October 22, 2010

Make Love, Not War, With Your Body

Filed under: Body Image,Gender — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 9:46 pm

Written by Cakie Belle. Originally posted at Cakie Belle. Cross-posted with permission.

Most people hate conflict. We actively avoid the people we don’t like, whether it be in our workplaces, our homes or our social lives. We make compromises to avoid arguments. We make sacrifices to get along. We dream of peace on Earth. And yet so many of us spend every minute of our lives willingly engaging in a cruel and ruthless battle where ultimately,  there can be no winner. Of course, I’m talking about the war with our bodies.

No matter how well other things (like our jobs and relationships) are going, if we are in constant conflict with ourselves we simply cannot fully lead the magical, wonderful lives we deserve, or experience true, lasting, blissful happiness. Without self love there can be no peace, because when we hate our bodies, we are literally living, breathing, eating and sleeping with the enemy.

I have been embroiled in my own body battle since I was just a little girl and when I look back I can see that my hatred for my physical self has cast a dark shadow over many memories that should have been wonderful, like days at the beach where I couldn’t enjoy myself because I was so self-conscious of my tummy, nights out with my girlfriends when I felt unattractive and jealous, and romantic dinners with my boyfriend ruined by the fact I was racked with guilt for eating a fattening dessert and garlic bread. It’s a miserable way to live.

The truly bizarre thing about the war with one’s body is that it is so completely one-sided. We treat them like the enemy and yet, our bodies do nothing to spite us. They do nothing to hurt us. They do nothing cruel or unkind or unforgivable. Our poor abused bodies simply do their job, keeping us alive and making the best of whatever our genetics and lifestyles have given them. Our bodies work tirelessly to keep us functioning and offer little complaint when we treat them badly. We abuse them, shame them and belittle them, but until the day we die, our bodies simply carry on.

Give your poor body a break! It is time you acknowledged how amazing your beautiful body is and recognised its unique magic. It is time you appreciated it for all its miracles and its time you started treating it with the love and respect it deserves. It is time that you made peace with the one person you will spend every single day of your life with. That’s you.

Draw up a peace treaty. Buy your body a thank you present (like gorgeous lingerie, new perfume or a big cupcake). Treat your body to a bubble bath, a massage or a hike up a mountain. Look in the mirror and tell your body you are sorry. Tell your body it is beautiful. Make a promise to treat it better. Write your body a love letter. Banish the toxic self-talk. Wave a white flag and surrender to the fact that your body needs you and you need it. Pour your whole heart into improving your relationship with yourself. Stoke the flames of fierce self love.

Don’t waste another single moment fighting a battle you cannot win. Let the war be over.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user, neoliminal. CC 2.0.

September 27, 2010

Scholastic Books Encourages Girls to Seek Glamour and Boys to Seek Adventure

What year is this? 1880? 1922? 1957? 1963? 1978? 1982? 1997? 2010?

Well, according to the titles, it could be any of those years because not much has changed. Gender socialization is alive and well, folks. My former student, Jessie, wrote this after coming across more of the same:

As I was browsing Costco’s book section, I came upon the following: The Boys’ Book of Adventure: Are You Ready To Face The Challenge? & The Boys’ Book of Greatness: Even More Ways To Be The Best at Everything followed by The Girls’ Book of Glamour: A Guide To Being a Goddess & The Girls’ Book of Friendship: How To Be The Best Friend Ever.

Isn’t it lovely how Scholastic Books is publishing books that enforce gender-segregation (complete with “girl” and “boy” colors) which essentially maintain: little girls should be solely concerned with physical appearance and maintaining a relationships. Is adventure and greatness not suitable for little girls? I flipped through each of the books and found sections on “How to dress like a celebrity even if you’re not one” and “How to tie knots”. Guess which one was for little girls.

We often begin projecting socially constructed gender expectations on children before they’re even born, decorating the nursery in a specific color scheme. As soon as that child enters the world, the color codes, pierced ears, head bands on nearly bald heads and other clothing items designed for infants erect the gendered foundation that will provide the template for much of their lives. Add in toys, books, cartoons and video games and that foundation sprouts a framework for their identity, their relationships with others and  their world view. Throughout this process of gender socialization, beauty (with a disturbing increasing emphasis on “sexiness“) and relationships are emphasized for girls while independence and adventure are emphasized for boys.This trend continues well into adulthood through various agents of socialization, primarily the mass media which advertises normative masculinity and femininity.

Boys and men could learn a thing or two about cultivating and nurturing relationships. Enough with the lone adventurer- lets raise sensitive, strong and emotionally attuned boys and men. Simultaneously, beauty and relationships aren’t enough for girls and women. We need to redfine girly, offering our girls intellectual and physical challenges beyond the vanity and devalued emotional work.

We have much to gain from offering a full range of choices to boys and girls and valuing them equally.

For a fantastic video that re-imagines the Bronte sisters, see Step Aside Princesses, Here Come the Boomerang-Throwing Bronte Sisters.

Photograph courtesy of Jessie T.

September 21, 2010

Kush Support- Another Lame Product for Your Imperfect Boobs

Your breasts may be too big, too saggy, too pert, too flat, too full, too apart, too close together, too A-cup, too lopsided, too jiggly, too pale, too padded, too pointy, too pendulous, or just two mosquito bites.

If you’ve seen Killing Us Softly 3 or Killing Us Softly 4, the two most recent installments of pioneering scholar and media literacy educator Jean Kilbourne‘s video series examining images of  women, sexism and sexuality in advertising, you’ve heard the copy of this famous ad for Dep styling products. The underlying message of this ridiculous ad is that-surprise-no matter what our breasts look like, they’re not right and in need of improvement.

We all know that ads exist for one sole purpose- to sell products by appealing to our emotions and socially constructed desires. In a culture that has an insatiable breast fetish, our breasts have consistently appeared at the top of the ever-growing list of unacceptable body parts and there’s always some product to fix our pesky problem areas or avoid them in the first place with “preventative maintenance.”

And here we’re offered Kush Support, the miraculous sleep support for big breasts. Because now we don’t have too merely worry about their size, shape and degree of perkiness but we can fret over the potential chest wrinkles big breasts create as a result of sleeping on our sides. And because of our increased insecurities and body anxieties, we’ll buy a cheesy plastic cylinder that actually looks like a cheap dildo and our problems will be solved!

August 18, 2010

Feminism, Body Image and Yoga

Originally posted at Elephant Journal, June 2010.

Healing Mind, Body & Spirit.

It was in an afternoon yoga class 10 years ago that I realized my relationship with my body had been profoundly changed.

Gazing up at my legs, glistening with sweat in shoulder-stand, I realized that I wasn’t searching for signs of “imperfection” or scrutinizing my body with the negative self-talk that too many of us have with ourselves on a daily basis—the abusive dialogue I had with myself most of my life.

For the first time I could remember since early childhood, I wasn’t critical of myself.

I wasn’t looking for parts of my body to control and change.

A distorted body image, self-criticism, and the pursuit of “perfection” by any means necessary is a perverse inheritance passed down from the women in my family and influenced by the unrealistic and prolific images manufactured by the larger media culture. Given this environment, I never had a chance to emerge unscathed, self-esteem intact. The women in my family were constantly dieting, tracking calories in food diaries, lamenting weight gain, celebrating weight loss and sizing other women up. An unhealthy pre-occupation with my body and food was set in motion before I hit puberty and manifested in all sorts of dangerous methods to obtain thinness: diet pills, colon hydrotherapy, fasting, legal and illegal stimulants, calorie restriction, self-induced vomiting and excessive exercise.

The routes to freedom presented themselves at about the same time, feminism and then yoga. Feminism offered the ideological tools to examine my tortured relationship with my body systematically and deconstruct mediated images. Yoga provided the practice that rooted the things feminism had taught me. It is one thing to intellectualize self-love and acceptance, it’s another to embody it.

August 5, 2010

Subadvertiser Takes on Skinny Pretzels

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 4:55 pm

It’s no secret that we love culture jammin’ at Feminist Fatale so I was happy to see this ad remix at Salon Broadsheet today.

August 3, 2010

Beauty is for everyone…Sophia Bush Boycotts Urban Outfitters Over "Eat Less" Shirt

You may have heard that Sophia Bush is using her celebrity status to generate a boycott of Urban Outfitters over a controversial shirt that demands, “Eat Less.” In a letter to the company – which was previously in hot water over its decision to yank a shirt that said, “I Support Gay Marriage” despite keeping its political yet PR-perfect Obama t-shirts – Bush rightfully argued that the shirt is “like handing a suicidal person a loaded gun,” referring to the growing number of both young women and men succumbing to eating disorders.

While pursuing fine arts in college, I took two years of figure drawing classes. A living, breathing nude model is probably one of the best ways to learn how to draw the human body, but more than that, I was exposed to many different shapes, both male and female. Focusing on my technique, the bodies before me were never sexual, they were learning tools. Each body offered new challenges, new opportunities. I found that drawing fuller bodies was easier, with long, sensuous strokes, and that thinner bodies called more on my understanding of the skeleton. In this way I learned to appreciate the human body as a marvel of organic engineering. As an artist, I remain fascinated with the human form in space, and fashion photography is an extension of that.

I work for a sample sale site called 365Hangers, and while shooting our products for August last week, one of our models looked so stunning in this pink BCBG dress that I asked her for a couple more shots. She said, “I never thought I could wear a dress like this!”

All shapes and sizes are beautiful, and you should never let anyone’s standards prevent you from wearing a dress you want to wear. Your greatest accessory is your self-loving confidence, and it looks fabulous with everything.

Originally posted at 365Hangers, cross-posted with permission. Urban Outfitters image via The Frisky.

July 22, 2010

What's lurking in your compact? Annie Leonard will tell you.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 11:28 am

Annie Leonard and Free Range Studios are back with a new installment in their The Story of… series.

Thanks to Nathaniel Janowitz for posting their newly released video, The Story of Cosmetics, on Elephant Journal and giving me the heads up. The new short covers point # 4 in The Five Feminist Criticisms of Beauty.

For more, read the Daily Femme’s article, Lead in Lipstick ain’t a Myth and other Horror Stories about Your Cosmetics.

June 20, 2010

Doll parts: Barbie, beauty and resistance

Barbie is a cultural icon. With her long, silky, blonde hair, perky breasts, cinched waist and mile-high legs Barbie represents mainstream definitions of physical perfection, the paragon of beauty and ideal femininity. Her shiny pink corvette, swanky townhouse, and oodles and oodles of perfectly accessorized outfits indicate her success within the consumer culture machine. Collectively, her physical and material assets (Eurocentric beauty, white-skin and class privilege rolled up into one statuesque doll), represent the collective dream spun by post-WWII advertisers and reinforced by the culture at large.

For more than 50 years, she has not waned in popularity (gained a pound, developed a wrinkle or gray hair) even in the face of mounting criticism.

Despite some of the negative headlines Barbie is still a hit with girls across America and the world.

More than one billion dolls have been sold since her inception, and according to the dolls makers, Mattel, 90% of American girls aged between three and 10 own at least one.

While Barbie is a manufactured fantasy, she remains an emblem of idealized femininity and a key element of gender socialization.

Barbie fan Danielle Scott, 16, said: “Playing with the hair, the brushes, switching outfits. It really just made girls be girls.

“All the characteristics of what to look forward to and what girls really could do…” she said.

While it is true that Barbie has had approximately 125 jobs over the last half-century (jobs that presumably allowed her to purchase her multiple homes, extensive wardrobe etc. etc)., Barbie is not famous for her resume. She is most well-known for her flawless figure and coveted beauty.

She is a beauty icon.

(more…)

June 7, 2010

This is What a Real Woman Looks Like

This student created video is the follow-up to the in-class body collage assignment that begged the question, “What does a real woman look like?” (See The Daily Femme for their analysis of the body collage project, Questioning the Magazine Industry’s Ideal of Female Beauty Through the Power of Photographs).

The students’ statement about their project:

Today we’re inundated with images of a false reality that concentrate on one ideal form of beauty. Altering images via Photoshop, ultimately exposes us to millions of images are not “real.” Our project takes a look at the dangers of the media, from Photoshopping to white-washing to an emphasis on an unattainable perfection. Collectively, the images in the media do not represent the diversity found in the larger population; not all women are tall, thin, white, heterosexual or young. And in real life, nobody is Photoshopped. Where are representations of “real” women?

The advertising industry sells us images directly aimed women’s mounting insecurities. The for-profit consumer culture exploits these insecurities and rakes in billions of dollars each year. Ultimately, these images dehumanize, hypersexualize and disempower women.

Having struggled with our own body image issues and eating disorders, we know first hand the amount of pressure the media can exert on women and the psychological and physical costs. We wanted to address the serious nature of these issues and focus on the importance of a healthy body image.

Part of our video was inspired by our in-class project, the body collage that covered two walls from floor to ceiling with images of women in the print media. We were shocked to see the onslaught of these homogeneous all at once. This experience inspired our project as well as the Feminist Majority Foundation campaign, “This is what a feminist looks like.” Ultimately, our statement “this is what a real woman looks like” is a reaction to the exclusion of women in the mass media and the erasing of age, race and authenticity as a result of the standard industry practice of altering women that already reflect an incredibly small percentage of the population.

The video is a mosaic of our own stories; our struggles with our own body image, our relationship with our bodies and our message of self-love and acceptance.



This video was created as a final project in Women’s Studies 30: Women and Pop Culture with Melanie Klein at Santa Monica College (this video is also featured at Jezebel). Thanks to students of this fledgling class for their dedication, motivation and hard work. For more posts related to this class, see Body Image: A Personal Story, Young Women Speak Out About “The Curse,” Violence Against Women: The Clothesline Project Video, Student Activism Breaks the Silence Around Violence,  and Social Media and Feminism in the Classroom and Beyond.

May 31, 2010

"Real men" like to get Spanx'd: masculinity, body image and advertising

That’s right, since Spanx released a new line of “shapewear” or “profile-enhancing underwear” for men in February, the “body compressing” tanks, crews and v-necks have become undeniable “retail hit,” as reported in the New York Times. Thanks to Spanx, men can be cool, classic and contained. But Spanx isn’t the only company tapping into men’s growing insecurities about their midsections. According to the New York Times article, Equmen, Sculptees and RiptFusion have also released popular products for men, including a sort of  (ssshh) “push-up bra” for men.

While these expensive products are racking up sales, most guys keep this new line of roll squishing undies on the down-low. In fact, online sales outweigh in-store sales. Why all the hush-hush shopping for such these hot new retail products?

Publicly fretting about your midsection isn’t “manly.” That stuff is for girls and women. While rates of muscle dysmorphia, the body image disorder most commonly associated with men, have been discussed for years the truth is that all manner of body obsessions commonly associated with women have come to increasingly impact men. From increasing rates of eating disorders and plastic surgery to increased consumer sales of “manlydiet foods and men’s workout boosters, it is clear that unhealthy body preoccupations are not just for girls and women anymore.

(more…)

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