During last night’s Emmy telecast, I was following the conversation on Twitter. I liked the real-time reactions of everyone from friends to professional entertainment reporters as awards were handed out and truly terrible music played. But there was one recurring theme that really started to bother me: people giving unsolicited eating/nutrition advice to actresses, specifically telling some thin women to “eat a sandwich.” While Julie Bowen was winning an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her work on Modern Family, Twitter lit up with jokes about how her breasts looked saggy (“Maybe she should have won for least-supported actress!”) or how thin she looked. Instead of celebrating Bowen for her achievement or her hard work, too many people chose to focus on her looks.
As a person who has always been on the thin side because of genetics, I know that many people have a hard time feeling sorry for people who have trouble putting weight on. In my late 20s, my permanently-bony look started to go away and I was able to reach a comfortable body weight that didn’t make me self-conscious all the time. But I’ve definitely been told to “eat a sandwich” or “eat a cheeseburger” by people who have no idea what my exercise and nutrition are like, and it’s hurtful. While it’s no secret that women in Hollywood feel enormous pressure to be thin and some develop eating disorders, it’s wrong to assume that every thin woman just needs to eat a sandwich in order to magically cure her body image issues or gain those last few pounds. Imagine if the tables were turned and someone snapped at Christina Hendricks or Melissa McCarthy (also a winner last night) to “eat a salad!” I think those people would be quickly called out and reprimanded for calling those actresses fat, as well they should be. But promoting positive body image means promoting positive body image for everyone, not just for people who look the way you think it’s acceptable to look. I have a hard time imagining a person struggling with body dysmorphia or an eating disorder hearing a stranger’s cry to eat a sandwich and suddenly having a life-changing revelation.
I often find that the same people shouting “eat a sandwich!” at women on TV are the same ones who bemoan the lack of women’s solidarity in the entertainment industry. Focusing on achievement and talent over looks, even if you think someone’s unhealthy, is a good way to reverse that trend.