Archive for media

Jennifer Lawrence: doing her part to fight body shaming

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence made waves when she publicly said she wouldn’t “starve” herself for a role. In the years since she’s spoken out about body-image issues and fat shaming. She’s been quoted as saying, “I just think it should be illegal to call someone fat on TV.  I mean, if we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”

She’s further criticized the media’s negative impact on body-image: “We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing. They see enough of this body that they will never be able to obtain and it’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry.”

Amen! This issue is near and dear to many hearts and it’s great to see a young actress speaking out and making this issue more well known.  It’s also great to see a highly-visible celebrity talk about food in a healthy way.  The first step in changing things is talking about the problem, and Jennifer is doing her part to continue the conversation.

—Lauren Bunch

Taking it to the streets: skivvy style

Last month a group of strong women and men braved the streets of San Francisco IN THEIR UNDERWEAR to demonstrate that it’s okay to accept ourselves the way we are.

This protest, which occurred in front of a downtown location of Victoria’s Secret, was called Operation Real Bodies Real Love and included women of all sizes—whether they were fit or curvy.

About Face, who sponsored the protest said that “Wearing only our bras and underwear, we were making a statement about what real bodies look like (and how much we love them) in the face of the violently unrealistic, Photoshopped images we see in the media every day – Victoria’s Secret models included. These images can be extremely harmful to young and old minds alike, causing issues such as negative body image, low self-esteem, lowered or negative moods, dieting, and eating disorders.”


When I first heard about this protest, I thought there would be a lot of heckling and name-calling, but as it turns out, the protestors were met with words of support and cheers, proving that Americans are ready to dump unattainable ideas about beauty.

I admire the hell out of these women and hope that I, too, would have enough courage to stand on the street in my Jockey underwear and Target bra.

For now though I’ll have to simply content myself with signing their body acceptance pledge.

Hope you do the same.

The Importance of Body Acceptance: Because We Can’t All Be Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum

These days you can’t get on the internet without hearing another scary story about obesity or body image. As a country, we are obsessed with the subject.

That’s part of the reason I started I Will Not Diet and The Real You Project—to encourage people to question the consequences of that obsession since 45 million Americans go on a diet every year.

This may seem like a good idea given that we are collectively more obese than ever before, but, in truth, dieting is bad for us. Ninety percent or more of the people who go on diets gain back more weight than they lose. That means that every time you go on a diet, chances are you end up gaining weight in the long run, not losing it. And if you go on a diet every year or so, that weight gain multiplies.

These statistics are the reason why I believe diets play a significant role in the obesity epidemic. In countries where people are not obsessed with dieting—France, for instance—obesity isn’t nearly as big of a problem.

This raises the question: why do we gain weight after a diet is over and what can be done about it?

The simple reason we gain weight after dieting is because diets are not sustainable over the long haul, so we go back to our old habits once it’s all over. And as soon as we start eating more, the pounds come back.

Another reason we gain weight post-diet is because, after denying ourselves the foods we love for so long, we want them even more than we did before. I went on the only diet of my adult life before I got married, and after my “wedding diet” was over, I gained thirty pounds (I’d only lost seventeen) because I was so hungry for all the foods I hadn’t been allowed to have for almost a year.

That was when I realized how unhealthy it is to diet.

But the American obsession with dieting is also fueled by our obsession with celebrities. Everywhere you go in America, you see celebrities—on the covers of magazines in grocery stores and drug stores and bookstores, on our television and movie screens, and even on our computers through the magic of the internet. It sometimes feels like you can’t do anything without seeing Danica Patrick popping up in a GoDaddy ad.

And the effect of that celebrity culture is that we, unconsciously or not, want to emulate those celebrities—we want to be as rich as them, as successful as them, as thin as them.

The only problem is that in order to be as thin as a celebrity, you have to make it your job. You have to exercise several hours every day and eat healthy foods at every meal. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have several hours a day to exercise, nor do I have a cook to prepare all of my meals—which is the ONLY reason why I don’t look like Cameron Diaz.

Seriously though—when we try to look like Cameron Diaz or Justin Timberlake (I will never get over their breakup) and fail (because we can’t live at the gym or eat healthy all the time), we give up. We give up and stop exercising entirely and start eating Taco Bell so much it feels like we’re living inside a Super Bowl commercial.

And why wouldn’t we?

If we can’t look like Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum, we might as well sit on the couch all night and eat White Castle, playing Call of Duty 2 until we hear our alarm clocks going off the next morning.

This is why we need better role models. If we didn’t aspire to look like impossibly thin or buff celebrities, we might actually be healthier. That’s why celebrities like Lena Dunham and Seth Rogen are so important.

We need real people to emulate, not people who don’t have a bit of extra flesh around the middle or under their arms.

At the same time, we need to realize that—despite Dunham’s and Rogen’s success—things aren’t going to change overnight. Seyfried and Tatum aren’t going anywhere. (they’re probably making a Nicholas Sparks movie somewhere right now), so we have to accept that celebrities are not good role models.

And only after we do that, can we begin to accept ourselves and be healthy.

*

A shorter version of this article first appeared in The College Heights Herald.

Model Cameron Russell admits the models we see in the media are nowhere near reality

I’m not a huge fan of “TED talks.” There’s something about them that seems too slick, too polished, too homogenous, for me. But a friend turned me onto a TED talk last week that I think is worth discussing.

In her TED talk, model Cameron Russell makes the argument that the images we see in the media are not real. That even models don’t look like models in real life.

This isn’t a revolutionary idea—we all know that the images in our magazines and on our screens are not real—but hearing it from a model is somehow more convincing, especially because she gives us the photographic and anecdotal evidence to back up her point.

Two photos of Russell taken when she was sixteen.

 

At one point, Russell tells a story about how people sometimes don’t even realize she’s a model when they meet her in real life:

“In December I was shooting in the Bahamas, and on the way back I was in a boat with other people staying on the same island. One woman was going on and on about the model she’d seen on the beach who was ‘so gorgeous.’ Of course, that model had been me in hair, makeup and a neon bikini. The whole 30-minute boat ride she didn’t recognize me. I was sitting directly across from her wearing sweatpants, a windbreaker, no makeup and hair up in a bun.”

Russell on the cover of a magazine and in real life.

 

Russell also reminds her audience that being beautiful doesn’t make anyone happy. She explains, “If you ever think, ‘If I had thinner thighs and shinier hair, wouldn’t I be happier,’ you just need to meet a group of models. They have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes and they are the most physically insecure women, probably, on the planet.”

Still, Russell admits that “How we look—though it is superficial and immutable—has a huge impact on our lives… people pay a cost for how they look” while also challenging the notion that our looks should play such a strong role, implying that our obsession with models and celebrities is unhealthy:

“When I gave a talk at TEDx, I thought that if I did a good job, the video might go viral. But … it has 140,000 views while Colin Powell’s (who spoke at the same event) has only 2,700. He is an incredibly experienced and intelligent man. And yet our society’s obsession with celebrity and models means more people were interested in listening to my talk.”

Until today I didn’t know who Russell was, but the fact that her TED talk is 500% more popular than Powell’s proves her point that our obsession with beauty is completely and totally f***ed up.

The best show you’re not watching



In my Thanksgiving post, “Thanks to all the real girls,” I talked about the fact that The Mindy Project is another example of how the way women look in the media is finally starting to change.

And tonight’s episode of The Mindy Project reminded me yet again how much good work is being done on this one tiny little sitcom.

Tonight Mindy found out—during the office Christmas party no less—that her boyfriend, Jeff, has had another girlfriend the entire time they’ve been dating, making her the detestable other woman.

Not long after she found out, her boyfriend’s first girlfriend (played with appropriate outrage by Ellie Kemper of The Office) showed up at Mindy’s apartment demanding to know what was going on. It didn’t take long for things to devolve from there, and, though the ensuing fight between the two women relied too much on cliches, what was notable was that when Kemper’s character called Kaling’s character “chubby,” Mindy didn’t flinch or act offended. Instead she responded immediately by insisting, “I’m not chubby. I’m average.” And then adding, “This is how the anorexia culture begins.”

It was a shocking moment. A shocking and wonderful moment.

Here was a woman on television—a woman in her prime, no less—with an average body defending her right to be average and not be judged for it. Have we ever seen that before? Have we ever seen a character on television or in a film saying, “I’m average and that’s okay”?

I really don’t think so.

And at the same time, she was making a really important point by adding that calling an average woman “chubby” is the kind of thing that makes people in our society so obsessed with thinness.

Yes, tonight, on American television, Mindy Kaling defended her—and by extension our—right to have an average body, AND she also offered valid argument about why it’s wrong to call people fat.

I think I am in love with The Mindy Project.

So, tell me again, why aren’t you watching this show?

The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST on Fox. 

All the real girls: stop Seventeen from photoshopping models

A fourteen-year-old girl is doing her part to change the world.

Julia Bluhm is sick of seeing women in magazines who promote unrealistic standards of beauty because they’ve been Photoshopped and airbrushed to the point that they don’t even resemble themselves anymore.

As a result, Bluhm is asking Seventeen magazine to feature one photoshop-free spread in their pages ever month.

Bluhm—and the Spark a Movement website—have launched a petition to support their cause, which has already garnered over 20,000 signatures. They also plan to visit Seventeen headquarters tomorrow (Wednesday, May 2nd) to express their views and fight for their cause.

So please sign their petition tonight and support young women who reject impossible standards of beauty.

*

PETITION: Give Girls Images of Real Girls!

Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to “fix” themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem.

I’m in a ballet class with a bunch of high-school girls. On a daily basis I hear comments like: “It’s a fat day,” and “I ate well today, but I still feel fat.” Ballet dancers do get a lot of flack about their bodies, but it’s not just ballet dancers who feel the pressure to be “pretty”. It’s everyone. To girls today, the word “pretty” means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It’s because the media tells us that “pretty” girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin.

Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those “pretty women” that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life. As part of SPARK Movement, a girl-fueled, national activist movement, I’ve been fighting to stop magazines, toy companies, and other big businesses from creating products, photo spreads and ads that hurt girls’ and break our self-esteem. With SPARK, I’ve learned that we have the power to fight back.

That’s why I’m asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month. I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.

For the sake of all the struggling girls all over America, who read Seventeen and think these fake images are what they should be, I’m stepping up. I know how hurtful these photoshopped images can be. I’m a teenage girl, and I don’t like what I see. None of us do. Will you join us by signing this petition and asking Seventeen to take a stand as well and commit to one unaltered photo spread a month?

 

Julia Bluhm, 14, is an 8th grader and has been involved in the Civil Rights Team for many years. She spends many hours a week dancing ballet. As a feminist, she not only wants to put a stop to sexualization and stereotypes of girls in the media, but also to negative stereotypes of ballet dancers. She is a blogger for the girl-fueled SPARK Movement, which fights against sexualized images of women and girls in the media. See her blogs at www.sparksummit.com.

Is it wrong to feature plus-size models?
The debate ranges on


PLUS Model Magazine has caused quite a controversy with their recent “Plus Size Bodies: What Is Wrong with Them Anyway?” article, which questions the size and health of most models and pushes for more plus-size ones. As one of their pictorials points out, “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.”

PLUS Model also claims “50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller” and argues we need more a greater variety of sizes in retail stores as well.

PLUS Model’s editor-in-chief explains that her magazine is “a response to a fashion and beauty industry which continues to endorse a skinny ideal that is not always healthy and alienates a huge percentage of the market.”

Of course, the response to this story has been mixed.

Some people are thrilled about Plus Model Magazine, insisting it’s about time we show women in magazines who look more like the average American woman (a size twelve or fourteen depending on who you ask).

Salon admits “there can be no denying that the standards for beauty have drastically changed over the past several years. As Americans have been getting bigger, our lingerie models have been going on wackadoo ‘no solids’ diets to attain runway perfection. Thanks to the magic of photo editing technology, already slender models can be whittled down to near nonexistence.”

Still, others argue that showing size-fourteen women is endorsing obesity.

I’ve had the same kinds of comments on I Will Not Diet ever since I created this blog.

But it’s a false dilemma to say or imply that we have to choose between anorexic or obese models.

Most women who wear a size fourteen are not obese. I started wearing a size fourteen when I was in college. That was when I weighed 150 pounds; since I’m five-foot-six, that made my BMI 24, which is well within the normal range.

But I’ve always had big bones (my wrist is 6 ¾ inches), so I wear bigger clothes than most people who are the same weight as me. Some people think that saying you’re “big-boned” is just a euphemism for being overweight or “fat,” but it’s really not.

There are numerous thin people who have big bones (examples include Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Nathan Fillion), and there are plenty of overweight people who have small bones (but I won’t name them here since doing so would only be cruel).

(If you want to find out if you’re big boned or not, here’s a simple way to do it—wrap your right thumb and longest finger around your left wrist. If your thumb and forefinger overlap, you have small bones; if they just touch, you have medium bones; and if they don’t touch at all, you have big bones. You can also use this chart or this calculator to determine if you have big bones. To read more about the big-boned-equals-fat misconception, go here and here and here.)

And big-boned women aren’t the only non-obese women who require a size fourteen. Tall women are another great example. I have several friends in the five-foot-ten to six-foot range and nearly all of them wear a size fourteen even though they are lithe and nowhere near obese.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The point is that featuring women who are a size fourteen is not about endorsing obesity, its about endorsing variety, which is all but absent from the women we see everyday in our magazines, television shows, and films. As Plus Model Magazine points out, “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.”

That’s why, as the magazine asserts, we need to pressure retailers to stop only catering to women who are smaller than the average American women. No one is saying this needs to happen at the cost of smaller women, but rather that we need models, clothes, advertising, and entertainment that reflects what a wonderfully diverse world we really are.

Don’t even think about trying this
(This = jogging in place while eating celery and cheesecake)

 

I’ve talked many times about the fact that the media plays a H U G E role in how we see ourselves—both our bodies and our behavior. Of course, we all know the American obsession with thinness and dieting is largely influenced by the media, and that until the way women are depicted in the media changes, our collective perception of our bodies won’t change either.
That’s why I’m thrilled to report that General Mills pulled a Yoplait commercial last week (see video above) that makes it appear as if having an eating disorder is normal, even desirable.

In the ad, a thin woman is standing in front of a refrigerator eyeing a cheesecake with raspberries on top. She wants to have a piece but clearly feels guilty doing it, so she tries to talk herself into it by first telling herself that she’s “deserves it” and that she’ll have a “small slice.”

But then her internal monologue goes haywire as she tells herself she can have “a medium slice and some celery sticks and they would cancel each other out” or that she could have a “large slice and jog in place while I eat it.” And then finally she wonders, “how about one large slice while jogging in place while I ate celery?”
Watching this woman try to convince herself that it’s all right to have a piece of cheesecake is honestly frightening.
Maybe the woman is just a good actress or maybe we’re all just a little too familiar with this kind of internal justification process.
Either way, it’s scary to see her longing for the cheesecake and trying to convince herself of some way it will be acceptable to eat a piece. It’s kind of like watching a healthy person descend into the land of lunacy. No, she’s not completely nuts, but she’s going to a place that is not healthy or happy, which is what makes it so hard to witness.
And this is the reason why the National Eating Disorders Association complained about the ad, saying that it “felt like a 20-second look at the mind of somebody with an eating disorder.”*

Jenni Schaefer, author of Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life, added that “a commercial showing a thin person anxiously doing mental gymnastics in order to justify eating dessert—and then denying herself the treat because she wants to be even thinner—could reinforce the idea that such deliberations are healthy and normal,”* and I completely agree that’s what makes the commercial so problematic.
Not only does the ad seem to make light of this woman’s eating disorder in order to sell yogurt, it also models that behavior for viewers, which is exactly what we don’t want our commercials to do.
Schaefer adds that an eating disorder “often starts with that voice in your head saying ‘Eat this but not that… The commercial just reinforced that voice. It made that inner dialogue look normal. It let you think, ‘I’m okay. I do the same thing.’ But that’s not normal. You don’t have to open that refrigerator and hear that voice.”*
Not only does the ad normalize this unhealthy justification process, it also reinforces the message that thin is better by showing this woman complimenting an even thinner woman on her body. The message is clearly that thinner = better, which is one we get far too often on our television and movie screens.
General Mills ultimately apologized and removed the ad from the airwaves.
I have to say I’m thrilled General Mills didn’t try to rationalize their depiction of a woman clearly struggling to maintain a healthy attitude about eating, and I’m equally pleased that they pulled the ad without hesitation. I like it when someone, or in this case something, accepts responsibility for its actions. I’m not even unhappy that the ad is probably getting more air time now than it would have without this controversy because it gives people an opportunity to talk about why this message is so unfortunate.
In fact, if every corporation was as conscientious as General Mills, then maybe none of us would ever engage in this kind of unhealthy behavior again.
I’m allowed to fantasize, right?

Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women

This video is going around right now, and it’s an incredibly important one for us to watch because it emphasizes the point that our obsession with thinness is a public health problem.

I could not agree more.

But though I think this speaker means that our obsession with thinness is a public health problem because it leads to eating disorders and body dysmorphia (something I believe all American women have), I also think it’s a public health problem because it leads to obesity.

Sometimes it feels like we have two choices in our country—be thin or be fat. Since being thin in this country means having almost no body fat, which is impossible for those of us who are genetically inclined to be curvy, it’s easy to give up and say, if I can’t be thin, I might as well eat whatever I want.

Our obsession with thinness also leads to obesity because it causes us to embrace unhealthy crash diets that nearly always—90% of the time—cause us to gain back more weight than we lost.

Two celebrities are quoted as having spoken out about the problem of making women look flawless to the point of being unreal in the media: Cindy Crawford and Kate Winslet.

Crawford (pictured above in before and after shots) says she wishes she looked like Cindy Crawford, indicating that she doesn’t look like the Crawford we see featured in magazines and on television.

And about the magazine cover above, Kate Winslet said not only that GQ trimmed her thighs by a third without her permission (the photo on the right is the original), she also says, “I don’t look like that, and I don’t desire to look like that.”

Bravo, Kate.

(And what I don’t get is what was wrong with her legs in the original photo???)

The real question is why don’t more celebrities have a problem with this? Why aren’t they all putting their foot down on this issue? Why aren’t they demanding to be depicted in more accurate ways since we all know that it hurts all women in the long run?

I suppose they’re afraid that if they speak out, their careers will be over. And it’s certainly true that Crawford and Winslet are two of only a handful of untouchable women in the media, so I admire their desire to use that power to speak out. But what about Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon? Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz? Angelina Jolie? Why aren’t these women speaking out and trying to combat this problem?

If they are and I’ve missed it, I’d love to hear about it. If not, it’s time to step up, girls.

Ten steps forward, one step back

Last Thursday, I wrote about why Bridesmaids is a movie that redefines the role of women in film today and why we, therefore, must all get behind it and see it.

As I said then, the movie does this by:
1. avoiding the cliches of the rom-com/chick flick,
2. focusing on the friendships of women instead of a love story between a man and a woman,
3. thereby creating a new genre (the female version of the bromance),
4. passing the Bechdel test,
5. featuring actresses who are not A-listers
6. and women who of all sizes
7. who talk about sex
8. and other real things
and
9. are also fully developed characters.
Finally and just as importantly,
10. the film was written by two women—Kristin Wiig and her former Groundlings castmate Annie Mumolo (pictured below).

But what I didn’t talk about is the one thing the movie gets desperately wrong.

As I indicated last week when I said that there was more to say about her, this misstep has to do with Melissa McCarthy’s character, Megan, who is also the sister of the groom.
Before I saw the film (or any portion of it), I was thrilled that Melissa McCarthy was part of the cast. I loved her on Gilmore Girls, and even though I’m not a fan of her new sitcom, Mike & Molly, I think she’s an outstanding actress. And I am happy that her performance in Bridesmaids is getting the positive attention it deserves. But . . .
. . . when I first saw McCarthy in the previews (and on the big screen), I was horrified. The people who made Bridesmaids took an adorable woman . . .
and made her look plain, manly, and mostly unattractive . . .


Not only that, they made her character into a clown who routinely acts the part of the fool and who inappropriately hits on the in-flight air marshall, saying things to him like, “You feel that heat? It’s coming from my undercarriage.”
The message is clear—a big woman can’t hit on a man in a movie (or be in a movie at all) unless we are allowed to laugh at her doing so.

Admittedly, this problem is counteracted to some degree by the fact that McCarthy’s character is one of the more well adjusted and confident people in the film, and she’s also the voice of reason—she’s the one who goes to Kristin Wiig’s Annie when she hits bottom and convinces her that she needs to change her life. But that moment still happens inside the bubble of Megan’s crazy antics—she brings her nine puppies—yes, nine!—when she rescues Annie from her wallowing and then insists on giving Annie a ridiculous body-slam-type hug before she leaves, reinforcing the message that this character cannot really be taken seriously.

There is a long history of making the “fat” person the funny guy in movies, a history that goes back to classic comedians like John Candy, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Jason Alexander, John Goodman, and Roseanne, and continues today with current comedians such as Kevin James, Larry the Cable Guy, Jonah Hill, and the pre-diet Seth Rogan among others. In fact, in our society, one of the only ways it is acceptable to see big people on the big or small screen is if they’re cracking jokes. Or if people are laughing at them.

And, to be honest, I had hoped that a movie that spends so much time redefining how we see women in film would not have given into this cliche. Not only is it cheap and easy humor, it’s also rather offensive.

At the same time, I think it would be foolish to focus on this one problem—even though it’s a real problem—and ignore all the good that Bridesmaids does for women.
The bottom line is that this movie is good for women—women of all sizes. Yes, the writers made a mistake by depicting McCarthy’s character as the butt of most of its jokes, but it did so many other things right that I have to believe it will help all of us—big and small—in the long run.
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