Back in the wild unruly days of the internet, it was perfectly appropriate to say things like, “so and so looks anorexic” or “X celebrity has put on weight.” Those were dark and shitty days, when teenage boys dominated comment threads and bikini photos of supermodels were scrutinized for cellulite–cries of “Eat a sandwich!” were heaped on women who, days before, were lambasted for their thighs. The acceptability of this line has weakened over time and nowadays most legitimate women’s sites know better than to bodysnark. Or, at least, in one direction.
Which presents a problem… when photos of an extremely thin model or actress surface, how can lady-resources collect those sweet, sweet pageviews without outright declaring, “She looks too thin”? Hence, concern trolling, whereby bloggers and commenters offer patronizing observations in the name of health (as opposed to aesthetics). Criticism of a woman’s appearance is thus couched in phrases like, “I don’t think she’s eating enough,” or “She looks sick.”
Which brings us to Katie Couric, who kind of just concern-trolled Kate Middleton, during a test-taping for her new show:
“It would be really interesting to interview Kate Middleton because I think she has comported herself so well since she has been thrust in the limelight. I think she needs to eat more because she’s so thin.”
Middleton’s dwindling weight (is using that phrase concern trolling?) has been a popular topic online, ever since her alleged “wedding diet.” But Couric’s comments got us wondering: when is it okay to say someone appears too thin? Setting aside the fact that the phrase “too thin” is problematic in its own right (compared to what? people have different body types), is it ever okay to draw a line in the sand and declare, this has gotten actually unhealthy? Then, of course, everyone’s version of “too thin” (or “too fat” or “too muscle-y”) is a little different.
So, what we can say for sure is yes, Kate Middleton has lost a lot of weight since becoming the Duchess of Cambridge. But, is she too thin? Too thin compared to the average woman? Or too thin compared to her old self? Can we really make a claim like that without becoming intimately acquainted with her diet? Or minimizing naturally thin women? And even if we do, declaring her too thin doesn’t help her anyway, it just contributes to the already-deafening scrutiny of her body.
We’re inclined to say “How about we never comment on a woman’s weight, ever” but here’s a recent example to consider. The fashion industry promotes extreme thinness and plenty of people feel its stranglehold on thinness-as-physical-ideal is unhealthy to the scores of young women reading fashion magazines. But, is it okay to single out Karlie Kloss when an unflattering angle catches her jutting hipbones and produces an image that might not be consistent with Italian Vogue EIC Franca Sozzani‘s crusade against thinspo? It seems relevant there to say so because, if not, what is Sozzani’s crusade for?
So, what’s a ladymag to do?
(Photo via Wenn)