Women’s bodies

I confess that I love Law & Order: the original, SVU, Criminal Intent, and for a time LA (until they got rid of the characters that I liked). Typically, I watch a season or two or three in a marathon knitting and viewing session or two. I love Mariska Hargitay’s character, Sargent Olivia Benson. What I don’t love is the message they are sending to viewers, male and female, in Season 15.

In every scene I have watched, and I admit that I missed the beginning of the season and am catching up on Hulu starting with episode 15, Hargitay is covered up. She is wrapped up in coats, carrying files or bags, only wears dark clothing, and is obviously hiding her body. After having her baby, Hargitay put on some weight. So what? She never got pre-baby thin again. So what?

Mariska Hargitay gets her Hollywood star beside Jayne Mansfield's star

Mariska Hargitay gets her Hollywood star beside Jayne Mansfield’s star

She is the daughter of the sexy and curvaceous Jayne Mansfield. That woman was never thin. She had boobs and hips and a backside that screamed, “I am all woman!” When did it become popular for women to look like boys? When did a woman who looks like a woman, especially one who has had a baby, become so disgusting that she had to be hidden?

What message does this send to people? I am personally having a difficult time getting past the paternalistic treatment Sargent Olivia Benson’s character is getting by writers and directors. As a matter of fact, the writers missed a huge opportunity to incorporate that weight gain into the storyline: victims of sexual abuse and assault often put on weight as a protective barrier against future attacks. It is an unconscious response, but a very real one. Law & Order really blew it this time.

I could share some facts about women who are too thin and the effect this has on fertility, giving birth to low birth weight babies, breast milk production, weight gain issues for breastfed babies of very thin moms, and even birth defects. I could discuss how a woman in her 50s with very low body fat looks like she is in her 60s or 70s because her skin just hangs with little fat to smooth out those wrinkles. I could talk about the abuse women do to themselves when they try to be skinny, a size 2 or a 4 when their bodies are meant to be a 10 or 12 or 14. Did you know that older women with low body fat tend to suffer from osteoporosis more than their higher body fat peers?

Again, I ask: when did it become popular that women look like boys with boobs? Just some thoughts today on body image.


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