initiatives.

This, not surprisingly, fosters a culture where you DO owe society something, precisely because while health care is a right, it's also a corresponding responsibility. Part of that responsibility is, in Denmark, to cultural expectation to not burden society unnecessarily - it's a huge cultural difference from the US. When you quit smoking at home, you're congratulated not only for yourself, but also for the fact that you won't drain unnecessarily the same medical budget that will treat the birth of your grand child or provide cutting edge trauma care to crash victims. Obesity is seen along similar lines - as something preventable, an avoidable expense, something that society has both an interest and a duty in preventing (by better food policies etc etc) but also something that the individual has SOME agency over, as a responsibility to the community. Paradoxically there is far less fat shaming and a better body culture than here. And there's a lot more support, really supportive support, for changing lifestyles.

I'm trying to explain a) what my cultural back ground is, and b) what kind of unintended side-effects the system you seem to be advocating for, if I understand you correctly, has. It's always a grueling and complex discussion we have back home when we discuss where to allocate the funds - cancer treatment for the really rare kinds? Births? Hip replacements? Geriatric care? Everybody can't get everything. The money spent on your ailment is money that can't be used for someone else's disease. Like I said, it's invariably a painful discussion and it's definitely not always pretty or ethical in its execution. But having the discussion is probably unavoidable, given how our system works.

Whenever there's a discussion here that idealizes the public health care option (which I still think is the absolute BEST option because it's inhumane for a society to deny its citizens health care ) I always wonder if Americans really would *like* the implicit public contract that underpins it and makes it possible. I think it would go against the strong tendency to individuality here. My best friend's father is waiting a month for a scan to see if he had a stroke. There's no way to jump ahead in the line and it's obviously agony. My best friend gets top-notch free MS care which enables him to live a full life. It's a complicated picture.

Reply to comment | Bitch Media

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So why does it matter if

So why does it matter if people "don't know" if someone is healthy-skinny or not? Although saying "eat a cheeseburger" is neither polite nor constructive, this post seems to be saying we should never comment on someone's body shape, ever, because we just can't know if they're healthy or not! What's wrong with telling someone "look, for your health, I'm worried about the amount of weight you've been gaining/losing" and having your worries be completely unwarranted? In that case, the concern expressed can be dismissed and there is no harm done.

This is perhaps goes a little too far with the Angelina Jolie comments, which can be just plain rude and hateful, and are made by people who don't even know her personally. But I don't think the final stage in the evolution of body perception has to be "we don't ever talk about someone's weight" or "we never see weight". Instead, I think it would be extremely positive if we COULD express non-judgemental concerns about weight without fearing that the other person would feel insulted, because the person is confident enough in their self-image not to see it as an insult, address the misconception if it exists, and move on with their lives.


So far, this is the best response on this entire feed.

"it would be extremely positive if we COULD express non-judgemental concerns about weight without fearing that the other person would feel insulted, because the person is confident enough in their self-image not to see it as an insult, address the misconception if it exists, and move on with their lives."

Yes, I completely agree that this needs to be the end goal in terms of weight comments and discussion.

I have lost a few good friends to bulimia and anorexia. At the same time, both of my parents are what I would call overweight, and have been for a long time. I see both sets of people as having eating disorders, both extremes are unhealthy.

I think what people need to recognize here is how to differentiate between concern and negativity. I don't go around bashing my parents for being 'fat', but I have and still do approach them with my concerns about their weight and for their health.

The problem with this Angelina situation is that obviously, none of us know her personally, so her weight should be of no concern to any of us, which I 100% believe. However, celebrities' weight loss/gain sparks this discussion that we in turn apply to our own personal lives, and i don't think the answer should be "we don't ever talk about someone's weight". A friend who was dealing with anorexia was genuinely "relieved" when people finally worked up the courage to approach her with their concerns. And I would feel *extremely* uncomfortable having gone my whole life without telling my parents how their weight and eating habits worry me.

After having countless eating disorder 'educational videos' shoved down my throat in high school, the main message was to not be afraid to speak up, to that person and then to others, if you feel their eating patterns have developed into an unhealthy zone. It may be because of this I believe that, while no one should be judging whether Angelina Jolie is healthy or not based off looks, adopting the attitude of never speaking about or questioning weight loss/gain screams "WRONG" to me.

Behavior and body size are

Behavior and body size are two different things, and you cannot tell a person's health situation OR eating habits based on her body size.

I am obese. I don't have an eating disorder. If someone came up to me and said "Caroline, you're pretty fat, so I'm concerned you have an eating disorder" they'd get anything from an "Are you fucking kidding me?!" to a straight-up punch in the mouth, depending on how stressed I already was. I'm sure thin to extremely thin people who happen to be that way are similarly frustrated with unsolicited "concerns." Because trying to "help" just based on our size is judging us because of our bodies. 

Bulemia, anorexia, and binge eating should all be taken seriously. They can afflict people of any body size, and it's tell-tale behavioral patterns that friends and loved-ones should be paying attention to. 

In the case of Angelina Jolie, all of our observation of her behavior is heavily filtered through entertainment "news" media. None of us knows her, and none of us can offer commentary or judgement on her behavior because the Angelina Jolie we're exposed to is a sensationalized image. 

I didn't want to play this

I didn't want to play this card, because I don't think it's essential to the debate, but...

I AM extremely skinny. I don't have an eating disorder. People HAVE asked me if I have an eating disorder, without meaning it to be an insult. I have understood that it was not meant to be an insult, calmly told them I don't have an eating disorder and that they were wrong, and moved on with my life without getting especially angry. They felt slightly embarrassed for being straight-up called out, then moved on with their lives. I don't really find that the way I react is especially abnormal, or that it's especially difficult. But maybe I'm completely wrong.

"Bulemia, anorexia, and binge eating should all be taken seriously. They can afflict people of any body size, and it's tell-tale behavioral patterns that friends and loved-ones should be paying attention to."

Of course! Behavioral patterns are essential to watch, and probably better indicators than weight. My point is that getting mad whenever anything says ANYTHING about weight is hardly constructive. Can't we correct issues, if they do arise, without treating people like they're horrible and judgmental if they mention someone's weight? Can't we focus on improving self-esteem so that we can correct misconceptions calmly?

"In the case of Angelina Jolie, all of our observation of her behavior is heavily filtered through entertainment "news" media. None of us knows her, and none of us can offer commentary or judgement on her behavior because the Angelina Jolie we're exposed to is a sensationalized image. "

Can't disagree with that.

As a side note, EVERYONE

As a side note, EVERYONE judges, most of the time unintentionally, and that's just a consequence of being a living creature that has to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Judging someone does not necessarily mean you think they should be held morally responsible for whatever state they're in. Judging someone does not necessarily mean you detest that person. Should we try to admit we judge and correct our mistakes as much as possible? Of course! Should we attempt to "fix" judging by getting angry and, ironically, judging the other person? I'm not really sure I see the point.

As a fat person, I have to

As a fat person, I have to deal with an entire culture bombarding me with messages that my body is a public space onto which people can project their "concerns," that my body makes me a bad role model, that I am "unhealthy," and above all that I am ugly and undesirable. Whenever some random person remarks on my size, that person is reinforcing institutional fat hatred. I have every right to be very angry about that.

Because I believe that fat hatred is systemic and that thin privilege exists, I don't think that telling a thin woman to "eat a sandwich" is exactly the same as telling a fat woman to "put down the fork" even though both are wrong. However, I do agree with other commenters who have pointed out that women's bodies are generally treated as public spaces, and that women "can't win" because they're constantly under scrutiny with regard to their appearance.

healthy at every size

Snarky comments are snarky comments. If you can't say something nice...
Whether one's size "appears" inappropriate to another is none of their business and does not deserve criticism. As a former underweight, having my fitness concerns dismissed by female friends because I "obviously had nothing to worry about" was painful but how dare I complain. I ate anything and everything because I could. Decades later, I am now in the correct weight range for my height (fluke discovery of a medical condition that was corrected) and the years of free eating has caught up with me. I have plaque in my arteries and my diet and lifestyle has had to alter dramatically as a result. Is this diet easier for me because I'm thin? If I join discussions about health concerns outside my close circle of friends, I still get eye rolls. I'm sure some of your eyes are rolling reading this.
We are hard on each other - in fact, too often cruel.
As for Angelina, if she is naturally skinny, she doesn't need to be bitched at for that. If she is suffering from an eating disorder, it is up to her family and friends to help her. Does she know that the tabloid crap is just that - probably. Do the comments still hurt? My money is on yes.

Concerned, not judgmental.

I adore Angie. However, when I saw her at the Academy Awards Sunday evening, my first thought was, "I wonder if everything is okay with her health?". I thought she looked thinner than she did at the Globes which wasn't long ago. Perhaps she has been very busy. It is sad that our first thought when we see someone (female) we assume they are intentionally trying to be whatever size they are.

I'd also like to point out

I'd also like to point out that one's BMI--their height/weight ratio-- is pretty useless in deciding one's health. For example, I am 5'10" and weigh 125 pounds. I'm an eighteen year old female. My BMI is 17.9, which is classified as underweight.
By that logic, I'm "unhealthy."

However, I'm a pretty dedicated athlete, practicing 3 hours a day six days a week and fitness training an hour a day every day. I'm a soccer player, so I don't build up extra muscle but I diet and train so hard that I have an extremely low fat percentage. I'm extremely healthy. My body can do anything I ask and I've worked hard to get to that point. Literally, I've worked my ass off.. But I've still had people who don't know how much I work out roll their eyes when I tell them I'm dieting, or tell me I should eat more, or that it's not healthy for me to be so concerned.

Despite those detractors, I am incredibly happy with my health and my technically "underweight" body. It's how I've always been, give or take a few fluctuations.

Jolie is the same way: she's always been thin. People talk about her skinny arms and how she was totally fit as Lara Croft, but you can go back and actually look at the Lara Croft movie poster and see that her arms were ALWAYS like that. Even photoshopped, her elbows were prominent and her wrists were thin and bony. It's just how she's built.

Body-shaming hurts skinny girls too

Oh, Bitch, I love you SO MUCH for this post!

I wrote something similar (and linked to you!) here:

Well said, Kelsey - this

Well said, Kelsey - this obsessive dissecting of Angelina's body, and of all women's bodies, is definitely something that needs to be regularly considered. These constant attacks of body shaming are dangerous and not only show how much of a social issue it has become, but adds to it. Why are we participating on knocking down those who might actually be extremely healthy and simply have a different shape? Be it that Angelia happens to be considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, within Western standards of what that means at least, commenting so heavily on her appearance seems so beyond unnecessary. Appreciate that all bodies are different, and that health can appear in many forms, and stop feeding the shallow agenda of the media. Not to mention, this is such typical treatment of any woman who is identified as having any level of power. Likewise, the jokes about her pose/leg are funny, but with that also needs a level of consideration for her position - she was obviously in a good mood and felt confident, so should we - the viewers - not celebrate that instead of shaming her? Let's all eat what we want to eat and cool it on the cheesy jokes about burgers.

Cheeseburgers aren't a good choice, BTW.

am i the only person that gets ticked off when people say this stuff for all the aforementioned reasons, and ALSO because they always mention some kind of "food" like cheeseburgers, sandwiches, or if you don't like those, cookies? for one thing, those are the exact foods that one would criticize a fat person for eating, but it's ok, nay, necessary for a ultra-skinny person to eat them to not be so "unhealthy-looking"? are we forgetting the fact that these are usually really unhealthy foods? i think it just sets up some weird binary where certain kinds of "foods" are an option for some people and are unacceptable for others (when we all really shouldn't be eating cheeseburgers...veggie burgers maybe).

i sound like a crazy vegan, but whenever someone says stuff like this, i want to say "oh, because those cheeseburgers and steaks are working out so great for you, are they?"

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