Saturday, May 26, 2012

The choices of women

There is something about our society that makes it acceptable - even admirable - for people (men and women) to voice disapproval about the choices women make. We make a sport of it even - especially when it comes to how women look or their professions or how they raise - or don't - their families.

We seem to do it to women in a way we just don't with men. And this really bothers me. Perhaps I have greater empathy because I chose to leave the workforce and am now wholly dependent on my husband's income, a choice many women in my cohort are often skeptical of (don't fear...I understand one can make millions as a small farmer).

So, I gotta tell you - I just don't dig it. I don't understand why it's acceptable to judge the personal choices of women on a personal level or on a national scale. There is much chatter on the interwebs about Anderson Cooper kicking a woman off his show because he didn't like her choices. He called Sarah Burge (The Human Barbie...I guess she's had a lot of plastic surgery) "dreadful" and then asked her to leave. It was in regard to vouchers she gave her pre-teen daughter for plastic surgery when she turned 18.

The internet believes Cooper is a hero for this action. Here are some reactions:

Despicable plastic surge-oholic Sarah Burge, who infamously presented her seven-year-old daughter with a boob job voucher for her birthday and a liposuction voucher for Christmas, was a guest on Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show — until the silver fox had just about enough, and told the "Human Barbie" to leave. (Gawker)

For some reason, Anderson invited this creature on his show and became so disgusted with her answers that he announced he had nothing more to discuss, called her "dreadful" and politely urged her to leave the stage. (OK Magazine)

You gotta love Anderson Cooper for cutting his interview with the self-dubbed “human Barbie” short upon suspecting she was on the show purely for publicity. (Socialite Life)

Anderson Cooper has covered genocide, war, politics, Wall Street shenanigans and oil spills...and the person he calls "dreadful" and asks to leave his show is a woman whose choices he doesn't agree with. And society is totally ok with it.

That seems really messed up to me.


  1. Super discussion, JoAnna! What I don't get about the whole Anderson Cooper thing is that he had her on the show in the first place. I've heard that maybe a producer booked her and didn't really run it by him, but the cynical part of me thinks that he did it for the publicity, with a villain that the public would love his beating up on.

    Then again....I do think that she's dreadful. Not because of all of her plastic surgeries, that's tacky and eyerollable at worst, but she can spend her own money on whatever she wants to spend it on. I think she has body dysmorphic disorders and her priorities WAY out of whack, but whatever. It's the fact that she's bringing her young daughter into her madness. She's taking a first grader and encouraging body modification, at an age where girls are JUST starting to realize the messages that women are sent. As the mother of a daughter the same age, that stuff terrifies me. When I hear my daughter say "Mom, I don't want to be fat," it makes my heart skip a beat with fear, because I don't want her getting into food and body image issues.

    I'd love to have some chin liposuction. I hate my chin, and you can't work it away in exercise. Heck, I'd love other liposuction too. But the thing that stops me from doing even those minor procedures is my daughter's self image. What message does it send her if her mother thinks she needs surgery to look good enough? Especially if the daughter already thinks her mother is beautiful?

    So yes, the human Barbie is dreadful. Mess with yourself all you want, but when you start gifting a 7 year old liposuction and a freaking BOOB JOB, you are a dreadful parent.

    It sure is an interesting topic though, the disparity between the treatment women receive in society and the workplace and men. It's a big topic!

  2. This was Deborah BTW, not sure why that comment didn't show my name. :-)

  3. Debbie!! Hi!!

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I can't imagine how difficult it is to raise children amongst all the noise and media of today - especially girls. I totally get why you'd be concerned.

    It took me a while to write the post because I kept wanting to say "I don't agree with this woman's choices." But I thought it would be rather uncool of me to be mad at Anderson Cooper for something I was doing myself.

    I tried to think of similar situations with different choices and how I'd feel about them. For example, encouraging a kid to be good at math, or athletics, or music. These choices I declared to be "good" while the Barbie lady I declared to be "bad." But, really the only difference is that I, myself, value math and musical talents more (far, far more) than whatever that lady values. (I'm very willing to hear arguments on this point - it's a tenuous and newborn thought I have) However, I don't think my values supersede hers. We're just different people. There are a lot (a lot!) of people who have different values than me and it doesn't make either one of us right or wrong.

    This is all also based on the idea that it is possible to be involved in whatever this lady is doing and still be happy and secure. I suspect a lot of people like their boob jobs. (Though, I think 18 is really too young to have an idea about anything like that).

    I think that telling a 7 year old kid they can have cosmetic plastic surgery when they are 18 is probably a dumb thing to do. But I think showing girls that it is acceptable and noble to judge other women - and that the choices they themselves make are subject to the scrutiny of total strangers - is way worse.

    1. Great reply! You're right of course, because in the scheme of things, what difference does a boob job make? I do tend to think lots of people are happy with them. And I saw a really interesting article that as parents, we need to stop endlessly criticizing the choices of competent parents (like the mom who was breastfeeding her preschooler in Time magazine, or like this particular woman) whose kids are generally healthy, well fed, loved and not abused. We need to turn our attention to fighting for kids who don't have those things, who are abandoned or abused or put in dangerous situations. It's a facinating argument.

      I do admire you for your neutral stance and unwillingness to place your own life values above someone else's. It's a very admirable thing, and I try to do that myself (loved your post on marriage equality!) although I do find it hard. I find my acceptance starts breaking down after a while, especially as we get into things like this, which I see as vaguely harmful. Again, her own life choices to modify her body are hers, it's where it crosses into her daughter that I find it so uncomfortable.

      I like your analogy about encouraging kids in a particular way. We encourage Charlotte a lot towards things like science and music. I think Paul and I both have sort of a pipe dream of her being a scientist some day. I have thought about what happens if she decides to go in a totally different direction and become, say, a line worker in a manufacturing plant? It would be a big shift, although we would love her and accept her choices as hers alone.