We all know that the media plays a huge role in how we see ourselves, and for that reason, I think it’s essential that we VOTE WITH OUR DOLLARS by spending our money on films, books, and websites about real women. Here are a few favorites . . .
Moose by Stephanie Klein—a memoir about Klein’s experience growing up “fat” and being shipped off to fat camp by her somewhat unsympathetic parents, this book details what we all—fat or not—went through when we were young: feeling unattractive, struggling to fit in, and just wanting to be normal.
Calling Home by Janna McMahan—an utterly readable novel about a young girl trying to figure out who she is after her father leaves and her mother withdraws with grief. This book will remind you of your adolescence and make you wish you could help all young girls figure out who they are.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins—Yes, this is a novel about a teenage girl forced to fight to the death in the “Hunger Games, but it’s also a story about a teenage girl who doesn’t want to be controlled by a society that wants her to make herself into a perfect-looking, primped, waxed, and coiffed young woman.
The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl by Shauna Reid—Reid lost half of her body weight, but what I like about her is that she stopped at a healthy weight (175 lbs for her 5’8” frame). Despite her Diet Girl moniker, Reid is an advocate of losing weight and keeping it off the healthy way. Check out her book or her blog.
Cemetery Girl by David Bell—a novel about a young woman who is kidnapped, this book details how her parents struggle to come to grips with what has happened to their daughter and how her abductor changes the way she sees herself.
Cowboys Are My Weakness by Pam Houston—an outstanding story collection about women who refuse to be defined by the men in their lives or the patriarchal forces in their society.
Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves by Crystal Renn—Renn details her teenage experience losing seventy pounds to land a modeling contract and then losing that contract when she gained about fifteen pounds back, ultimately leading her to accept her body and become a “plus-size” model.
Food Rules by Michael Pollan—a simple handbook for eating the healthy way sans diet.
Bitch Flicks—as I’ve said, it’s important that we spend our money on movies that promote honest, healthy portrayals of women, and Bitch Flicks main goal is to tell us how we can do that.
An Hour in the Kitchen—since one of the main tenets of healthy living is cooking more at home, this blog is a great place to get started on how to cook healthier (but still delicious) food.
Michael Pollan—Pollan’s take on healthy eating—that we buy our food from the outside of the grocery store (the produce, meat and dairy sections) rather than the middle where the processed foods live—is exactly in line with my emphasis on avoiding processed foods.
Eating Well—the most comprehensive site for healthy recipes on the web.
Glamour—In the fall of 2009, Glamour committed to “featuring a greater range of body types in our pages, including in fashion and beauty stories.” I subscribed then, and they’ve kept their word, including articles on how to dress for different body types and quoting experts who assert, “Women aren’t meant to be bone thin, as many of my patients strive to be. So don’t kill yourself trying to get there. Plus, guys are drawn to your body at its most natural. Some brain scans suggest that men go gaga over curves, which, after all, signify fertility.”
Vogue Curvy—Vogue Curvy has been designed specifically for curvy women, and since Vogue Italia was the first magazine to feature curvy women on its cover, I believe the Vogue brand is serious about the issue of changing how women look in the media.
Levi’s Curve ID—jeans that aren’t just sized by number, but also by how curvy you are: slight curve, demi curve, and bold curve.
Huge—Not only does the show actually feature many, many people with real bodies—curvy bodies, lumpy bodies, obese bodies—it also doesn’t turn them into offensive fat jokes, which is what usually happens when we see overweight characters on film or in television, relegating them to being either the source of inane humor or the sidekick. Or—worse still—both.
Glee—This show about a high school glee club is first and foremost a show about acceptance—acceptance of our bodies, our personalities, our sexuality, our gender, our identity, our life choices, etc. One of the most important shows on television. On a recent episode, the glee clubbers don t-shirts advertising what the world sees as their worst quality, thereby reclaiming that part of themselves and turning a “flaw” into something they wear with pride.
What Not to Wear—on this makeover show, they take a regular looking woman and help her see how beautiful she really is. Yes, that’s right. They don’t change her body or alter her artificially. They just help her dress and style her hair and makeup in a way that best flatters who she already is.
Real Women Have Curves—the first movie (as far as I can remember) that celebrates curvy women. Let’s give this one the credit it deserves.
Bridesmaids—this movie redefines the role of women in film by focusing on the friendships of women instead of a love story between a man and a woman, avoiding rom-com clichés, and featuring actresses who are not A-listers or just one size who talk about sex and other real things and are also fully developed characters. Finally and just as importantly, the film was written by two women—Kristin Wiig and her former Groundlings castmate Annie Mumolo.
Julie and Julia—As first chef Julia Child, Meryl Streep looked more like an average woman than she ever has before, but somehow she still managed to glow and be so appealing to her husband that he came home every day at lunch for a “nooner.” Gotta love a movie that makes a real looking woman so sexy.
Whip It—The women in this inspiring girl empowerment story are all different sizes—Bliss is an adorable little pixie while BFF Pash is a lovely roller coaster of curves. The other girls sport imperfect stomachs, thighs, and arms without self-consciousness. I credit director Drew Barrymore with depicting them as both real and hot, making it easy for the audience to cheer because they look a lot more like us than most women we see in the movies.
Muriel’s Wedding—If you haven’t seen this one yet, rent it this weekend and laugh, laugh, laugh and cry a little too. I promise you’ll love Toni Collette’s breakout role and Muriel’s very unconventional beauty by movie’s end.
Bridget Jones’ Diary—At first, Bridget wants to change everything about herself, but then Mark tells her that he likes her “just the way” she is. Mark Darcy: the man all men should model themselves on.
Penelope—Okay, this movie (which stars Christina Ricci and Reese Witherspoon) doesn’t have a curvy body in sight, but still, it’s about a young woman who is forced to accept herself the way she is—imperfections and all. In my dreams, that’s what we’d all do.
Dreamgirls—Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé headline this emotional musical . . . need I say more?
Sideways—Sure, this was a movie about wine (not women), but the fact that the woman who captures the interest of the main character—Virginia Madsen—looks stunningly beautiful even though she isn’t rail-thin or a traditional head-turner means that this film makes my list.
Shallow Hal—Admittedly this movie isn’t high art, but the fact that it celebrates the idea of seeing the good in people rather than obsessing over their dress size makes it a must-size.
Mamma Mia!—In this movie, Meryl Streep danced her way into the hearts of three different men—played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard—despite that fact that her body was age appropriate. (Sure, Amanda Seifried was too skinny, but we’ll let that go since she played a woman who was still growing up.)
It’s Complicated—Yet again, we see another Meryl Streep movie that celebrates a woman with a real body. In this rom-com, Streep’s character looks both real and lovely, proving that women can age gracefully, while her ex, played by Alec Baldwin, sports a globe-like tummy.
Bend it Like Beckham—girl power RULES in this fun little film about a young woman who must fight for her right to play soccer. But the real reason it makes my list is because of the brutal scene in which the main character is forced to don shorts for the team and thus reveal a huge scar she’s managed to keep hidden for years. She does that AND still gets the guy. You gotta love it.