In Defense of the Selfie

The Mona Lisa gets the duck face treatment

The Mona Lisa gets the duck face treatment

 

A month ago, my dad and I were vacationing in Toronto, Canada. After a thrilling minute-long elevator ride, we were finally at our next destination: the “lookout” level of the CN Tower, 1,136 feet above the ground.

The views were spectacular.

There were so many things to look at—the Art Gallery, the lake, the hotel where we were staying. I pulled out my camera and snapped picture after picture of the view. After I had almost completely exhausted my memory card, I started looking around inside.

Normal tourist activities were going on. Families were crowded around the windows. Some people were buying overpriced snacks. And, of course, countless numbers of people were taking selfies. It was a bit overwhelming to see so many people simultaneously engage in this activity. Backs leaned against glass, arms raised to get the perfect angle.

I am not a selfie-hater, but in that moment I was frustrated by what I was seeing. I thought that these people should be enjoying themselves in what I thought was the appropriate way. For a moment my thoughts flew out of my control.  These people (most of them women) were self-absorbed and self-obsessed.

After we were done upstairs, we took the elevator down and started browsing through the gift shop. During that time my frustration had become focused on myself.

Who was I to judge these people? I didn’t know anything about them.

And I had to admit I was being hypocritical, of course. I’ve taken plenty of selfies and somehow have managed to avoid becoming a self-obsessed monster. But the question remained: Why was I so mad at these women?  Why was I judging them so harshly?

I realized that I was buying into a very pervasive attitude. Society has infected me with its fanatical scorn. The selfie is subject to rampant derision and mockery. Women (especially teenage girls) are blasted for self-absorption and lack of perspective when they take a selfie. Duck faces and peace signs have become unspeakable offenses.

Think about it. What kinds of words are used to describe the young women who have the audacity to cultivate and enjoy their own image? They’re desperate, conceited, and proud. They’re narcissistic attention whores, and they are ruining society.

All this is heaped on us for such a small crime – the crime of declaring and celebrating our own existence by striking a quick pose in front of the camera lens. And why?

Because the more pictures we take of ourselves, the more dangerous we are. The more we look at our own image and say Damn, I look good, the closer we get to loving ourselves and forgetting what society has taught us about beauty.

Every day, the media sends out more and more messages with the same idea: if you are a woman, you aren’t good enough.

You need to lose weight.

You need to get rid of your wrinkles.

Cellulite is gross.

You need to wear more makeup.

If you don’t get your skin cleared up, no one will ever love you.

And so on.

And we buy into it! I know I do. I bought into it so much, I started judging other women for daring to push the norms society has put in place for us.

Well, no more.

Between my cell phone and my computer, I probably have over a hundred selfies. Most of them stay private, though I have a handful smattered across Instagram and Facebook. I keep them private not because I’m ashamed of how I look. I keep them private because they’re for me and me alone. They make me feel good about myself. If I’m having a good hair day or my makeup looks great, you bet I’m going to record it. Stuck inside my pocket or purse is my portfolio: the proof I can give myself that I am beautiful.

So keep taking selfies, ladies! And don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.

by Lauren Bunch

“Anaconda” barely misses the mark for empowerment

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Nicki Minaj in her music video “Anaconda”

 

If you have a Tumblr account or access to the internet at all, you no doubt have seen gifs—if not the actual video—of Nicki Minaj’s newest single “Anaconda.”

Me and Nicki have had a difficult relationship.

Some days I feel like we are the same person and all of her songs speak directly to me—those are the days when I can just sit in awe of her talent.

Other days I feel like she doesn’t even care about gender equality, but rather just about getting ahead.

Most days, though, I acknowledge Minaj is an artist with some feminist leanings, and I respect her for everything she does.

With “Anaconda” popping up all over the internet, I cannot ignore the fact that so many women are feeling empowered by something as simple as a music video. Especially in comparison to the light­hearted and probably poorly timed release of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” Minaj’s “Anaconda” video seems like just the thing we all need to love big “buns, hun.”

The sexual content of the video seems as if it is only there just for show, but, like her more recent videos, Minaj takes hold of the idea of the male gaze and turns it on its head.

Her music video for “Looking” is one of my favorites. She is obviously talking about men who ogle her curvy frame, expecting something from her, but she rebukes them, acknowledging that she doesn’t exist for their pleasure but for her own.

In the video for “Anaconda,” Minaj does the same—at one point going so far as to cut and throw away a banana, opting to eat a strawberry instead.

I could go on for days about how “Anaconda” mirrors numerous videos that sexualize the ethnic body but do so critically, but instead I would like to focus on something that has seemed to stir up a lot of controversy on my social media feeds.

And that is, what about thin­-shaming?

In the conclusion of “Anaconda,” Minaj thin­shams, taunts, and laughs maniacally while saying:

I said, where my fat ass big bitches in the club?

F*** the skinny bitches!

F*** the skinny bitches in the club

I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherf***king club.

F*** you if you skinny bitches WHAT?

Minaj seems to know what she’s doing. It’s not like Meghan Trainor’s “All
 About the Bass,” which includes only one example of thin­shaming and then takes it back by saying, “kidding.”

Minaj is actively thin­shaming. Maybe in response to all the articles that criticize thin­shaming? Whatever the reason, she wants us to know that skinny women do not belong in this specific representation of feminine bodies.

While it is obvious why this kind of othering is problematic, does thin-shaming go deeper than just hurt feelings? Many responses to “Anaconda” have written off women’s feelings as basically whining; however, their criticism is about a lot more than just the crocodile tears of a skinny white girl who’s been shamed for twerking.

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In the black community, there is an appreciation for curvy women. In hip­hop, it’s known that the desired female aesthetic features big butts, big hips, big thighs, and the assumed typical aspects of an Afro­centric female. Think back to your lesson on female sexualization from Women’s Studies 101 when you learned about Sarah Baartmen—the woman from Africa whose very curvy frame was literally studied for science.

While many women of color have this body type, the hip­hop ideal is drastically different from that of mainstream society. In mainstream society you’re either Scarlett Johansson or you’re Cara Delevingne. Being skinny and black means you’re not conventionally attractive. However, large women are still not perceived as conventionally attractive either. If you look at Minaj, she’s got a small waist, flat stomach, and she barely has rolls or flab. That means that what Minaj is pushing is not body positivity but the idealization of one type of body that is often only achieved through genetics or surgery. Yeah, squats equal a nice backside, but does it equal Minaj booty? Certainly not.

While this aspect of her song obviously causes negative feelings for many women of many different races, it would not be a Minaj song if there wasn’t something else she was trying to say.

In case you are not familiar with Nicki Minaj, recently she’s had a “beef” with Iggy Azalea. Minaj has spoken out about how she thinks rap has lost a lot of authenticity because of rappers like Azalea, Macklemore, Kreyshawn, and many other white rappers accused of cultural appropriation.

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Iggy Azalea

 

This problem was made clear this year at the BET Awards when Minaj pleaded that the awards stay “authentic”—in other words, stay black.

But the BET Awards have always included performances by a couple of white singers and rappers, like Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, and Eminem. So as far as the awards go, diversity and talent is the key, not so much a “people of color only” sign.

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Taylor Swift in her new video “Shake It Off”

 

The thin-shaming part of “Anaconda,” though, attacks the cultural appropriation of hip­hop dancing, black culture, and twerking—the kind of cultural appropriation with which so many white celebrities have become obsessed. Society seems fascinated with the sexuality of black women as well as their bodies. This fascination has turned black women’s bodies into a comical act, as well as a fetishization. Minaj dares to fight this concept with her own sense of female empowerment.

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While “Anaconda” maintains plenty of of YAAAASSSSS­factor and slays me every time I watch it (which is a lot more times than I care to admit), I cannot help but acknowledge the problems I have with the video. This includes the expectation of ethnic body types being similar to that of video vixens, and the video’s lack of recognition to the variety of bodies that exist in the black community.

While I have never been the kindest critic of Nicki Minaj, I think the overall intent of “Anaconda” was mostly accomplished, and for that reason I’d be happy to have the music video play on a loop on my tombstone for eternity.

by Leah Railey

A message for my younger self

Middle school graduation, 2004

Last August, I decided to go through my family photos. It had been almost a year after my mother’s death, and I finally felt ready to look through the twenty-two years of precious memories I was fortunate to share with her. My favorites were placed in a pile to be taken to my new apartment.

For most of my life, my parents were quite diligent about taking photos.  The major events were all recorded: birthdays, holidays, vacations. I poured through boxes and envelopes full of pictures, admiring images of a simpler time. There was newborn Lauren, a thicket of dark hair covering her head. There was Lauren on the first day of school, eager and clad in brand new clothes.

Then I came upon a picture that surprised me. I immediately recognized the photo—my dad had taken it on the day of my middle school graduation. My mom was next to me, arm draped across my shoulder.  She smiled largely while I had a hint of a grin on my face. My brown hair came down past my shoulders. I wore an orange sundress and my face was riddled with a handful of red pimples.

It was astonishing to see this moment that had been housed in the fuzzy corners of my mind. I didn’t remember looking like that. The most pervasive memories of my pre-teen years are stained with anger and frustration.  I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. I felt like my body was out of my control.  I didn’t fit in and was teased constantly.

As a result, the feelings that picture brought up were completely unexpected. I felt regret, but not for the reasons I might have thought. I felt regret because I had been so very hard on myself.

Clutching that picture in my hand, I wished I had been kinder to myself back then. The girl in the photo was not a monster. She was not the massive waste of space she thought she was. She was an awkward, gawky, chubby, normal girl. And she was lovely.

I have two ongoing goals that I would like to work on this semester during my internship with I Will Not Diet. One, I want to encourage women and girls everywhere to be nicer to themselves. The problems we have with our bodies aren’t going to be solved with anger and self-flagellation. I truly believe that when you feel good about yourself, personal health follows. If we can stop beating ourselves up and try to love ourselves, we’ll all feel so much better.

With that in mind, my second goal is to be kinder to myself. I want to be able to love myself no matter what shape my body is. This is obviously easier said than done, but I am committed. I hope that other women and girls will join me as I learn to love what I see in the mirror.

by Lauren Bunch

Welcome to our new intern!

Lauren

It’s the start of a new semester, and that means a new intern at I Will Not Diet. Woot!

This semester’s intern is Lauren Bunch, a junior at Western Kentucky University, majoring in creative writing with minors in English literature and professional writing.

Lauren was born and raised in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville. In her free time, she likes to read and cultivate her love of horror movies, especially The Conjuring and Night Watch. She is a fiction writer at heart but enjoys writing in many genres and about numerous topics.

I hope you will all support Lauren by liking her posts here and on our Facebook page this semester.

Welcome, Lauren!

Friendship is magic: reflecting on the semester

My favorite movie right now is Frances Ha, a film about a 28-year-old woman who has a little trouble growing up and finding someone she truly loves. The movie could very easily be turned into a movie all about a landing a guy, but instead it’s about friendship and taking your time to develop into the woman you dream of being.

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Frances and Sophie from Frances Ha

 

I bring this movie up because when I think of what I have learned this semester as the intern for I Will Not Diet, it’s that friends are so important. It’s easy to pretend that I love myself all by myself, but that’s not the truth. The truth is we all have good and bad days, and there is something that keeps a lot of us going even on the bad days.

Some of the people I have talked with while working on The Real You Project have told me stories about how they grew to love themselves. Many of the stories and advice they give reinforce the importance of friendship.

Regardless of the importance of having a positive body-image, I have been not so nice to my own self-esteem lately. It is easy to tell others how beautiful they are and be completely honest about it. It’s not so easy to tell yourself that. That is where I am in life. I can say a hundred mirror mantras, wear the cutest clothes, and take a million selfies but something is still missing. Part of it is loneliness and that goes hand in hand with the fear of never finding someone who loves curvy bodies as much as I want to love my own. Part of it is isolation as well as separating myself from the people and things that make me feel pretty and happy.

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Leah and her friend Hilary

 

After being down for a while I just got out of the apartment. I went to a few parties. I talked with wonderful people.

It was like magic.

I still am not in the best mood about how I look, but the change that took place was drastic. For the first time in my life I was having conversations with people I barely knew, and I was smiling authentically.

The medicine that got me to that point was friendship.

It sounds clichéd, but at the end of the day returning home to an empty house with mirrors everywhere and nobody to talk to can get exhausting. Whenever there is someone there who is willing to watch silly horror movies on Netflix and eat cheese-sticks and fried mushrooms, it can turn a bad day into something great.

I have learned that sometimes a good friend is the best antidote to a low self-esteem, and a best friend is the only thing that can boost a Monday.

—By Leah Railey

 

The Real You Project is now looking for photos and videos

Visibility is a key part of the body-revolution.

Putting yourself out there and claiming that your body type—along with the body types of endless others—is beautiful and should not be ignored. Many body types have been kept out of the media for years, and the best way to change that is to put ourselves into the media.

We here at I Will Not Diet created an online project a while ago called The Real You Project. Before the project, we asked people to submit pictures of themselves that they liked, but also were not filtered or altered in any way.

This year we’re changing that structure of The Real You Project a little bit by adding videos and self-love photos.

The videos The Real You is now featuring are ones in which people discuss their personal stories about how they have learned to love the way they look. The story can be told just by talking to the screen or in a more creative way such as a poem or song. These videos are designed to encourage you to find your voice and share it with us. And then we’ll give you a place to be heard in the hopes that your story will make someone out there feel less alone.

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The self-love photos are simply photos in which the person pictured holds up an index card or whiteboard that explains what they love about their body. This will hopefully become a tool in which readers and patrons can show positivity about themselves and embrace all types of love for their bodies.

Ideally The Real You Project will include as wide a variety of people as possible. Your submission of a photo or video can help make visible the various types of people that exist in this world and allow you all to share your very different stories.

We would like to encourage you to be a part of The Real You Project, and help keep the body-positive revolution strong.

To do so, please email your photo or video to realyouproject@gmail.com.

Taking up space:
Why plus-size actors on television are important

For a period of my life I was told by my peers and by society that I was always in the way.

Being bigger means taking up space, space that belongs to people who are thinner, blonder, and supposedly prettier. Even in the body-positive movement, anti-fat-shaming activists are often told they take up too much space. 

I’ve had some experience with this myself.

In my university’s campus-wide newspaper, a recent cover story featured a thin girl who shared her feelings on thin-shaming, saying that these campaigns make her feel bad about being thin. But the article missed its mark, not because her feelings aren’t valid, but because it fat-shames those who aren’t thin, not to mention the fact that it was the first body-positive piece on the front page of the paper and did not even touch on fat-shaming except as it compares to thin-shaming. 

I replied with a very agitated letter-to-the-editor, and almost immediately someone else replied with another saying that my letter was thin-shaming yet again. 

And the accusations didn’t stop there.

I was bombarded by people who claimed by “have class” with the young woman featured in the story, and they all swore to me that she’s not dumb, which I never even implied, and that she must have been misquoted or something. I felt like I had to defend myself every five minutes.

I felt, once again, like I was taking up too much space.

But I really wasn’t because what I had to say was a valid representation of how I have felt all my life—first as a girl who was never less than chubby and now as a woman who always seems to get in the way.

Taking up space on television

This is why shows like The Mindy Project, Girls, and My Mad Fat Diary make me feel so good about everything. They force viewers to look at their bodies, bodies that have likely been ridiculed by the community of misogynistic, body-shaming bullies that exist in this country.

Now that viewers are being made to look at women like this has made me feel more comfortable in my own body. 

As a woman who has been made fun of for her weight, one of the biggest things I have battled with is my sexuality. How can I be sexy when I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model? How can anyone love a body that rolls and folds and flaps and jiggles? My body even made me question what was wrong with guys who were attracted to me. I actually thought only a screwed-up guy would think fat is cute.

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Rae Earl the author of the book, My Mad Fat Diary, that the television show was inspired by.

But women like Kaling and Dunham either disregard that idea or take it and flip it on its head.

In one Girls episode, Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham’s character) wears a neon string bikini the entire episode—allowing the viewer to see cellulite everywhere on her body and watch as the bottom of her suit rolls up her butt. Despite this, I realized she looked just as good as everyone else in the episode.

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Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in tv series Girls

Actually I thought she looked better.

In that moment, I not only wanted that bikini, but also wanted to wear it everywhere  I went—even when I didn’t have to.

While Hannah is prancing around half-naked on Girls, Rae on My Mad Fat Diary has a romantic life with boys her age that like her for who she is. She doesn’t only have sex; she is also admired by so many male characters that it makes me feel simultaneously envious and proud. Rae thinks that boys won’t like her because she’s brash, loud, funny, and fat, but actually that’s why they like her.

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Sharon Rooney as Rae Early in the tv series My Mad Fat Diary

In the “Inappropriate Adult” episode, Rae is sexually harassed by a guy she’s been seeing, and he tells her that she should appreciate his coming on to her because no one else will think she’s attractive. She responds so brilliantly because she tells him off and leaves the party. She didn’t break down and she acted with such strength that I cried for the rest of the episode because I knew, if that were me, I probably wouldn’t be as strong.

In the show, Rae chooses when she wants to have sex. Sometimes it’s not always the right choice, but it’s the result of her self image rather than being because of a poor body image. We also realize that a poor self image is the reason her skinny best friend has problems and makes the wrong decisions too, showing us that thin women can struggle with insecurity too. It also shows that insecurity goes beyond looks sometimes. 

Ultimately the popularity of these shows—and their characters’ bodies—allow women to take up the space they need to feel whole. 

And that means, for once, I want to take up space, I want people to tell me, “You’re in my way. Move, fatty,” so that I can respond by taking up more space on their favorite TV channels, their favorite TV shows, their favorite award shows and in their water cooler conversations, their text messages, their blogs, their Facebook cover photos.

I want them to see me so they know that their ridicule and bullying has not stopped me from being talked about, praised, criticized, and acknowledged.

After all, if we don’t take up that space, who will?

—by Leah Railey

What is so different about Frozen?

Elsa and Anna as children

Elsa and Anna as children

Before I watched Frozen I wondered what makes it such a big deal. The movie was talked up by friends who are feminists and associates that who aren’t very feminist at all.

Finally a movie that resonates with so many different people! It must be worth watching, right? I decided to take a look for myself.

During my first viewing, I hoped to understand the significance of the very Aryan main character, Elsa. But, after watching the movie, I still didn’t understand why she’s the focus of the promos when she isn’t even the focus of the movie, but instead follows her sister Anna.

It actually made me angry that this character was featured more in promos than Anna, who is brunette and not as princess-like as Elsa.

Interestingly, Elsa’s conventional blonde hair and blue eyes actually sets her apart from the people in her kingdom. This begs the question, why couldn’t the filmmakers represent her differences in a way that is not something I already see everyday? What if she had darker skin or a thicker body? What if she didn’t look like every Disney princess out there and that was what made her different?

After watching the movie I thought it was cute, but there were only two parts that really stuck with me: the scene in which Anna sings “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman” and the scene in which Elsa sings “Let it Go.”

“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” shows the isolation that Elsa is required to have from her sister after she has hurt Anna. It shows a female relationship that is flawed in a heartbreaking way as it shows the two inches away from each other but separated by walls both physical and metaphorical. The scene’s emotion is so strong in a subtle way that shows the relationship the sisters have with each other.

“Let it Go” was a scene I had seen several times before. The song is beautiful and strong and empowering. In this scene Elsa becomes liberated. Her secret sorcery is out and known, and, therefore, she is free. This song encourages people to be open about who they are, even if they’re told it’s not right or accepted. This scene is something I wish I could have seen when I was younger. Even as a twenty-one-year-old feminist I still empowered just from singing along with the song. If the movie ended at this scene, I probably would have been as crazy about Frozen as most of my friends. I wasn’t convinced that this song was the most empowering moment of the film, but I also could not read anymore into it on my own. I took to the internet to see if I was missing some larger message.

Much to my surprise the movie has been seen as having a strong pro-gay sentiment in many scenes. Some critics talk about the ways in which Elsa’s ice sorcery is a metaphor for sexual orientation; they also talk about the many ways in which this movie promotes female strength and independence and suggests that princesses can be seen as leaders rather than just as arm candy for princes.

In many ways this movie is progressive and asks us to take a second look at it, the movie’s purpose extends beyond sisterly relationships and after a second glance that becomes a little more apparent.

And that makes me think, maybe this movie isn’t so bad after all.

But not quite.

What if Elsa looked like this?

What if Elsa looked like this?

Women of color are non-existent in this film. The main female characters are the same women who we’ve seen in princess movies for decades. It is great that Disney has made a princess that actually intends to rule, but there isn’t the slightest allusion to princesses in other parts of the world that might provide a bit of diversity.

Ultimately, Disney has failed to create a female character that is actually relate-able. You can find alternatives to Elsa all over the internet. How interesting would a race-bending Elsa be?

My next problem with the movie is that there are so many men. The movie is about sisters, but unnecessary male character still get about the same amount of time on screen as Elsa and Anna. Anna needs men to help her get to her sister. Elsa is the only one who doesn’t need a man; instead she makes a monster to protect her from the “bad guys.” The movie is still reinforcing gender roles as it has in many other Disney movies.

Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed the movie for the most part, but there was always something missing, something that didn’t hook me the way I was hooked with Brave or even Tangled.

This movie may have been the most progressive movie to come from Disney, but I would say it’s far from the best movie I’ve ever seen. I would say that you should go see it for yourself and decide if it really is the most influential Disney princess movie you’ve ever seen.

Oscar wrap-up, part two: Why we need to talk about Kim Novak

The Oscars were just over a week ago, but I’m still talking about them because I haven’t gotten around to talking about the appearance of Kim Novak, and I feel I must.

If you don’t know, Kim Novak was one of the most sought-after starlets of the ’50s and ’60s, starring in dozens of films, most memorably as the object of Jimmy Stewart’s obsession in Hitchcok’s Vertigo.

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And if you weren’t watching the Oscars a week ago, you may not know that Novak, now 81 years old, appeared there as a presenter, but was almost unrecognizable because of the amount of work she’s had done on her face in order to appear much younger than she is.

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When Novak walked on the strage, gripping the arm of her co-presenter, Matthew McConaughey, like she might either fall over or fall apart without him, a hush fell over the Dolby Theatre as everyone in the audience—and all of us watching at home—realized that Novak had decided she would rather her skin appear smooth and artificial than wrinkled and old.

It was honestly the saddest moment of the whole night.

And, in that moment, it hit me that this is what we do to women in this country—we teach them that their value is derived solely from their physical appearance, we teach them that it’s better to look unreal than to look elderly, that it’s better to look plastic than wrinkled, that it’s better to hide who they are than to be themselves.

As Oscar Host Ellen Degeneres jokingly said, “I’m not saying movies are the most important thing in the world. I’m not saying that—because the most important thing in the world is youth.”

In that way, Kim Novak’s appearance at the Oscars last Sunday sums up everything that’s wrong with our expectations for American women, who are taught over and over again that looking young and pretty is a goal worth achieving at any cost.

A cost Novak seems more than willing to pay.

And I’m terrified that I’ll see her choices repeated over and over and over again on the faces of the women around me as time and science march on.

I was lucky enough to be at the beach yesterday, and the middle-aged mother sitting next to me was literally wearing a string bikini.

A leopard-print spring bikini.

I was pretty sure she was around my age, and sure enough, later in the day, I heard her say that she “wasn’t forty YET.” (I’m 43.)

Despite the fact that we are virtually the same age, this woman had the body of a twenty-year-old. Her upper body was flawless—with sculpted abs, a flat stomach, and toned arms—and her legs had only enough cellulite for someone who was really looking to notice.

Still, though a part of me admired her discipline—you don’t keep a body like that into your 40s without a hell of a lot of trips to the gym—I didn’t envy her. Because all I could think was that her charade would soon be coming to an end, and when it did, she’d have to face the fact that she wouldn’t be young forever.

I worry, too, that such a realization will send beautiful women like her straight to the plastic surgeon where they can be nipped and injected and tucked until no sign of their aging appears. But no sign of their former selves either.

Despite this, I can’t help but note that Novak—and other women in Hollywood like her, who have chosen the plastic surgery route over the age naturally route—are the ones who aren’t really working as actors anymore.

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Though you wouldn’t know if from the pictures above, at 82, Maggie Smith is only one year older than Novak, and despite the fact that she has chosen not to hide her age, she continues to work with much success.

Judi Dench, 79, too has embraced her age, and her career is thriving…

Judi Dench

Though younger than Novak, Smith, and Dench, Susan Sarandon, 67…

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and Diane Keaton, 68, have done the same…

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So if the women who are getting work in Hollywood are the ones who are not afraid to age naturally, I can’t help but wonder why Novak—and others like her—are so afraid to do so that they engage in such risky behavior.

Perhaps looking into Novak’s past will give us the answer.

When Novak was twenty, the modeling agency where she worked described her this way: “Hands, marginal; legs, hefty; neck and face, flawless.” Pretty soon “studio executives made her cap her teeth, bleach her hair, shrink her body with a strict diet and exercise regime, and perpetually paint her face with the help of a personal makeup artist.” And Novak’s agent used to “read her every bad review she got. And she got plenty; Novak was never a darling of the press. If she tried something dramatic, she was wooden. If she did a sexy role, she was too heavy, too dumb. When she went to the Oscars one year and posed on the red carpet, one columnist sniped that Novak was ‘aping Marilyn’s every move.’”

It’s not hard to understand why someone whose been put through that kind of scrutiny would be afraid to be herself. My God, it seems that Hollywood probably destroyed not only Novak’s self-esteem but her looks as well. Perhaps the reason that actresses like Dench and Smith were never obsessed with staying young is because their faces were not as famous as Novak’s in their youth.

And maybe what we can learn from Novak is that, unless we stop worshipping at the alter of youth and physical perfection, then we all run the risk of some day, like Novak, falling victim to the belief that there is only one kind of beauty.

It’s sad to admit, but it seems that Novak has suffered such a fate.

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Oscar wrap-up, part one: The world is round, people!

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The Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night closed out a film season that, for me, seemed to go on and on and on.

But the night was anything but an afterthought since, thankfully, two insanely awesome things happened…

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1) A deserving film—12 Years a Slave—won the Oscar for best picture. This almost makes up for Crash beating Brokeback Mountain. Almost.

and, more pertinently,

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2) Cate Blanchett gave the speech of her life, castigating Hollywood for their absurd sexism and calling for more female-driven films. She hinted at this idea the night before at the Spirit awards, saying, “there is a myth that female-driven movies don’t make money.”

And at the Oscars she called out those “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”

Of course, Blanchett could not be more right.

Not only is the earth round, but audiences DO want to see movies about women. And everything from The Hunger Games to My Big Fat Greek Wedding proves it.

Despite this, in 2013, only 28.4% of speaking roles in top 100 films went to women.

And if we don’t have more films about women, we’ll never be able to feel good about ourselves or our bodies because we will always feel like we’re playing second-string to dudes.

And, really, isn’t it finally time that we let go of the idea that men are more interesting, important, and movie-worthy?

Not only do we need more films about women, we also need more films made by women. As Brapointed out on Twitter last Sunday, there weren’t ANY women nominated in the Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects categories this year, AND no women has EVER been nominated for the cinematography award.

This doesn’t really surprise me.

I’ve worked on a few short films myself, and on each of those films (including one made by a female Academy Award winner) only men were allowed to operate the camera, as if it were made of some anti-woman Kryptonite.

Again, women are never going to have a positive self-image if we aren’t allowed to contribute to the images we see on our screens.

Blanchett’s speech and 12 Years a Slave’s win weren’t the only high points on Oscar nights. A few other highlights that are good for women and the way we see ourselves…

1) After the male-centric hero montage, Whoopi Goldberg said, “Not all heroes wear capes and masks. Sometimes they wear ruby slippers.”

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2) Thankfully, there were no songs about boobs.

3) The Oscars were MUCH more inclusive this year, giving awards to more than one token person of color, highlighting the role of women in film, and even featuring presenters from movies that weren’t up for Oscars. Maybe the Academy is finally getting it. Maybe.

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4) Ellen challenged the notion that women should be judged by the way they look by rejecting the idea that a female host must change her outfit at every commercial break. Instead of constantly showing up on stage in one stunning outfit after another, Ellen only changed only from a black tux to a white one and back to black again, and then commented on the change, saying in a matter-of-fact voice, “Oh, yeah, I changed clothes” as if it were the least important thing in the world, which obviously it is.
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5) On a related note, let’s not forget that Ellen Degeneres is a lesbian who doesn’t even wear dresses, thereby shattering the myth that beautiful successful women in Hollywood must wear evening gowns and be seen on the arm of a smoking hot guy. In case you missed it, the world really is round.
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6) Ellen also shattered the myth that celebrities never eat junk food and that they have no problem sitting at a bloated awards ceremony without food by ordering pizza and serving it to everyone from Meryl Streep to Jamie Foxx. As Ellen pointed out, the Oscars are a lot like The Hunger Games: “Everybody’s starving, there are cameras everyone, and Jennifer Lawrence won last year.”
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7) Oh, and speaking of Ellen, she killed it. That selfie was especially brilliant because it showed us—perhaps for he first time in Oscar history—celebrities acting like real people rather than depicting them as cardboard cut-outs who look and act perfectly all the time.
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Overall, it was a good night, but there are still some things to fret over. Tune in soon for more.
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