Category Archives: Body Image

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.

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

Related Post: On wrinkles and love your body day!

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The Short Haired Lady

I told my friend the other day that I was obsessed with Robin Wright’s hair on House of Cards and she replied, “Yes, because you’re obsessed with your hair.” Right. Nothing like a little self-adoration disguised as celebrity worship! The truth is, I wrote a whole essay on it this week for Role/Reboot

I was inspired by the mostly-excellent Laurie Penney New Statesman explanation about why men’s rights activists* are so revolted by women with short hair, but I also wanted to talk about how transformative my short hair has been for me and my presentation of self. That’s not to say that short hair functions like that for all women, nor should it, only that it was a big step in reconciling the way I look on the outside with the way I feel on the inside. For me. 

And this isn’t a tirade against beauty products or beauty culture, only against the expectations and assumptions of beauty products and beauty culture. On the flip side of the equation, I have found a deep and unshakeable love for getting my nails professionally manicured. After 25 years of literally never painting my stubby excuses, I have found that the ritual of a weekly manicure is something I enjoy on an aesthetic and emotional level. I would deeply resent anyone telling me that polished finger nails are a requirement of female professionalism, but as a form of self-care and an hour of quiet alone-time, I find it incredibly rewarding.

Anyway, after those digressions, enjoy a few more thoughts on hair:

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*If you’re not familiar with the term, “men’s rights activists” are not as benign as they sound. While there are certainly worthy rights of men for which to advocate (say, the presumption of equal parental custody), MRAs, as they are known online, are trolls who believe feminism has deprived them of their right to fuck any women they like. Read more about them here, but I will not be linking to any of their content.

Related Post: I get pitches from beauty product companies

Related Post: On wrinkles and Love Your Body Day

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Filed under Body Image, Hollywood, Really Good Writing by Other People, Republished!

Yoga Is for Everyone, (aka Can it, Jen Caron)

I refuse to link to Jen Caron’s terrible essay at xoJane about how tough it was for her, as a skinny white woman, to be in a yoga class with a large black woman. It’s awful on every level. You’ve probably already seen it because everyone and their mother is sharing it with hashtags like #gross and #stfu.

I love yoga. I love yoga so much I’m going to learn how to teach it so I can help other people love yoga. I think yoga is for everyone, and I think its emphasis on self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, and gratitude is lovely and inclusive and accessible to any and all type of people. That’s why it kills me when people try to ruin yoga, which Caron attempted with a racist, presumptuous, condescending post about a woman new to her studio who appeared to be struggling with the postures. I’m getting mad just thinking about it.

If you would like to read more of my thoughts on Caron, yoga, inclusiveness, etc, check out my Role/Reboot piece this week:

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

Related Post: The problem with strong is the new skinny.

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Hot Dudes + Big Girls

Inspired partially by an encounter with a cologne-model looking dude at a train station and the most recent episode of Shameless (in which Lip hooks up with a very sexy woman much larger than him), I wrote this week for Role/Reboot about what happens when “guys like that” like “girls like me.”

I’ve written about this before (as did everybody else) after the infamous Girls episode with Patrick Wilson.

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Related Post: Lena Dunham + Patrick Wilson

Related Post: Female figures are, by definition, “feminine.”

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Obesity is a problem, yes, so is body-shaming.

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about Maria Kang (aka “What’s Your Excuse?” fitness mom), this phenomenal piece by a Karen Hitchcock, “Fat City,” and the challenge of holding two seemingly competing ideas in our heads at one time. I contend that obesity-is-a-crisis and body-shaming-is-n0t-helpful are not, actually, competing ideas, but two separate, related problems that need big, multi-faceted solutions.

I really appreciate this comment from the always on point Marianne Cassidy:

Reducing obesity and ending body shaming are not opposing or even parallel goals. They’re the same goal. They want the same things – a healthier, happier population. They can be achieved the same way – by encouraging people to take care of their bodies and giving them the education and resources they need to make informed healthy choices.

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Related Post: 1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they’re unhappy with their looks. 

Related Post: Can I have fat pride without throwing thin women under the bus?

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165 pounds and up? Don’t rely on Plan B.

In case you missed it during the eat-a-thon, football-a-thon, couch-sitting-a-thon that was Thanksgiving, last week I wrote about Mother Jones’ investigation of the efficacy of Plan B (aka emergency contraception aka The Morning After Pill) for women over 165 pounds. The European equivalent (chemically identical, branded differently) has recently added a warning that the pill loses potency for women over 165 pounds and is ineffective for women over 176 pounds.

I found this revelation to be extremely disturbing. Frankly, both the scientific details (i.e. why 176 pounds? Is this BMI related? Can I just take two pills instead?) and legal intricacies (i.e. What kind of testing does the FDA require? What is a legally acceptable fail rate? When are you required to disclose this information?) of this announcement are over my head.

From an ethical perspective, however, it seems clear to me that when 25% of women (and 50% of black women, FYI) take a pill that advertises itself as emergency contraception, they deserve to know that it is not designed to work for them. All contraception has a fail rate, duh, but this is bigger than that. Some people are trying to make this an issue about promiscuity, or the politics of obesity, but they’re missing a point. The drug is already out there, the women already take it, they are already over 165 pounds. None of those facts change, so the only question on the table is whether there should be a big sticker on the box that says, “Over 165 pounds? Please consult your doctor before taking Plan B.” As a sexually active woman over 176 pounds, I would really appreciate that.

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Related Post: What if an 18-year-old female pop star talked about her safe sex habits?

Related Post: Female figures are, by definition, feminine.

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Bodies, Moms, Bodies of Moms, Moms on Bodies

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about this:

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I keep hearing the same chorus from moms writing about body image and aging, and it goes something like this: Man, I have been micromanaging my body for thirty years and I haven’t been able to stop. I really hope my daughters figure out a different way. 

What kills me about it is that, obviously, we the daughters look to you the mothers as our first source of inspiration on how one should be with one’s body. Even if we eventually outgrow our reliance on that one source, it is the first, the most primal, the most difficult to shake.

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Related Post: The problem with “strong is the new skinny”

Related Post: How Title IX changed my life. 

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On Wrinkles and Love Your Body Day

Today is National Love Your Body Day, which is fitting because I was going to write about wrinkles anyway! Hoorah for convergence! Use the hashtag #lybd on Twitter to participate in the conversation.

Last week, Sociological Images pulled an awesome example of “wrinkle washing” of female celebrities:

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Smooth vs. wrinkly, right? I think it’s particularly stark when you annotate like this:

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SocImages pairs this image with an excellent Susan Sontag quote:

The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man. The beauty of a boy resembles the beauty of a girl. In both sexes it is a fragile kind of beauty and flourishes naturally only in the early part of the life-cycle. Happily, men are able to accept themselves under another standard of good looks — heavier, rougher, more thickly built…

There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every gray hair, is a defeat.

A few other examples:

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That is not to say you shouldn’t attempt to take care of your skin. For the love of God please wear sun block. Moisturize. Drink a lot of water. But, you know, but don’t let a laugh line or crow’s foot be a defeat. The men certainly don’t. On the other hand, it’s not just a question of internally changing perceptions of self, is it? Here’s something by Gloria Steinem re miley Cyrus that seems relevant:

“I wish we didn’t have to be nude to be noticed … But given the game as it exists, women make decisions. For instance, the Miss America contest is in all of its states … the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States. If a contest based only on appearance was the single greatest source of scholarship money for men, we would be saying, “This is why China wins.” You know? It’s ridiculous. But that’s the way the culture is. I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists.”

This stuff is damaging for so many reasons. The pursuit of youth (and beauty, if you’re already young) is distracting us, literally, from all the other things we could be doing with our minds and hearts. It’s part of the reason that we’re behind, because “they” (and by “they,” I mean the “industry,” the advertisers, the media, our friends and family too, sometimes) have convinced us that how we look is related to what we can do. And to Ms. Steinem’s point, playing along isn’t weakness or vanity; in its own way, it’s smart. The appearance game is the only game in town so what the fuck else are we supposed to do?

So… yeah… sorry for the bummer, but it’s a bummer kind of day. Go do something nice for yourself. Buy a book. Take a walk. Eat something delicious. Call someone you love. Write a nice note. Make plans to look forward to. Listen to good music. Look at yourself in the mirror and be like, Yeah, it’s pretty cool that I get to have this body, because this body enables me to do all this other stuff that makes being human pretty fucking cool.

Related Post: Love Your Body Day in years past

Related Post: Why I will not be joining your gym

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Why We Need More Sex on TV*

*Well, a certain kind of sex. Or rather, certain kinds of sex. We do not need more scantily clad women. We do not need more blowjob jokes. We do not need more titstaring. We need more variety. That goes for sexual preference (and we’re getting there, slowly), and it goes for sex acts, fetishes, and preferences. We need more female pleasure. We need more honest conversation. We nee more intimacy. We need more consent. We need more reciprocity.

It’s impossible for me to imagine a future in which there is less sex on TV than there is today. Go ahead, try it. Do you really see the world getting less explicit? Less raunchy? I cannot. If, then, we take as the baseline assumption that sex on TV will exist in the same quantities as it does now, if not more, then the question of what kind of sex is shown becomes really, really important. This week on Role/Reboot, I wrote specifically about cunnilingus on TV and why we need more of it.

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I believe that the only way (only feasible way, anyhow) to respond to hypersexualized content is to contextualize it. In a perfect world, I wish kids wouldn’t see porn until they’ve had a chance to develop their own imaginations and sexual styles. But, given that they will and there’s not much I can do to stop it, context is key. They need to know that it isn’t real, that it’s not what they should expect when they actually get naked with someone. It’s a performance, just like Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s a director, lighting technicians, a script, and extreme stunts. Will this conversation be hella awkward? Yup.

I feel similarly about non-pornographic television. If our average programming is going to be hypersexual (which it is, because it sells), then let’s democratize it. Let’s show adult sexuality that is based on equality, consent, pleasure and respect. And that includes cunnilingus!

Related Post: Why is going down so frequently a one way street? 

Related Post: The best two minutes of TV about oral sex (Louie CK)

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The Problems with “Strong is the New Skinny”

The line from that George Saunders piece I posted on Monday that’s really sticking with me is “Err on the side of kindness.” It seems so obvious, as far as life philosophies go, but the simplicity of it is blowing my mind. What a world that would be, eh, if we all agreed to live by that code?

Though he didn’t articulate it as such, I’m confident that Saunders would agree that kindness towards oneself is a key facet of this MO. My new piece for Role/Reboot this week is about body image and wellness, but I hope that the backdrop of self-love and self-kindness is apparent.

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Related Post: Critiquing the Dove Real Beauty Campaign

Related Post: 1 in 4 women think they’re too fat to exercise

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