Archive for September 16, 2014

In Defense of the Selfie

The Mona Lisa gets the duck face treatment

The Mona Lisa gets the duck face treatment

 

A month ago, my dad and I were vacationing in Toronto, Canada. After a thrilling minute-long elevator ride, we were finally at our next destination: the “lookout” level of the CN Tower, 1,136 feet above the ground.

The views were spectacular.

There were so many things to look at—the Art Gallery, the lake, the hotel where we were staying. I pulled out my camera and snapped picture after picture of the view. After I had almost completely exhausted my memory card, I started looking around inside.

Normal tourist activities were going on. Families were crowded around the windows. Some people were buying overpriced snacks. And, of course, countless numbers of people were taking selfies. It was a bit overwhelming to see so many people simultaneously engage in this activity. Backs leaned against glass, arms raised to get the perfect angle.

I am not a selfie-hater, but in that moment I was frustrated by what I was seeing. I thought that these people should be enjoying themselves in what I thought was the appropriate way. For a moment my thoughts flew out of my control.  These people (most of them women) were self-absorbed and self-obsessed.

After we were done upstairs, we took the elevator down and started browsing through the gift shop. During that time my frustration had become focused on myself.

Who was I to judge these people? I didn’t know anything about them.

And I had to admit I was being hypocritical, of course. I’ve taken plenty of selfies and somehow have managed to avoid becoming a self-obsessed monster. But the question remained: Why was I so mad at these women?  Why was I judging them so harshly?

I realized that I was buying into a very pervasive attitude. Society has infected me with its fanatical scorn. The selfie is subject to rampant derision and mockery. Women (especially teenage girls) are blasted for self-absorption and lack of perspective when they take a selfie. Duck faces and peace signs have become unspeakable offenses.

Think about it. What kinds of words are used to describe the young women who have the audacity to cultivate and enjoy their own image? They’re desperate, conceited, and proud. They’re narcissistic attention whores, and they are ruining society.

All this is heaped on us for such a small crime – the crime of declaring and celebrating our own existence by striking a quick pose in front of the camera lens. And why?

Because the more pictures we take of ourselves, the more dangerous we are. The more we look at our own image and say Damn, I look good, the closer we get to loving ourselves and forgetting what society has taught us about beauty.

Every day, the media sends out more and more messages with the same idea: if you are a woman, you aren’t good enough.

You need to lose weight.

You need to get rid of your wrinkles.

Cellulite is gross.

You need to wear more makeup.

If you don’t get your skin cleared up, no one will ever love you.

And so on.

And we buy into it! I know I do. I bought into it so much, I started judging other women for daring to push the norms society has put in place for us.

Well, no more.

Between my cell phone and my computer, I probably have over a hundred selfies. Most of them stay private, though I have a handful smattered across Instagram and Facebook. I keep them private not because I’m ashamed of how I look. I keep them private because they’re for me and me alone. They make me feel good about myself. If I’m having a good hair day or my makeup looks great, you bet I’m going to record it. Stuck inside my pocket or purse is my portfolio: the proof I can give myself that I am beautiful.

So keep taking selfies, ladies! And don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.

by Lauren Bunch

“Anaconda” barely misses the mark for empowerment

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 12.09.45 PM (2).jpg

Nicki Minaj in her music video “Anaconda”

 

If you have a Tumblr account or access to the internet at all, you no doubt have seen gifs—if not the actual video—of Nicki Minaj’s newest single “Anaconda.”

Me and Nicki have had a difficult relationship.

Some days I feel like we are the same person and all of her songs speak directly to me—those are the days when I can just sit in awe of her talent.

Other days I feel like she doesn’t even care about gender equality, but rather just about getting ahead.

Most days, though, I acknowledge Minaj is an artist with some feminist leanings, and I respect her for everything she does.

With “Anaconda” popping up all over the internet, I cannot ignore the fact that so many women are feeling empowered by something as simple as a music video. Especially in comparison to the light­hearted and probably poorly timed release of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” Minaj’s “Anaconda” video seems like just the thing we all need to love big “buns, hun.”

The sexual content of the video seems as if it is only there just for show, but, like her more recent videos, Minaj takes hold of the idea of the male gaze and turns it on its head.

Her music video for “Looking” is one of my favorites. She is obviously talking about men who ogle her curvy frame, expecting something from her, but she rebukes them, acknowledging that she doesn’t exist for their pleasure but for her own.

In the video for “Anaconda,” Minaj does the same—at one point going so far as to cut and throw away a banana, opting to eat a strawberry instead.

I could go on for days about how “Anaconda” mirrors numerous videos that sexualize the ethnic body but do so critically, but instead I would like to focus on something that has seemed to stir up a lot of controversy on my social media feeds.

And that is, what about thin­-shaming?

In the conclusion of “Anaconda,” Minaj thin­shams, taunts, and laughs maniacally while saying:

I said, where my fat ass big bitches in the club?

F*** the skinny bitches!

F*** the skinny bitches in the club

I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherf***king club.

F*** you if you skinny bitches WHAT?

Minaj seems to know what she’s doing. It’s not like Meghan Trainor’s “All
 About the Bass,” which includes only one example of thin­shaming and then takes it back by saying, “kidding.”

Minaj is actively thin­shaming. Maybe in response to all the articles that criticize thin­shaming? Whatever the reason, she wants us to know that skinny women do not belong in this specific representation of feminine bodies.

While it is obvious why this kind of othering is problematic, does thin-shaming go deeper than just hurt feelings? Many responses to “Anaconda” have written off women’s feelings as basically whining; however, their criticism is about a lot more than just the crocodile tears of a skinny white girl who’s been shamed for twerking.

an00099425_001_l

In the black community, there is an appreciation for curvy women. In hip­hop, it’s known that the desired female aesthetic features big butts, big hips, big thighs, and the assumed typical aspects of an Afro­centric female. Think back to your lesson on female sexualization from Women’s Studies 101 when you learned about Sarah Baartmen—the woman from Africa whose very curvy frame was literally studied for science.

While many women of color have this body type, the hip­hop ideal is drastically different from that of mainstream society. In mainstream society you’re either Scarlett Johansson or you’re Cara Delevingne. Being skinny and black means you’re not conventionally attractive. However, large women are still not perceived as conventionally attractive either. If you look at Minaj, she’s got a small waist, flat stomach, and she barely has rolls or flab. That means that what Minaj is pushing is not body positivity but the idealization of one type of body that is often only achieved through genetics or surgery. Yeah, squats equal a nice backside, but does it equal Minaj booty? Certainly not.

While this aspect of her song obviously causes negative feelings for many women of many different races, it would not be a Minaj song if there wasn’t something else she was trying to say.

In case you are not familiar with Nicki Minaj, recently she’s had a “beef” with Iggy Azalea. Minaj has spoken out about how she thinks rap has lost a lot of authenticity because of rappers like Azalea, Macklemore, Kreyshawn, and many other white rappers accused of cultural appropriation.

iggy-azalea-cover-07-2014-billboard-600

Iggy Azalea

 

This problem was made clear this year at the BET Awards when Minaj pleaded that the awards stay “authentic”—in other words, stay black.

But the BET Awards have always included performances by a couple of white singers and rappers, like Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, and Eminem. So as far as the awards go, diversity and talent is the key, not so much a “people of color only” sign.

taylor

Taylor Swift in her new video “Shake It Off”

 

The thin-shaming part of “Anaconda,” though, attacks the cultural appropriation of hip­hop dancing, black culture, and twerking—the kind of cultural appropriation with which so many white celebrities have become obsessed. Society seems fascinated with the sexuality of black women as well as their bodies. This fascination has turned black women’s bodies into a comical act, as well as a fetishization. Minaj dares to fight this concept with her own sense of female empowerment.

nicki-minaj-drake-anaconda-instagram-pics-4

While “Anaconda” maintains plenty of of YAAAASSSSS­factor and slays me every time I watch it (which is a lot more times than I care to admit), I cannot help but acknowledge the problems I have with the video. This includes the expectation of ethnic body types being similar to that of video vixens, and the video’s lack of recognition to the variety of bodies that exist in the black community.

While I have never been the kindest critic of Nicki Minaj, I think the overall intent of “Anaconda” was mostly accomplished, and for that reason I’d be happy to have the music video play on a loop on my tombstone for eternity.

by Leah Railey

A message for my younger self

Middle school graduation, 2004

Last August, I decided to go through my family photos. It had been almost a year after my mother’s death, and I finally felt ready to look through the twenty-two years of precious memories I was fortunate to share with her. My favorites were placed in a pile to be taken to my new apartment.

For most of my life, my parents were quite diligent about taking photos.  The major events were all recorded: birthdays, holidays, vacations. I poured through boxes and envelopes full of pictures, admiring images of a simpler time. There was newborn Lauren, a thicket of dark hair covering her head. There was Lauren on the first day of school, eager and clad in brand new clothes.

Then I came upon a picture that surprised me. I immediately recognized the photo—my dad had taken it on the day of my middle school graduation. My mom was next to me, arm draped across my shoulder.  She smiled largely while I had a hint of a grin on my face. My brown hair came down past my shoulders. I wore an orange sundress and my face was riddled with a handful of red pimples.

It was astonishing to see this moment that had been housed in the fuzzy corners of my mind. I didn’t remember looking like that. The most pervasive memories of my pre-teen years are stained with anger and frustration.  I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. I felt like my body was out of my control.  I didn’t fit in and was teased constantly.

As a result, the feelings that picture brought up were completely unexpected. I felt regret, but not for the reasons I might have thought. I felt regret because I had been so very hard on myself.

Clutching that picture in my hand, I wished I had been kinder to myself back then. The girl in the photo was not a monster. She was not the massive waste of space she thought she was. She was an awkward, gawky, chubby, normal girl. And she was lovely.

I have two ongoing goals that I would like to work on this semester during my internship with I Will Not Diet. One, I want to encourage women and girls everywhere to be nicer to themselves. The problems we have with our bodies aren’t going to be solved with anger and self-flagellation. I truly believe that when you feel good about yourself, personal health follows. If we can stop beating ourselves up and try to love ourselves, we’ll all feel so much better.

With that in mind, my second goal is to be kinder to myself. I want to be able to love myself no matter what shape my body is. This is obviously easier said than done, but I am committed. I hope that other women and girls will join me as I learn to love what I see in the mirror.

by Lauren Bunch

Welcome to our new intern!

Lauren

It’s the start of a new semester, and that means a new intern at I Will Not Diet. Woot!

This semester’s intern is Lauren Bunch, a junior at Western Kentucky University, majoring in creative writing with minors in English literature and professional writing.

Lauren was born and raised in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville. In her free time, she likes to read and cultivate her love of horror movies, especially The Conjuring and Night Watch. She is a fiction writer at heart but enjoys writing in many genres and about numerous topics.

I hope you will all support Lauren by liking her posts here and on our Facebook page this semester.

Welcome, Lauren!

  • twitterfacebook