{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Posts Tagged ‘body image’

Photoshopping & Body Image on SheThought.com

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

SheThought Banner

SheThought, a blog for, by and about women and critical thinking, is fast becoming one of my most favourite places on the Internet. The contributors include a variety of people from different backgrounds from science to arts and varying exposure to the online or offline feminist movement. The one thing they all share is a desire to think rationally, to be thoughtful about issues and ideas, and to embrace open discussion and civil, constructive conversation.

Recently, contributor Ben Radford had some thoughts on the reactions to a poll on girls and what they think about Photoshop and fashion photography. I had time to participate and ask questions in comments — which is not something I usually do — and though I haven’t had the opportunity yet to look up some of the studies he pointed me to, it’s on my To-Do list.

The idea that being surrounded by images of unrealistic female bodies has impacted the female gender’s collective cultural body image is one of those things that everybody “knows” in the same way that everybody “knows” images — especially fashion and celebrity photos — are heavily altered and Photoshopped, but where did these ideas come from? Is there valid data to support these “known” facts? This is a legitimate question I hadn’t spent much time thinking about: I assumed somewhere, someone had done the legwork and filed it away as fact before disseminating it to the masses. As I become increasingly interested in the skeptical movement I’m discovering this isn’t always true. I’m still learning what differentiates a good, scientific study from a less solid one so I can be better equipped to spot faulty methodologies that lead to incorrect assumptions. The last thing women need is to put our efforts into fighting the wrong battles, and if this is potentially one of them I think it’s valid to look critically at.

Having said that, I still think there is value for everyone in our culture in seeing a broader representation of body type and beauty in all media, from fashion magazine to movies to television. I have no studies of my own to back up that thought, only the anecdotal knowledge that TV characters like Criminal Minds’ Penelope Garcia who illustrate happiness in life and love isn’t dependant on your waist size can be important cultural role models that we can use more of. And while I’ve always thought the fashion industry gets too much blame when it comes to body image issues, I also believe there’s no downside in people of all shapes, sizes and colours seeing themselves represented there more often. If fashion is art, then the bodies that wear it are canvases, so why stick to a one-size mentality? Wall art comes in sizes that vary from hand-held to house-sized, so why can’t haute couture?

I definitely recommend adding SheThought to your reading list: there hasn’t been a post yet I haven’t found interesting, and while I have focused here on a feminism-related article, I love that this is a place for women to speak and be heard on topics that aren’t necessarily “women’s issues”. It’s a place for and about women, but it’s not all “about women”. Women think and have opinions about everything from science to politics to comedy, and not all of our online spaces have to be about the experience of being a woman all the time.

Comments Off on Photoshopping & Body Image on SheThought.com

Linkspam: Feminism, Privilege & Menswear Squee

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I am officially switching linkspam day from Monday to Tuesday. I hardly have time to eat on Mondays never mind blog, so I’m not sure what I was thinking when I picked that day. So, technically, that means I’m not actually late. *wink*

Feminism & Women
  • Feministe asks why, when asked to cover Reshma Saujani’s New York Congressional campaign, the reporter chose to write, not about issues, but about shoes. This is a long-standing debate about the way things should be and the way things are, and how and when females do or should respond in which way. A female Congressional candidate shouldn’t have to worry about the message her shoes are sending any more than a male Congressional candidate worries about his. The reality, however, is that women in politics will be judged on their appearance and fashion choices in the current cultural climate and have to deal with it and all its maddening mixed messages if they want their opinions heard. Fair is not always synonymous with reality is the point I think Susan Dominus was trying to make in the origina New York Times article, though in a roundabout, meandering sort of way. In the end, the article seemed to be more about the shoes than it was about anything else, which is probably a pretty good example of exactly what we’re talking about here.
  • On Livejournal, Karnythia talks about the challenges of being pretty. Society does privilege attractive people, but as a woman and a person of colour the intersections of misogyny still cause problems, some of which can be exacerbated by being pretty. More opportunity, but also more grabbie hands (and sometimes actual hands, because being female means your body is public property to some people).
  • In news about women being just as bad as men when it comes to sexism, Caster Semenya’s competitors are still flailing about her gender. Outstanding talent and ability in athletes — male and female — should be praised, not vilified. Regardless of whether or not this issue should have ever even been an issue (much less a public one) it has been officially settled. Calling her a “man” at this point is a cheap shot. How can women ever expect men to treat us better if we don’t treat each other better?

 

Privilege
  • This post is called The Myth of White Male Geek Rationality but it’s valid reading for everyone. This is about the realities of implicit bias, of unconscious -isms, of invisible discrimination and na├»vety. The tricky thing about -isms is how subconscious they are, how they set into our brains without our knowing it and create rules we don’t consciously know about. Think you’re “colourblind”? Think you don’t treat women differently than men? You’re not and you do. This isn’t something we should feel guilty about, but it is something we must awknowledge in order to change. We are all biased: no one is exempt. Some people are just more aware of our biases than others, and actively try to catch and correct them.

 

Clothing & Costuming
  • A fantastic primer on menswear, with special emphasis on suit styles and cuts. I cannot begin to express my glee at this. I love menswear, and wish more of my male friends would let me go clothing shopping with them. As much as I didn’t enjoy the cut-through culture of working at Tip Top Tailors years ago, I do miss the deep satisfaction of matching men with just the right suit, shirt and tie. This tutorial may appear to the uninformed to be comprehensive, but menswear lovers will know this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Comments Off on Linkspam: Feminism, Privilege & Menswear Squee

Linkspam: Women, Skepticism and SEO

Monday, August 9th, 2010

I read and get linked to a ton of interesting blog posts every week, and as much as I would like to post commentary about most of them there just isn’t enough time in the day. I often share some of these links on Twitter and Facebook, but I’m going to start posting a list of my most interesting recent reads here on Mondays as a way of sharing online articles with a little more context.

Feminism & Women:

 

Science & Skepticism:
  • Coca-Cola is being sued because their vitamin water products make unwarranted health claims, but the best bit is their defense, which is to say that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage”. Basically their defense boils down to “yes we said it was healthy, but everyone knows that’s not true so we’re fine”. Um… *headdesk*
  • Myths about the “love hormone” oxytocin and the way conservatives are twisting slective bits of science to shore up abstinence-only sex education, slut shaming, monogamy and a lack of family planning. This is a link-rich resource that I have read through but haven’t clicked-through yet. It seems well-researched and comprehensive, and the article itself is very interesting.

 

SEO:
Comments Off on Linkspam: Women, Skepticism and SEO

Busty Barbie Controversy

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Some parents are in a twist because Mattel’s new “Back to Basics” Barbie collection — featuring a line of dolls in modern cocktail attire — has a doll sporting a knee-length black dress with a plunging neckline and “bowling-ball cleavage”.

Let’s consider for a moment that all these Barbies, as a set, are themed around cocktail and evening wear. None of the dresses on any of the Barbies in this set strike me as particularly over-sexed: most of them are pretty standard fair, black dresses based on current trends or classic styles. There are only two showing off any extreme amount of cleavage, including the one in question and — arguably, depending on your perception — number 11 with the halter dress..

A concerned Minnesota mother says:

“I don’t want [my daughter] to think she has to be this, you know, busty Barbie who’s constantly wearing heels and these low-cut shirts. And that’s really the image I think a doll that you’re going to buy for a child is portraying.”

Read the full article.

Not for nothing, but some of us HAVE naturally large breasts and for me the problem at the core here is a culture and society that over-sexualizes large breasts and judges them as automatically inappropriate. I have large breasts and I’m sick of being policed for them, especially by other women: they’re no more or less appropriate than small ones.

What if the daughter of this woman grows up to have naturally larger breasts? What kind of messages are we sending to her then, that her large breasts are abnormal and ‘slutty’ just by virtue of their size? That she’s forever doomed to the “fake-breasted stripper look” if she wears a top that so much hints at cleavage? How is that any better than telling small- or average-breasted teens they need large breasts to be sexy?

Also — and I know I’ve said this before but I’m gonna say it again — slut shaming and madonna/virgin worship are two different sides of the same coin: women are either pure, modest and sexually restrained or slutty, sex-crazed whores. The clothing choices on this set of Barbies seems very measured to me given the theme: the hemlines mix from long to short, the tops range from turtleneck to plunge, and the sleeves range from full to strapless. As a representation of basic cocktail dresses women in the current day and age wear, I think Mattel did pretty well representing a broad set of styles and degrees of sexual expression.

Of course, they’re all identical body-types — skinny, hourglass-shaped and tall. That’s the bigger issue to me than what they’re wearing. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see a range of body-type as broad as the range of fashion? Short, stout girls, pear-shaped girls, flat-chested girls, tall and lanky girls, etc. Mattel is starting to think a little more carefully about race when they’re building these dolls (though still not enough: hair and face shapes still tend toward a largely caucasian standard even when the skin tone is modified), so why not represent a broader range of body sizes and shapes as well?

Sure it would cost more to manufacture, but also think of the sales potential! With a variety of body types comes the need for consumers to buy a broader variety of clothing and accessories, especially for girls with multiple dolls that wouldn’t always be able to draw from the same wardrobe. If I was Mattel’s CEO that’s where I’d steer the ship: good publicity and a whole host of new products to sell.

Comments Off on Busty Barbie Controversy

A Message from an Hourglass Figure

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I’ve got two weddings to go to in August so the last two weeks have largely been spent searching for something suitable to wear. Altogether I’ve spent around 30 hours shopping and today at lunch finally managed to find something that fit. AND not only did it fit, which is a miracle in and of itself, but it also looks nice. WHOA.

I spent all day Saturday at one of the largest indoor shopping malls in the world and didn’t find a single thing that I could wear, and I’m not exaggerating at all. I get that I’m a highly unusual body type what with my extreme hourglass shape combined with my height, but one would think somewhere in the six million square feet of WEM there would be something that fit me, especially since I was searching without a cap on my budget. If I’d found something for $200 I’d have bought it. I must have tried on over sixty dresses, and not one of them was even within a tailor’s ballpark of being wearable. It really took the wind out of my sails on Saturday.

Go ahead and roll your eyes at my whining if you like. I get it all the time. People would kill for my figure and that’s fine, you can fucking have it. My curves may be coveted and photoshopped into ads and video games and comic books, but I’m sick of being glorified and idealized and sensationalized, and then having people tut-tut me and tell me how fucking lucky I am when I talk about the constant back pain caused by carrying a couple of 32G breasts around all day and the frustration of not being able to find a blouse/tank top/t-shirt/other top/dress that even sort-of-kind-of fits in a world that assumes a B or C cup. The cognative dissonance of knowing my body is an object of envy and lust colliding in the fitting room with the feeling that my shape is freakishly irregular and inconceivably off proportion makes me want to scream.

Tailoring isn’t an option. Going up enough sizes to accommodate for my chest leaves the arm holes and shoulders drooping somewhere around my elbows. Take it from someone who’s done some tailoring in her day, that isn’t something you can fix. The reality is it would be ten times easier for me to find clothes that fit if I gained 80 pounds. What a delightful option that is.

Right now especially the trends are killing me. Everything has seams meant to fall under the bust, and on me they typically fall around nipple height; how very attractive. I can’t wear halters, strapless dresses, spaghetti-straps, or anything with an open back because not even the expensive European designers make strapless bras that actually support me (believe me, I’ve tried on enough of them to know), and the straps on bras that come in my size are an inch wide or wider. And any of those mod-style dresses hide the one thing I’m supposed to be highlighting: my curves. How gloriously frumpy.

Anyway, I suppose all that doesn’t matter because at the end of it all I did find something, but surgery next year cannot come soon enough as far as I’m concerned. I dream of days without back pain and summer shopping for flirty dresses and bras that cost less than $150.

Leave a Comment (1) »