Need more Mix-a-Lot

Did you see the headline? “Study: When it comes to pay, size matters.”

Get your mind out of the gutter, it’s not talking about what you think it is. Pervert.

Thin women and muscular males make more money. Experts say it, so it must be true.

Here’s the lead (as a former journalist, I love a good lead, so indulge me here):
“It’s an endless cultural lesson that’s been drilled into our heads since we were tots, watching cartoons such as The Flintstones and playing with Ken & Barbie dolls: If you’re a woman, you should be extremely thin; if you’re a man, you should grow up big and strong.”

My only beef with the lead is that last sentence: if you’re a man, you should grow up.  Technically, if you’re a man you are already grown up, but that’s nitpicky. ‘Course, I used to be a copy editor, so nitpicking was my job. And I was pretty good at it. Eleven years later and a million figurative miles from the job, I still can’t read something without noticing errors in grammar, syntax, style or connotation. Don’t be paranoid; I don’t hold it against ya if you slip up now and then.

But I digress.

The study, “When It Comes to Pay, Do the Thin Win? The Effect of Weight on Pay for Men and Women” was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology last year. Catchy title.

The study found that workers’ girth directly affected their paychecks. Thin women are paid more than their average-size peers, while heavier women make less. Skinny men (not a good thing, like it is for women), on the other hand, make less than men of average weight.

So not only is the body image thing whacked in general, it’s a completely unfair double standard: what works for a female works against a male. Regardless of your actual capabilities or who you are as a person–or any of the things that might matter on the job–you’re judged, and compensated, according to your size.

And people think we’re the most civilized country in the world?

I’ve been thinking about the weight issue a lot since I was given doctor’s orders to gain it. And when I say thinking about it a lot, I mean at least 100 times a day. I am, after all, an American woman who’s been bombarded with mainstream media and fashion industry ideals.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, read many fashion mags, or formulate my self-worth on an equation put forth by total strangers who have a vested interest in my insecurity. I was blessed with a lot of things, and inherent self-worth is top of the list, for sure. After reading about this study, that trait is all the more valuable.

So you would think that gaining some weight for a good reason (“I need more building material, lady” is what I keep hearing from Dr S every time we talk about reconstruction), would sit well with me. After all, I’m pretty secure with myself and don’t really care what other people think. I’m also smart enough to realize that Vera Wang and Zac Posen want women to be rail-thin because it makes their jobs easier. Hanging a frock on a beanpole is similar to hanging it on a hanger, without those nasty curves and cursed soft angles to get in the way of how the frock lays on the body.

And reading the study with the catchy title shouldn’t bug me, either, because I’m not in the workforce and don’t have a paycheck, so me and my bulges are not under the microscope. (Yes, technically that should read “my bulges and I” but it didn’t sound quite as catchy, and I am a self-assured copy editor who can bend the rules when necessary to turn a more liltingly lyrical phrase.)

But the weight gain and the study do bug me. For different reasons, but bug nonetheless. The weight gain bugs me because I don’t like the way it feels. It slows me down and gets in my way, two things for which I have zero patience. (Notice my intentional effort to avoid ending that sentence with a preposition, people. Old copy editors never die, they just keep nitpicking.) The results found by the study bug me because, #1 it’s stupid, #2 it’s shallow and #3 it’s meaningless to judge someone’s worth by their waist size. Or their muscle mass. Or whether their abs are categorized by a six-pack or a pony keg.

And yet it does matter. People have distinct subconscious reactions to body types, according to the study. Get this: “For a man, skinny says less-than-manly and gay, two qualities that clash with our Americanized version of a leader: tall, strong and emotionally unmoved. For women, an ultra-thin figure simply says success and makes for an attractive corporate image.”

So if you’re a guy and you’re skinny, people assume you’re wimpy and gay. And if you’re an emaciated gal, you’re a corporate tool. These female tools earn an average of $16,000 more a year than their plumper peers. But the wage disparity again works in men’s favor, as thin men make just $8,000 less than their ripped co-workers.

I’m still stuck on the subconscious opinion of guys: skinny means wimpy and gay. That’s harsh. And the Americanized vision of a leader being emotionally unmoved scares me. Does that mean unmoved in the face of communism or Hallmark commercials? Is a little emotion really such a bad thing?

This is why we need more Sir Mix-a-Lot. He likes big butts and he cannot lie.

I heard his song on the radio yesterday and found myself laughing out loud. Especially at the part that rags on Cosmopolitan magazine:

“So Cosmo says you’re fat, well I ain’t down with that. To the beanpole dames in the            magazines, you ain’t it, Miss Thing!”

He goes on to say, “Give me a sister, I can’t resist her. Red beans & rice didn’t miss her.”

Now there’s a lyric that paints a picture. Love it.

Mix-a-Lot for President!

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6 Comments on “Need more Mix-a-Lot”

  1. Ed says:

    Good point well made, and it’s great to see the editorial chops are still finely-honed. Beanpole ladies would be too light-headed from hunger to turn a phrase so well. If Sir Mix-a-lot is president, who is VP? Keep writing!

  2. Trevor Hicks says:

    You can do Woman v Food – a literate woman pigs out weekly

  3. Keith says:

    I have a hard time with all the “studies” that make the papers. There seem to be two kinds : ones that are intentionally trying to get media attention and ones that are completely misconstrued by the media to make them more news worthy. The good stuff never makes the news.

    I repeat to myself over and over : correlation is not causation.

    I read this exact same article and my first thought was : why can’t it also be true that the same willpower and drive that can make women thin and men muscular are the same skills that might be rewarded in the workplace? If a guy thinks that being lean and muscular is good for his social life, and then takes on the labor and discipline to achieve that, is that not the same skill we want in the leader of a company?

    Correlation is not causation.

    Love sir-mix-a-lot. Can’t believe it is now somewhat ok to play for our kids what I was embarrassed to be caught listening to when I was 18 years old!

  4. Keith says:

    And on a side note : it is one or two spaces after a period now? I’ve been told that the double space is a remnant of typesetting that has no place in modern writing methods.

    • nancykhicks says:

      I haven’t heard that one space rule but haven’t exactly had my hand on the pulse of the industry. Makes sense to me, and I’m guessing most people wouldn’t notice either way.

    • Trevor Hicks says:

      I saw the article in Slate about how double spaces are an artifact of fixed-width typewriter fonts which are rarely used nowadays, but I’d heard one space before. A lifetime habit of double spacing isn’t so easily ended, but I’m trying. Anyone who makes a big deal out it has worse problems than the double spacer though.


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