the mindy projectLast night’s episode of The Mindy Project focused on the fact that Mindy Kaling‘s lead character, Mindy, had never let a boyfriend see her completely naked, even during sex. This set up an episode wherein Mindy worked out with her coworker and sexual tension partner Danny (Chris Messina) eventually resulting in a hijinks-filled situational comedy standby: they accidentally see each other naked. The entire episode provided a worthwhile conversation about body image and confidence.

After seeing her naked, Danny says that he has some feedback for Kaling, body-wise. Assuming that Danny had criticism, Mindy launches into the following painfully accurate speech:

For the record, there is nothing you can criticize about this situation that I haven’t already heard from every mean girl for my entire life…I know that I could lose 15 pounds. I know that I don’t have this perfect skinny hot body like all the girls that you date. I know that one of my boobs is crazily bigger than the other. I know that I have upper knee fat. And I know that I have a scar on my back that looks like a swastika. You don’t think that’s come up every single time I’ve dated a Jewish guy?

In addition to laughing about the swastika thing, I felt totally gobsmacked by how spot on this is. Because my workplace is the internet, I read a lot of ignorant crap leveled at women (and the occasional man) who apparently have no idea how inadequate they are. As if the dudebros saying stretch marks are disgusting examples of self denial think the women they’re targeting have never thought, I am ugly. Everything is wrong with my body. As if women haven’t been hearing these messages from the time they were small children, from their mothers, the TV, every magazine, and their similarly indoctrinated young friends. When anyone criticizes a woman’s body, he or she says it like it’s a novel notion, and he or she is the first to notice. Nobody knows what’s wrong with a woman more acutely than the woman herself, who has been told every single day in some form or another that she’s not good enough.

This is particularly timely given the Elle cover scandal and also given the fact that women deal with this shit every second of every day. Kaling has for the most dealt with this expertly, and talks honestly about the struggle with body image. I was really taken with a more minor exchange, where she said:

“I am sick of being the person with the good personality. I want to be so hot that Cliff would date me even if I had a bad personality.”

This is such a great example of how deeply important physical characteristics are to our sense of self worth. I don’t know a girl around who hasn’t at one point or another thought this way, myself included. It’s appalling, but given the choice, we’re supposed to want to be hot over being funny, smart, and kind, and many women have internalized that notion completely. That’s of course, not to say that all women walk around hating themselves, but at some point, we’ve all internalized these thoughts.

It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. But, of course, it does, and everyone around is completely and fully aware of the fact that they don’t measure up to the made up standard that nobody will ever attain.

Photo: The Mindy Project, Fox // [H/t: Jezebel]