This weeks' episode really bothered me. The aspiring models did a photo shoot where they had words written on their bodies, one was a 'bully word' which was supposed to represent names that they were called by others. The other word was supposed to be an empowering word, reframing the bully word into something more positive and powerful. I like the idea of drawing attention to real world problems like bullying, however, I didn't like how it played out. Some of the women were obviously not comfortable with their 'bully word' and others did not seem very genuine (I guess not everyone has experienced bullying). Some of them even had fun with it, laughing at their bully name as though it were all a big joke, whereas others broke down crying at the thought of painting a word that has been used to hurt them so many times on their body.
One woman used the word Queer as her 'bully word' and Free as her 'power word'... it was a beautiful picture, but I wish she had used queer for both in order to further reclaim it, but that is probably hoping for too much on a show like this.
Then, in judging (where the judging panel rips apart the models' photos, poses, and overall appearance), they reverted to name calling. Here are a list of the words and phrases used in the 2 minute judging panel that appeared on television to describe these women
- dreckitude (This is a new word, which appears to be a combination of Dreck and Attitude. If I am not mistaken, the word Dreck is a German word, something like 'dirty' in English, used as a sexist and classist form of moral regulation)
- Gauche (can mean socially awkward, or lacking social class)
- Don't like her muscle (she had awesome biceps)
- her body does nothing for me (sounds very sexualized)
- Terrible picture of her
- she is trying to model
- hoochie, too overly ripe, almost stale (this woman had large breasts, but was not dressed or posed any more provocatively than many of the other women)
Please don't help me Tyra. I'd rather be left out of all of this supposedly therapeutic coming-to-terms-with-bullying than have you and your elite friends tear my body apart like that (yes, I understand that this is a big part of what modelling is about right now, because only perfect female bodies sell clothing, but don't pretend that you are helping these women and fighting bullying when you are picking apart their bodies).
The episode got me thinking about my own experiences of bullying, and I realized that I could not come up with a bully word if I were asked to. I was tormented at school from grades 4-10, especially in grade 7 and 8. Acne combined with good grades and poor social skills led to bullying that made school a frightning experience for me. I would stay up all night worrying about how to try and avoid it the next day or how to convince my mother to let me stay home. Still, I could not take these experiences and sum it up in a single word or a short sentence, it was so much more complicated than that.
And I don't mean this to sound like an afterthought, but I think it needs to be mentioned that there was also a model who appeared as though she might have an eating disorder. She was quite skinny with protruding bones and she discussed being on a strict low calorie diet. Tyra told her to eat some bread and butter before eliminating her from the competition. I'm really hoping that there was more follow up for this contestant than just telling her to eat, because I'm pretty sure that is not how to help someone who may (or may not) have an eating disorder. I would suggest that it is a form of bullying to go up to a skinny person and just tell them to eat; if she is anorexic, it is so much more complicated than just going to the kitchen and buttering a slice of bread.