On Katie Couric, Kate Middleton, And Body Policing

You have to pity Katie Couric, sort of: she voiced what everyone else has been thinking and now has to defend herself for simply saying it first. Last week after a taping of her new talk show “Katie,” the perk-tastic former newsanchor and morning show host fielded questions from the audience in a Q&A. But a softball question about how Kate Middleton would be her “dream guest” became something else entirely when Couric added off-the cuff, “I think she needs to eat more because she’s so thin.”

That siren you hear? It’s the body police. 

Usually the body police comes out at the first sign of water retention: It is well-established that the way the celebrity tabloids get around publicly shaming women for gaining weight is with two little words, “baby bump.” And Kate is no exception. Poor thing can’t nibble a scone without being diagnosed as pregnant as soon as the paparazzi photos have been published.

But body policing of Kate Middleton has worked in the other direction as well: Katie Couric is just one of the more prominent voices to have said that Kate is looking a little thin these days. And it’s true: The famously athletic  young woman who was regular-girl-looking when she met Prince William in college drastically decreased in size right before her wedding. Any bride-to-be can empathize with the nerves she must have felt and multiply that by the nerves she must have felt knowing billions of people would be watching her wedding on TV. But in the year-plus since she walked down the aisle, Kate has remained much thinner than she ever looked pre-marriage. The Duchess Kate has downsized from regular-girl-sized to casting-couch pint-sized.

My first instinct is to agree with Couric: Kate does need to eat more. The fantasy of the prince marrying the “commoner” is utterly evaporated when the “commoner” becomes skinnier than an “America’s Next Top Model” contestant.

But the fact of the matter is that fretting over Kate Middleton’s size, large or small, is plain ol’ body policing. It’s wrong. Body policing doesn’t become suddenly acceptable when its towards a skinny woman; it is still based on the idea that a woman’s body is public property for our dissection and judgment. It’s straight-up concern trolling that we justify as well-intentioned, just as we justify our “concern” for a 300 lb woman.  The truth is, though, that our judgment lacks any substantive information other than what we see with our own eyes. None of us can speak to Kate or her personal situation with weight or food any moreso than we can speak to that of plus-sized Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto.  If it’s wrong to do to Beth Ditto, it’s wrong to do to Kate Middleton.

For what it is worth, I share Katie Couric’s opinion on Kate Middleton’s weight loss. And if Tom Sykes, royalty gossip blogger for The Daily Beast is to be believed, so does the palace.  But we all need to remind ourselves that Kate’s health is a private matter between her and her loved ones — no matter how well-intentioned we may claim to be.

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