NYC Ballerina Tells Critic: Iím Not Fat

NY Times critic Alistair Macaulay took Internet flak recently for a catty comment about dancer Jennifer Ringer’s size in his recent review of The Nutcracker.  Ringer, who suffered from anorexia earlier in her career, danced the role of the Sugarplum Fairy in the Christmas ballet classic. Macaulay noted in his review that she “looked as if she eaten one sugarplum too many.”

The jab was meant to highlight the fact that Ringer is not the customary pipe-reed thin that ballerinas are expected to be. She is, in fact, a healthy weight for her height.

No Apology

Ringer herself is not angry with Macaulay and hasn’t asked for an apology, and he hasn’t given one. However, Macaulay’s criticism of Ringer, who chooses not to exemplify what some see as the scary-skinny expectations women in entertaiment professions are expected to maintain, ignited a firestorm of comments condemning him.

Macaulay attempted to defend himself in a follow-up column, citing his own weight struggles and the fact that dance is a physical medium where appearance is relevant and fair game for critics.

But should it be?

Average is the New Fat

Ringer herself notes, correctly, that she is by no means fat and that the athletic nature of her art requires her to be healthy and fit, which is something she found she couldn’t do when she was extremely thin.

Her dilemma is an extreme example of what it is to be female when unrealistic standards of weight and beauty are increasingly considered “average.” When unhealthy is promoted subtly–or not–as normal, than what is truly healthy is distorted for everyone.

What Do You Think?

What should, or even can, be done about the unrealistic weight and physical attractiveness expectations that are required of women – and increasingly men? Let’s hear your stories and ideas.

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Photo credit: The Nutcracker by Jan Smith


Fred Hayward
Fred H7 years ago

Michelle, it is sad that you have such anger and resentment toward men, and I really feel it is clouding your judgment. To say that "men think they have a right to judge women's bodies, as if we are there for their pleasure and nothing more" is a terrible (and inaccurate) generalization about half of the population with which you share the planet.

Yes, there are no doubt some men that feel that way, but I'm sure it's a small minority...and no larger than the minority of women who feel that men are here to buy things for women and nothing more.

But, judging women's bodies and thinking that women are here for our pleasure and nothing more are two vastly different things. The fact is, women and men are constantly judging other people's bodies...and intelligence and abilities and etc. That's just human nature. What's relevant is not the judgments we make, but the way it might or might not affect our treatment of them.

The judgments that the critic made, however much you and I BOTH disagree with them, were made in his capacity as a critic of ballet. And in that capacity, he was at least as harsh in his judgment of the male dancer's body.

Michelle M.
Michelle M7 years ago

I don't care how fat or thin she really is. The issue here is that men think they have a right to judge women's bodies, as if we are there for their pleasure and nothing more. Well, we're NOT! Alistair deserved all the flak he got.

Sheri P.
Sheri P7 years ago

I've seen pictures of her and she looks healthy and fit! By no means does she look like she ate one too many sugerplum. She's not plump in the least! I don't know what that critic was thinking...

Ashley D.
Ashley L7 years ago

Good for the dancer for admitting to her anorexia and for maintaining a healthy weight and image now. That is what we need, if more people are comfortable with their own weight and self-image we won't have this weight crisis. Alot of this starts at home.

Madelaine Hanson
Pete Smith7 years ago

For goodness sake- this fashion of having a dangerously thin body is DANGEROUS. We cannot possibly let children think they have to put their health at risk is the only way to appear attractive or get an occupation in ballet, modelling or acting, etc. How many young girls and boys do ballet anyway? Has anyone thought about how this affects them? Really, why people wonder why anorexia cases are increasing in number stuns me.

Susan T.
Susan T7 years ago

To be fair, the critic also called one of the male dancers fat.

I saw some clips from the performance on a Today show clip

I thought she looked awesome. She didn't have that gaunt, starving look a lot of ballerinas have, but she looked great.

It's true that your body is part of your art as a dancer so it is fair game, but have you ever heard a critic say a dancer's nose is too big, or their forehead? As a critic he should have been aware of her history (that's HIS job - to know the dance world) and been more sensitive in how he gave the criticism. However, she seems to be tough enough to take it, which is part of the gig.

As a society our aesthetic has moved into the ridiculous in declaring what's "normal". In the 70's, a "normal" fashion model was a size 8. There were stories of Cybil Shepard doing photo shoots with the back of the dress open.

Then it became size 6, then 4, 2 and now 0. The implication is obvious. What could be more diminishing than to be told you need to be a zero?

Especially for dancers, who use an incredible number of calories every day and work extremely hard, to keep themselves at an emaciated weight is not healthy and it is a sickness of our society that we think starvation is attractive.

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

There's nothing wrong with her. The critic is just a moron who attempted to be witty and urbane by using a catty remark and missed the mark and ended up sounding stupid.

nora b.
Nora b7 years ago

A cheap shot.

Cy G.
C. G7 years ago


Theresa C.
Theresa C7 years ago

Thank you for sharing :)!