Posts in category Body Image
We see photos like this all the time in the media. Many of us compare our "flawed" bodies with the model's seemingly "perfect" one, & then feel like crap. But here's a reality check that shows how this model morphed into "perfect":
1) nose narrowed
2) breasts enlarged & brought closer together
3) protruding ribs removed
4) waist narrowed
5) belly pooch flattened
6) skintone lightened & smoothed out
7) hips made curvier
8) inner thighs slimmed
We are mirrors -- we teach children how to feel about themselves, not only through our words, but also through our actions. We can tell a child that she's beautiful, but if we're constantly denigrating ourselves, she'll learn to see herself in that same critical light. Here's a beautiful example of how one mother's experiment to help instill a healthy body image in her daughters ends up helping her to improve her own:
"'Look at me, girls!' I say to them. 'Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.' "I see it behind their eyes, the calculating and impression. I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful. They love me. To them, I am love and guidance and warm, soft blankets and early mornings. They have never doubted how wonderful I am. They have never doubted my beauty. How confusing it must have been for them to see me furrowing my brow in the mirror and sucking in my stomach and sighing."How confusing it must have been to have me say to them, 'You think I am beautiful, but you are wrong. You are small and you love me, so you're not smart enough to know how unattractive I am. I know I am ugly because I see myself with mean eyes. You are my child and I love you, but I will not allow myself to be pretty, for you. ... No matter how much you want to be just like me, I can't be beautiful for you and I don't know why. "It's working, a little bit. I've even stopped hating myself, a little bit."
I've recently started posting a few original memes here and on my Facebook fan page (which has over 2,700 fans -- so please check it out!). As an artist, I enjoy creating these images. I add a small mention of my website, Facebook page, and logo to my memes in case they're shared. Unfortunately, another fan page on Facebook, Women's Rights News (which has about 100 times more fans than I do and should know better), has shared several of these images, but cropped my info off.
- J.K. Rowling: http://beautyisinside.com/2012/10/is-fat-really-the-worst-thing/
- Portia de Rossi: http://beautyisinside.com/2012/10/portia-on-body-image/
- Iyanla Vanzant: http://beautyisinside.com/2012/10/what-we-believe/
- The 1950s Kitchen: http://beautyisinside.com/2012/10/1950s-kitchen/
In June 1972, Kim Phuc was pictured in a world-famous and iconic photograph from the Vietnam War. She was the naked child who was horribly burned with napalm and was running from an airborne attack.
Since then, Kim has found a way to transform her suffering into good. She runs The Kim Foundation International, and she acts as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO. She has transformed into a viable, visible symbol of peace and hope. Hers is an important story of resilience, courage, and forgiveness.
A talented Maryland tattoo artist has made a name for himself as an expert in a valuable niche. Vinnie Myers started out tattooing fellow soldiers in Army boot camp, but has since devoted his business to helping breast cancer survivors. These customers are looking for more than a cool new piece of artwork to decorate their bodies -- these are women who just want to feel whole again:
"[Vinnie] has perfected the three-dimensional nipple tattoo, restoring a final mark of femininity to at least three women a day, who have come from as far as Saudi Arabia and Brazil to Vinnie's Tattoo Parlor ... 'The industry standard has always been draw a circle where the nipple should be and color it in,' Vinnie said. 'When I first started doing it, I said to myself: Why should I do a tattoo of a nipple and make it look like a pepperoni, when I can make it look like a nipple?'"
What keeps Vinnie's work from looking like pepperoni is his attention to detail:
"Vinnie took a peach-colored Sharpie and drew concentric circles where the areola, the dark area around the nipple, and the nipple itself ought to be. First on her right breast, then her left. ...
Vinnie first tattooed in the lines of the two circles, then started shading the areola, making his way to the nipple itself. He also took special care to do what are called Montgomery Glands, the little raised dots in the areola.
Creating a three-dimensional image, the appearance of a raised nipple, is all about using light, shadow, and color to create illusion. This is what distinguishes a gifted artist."
Vinnie has helped hundreds of women feel normal again after losing their breasts to save their lives. His artistic talents enable his customers to see what look like "healthy normal breasts, with fabulous nipples."
"About 290,000 women will get diagnosed with breast cancer this year. About 50,000 will get reconstructive surgery, and 90 percent of those get some sort of areola. But it can be unsatisfying, with no image of a nipple. Furthermore, says Vinnie, surgeons often use vegetable-based dyes that fade quickly."
Although insurance companies will cover the cost of nipple/areola reconstruction, it's often difficult for a patient to collect without a fight. Fortunately, Vinnie charges only $400 for his services, which makes the cost less financially restrictive for women who've already fought enough.
Check out Vinnie's website with several before-and-after photos of his work. NSFW, for obvious reasons.
A woman recounts a story about a friend's experience winning a free style consultation with Clinton Kelly from the TLC show "What Not to Wear". The friend wore a plus-size and had a hard time finding clothes that fit her well. She assumed that it was because of her size, but she couldn't seem to get good results even when she tried to follow plus-size fashion tips from the show. She asked Clinton what she was doing wrong, and he shared this secret:
"His answer was that everything you will ever see on a celebrity’s body, including their outfits when they’re out and about and they just get caught by a paparazzo, has been tailored, and the same goes for everything on What Not To Wear. Jeans, blazers, dresses - everything right down to plain t-shirts and camisoles. He pointed out that historically, up until the last few generations, the vast majority of people either made their own clothing or had their clothing made by tailors and seamstresses. You had your clothing made to accommodate the measurements of your individual body, and then you moved the fuck on. Nothing on the show or in People magazine is off the rack and unaltered. He said that what they do is ignore the actual size numbers on the tags, find something that fits an individual’s widest place, and then have it completely altered to fit. That’s how celebrities have jeans that magically fit them all over, and the rest of us chumps can’t ever find a pair that doesn’t gape here or ride up or slouch down or have about four yards of extra fabric here and there."
Everything is altered. So many of us find fault with our bodies for not fitting the clothes, instead of finding fault with the clothes for not fitting our bodies.
"I sat there after I was told this story, and I really thought about how hard I have worked not to care about the number or the letter on the tag of my clothes, how hard I have tried to just love my body the way it is, and where I’ve succeeded and failed. I thought about all the times I’ve stood in a fitting room and stared up at the lights and bit my lip so hard it bled, just to keep myself from crying about how nothing fits the way it’s supposed to. No one told me that it wasn’t supposed to. I guess I just didn’t know. I was too busy thinking that I was the one that didn’t fit.
I thought about that, and about all the other girls and women out there whose proportions are 'wrong,' who can’t find a good pair of work trousers, who can’t fill a sweater, who feel excluded and freakish and sad and frustrated because they have to go up a size, when really the size doesn’t mean anything and it never, ever did, and this is just another bullshit thing thrown in your path to make you feel shitty about yourself."
Remind yourself of this helpful little secret the next time nothing in your closet seems to fit. Remind yourself the next time the diet ads start making you think you need to lose weight. Remind yourself when you start feeling fat and ugly and worthless. Because the truth is, the flaws may simply be in your jeans — and not in your genes.
By: Shel Silverstein
Over the last several months, I've noticed that lots of women have been smiling at me on the street, in restaurants, in stores, etc. I'm not used to this, partly because I can be a little shy & I avoid eye contact with passing strangers, but partly because of a sad habit shared by many of us -- that we view other women as threats.
In the past several years, Halloween has morphed into something really scary -- scary enough to make some of us want to scream. But not because of the blood and gore, creepy decorations, or traditionally spooky costumes.
Halloween used to be the day when you could put on a disguise and pretend to be someone else for the night. For women, it could be a reprieve from the daily pressure to look thin, beautiful, and sexy. But instead of a day off from that pressure, Halloween is now a day to amp it up. Nearly every option for women is a sexy take on a traditional costume, from fetishized caricatures from porn to the totally absurd, such as the Sexy Hamburger, the Sexy Crayon, the Sexy Skittles, the Sexy Sponge Bob, and the Sexy Nemo (the clown fish from Finding Nemo). I just ... I ... have no words:
But it's not all just harmless fun. Even child characters in fairy tales have been made into sexed-up costumes for women, e.g., Sexy Little Red Riding Hood, Sexy Goldilocks, and Sexy Alice in Wonderland. (See more examples here).
In addition to fairy tale characters, here are a few other ways for women to dress up as sexy little girls -- the Sexy Girl Scout, the Sexy Schoolgirl, and the Sexy Baby (WTF is wrong with people?!):
What's so troubling about these costumes is that:
"... [M]any of the 'sexy' costumes are highly sexualized versions of characters who are supposed to be little girls ... The fact that many women dress up as sexy little girls points to both the sexualization of female children and the infantilization of adult women."
The sexualization of girls teaches them early on that their value lies in their appearance, their bodies, and their sexuality. The American Psychological Association found that sexualization damages girls' feelings of self-worth, impairs their mental functioning, and contributes to eating disorders. In other words, it fucks girls up. The infantilization of adult women reinforces attitudes that women should be treated as naive, dependent, and incapable of making intelligent decisions or holding leadership roles. In other words, it fucks women over.
Another disturbing trend in sexy costumes is linking sexuality with violence. Here are some creepy sexy costumes, such as female versions of horror movie serial killers -- Sexy Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Sexy Jason (Friday the 13th), and Sexy Michael Myers (Halloween). I guess the Sexy Body Bag (seriously, who comes up with this shit?!) fits in here as well :/ :
Of course, many Halloween costumes are intended to be frightening or gory, but turning a male horror movie killer that often targets scantily-clad female victims into a scantily-clad female horror movie killer has some interesting connotations. Horror movie killers tend to murder (punish) the sexually open "whores" early on, while the good girl "virgins" often escape (reward). Underlying the sexy female killer is a misogynistic fear of female sexuality and power -- it threatens conservative social attitudes about women owning our sexuality and our bodies. It also sparks our own conflicted feelings about sexuality or our insecurities about other women being competition or threats. Since all of these fears are uncomfortable, they must be buried or "killed".
Clearly, there are lots of "sexy" costumes for women, but those for men are a bit different. This Tumblr page has tons of examples of the same costume idea, but different versions for him and her. The differences are quite striking when you look at them side-by-side. His costumes are typically silly, while hers are always sexy. Here are his-and-hers versions of Tigger, Skunk, Firefighter, and Astronaut:
Making sexy versions of non-sexy characters like Tigger or Skunk invariably make sexiness cross into absurdity. However, sexing-up women's costumes of traditionally male careers, such as Firefighter or Astronaut, is another breed of animal. First, how could women realistically fight fires in a mini-skirt, garters, and fishnets or work in zero gravity in a mini-skirt and a top that low-cut? The answer is that they can't. And that speaks to deeper cultural beliefs about what women can and can't do. Underlying sexy costumes such as these are sexist beliefs about a woman's role. This reinforces beliefs that we're primarily sexual objects and that we don't belong in certain careers or positions of power unless we're there to support men.
So far, we've only looked at sexy costumes for women, but men have a few choices as well: the Breathalizer (Get it? You "blow" into that straw between his legs), the One Night Stand, and the Pimp (Parents -- make sure to teach your sons early that by treating women like hos, they'll be rewarded with money and status!):
There's obviously a discrepancy between men's and women's sexy costumes:
"... [W]hen women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others. When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of 'sexy' entirely."
That's it. I'm skipping Halloween. These are all just too scary for me. :/
"WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your fucking business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS. If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities."
She dedicates the above photo to all of those people who'd criticized her weight over the years, even the male stranger who told her that her belly was too big when she was five years old. And then she concluded the post with this empowering message (emphasis is in original):
"MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.
I’m so over that.
THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT.
and FUCK YOU ALL who tried to degrade my being and sense of self with your hurtful comments and actions.
GUESS WHAT IT DIDN’T WORK HAHAHAHAH"
Here's actual proof that beauty magazines make women feel ugly:
"A new University of Missouri-Columbia study found that all women were equally and negatively affected after viewing pictures of models in magazine ads for just three minutes. 'Surprisingly, we found that weight was not a factor. Viewing these pictures was just bad for everyone,' said Laurie Mintz, associate professor of education, school and counseling psychology in the MU College of Education. 'It had been thought that women who are heavier feel worse than a thinner woman after viewing pictures of the thin ideal in the mass media. The study results do not support that theory.'"
In today's Depressing News of the Day, you may want to know (or not) that there's a Facebook page called “12 Year Old Sluts”. Fans of that page post pictures of young girls who dress or act "too sexy" or even post "sexy" pictures of themselves. You can imagine what happens next:
It features, among other jokes and memes, the kind of idiotic 'sexyface' pictures pre-teen girls take of themselves in the bathroom mirror. The founders of the page encourage their commentariat to 'put these sluts in their place,' with shame tactics that would make the meanest mean girls blush.
Wow -- let's go slut-shame some little girls. What upstanding, compassionate human beings we are. Why do sluts need to be put "in their place" in the first place? Well, it's partly because kids can be insecure little bullies. But it's also because they've somehow internalized that female sexuality is threatening and shame is a powerful tool to dampen it.
On the "12 Year Old Sluts" Facebook page, a less-conventionally attractive girl made the mistake of posting a picture of herself in the typical bathroom-mirror-camera-phone pose, and the insults came pouring in.
The crux of the problem for this girl ... is that she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one side, there is the crushing pressure to be sexually desirable. She is aware of this pressure even before she caves to it, and at a much younger age than adults would like to believe. ... On the other side, [she] knows that she loses the desirability game if she caves to the desires she has inspired. ... [She] intuitively understands that she loses hers if people think she’s too accessible.
We're damned if we're too sexy and damned if we're not sexy enough. It's a trap. So why would she post that picture then? Why would a girl put herself in the position of being publicly critiqued and ridiculed by cruel internet strangers? It's not unlike the reasons why teenage girls and adult women would post their pictures to websites like Hot or Not (feel free to Google it if you want, but I'd prefer not to give them the traffic), or hundreds if not thousands of other online forums. Many girls -- and women -- act in desperate ways in that elusive search for validation.
I still remember the name of the girl who gave the first blowjob in middle school. Minutes after it happened, her name had worked itself from one end of the building to the other. You can bet that no one gave two shits who was on the receiving end; he remained anonymous and she watched one afternoon’s adolescent experiment destroy the desirability she’d spent years cultivating.
As girls grow up, we learn that it's important to be pretty little princesses and to be sweet and nice to others. This teaches us that our value lies in our appearance and our ability to please. Boys learn to be tough, confident, but unemotional -- which of course has its own downside. It's incredibly unfair to teach girls that they're supposed to be pretty and pleasing, and then turn around and punish them for doing exactly that. Amanda Todd is a heartbreaking example of this. Amanda was a 15-year-old who some called a "slut" after topless pictures of her were made public by the GROWN MAN who flattered her into posting them for him. This asshole-who-deserves-to-be-in-jail stalked her and made true on his threat to share them with her peers after she wouldn't give the perv a "show". She ended up committing suicide due to the torment and bullying. If that weren't bad enough, the slut-shaming has continued after her death. The pressure to be sexy, the need to be admired, and shaming a girl for doing just that can have tragic consequences.
The wiggle room between the rock and the hard place—that sweet spot between being wanted and being respected—is all but non-existent. It is a sliver, a tiny wedge, the narrowest of alleys. Adult women spend years trying to find it, alternating between extremes, recalibrating, shooting for appreciation without denigration. Look at me, but not for too long. Want me, but don’t try so hard. Think that I’m beautiful, but know that I’m classy. But not too classy. Lady in the street, freak in the bed. You know the drill. ... But teenagers? Teenagers have it worst of all. Not only do the rock and the hard place still matter more than anything, but they have yet to fully develop the ability to scope out long-term ramifications. Their skins are still baby thin and easily pierced. They want to be noticed and ignored, be thought exceptional and average, all at the same time.
It's a balancing act between two extremes -- the respectable virgin and the unrespectable* whore. And it's all bullshit.
*I looked up "unrespectable" to make sure it was a word and here's the first response that popped up (you can't make this shit up):
respectable - characterized by socially or conventionally acceptable morals; 'a respectable woman'
Adj. 1. unrespectable- unworthy of respect
"A respectable woman". The problem isn't just one immature and mean Facebook page. You know there's a problem with society when even the dictionary is a slut-shamer.
Gulf War veteran Arthur Boorman served as a paratrooper until all the jumps left him disabled. Doctors said he'd never be able to walk without the assistance of crutches or a cane. Unable to do many activities, Arthur gained a considerable amount of weight over the next 15 years, which put even more strain on his injured body.
Then he discovered yoga and everything changed. This fabulous video follows Arthur's journey from 297 pounds and struggling to hold a pose without falling ... to losing 100 pounds and not only walking without a cane, but sprinting! But this isn't about weight loss -- it's about improving one's quality of life & not losing hope. Get your tissues ready and prepare to be inspired:
Portia de Rossi, actress and wife of comedian Ellen DeGeneres, struggled with anorexia for years. Her weight hit a low of 82 pounds while filming the TV show Ally McBeal, partly due to entertainment industry pressure to be thin and also due to the shame of hiding her sexual orientation. She wrote her book, Unbearable Lightness, for anyone who's ever struggled with body image.
The above quote was from an episode of the brilliant new show, The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet, which airs on Lifetime. Watch a clip from the show here: