Archive for feminism

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

 

Paparazzi Headlines and the Female Body

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon a BuzzFeed post that featured several celebrity gossip headlines that had been reimagined by readers. The post complied several photos that came as a response to this challenge, courtesy of Vagenda Magazine:

Vagenda magazine's reworded version of a paparazzi headline

Vagenda magazine’s reworded version of a paparazzi headline

Reading this post and looking at all the headlines really made me think about the way female celebrities are written about.

Most people are exposed to celebrity gossip in one form or another. Even someone who has no interest in celebrity culture might have a difficult time avoiding the headlines splashed across the gossip rags that line the checkout lanes in the supermarket.

Our culture is obsessed with celebrities. I’m certainly guilty of a certain interest in the lives of the beautiful people. In spite of all the unnecessary  attention I’ve paid to these matters, I’d never considered the way these headlines were worded.

But reading this BuzzFeed article changed that.

In retrospect, it seems so obvious! In a society that is just as obsessed with celebrity as it is with female bodies, headlines like this are inevitable:

Emmy Rossum on The Daily Mail

Emmy Rossum on The Daily Mail

What a weird and creepy headline. What part of this outfit invites this kind of commentary?

I feel a little ashamed that I never recognized this kind of thing before. I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I think I’m in tune with women’s rights issues. But in spite of this, I’d never seen headlines like this as problematic.

As I said before, that’s all changed now. And, oh, how the floodgates have opened.

Let’s start with the photo above. What part of Emmy Rossum’s outfit makes this kind of headline appropriate? The big question this article made me ask was this: What does a woman have to wear in order to not invite commentary on her body?

Let’s look at some other examples. Here’s a post about Drew Barrymore:

revised drew barrymoreHow exactly is she “hiding” her figure? To me it just looks like she’s wearing clothes the same way anyone else is. The phrasing here really irks me. It seems to suggest that a female star’s body is subject to objectification and criticism at any time. Barrymore is hiding her figure from the people who feel they have an absolute right to see it.

This is very much a gender-based thing, too.  Compare a couple of headlines from the same website featuring male celebrities:

Seth Rogen

No mention of what Rogen is wearing as he “plays the role” of dutiful husband. The only thing the headline is making a big deal out of is Rogen helping his wife carry bags of groceries. There’s no reference to Rogen “hiding” his figure under his clothing. There no mention of clothes or bodies anywhere in this article.

The following headline does mention the male celebrity’s clothing, though not in the same way you’d see a female celebrity being talked about:

Kelsey Grammer

The author of this piece does make a point of describing Grammer’s attire, though it’s not written in the same breathless and voyeuristic tone used to when describing female celebrities above. Again, there is no mention of Grammer’s body. He apparently has nothing to hide.

As I said before, after I started noticing these things, I was unable to stop. Headlines like this are everywhere. They’re a symptom of a culture that constantly polices women’s bodies.  How are normal women supposed to feel good about themselves when glamorous movie stars are picked apart by tabloids? And is there a solution?

The answer to that last question is pretty difficult. I’d say one step to changing things like this is awareness. Now that I recognize what a problem this is, I can speak out and try to change things. I don’t have a lot of power, but I do have my voice. You do as well. Actions like this, however small, can make a difference:

Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney

Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney

We just have to keep trying.

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 it all off in the name of body acceptance… a.k.a. possibly the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen

The above video is too good not to share.

In the words of Upworthy, “Amanda Palmer, rock star and all-around awesome person, decided to have a little fun at The Daily Mail‘s expense—in song—after they wrote an unflattering article about a wardrobe malfunction instead of reviewing the concert she performed.”

Palmer gets her revenge hyperbolically—by pointing out that it’s kind of silly for The Daily Mail to worry about a little nip slip when she could have appeared naked, a point she makes literal when she strips down to nothing on stage during a concert in London to SHOW that the human body is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.

As Palmer said when the crowd went wild, “It’s just a naked woman.”

Palmer explicitly explains the problem with the Daily Mail‘s piece on her nip slip in song:

It’s so sad what you tabloids are doing,
Your focus on debasing womens’ appearances
Devolves our species of humans

And then she also points out the hypocrisy of the media’s coverage of female wardrobe malfunctions:

I’m tired of these baby bumps, vag flashes, muffin tops.
Where are the newsworthy cocks?

I mean, really, does it get any better than this?

I had never heard of Amanda Palmer before I saw this, and now she is one of my favorite people ever.

*

FYI, Palmer rambles a while before beginning this uproarious musical rejoinder—called “Dear Daily Mail”—so the song doesn’t actually start until 2:30 in the video above; the real “show” begins at 4:30.

 

Look how far we’ve come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a kid, I hated dressing up on Halloween.

I never like to be told what to do, and I think the idea that we HAD to dress up on Halloween always bothered me. Especially as a kid when not admitting you didn’t want to dress up would have made you almost as popular as you would have been if you had asked for more homework.

Some of my dislike with dressing up on Halloween stemmed from my dislike of dressing up like a girl, whether it was for school pictures, for holidays, and—worst of all—for tea parties. I completely loathed being forced to wear a dress and jewelry and makeup—YUK!—when I was young. To me, there was nothing worse. And to express my disgust, I even went so far as to wear jeans under the plaid Pilgrim dress my mother made my sister and me wear one Thanksgiving.

Then a funny thing happened . . .

. . . I grew up.

And I fell in love with dressing up.

Dresses, heels, make-up? Love them. And I’ve got the overstuffed closet to prove them.

But I always wonder, if I love it so much now, why did I hate dressing up so much when I was a kid?

Like I said, I think part of it was a control issue. I always hated doing things I was told I HAD to do or HAD to want to do.

But another part of it was about gender. I didn’t want to wear dresses because that would make me a girl, and when I was growing up, it was still acceptable to teach kids that boys were smarter, boys were faster, boys were better. So, of course, I was the quintessential tomboy—wanting to be as boyish as I could.

I suppose that changed when I grew up and realized how ridiculous it was to think boys are better than girls. And, thankfully, around the same time I learned to like my body a little bit (it would be years before I would fully accept it), making me want to wear more feminine attire.

Since then I’ve been all in favor of wearing clothes that make you feel womanly and even hot.

But what I still don’t get is the desire to dress like a prostitute on Halloween. Sure, I like to look and feel sexy, but I respect myself too much to wear a skirt that barely covers my southern hemisphere or a neckline that plunges to my equator.

But I must be the only one who feels that way because everywhere I looked on Sunday night, I saw young women—even girls!—dressed in “slutty” costumes. As another blogger pointed out, the female trick-or-treaters were dominated by sexy schoolgirls, dirty nurses, “Captain Booty Pirates,” “Sexy Scotty” (pictured above), and the “Playboy Touchdown Team.”

Huh?

When did Halloween turn into a parade of tarts-in-training?

Yes, I grew up in an era of boy power, but I’m not sure I like the other side of the coin—girls empowering themselves to fulfill male fantasies—and I worry that growing up this way will make our young girls even more obsessed with body image thany they were.

Kind of makes me want to be a tomboy again.

 

 

 

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