Friday, April 23, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: great cleavage, the obesity bandwagon, and abortion in the Obama age

Apparently Fox and ABC restricted the running of a Lane Bryant ad that showed women in lingerie getting ready for a date. 

Jezebel's been covering the story for a few days, and has the documents to prove it.  The ad itself is certainly not shocking, and the naughty body parts displayed seems on par with the ads of Victoria's Secret, the antics of the Desperate Housewives, and other lingerie-wearing prime-time standbys.  The sexist says it's the size of the boobs holding up that lingerie that has the networks' undies bunched:

Big boobs: I don’t have them. And good thing, too, because if I did, I’d have to dress myself with the expectation that others would view my anatomy as inherently obscene. This week, plus-size clothing company Lane Bryant accused FOX and ABC of refusing to air its latest lingerie commercial over decency concerns. The central objection? Lane Bryant’s well-endowed underwear models revealed cleavage that was just too ample....Ah, “ample cleavage”—not to be confused with the socially acceptable amount of cleavage displayed by Victoria’s -Secret-sized models, who generally possess large—but apparently not obscenely large—breasts.
Meghan McCain tweeted that the kerfluffle reminder her of her column arguing society can't handle real breasts, only fake ones.
My favorite sex-talking evolutionary biologist has jumped on the fat-hating bandwagon, much to my dismay.  Says Judson:
Being fat is bad for your brain.  That, at least, is the gloomy conclusion of several recent studies. For example, one long-term study of more than 6,500 people in northern California found that those who were fat around the middle at age 40 were more likely to succumb to dementia in their 70s. A long-term study in Sweden found that, compared to thinner people, those who were overweight in their 40s experienced a more rapid, and more pronounced, decline in brain function over the next several decades.
Except that's not what that study means at all.  It means that things that are correlated with being fat are also correlated with brain decline.  Judson, for example, cites a study that says people who are fatter have lower brain density in a region of the brain "involved in the perception of taste and the regulation of eating behavior," yet incredibly goes on to predict "a downward spiral" wherein being fat makes this region deteriorate, and the deterioration makes you fatter.  Except we have no idea in which way the causality runs, or if there's a third factor responsible for all of this, such as a thrifty phenotype.  Judson acknowledges this, while still deciding to go with the  popular party line (so easy for thin people, like Judson, to embrace) that fat is OMG bad:
Why fatness should affect the brain in this way is not clear, although a host of culprits have been suggested. A paper published this week in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified a gene that seems to be involved. FTO, as the gene is known, appears to play a role in both body weight and brain function. This gene comes in different versions; one version — let’s call it “troublesome”— appears to predispose people to obesity....  Now, the troublesome form has been linked to atrophy in several regions of the brain, including the frontal lobes, though how and why it has this effect remains unknown.
Judson finishes her article by urging people to eat well and exercise (not, for example, go out and throw eggs at fat people), but I wished she'd skipped the cute conclusions and titled her column "open questions on obesity and brain function," since that's exactly all the science boils down to.  Not as splashy, I guess.
Finally, Newsweek has an interesting article about young women and the pro-choice movement.  The Newsweek article implies that young women have lost interest in the pro-choice movement, and that reproductive rights are suffering as a result.  Feministing and RH Reality Check have taken umbrage with this framing, saying there are plenty of women who are important advocates for reproductive rights.  I agree that there are plenty of young pro-choice advocates, and that the situation is not nearly so dire as Newsweek and NARAL make it seem.  Nonetheless, I think the Newsweek article points out an interesting shift in the priorities of both voters and legislators, and a willingness to let abortion fall down the priority list.  
The Democratic Party has, since 1980, supported a woman's right to an abortion. But in 2008 it decided to broaden its appeal by running an unprecedented number of anti-abortion-rights candidates in socially conservative swing districts. That move helped secure a robust House majority for the Democrats.
But abortion-rights supporters could no longer count on that majority to vote their way. The shift first became clear during the health-care debate, when abortion-rights supporters found their cause rather easily brushed aside in pursuit of another, larger goal.
Maybe this shift is a good thing.  If you believe strongly in the healthcare bill, it certainly is. Either way, it's interesting to think about how our country, and our priorities as young women, may be changing.  By opening ourselves up to new points of view and new battles, do we risk losing the old ones?


  1. It's very unfortunate that those networks did not want to air that ad because of the size of that woman's chest. That only reinforces the horrible trend we have in this society that we only want to display people of certain appearances on TV.

    However, after viewing the ad, there may be... other... good reasons why they may not feel it is appropriate for their network... maybe like the camera zooming in a little too close at certain angles. And, to be honest, the ad did strike me as a little too sensual for something that should be geared towards a female audience. It seemed more like it was trying to attract the attention of guys. Personally, I don't know any guys who wear women's lingerie (at least I don't think that I do).

    However, I do agree with you that they seemed to have applied a double-standard here by allowing Victoria's Secret to broadcast, but not Lane Bryant. Really, they should forbid ads like that from all companies, especially during prime time when children could be watching. And they certainly should not have insulted that poor woman by making derogatory comments about her body.

  2. Having run down all of the paths linked here, I was left wondering why our society has such an obsession with women's breasts. I'm going to a moment assume this is a largely male obsession, and that women are more-or-less bowing to that in much of their own attention to the subject. Here is the most intriguing (and Freudian) theory I've found:

    The theory runs: Breasts are linked (subconsciously) in men's minds with nurturing. The symbolism seems pretty clear there. Many adult men lack a sense of being nurtured, and deeply crave it (again subconsciously). That craving is transferred to the symbol (breasts) mistakenly.

    Pretty weird, but I kind of like it. From a purely rational perspective, an obsession with any body part makes no sense (except maybe genitalia?) and yet many of the images we see in magazines, tv, and online are completely focussed on women's breasts.

  3. Your priorities as WOMEN are changing? To the point it's a-ok for you that women's rights as citizens are trampled in order to pass a version of "health care reform" so mutilated they had to change its name to health insurance reform?

    That's just wrong. Whatever you think of abortion, it's a legal medical procedure and it's no one's business what private legal medical procedure women seek out. Separate is not equal. just ask the GetEqual activists, who definitely "get" it far more than the bridezilla generation of women.

    Thanks for the link to the Newsweek article, which at least begins to address this horror show where women are willingly subverting their rights as citizens just to prop up a weak president who so little cares about their sacrifice that he invites Stupak to come celebrate a private executive signing to continue the inexcusable Hyde Amendment.

  4. Hey Prowlerzee, I absolutely agree that the change is worrying. I wasn't trying to make a normative statement about the shift, but rather just saying we need to acknowledge it's happening--the Democratic party's priorities have changed, it seems to me. The abortion thing was one of the big reasons I was skeptical of the healthcare bill. I think it shows the government isn't very good at deciding what is and is not appropriate medical care.

  5. The reason the ad wasn't broadcast was because it showed a model using a Blackberry. The ad was recut to remove the trademark from the device, and now there isn't a problem.

  6. Hey, anonymous, I don't think that's true. That's the reason that the ad was pulled from the Lane Bryant site, but if you click on the Jezebel link you'll see that there is a document from ABC saying the ad would be banned from certain shows, including Dancing with the Stars. The trademark problem would have prevented the ad from being aired at all, and of course would have been communicated to Lane Bryant, not limited the shows the ad would be allowed to air on.


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