Archive for notions of beauty

It’s never too late to change: Belle Vere = True Beauty.

Well, it’s about time.


A major fashion magazine has F I N A L L Y featured curvy women on its cover. The honor goes to the latest issue of Vogue Italia, which can be seen above. (The rest of the photos I’ve included here are from the cover story.) As Time magazine says, “Vogue Italia has thrown the fashion world a major curveball — by placing three plus-size models on its June 2011 cover.” (Please not the plus-size models are size six and up.) And even better is that these women look stunning. As one blogger writes, “You see real confidence in their eyes—they KNOW they are beautiful.”

I truly believe we are in the middle of a paradigm shift about what it means to be beautiful—people are beginning to believe that beauty does not come in just one size or shape. We’re seeing more diversity in women’s body sizes in film (Bridesmaids) and television (Mad Men, Huge, Glee), and corporations like Dove are committed to helping us reassess what it means to be attractive.

For some time now, Glamour magazine has been devoted to featuring women of all sizes in its pages, and now Vogue Italia has jumped on the curvy bandwagon. And for the first time ever a first lady with a real body is seen as a fashion icon.

But in order to keep this change happening, we have to keep supporting the movement. I’ll probably not get a subscription to Vogue Italia since half the women in it are naked, but I will order the new Vogue Curvy and continue to get Glamour and support real-sized women every chance I get.
Here’s one easy thing you can do: vote in this poll about Vogue Italia‘s choice to feature real-sized women on their cover and tell them you say YES to curvy women!

Lesson # 3,420

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

I talked to one of the women’s studies classes on campus today, and I was completely moved by the students’ stories . . .

. . . stories of dads who tell daughters with BMIs of 17 that they’ve gained too much weight in college

. . . stories of athletes who are considered obese by the National Institute of Health because of their muscle mass

. . . stories of women who started dieting when they were nine.

Yes, I said nine.

Not only did their stories teach me—yet again—that we must expand the way we define beauty in our society, but their comments also provided me with material I’d overlooked.

After class, one of the students emailed me and said:

You have probably already seen this video, but its one of my favorite music videos because it addresses the same thing[s]” we talked about in class today.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have actually not watched this video. I’ve always loved the song but never before seen the emotional images that go with it. I hope you all are as moved by it as I was.

Photoshop of Horrors










In case you haven’t heard, I want to tell you about the latest controversy surrounding “plus”-size supermodel Crystal Renn (pictured here).

As you may remember from my “Real is the new sexy” post, Renn wrote a memoir called Hungry about her early years in modeling—how she struggled to stay below 100 pounds when she first started modeling and how she now rejects that time in her life as unhealthy.

Because of this, the fashion world was a bit taken aback when this photo of Renn appeared a few weeks ago . . .












I have to admit that when I first saw the photo, I was angry with Renn who battled anorexia during her early days as a model. I felt like she had given up on her promise to live in a healthy manner and accept herself the way she is—curves and all. But I was wrong to blame Renn, and it didn’t take long for the truth to come out.

In reality, Renn is actually not as thin as this photo makes her look. The photo has actually been altered to make her look much thinner.

Here is one of the the original photos from that shoot (in color) and the altered photo (in black and white). . .












(If you’d like to read a detailed analysis of how this dramatic change occured, go to Jezebel.)

What’s most appalling is that the photographer, Nicholas Routzen, defended his decision to shrink Renn’s thighs and waistline. He said, “I’m paid to make women look beautiful.”

Um, what???

Crystal Renn IS beautiful. You don’t need to do anything to “make” her look beautiful.

And, besides, hasn’t this guy heard that beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes? Or that thin does not necessarily equal beautiful?

Simply put, what an ass.

Renn clearly agrees. She told Glamour magazine, “When I saw the pictures, I think I was silent for a good five minutes, staring with my mouth open . . . I don’t know what was done to those photos or who did it, but they look retouched to me. And listen, everybody retouches, but don’t make me into something I’m not.”

She’s obviously right—we have simply got to stop making models and celebrities into something they’re not. And this side-by-side comparison proves that magazine photos are altered WAY more than any of us realize. I think it’s safe to say that most of the images blasted at us in the media are about as real as Jessica Rabbit. Something to keep in mind next time you’re flipping through a celebrity-laden magazine at the checkout counter.

These Kids Today

190 pounds

Like almost everyone on the planet, I’m spending the holidays with family. Dave and I always come to Florida in December to see my parents, and this year—for the first time ever—my sister and her family are here too.
My sister has two girls, and I absolutely adore both of them, which means I’m thrilled to get some time with them over the holidays.
But sometimes I worry about them.
Today we took my two nieces out for the day, and at one point, my older niece pointed to my middle and said, “You have a big stomach.”
I tried to explain that my “big stomach” was a result of my recent surgery, but she was having none of it.
“You look like you’re pregnant,” she said with a small laugh.
Though many women with fibroids do look pregnant, I really don’t, but I do look bloated, and as the daughter of two of the fittest people I know, I could understand why she might make that mistake. So I tried to explain.
The girls already knew that I had my uterus—or as they call it, my “baby holder”—taken out, so I went from there: “I look pregnant because my uterus used to have a whole bunch of tumors in it that stretched my stomach out the same way it would if I had a baby.”
“Oh,” my niece said. “Okay.”
And just to clarify, I added: “It’ll probably go back to normal by next summer.”
You might be thinking that it was unnecessary for me to go into so much detail with my nine-year-old niece, but I saw this as a “teachable” moment (as much as I hate that overused term): I wanted them to understand that a big tummy does not necessarily have anything to do with being overweight or being unattractive and that they shouldn’t assume it does.
And I was glad that I used that moment when I had it because it was only a few hours later when my niece told me that I look twenty years older than my thirty-six-year-old sister (her mother) because I am bigger than she is.
The old me would have been gutted by this comment, but it honestly didn’t hurt my feelings. Still, it did bother me on a soci0political level, especially since I know she was also thinking that my sister is also prettier because she’s smaller.
Since we were sitting with the whole family when she said it, I decided to discuss the issue with her more later and simply told my niece that size has nothing to do with age. But tomorrow I fully intend to talk to her about her implied connection between size and beauty.
Again, you may think that I should keep my mouth shut or just let it go as kid talk, but I fully believe that if we don’t teach the young women in our lives—be they daughters, granddaughters, or nieces—to expand their notion of what kind of women are attractive, then we’ll still be talking about these same issues twenty years from now.
No, my niece will never have to worry about her own body image—her genes guarantee that—but she will affect how other women see themselves, and I refuse to sit by and let her continue to go through life with such a narrow definition of beauty.

Delusional Girl

194 pounds

One of the reasons I started this blog in the first place was to dispel the notion that we should be ashamed of the numbers on the scale and that they have anything to do with how good we look or how attractive we feel.
For years, I believed that I had to keep my weight secret because it was so different than the numbers we hear women talking about in the media. Granted, most of these women are celebrities, but I still felt—even when I was in perfect shape—that my number was somehow wrong and, thus, conveyed something ugly about how I looked.
When I meet people now or when readers check out my blog, I get the feeling that they imagine that I have always struggled with my weight. But that’s not the case. This misconception might be my fault because I’ve talked before about how, even as a kid, I weighed more than everyone else. And though that’s true, I was never overweight. I was not even a few pounds overweight. Not as a child—when my BMI was around 21—or as an adult when my BMI was 24 from the time I began college until I hit my later twenties. I was, at around 150 pounds, very fit, and I stayed that way by exercising regularly—something I have done all of my life—though I never worried about what I ate because I was still young enough that I could eat whatever I wanted. In truth, I was in perfect shape until I had a skiing accident when I was 26 years old that kept me off my feet for three months. I know it sounds silly, but the only reason I weighed a little bit more than other women my size before that was simply because I was big boned.
Still, when people found out I how much weighed in my twenties, they would act appalled. All the time, people would say to me, “You don’t look like you weigh 150!” and I would enjoy the compliment to some degree. But deep down I felt like my weight was something to be ashamed of. I had the sense that every other physically fit woman my age weighed less than 125 pounds, that I was the exception, and that I would never be attractive until I hit that magical number.
Since my skiing accident, I have learned a good deal more about women’s bodies and now know that there aren’t very many adult women who weigh less than that magical number, and recently I had a chance to put that theory to the test.
Some of my students have been reading a Joyce Carol Oates’ novel called Black Girl/White Girl about a delusional college student. One of the more disturbing things about this character is that she believes that, at 5’8″ and 140 pounds, she is unattractive and overweight. At my age, most of us know that’s not true—a woman that height and weight has a BMI of 21—but what surprised me was that my students—most of them between the ages of 18 and 22—knew that as well. They repeatedly get offended when the protagonist calls herself—and her similarly sized roommate—fat. I was thrilled by their skepticism about her weight, but for weeks, it didn’t occur to me that it was because most of them weigh more than the characters in the book. I think this was because I still cleaved to the idea that attractive, thin women—because most of my college students are super thin—have to weigh less than 140 pounds.
Then it hit me: maybe my students were shocked by the protagonist’s attitude precisely because they don’t weigh that little either.
So I decided to put this theory to the test and asked those who weighed less than 140 pounds to raise their hands. I was SURE that half of the girls in each class would raise their hands, but only two girls in my first class raised their hand and only one did in my second.
I was shocked. Apparently, I still bought into the idea that super thin = super light.
And what surprised me even more was that the young women who did raise their hand were really, really, really tiny people. Not just thin, but also pretty short. They were, in truth, petite little girls.
And many of the women who didn’t raise their hands are in great shape and very attractive. Like I said, it shocked me to realize that even though I think and write about these issues all the time, deep down I still believe that all of the thin and fit women I see on a daily basis are tipping the scales at little more than 100 pounds.
This is, of course, good and bad news. Bad news because it means that somewhere deep inside of me, in a place I don’t even know is there, I still buy into unattainable standards of beauty. But the good news is that it also means that those standards really are both ridiculous and incorrect.
So when I get on the scale tomorrow morning, I’m going to remind myself that I can finally let go of that magical number, a number I’ve I always known I’d never achieve, but a number I’ve nevertheless been obsessed with all of my life.
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