Tag Archives: true beauty

I’m Sorry, but Keira Knightley’s Topless Photo Does Not Count as a Win in the War Against Photoshop

I consider myself a somewhat fit person. I try to do yoga at least once a week. I bike to school. I force-feed myself smoothies (I’ve almost convinced myself that I like them). I also think I’m a fairly confident person. The mental image I hold of myself is, if anything, a little too gracious.

Damn girl, you’re looking fine today!

That being said, after unwillingly encountering photo after photo of perfectly photoshopped women day after day, sometimes I start feeling pretty freaking ugly.

This feeling of inadequacy, directly linked to viewing altered images, makes a lot of people wish there was a wider representation of body types in the media. We want to see people who look like us on TV and in magazines. And we want to see those people presented as attractive, not merely as comic relief or as a foil to the attractive characters. Continue reading

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Shame Day: The Body Positive Movement

I was recently listening to a stand-up routine by British comedian Robert Newman, who in the course of an Iraq War joke stated something I thought was pretty dang profound.

“Just because you’re fighting the bad guys doesn’t mean that you’re the good guys.”

I really can’t think of anyone this statement applies better to than the adherents of the rising “Body Positive Movement.”

You hear that, starving kids in Sudan?

Who are these people? Well, the the “body positive” movement is the result of a reaction against the air-brushed, Photoshopped, and ultimately anorexic presentation of beauty offered by mainstream culture. It’s given us Dove’s “True Beauty Campaign” in which “real” women were used as models (hoping you’ll forget that the same people who run Dove run Axe).

It’s given us memes like this:

And it’s given us a host of philosophical epitaphs on how the size of your brain or heart are vastly more important than the size of your waistline.

“Buuuut we’re gonna use a skinny model anyways…”

And it all has a certain logic to it. Forget society’s standards! Be comfortable with who you are! Your insides are all that should count! Reject anorexic beauty standards! Enough making yourself sick trying to pursue unrealistic and unattainable goals! Only you can make you feel inferior!

And so on.

Now I know that it must sound pretty weird that these people would wind up being the subject of a Shame Day. After all, what’s wrong with rejecting the media’s unattainable and anorexic standard of beauty and embracing your body for what it is?

Well, suppose your body looked something like this:

Sure, I could say this guy is “husky” or “bigger” or “shaped differently” or use any other paper-thin euphemism for fat. Doesn’t change a thing. I could name the asteroid about the hit the earth Friendly Ed and there’d still be as much devastation when Edward hits New York. We can call it anything we want- we’re still not changing the fact that being fat isn’t any more healthy than being stick-thin.

“But Gordon, you incandescent beacon of enlightenment, surely these people aren’t advocating anything like that!

And no, not all of them are- but enough of the big players are endorsing pretty much this philosophy. Let me offer this post from The Body Positive’s website as an example. In her article “‘Tis the Season to be Squishy”, Connie Sobczak asserts that there’s really nothing wrong with gaining weight during winter months, as this is simply the body’s natural reaction the cold as a result of evolutionary adaption. And that is true- only Sobczak goes on to use that factual statement to prop up some far more dubious claims.

“So, the next time you ‘feel like a steak’ or ‘need a cookie’ it could be your brain and not your stomach talking.” Out of the mouths of doctors!”

**** That.

What Sobczak is doing here is attempting to twist evolutionary biology into an excuse for lack of self-control. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to eat a bag of chips. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to eat a bag of chips in winter when you need more calories. There’s nothing wrong with stating that as your reason for eating more chips. But taking all of that and coming away with the conclusion that eating chips (or anything else) is retroactively sanctioned by biology and stating that this conclusion is supported by medical professionals is as dishonest as it is deluded.

Case and point.

Look, it’s true that who you are on the inside is vastly more important than who you are on the outside, no one is going to argue that. But let’s talk about excess, people. Let’s talk about gluttony. Aren’t these realities? Let’s compare the number of people who have had become ill or died as a result of being overweight and contrast it to the number who have become ill or died as a result of being underweight in this country. Which side is gonna have claimed more?

Now that ain’t an endorsement of anorexia or our twisted standards by any means, it’s simply a counter-point.

But hey- maybe it’s not a health thing. Maybe it’s just about being comfortable with who you are regardless of your size. That’s the line taken up by comedian Gabriel Iglesias in his stand-up routine.

Towards the end of one of his acts he states that he wouldn’t want to live to be a hundred if it means he couldn’t eat cake. He asserts that working out doesn’t ensure you’ll live long- why not enjoy life while you have it?

Why not indeed?

So if that’s the case, why are we jumping on the bulimic and anorexic members of society in the fist place? Hey- if health isn’t an issue and happiness is, why is a a girl weighing less than seventy five pounds any worse than a girl weighing three hundred? Why is it “Body Positive” for a woman to expand her waistline and self-loathing when she expands her bust line? It just doesn’t pan out.

Look, I’m not here to offer any solutions. I’m six feet tall (when I’m not slouching, which is always) and skinny. I smoke a little bit, drink a little more, and could stand to cut down on the meat and up my intake of fruits and vegetables considerably. I don’t work out, but then again, if wolves were to be introduced to my city, I’d probably be ok. Despite my extreme examples, the vast majority of us are neither morbidly obese or carried off by strong winds. All that’s to say that I’m in no place to pass judgment on anyone, nor is it my intention to do so. I’m simply here to point out the hypocritical and seemingly self-serving logic being employed by the group in question.

Body Positive, shame on you.

Wither Feminism?

This isn’t the first time I’ve lamented about the sorry state of feminism in the culture wars, and it certainly won’t be the last- nevertheless, the time has come for me to really lay out exactly what it is that’s killing feminism.


Sure feminism was necessary at one point, but it’s just not relevant anymore
.

You never hear that stated outright, but it seems to be underlying most responses on why feminism isn’t as major an issue was it was in the 70s or the 60s or the 50s or whenever exactly it was that the last wall of patriarchy supposedly fell.

Let’s face it, women can vote, run for and hold public office, be CEOs or workers, and so on and so forth. Really, shy of being able to serve in combat (American women, anyways), one might argue that all doors are now open. This mentality even seems to be affected most contemporary feminists, who though I am sure have the very best intentions, really can’t find much to rail about themselves. I’ve been through blog post after blog post, article after article, and found that overwhelmingly the subjects being discussed are mostly rants against Todd Akin (not to say that idiot doesn’t deserve it) or retrospectives on the battles of the past. Take a look at the contents of the latest Ms. magazine:

With Wonder Woman at the helm, the issue celebrates 40 years of fearless reporting with 40 Ms. and key feminist moments that shaped our history; birthday letters from dozens of life-long readers; and essays from founding editors Gloria Steinem and Letty Pogrebin, and current Executive Editor Kathy Spillar.

In the special 40th anniversary issue, you’ll also read about:

– What’s at stake for women in the 2012 election

– The significant ballot initiatives in your state

– Record numbers of women running for office

That’s their central points for their fall issue.

Now let’s take a look at Jezebel.

I had a rough time sifting through the articles for one that best demonstrates my point (I know Jezebel isn’t so much a “feminist” website as it is a “women’s interest” one- though exactly what that means I can’t rightly say)- for the most part, they seem tangential at best. “What is it with Women and Law and Order: SVU?”  or “Should Women Run? You’re Damn Right They Should.

That last one’s not talking about running for office- it’s literally about jogging. ‘Cuz apparently there was some blog post asserting that women with a certain body type aren’t cut-out to be runners, and that merited a response. Sure, whoever said that was wrong, but is that what feminists have been reduced to? Chasing down solitary quips of (comparatively) benign misinformation in the ugly bowels of the blogosphere? If that’s the standard for a worthwhile target, Evan and I should be beaten to death for mixing up when the premier of Community is going to be shown.

Please don’t beat us to death…

If this is the substance of the contemporary feminist movement, can you really blame people for feeling that all that’s to be done has been done? Can you really blame people for stereotyping self-proclaimed feminists as just angsty or contrarian? Is feminism just going to wither away?

I hope not- there’s still plenty of work to be done.

See this picture?

It’s from Dove’s “True Beauty” campaign. A series of advertisements aimed at combating anorexic and unrealistic standards of beauty. I’m sure the owners of Dove- a corporation by the name of Unilever- would be proud.

You know what other company Unilever owns?

Yep- these guys.

Now as I have family who read this blog, I’ve got embedded for you below the mildest Axe commercial I can find- be assured that it’s prudish and progressive compared to the rest of ’em.

That’s what we’ve got here- a corporation that on one hand is hawking their products by telling you that you’re beautiful just the way you are, and on the other hand depicting women as mindless dolls in low-cut dresses who can be manipulated with aerosol bottles. The latter alone would be a slap in the face, but that fact that the company is two-faced enough to shamelessly operate both utterly discredits their “True-Beauty Campaign” and exposes the fact that they’re ready, willing, and able to use feminism itself as a vehicle for controlling and objectifying women and perceptions about ’em.

This is Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO, and he can go **** himself.

See, there’s this offshoot of modern feminism called “Sex-positive feminism” (you might know it by other names), which broken down to its most basic elements asserts that women’s use of their sexuality is empowering- and while no one would deny sexuality as an integral part of any human being- more often than not, this line of thought is used to justify strip clubs, prostitution, pornography, etc. as being actually good for women.

Now I’m not going to start accusing the founders of “Sex-positive feminism” of selling out their own movement- I don’t think that’s what their intention was. But then again, such things are what the road to hell is paved with, and even if the goal of this off-shoot was to make sexuality just as empowering as brains or brawn, the simple truth of the matter is that the prostitute isn’t probably viewed by her client as being a more well-rounded person because of her job. Heck- using this logic, I might argue that a twelve year old Honduran girl whose working for 32 cents an hour in a sweatshop is likewise “empowered”.

Strange how “Dead by 26 feminism” isn’t quite as popular…

Feminism isn’t dead- it’s just got a knife at it’s throat, and if saving feminism from becoming a tool of the very system that it was first established to combat isn’t a worthwhile endeavor- I don’t know what is. To anyone who would complain that all the important battles have been won- I present to you this. “Your solution to saving feminism is by saving feminism?” you might ask- and hey, it’s a valid point. But this isn’t just some circular exercise- this is a struggle for what’s really empowering. It’s a fight over messages- will we be told “These shoes are empowering!” or “No- they are shoes– empowerment comes from how far you walk and how much butt you kick.” Isn’t that worth something?

At the very least it beats writing an angry article about how body shape doesn’t exclude you from jogging.

P.S. I know I should also say some stuff about the “Slut Walks” (“Slutwalks”?, “Slut-Walks”?), the issue of rape, the continued problems of worker-manager ratios, etc. but it’s past 1:30 in the morning- please excuse the narrowness of this post.