Archive for acceptance

Why do we hate boobies?
In which I Will Not Diet officially becomes NSFW

 

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Okay, we all knew this was coming. From the second I started blogging here this post was on the horizon, biding its time until it could finally strike this unsuspecting blog and its innocent readers. [Editor’s note—you know what, Rachel? I honestly didn’t know this was coming. But I’m so glad it is.] So here it is everybody—my titty post.

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Boobs are, obviously, fantastic. Everybody likes them. Straight men, gay women, gay men, and straight women—everybody loves the tits. It’s a fact. It’s a universal constant. And the general logic with boobies is the bigger the better.

However, allow me to bring in my unpopular opinion… I think that big boobs are going out of style.

“Bwaaa?” you say, possibly doing a spit take. “But everybody likes big boobs!”

And, of course, ostensibly that’s true. I, for instance, love me some big boobs. One of the few victories I have in the world of siblings is that I have the biggest boobs of my three sisters. (I mean, they’re both A-Cups, but still.)

But I think it’s becoming increasingly apparent that, while society may talk a big talk about loving big boobs, they don’t do a whole lot to show that love.

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I got to thinking about this primarily because of a recent episode of Project Runway. Or, to be more specific, several episodes of Project Runway.

See, every season of Project Runway has at least one challenge where the contestants have to design a dress for a woman who is (GASP) not a supermodel.

And every times this happens (even though this happens every damn season and the designers should clearly see it coming) there is at least one contestant who looks at their average-sized woman and proclaims something to the effect of “What? I have to sew around boobs?!?!?

And the justification they always end up making is that they’ve never had to sew for average-sized women before! And boobs are hard! And why can’t I just keep making clothes for flat-chested size double zeros forever?

And they never seem to find it concerning they they’ve gone their whole career without ever making clothes for a woman with breasts (which in my experience are a very normal and common thing for women to have).

 Tim Gunn is obviously still a gem of a human being though.

Tim Gunn is obviously still a gem of a human being though.

 

The truth is, the fashion industry is very hostile towards titties. Take, for instance, fashion model Jourdan Dunn, who wasn’t allowed to walk for Dior because her boobs were too big.

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And we see the effects of this even outside the world of “high fashion.” Every big-boobied lady knows the struggles. All the cute lacy bras are in the little sizes, the only “modest” neckline is a turtleneck, and button-up shirts do that thing.

We live in a society that can 3-d print organs, but we can’t fix this?

We live in a society that can 3-d print organs, but we can’t fix this?

 

I’m sure we’re all aware that little breasted ladies have to deal with their own trials and tribulations as well. Don’t worry little titmice, I get it.

 It’s tough.

It’s tough.

 

But can you imagine the struggles of the ladies who are bigger than a D cup? Have you even seen a G or H cup bra for sale at Target? Because the lack of such bras is not due to the lack of G and H cup women, it’s due to a lack of interest in making such bras easily available.

And let’s not pretend that this is limited only to the fashion industry. I used to know a girl with a pretty big set of lung protectors, and she mentioned once how, at a mock interview, the interviewer told her, flat out, “you have to accept that women in your position are more susceptible to looking unprofessional. A shirt that clings like that would not be acceptable.”

I mean, she was wearing a suit, but society has still deemed this specific body part to be unprofessional. It’s worrisome.

And I think that we all know the dirty little secret behind this, which is that our society’s rejection of all things “chubby” has extended even to boobs, the two things which are supposedly allowed to be large on a lady.

But, you know, it might be a little more insidious than that. Boobs are a handy symbol of femininity. A happy bouncy fun symbol of femininity. And the lesson we’re giving to those members of the nitty gritty titty committee is that their boobs should be enjoyed by everybody but them. Yes, big boobs are fine for porn and movies and comic books, but Lord knows we aren’t gonna actually allow them out in the real world!

But Amy Schumer and her boobs continue to make the world a better place.

But Amy Schumer and her boobs continue to make the world a better place.

 

So my point is not that I don’t think big boobs are great, it’s that I think that everybody knows that they’re great, but society’s dumb standards towards women and bodies has trapped us in the no-win scenario of telling ladies that their badonkadonks are shameful, need to be hidden, and are generally unacceptable. The question we have to ask is—who wins from this? What monster benefits from beautiful boobies being hidden away and trapped in beige, ill-fitting bra prisons?

Nobody does. My point is, it’s stupid. Boobs are delightful and wonderful, and we need to stop punishing ladies for having them.

 I’m sure you were all eagerly awaiting a nip pic.

I’m sure you were all eagerly awaiting a nip pic.

 

-Rachel Sudbeck

Puberty is a Rip-Off
In which I fish for compliments and ponder the struggles of being short.

So here’s a question for you…

At what age, exactly, did you first realize that you weren’t going to be beautiful?

Like, maybe you were okay looking, but when did you realize that you were never gonna be heart-stoppingly life-destroyingly gorgeous?

For me, it was a very specific moment. I was at the orthodontist in eighth grade, and he was looking at an x-ray of my hand to determine how much longer it would be until I could get jaw surgery.

“Well, you see,” he said to my mother, “there’s no real space left between the bones of her hand, so she’s pretty much done growing.”

And that was the moment when I realized that this was where I peaked.

See, I’m a pretty short person, and I don’t mean the tiny, fae-like sort of short. I’m more like the…stubby, hobbit kind of short. I’ve been short since day one. I was a short baby probably. I started out short, and whenever I grew, the other kids grew proportionately, so it’s just been a lifetime of shortness.

This has only been exacerbated by my twin brother, who is a giant. He has always been a giant. He is, currently, over a foot taller than me. They literally thought he was going to eat me in the womb. It’s probably the biggest injustice of my life.

And the real issue is that, when you’re a short kid and your behemoth of a brother is making fun of your shortness, adults always say the same thing: “She’ll grow.”

They talk about how they were short as a kid, or they throw around fancy words like “growth spurt” and “growing pains,” and it all adds up to that fact that I entered into puberty with certain expectations. There I was—little fifth grade worm Rachel—waiting to enter a pubescent chrysalis stage and bust out of it as sexy grown-up butterfly Rachel.

Now, I knew that there would be a given amount of acne, and I understood the whole business with a period, but those were all pitched to me as being mere steps in the process to becoming Adult! Rachel.

So in my imagination, puberty was a lot more transformative than it actually turned out to be. It would straighten my nose, fluff my boobs, plump my lips, and make me taller. And by the end I would be a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, because that’s what adulthood is, right?

Now imagine all of those expectations, all of those hopes and dreams, and they’re all smushed by some orthodontist telling you that your height had peaked at five-foot-two.

Okay, five foot one.

People act as if puberty is very cut and dry, start to finish. There’s kid you, there’s teenage you, and there’s adult you. So I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the shock of a lifetime when I realized one day that, hey, adult me is already here, and she still has acne!

I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the disappointing thought that this is as good as it gets.

Please don’t misunderstand. I get by. I have no real issues with how I look. I actually think I’m pretty goshdarn cute. It’s just that I was all set to become a ten, and instead I settled into, like, a six and a half (in the right light). You know, all right, but nothing really special.

And that could have been the sad end to my puberty tale except that there’s a little secret nobody tells you in middle school—

It’s hard work to be pretty.

Being pretty takes time and determination and make-up and spanx. It requires a whole lot of effort. Pretty girls don’t just wake up that way. Well, okay, maybe some lucky jerks do, but most people don’t just wake up one day and find out they’ve become gorgeous (barring plastic surgery). Pretty is something you have to cultivate. Famous people and super models look that way partially because of fortunate genetics, but also because someone is paid a lot of money to spend two hours putting make-up on them.

And the thing is, you can approach this in a few ways:

  1. You can say, “screw it. Screw everything. Screw Tyra Banks and her stupid tv show.”
  2. You can say, “I have control over how I look, and I am able to make myself prettier if I want to.”
  3. Or you can embrace a cautious mix of numbers 1 and 2.

Now, I’m never gonna be on America’s Next Top Model. (Their minimum height requirement is 5’7, the fascists.) But I also sure as hell don’t look the same as I did at age thirteen. Even if I haven’t grown in height, I’ve learned about make-up, I’ve figured out how to dress myself better (thirteen-year-old Rachel really liked cargo pants) and I’ve taken plenty of bombin’ selfies. Turns out it is possible to take the bum deal that puberty gave you and make your own gorgeous out of it. And whether that means t-shirts and yoga pants or sundresses and sandals, we’re allowed to change ourselves into any version we like.

And, just a heads up, at six-foot-three my brother is well within the requirements of America’s Next Top Model, so that’s something for him to start working towards.

 

Rachel Sudbeck

 

Assets
In which I muse on the power of butts

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I figured I would start out my term at this blog by writing about butts. They say to “write what you know,” after all. So, you know. Butts.

Let’s think about butts. Really think about them.

Let’s start with the fact that I have two sisters, and the three of us run the gamut from tall to short to redhead to brunette. We aren’t the type of sisters who look exactly alike, is my point. Nonetheless, fate saw fit to bless each of us with what my mother has deemed “the Sudbeck ass.”

The Sudbeck ass is characterized by cellulite and protrusion. It’s supported by thick thighs and sassy personalities. It’s not humongous or anything, just…prominent. It’s an ass that takes no prisoners.

Me and my ass have been through a lot together. When I was six, it was tragically maimed when I was taking a bath and fell onto a broken soap dish. What this meant was that I had to go to the hospital, naked, and get stitched up. I’m serious. My parents took me to the hospital, naked, to get thirteen stitches…

In. My. Butt.

I still have the scar, crossing my left ass cheek like a very confused snake.

Still, perhaps even more traumatic an experience happened in high school when a well-meaning boyfriend made me a mixed CD. The first song? “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-a-Lot.

“Because,” he said to me, “I like your big butt, and I cannot lie.”

All I could think to say was, “Thanks?” Oh, and “I poop out of it sometimes.”

I remember the exact moment that I realized that puberty had left me with a little more junk in the trunk. I was in the Target dressing room, playing with the mirrors they have arranged to let you see yourself from different angles. I looked at myself from behind and found what, at the time, just seemed like a huge flabby mess. I was thirteen, and I was distraught.

But has anybody ever thought about how narrow the restrictions are for a perfect butt? It can’t be too big, can’t be too small, can’t be too flabby, and certainly can’t have any cellulite. It’s got to be a smooth, tan, shiny, tight little Gluteus Minimis.

It’s insane, especially since butts were made for farting and pooping and wagging in people’s faces. They’re the most fun body part that you’re gonna get, but people insist that you feel bad for having one.

Butts have a weird sort of unifying factor to me. Mine is the ass of my ancestors; I can find it on my sisters, my aunts, and my cousins (though please don’t look at your cousin’s butt at the next family reunion—people will judge).

They unite us humans on a global scale. Go to any country and the people there make butt jokes. They’ve been the subject of story and song for generations. Did you know that Mozart wrote a song called “Lick me in the Arse?” Because he did. And isn’t that kind of beautiful in a way? Mozart thought that butts were just as funny as you do. It’s like he’s reaching through the generations, through the degrees of separation, just to give everybody a friendly pat on the ass.

I guess what I’m saying is that, in all sincerity, butts are about more than fat or skinny or poop jokes or whatever. They carry stories. They unite us. They’re funny and stupid and sexy, and we shouldn’t have to apologize for them.

So I’d like you to thank your butt. Take a little time to say, “Thanks ass, I see you doing you, and I appreciate that.” Give it a smooch if you’re flexible enough. Enjoy the fact that your butt can do all of the things butts are supposed to do (or DOO. Haha, I’m hilarious). Take joy in a body part that provides such juvenile pleasures without fail.

And, if you feel like it, why not give it a little wiggle?

Rachel Sudbeck

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.

frances

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.

me and hil

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

 

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

Why I will keep thanking Lake Bell over and over

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing In a World, a feature film written and directed by actress Lake Bell.

There were many reasons why I appreciated this film, and I’ve listed all of them in my review of In a World on Bitch Flicks.

But there are a few reasons worth repeating here…

I’m thankful this movie stars an actress who doesn’t look like ever other Hollywood actress. Yes, Bell is beautiful, but she also doesn’t have the button nose, full lips, perfect posture, and blond hair that that has become so annoyingly ubiquitous among our female movie stars.

And neither do her co-stars…

On a related note, I’m thankful Bell’s protagonist, Carol Solomon, doesn’t always act like a leading lady—she shuffles, lurches, and acts general spazzy. She doesn’t always look glamorous either—she doesn’t always wear makeup or look perfectly primped and often wears regular-people clothes (sweatpants, thermal underwear, t-shirts, football jerseys, overalls, ill-fitting dresses, etc.)—just like the rest of us.

At the same time, I’m glad Carol looks attractive when she wants to without looking trashy or showing off all the goods.

I’m also thankful that several men are attracted to Carol even though she doesn’t know how to dress or stand up straight (and that the men who are drawn to her are attractive but not perfect either).

(Read the rest of my review on Bitch Flicks.)

*

The main reason why I’m glad Carol doesn’t always look hot or put together is because it’s incredibly important to see people who look like us on our screens and in our magazines since it’s one of the only ways we can begin to accept ourselves the way we are.

I can’t thank you enough for this gift, Lake Bell, but I will keep trying—thank you.

Two celebs accept their post-baby bodies, making me rethink my attitude on worshipping celebrities

I’m not usually one to follow celebrities, but Kate Middleton and Kristen Bell have been getting my attention lately.

The reason I’ve started taking note of Middleton and Bell is because of their behavior since they both delievered babies this summer.

First, Middleton posed for the camera the day after giving birth, proudly showing off her still-present baby bump…

Then Bell appeared on the cover of Redbook, claiming that “I had to surrender to not worrying about the way I looked, how much I weighed, because that’s just part of the journey of having a baby. I am not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.”

And now, just this week, Middleton has posed for pics in a $79 maternity dress a full month AFTER leaving the hospital…

Of course, the reason Bell’s and Middleton’s actions are revolutionary is because celebrities usually only pose for post-baby pics AFTER they have lost all of their pregnancy weight. And most of them do that mere weeks after giving birth.

So Middleton’s willingness to be photographed in a maternity dress and not hide her baby bump and Bell’s willingness to say she may never lose all the weight sends the message that new mothers don’t have to lose their pregnancy weight (via insane workout routines and unhealthy crash diets) before they can be seen in public.

It also sends the message that there’s nothing wrong with carrying a few extra pounds or settling into a bigger size after giving birth to another human being.

And since both Middleton and Bell look like the picture of health in these pics, they’re also showing us that women don’t have to have a flat stomach, a tiny waist, or skinny thighs to be beautiful.

In other words, these two are letting us know that it’s okay to be human.

I’m not going to lie—that’s enough to make me a fan.

Gaining a little perspective: in honor of Nora Ephron

Watching the “in memoriam” montage at the Oscars on Sunday night reminded me that I hadn’t yet gotten around to writing about Nora Ephron, one of our country’s great writers, who died last year.

Ephron was best known as a screenwriter and has been nominated for three Oscars and won a Writers Guild Award. Many of her movies were also incredibly huge hits. She wrote films as intelligent as Silkwood and Julie and Julia and as accessible as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. And, of course, she wrote When Harry Met Sally, probably her biggest hit of all time.

But she was also a gifted writer of essays and fiction and wrote several books including Heartburn, which was later adapted to a film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

While driving to see my parents over the holidays this past December, Dave and I finally got around to listening to Ephron’s last collection of essays—I Feel Bad about my Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. It was something I’d been wanting to do ever since it came out in 2008 and had been especially anxious to do since Ephron died last June.

Of course, the title of the book refers to the first essay—”I Feel Bad about my Neck”—but it is two of the other essays in this collection that are the most moving and the book’s true heart. “Parenting in Three Stages” is a hilarious and poignant look at raising children while “Considering the Alternative” is a masterful contemplation on the meaning of life. These two essays alone make this book a must-read.

But, of course, the first essay is the one I want to talk about here.

The title gives away that, obviously, this piece is all about the idea that, at a certain age, the neck starts to go. Like the butt and the upper arms and the thighs before them, the neck wilts and withers and eventually dies.

As Ephron explains, one day, you wake up and think, “I hate my neck.”

Ephron claims this change happens in your mid-forties, and she warns women in their thirties to prepare for this impending doom and enjoy their beautiful necks as long as they can.

I have been known to offer the same kind of advice to my students and random young twenty-somethings: Just look at yourself, I tell them. You are perfect and beautiful. Your skin is completely free of craggy cellulite and sagging flesh. You should just sit in front of the mirror all day, naked, and appreciate yourself. Honestly I don’t know why you’d do anything else.

I am 42 years old, and I have to admit that ever since I listened to Ephron’s book, I’ve noticed how long and lovely my own neck still is. How unblemished and smooth and taut it looks. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror for whole minutes—just appreciating the beauty that is middle-age.

And, of course, the irony of this revelation is not lost on me: to women Ephron’s age, my neck is a lovely delicate flower, something to behold and appreciate. And to me, my students’ bodies are the same way—they are as inspiring and glorious as a flaming sunset on a pristine beach.

It reminds me of the importance of perspective.

Ephron longed for my neck, I long for the body of a twenty-something, and I’m sure there was something about Ephron that women older than her envied. Was it her full head of hair? Or her slim figure?

As for me, I want many things Ephron had: her wisdom, her life experience, her success. In truth, I’d trade a smooth neck for Ephron’s accomplishments any day.

So I will continue to appreciate my neck until I can no longer do so.

I feel it’s the least I can do to honor Ephron, a woman who gave us all so much.

Why we must vote… during every single election.


Today was election day in the United States, and, like many Americans, I did my civic duty and voted. (My “I Voted” sticker is pictured above.)

I always feel lucky to vote, but this year I felt even more lucky than normal as I thought about all the women and girls who aren’t allowed to go to school, much less vote.

Last month, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai tried to go to school in Pakistan and was shot by the Taliban for doing so.

Make no mistake, telling woman they aren’t allowed to go to school or aren’t allowed to vote has as much impact on the way we see ourselves as the images of women in our magazines and on our screens. Because when you tell a girl she doesn’t have the right to go to school or a woman she doesn’t have the right to vote, you tell her she is nothing, that she is worth nothing.

The truth of the matter is until women are treated equally, until all women believe that being a women means our life has value, we will never feel good about ourselves or our bodies.

And that’s why I will never take my right to vote for granted.

Almost one hundred years ago, the suffragettes fought for me to have that right to vote, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to dishonor their memory by not voting.

I hope you will continue to do the same.

Travel post #11: The teacher becomes the student

This is the eleventh in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.

Dave and I are visiting my family in a suburb of Chicago right now. One of the great things about coming up to this part of the country is that I get to see my whole family at once: my parents, my sister and her husband, and my two sweet nieces (pictured above with my father).

As long as I’ve had this blog, I’ve told stories about my nieces while also talking to them about issues related to body image. Like my sister, my nieces—who are 11 and 9 years old—are super thin with long  straight hair. In other words, their looks are a world apart from my curvy body and curly hair. (My sister and I are adopted and do not share any of the same genes.)

Sometimes these differences frustrate my nieces who almost always beg me to straighten my hair. (And for the first time yesterday I let them do that.) Like most young girls they want to follow trends, so it’s no suprise that they prefer straight locks over kinky ones.

As a result, it surprised me when they told me yesterday that my body was perfect.

We were giving each other manis and pedis and had set up a whole “salon” in my mother’s loft to do so. To complete the whole salon experience, we pretended to talk about our problems while we did each other’s nails.

When it was my turn to vent, I confessed that even though my blog is about body acceptance, sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t lose weight no matter how much I exercise.

Immediately, my nieces leaped to my defense.

“No, Aunt Molly, don’t say that!” the 11-year-old said.

Then the 9-year-old jumped in: “Your body is perfect!”

“That’s sweet of you to say,” I said, sure they were just being nice.

But my nieces are getting smarter every day, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the 9-year-old made a comment that conveyed they understood the implication of my words. “We’re not just saying that to be nice,” she insisted. “It’s true.”

The 11-year-old explained: “You’re the right size for your body. You’re supposed to look that way.”

I could have cried. After years of their mother and me talking with the two of them about the importance of understanding beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, they were now repeating what they had learned back to me.

So instead of crying, I just said the truth: “You girls are amazing.”

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