Fat Actors vs Skinny Actresses

by Melissa Silverstein on April 20, 2009

in Sexism

The NY Times had a piece this weekend that echoes my piece in the Guardian last Friday — the double standard for female vs. male actors regarding weight.

It’s pretty simple:  Guys can be fat, women cannot.

Here’s what I wrote in The Guardian:

Here we find ourselves in a familiar place of berating a female actor for her skinniness, but isn’t that very skinniness what we demand of them? I challenge you to think of the last Hollywood film where the women looked normal. I guess a better question would be – do we even know what normal looks like any more? Judging by Hollywood standards, I don’t. Thinness is what is expected and demanded of our actors – except when they get too thin, because then they get blasted like Johansson and, recently, Keira Knightley and Jennifer Connelly.

Read the full piece here: Scarlett Johansson takes on Hollywood

From the NY Times:

Based on a close look at trailers, still photos and somrussellcrowee films already released, at least a dozen male stars in some of the year’s most prominent movies have been adding on the pounds of late.

Hollywood’s women may have weight issues of their own. But it is somehow less noticeable, possibly because actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.

It’s less noticeable not only because heavier actresses have less opportunities, it’s less noticeable because all women have less opportunities.

I love this analysis of why we are accepting of heavier male actors:

The change in smoking habits may have something to do with it. Possibly, too, the audience has grown more tolerant of weightier men on screen as the society at large has become heavier.

Why has the audience grown more tolerant of fatter actors but not fatter actresses.  Both women and men in the culture have gotten fatter.  According to CNN this morning which did a story on the new airline policy on making heavier people purchase a second seat men have gained 25 pounds over the two decades and women have gained 24 pounds.

rachel-mcadamsWhile the Times talks about the acceptance of the growing male waistline the story pretty much ignores the double standard for women.  More from my Guardian piece:

For another example of the double standard, look at Russell Crowe in the excellent State of Play, which opens this week in the US. The man is not thin, in fact he’s quite portly, yet no one talks about his weight as a career hindrance or a monumental issue. I guarantee that if the genders were reversed and Rachel McAdams’s character was the lead, there would be no way that she would have been cast looking the way that Crowe does.

I say it again, guys can be fat and women cannot.

What’s the Skinny on the Heftier Stars? (NY Times)

Scarlett Johansson takes on Hollywood (The Guardian)

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