Archive for real women

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.

When did we become so fake?

This semester I’m teaching a class on creative retellings—that is, stories that retell classic texts in a creative way. If you don’t know what I mean, think Clueless (a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma), think A Thousand Acres (a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear), think O Brother, Where Art Thou (a retelling of The Odyssey).

So this week we started watching 10 Things I Hate about You (a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew) in class, and I could not believe how different everything looked. Not only did the titles look cheesy, the hair look badly permed, and the clothes look out of date (thank God cropped shirts went out of style), but the PEOPLE in the movie looked different too.

The film stars Julia Styles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Larisa Oleynik. These are all very attractive people, but somehow they all manage to look kind of normal and down-to-earth in this movie. In other words, a world apart from the young people we see in movies and television shows about teenagers today.

For example, here’s a still of the main character, played by Styles…

See how natural and un-made up Stiles looks here? It’s so damn refreshing. Don’t get me wrong: she still looks beautiful. But she looks beautiful and normal at the same time.

But we almost never see actresses looking like that in movies or television shows about high schoolers today. Instead they look like this:


Is it just me, or do these people look really really airbrushed? And kind of grotesque in an Andy-Warhol-does-Marilyn-Monroe kind of way too? And, while we’re on the subject, why does everybody on a television show have to pose like that now? Is there some kind of rule about standing with your hands on your hips and looking at the camera like your pissed?

Not only does Stiles look real in 10 Things, but so does Oleynik, who plays Stiles’ younger sister, Bianca. And what’s really interesting about Bianca is that she is the girl in the movie who all the boys pine over, the beauty who even the most popular guy in school is wooing.

So naturally you’d think she’d look something like Gossip Girl‘s Blake Lively, who played the hottest high schooler on the planet…

But in reality, Bianca just looks like a regular teenager…

And it’s not just the girls in 10 Things who look real. The dudes look pretty down-to-earth as well…

Sure, Heath Ledger looked hot even when he was leaning against a metal locker in a plain t-shirt…

…but would we really seen a teenage boy in a romantic comedy with that kind of messy hair today? I highly doubt it since the high school boys who’ve been dominating our screens the past few years usually look more like this:

I’m not talking about television shows or movies about “dorky” high schoolers a la Superbad or even Perks of Being a Wallflower—or the movie about the girl who gets a makeover as Lindsay Lohan’s character did in Mean Girls

These movies don’t count because they’re TRYING to make the actors look worse than they do.

I’m talking about the movies and television shows that are supposed to be about “regular” characters. Except that all the “regular” people look like they belong on the cover of Cosmo.

When I was looking for photos that proved my point, I came across two that made my case even stronger: publicity shots of the current and former cast of 90210.

Here they are now…

And here were back in the early ’90s…

See how different these people look?

The original cast of Beverly Hills, 90210—especially Shannon Doherty, Tori Spelling, Garielle Carteris, Brian Austin Green, and Ian Ziering—looked like real people. Yes, relatively good looking real people, but real people all the same.

But apparently teenagers aren’t allowed to look real anymore.

Instead they have to appear like they just stepped out of the plastic surgery ward—waxed and plucked and styled and coiffed and airbrushed so much that they look more like wax figures than real people.

If Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling can feature real people in their shows about adult women, there’s no reason that shows about high schoolers can’t do the same.

It’s time people. It’s time.

The Golden Globes embrace Lena Dunham and simultaneously change our notion of what it means to be a Hollywood actress

If you live in a cave (or avoid Twitter, Facebook, and the internet in general), you might not know that the Golden Globes were this past Sunday night. During the show, I noticed two really important things—one of which I want to talk about tonight.

The most important thing I noticed during the Golden Globes is that it was a huge night for women, especially regular women who refuse to pretend to be something they’re not.

1) Tina Fey and Amy Poehler KILLED as the co-hosts of the ceremony, doing a better job than Ricky Gervais, Jon Stewart, or David Letterman combined and proving that women really are funny despite what sexists like Christopher Hitchens and Adam Carolla have wrongly claimed in the past (or what Jay Leno implied Sunday with his backhanded compliments on the red carpet). If you didn’t see their opening monologue, you really owe it to yourself to do so.

2) Jodie Foster came out of the closet—again (was no one listening the first time?)—and said she refuses to put her life on display reality-show style, insisting that privacy and happiness are just as important as being a movie star.

3) But the most groundbreaking moment of the night was when Lena Dunham of HBO’s Girls won the Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a comedy or musical television series. Her win was especially significant to me—and to I Will Not Diet—because it signals a clear shift in our expectations for women in Hollywood.

This is because Dunham does not look like a leading actress—she’s short and average looking and has bad posture. She has a nose that’s bigger than the noses of most women in Hollywood, and she has medium brown, wavy hair. In other words, she’s the kind of woman you see everywhere—in every office, in every classroom, in many homes.

But even more important than Dunham’s looks is her body. Because Lena Dunham has a very real body.

No, she’s not fat (even though Howard Stern, desperate to hold onto his biggest-woman-hater-alive title, called her a “little fat chick”), but she’s not Hollywood skinny either. In fact, the most notable thing about her body is how incredibly average it is. She has slightly meaty thighs, arms with a bit of flesh on them, and a belly with just a little bit of fat.

In other words, she’s perfectly normal.

So when the Hollywood Foreign Press gave Dunham that round gold statue, they also sent a very important message to the rest of the women in the world—It’s okay to look normal, they said. Your work is more important than how you look. Give us your best work, and we will love you.

And that, my friends, is a huge change in the world of Hollywood. HUGE.

And I am incredibly happy it finally happened.

During her acceptance speech, Dunham said, “This award is for every woman who ever felt like there wasn’t a space for her,” and she couldn’t be more right about that.

I am the in-between

I’m currently in a shared artist’s book group. That sounds complicated, but it’s quite simple… I am part of a group of “artists” who are making books collaboratively.

Every one in the group starts a book and then passes it to the next person on the list. (My book is pictured above.)

Books can be about anything—they can be about a theme or they can be about a story. Contributors can write something or include a piece of art. And after it’s all over, we’ll each have a book completed by a wonderful group of creative people.

I got my friend Suz’s book last week, and theme of her book is “the in-between.” It didn’t take long for me to decide to write this poem about the way I look…

 

I AM THE IN-BETWEEN

I am in between “fat” and skinny,

in between young and old,

in between short and tall—

though doctors told me I’d be as lanky as a model,

that promise was never delivered.

I am in between underweight and obese,

which mean no one on TV looks like me.

I am in between lean and flabby—

solid muscle under a soft layer of padding.

I am in between perfect and flawed,

though my husband insists on the former.

 

My body is in between flat and curvy,

my breasts in between va-va-voom and washboard flat.

My butt is in between flat and rounded, depending on how you look at it,

and my nose is in between being a honker and being adorable.

My calves are void of fat but too large for knee-high boots.

My elbows are free of fat, but also as dry as elephant skin.

My stomach is a size ten, my thighs an eighteen,

my legs a twelve, my arms a six—

God help me when I go to the dressing room.

My feet are average—not too big to buy shoes in the store

but too wide to wear them more than a few hours.

My ears are appropriately sized but full of wax.

My skin is soft and smooth, but also prone to breakouts.

My hair is in between a fro and flat-iron straight.

My stomach is sometimes flat and sometimes distended,

a truth that is part of my life.

 

I am the in-between.

I am all of us.

And when I look in the mirror,

I see the glory that is being human.

Are we seeing a revolution? . . . How Lena Dunham and HBO are changing the way women look in the media

I’ve been lamenting the lack of “real” women in the media for years. This is because most of the women in film and television are either dangerously thin or more than a little overweight.

If they’re the former, they either wear a size two or—even worse—a size zero. And if they’re the latter, they’re the polar opposite—a size twenty or above.

And, with few exceptions—Mike & Molly, for instance—those larger-sized actresses are almost always relegated to playing the clown and/or sidekick.

The bottom line is it’s pretty rare to see an actress in the middle range, women between size four and eighteen, which is where most American woman fall. (The only exception I can think of is Kat Dunning on Two Broke Girls.)

But Lena Dunham has changed all of that with Girls.

On her new HBO sitcom, Dunham plays the lead character even though—wait for it—she looks like a regular person.

Dunham is not super thin, nor is she obese. She’s not drop-dead gorgeous, nor is she unattractive.

Instead she simply looks average.

As reporter Virginia Sole-Smith points out, Dunham is “playing the female lead in a sitcom without a perfect Hollywood body—and her lack of six-pack abs is not the entire point of the show . . . normally, the only bodies that get portrayed in the media fit into one extreme or the other — the revolution here is that we’re seeing someone who defies that categorization.”

Dunham did the same kind of thing in her 2010 feature film, Tiny Furniture, a movie in which she cast herself as the lead and then paraded around in her underwear despite the fact that—gasp!—she had fat and cellulite on her very exposed body.

Seeing Dunham depicted in such an honest way does feel like a revolution  . . . as well as a revalation.

I just hope that Dunham—and Denning—are not anomolies. I hope they are a sign that the way women are depicted in the media is finally changing for the better.* And, for now, I’m choosing to believe that’s the case.

 

*Note: There has been much made of the fact that GIRLS does not feature a racially diverse cast, and there can be no doubt this is a problem that also needs to be addressed by Dunham and in Hollywood in general. 

Back in my day . . . actresses had curly hair and a little meat on their bones.

Elizabeth Shue has a new movie coming out. Dave and I caught the preview at the multiplex over the weekend, and it made us start talking about all the great movies she was in when we were young . . .

 . . . Adventures in BabysittingRadio Inside, Leaving Las Vegas, and, of course, her breakout film, The Karate Kid.


Dave and I have both loved Shue ever since she was in The Karate Kid (the 1984 original), and one of the reasons we both liked her in that movie was because she looked like a real person.

In that movie, Shue had actual curves and curly hair and chipmunk cheeks and thick eyebrows. And she didn’t wear clothes that left nothing to the imagination or so much makeup that you couldn’t see her gorgeous freckles.

I’m not saying Shue wasn’t in tip-top shape because she was, which is obvious when she appears in her bathing suit during a scene at the beach, though it’s notable that it was a one-piece.

But I am saying you would never see someone who looked like such a down-to-earth girl-next-door in a film about two high schoolers today.


Instead, nearly every young woman—save some of the women on TV’s groundbreaking Glee—you do see playing a high schooler in film or television today has stick straight hair, a super skinny bod, a tiny nose, sculpted cheeks, shaped brows, plump lips, and movie star makeup.

And if we ever want to change our unhealthy obsession with thinness and perfection—especially among young girls—then we’ve got to go back to letting our female actors look like real people.

I Will Not Diet loooooooooooooves The Go-Go’s

I Will Not Diet is on vacation today, but I don’t want to leave you empty-handed, so I’m included The Go-Go’s original video for “Vacation” below.

Note that these women are all different sizes and shapes and they all have different looks. Also, none of them are flawless or perfect, but rather they are all beautiful because they look real.

That’s why we loved them. And the ’80s.

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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.

Why we all need to see Bridesmaids

I keep hearing people say they aren’t going to see Bridesmaids because it’s a rom com or a chick flick, and since this is really an important movie for women, I want to tell you why it is not either of those things and why you need to see it.

(There are no spoilers here, so feel free to read even if you haven’t seen the movie. And then after you read, go see it!)
1. First and foremost, this is not a rom-com. Yes, this movie is a comedy, but it’s not a rom-com because those movies put the romance first (and it’s usually cheesy, unbelievable romance) and the comedy second. Notice that the word “rom” comes before the word “com”? That’s because the rom is center stage, and in Bridesmaids, comedy definitely trumps romance. (By the way, women don’t exercise in a rom-com; they just look perfect without trying.) Also, this movie is not a rom-com or a chick flick because the main plot of the story is not about a woman who would only be happy if she could just find the right guy, which brings me to my next point . . .
2. No, this is a movie about . . . wait for it . . . female friendship. I know what you’re thinking—A movie about female friendship? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Well, there was Thelma and Louise, but that was like a million years ago. Yes, that’s my point. It’s been WAY TOO LONG since we’ve had a movie about female friendship, which is why people are saying. . .
3. This film is the first of a new genre. Perhaps you’ve heard of the bromance? Well, Bridesmaids is supposed to do for women what Wedding Crashers did for men. This new genre still doesn’t have a name—”sismance” and “wom-ance” just don’t sound quite right, and if you come up with a clever moniker (maybe “broad-mance”?), I’m sure you could make millions doing so.

4. And because this is a movie about female friendship, it passes the Bechdel test
, which asks: 1) Are there two named female characters in the film? There are SIX in this movie. 2) Do they talk to each other? Yes, they do. 3) About something besides men? Absolutely. I don’t have the exact numbers but I would venture to guess that about 90% of the movies made in Hollywood do not pass this test, reinforcing the wrong-headed notion that women are only in the world to be accessories to funny male comedians or hot male action stars. In other words, that women are defined by men. And guess what? We’re not.
5. It’s also the first Hollywood movie in a long time about a woman who is not played by an A-list actress. This may seem like no big deal at first, but when you think about it, it really is. The reason that most movies about women have to feature A-list actresses is because the people in Hollywood think good stories about women aren’t interesting enough to make us want to see them on their own and that they need something else—like Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon or Angelina Jolie—to get us in the seats of the theatre. But we know that’s not true, and by giving Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph the leading roles in this movie, the powers-that-be are also giving us a chance to prove that. And because they are played by “regular” actresses . . .
6. Bridesmaids features women who look like real people, which is almost unheard of in Hollywood movies these days. Kristin Wiig, as beautiful as she is, also looks her age in this film. She has wrinkles and bags under her eyes and doesn’t dress like she just stepped out of a Prada boutique. Maya Rudolph looks adorable, but she also doesn’t look stick thin. Nor does Wendi McLendon-Covey or Melissa McCarthy. Yes, three of the women in this bridal party are Hollywood thin, but three are not. And three out of six really ain’t bad. And the fact that we get this range of curvy bodies—from Rudolph to McLendon-Covey to McCarthy* is really unbelievably impressive since normally Hollywood only features the two extremes of big and small with no in-between. Not only do the women in Bridesmaids look real . . .
7. Like real women, they talk about sex . . . If Sex and the City was important because it showed women talking about sex in raunchy ways that we had previously only associated with men, Bridesmaids is important because it shows them talking about it—and acting on it—in believable ways. Now that we’ve had the insanity that was Samantha (and thank God we did), we can have authenticity, which is what you’ll find when Wiig and Rudolph discuss sex over breakfast, a scene that reads like an homage to the post-coitus brunch that was a staple of Sex and the City.

8. They also talk like real women.
Like the rest of us, they talk about everything in life…they talk about their jobs, their life choices, their regrets, their bodies, their friendships, other women, their hopes and dreams, and, yes, their clothes and even sometimes men. But they don’t ONLY talk about men, which is crucial.9. And, for me, the most important thing is that these woman are well-rounded characters who have real personalities and genuine flaws. And no I’m not talking about their bodies. I’m talking about the fact that these characters sometimes make the wrong decisions about their friendships, their jobs, their roommates, their lives, and as a result, the audience can’t help but feel for them while also wanting to kick their butts. Kristin Wiig’s character goes through the same kinds of ordeals we all go through—the kinds that make us question who we are and what life is about. And her struggles are so frustrating and so moving that I found myself actually sobbing through the middle of the movie. The crazy thing about it is that while I was sobbing, I also started laughing. I’ve laughed and cried in a movie, but I’ve never before done both at the same time, and I did both while watching this movie more than once. I always tell my students that over-the-top comedy only works if it is paired with real, honest emotion, and my response proves that is something Bridesmaids does really well.
10. Finally, this movie was written by two women, Kristin Wiig and her former Groundlings castmate Annie Mumolo (pictured above). As we all know, there are not nearly enough women in Hollywood, so we need to support them as much as we can. 

So what are you waiting for???

I’ve talked many times about the importance of voting with our dollars and how the depiction of women in the media won’t be more accurate until we do. Well, this is our chance. If we get behind this movie and spend our hard-earned cash to see it, Hollywood will get the message—we want movies about real women with real bodies and real problems who are not simply accessories to the men in their lives. (That is, unless you want Hollywood to make more movies like Thor.) I’m going again this week—when are you going?

*There’s more to say about Melissa McCarthy’s character in this film, and I’ll write about that next week.

Kate Winslet: walking the walk AND talking the talk

I’ve been a fan of Kate Winslet since she was a curvy nineteen-year-old in Sense and Sensibilitysixteen years ago (pictured to the left). She was beautiful in that film but she also looked like someone we could all aspire to be, which is the kind of actress we need to see more of in Hollywood.

Around that time, Winslet’s co-star (and Sense and Sensibility‘s Oscar-winning screenwriter) Emma Thompson told Winslet that if she ever became one of those anorexic-looking actresses found all over Hollywood, Thompson would stop speaking to her.

What Thompson said must have had an impact because Winslet has never become that kind of actress, the kind who looks malnourished.

Yes, she’s more thin now—presumably she’s lost her baby fat since S&S—than she was then, but she’s also not too thin, and I have to give her credit for not caving to industry standards that require most actresses to look underweight.

Because of this, I shouldn’t have been surprised when Winslet recently opened up in a completely honest and healthy way about her past weight issues in the April issue of Glamour magazine.

After the Glamour reporter asked Winslet about being called “blubber” as a young girl of eleven when she was 5’6″ and 200 pounds, Winslet said, “Looking back on it, I really wasn’t that heavy. I was just stockier than the other sporty, whippy-looking kids.”

What that means is that Winslet is admitting that 200 pounds isn’t really heavy for a five-foot-six woman, but rather, as she says, stocky. This is obviously something I’ve believed for years, so when I read about Winslet saying the same thing, I wanted to put my copy of Glamour up to my mouth and give it a big old kiss.

But it gets even better.

Because Winslet also admits a slight irritation with the backhanded compliments she used to get at that weight. “People would say to me,” she explains, “”You’ve got such a beautiful face,’ in the way of, like, “Oh, isn’t it a shame that from the neck down you’re questionable.'”

I know exactly what she is talking about. As I discussed in my “I don’t care what anyone says—I think you’re hot” post, people feel completely comfortable making these kinds of comments that on the surface sound like praise but in truth are laced with implicit criticism.

So when Winslet admitted this had also happened to her, I felt like I’d found my soulmate.

Finally, when asked about whether or not she considers plastic surgery, Winslet said, “I don’t have parts of my body that I hate or would like to trade for somebody’s else’s or wish I could surgically adjust into some fantasy version of what they are.”

All I have to say is, Kate Winslet, will you be my new BFF?

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