Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Britney Spears at the MTV VMA's 2007

Like thousands of other college women, at 8:55 on Sunday night, I was crammed into a dorm room with my girlfriends, anxiously awaiting the opening act of the MTV Video Music Awards. I stopped caring about MTV or their stupid awards show years ago, but this year would be different. America's favorite trainwreck, Britney Spears, would be performing for the first time since she fell from grace, married trashbag Kevin Federline, spit out two kids in two years, stopped wearing underwear and shoes, went on a diet of Cheeto's, vodka and cigarettes and limited her bathing to once a week. Would she make a triumphant comeback or would she fall flat on her face? Either way, we knew it would be incredibly entertaining.

When the camera panned to Britney at 9:01, we all gasped. And then a funny thing happened. One of my friends said, "Oh my god, she looks so fat!" A few people murmured in agreement. I said, "She's lost so much weight recently, she looks great! But bad choice of outfit, she should've worn a corset." Another friend said, "I don't care what you guys think, I'd die to have her body." There we were, six self-identified feminists from a progressive women's college, dissecting every aspect of a woman's body. Our biggest complaint about the performance was that she was clearly hammered and wasn't giving an ounce of effort into dancing or pretending to sing, but the discussions about her body (along with her hideous weave and ugly costume) lasted far longer.


I didn't think much of it at the time, but the next morning when I read the headlines ("Lard and Clear," "PORKY POP–TARD BORES AND JIGGLES LIKE JELL-O") and heard people around campus talking about how awful Britney looked, I started getting depressed about the whole situation. Why was Britney's weight (which, to anyone familiar with paparazzi photos from the last year, was way down) the topic everyone fixated on? By most objective standards, her body looked pretty damn good, especially for a woman who's just had two babies in the last couple of years.

Maybe it's because Britney's career has been based entirely on her status as a sex symbol, with her looks and provocative outfits, dancing and lyrics pushing her to pop stardom. We've never discussed her in terms of talent, so why change the standard by which she's judged?

It might be because many of us (particularly women my age who reached adolescence during Britney's reign) always felt that we had to look or act like her to be considered sexy or beautiful, and we're relishing the turning of the tables, now that she knows what it's like to be judged on impossible beauty standards.

Perhaps women really are just as catty and competitive as the stereotypes suggest, and we'll jump on the opportunity to bring another woman down.

I'm not really sure which of these answers is correct, but I think it's probably a mixture of the three. What upsets me most about this situation though is the hypocrisy of it all. As women, we so often complain about the double standards placed on us by society. We resent that the world judges us based on our looks and that we're compared to the perfect bodies of Hollywood starlets, who have the advantage of unlimited time and money to spend on looking good. We're aware of the sad fact that being thinner, taller and more beautiful would give us a leg up in just about every aspect of our lives, and that if we were men, things would be different.

Yet it's often women, not men, who can be found judging other based on looks, making snide remarks about another woman's body and holding all other women up to the same unrealistic standards of beauty. Laughing at Britney is one thing, but how often have you said or heard someone else say, "She really shouldn't be wearing that outfit with her body," "Looks like someone put on a few pounds this summer," or "He is way too good looking to be dating her." If we're going to rage against society for judging us based on our looks, we've got to stop judging each other, whether it's Britney or the girl next door. The concept of sisterhood is an outdated one, but I think that our society's standards for women won't begin to change until women themselves stop contributing to the putting down of other women.

19 comments:

sherri said...

Excellent post and kudos to you for taking a stand. Britney's poor costume choices aside, I agree that she looked pretty darn good for a mom of 2. It's unfortunate that her current figure is viewed as significantly below the "standard" even if it is one she helped to define. Like others, I'd be pleased to have that figure. On one point I don't agree though - I don't see anything wrong in commenting (internally) how badly clothing can detract from someone's best presentation. Working with what you have (your own comment: Britney should have worn a corset) is more honest and liberating than trying to squeeze into something that's completely unflattering. It's what "What Not to Wear" is all about - right?

Mrs Fashion said...

This is a great post and I love your blog! (How come I've just discovered it? Do you fancy swapping links?)

But re: Britney - when you've invested so much time and money and PR into building your image as a slinky, slim, sex-pot and then you appear slightly bigger it's bound to create ripples of disapproval (for want of a better word).

If she hadn't been so 'fit' in the past then her current state wouldn't be such an issue but it's the large discrepancy of what was (and the obvious upkeep involved) - and what is now - which is the problem, imo!

x

Erika said...

I agree with you that she looked great for having a two and one year old. My youngest is almost 3, and I wish I looked like her. I generally feel sorry for her altogether. I wish there was a way for her to extract herself out of the media for a while and regroup. She's going to lose those two little boys, who are the real victims here.

Anne said...

Oh I think the whole thing would be a non-issue if she had worn a flattering costume instead of pranced around in ugly underwear. And if she hadn't half-assed the performance part. Someone is always going to pick on your appearance if you're running around in undies on national TV.

Anonymous said...

Re: Britney

She looked so unsure of herself, put so little effort into her performance and seemed so unconfident on that stage. If she had gotten up on that stage and really looked and acted confident, full of life and spark - no one would be commenting on her weight. It's all about how you present yourself - do you project a strong, sexy image? That goes a long way towards people thinking you're hot, regardless of your actual body.

Katie said...

Personally, I wanted to cheer for her. I think that is why I am personally disappointed. It would have been awesome for Britney to go out there and blow everyone away (I could have cared less what she was wearing). If she had been confident, sober, and energized, it would have been a totally different comeback.

While I don't aspire to be Britney, I can only hope that after having two kids, I would feel confident enough to open the MTV music awards!

Anonymous said...

Yeah you are right, her talent has never been discussed but isn't discussing her body just normal when she goes on stage wearing nothing but her underwear?
And while I wouldn't call her fat I can't see anything wrong in
telling out loud that she wore the wrong outfit for her body. If you have to go for sexy, well there are sexy outfits for every body type and this one was a bad choice.

Kelly said...

I'd have to agree with other posters that it's about how you present yourself. I thought her figure looked great, I'd happily take her strong legs and thighs anytime. However, her overall lack of energy and "pity me" atitude is what makes her unattractive. If she presented herself differently, no one would have noticed. I mean, Beyonce Knowles has thunder thigs, i.e. very muscular and strong legs and she looks awesome and rarely gets flack for her weight!

Anonymous said...

^^^Weight, in the African American community or lack thereof, has only become a topic of discussion recently, with young preteens worrying about being too fat. Beyonce looks fine, Britney looks fine, but she shot herself in the foot by wearing that outfit. If only we could look like that after having two kids (I have none). She shouldn't have stage her train wreck this past Sunday, she's had too many already.

Anonymous said...

Unitl people stop accepting what looks good in Hollywood(i.e. Posh, Keira Knightley (wft!))we'll never truly accept all body types, everyone isn't a stick. As one man said, if I wanted a bone, I'd be a dog.

Kelly Mahoney said...

I have to say, the way she looked was not the first thing that struck me. Even in that poor choice of an outfit, if she had gone out there and nailed it with passion, enthusiasm and gusto, I don't think we'd even be talking about how she looked.

If you're going to label something your comeback performance, you better be damn sure.

Corey B said...

I think Brit looked good for her. Still maybe a bit on the fluffier side to be wearing what she was wearing but not bad considering what she's been through. I'd be happy with that body that's for sure! Then again, I have a feeling that's not the product of hard work and dieting ;) Regardless though, I'm annoyed w/ all the "fat" talk about it. What was embarassing about the performance was HER performance (and maybe the missing fake nails) but not her so-called fat.

maya said...

Amen, sister.

jeni said...

When I first saw Britney, I gasped because her stomach wasn't ripped like it used to be, and it was bigger than before. But then I realized I'd be thrilled if I had two kids and had her body afterwards! I don't know if it was because she was young when she had the kids, whether she was just lucky, or if she had a tummy tuck, but all things considered, she is thinner than the majority of women in this country.

lisa said...

I posted about Britney's comeback performance too. I was disappointed with her on serveral counts.

Re. the comments on Britney's physique: I enjoy salsa dancing and I'm not very good at it, but I do enjoy watching dancers who are good (like Chris Brown!). I wasn't disappointed with her physique because she was thin or fat or whatever; I was disappointed that she appeared out of shape and unable to handle an energetic dance routine, and she didn't know how to dress her body properly.

LC said...

Someone along the way convinced the poor girl that sexy meant showing everything. She is trying to be "guy" pretty and "guy" sexy - when it isn't about that for her anymore. She needs to try to be a woman - not a sex symbol. You always hear her quoted as saying that outfits chosen for her aren't sexy enough. I'm sure no one would put Britney Spears in a dowdy outfit. My guess is that what they offer her are sexy womanly options when all she really wants is a girls gone wild spring break outfit. The women who have done what she tried to do at the VMA's (come back super hot and on top of their game after having children and a few years off) put a heck of alot of gym time in and kept their profile low leading up to their "comebacks" or were at least aware of the differences in their assets and worked to put their best foot forward. My only words for Britney Spears are: You are not Madonna, and now, you won't even be the next generations Madonna and I do feel very sorry for her.

Stephanie Quilao said...

I couldn't have written this any better. Excellent post!

The thing that saddens me most about Britney is that people are watching this young woman literally self sabotage and fall apart before their very eyes, and they want more. Everyone calls her a train wreck and yet they can't stop watching. People continue to watch, and if the papers, websites, and awards shows get ratings and buzz they'll take it whether it's for quality content or not. Ratings are ratings. I really wonder sometimes about the media and us as a viewing society.

Luxe Mix said...

FGB, love your blog of course.. and thanks for speaking up on the issue. I do agree it's a little sickening how everyone jumped all over this and tore Britney up and spit her out. I can see the reasons why people have this fixation on Britney -I mean it's a part of our DNA.. we are community oriented and any news about someone we all collectively "know" is very satisfying to discuss. It is disappointing though when we use this to hurt people in order to make ourselves feel better. Keep the thoughts coming!

ambika said...

Having only my boyfriend for company when watching this, I was surprised to see on CNN the next day all the people slamming her for what her completely unremarkable and, if anything, enviable figure looked like. I was far more busy slamming her for looking like she'd chased five Xanax with a vodka tonic & couldn't understand why others weren't doing the same. She looked *out of it*, which is far more worrisome given her motherhood status. It just seemed like everyone really missed the point when they started dogpiling on this one.