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Archive for the ‘Media and body image’ Category

I’ve always had a big butt. Even when I was 95 pounds in sixth grade, I had a big butt. So naturally I was thrilled to hear about the new trend this summer. Oh, didn’t you hear? Big butts are in for the summer! Last week the NY Daily News made the big announcement. Those of us who possess nice “buns” (as I was once told I had) are all set for a trendy summer. And those of us who are pretty much flat back there, sorry; you are just out of luck. It’s Kim Kardashian’s world and we’re just livin’ in it!

Although I think it’s positive to celebrate women with curves, I have to ask, how can body parts go in and out of style? Does anyone else see something kind of wrong with that? I can see clothes, shoes and hair going out of style, but how can a butt go out of style? It’s attached to your body! It’s a part of you.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that no matter what size I am and how much I weigh, my butt is here to stay. And I really don’t appreciate someone telling me this part of my body is in style. Especially because they are going to tell me six months from now, that it’s now out of style. Well, what can I do about it? If it’s a piece of clothing, I can discard it. If it’s a pair of shoes, I can give them to Goodwill. If it’s a hair style, I can just let my hair grow out. But what am I supposed to do with a part of my body? I can’t diet and exercise it away (like I said before, even when I was a scrawny child I still had a booty).

Here is a little message I have for the media:

Dear Media,

It’s mad cool that you are trying to celebrate women with curves (something you should be doing on a regular basis). But to tell me that my big butt is in style for the summer is kind of annoying. My butt is not like a summer dress or a pair of gladiator sandals or a fedora hat that are all trendy for summer 2010 but may not be in summer 2011. If next summer comes around, I will simply get rid of these items, head on over to H&M and buy whatever is cute at the moment. But what am I supposed to do with my butt if it’s not trendy next summer? I can’t get rid of it (I’ve tried and it hasn’t worked because it’s a part of me). So when stating “what’s hot” and “what’s not” for the summer, please stick to inanimate objects.

Thanks!

Tiffabee

So before you go out and buy your Booty Pop (no, I did not make that up)! Think about embracing the body you have.

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I was in a popular store (which shall remain nameless) about a month ago with a friend when I overheard a very disturbing exchange between two sales associates. I was waiting in line to pay for my item and a few steps away from me was a sales associate who was dressing a mannequin. As another sales associate walked up to him, he said to her “Wow our mannequin is like a real woman.” The other sales associate said something in response that I couldn’t hear. In response to whatever she said, the male sales associate responded in a really sassy tone “I refuse to put a size 8 on our mannequins! I refuse!” I was baffled and utterly confused. My friend and I paid for our items and left the store.

As I was leaving, I got a glance of the size of the dress that was on the mannequin; it was a size 6. So from this brief shopping trip I learned two things from this man. One: a size 6 is the size of a “real woman” and two: a size 8 is really bad.

Now I’m not one to get into labels and sizes but I think for the purposes of this discussion, size is of note in order to point out the absurdity of this man’s thinking. The first question I had was “since when is a size 8 considered extremely large?” and second, “why is it completely unacceptable to put such a large size on the mannequin?”

As much as I understand that there is a collective consciousness in the western world that lives by the doctrine of thinner is better its moments like these that make it reality for me. I mean, I get that in the fashion world; you really can’t make it as a model if you are over a size 4 (and even then you may not make the cut). But that’s the fashion world, not the real world; right?

In reality, very few women are that small. So perhaps that’s what the sales associate meant when he said that the mannequin was a “real woman.” He was inferring that because the dress they put on it wasn’t the typical model size 0-4, her body was somehow more realistic, closer to what a “real woman” looks like in the “real world.”

This man’s comments came down to one thing for me: size politics, which is the idea that a number or letter on a clothing label has some type of merit in this world. This man was assigning very specific meaning to very specific sizes and it seemed very natural to him to do so.

One of the major problems with sizes is how inconsistent they are. I mean, at the end of the day, can you really tell me what your “size” is? I personally wear one size at H&M, one size at Old Navy, one size at Target and another size at Forever 21. One size in pants, one size in jeans (totally depending on who makes the jeans), another size in tops and it goes on and on. I have everything from XS to XL in my closet. So why would I let something so completely inconsistent and ridiculous define who I am?

I don’t think that size politics has any place in the real world; it should stay deep within the dark realms of Vogue and the catwalk. But unfortunately, it’s people like this idiotic sales person who make it hard to keep size politics out of every day life.

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brigitte

Something revolutionary happened on Monday. Starting at the beginning of next year, the popular German magazine Brigitte will no longer hire models to pose for their magazine. The magazine announced today that they will now feature “real” women in their magazine in an attempt to combat what they perceive as the unhealthy effects of ultra-thin models on women’s body image.

Andreas Lebert said the move is a response to readers increasingly saying that they are tired of seeing “protruding bones” from models who weigh far less than the average woman.

Brigitte plans to pay the women they will now feature in their magazine the same as they would professional models.

I think this could potentially be a very positive change for readers of this German magazine. Imagine a world in which every magazine on the stands featured “every day” women rather than models. That would completely change our world.

And U.S. magazines might also be showing a similar trend towards a preference for non-stick-thin models. Readers of the U.S magazine Glamour had an extremely positive response to a small photo of “plus size” model Lizzi Miller in this year’s September Issue. The nude photo of Lizzi elicited many positive responses from readers:

“Thank you for showing a picture of a BEAUTIFUL woman who has a stomach and thighs that look like mine! I have NEVER seen that in a magazine before.”

“Get this hot momma off of page 194 and put her on the cover!”

I too had a similar reaction when I saw the picture of Lizzi Miller. I thought “Hey! That’s what my body looks like! I can’t believe this is in a magazine!” Although I believe the magazine industry still has leaps and bounds to make in terms of actually representing all types of women within the pages of their publications, it does give me a glimmer of hope to know that many women really DO have positive responses to seeing a model in a magazine who is larger than the average-sized model.

After all, why is it, as Lizzi states, that in the world of fashion “any size over 6 is considered plus size?” Does that seem crazy to anyone else?

The reality is, most women, at least in the U.S. look more like Lizzi Miller than they do Jessica Simpson (who is the celebrity featured on the cover of Glamour’s September issue). So why not feature more women in magazines who look more like the average woman? Some women are very thin naturally and some women aren’t. So, if they want us to wear the clothes that are featured in fashion magazines, is it really so crazy to think that all types of women should be modeling the clothes that we are supposed to wear?

It’s encouraging to think that perhaps there is a trend towards something new in the world of magazines. I guess only time will tell.

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Last year Jennifer Love Hewitt got a lot of flack from tabloids for “packing on the pounds.” She triumphantly responded by telling the media to “stop calling me fat” and told those tabloids to mind their own business. But low and behold, a year later, Hewitt is on the cover of Shape sporting her “new body.” Wait…what’s that about? I thought she was mad at people telling her she was fat, so why did she feel the need to lose weight?

Jennifer shares real life dieting tips that helped her “get back in shape” including:
Don’t keep food in the house for more than a couple of days
Don’t keep treats around the house because you might be tempted to eat them
Run on vacations

Thanks Love…great tips! (Please note sarcasm).

After Jennifer shares tips about how to stay confident in this cruel world she adds this:

“I’m a girl, after all!” she says. “For the most part, yeah, I’m happy with my body, but there are days when I’m like, ‘Ugh! Really? Why is it so hard to fit into my jeans?’ That’s when I say to myself, ‘I look this way because I’m supposed to. If we all looked the same, we’d be boring.'”

If she really believed that she looked “that way because she was supposed to,” then why did she feel the need to lose weight in the first place? And can I just say for the record that Jennifer Love Hewitt has never been fat. Just because the photos of her that surfaced last year didn’t show her as emaciated or shockingly thin doesn’t mean she was fat. As we’ve said time and time again, the problem with emaciated media images is not only that the girls themselves are sick, but also that it makes women who are any larger than “Size Emaciated” look large and, thus, creates this “standard of thin” that is completely unrealistic.

I just find it interesting that people try to convince themselves to love themselves the way they are yet they are constantly dieting and trying to shrink jean sizes. Does anyone else see this as an oxymoron? Accepting yourself the way you are and truly believing that you look this way because you’re supposed to means that you don’t feel the need to diet yourself down to a smaller size when you are criticized by the media.

I don’t pretend to think that it’s easy for these celebrities to undergo the type of negative scrutiny they do for gaining a few pounds and that it’s easy for them to watch people point out their cellulite on a magazine cover. That has to hurt. But, please celebrities: don’t try and pretend you lost weight because it was “healthier” to be a size 2 than it was to be a size 6. And please, oh please, don’t try to pretend that you love yourself when clearly you don’t know the first thing about it. Because if you did, you wouldn’t feel the need to alter your body size because someone called you fat.

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the-september-issue

The other night I saw the documentary that is currently in theaters about the fashion magazine Vogue and it’s prominent Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour. I have to say that I really enjoyed the movie and found the subject matter fascinating. For those of you who don’t know, the character Miranda Priestly in the popular film The Devil Wears Prada is actually based on Vogue’s Anna Wintour.

Of course the models in the film were shockingly thin but it seems cliche to focus on that aspect of the film as there were more interesting aspects that I found. In a part of the film where the filmmakers interview Ms. Wintour’s daughter, who is an aspiring lawyer, she tells the filmmakers that she has no desire to be in fashion. Wintour’s daughter admits that those in the fashion industry take it a little too seriously. It reminded me of a line in The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy, is describing what its like to work for a popular fashion magazine and says that they all walk around like they are “curing cancer or something.” I can’t help but agree with this perspective. It seems to me that the point of the fashion industry should be to help women determine what looks good on their body type as fashion trends change. But this does not seem to be the goal of Wintour and her disicples. They seem to want to create a fantasy world in which the average woman can only dream of being a participant.

My favorite “character” in the movie was a woman named Grace who began working at Vogue the same day as Ms. Wintour, roughly twenty years ago. Grace is the Creative Director with a far more human side than her counterparts at the famous fashion magazine. In one scene, Grace is doing a shoot in Paris and brings her model a box of raspberry fruit tarts (yummy)! The model reluctantly takes a bite and tells Grace that she really shouldn’t have brought the cakes because she won’t be able to fit in the corset! Grace responds with a smile and says, “it won’t make a difference!”

In another scene, Grace gets inspired during a photo shoot and decides to turn the camera on the filmmakers and asks the cameraman to be in a shot. During the photo selection process, Anna Wintour comes into the room, takes one look at the photo and says that some editing of the cameraman’s belly has to be done. She then tells the cameraman he needs to go to the gym, as she chuckles and touches her own flat (non-existent) stomach. Later, Grace finds out that Anna intends to have the photo edited and she insists that the photo remain unchanged. She says that not everyone is model-thin and the photo must maintain it’s authenticity. In the end, the photo stays the same and Grace is pleased.

All in all I thought the film was very well made and an interesting inside perspective of how the fashion industry works, as well as Ms. Wintour’s incredible influence on it. I must admit that it made me feel a little better to know that there is someone like Grace on the inside.

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plussizegaultier

Hi Cheeseburger Friends.

We just wanted to let you know, if you didn’t already, that there are two new interviews with Crystal Renn that you should definitely read. For those of you who don’t know, Renn is the highest paid plus-size model in the industry and has written a memoir entitled Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves. Jezebel’s interview can be found here. And the interview with Kate Harding can be found here.

Harding writes:

Today, Crystal Renn is the most successful plus-size model in America, not only showing off the latest from Lane Bryant but competing with “straight” models for coveted jobs she once believed she’d never get if she let a drop of oil pass her lips. Back around 165 pounds and wearing a Size 12, she has starred in an ad for Dolce & Gabbana, walked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier, and finally achieved the very ambition she nearly died for: being photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue. She recently posed nude for a forthcoming Glamour spread celebrating plus size models — who have become something to celebrate in large part because of Renn’s mainstream success, even if Lizzi Miller’s oddly captivating belly roll is currently taking all the credit.

Now that she has her curves and her personality back, Renn’s more in demand than she ever was as a thin model, when photographers found her listless and vacant. “The stereotype of models is that we’re brain-dead,” she writes, “but some of us are just starving.”

Both of these are great interviews, so check them out!

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Voguecover0601 Voguecover0003 Voguecover9711

2006                           2000                           1997

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1990                           1971                       1940’s-1950’s

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1940’s-1950’s                          1939                             1927

Images found here.

I was at a friend’s house flipping through the pages of one of her magazines as I was introduced to the new Gap Campaign (which is an entire post for later). As I looked at the different jeans they were offering I couldn’t help but feel a sense of frustration as I realized that all the jeans were modeled on girls of the same body type. As I began flipping through the pages I was bombarded with images of cute clothing placed on the same-looking body. Sure, these women had different skin tones, hair, and make-up but they had, essentially, the same body.

I did a bit more research and started looking at covers of the popular fashion magazine Vogue throughout the years. Ok, so it’s not really news that magazines are packed with images of super skinny girls–yes, I know, not big news. What alarmed me, however, was that even as early as the 1920’s the magazine covers displayed cartoons of such thin women. This means that we have been presented with only one body image for almost an entire century.  As I looked magazine covers over the decades I came to a conclusion: I AM SO OVER IT! I’m over the same body type; I’m over the emaciated arms, the rib cage showing, and, I am certainly over magazines trying to pass fashion on to everyday women when most women don’t even look like the ones in these magazines.

Ok, so maybe I am reaching if I wish for a day that Vogue does anything different from what they have been doing for the past century. But I would at least like to pick up a catalog or see an ad where they advertise clothes using real women. And I’m not talking about making distinctions between “plus size models” and “regular models”.  I’m talking about being able to open a magazine and see ALL different body types without having a distinction made between “plus” and “normal”. Why can’t magazines give women the option to see what clothing would look like on women who actually look like them? Would the fashion industry really crumble if we were shown women who look like us? Why do models have to be skinny? I mean really-why? Ok, it’s great that she has that body type, but what does that have to do with me? The designers want my money don’t they? So shouldn’t they cater to me and not some century old ideal?

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I just found out that my favorite new Saturday Night Live cast member of last year, Casey Wilson, was recently fired from the show and will not be coming back this season. What’s even worse is the reason that is rumored to be the cause of her termination: her refusal/inability to lose 30 pounds over the summer. It is rumored that SNL producers asked Wilson to use the summer break to lose 30 pounds. Of course this is just a rumor and I am certainly not taking it as gospel. But I must say that it really wouldn’t surprise me if this was the reason that she was asked to leave. After all, Casey’s body is not one we see very often on television.

When she first appeared on the screen last Fall I have to admit that I was thrilled to finally be able to watch a cast member on SNL that had a different body type than the women that are usually hired on that show (and on television in general). And what was more, Casey Wilson’s body wasn’t used as the butt of “fat” jokes. She didn’t play the “fat girl.” She simply played the various roles that any other cast member would be given. It was refreshing to see.

Casey Wilson actually walked by my window at work not four months ago (I work next door to a casting agency) and I was taken aback by her stunning beauty. Although she certainly had a different body type than most of the women I see on television and in movies, to even suggest that her weight would have something to do with her being fired is ridiculous for many reasons. I think it just goes to show how crazy the standard of thinness on television has become. The truth is, Casey’s body is completely out of the “norm” of what we generally see on TV and is therefore considered “different” and even “above average.”

As all of our favorite shows return this September and October, I am reminded, as I was last year when 90210 aired, that most of the bodies that we see on television look the same. There is no variety; no representation of different types of women of all shapes and sizes.

Although Casey Wilson is only one woman, she represented a possible shift in hiring women above a size 4 to play major parts on TV. So, regardless of the true reason she was fired, I still find it quite sad that we no longer get to watch her on SNL, not only because I enjoyed her as an actress but also because it was really nice to be able to watch a woman on television who looked a little bit more like me.

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kidsweight_large1

I just came across a fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal that revisits a 1986 article written by a reporter who interviewed several 4th grade girls in Chicago-area schools about dieting, media images and the need to be thin. The article compares their views then with what they think now as adults, 23 years later. The original project was meant to compare results with the now famous 1986 University of California- San Francisco study which revealed that 80% of 4th grade girls were dieting at the time of the study (along with several other startling statistics that were revealed in this study). The WSJ reporter’s study had very similar results. Over half of the girls he interviewed said they were on diets and 75% of them said they weighed too much. Not only were the girls’ results startling, but one boy the reporter interviewed said:

“Fat girls aren’t like regular girls,” one boy told me. “They aren’t attractive.”

It seems that most of those 4th grade girls originally interviewed have grown into beautiful, successful women who, for the most part, have escaped society’s obsession with being super thin. But, what is worth noting is the fact that none of them seem to have thrown the notion that beauty and thinness don’t matter in today’s world completely out the window. One woman said:

Today, she watches her weight “so I can be successful in a world that puts great emphasis on how a person looks.”

Another point I found interesting was one woman’s observation that anti-obesity children’s campaigns have backfired in that they make young girls even more obsessed with weight and image. Girls’ fears of being fat have created a lot of problems.

Compared with the fourth graders of 1986, girls today see body images in ads “that are even further from reality. Retouching is rampant,” says Claire Mysko, author of “You’re Amazing,” a book encouraging self-esteem in girls. She worries that childhood obesity-prevention efforts can make girls obsessive about weight. While these programs are important vehicles to fight a growing problem, “we have to be really careful how we are implementing nutrition and body imaging,” she says.

She speaks of her own observations as a teacher during lunch time:

On lunch duty each day, she notices 10 girls who eat nothing. “We make them take a few bites,” she says, “but they fight me on it. They say, ‘I’m not hungry,’ and I tell them, ‘You’ve been here since 8 a.m. Of course you’re hungry!’ ”

Last night I was talking to one of my friends who is a middle school teacher and she shared with me her observations of some of the students at her school who also don’t eat during lunch. When she asked one student about her lunch time non-eating habits, the student said she wasn’t hungry and she just eats at home. My friend then asked the girl what she eats when she gets home to which the girl replied “Oh you know, a cracker or something.”

I think this timeline of dieting then and now shows us that it’s only gotten worse. As the writer of this article points out, girls in 1986 didn’t have pro-ana sites and hours of youtube thinspiration videos to turn to like girls today have. Behind society’s obvious contributions to our increased obsession with youth, beauty and thinness (like ultra thin runway models and unbelievably skinny young TV starlets), there lies much more that I believe contributes to the problem. And that is what we learn from the people we see on a day-to-day basis: moms, sisters, girlfriends and even dads and brothers.

If Mom is constantly dieting and obsessed with her food portions and her weight and is exercising like a maniac, what type of message does it send to her 4th grade daughter? After all, actions speak way louder than words. I believe that many of us can give a really nice speech about how images of super thin models and actresses can damage our daughters and should be stopped, but what about the damage it causes (and has caused) to you?! It’s naive to think that just because we are “grown up” we are automatically too mature to be susceptible to the influence that society can have on the way we think about our bodies.

This study revealed that girls are dieting because they hate the shape of their bodies and certain body parts. Well I know plenty of grown women who feel the exact same way about their bodies; we all start somewhere. Perhaps the worldview of 4th grade girls doesn’t change as much as we think when we “grow up.”

I personally love Harriet Brown’s perspective on all this. I don’t have a daughter, but I am working on myself every day to make sure that one day, when I do have a daughter, I can teach her to love her body in the true sense, so that she can love herself in 4th grade and forever.

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kirstie-alley-skinny-and-fat1

In the last post, we discussed the use of the word “whopping” in celebrity tabloid magazines as it pertains to celebrities gaining weight. After reading about Kirstie Alley’s recent weight gain, I noticed quite a few more. Do you ever pay attention to the redundant phrasing these people use? Here are a few examples:

“going from flab to fab”
“packing the pounds back ”
“drop the weight ”

Besides the endless clichés I’ve noticed in these type of articles, I think what bothers me the most about the entire Kirstie Alley weight gain saga, is the fact that she feels that she somehow “let everyone down”. Like her weight gain is somehow a justifiably public issue that should be thrown about the tabloids like she is the latest Swine Flu victim.

As many of you remember, we were quite annoyed back in January when Oprah made her big confession regarding her weight gain. Although Oprah made a big public spectacle about the changes in her body, she at least made her weight gain personal and didn’t take on some large social responsibility.

For Kirstie Alley to somehow feel that just because she was Jenny Craig’s spokeswoman for the three years, means that she should feel responsible for being some kind of large disappointment to millions of women everywhere is ludicrous. After all, weight should not be a public issue!

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