Jennifer Lawrence’s body issues are good for women

Jennifer Lawrence poses for photographers during the Spanish premiere of the movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
(Abraham Caro Marin / Associated Press)

Remember when the first installment of “The Hunger Games” came out and critics said Jennifer Lawrence didn’t look hungry enough to play heroine Katniss Everdeen?

Well, about that nonsense: Lawrence recently told BBC News that she made a conscious decision to make her character strong instead of svelte. “I feel like somebody like Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow wouldn’t be scary,” she said during the interview.

And that’s not all. The actress also wanted to be a positive role model for the young, impressionable women who’d see the movie. So instead of being one more person in Hollywood setting up unrealistic expectations, she wanted to do her part to support a healthy body image. “We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing,” she said. So she took this “amazing opportunity” to make a statement: “It’s better to look strong and healthy.”


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This isn’t the first time Lawrence has pushed back against Hollywood’s oppressive standard of beauty and the subsequent pressure it puts on all women to be thinner. But the outspoken actress seems to be on a mission of late. While speaking to the media about “Catching Fire,” the second “Hunger Games” installment out Nov. 22 in the U.S., Lawrence has also taken on the media for fostering a catty culture among women in which “ugly” and “fat” rank high on the list of worst insults.

I couldn’t agree more with Lawrence. But if I were to play devil’s advocate, I’d argue that perhaps she’s making too big a deal out of body image, and, in doing so, she too could be sending a harmful message. Strong, skinny, tall, short, fat, thin -- who cares what our bodies look like? Aren’t we more than a collection of body parts? Can’t we talk about anything else?

But here’s the thing. We live in a culture that places a premium on attractive women.

According to a recent study, writes New York Daily News’ Victoria Taylor, “good-looking applicants, especially beautiful women, have a better chance of making it to the second round of the hiring process.” That’s not all. Good-looking people get better jobs. They earn higher incomes. To quote Business Insider’s blunt and depressing headline: “Attractive People Are Simply More Successful.”

So, in that context, Jennifer Lawrence isn’t just a body-positive role model for young women. In speaking out about body image, and in maintaining a realistic figure herself, she’s helping broaden our definition of beauty so that it is more inclusive. That makes her a heroine to all women, even if that wasn’t her intended goal.



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