Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Having A Reverend Dimmesdale Moment. Back To Poetry Soon. But, Did You Know Miss Indiana Was The New Normal For America's Women?

It's a terrible thing to get up a Good Head Of Steam--and Self-Righteous Steam at that--and run smack up against a Huge Wall Of Startling Self-Realization. It's a humbling thing, too. But because it helps to illustrate my point all that much more, I'm going to Embrace it and lay it all out there, my own cracked armour on display for all to see.

For some reason, in this Day And Age, we still have women who agree to participate in so-called beauty pageants. I am not going to present nor argue their reasons, nor am I going to entertain the discussions regarding whether or not it is Feminist to be the one deciding to put your own body on display for whatever purpose or reward. None of that is my point, and I can end most of the discussions by asking where the Male Counterpart for these beauty pageants is.

My purpose for raising the topic is due to the uproar on social media following the appearance of Miss Indiana in a bikini during the Miss USA pageant televised 8 June 2014.  Here she is.

To quote one news outlet: "Nia Sanchez, aka Miss Nevada, may have won Miss USA this week, but it was Mekayla Diehl, 25-year-old Miss Indiana, that grabbed Twitter's attention. Why?...Diehl, who is also the first registered Native American to represent Indiana in the pageant, stood out during the bikini portion of the two-hour-long competition for the fact that she had 'womanly curves'."

Here also is Miss Indiana's Facebook page, where it is revealed that she is 5' 8", 137 pounds, and a size 4. She has also inspired a teeshirt that reads I'm The New Normal. People from all over the country have posted positive messages, thanking her for being a role model for normal women everywhere. One woman enthused, "God picked YOU to travel this road and speak for others! You are so poised and a true inspiration."

I have no problem with Miss Indiana, aside from the fact that she makes the egregious lose/loose error in spelling.  She is lovely and seems to be sincere about her Platform for her pageant issue.  (Her shoes in this photo are absolutely unforgivable, but maybe they were not her choice.)

No, Miss Indiana is fine.  But can someone, anyone out there, please tell me how a Size 4 is curvy and The New Normal?  Are American Women so incredibly brainwashed by airbrushed magazine advertisements and anorexic fashion models and wispy, starving film actresses that a Size 4 looks chubbily robust to us?  Was there really someone out there--or several Someones--watching that night saying, "Whoa!  Get a load of Miss Indiana!  Bet her car knows the way to all the buffets in Muncie!"?

That was the gist of my Rant to my husband after I read a few blurbs about the Voluptuously Curvaceous And Womanly Miss Indiana.  I had just gotten into my Zone, using a ton of SAT Words and Emphatic Gestures (for lack of Pretentious Capitalization), when suddenly, I stopped and fell silent.  Shocked, I looked up at Rick.

"Oh my god.  Oh. My. God," I said, as the realization struck.  "I'm no better than any of them. What have I been crabbing about for weeks now?  Why have I been so down lately?  Because I have gained weight. Because I'm not a Size 2 anymore like when I was working.  Because now, thanks to my new migraine meds and menopause and a lack of killer stress, I'm never seeing a Size 2 again. And Size 4 is looking iffy. Because I'm Huge.  Holy Effing Crap.  Do you know how, even when I was twenty, I would have killed to be this size?  What is wrong with me?  I am so much smarter than that, but...apparently not.  Even I have fallen for the years and years of marketing and airbrushing and false representation of the Ideal Woman.  I'm fifty-five years old, educated, well-read, a Feminist, and the most pressing issue on my mind right now is that I hate my body because I can't fit into certain clothes like I used to and that they aren't labeled with a certain number which I find desirable or acceptable."

And at that moment, what made me really, really sick and disgusted was that I knew, deep down inside, if my neurologist told me that I could either be a Size 2 again or have no migraines ever again, at that precise moment, I would have chosen being a Size 2.

Something is terribly wrong.  With me, yes.  I'm admitting that, owning it, and without delving any further into my personal trove of the wherefores behind it, putting it here for the Interwebs to see.  Beyond my faults, however, are those of the Others.

It's Terribly Wrong that, despite the public health campaigns regarding eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, the bulk of advertising continues to promote only one body type, a sylph-like, slender, and angular female with jutting hipbones and no discernible padding underneath her skin unless it is zeppelin-like breasts for a bra manufacturer.

It's Terribly Wrong that, when Mattel redesigned Barbie's body, it was not so that it was a more realistic reflection of what a young woman's body really looked like. It was in order "for her to have more of a teenage physique," says Mattel spokesperson Lisa McKendall. "In order for [the new doll's debut outfit] to look right, Barbie needs to be more like a teen's body. The fashions teens wear now don't fit properly on our current sculpting."  It's also Terribly Wrong that this occurred in 1997, and almost twenty years ago, the writer of the article observed, "Barbie may not be the cause of eating disorders and body hatred, but her universally recognizable profile makes her a flashpoint, an image of female perfection, a symbol of the drawbacks of any such images, and a convenient scapegoat for our cultural troubles with them."

Pageants are part of the problem.  Miss Indiana is being lauded by many for things like "starting the discussion" and "raising awareness" and "being a role model."  I have to disagree.  Until there is an identical pageant for men in which they are walked in front of a judging panel in various outfits, asked questions, required to showcase their talent, and perform some hokey song and dance in a state costume along with a host of other inane activities, I can't see a true and meaningful purpose for any pageant.  For anyone.  Hasn't anyone--any woman--ever asked herself why there hasn't been a male pageant like the Miss USA, Miss Universe, or Miss America pageant?

What sponsors would pay for time on that?  What network would want that ratings dog?  Who would watch it (besides Mumsy and Popsy of each contestant)?  And let me tell you why it is a ratings dog.  This.  The summary is all you need to read.

But there I go, preaching again.  There's nothing worse than the sinful preacher preaching against Sin.  (Ask Hester Prynne.)

I'm currently on a jaunt in Maryland.  While I'm here, I plan on doing a great deal of deep breathing and re-centering.  It's obvious that I need some Redemption.  And a helluva lot of New Normal.



  1. What you said. Yes. All of it.

    In a country where 33% of the population is obese, Size 4 is not the new normal.

    And as for this woman being curvy, she looks rather rectangular to me. Not in the least bit like an hourglass shape. Nope, she's more linear.

    All of which means that Miss Indiana has some weight to gain before she becomes the new curvy normal. IMHO. Obviously.

  2. Right there with you babe. I've gained weight where I never had it before, and I find my self-loathing to be a shock. Why does it occupy so much of my time? I have no meds to blame, only my age and my hand-to-mouth issues. I've tried exercising more, which makes me feel better but does not help me lose weight. I've tried a standing desk and giving up diet soda, both of which supposedly will help. Nope. The amount of time I spend frustrated is truly wasted. And yet, I don't know how to get past it.

    Miss Indiana up there looks great, and has a great body, but I'm with you. When did that become 'curvy'? Is Kate Middleton the new normal, she who always looks like she is starving to me? (And who am I to judge anyone, whether for their being too thin or too fat for my fondness? How about we just leave each other, and ourselves, alone?)

  3. Oh a FOUR! Wow - I don't think I was ever a four. But I remember when I hit my goal weight 10 years ago & got into a pair of size 8 jeans - and still felt a little chunky. I keep trying to remind myself that at this point I need to lose weight for my health (& knees), & to quit worrying about what people see when they look at me.

    Oh, & the bunnies are too fricking adorable. Really. :)

  4. Putting aside the virtuousness of women's beauty contests - "it's for the scholarships - really..." - it's damn difficult to be 55 or 63 or most any woman above the age of 30 to compare her body with that of a 20 year old beauty queen contest participant.

    I'm 63 and found myself gaining weight over the last few years. About six months ago, I finally realised that eating too much comfort food was really bad for me. I went on my own diet - the "grilled salmon, vegetables, raspberries, and raw carrots diet" and upped my treadmill usage to 2 miles/40 minutes six mornings a week, I've lost 20 pounds. I'm on a "maintenance" period right now, but I plan to go back on the diet and lose another 20. It's not easy but it isn't as onerous as some regimes and I feel a bunch better.

    But at 63 I don't want to look like some neurotic older lady who is skin and bones but "stylish" - at least in her own mind. I'd rather just feel and look as good as I can for my age and height - I'm 5'8 - and look good in my Eileen Fishers.

  5. Oh my yes!
    When I was 20 I was 5'8". 139 lb and wore, wait for it, a size 12. I am now 72, 5' 7", weigh 180 lb and wear a size 14. It is obvious to me that the sizing thing alone is a big issue. Pun not intended, but not bad.
    I control my weight as well as I can to keep the arthritis pain in check; the matter of 'stylish' has never been a concern to me. My weight will vary by up to ten pounds depending on what medications I am on and what my body is up to. I guess what I am saying is that I never have bought into the thin thing. My weight when I was 20 caused my mother to have hissy fits and try to feed me up for being too thin, for one thing. Standards vary from generation to generation, I guess.
    What seems not to vary is the onus on women to have an attractive body by standards that horrify me and to accept the kind of attention that having one brings. (For men it seems to be muscle, or was when I was paying attention. The male contests I have seen are for whose muscles can bulge the most obscenely. (Is that a word?))
    You sure make some good points. But should not the main criterion of body fitness be how well it can be used to do fun things and exciting things?

  6. Yes Mary! That's exactly why I'm trying to lose weight - so I can still move around & have fun for the next 30 or so years.

  7. So here's my two cents:

    Ms. Indiana does NOT have a "curvy" figure, at least by my standards, which would be something approaching the classic "hourglass" figure. In the photo, she has cleverly placed her right hand on her hip, thus giving more of an illusion of "curvy." But if you look at the side of her body where there is no hand creating the illusion of indentation, the line from her bust to her hips is pretty much a straight line. Maybe I have "curvy" figured out all wrong, but my definition is bust-waist-hips, and not "thigh fat" adding to the equation. That said, this is nothing to do, obviously, with her weight: clearly she is slim. But her body type is what is classically described as "apple" rather than "pear"--- women whose torso is more "straight up and down" (regardless of the bust size , which can vary a lot). SHE HAS NO HIPS. And hence, NO CURVES.

    All of the above, of course, does not really matter a tinker's damn except in the hyped up social media which is constantly pointing the fickle finger of fate at whatever takes everyone's fancy. Barbie has NEVER been a role model, but for me, it is a lot less to do with the "teen figure" than the fact that her freakin' legs are at least 35% longer than most women's legs, whatever their body type. I'm just sayin' ...

    As far as we "real" women and issues with aging: All I can say, from the perspective of 7 years down the road from you, is:

    1) Sh*t happens. There are things you can control regarding weight, but other things where age and possible medication make that a very difficult task.

    2.) Even if we could fit into the magical Size X that we wore when we were younger, or at least for many, many years, there are things that age creates that are unavoidable and just not fun: weird bulges that never existed; gravity making you think your butt is not as fat, when, in fact, it is just closer to the ground; and general sags and wrinkles that only surgery and botox can fix, and there comes a point when you have to consider that it would really involve a whole body lift. Not really an option.

    Which brings us to the old adage of "growing old gracefully." Look the best you can, but learn to disguise it where possible (neck scarves, etc.), and work on focusing on the "other stuff" in your life. It is really hard. I never thought of myself as being that vain until I began facing these issues. For me, it never had anything to do with what the media was or was not promoting. It was just... growing older. So I look for ways to cope and try to keep my mind as young and vibrant as possible. It doesn't cure the hurt of knowing that "I ain't never gonna see 27 again, or even 47"... but it does make reality more livable.

    So breathe deeply, re-center, and Eff the New Normal.

  8. Ortizzle--I wonder, too, if it isn't an age thing. Like you, I never had Barbie as a sort of role model, either, unless you count clothes. What childbearing didn't do to my figure, constant up and down weight did, and now age.

    I've never shied away from my inordinate vanity. My appearance has always been paramount to me. For a variety of reasons that I won't go into here, it's important. I don't think that makes me different from very many women of any age.

    And I think the media influence is subtle and insidious. By only showing slender women for everything from clothes to medications, they present to the public the constant image of Women as slim and model-like.

    Finally, of course all of these points regarding Being Your Best You And Eff The Rest are ultimately My Philosophy. Always have been. It's just maddening to hit a low point and realize that, not only have things not changed enough societally, but they also have not changed enough internally.

    It's also continually frustrating to note that the Double Standard persists when it comes to the sexes. Women will never be able to grow old as gracefully as men because, quite simply, they aren't really allowed. Unless they're Sophia Loren, and let's face it--she's just not playing fair.

    Mary G--I also agree that sizing has gotten ridiculous. I can guarantee you that my size 4 pants which I am wearing right now are not the same size 4 that were made in even 1974, 1984, or even 1994. And that even if I covered myself in Crisco, I couldn't wear a size 4 in the same manufacturer's size 4 in another "cut." It's ridiculous. People keep hauling out the fact that Marilyn Monroe wore something like a size 12, but I wonder if it would be today's size 6?

    I also wonder about the robustness of the human being in general being a factor. When I go to museums and look at old uniforms or clothing of previous centuries--even suits of armour--I am amazed at their tiny sizes. Even at 5' 4", I am not much smaller than some Union and Confederate soldiers, and I would be hard pressed to fit into their uniforms.

    Mary, dear, I love your point about aiming to be healthy and fit enough to have fun and go on adventures. I will remember that.

    phoebes--I eat very healthily, thank goodness. Should I exercise more? Shouldn't everyone? LOL.

    As I said, it's a matter of re-centering. And I'm not so sure that the rapidity of the weight gain brought on by the demon medicine (along with some other nasty side effects) wasn't what set me off. Maybe a good thing, though. I do need to get back on an exercise regimen. Good for you on your fitness results. And bravo for doing it on salmon. That alone gets a hooray from me. ;-)

    Bug--I know what you mean. I discuss the Vanity Sizing with Mary G. below. But I am so impressed with your biking and walking. Too bad you persist in living so far away. We could be exercise buddies!

    J@jj--Yes, yes, yes. I'm tired of thinking about it and so resentful that I do at all. And I agree. Miss Indiana looks great, and I hope she knows it in spades, regardless of how she is described. I'm no hater.

    Ally Bean--Let's resolve that when we, as Individual Women, feel at our best, that we have reached Our New Normal. I like that idea.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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