If you didn't watch the Oscars on Sunday, then you might not know that, in her acceptance speech, Oscar winner Mo'Nique mentioned Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar for her supporting role as "Mammy" in 1939's Gone with the Wind. Mo'Nique said, "I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she to, so that I would not have to."
The next day, commentators were discussing Mo'Nique's acceptance speech and one of them also included a video of McDaniel's original speech, which I watched immediately.
As I watched McDaniel accept her Oscar, it hit me rather suddenly that her body, like Monique's and Gabby Sidibe's, wasn't typical of Hollywood actresses.
And that made me think more deeply about an issue that I often don't talk about: the fact that in our society women of color are allowed to be curvy, and "white" women are not.
I'm not saying this is a hard-and-fast rule. There are certainly women of color—Halle Berry, for instance—who are super thin, and I'm sure there are "white" women who are not—Kathy Bates comes to mind. But, for the most part, in the mainstream media, women of color are given more latitude in terms of what their bodies can look like than their white counterparts. A quick glimpse at my Gallery of Gorgeous Women proves that.
Still don't believe me?
Let's do a quick rundown of who was on the Red Carpet . . .
Mo'Nique, Gabby Sidibe, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, and Zoe Saldana were the African American women who walked the Red Carpet before the ceremony. Four out of five of those women could not fit into the sample sizes used at Fashion Week.
JLo, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz were the only Latinas there Sunday night. JLo is obviously curvier than most of her "white" peers, and Cruz is on the fence—she's got some real curves, but she's also pretty fit. Diaz, on the other hand, has always been super thin and is the only one of these three who clearly fits into the waif-like model, but one could argue that most people are ignorant of Diaz' Cuban roots, meaning she has to fit into the "white" model of beauty despite her ethnicity.
And what about the "white" actresses?
That list includes Sandra Bullock, Kathryn Bigelow, Charlize Theron, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Carey Mulligan, Anna Kendrick, Amanda Seyfried, Helen Mirren, Demi Moore, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Kruger, Kate Winslet, Nicole Richie, Miley Cyrus, Tina Fey, and Meryl Streep.
Are you seeing what I'm seeing?*
Out of these twenty women, only two have slightly real bodies . . .
Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver.
Let me repeat that . . . only two of the twenty "white" actresses on the Red Carpet last week have a normal body, and both of them are not only older than the others, they are also already established forces in Hollywood, a feat I might add they both accomplished when they were still very, very thin.
And really, let's be honest . . . Streep and Weaver have phenomenal bodies. Neither one of them are the slightest bit overweight. Who knows what I would do to look like them? Certainly, I wouldn't kill for a great bod, but I might lie, cheat, and steal to get one. And in that sense, they really can't even be put into the same category as people like Mo'Nique, Sidibe, Queen Latifah, or even the always voluptuous Lopez and Carey.
So why the double standard, Hollywood? Why are you willing to accept women of color in all shapes and sizes but only accept "white" girls who look like they stopped eating after puberty? I mean, really, Hollywood, what gives?
I don't know the answer to these questions and I fear that racism has something to do with some of it, but I do know this: until we allow women of ALL races and ethnicities to be different shapes and sizes, we will never have a healthy idea of what women's bodies should look like.
*I'm also seeing that "white" actresses significantly outnumber non-"white" actresses, which is another problem, but not one that has to do with the themes of this blog.