I just saw another video on Facebook where I’m supposed to be shocked because someone who is fat, and therefore doesn’t meet the stereotype of beauty, can sing. What the hell? Yes, in this society we very often choose our singers (not to mention actors and dancers) on their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty first and the ability to sing a distant second. Thus, unsurprisingly, almost every singer is thin and stereotypically beautiful and many are aided by auto-tune, but we take it to the next level when we allow ourselves to assume that those who are not stereotypically beautiful are not talented.
There are more and more reality shows where people can get 45 seconds to display their talent. Some of these shows make various attempts to find contestants who are stereotypically beautiful, but some do not. So when a fat person risks the stigma, shame and bullying that so often come from just existing in public and go onto one of these shows and turn out to be talented, I think we could live without a million YouTube videos and Facebook posts discussing how absolutely shocking it is that they have talent.
I would like to see a bunch of posts about how shocked people are that they allowed themselves to be lulled into the view that someone who doesn’t fit the cultural stereotype of beauty is unlikely to be talented, or thrilled that someone was able to overcome the prejudice and oppression to get on a stage in front of people and share their talent. I would like to see a bunch of comments about how absolutely ridiculous it is that every time a talented fat person gets in the public eye we have to deal with people wringing their hands and shrieking about how they are “bad role models” who, they claim even more ridiculously, promote obesity (like people will hear them sing and think – I wish I could sing like that, I guess the first step is to get fat…) In a piece that was supposed to be about Adele and Kelly Clarkson’s performances at the Grammys, Fox news brought in a nutritionist who has never met either woman to speculate wildly about their health based on how they look, and wring her hands and suggest that if girls believe they can follow their dreams even if they aren’t thin then they might not hate themselves enough to be willing to pay nutritionists for weight loss solutions that never work. Instead of being shocked that these women are talented, how about we be shocked that body shaming them and making blind guesses about their health and food choices on National Television constitutes news on the Fox Network.
This all leaves me to wonder, how many amazingly talented people are we missing out on as a society? How many horrible actors and actresses do we suffer through because the industry chooses them for their ability to fit a narrow stereotype of beauty (either because of their size, their color, their facial features, or something else), before their ability to act?
Why, as a culture, do we ignore the actual abilities we are looking for and instead make the ability to fit a narrow stereotype of beauty our main criteria? People come in all shapes and sizes and so it makes sense that talent come in all shapes and sizes. Why are we always so shocked when someone who isn’t traditionally attractive can sing? What does one have to do with the other? We’re so conditioned to think that talent only comes in a stereotypically beautifully package that we lose it when Susan Boyle stands up and belts out I Dreamed a Dream. I don’t mean to shock anyone here, but how someone looks has literally nothing to do with their chances of being a good singer, or actress, or dancer, or anything else. I think it would be just fantastic if we chose people based on their talent and not on their ability to walk a red carpet in a sample size dress, and even more fantastic if we were more shocked at our society’s prejudice than a fat person’s talent.
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