"False advertising"

Those were the words that launched multiple blog entries, hundreds of comments, and an uproar in the women's blogosphere this week.

It began with this entry at Morphing into Mama:

A few weeks after our wedding, I happened to mention to Husband my need for a haircut.

"You're not going to chop off all your hair now that we're married, are you?" he asked nervously.

While his anxiety made me laugh, I knew it wasn't unfounded. I had plenty of friends who had grown their hair long while single, only to cut it all off in favor of a "practical style" soon after the nuptials. I always thought this a bit unfair - sort of like false advertising. These women used their long hair to attract their husbands, but once the deal was sealed, they'd cut it all off.

Husband breathed a sigh of relief when I explained that "haircut" in this instance only meant a "trim."

Reading along in the post, Morphing into Mama/MIM introduced this concept of 'false advertising' in a discussion with her fellow graduate students:

"...When you're single, you want to be in good shape not just for yourself, but so that you can feel confident about how you look and feel like you can attract a partner. When you're married - and especially after having kids - you're conscious about your weight, which may motivate you to watch what you eat and exercise, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll develop an eating disorder. I am conscious of my weight, so I don't snack, and I exercise. Personally, I think it would be unfair to Husband if I gained a bunch of weight and did nothing about it."

As one might expect, a lively conversation ensued in the class:

"That's really superficial," quipped the woman sitting across from me.

"Is it? Don't you find people more attractive when they exhibit self-respect?" I asked.

"Well, I suppose."

"And if a person who used to be thin became very overweight and did nothing about it, wouldn't you feel like that person was losing their self-respect? Again, assuming they had no medical condition."

"But what if, as you said, that person is depressed?"

"Well, isn't one of the problems with depression low self-esteem? Don't depressed people feel less self-respect? " I asked.

"Yes."

"Can you imagine still maintaining the same level of physical attraction for your mate when he's depressed?"

She thought for a moment. "No."

MIM concludes:

"Right. Look, my point is, I work to maintain my figure for myself and my husband. If I had been 160 pounds when we married that would one thing. Then it would be totally unreasonable for him to want me to be 120 pounds. But it would be false advertising if he'd married his 120 pound girlfriend and ended up with a 160 pound wife."

The response to this? Forgive the pun - HUGE:

a sampling of posts...

Redneck Mother

...the notion of "false advertising" with regard to marriage troubles me with its creepy commercial connotations and its commodification of appearance. Is getting married really such a desirable thing that it's assumed that women "advertise," falsely or otherwise, to achieve bridal status?

Commeo

I...don't want a relationship where my appearance is a big part of the bargain. It smacks too much for me of how in our society women's appearances are always a big part of the bargain.

City Mama

I agree with MIM and the commenters who said that people should be healthy, and when you are fit you feel better, look better...But at the same time, I feel for the people who don't like the way they look and/or who have partners that are contributing to the problem. As someone whose weight has been up and down since college, I made a conscious effort to pick a partner who would love me and support me no matter what.

So Close (who provided a extensive list of links related to the conversation)

I agree with MIM to an extent. I don't think that being married is an excuse to let yourself go completely...Women taking less pride in themselves once they are married. Where I disagree with her somewhat, is that I don't think you should do it for your husband, I think you should look after yourself for yourself!

My two cents: As a happily married woman in her 50s who has gained 20 pounds in the last ten years, and is doing her utmost best to encourage a healthy body image in her teen daughter, this discussion is unsettling, disturbing, yet necessary. Certainly, I object to the notion of females as commodity, implicit in the phrase, 'false advertising'. I was also distressed to see how this discussion created biting discord among women, particularly between women who identify themselves as feminists and those who do not. (I was shocked to see the Rush Limbaugh insult 'feminazi' used by a female commenter.)

But more than anything, I was deeply struck by the poignant stories of women who struggle with their weight and size and, thus, struggle to claim their self-worth. If Morphing into Mama's post provided a window for these women to tell their truths, then may the conversation, divisive or not, continue.

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