Why do we judge each other’s bodies so harshly?
This week Beyonce’s fans were treated to an unexpected sighting: Bey, who’s been on professional hiatus since the birth of her daughter, Blue Ivy, in early January, showed up at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday to cheer on her husband, Jay-Z, at his two–night fundraiser. On both nights, Bey wore form-fitting dresses that highlighted her curvaceous (and fabulous) post-baby body.
As usual, she was scrutinized to death, with “fans” commenting openly on the size of her hips and breasts, and her trim waist. She looked so good that she unintentionally re-ignited those nasty rumors about her faking her pregnancy. (I guess a lot of people have never heard of Spanx, huh?) That made me wonder: Why do women judge each other’s bodies — pregnant or not — so harshly?
Women’s bodies are up for public consumption and criticism in a way that men’s never are. I can’t think of a time when a male celeb’s body was picked apart so viciously, and other than Luther Vandross, I can't name a male star whose every minute weight gain or loss has become fodder for a blog post or a news story. But I do recall the way other women went in on Jennifer Hudson after she lost weight, complaining she was too thin, commenting on her muscle mass, even criticizing how her breasts sat in her clothes.
The scrutiny isn’t just reserved for the celebs who have experienced dramatic weight losses or gains — seemingly any female star who dares to have her picture taken is up for appraisal. Let Angela Simmons spend another day frolicking at the beach, and you’ll find a blog post with comments sizing up her backside and other body parts. Same thing happens to singer Mya, who’s been making the rounds promoting her latest CD. She’s got a dancer’s body — strong and fit — and still every inch of her thighs is catalogued and critiqued by other women.
This is behavior that reveals our own insecurities, but by judging female celebrities so harshly, we actually make it hard for ourselves. Last week, I read a story in the New York Daily News about a Brazilian bikini line for plus-size women. The story was accompanied by a photo showing meaty women with ample bosoms, wide thighs and even a few rolls, and yet they were lounging happily in the sun, enjoying the water and each other’s company. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen women like that relaxing at the beach, secure and uncovered without fidgeting, proudly on display without a care in the world.
You know who I usually see doing that? Men. And not just the chiseled, six-pack-flaunting dudes, but the Rick Ross boob-and-belly types who would be scandalized if you merely suggested that everyone didn’t love all the rotundness they have to offer. I wish more women could be like them — not necessarily in size, but in confidence. And I wish more women would treat other women the way we treat men — with appropriate indifference to just let them be when it comes to their bodies.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk