Bashing Other Women’s Beauty

Published January 25, 2011

It's hard to set a new low on reality TV. And it's even harder to do it when you’re acting in a way that is actually true to real life. Yet that's what happened on the latest episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta when Phaedra said that swimsuit-model-for-a-day and fellow castmate Cynthia Bailey-Thomas looked like a “pretzel dipped in cottage cheese,” a clear and catty reference to the (as Nene enthusiastically pointed out) significant "junk in the trunk" that Cynthia had been keeping undercover all season.

Of course, much meaner things have been said on that series—about people's homes, bank accounts, wigs and husband's prison sentences. But in many ways this was worse, going for the jugular when all Cynthia had as armor was a slinky one-piece bathing suit. Hair, lipstick or even our shoes—all of that can be changed or brushed off easily. But putdowns about beauty and bodies go deep and hurt more than women are likely to ever let on, the grown-up version of sandbox teasing and schoolyard taunts. Which is probably why so many women, from Nicole Richie (who called Rachel Zoe "raisin face") to the non-famous, keep this kind of insult in their arsenal, knowing it's the quickest way to cut another woman down. It's too bad that, in an entire season of hijinks and highballs, Real Housewives' realest moment was also one of its meanest.

Written by Ayana Byrd

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