Yesterday, pop star and professional college art thesis Lady Gaga demonstrated to the internet how not to talk about dieting as a female celebrity when she pressed "submit" after typing the words "Just killed back to back spin classes. Eating a salad dreaming of a cheeseburger. #PopStarsDontEat #BornThisWay." I'm sure Our Lady of the Gaga didn't intend to set off a firestorm with those words, but her faux pas illustrates an unfortunate point — when it comes to talking about diet and exercise, it seems female celebrities must adhere to a Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy or risk offending the masses. Once again, we lady-types just can't win.
I'm by no means defending Mme. Gaga's hashtag choice — she should have known better than to implicitly encourage her legions of fans to subject themselves to bodily mortification if they want to be a pop star. As Proud2BeMe points out, Lady Gaga's got more Twitter followers than anyone in the world. Twenty-two million people follow her 140-character musings. Plus, she's fashioned an image for herself that resembles a combination of The Virgin Mary, David Bowie, and a 6-year-old girl trying to play an extra scary version of Maleficent in a mirror. Being down with the downtrodden is an integral part of her brand — she's Compassionate® and she Stands Up For The Disenfranchised Youth® and she Loves You Just the Way You Are®. She's publicly discussed her battle with bulimia and even told conference participants that dieting was "making girls sick." So it seems the tiniest bit hypocritical and irresponsible that she'd tweet about her diet and include a hashtag informing her 22 million or so-odd followers that #PopStarsDontEat, even if it was tongue-in-cheek.
At the same time, something's lost when no female celebrity is allowed to talk about eating or working out ever over fear of offending. Gaga shares stories of other unhealthy habits — drinking, smoking, lighting pianos on fire — and isn't as heavily scrutinized for that as she is for overexercising.
While there's a clear difference between healthy nourishment and the deprivation of disordered eating, a stationary, inactive population facing a host of diet and exercise-related health issues would be well-served to be encouraged by its role models to work out and occasionally eat healthy foods. Even though Tweeting "PopStarsDontEat" is about as helpful as trying to fix childhood obesity by spraying overweight children with hoses and screaming "Get skinny! Stop being fat! Get skinny!", there's got to be a happy medium here. Everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time, everyone eats, and some people work out. Why aren't female celebrities who are trying to be healthy allowed to talk about it?
Even the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign, which aims to gently encourage kids to improve their eating habits and exercise, has been criticized for hurting kids' self esteem. Some right wing lawmakers have grumbled that it's akin to the government forcing people to skip dessert. Meanwhile, 30 Rock's Liz Lemon — God love 'er — has become a bit of a quasi-feminist hero for her unabashed love of terrible food and using her treadmill as a ham juice-covered wedding dress hanger. Women Eating Cake is a photo project. Being unhealthy has become cute.
Was Gaga's tweet ill-advised? Yes. But so is overpolicing public discussion of eating and exercise habits. Even if she'd omitted the weirdly incoherent hashtags, if her diet/exercise related tweet had something to do with anything besides eating a big fucking piece of cake and then giggling about how adorable that is, someone would have been offended. Even though cheeseburgers are delicious, they're unhealthy, and sometimes it's in a person's best interest to choose to eat a salad instead. This isn't a harmful idea.
To flaunt unhealthy food and exercise choices has become cultural shorthand for rebellious badassery, when habitually eating crap food and not exercising is about as punk rock as getting drunk every night and smoking cigarettes — yeah, that's one way to buck convention and ignore the advice of doctors because fuck the man who wants to keep you down, but eventually even the most adamant rebellion against health guidelines yields to reality. Eating like shit and not exercising will probably make you eventually feel like shit. Being in shape to dance around onstage for hours every night requires intense physical training. Why are women in the public eye punished for pointing this out?
What's up with Lady Gaga's #popsingersdonteat tweet? [Proud2beme]