Tag Archive for body image

Of TV stars, movies, books, and cartwheels…
I Will Not Diet comes back from hiatus

Hello, dear readers,

You may or may not have noticed that I Will Not Diet hasn’t been very active over the past month or so. That’s because I decided I needed to take a hiatus to focus on finishing the semester and finishing the book I’ve been working on for over four years.

Good news—I finished both the semester and the book—so I think it’s time to bring back I Will Not Diet.

A few things you missed while I was away…

 

1) I had the pleasure of meeting and introducing Mary McDonough—who played Erin Walton on The Waltons—at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. McDonough is a strong advocate for the fight to get women to accept their bodies the way they are, and I highly recommend you read her book, Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton, which details how Hollywood negatively affected her own body image for far too long. If McDonough can reject the notion that Hollywood determines what beauty is, then I think we can too.

 

I also got to meet Fonzie at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest.

How freaking cool is that????

*

2) I saw several films that were good for women and one that was not.

 

The good included Frances Ha, an independent film that looks at the expectations put on women and young people in America.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QD88JpNEQz0

Admission wasn’t the best film I ever saw, but it was much smarter than I expected; more importantly, it provided us with a real female character to both root for and cringe with in Tina Fey’s Portia Nathan, who alternated between looking confident/successful/put together and overworked/stressed/a mess, which I loved.

 

Stories We Tell was also excellent, and though it wasn’t really about gender issues, I think it’s always a good idea to support female filmmakers since there are so few of them in Hollywood. The more we support them, the more likely we are to see honest depictions of women in film.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hZAowwh65A

The one movie that made me cringe was Oblivion. It wasn’t a bad story (though it ripped off several other films), but the depiction of the female characters was downright offensive. Even though all of the female characters in the film are supposed to be highly intelligent and skilled astronauts, they all dressed in tight, seductive clothing and had perfect long flowing hair and flawless makeup all the time. Not only that, but they also always played second string to their male counterparts, letting the men do the tough/scary work and take care of them. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that female astronauts would act like the damsel in distress or look like Angelina Jolie.

*

3) I guess I should say more about finishing my book, which is tentatively called You Belong to Us. As I said, I’ve been working on this book for more than four years—since December of 2008. Though the book is primarily about my experience meeting my biological family (I was adopted right before the photo above), it also touches on issues related to this blog, especially how it is that our self-esteem is cultivated—and often deestroyed—by our families and our environments. I think that alone makes the book worthwhile, but I hope it also delves into important questions about identity and family, which, of course, feed into our self-esteem and body image.

And, of course, I always think it’s important for women to tell their stories, so I feel proud to tell mine.

I’ll admit that it was a tough decision to put I Will Not Diet aside to finally finish the book, but I felt it was necessary for my mental health. So I hope you all can understand why I made that choice.

*

4) Finally and possibly best of all, I did my first cartwheel in about five years last night at Bowling Green Backyard Bootcamp. (That’s me in the back in the black pants and white tank.) This has been a goal of mine for a couple of years now. I wanted to prove to myself that I was healthy and fit enough to still pull them off. Mission accomplished!

*

I also have a dozen or so articles I want to discuss with you, but I’ll save those until later this week.

Thanks for coming back!
Molly

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.

Oscar recap: people still care way too much about what women look like… said another way: give Renée a break

It’s time for my annual post-Oscar post. Some years the Academy makes me feel good about the world, and other years…

…well, others years it makes me feel like we are still living in the paleolithic era.

Unless you live in a cave, you know that the biggest problem with Sunday night’s Oscar telecast was the host, Seth MacFarlane, whose performance featured jokes that were sexist, racist, and homophobic while also throwing in a rape joke for good measure. (The Daily Beast called it the “Juvenile Oscars,” and you can read about some of the worst offenders in this list of the “9 Sexist Things That Happened at the Oscars.”)

But I’ve already forgotten about MacFarlane.

He’s a neanderthal, he’s Archie Bunker reincarnated in Peter Brady’s body, and he knows it.

In other words, he’s not worth my time.

What I can’t seem to forget—what was keeping me up last night with concern—was all the negativity about Renée Zellweger’s looks.

Type in the words “Renée Zellweger Oscars” into Google over the past thirty-six hours, and you’ll get hundreds of hits about Zellweger’s appearance (as well as her supposedly drunken behavior, which has since been refuted). The internet and Twitterverse have been downright aflame with talk about Zellweger’s face—claiming she looked overly botoxed and completely “unrecognizable.”

All I can say is, what the hell are they talking about?

Zellwegger has always had a unique face, but saying she looks unrecognizable is a strange charge to level when she looked almost exactly like she always has if a bit older and thinner:

And, yes, her face does seem unusually smooth for a women in her mid forties, but no smoother than mine or any of my friends who are the same age as Zellwegger.

I mean, come on. Forty is not sixty or even fifty.

And so what if she’s had botox treatments? We live in a society that is obsessed with scrutinizing the appearance of celebrities—especially female celebrities. I sincerely hope that Zellwegger and other “middle-aged” celebrities reject botox and other types of plastic surgery, but honestly, I cannot blame them if and when they don’t.

It also seems like a vicious cycle that we are helping to perpertrate when we criticize women like Zellwegger who get work done—these women are put under a microscope so harsh that we have entire tabloid magazines devoted to seeing celebrities looking bad in their bathing suits—and then we have the nerve to criticize them when they want their skin to look smoother?

It makes me wonder what they could do, if anything, to make us happy. I fear that the answer is nothing.

Possibly worst of all of the criticism about Zellwegger’s looks Sunday night was a comment tweeted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler), one of the stars of Modern Family, who said:

Renee Zellweger arrives as a Ghost of Christmas Future for Jennifer Lawrence, bearing warning about Botox. #Oscars2013

Not only is Ferguson’s comment intentionally hurtful, but it also furthers this never-ending cycle of making women feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.

Ironically, it also alludes to the real problem: that women in Hollywood are glorified for their natural beauty when they are young—like Zellwegger was around the time she was in Jerry Maguire and Jennifer Lawrence has been lately—and then ripped apart and rejected when they age naturally. Yes, there are some exceptions, but they are few and far between, and those exceptions are usually only granted to “serious” actresses like Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon.

The other problem with the attacks on Zellwegger is that when we criticize female celebrities for their looks, we simultaneously hurt ourselves and our collective self-esteem. After all, if the internet is obsessed with Zellwegger’s too-smooth skin and her squinty eyes, how on earth are the rest of us real women supposed to feel when we look in the mirror and see that—next to someone as thin and polished as Zellwegger—we look even more flawed? The answer is that we often feel like crap.

And a big part of me wonders if the reason Zellwegger got a bit too much botox or looked too shiny under the bright lights of the Oscar stage or seemed a bit squinty or unsure of herself (to the point that people thought she was drunk) is because she’s been out of the limelight for a while and isn’t as used to the intense pressure and scrutiny that comes along with that kind of international stage.

To put it simply, maybe she was just nervous.

One of my former students posted these words on Facebook today:

If you see someone struggling to keep their head above water, it’s probably best not to push them under.

That’s honestly the best thing I’ve heard in days.

The Evolution of Me… a guest post by Fallon Willoughby

I want to tell the story of my own struggle with weight.

As a child I was always very pudgy. I never really thought about it because I wasn’t really that overweight. My mom always said I just hadn’t grown into my weight, hadn’t yet lost my baby fat.

But one day when I was in sixth grade my father told me I was getting fat and needed to lose weight.

I was utterly devastated. Honestly, I do not remember much beyond the simple fact of my father saying those words. I did hope to lose weight though I never thought about doing anything drastic. But, Lord, his words hurt.

Not long after that, I grew into my weight. I went from being chunky to weighing 110 pounds. I mean skinny…

That was my senior year of high school. Then I married and became a college freshman. So I gained the freshman fifteen and the married fifteen: thirty pounds in such a short time. I’m not sure how I managed not to notice until suddenly my pants wouldn’t fit over my bum and my shirts were too low-cut because I suddenly had boobs!

Here’s me a year later…

The crazy thing is at first my weight gain didn’t bother me.

My husband loved it. I bought new clothes. Friends from high school saw me and commented on how much better I looked. My family said I no longer looked like a bean pole. My favorite comment would be from a friend in Walmart who loudly announced that my new curves, bum, and boobs looked amazing.

As I said, it was a change that didn’t seem to bother me.

Fast forward another two years, and I gained some more weight.

My thighs, already large, were getting bigger. My new clothes weren’t fitting. My stomach… oh, the stomach.

Still, I ignored it.

Then a nurse commented on my weight gain. I could no longer ignore the problem. I was gaining quite a bit of weight and I was way over my healthy weight. I became self-conscious in ways I never was before.  I worried about my weight and my stomach chubbyness most of all. I noticed other women who looked so much better than me. That’s when envy set in. Ooooh, the envy for a better body. (Pinterest sucks, by the way.)

I finally decided to do something. I lost weight by exercising and cutting back on fast food last summer. I was very, very proud of that.

But I didn’t diet. I have never ever believed in all those stupid diets. I knew that just because you dieted for a bit and drastically lost weight doesn’t mean you won’t gain it back the instant you go back to normal habits.

I wanted to change.

Since last summer, I have basically quit exercising. It’s depressing, but I tend to have problems finding the time. Of course, that’s also procrastination on my part. I love to Zumba and to walk, but walking is much harder to do when it’s freezing outside. At the moment, I’ve hit a stalemate. And fast food is soooo easy during the semester.

My husband still tells me I’m beautiful. But some days I have a really hard time believing it. Not to mention my acne has taken a major turn for the worse.

One day I mentioned all of this to my friend Heather, and she let me have it. She wrote a blog post about why we should stop hating ourselves and dedicated it to me. I squealed. And I felt beautiful.

I try to hold onto that most days.

FALLON WILLOUGHBY is a self-described wacky college student, a double major in history and English. Her dream job is to be a history professor focusing on the history of magic or the Middle Ages or Renaissance. She is married toher high school sweetheart. You can read her blog at Historian in Progress.

Let’s all take a deep breath and calm the fuck down about Lena Dunham… a cross post by Stephanie Rogers of Bitch Flicks

Lena Dunham and the cast of GIRLS

 

Dear Lena Dunham Haters,

I’m sick of the Lena Dunham hate.

I’m not referring to the criticisms of Dunham, which are—in most cases—valid and necessary critiques of her privilege, especially how that privilege translates into her work. The first season of Girls in particular either ignored people of color entirely, which is problematic enough since the show takes place in Brooklyn (a predominantly Black neighborhood), but when it did include people of color, they tended to appear as stereotypes (nannies, homeless, etc), and Dunham absolutely deserves to be called out for that.

But I’m sick of the Lena Dunham hate.

Just take a moment and Google the phrase “I hate Lena Dunham.” Feel free to spend some time browsing through the more than a million results. Searches related to “I hate Lena Dunham” include such gems as “Lena Dunham annoying,” “how much does Lena Dunham weigh,” and “what size is Lena Dunham.”

We live in a society that constantly undervalues and devalues the work of women while simultaneously expecting that the work we do—from mothering to directing movies—is performed fucking flawlessly. That said, we can’t sit back and pretend the vitriol directed at Dunham isn’t largely about a young woman breaking barriers in an industry that doesn’t like women (especially women who aren’t conventionally attractive and who aren’t gasp! spending all their waking hours apologizing for it). We shouldn’t pretend either that we, as a culture—and that includes women and feminists—haven’t internalized a little bit of this uneasiness surrounding successful women. It makes sense, then, that the undercurrent bubbling beneath all this Dunham hate is the very sexist notion that somehow Dunham doesn’t deserve her success.

Lena Dunham, looking all ungrateful for her unearned success

 

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Dunham, having written about her wonderful film Tiny Furniture way back in 2011, before she’d manage to offend the entire nation with her giant thighs and sloppy backside. I think she comes across as genuinely funny and interesting, and I hope that her success—and the hard hits she’s taking because of it—will make the next woman who dares to step out of line (where “line” means “the patriarchal framework”) do so with just as much fearlessness.  

Lena Dunham, probably getting ready to annoy people with her incessant whining

 

But how about we leave the I HATE LENA DUNHAM BECAUSE SHE SEEMS ENTITLED AND KINDA HORRIBLE AND WHINY AND ISN’T DOING THINGS THE WAY I WOULD DO THEM IF I WERE LENA DUNHAM grossness off the table for five seconds.

Lena Dunham, being all entitled and shit

 

When I was 26, I was spending my fifth year failing undergrad, drowning in student loan debt (that’s still happening), smoking pot incessantly, binge-eating pepperoni rolls, sleeping through most of my classes on a broken futon, and shoving dryer sheets in my heating vents because my shitty always-drunk neighbors wouldn’t stop chain smoking. Occasionally, out of nowhere, a giant fly would swoop down from some unseen cesspool where flies live and attack me. Those are my memories of being 26. Maybe your memories of being 26 suck way less, and if so, congratulations! But you’re allowed to make mistakes at 26. You’re allowed to learn from those mistakes and evolve into a person who looks back and thinks, “Wow, 26 was rough, and I sucked at it.” That’s a general goddamn life rule, and we aren’t taking it away from Lena Dunham just because she’s a young woman who dares to make her mistakes in public. (Read Jodie Foster’s thought-provoking essay on society’s disgustingunsurprisingly misogynist reactions toward young women acting like young women in public.)

I mean, just to double check, we’re all still cool with Louis C.K., right? I haven’t yet seen season three of Louie, that award-winning show that C.K. writes, directs, produces, edits, and stars in (sound familiar?), but I remember the first few episodes or so of this New York City-set critics’ darling being fairly fucking White, except for a few peripheral characters outside of Louie’s inner circle. And the Black people who do exist (at least in the first season) pretty much serve as vehicles to illustrate Louie’s uncoolness by comparison. (Has anyone given a name to that trope yet?) So, did I miss the accompanying INTERNET FREAKOUT, or does this bro maybe represent—I dunno—society’s favorite quintessential middle-aged, balding white dude who can’t get laid, that we all find so endearing and impossible not to love?

Did I also miss the 100% JUSTIFIED NOT REALLY BECAUSE IT NEVER HAPPENED OUTRAGE over C.K. exposing his huge gut and sloppy backside to the masses—whether he’s climbing on top of hot women (duh) or getting a totally unnecessary (because assault is funny!) rectal exam from doctor-character Ricky Gervais? And we’re all still cool with his awkward and embarrassing sex scenes, right? Because they’re just … so … what’s that word people keep railing against when it’s used to describe the sex scenes in Girls … oh yeah … “REAL” … ?

"Eh, what are you gonna do?" --privileged White dudes everywhere, in response to rarely getting called out for their bullshit

 

My bad. I’m probably missing something, since Chuck Bowen called Louie “possibly the most racially integrated television show ever made,” (I’ll admit “Dentist/Tarese” is an interesting episode toward the end of season one) and there isn’t at all an inkling of a double standard at play here regarding what we consider “acceptable” bodies to display onscreen. (Sidenote: I love, not really, how groundbreaking it is that C.K. cast a Black woman to play his ex-wife in season three of Louie, yet we’re still treated to that “schlubby dude landing a hot lady” trope. I can’t keep suspending my disbelief forever, boys.)

Sorry, tangent. But seriously.

If I sound like a Lena Dunham apologist aka “a fucking pig who can go to hell,” let me clarify (again): Lena Dunham should be—and certainly has been, I mean fuck—criticized for her show’s failings. Most television shows and films for that matter would benefit even from a miniscule amount of the kind of intense anger flung at Girls over its racism and lack of diversity. But I’m angry that people—including women and feminists—can’t seem to criticize Lena Dunham’s show without launching into sexist attacks against Lena Dunham, in the same way I was angry when people couldn’t (and still can’t) separate their criticisms of Sarah Palin’s conservative policies from their sexist attacks against Sarah Palin.

So, if nothing else, I give you these few words and phrases to move away from when talking about Lena Dunham: “whiny” … “annoying” … “ugly” … “gross” … “frumpy” … “hot mess” … “neurotic” … “slutty” … you get the idea.

NEPOTISM NARCISSISM LENA'S BODY UGH

 

The truth is, ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me who likes Girls and who doesn’t. For what it’s worth, I liked the first season, mainly because I’ve been writing about representations of women in film and television for five years, and it was nice for once to know I wouldn’t have to analyze every scene to figure out whether this show passed The Bechdel Test. It sort of blew my mind to hear women talk to one another about abortion, HPV, colposcopies, virginity, and menopause, like, repeatedly—and with no unnecessary mansplainy perspective involved. I think the show actually makes a pretty serious case against living like an entitled, culturally insulated hipster, while still managing to love its characters. But I understand, even excluding the criticisms regarding lack of diversity, that people still legitimately dislike the show for other reasons. That’s allowed. I hate Two and a Half Men and Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother and every other White-dominated show on television that keeps pretending women exist merely as fucktoys and mommies to their manchildren, and that’s allowed too.

But if you’re having an epic conniption over HOW HORRIBLE GIRLS IS OMG WHY DOES ANYONE LIKE IT LENA DUNHAM IS THE WORST, maybe it’s time to evaluate the hate—not dislike of, or boredom with, or ambivalence toward—but the actual hatred of Girls Lena Dunham, and why it’s really there.

 

 

STEPHANIE ROGERS is the co-founder and editor of Bitch Flicks, a feminist film and media website. Her feminist commentary has also appeared at sites such as Ms. Magazine, Women and Hollywood, and Shakesville. In her spare time, she writes poems and streams a shitload of Netflix.

Taking plastic surgery to its unnatural conclusion

We all know about the dangers—emotional as well as physical—of plastic surgery: not only is surgery always a serious undertaking (several high-profile women have died during plastic surgery), but plastic surgery also hurts our collective psyche by sending the untrue message that we can look perfect and young forever. And also that doing so is desirable.

Yes, we all know these things to be true.

But when I saw the photos above—photos of young Korean women before and after plastic surgery—and read about how common it is for such women to have work done, I became alarmed.

According to Jezebel‘s Dodai Stewart, South Korea is “the country with the highest per capita rate of plastic surgery in the world. One in five women in Seoul have undergone some kind of procedure.” This fact is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that there is now a Tumblr blog devoted to before and after pictures of Korean plastic surgery.

But it’s not just the commonality of these procedures in Korea that is alarming to me. It’s how radical the changes are.

As Stewart explains, ”There are a few things unsettling about the images, especially the ones in which the entire shape of the face is changed thanks to bone shaving. Somehow eyelids and nose cartilage still seem rather surface-level, whereas changing the shape of your skulljust feels extreme and intense. And what about the parents of these men and women? Are they sad when their offspring, whom they’ve created from their own genetic material, change the jaws and eyes and noses given to them by their mother, grandmother, great-grand-mother? Or maybe the parents have already had their bones shaved, or paid for the kids’ surgery, or would if they could.”

Seeing these images and thinking about people who are willing to change everything about how they look—to indeed look like a different person, to look unrecognizable—reminds me of an episode of The Twilight Zone I saw when I was growing up.

In the episode, once a young woman became a certain age—around sixteen—she would go to a showroom and pick out her new self—a new body, a new face—from a handful of options. Then when the appropriate time came she would be undergo a procedure that would transform her into this new self. The result was that the young woman we followed in the episode became completely unrecognizable to both herself and to the viewer. At the same time, it meant that there were only four or five ways a woman could look, making society, at least female society, incredibly homogenous.

I’ve always been one of those people who has resisted making myself look different—I always hated playing dress-up when I was a kid and still don’t like wearing a costume on Halloween. And I was probably the last person I knew to start wearing makeup. And maybe the reason is because I am uncomfortable being someone I’m not. And this is why I cannot fathom why a person—female or male—would want to drastically change the way she or he looks.

Sadly, I fear I am probably in the minority on this one.

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.

With age comes wisdom: almost three years into this project,
and I could not be more at peace.

Since my special midnight post on New Year’s Eve, I have been feeling incredibly happy about I Will Not Diet and the positive message it’s putting out in the world. I could not have been more proud of or impressed by all of the wonderful “non-resolutions” so many readers and friends sent me for that post. I was surprised, too, by how much they moved me and made me want to stay even more focused on the positive rather than the negative. Indeed, it was a wonderful way for me to start the new year.

At the same time, I’ve been encountering people lately who seem amazed by my ability to focus on the positives about my body rather than the negative. “How do you do it?” they ask me, as if seeking the help of a wise sage or zen master. Or else they tell me how much they’re struggling to do the same, a question in their desperate eyes that tells me they wonder if I’m the holder of secrets they want and need about how to accept themselves the way they are.

Of course, I don’t have any secrets because there really are no secrets.

The only thing I have is a commitment—to myself and to all of you. I am wholly committed to accepting myself the way I am and to not letting my body size or shape dictate my happiness. I also have a refusal: I refuse to believe I cannot be happy unless I am thin. I just won’t do it. It’s that simple. As Lao Tzu said, “Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes, it obstructs your vision.”

It’s also occurred to me this week that none of the people in my life—the numerous friends and family members who I know appreciate, value, and love me—like or care about me simply because of the way I look. In fact, they care about me because of who I am as a person and because of my intelligence, wit and humanity. In truth, my looks really have nothing to do with my relationships.

These are the simple truths that guide me through my life and allow me to accept myself the way I am—imperfect but also confident and happy.

And realizing that I allow these truths to guide me through my days makes me feel like maybe I really am a zen master or at least a black belt in body image and self esteem.

All of these thoughts and experiences make me feel as if I am doing something worthwhile with this blog, something necessary. And what a wonderful new year’s gift that is. Thank you all so much for that.

Life isn’t fair: why it’s not right to give us new flaws

We spend all of our lives worrying about what we look like—our faces, our hair, our bodies.

And at some point, most of us wise up and say, “I’m just not going to worry about it anymore. My face is too fill in the blank, my nose is too fill in the blank, my legs are too fill in the blank, my stomach is too fill in the blank, my hair is too fill in the blank. I’m also not fill in the blank enough, and my fill in the blank isn’t fill in the blank enough. And I really don’t even care.”

I’ve been through all of that. I’ve accepted my wide nose, my imperfect skin, my frizzy hair, my thunder thighs, my wobbly bits, the junk in my trunk, etc. It’s all mine, and not only can I live with it, I like that it’s me.

But recently I went to the doctor and found out that there’s something else keeping me from walking the runway at New York Fashion Week . . .

I have—wait for it—oddly shaped feet.

Yes, it turns out that my feet are not shaped normally.

While most people’s pinky toes curve slightly in . . .

mine curve slightly out . . .

And this makes it awfully hard to find a pair of shoes that fit as I age and my oddly shaped feet—like everyone else’s—get a wee bit wider than they were when I was young.

I’m sorry, but I have to insist that this just doesn’t seem right. It’s taken me nearly all of my 41 years to accept my flaws, and now that I’ve finally done so, life is giving me yet another one???

I mean, come on. How damn unfair is that?