Pink is in the news again. No, it isn’t because she has sold more than 14 million albums, or created music that has asked real social questions and influenced younger artists. It isn’t because she has been caught in public supporting science research. It isn’t even because her ideas have crossed some sort of boundary or challenged the status quo. No, Pink is in the news because she is too fat.
There is Pink on the right at an public event. This is the photo that let critics know she was too fat. Not one to shrink away from a fight, Pink responded with a sarcastic open letter to these “concerned” fans and critics.
“You’re referring to the pictures of me from last night’s cancer benefit that I attended to support my dear friend Dr. Maggie DiNome. She was given the Duke Award for her tireless efforts and stellar contributions to the eradication of cancer. But unfortunately, my weight seems much more important to some of you.’
Pink does admit that it isn’t a very photogenic outfit. She is someone who most of us agree photographs well, even making the “Most Beautiful Women” list on People. After the admission of a fashion gaff, she proceeds to tell these public critics to shove off. And so she should.
Setting aside the obvious question–when did that become “too fat?”–what sort of social contract allows this conversation even to take place? I mean, seriously, what sort of world are we in when innuendo, fat shaming, twitter slamming, and digital creeping are considered morally righteous, while pulling back from a size “0” is a social sin?
Well, it’s a Stupid Girl Society, and we’ve already been down this road.
One of Pink’s most hilarious and incisive songs is “Stupid Girls.” It is also a sad song. In a series of courageous vignettes, Pink plays the part of the dumb blonde, the 50s beauty school candidate, and the envious gym-chick with a “Die Hipsters Die” t-shirt. She parodies the Paris Hilton-Lindsay Lohan Clueless Hollywood ditz, Jessica Simpson violating a Charager, and the sex tape “scandals.” The central image is of Pink on the operating table h\as her bits are sliced up or augmented. In this image a woman is not a human being but a series of parts, like cuts of beef.
The entire video is a critique of a push-up bra, spray tan, Barbie doll culture for girls. As profound as the video is, the lyrics push even further. Pink critiques the conflicting skinny bitch/super boobs demands and pin-up model images of beauty that dominate Cover Girl spirituality. But everyone from fundamentalists to feminists have agreed that this is sheer idiocy. Pink goes further in this 4 minute pop song, slicing to the core of this cultural moment:
Maybe if I act like that, that guy will call me back
Porno Paparazzi girl, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl
Baby if I act like that, flipping my blond hair back
Push up my bra like that, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl
Pink contrasts the various images of Stupid Girls with herself in the role of a Presidential rant or playing football, as well as with a few carefully placed common sense women in the background. America is on the verge of considering a “girl President,” but not much else has changed in the 13 years since this video won the MTV music video award. Most of all, the key question that Pink asks remains relevant: What are you willing to do to be liked? Are you willing to sell out your creativity, your intelligence, your common sense, your true interests, and your core beauty in order to fit an image of what you are supposed to be?
Where does my 10 year old, Nicolas, fit in?
Well, I certainly don’t want him to be a Stupid Girl. The story of the video is of a little girl in pig tails holding a Barbie and wearing a football jersey. The “Be Yourself Angel” in white and pink is battling the “Stupid Girl Demon,” a brunette in flames. The girl watches the vignettes, at first trying out the popular images of feminine beauty, but then laughing at the Stupid Girls as they bump into glass doors or run over pedestrians while checking their hair in the rear-view mirror. In the end, she is given the choice between a tabletop full of learning–music, science, reading, exploration, and sports–and a tabletop full of disembodied girly images, creepy baby doll stares, and a rip off of My Little Pony.
While I wouldn’t want to press the stereotypes too much–they work for a music video, but often fail in real life–I know what I want my son to choose: art, learning, exploration, creativity, science, and even football (though he is really digging karate right now). While he is not particularly tempted by dolls–I don’t think his Lego table, or the random Knights, Pirates, and Star Wars figures he has collected are an exact equivalent–the picture I would have to put on the right for this generation would be an iPod. It is his iPod–you could substitute in an iPad, cell phone, video game system, social media platform, or computer–is the thing that threatens most his ability to choose well.
Even then, it is not an exact parallel. The problem with the Barbie dolls and creepy bunny rabbit on the right is not that they necessarily pull kids away from the learning and growth in the picture on the left. On their own, they are as good as the child’s imagination is–far better than most electronic toys. The problem is that these dolls are tied to an image of the feminine that bends the bright girl in a Stupid Girl direction: a young woman that would sell her soul to be liked. Although Nicolas’ action figures have problematic images of the masculine embedded in them, they don’t bend him to become a Stupid Boy, willing to sell his soul to become a Great American Hero or to throw off the oppressive intergalactic Empire. I suppose that comparison says a lot, doesn’t it?
At the core, I don’t want Nicolas to be a Stupid Girl–or Stupid Boy in this case–because at the core I want him to be himself. I want him to have an incontrovertible sense of humour and the ability to make fun of himself. I want him to be aware of culture, and aware of the space he occupies in the world, but not to be dominated by it. I don’t want him to be owned by the world.
I want Nicolas to do great things–amazing things. If he is to make art, I want him to make good art. If he is to critique culture, I want him to do it well. If he is to serve, I want him to serve well. He will never become a “girl President”–or any President, being Canadian. But there is no reason he couldn’t counsel the future Hillary Clintons and Pinks of our world. And if he does, I want him to be able to think about issues in a complex and incisive way–more like Pink’s brilliant “Stupid Girls” than her preachy “Dear Mr. President.”
More than anything, I want him to be the kind of person who creates a space in the world where girls don’t feel like they have to be Stupid Girls, and where boys are never tempted to be Stupid Boys.
Is there anything better than that?