A reader and old friend of mine recently asked for my feedback on a clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live featuring Mindy Kaling. She was fresh from an interview with Vogue where she talked about not needing or wanting to be skinny. She and Jimmy discussed the article, and the feedback she’s received since.
She made a lot of good points, particularly regarding how it shouldn’t be weird for someone to want to be the size that they are, and in that way she really isn’t a role model. Her main point, however, was oftentimes people disguise criticism as compliment by praising her boldness for not feeling “like she needs to subscribe to the ideals of beauty”. She followed up with an echoic, comparative statement that initially sounded like she was putting them in their place: “It’s so refreshing that Mindy feels comfortable that she can let herself go and be a fat sea monster”. She then made sure to let the audience know that she works out and runs all the time, as a qualifier.
What Mindy is actually saying with all of this is that she has a normal body (whatever that means), and it shouldn’t be a big deal for others to accept it. It’s not like she’s huge, or weird, or lazy, or tentacled.
This video is a good example of a trend I am seeing where women are reclaiming their bodies as “normal” and saying size shouldn’t matter. Except if you are too big. Too big is bad. Also, don’t be too skinny. There is a new “normal” that doesn’t include the very fat or the very thin.
One of the last things Mindy said regarded courage. She mocked people for calling her courageous for wearing a mid-drift top. For some women, even wearing a sleeveless top is a panic-inducing premise. People are made to feel insecure about themselves on a daily basis to the point that it impacts how they dress themselves, and how they present themselves to the world. It does take courage to stand up to daily abuse, and it does take courage to look inside oneself and find the strength to love yourself inside and out. Mindy minimized this struggle so flippantly that I now share her irritation at her idolization.