Sisterhood Blog

Crowning Miss 'Fat' Israel

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

“My name is Heli Buzaglo, I’m 24 years-old from Afula, a fat girl, FAAAAAAAAT but beautiful (or at least that’s what everyone says, including the mirror on the wall.” Thus opens the blog of one of the contestants in the 2009 Fat Beauty Pageant in Israel — or, what I have come to think of as the best and the worst of women’s body culture.

The pageant, held last week in Beersheva, was open for women weighing 176 pounds or more. In advance of the voting, the Internet was swamped with homemade videos of self-described beautiful fat girls posing in heavy make-up, sexy lingerie and suggestive poses. In yet another “American Idol” transposition, young women beg their viewers to “SMS Yarin, number995! I love you all!”

When I first saw the full-page advertisement for the pageant in the local newspaper, I was excited. After all, “fat” and “beauty” do not often occupy space in the same sentence in Western culture.

It felt refreshing to see women whose hips are wider than their shoulders being photographed and called beautiful. Perhaps this is another signal of change, I thought, a follow-up to trends like the plus-size fashion reported in The New York Times article earlier this year, “Fashion First, Whatever the Size”. Although that article was seen by some readers an overdue admission of social discrimination against large people, others interpreted it as a decadent concession to fat people’s bad eating habits. As if making nice clothes for fat girls is akin to providing drugs for addicts.

A little self-esteem boost is certainly great for women, especially those who are portrayed by society as lazy, uncontrolled and, perhaps, even a bit slow or stupid. (Tellingly, dietitians are among the staunchest adherents of these stereotypes, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.) Still, I’m not sure that a beauty pageant would be my first choice for such a self-esteem boost — especially one with the word “fat” emblazoned in the title.

For one thing, the pageant has the feel of the Special Olympics. The message is, these women are “different” from “normal” women, a bit disadvantaged or perhaps “thinness-challenged,” and thus need their own category so they don’t go through life, you know, feeling bad. (Large women don’t even merit a euphemism such as “special.”) Of course, it would be a whole different message if women of all shapes and sizes were allowed to enter the “regular” beauty pageant. But I guess society is not ready for that at all.

Beyond that, though, it seems that the contestants are adopting the worst tool to boost their own self-esteem. Even the skinniest of women will likely feel self-conscious and inadequate under the microscope of beauty pageant judges. And I certainly would not recommend that any woman or young girl make a video of herself in lingerie and suggestive poses, unless she is seriously considering a career as a porn star. The prevalence of this kind of self-promotion signals not only the debasement of women, but the debasement of our culture generally.

That said, I am happy for 22-year old security guard Moran Baranes, weighing in at 205 pounds, the crowned winner. I’m glad she had her day in sun — a day in which girls who see themselves as large could look in the mirror and see themselves as beautiful.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Beauty Pageant, Israel, Weight

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
esthermiriam Wed. Dec 30, 2009

Matter of Size -- This film is making it big (!) on the festival circuit -- maybe soon in theaters, but meanwhile some links will offer the trailer.

http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117940121.html?categoryid=31&cs=1




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.