Friday, April 24, 2009

"Skinny Bastard" by the authors who brought you "Skinny Bitch"

I remember the first time I picked up a copy of Skinny Bitch, I was with my mom and sister in Barnes and Noble and my mom was looking at diet books for herself and my stepdad. I can't remember if it was my mom or my sister who first picked up Skinny Bitch, but I was instantly put off by the title, took a look at one page, and was completely turned off by the language used. I didn't have to read very much to realize the main tactic the book's authors was using: Fat-shaming.

Having not actually read this book, I can't say whether or not the authors included discussion of health benefits when it comes to striving for healthier eating, but to me, it seems clear that their main goal is to use shame to get people to buy their book and try to change their eating habits.

Because why rely on the information you have about the importance of eating healthy when you can scare women into buying your diet/lifestyle ideas by hanging the f-word over their heads where it can thrive on their possibly low self-esteem?

Well, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, the authors of Skinny Bitch, have written a book called Skinny Bastard, which will go on sale Monday.
“Skinny Bastard” follows roughly the same outline as “Skinny Bitch,” with the language retooled to appeal to male psychology. Whereas the introduction to “Skinny Bitch” reads, “If you can’t take one more day of self-loathing, you’re ready to get skinny,” the men’s version does not assume low self-esteem: “Chances are, you haven’t done so badly, despite the few extra lbs you’re carting around. ... But don’t kid yourself, pal: A hot-bodied man is a head-turner.”
The problem with even just this small amount of text, which I feel might be symptomatic of the entire premise of this book, is that it conflates physical appearance with the epitome of achievement and of happiness. Of course, there are benefits to being sure that one eats healthily, but one could do that and also not conform to the standard of physical beauty dictated by this society.

The problem of focusing on physical appearance above all else is something that effects people of all sexes and genders, and it often does not have good outcomes. The fact that these women seem to be targeting specific genders with specialized shaming tactics is really troublesome for me. It seems to be more problematic in Skinny Bitch than it might be in Skinny Bastard (the authors added a chapter about heart disease and prostate cancer to highlight health benefits in this book), but the overarching problem of thinking one physical appearance (aka "skinny") is the "right" kind, I imagine is still there.

Granted, I have not read either of these books, but the authors really make no effort to try to conceal their methods, even on their website. If anyone has read Skinny Bitch, please feel free to leave your opinion on their tactics as a comment.

If you haven't read this book, would you buy a book with a title like Skinny Bitch?


Tiberius said...

That about sums up what's wrong with America. And why traditionalist cultures hate us. It's not enough that everybody's constantly bombarded with images of men and women photoshopped to within an inch of their lives--now we've got bullying factoring into it as well. And what I don't understand is how this is supposed to lead to a "healthy lifestyle." I see nothing but eating disorders coming out of these books.

Also, I think a book with a title like "skinny bitch" just implies that the sole goal is to make women into sex objects (not really the same thing with "skinny bastard"). I don't know. Maybe there's some clever explanation in the book itself. At best it's terrible marketing.

kelly g. said...

For what it's worth, I'd just like to note that not a few vegans, vegetarians and animal rights advocates dislike the 'Skinny Bitch' franchise for exactly the reasons you mentioned, namely, the fat-shaming and the promotion of veganism (in part) as a weight-loss tool.

I've been meaning to read and review the original book (from a feminist/vegan perspective), but seeing as I expect to hate it, it's at the bottom of my book pile.

Renee said...

I read skinny bitch and what I could not stand was the constant shaming throughout the book. Getting healthy should not be about fitting into idealized body standards.

Liz said...

Actually, Skinny Bitch had a lot about health and animal welfare, which really made me think. The bit that was a complete turn off was the "thin = GOOD and fat = PATHETHIC" crap. It was a really awkward attempt to fit health and pretending to love food with what they assumed was the main aim of their readers - being really really thin. As a recovering anorectic, I wasn't so much offended by the fact that they obviously have eating disorders, but by the fact that they thought pushing that on everyone else was the only way to sell books. And the entire thing seemed so expensive.