Hello internet. We meet again.
I was on Pinterest recently (Follow me! Link in the sidebar!) and I found two absolutely amazing pins I’d like to write about. The first was a quote attributed to Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women:
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”
The second was a picture of Kristen Stewart that linked to an article on Deeply Problematic which discusses how Kstew doesn’t often smile for photographs on the red carpet. The author of the article, who goes by RMJ, attributes this quote to Kristen Stewart regarding her experiences on the red carpet:
“People say that I’m miserable all the time. It’s not that I’m miserable, it’s just that somebody’s yelling at me…I literally, sometimes, have to keep myself from crying…It’s a physical reaction to the energy that’s thrown at you.”
Both of these pins are an example of body policing- the act of trying to inform someone of how they should look, or more specifically, how they should change they way they look to become more “appropriate” for the situation at hand. Body policing takes many forms. It can be as dangerous and insidious as a modeling agency telling their models they need to fit a certain standard of size and dress, and as seemingly harmless as telling someone to smile.
Telling Kristen Stewart to smile when she feels uncomfortable doing so not only implies that she’s doing something wrong because she isn’t smiling, it’s telling her that she has an obligation to smile and feel gratitude for the position that she’s in. Worst of all, it invalids her discomfort. By telling her to smile, we are telling her that her personal feelings are secondary to the need to cover them up. She must be happy. She must be pretty. She must perform at all times.
That’s the scary part, folks. Body policing is a subtle way of telling us that we can’t ever step off the stage or let someone else see through the cracks in our shiny, perfect veneers, and that’s how the mental disorders creep in – anorexia, bulimia, depression, and dis-morphism.