Oscars, women & weight

Media coverage of Titanic’s Oscar-night triumph was tainted by descriptions of its young star. Since capturing the country’s attention in her latest and biggest movie, Kate Winslet has been called chubby, tubby, bulky and worse by American press. Jabs at Winslet’s weight reflect our nation’s unrealistic mental images of the female body. An over-thin ideal invites women to despise their own bodies – and worse yet, encourages many to sacrifice their health.

Winslet fuses grace and vitality on screen – she breathes life into Shakespeare’s Ophelia, embodies impetuous youth in Sense and Sensibility, and even ekes some depth from flatly-written Rose Dawson in Titanic. But despite her acting ability and beauty, Winslet does not satisfy America’s mania for stick-thin starlets. Not since the days of Marilyn Monroe has a buxom woman reigned in Hollywood. Winslet, and countless other women, are looked down upon because their bodies do not fit our nation’s sickly expectations.

The same dumb logic that kept Barbie’s measurements at ridiculous proportions dictates that actresses and models must adhere to waif-like standards. Women strong enough to resist the pressure to stay skinny are told their beauty is significantly diminished. Stupid standards lead to legions of women who are literally dying to keep thin. Anorexia and bulimia have seeped all the way down to elementary schools. A titanic percentage of teenage girls fret constantly over their weight.

When the critics hound Winslet for her hourglass figure, they do a disservice to our national health. It is precisely Winslet’s hourglass figure that makes her the freshest leading lady to grace Hollywood screens in decades. She is evidence that a woman can be unmistakably beautiful with a healthy amount of flesh covering her bones. American women spend their lives soaking in media images of emaciated nymphs – they desperately need to see figures like Winslet’s romanticized on screen. Instead of an impossible ideal, Winslet is a normally-sized woman.

Instead of throwing stones, the media should praise Winslet for maintaining her individuality in the face of her bony peers. If more actresses had figures like hers, American women would really have something to cheer for on Oscar night. They would have won a little more breathing room – even in Hollywood, where fantasies are sold a dime a dozen.

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