Saturday, July 25, 2009

Don't Fear the Knee-per!

The always-enlightening Daily Mail Femail section is not satisfied with making you feel bad about the pre-wrinkles that you should be protecting your 20-year-old face against, how your nipples should look through mesh tops, and how much your 16-year-old should spend on beauty maintenance (12,000 pounds a year sounds about right). Those body obsessions were so last month! Now, the Daily Mail's body-snarking has devolved to consider those pesky joints, the knees, whose sins up to this point had only included presenting an annoying obstacle to leg-shaving.

Presuming to speak for the Everywoman, writer Claudia Connell zooms in on the knees of over-40 celebs like Elle McPherson, Courtney Cox, and Nicollette Sheridan to make us all feel a bit less inadequate (italics mine) next to those skinny bitches: "As a curvy woman in my 40s, it gives me considerable pleasure to point out that saggy knees will strike skinny women a long time before us more rounded ones. The 40s are the decade when a woman carrying a few extra pounds can come into her own: the wrinkles are fleshed out, the knees hold up and you tend to look a good few years younger than your more slender counterparts. It's payback time and, yes, a chubby knee looks a lot more youthful than a skinny one."

Connell makes sure to point out that the sufficiently wealthy and shamed by her haggard joints, like Demi Moore, can shell out 5,000 pounds for a surgery to strip skin from the kneecap, pull it tight, and stitch the skin in place like a facelift - there's always a surgical solution to your most outlandish body-image issues - but advises those of a certain age and lesser means to permanently send those disgusting gnarled knees into exile under the cover of longer skirts and tights, with a proper sense of guilt.

Disturbing not only for the author's unabashed glee in toppling the "otherwise ridiculously perfect body" of McPherson and her body-shaming advice for all other would-be knee-bearers, this article also serves as an example of the even more horrifyingly commonplace practice of body-snarking celebrities and strangers as if women's bodies are subject to debate in the public sphere. Any psychologist or therapist worth their perscription pad will tell you that commenting on another person's body or eating habits constitutes an invasions of her emotional boundaries. "The Body," as McPherson is known in modelling circles, has a right to inhabit her body in public without engendering back-handed compliments or overt put-downs (or catcalls, for that matter) as every woman does. Although the paps and pop culture apologists claim that there are different rules for celebrity women who make a career of their public personae, the pervasive tendency to comment on and criticize women of all walks of life for daring to show their bodies in public recognizes no such distinction. If we participate in body-snarking celebrities' appearances, then we practice and normalize the behavior when it is directed at our own bodies, from within or without, or those of women we encounter in the world. Now, there's a boundary I'd like to see each of us protect.

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