Category Archives: Body Image

So Many Things!

It has been quite a while, my dear Internet friends. I’d apologize for the absence but I’m having way too much fun at my new job to want to apologize for it. The Matilda Effect is still ongoing and I’m truly hoping it lasts forever.

That said, I’ve missed sharing my new stuff with you! So… A few things that have happened since we last spoke (… wrote? read? communicated via pixels?). From newest to oldest:

Show up. Just do it. I wrote about the simple but often un- or under-appreciated value of showing up, especially when it’s cold, you’re busy, and Netflix is calling. This was partly inspired by Wait But Why and Eric Liu’s phenomenal book A Chinaman’s Chance (really just one chapter of it, but seriously, read the whole thing):


On Ego and Exercise. After running my first (and probably only) half-marathon, I wrote about why I exercise and the intersection of ego and self-care.


On slutty slutty Halloween. Every October (this now seems woefully out of date), there are endless think pieces about why girls dress so scantily. I’m so bored of this conversation, so… I wrote another think piece.


On the pay gap and “trusting the system.” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got into trouble by suggesting that women should just work hard and wait around to be recognized and failed to acknowledge systemic and cultural reasons for the pay gap. Oh yeah, this was at a conference for women in tech…



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Facebook thinks that I think I need to lose weight.

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Extra Inches! Simple Rules!


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Generic “Women’s Magazine”, “shocking” report, amazing diet supplement!


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“Surprise him with a new body!”


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“Weird” fruit! “Holy grail of weight loss!”


And yes, I have asked Facebook to “don’t show me posts like this.”

Related Post: You don’t get to choose your ads, the problem with online advertising.

Related Post: Can gendered advertising affect change?

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The ESPN Body Issue & #HuskyTwitter

Last week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the annual ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue”, which features naked portraits of lots of people who can do some crazy powerful/graceful/coordinated shit with their bodies. The cover star, baseball player Prince Fielding, is an atypical choice for ESPN and quickly launched the #HuskyTwitter hashtag in celebration of a different kind of athletic body.


I’m all for celebrating different kinds of athletic bodies, but I’m still dismayed to see that the women featured in the Body Issue generally don’t get to break the mold of traditional “athletic” the way that Fielder does. Where are the husky female athletes? A sleuthing reader dug back through the archives and found this 2009 entry with shotputter Michelle Carter.

Screenshot_7_14_14_11_07_AM-2He also pointed out that there aren’t as many sports that allow for husky women to excel; they don’t get funneled into linebacker positions on the football team or heavy wrestling weightclasses. Sure, maybe, but it’s also about whose bodies we are comfortable celebrating as “Bodies We Want,” which is what ESPN titles the series. We don’t see Taylor Townsend, Holley Mangold, Rebecca Adlington or other, phenomenally gifted female athletes as possessing desirable bodies because they don’t fit the only mold we’ve been taught is desirable.

Prince Fielder is certainly a deviation from the normal ab-fest we expect to see in these stories, and that’s a great start. Men need variation in “Bodies We Want,” too. But let’s not forget the ladies as we break body barriers and celebrate the husky athletes. We’re here too!

Related Post: Is it objectifying to ogle World Cup soccer players?

Related Post: 1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they don’t like the way they look


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Feedback on Sexy-Soccer-Player Debate

Last week I wrote about the Sexist Thighs genre of World Cup listicles, the ones that zoom in on rippling muscles and rank the “best” of the body parts. In my essay, I tried to walk the fine line between acknowledging the problematic double standard of sexualizing female athletes (which I frown upon) and male athletes (which some people say is A-Ok because it’s only every four years and guys don’t get this all the time and blah blah blah…), while simultaneously arguing that contextual differences around male and female bodies mean we can’t measure objectification from an even playing field, because there isn’t one.

I wanted to share some feedback I got from all directions, because I think the complexities of this issue are many and there’s plenty of stereotype to go around.

From A, who felt generally in agreement, but took issue with my characterization of how much easier men have it in the media landscape:

“Young men are constantly bombarded with images of what a “sexy” and “successful” man looks like. Society has also conflated sexiness and career/financial success. Those who are good looking are successful in their careers and vice versa. This ultimately stems from a standard of beauty put on young men by fashion outlets (Abercrombie), TV (Don Draper), politics (Aaron Shock), and sports (Tom Brady). Just like it is somewhat easier for you wonderful, smart women to be successful despite certain gender stereotypes there are men who struggle against the “watch sports, let women cook, go into finance drive fancy cars blah blah blah” measure of success that is put upon up.”
From C., who felt that the athleticism displayed by world class athletes (male and female) makes for healthier idolization than, say, regular old hot people:
“The world cup is THE global sporting event. The men who compete in it are incredibly talented athletes and have the bodies to match. It’s not just that they have great thighs but that they are strong and coordinated. Also, part of what has been great about those lists is how diverse they are compared to the average “hot celebrity” compilation…But let’s flip it. Say there’s a women’s sporting event big enough that lists are being made about hottest female athletes (I’m sure this happened in the Olympics). I’m actually not upset about a slideshow that draws attention to the bodies of female athletes who are strong and capable…I don’t think you need to defend men from pictures of world-class male athletes any more than you need to defend women from pictures of world-class female athletes. These are people in the best shape of their lives who have worked really hard to get that way, and that’s a thing to admire.”


C’s point is very interesting, and in general I’m much more in favor of fawning over what bodies can do vs. how they look, even though those two things are very related. I used to have this amazing coffee table book of photography of athletes with lineups of champions illustrating the range of physiques that can accomplish crazy feats:



If that’s what we were talking about when we talk about “athletic physiques” then I’m all for it, because it truly prioritizes achievement over aesthetics, but that’s almost never what we’re talking about. Just as we don’t celebrate the physiques of weightlifting women in mainstream media, we don’t celebrate the 114lb, 5’2″ physiques of male marathoners either. They may be champions, but they don’t fit the “hot body” model we’ve come to expect.

Even when we talk athletic excellence, we are usually limiting our body worship to bodies that fit within the cutout of what we are already told is attractive. It doesn’t matter that Taylor Townsend is a tennis star, her body doesn’t look the way we think “fit” looks, and her sponsorship options already reflect how “confusing” people find that gap.

All of that is to say, soccer players are an interesting test case because they are athletically gifted and also perfect fits for what we have already deemed the “ideal physique.” I’m not sure we can separate those things and say that our adulation is about fitness rather than abdominal definition. And if it is about abdominal definition, then we have to own that, and we have to defend that, which personally, I’m not prepared to do.

Related Post: But what if you don’t look like a runner?

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The 17 Hottest World Cup Players with Freckles*

*This is not a list of sexy soccer players.

Half of you are very disappointed that there is not actually a gallery of freckled soccer stars, and the other half of you read the title and were like… is she for real? No, I am not for real.

This week’s Role/Reboot piece is on the ubiquitous World Cup Hot List… hottest thighs, hottest abs, hottest butts, etc. etc. etc. and man I’ve been getting feedback in all kinds of directions. Half of you seem to think I’m going too hard on the lists, and that there’s nothing wrong with appreciating some chiseled pectorals in list format on Buzzfeed. The other half of you think I’ve overstated what I believe are the differences in how we view male and female bodies, and that men actually have it much harder than I’m giving them credit for. Can’t win ’em all.

Later this week, with permission, I’ll post some of the feedback, but in the meantime I would like to draw a distinction between two questions that I think are markedly different:

1. Is it, in general, okay to lust after (and document your lust for) attractive bodies, male or female? In other words, is there anything wrong with appreciating the human form in the first place? This is a HUGE question, with many pieces (short answer: no, long answer: it matters a lot what you do with that attraction and how you express it), that I’m not really prepared to answer right now. Similarly, the individual case of being attracted to someone is a lot less interesting to me than the macro trends on how we, collectively, as a society, treat bodies and beauty.

2. If you object to “Hottest Asses of the U.S. Women’s Ski Team” on the pages of Esquire or Vice because you find it reductive, demeaning, hypersexualizing, or reinforcing of problematic views about bodies, is it hypocritical to not object to the “Hottest Thighs of the Australian Men’s Soccer Team”? I think it is. I don’t think I can claim the first is an issue and the second isn’t, even though I absolutly believe that the media coverage of female bodies is markedly different than male bodies. The problem is not the same, but it is related.

Anyway, more an all of that and much talk of “shit buckets” of body coverage here:



Related Post: I  love the Olympics

Related Post: On Olympian Holley Mangold vs. Conan

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Three for the Price of One

Through some combination of laziness and distractedness, I neglected to post three of my most recent Role/Reboot essays. I would write you a long apology letter, but I’m pretty sure none of y’all are holding your breaths. Which is a good thing… this is just the internet and I really hope you have more important shit going on.

But, if you’re curious, here’s what I’ve been up to the last few weeks over at R/R.


Note: In rereading this one, there’s a glaring correction I feel the need to issue post-publish. I hope that I conveyed, but fear that I did not, that I definitely do not think teachers (or nurses, or vets, or non-profit starters) aren’t making an impact on the universe. Duh, they obviously are. Rather, there’s a very specific kind of corporate leadership (think Fortune 500 companies) that is still super-male and super white and still, unfortunately, super powerful. If I think it’s important that business leadership be diverse (which I do), how do I reconcile the fact that I have the tools (i.e. education/access/resources) to be the diversifying agent with the fact that I don’t want to?




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Even Skinny Girls Deserve Compassion

As you may or may not know, I began yoga teacher training a few weeks ago. This is part of an ongoing “plan” (I wish it were as organized as a plan) to diversify my income, learn more about yoga, give back to the yoga community I love so dearly, and get way more OkCupid responses (because seriously, dudes go nuts for yoga teachers… they think we’re super bendy.)

It was only on the first day of training that I realized, OMG, I’m going to be teaching beginners…. Somewhere along the line I had let this small fact slip away. I had envisioned myself designing killer sequences and deep, thought-provoking themes. I didn’t so much visualize the part where I’d be teaching people for whom “square hips” doesn’t mean anything, for whom “mountain pose” and “chair pose” are new concepts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super pumped for the challenge, it’s just a different challenge than the one I’d been planning for in my head.

Part of training is observing other teachers as they teach the beginner sequence. In one such observation, I became supremely focused on one Barbie-like girl in the back who, in full make-up, was seriously struggling. Instead of feeling compassion or observing the teacher’s directions aimed at helping her, I felt a little thrill. It’s embarrassing, but sometimes when I see thin people struggle with exercise, I gloat.

As a non-thin person, I routinely face assumptions about my exercise habits that are patently false, and I’m regularly reminded about how little we can tell about someone’s fitness and wellness just by looking. So, this week for Role/Reboot, I wrote about my own struggle to be a little less judgmental, a little compassionate, and give the same benefit of the doubt to the skinnies as I expect given to to me.


Related Post: Obesity is a problem, so is body-shaming.

Related Post: On wrinkles and love your body day!


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