Shameless Blog Promotion is Shameless.

September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

I’ve created a new blog project: Chronicles of A Cosmo Nut. I’m basically doing a version of Jamie Keile’s Seventeen Magazine Project, but with Cosmo. As a twenty-year old, Seventeen isn’t all that relevant to me, but Cosmo does seem to be the comparable magazine for young women who have graduated high school, and are living on their own (whether that be college, an apartent and a full-time job, etc)

I’ll be posting as regularly as my hectic school schedule permits, and I hope you, the valued reader, enjoy it!

Politics of Pleasure

August 27, 2010 § 11 Comments

by SARAH

“Women who report masturbating score higher on a self esteem index than women who do not report masturbating. Women who do masturbate have a more positive body image and less sexual anxiety.”

(Source, which you should actually look at because the whole chart is adorable and awesome.)

Ladies, raise your hand if you slightly jumped, internally cringed, or looked over your shoulder while reading that. It’s alright, really; I did while typing it.

Because, despite all of the talking and thinking and debating I like to do about sex and sexuality, I sometimes fall victim to the same fear of the “m” word that so many other people (particularly women) do. I can find myself having the most explicit conversation about sex with a good friend, and when it comes to that topic, I have trouble choking out the word “masturbate.” Several months ago, I was playing that (pretty stupid) party game Never Have I Ever with a large group of teenage girls -– we admitted all sorts of things without a hint of judgement in the room, yet when that question came up, less than half of us confessed to the deed. And I know that this intense shyness about it isn’t unique to me.

Funny that in a world where women are so sexualized, doin’ the Sally Draper is such a taboo.

But then again, it really isn’t that surprising.

Women are sexualized and objectified to appeal to others. Our culture tells us that our sexuality doesn’t belong to us, nor is it for us to enjoy -– it’s for The Male Gaze. Therefore, the act of a lady pleasing herself for her own purposes presents a little bit of a problem for The Patriarchy, which thinks that women are supposed to be sexy for other people, not for themselves. The Patriarchy also wants us to believe that women are passive about sex, that we are not sexual creatures. Masturbating proves that wrong.

Let’s return to that quote up there for a second as well:

“Higher self esteem…more positive body image…less sexual anxiety.”

When women feel these things, it’s harder to control them, to tell them what to do, to tell them how to change. Ultimately, masturbating is connected to self-respect, self-love, and sexual freedom, all things that challenge several mainstream notions of femininity.

Here’s the deal: Masturbating is fun, orgasms are good for you, and it makes misogynists uncomfortable. So get yourself a vibrator and start a revolution.

Dear Stephens College: There are better ways to raise 1 million dollars.

August 24, 2010 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Before I transferred to SCAD, I attended a small college in Missouri called Stephens College. A friend of mine (a student at the University of Missouri — the school next door to Stephens) sent me a link to a recent story, in which an anonymous alum has pledged to donate one million dollars, if school employees collectively lose 250 pounds or more.

I think that linking a charitable donation to an institute of learning with weight loss is a bad idea. Especially at a place like Stephens, which is a women’s college.

Why?

Because many women are bombarded with so many images in the media, telling us to do this/buy that in order to lose weight. There are many competition style shows, in which contestants try to win money by losing weight. Jillian Michaels has garnered a great deal of money and fame by being the head screamer on The Biggest Loser, and her own TV show whose name I cannot remember, but would be best titled Jillian Michaels Really Enjoys Screaming at Fat People.

During my time at Stephens (Fall ’07-Winter ’08), it seemed like many of my classmates were in a never-ending weight loss competition with each other. One girl complained that it was “unfair” that a girl who was larger than her was a better, more flexible dancer. Another girl tried out the “Master Cleanse” with her friends: They spent a weekend consuming only a drink made from lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. They did lose weight, but only because they spent their entire weekend in the bathroom, suffering from severe nausea/diarrhea. During my seven-week summer intensive, it seemed like I was the only person who wasnt freaking out about “getting fat” — we spent our mornings in an intense dance/aerobics class, followed by acting class, lunch, and time spent either in rehearsal or in the shop.

The most popular majors at Stephens (performing arts, dance, fashion) are majors that do place a great deal of value on traditional standards of beauty (thinness, conventional beauty, etc). Several professors in the performing arts department told some of my friends that they should lose weight, or otherwise alter their appearance (another was told that her muscles were too prominent). « Read the rest of this entry »

So, this is gross

July 15, 2010 § 3 Comments

I saw a commercial for CW’s new reality show, “Plain Jane,” last night. This morning I found this preview on the channel’s website.

Ew.

The title “Plain Jane” alone should have been enough of a warning. I saw this preview and didn’t have the strength or emotional energy to continue looking into it. I think the most offensive part is at the end when the creepy announcer voice says, “Every dream will become real.” Thanks, CW! Thanks so much for realizing the only dreams young women have, to receive highlights, strappy heels and some lip gloss! How else can women become confident, self-loving individuals?!?

Actually, I changed my mind. The part where the “plain Jane” is strapped with a zapper and is LITERALLY ZAPPED by the hosts of the show when she “falls back into her plain Jane ways” is the most heinous. I don’t even know where to begin talking about how demeaning and dehumanizing that is. Thanks for the soulache, CW.

I just came from the masturbation workshop!

November 19, 2009 § 1 Comment

This week we celebrated “Love Your Body Week” at Grinnell, hosted by the Feminist Action Coalition. Yay! There were (and still are) a ton of great events including a film screening and discussion, a fat activism workshop, open mic night, Grinnell Monologues (comparable to the Vagina Monologues), queer sex-ed, and my personal favorite, two masturbation workshops! It really was very comforting to see how well-attended these events actually were. I think the week did a lot to dispel the myths of apathetic college students across the country.

I think one of the best things about the week (and, coincidentally, about this blog) is that most of the events weren’t strictly serious, stuffy, or overzealous. Who says learning about your vagina has to be uncomfortable or boring? Basically, congratulations to all the humorous feminists on campus, and all of those who got over their fear of humorous feminists. Let’s keep on dispelling more myths (and yes, I probably will use this term several times. Sorry).

Finally, I really appreciated the atmosphere of communal learning that was pretty apparent in all the workshops I attended. Obviously, most people came from different backgrounds. Some were really familiar with all of the ideas being bandied about, but some, particularly at the very well attended masturbation workshop, had received very little education on such taboo topics. The fact that students who knew more were completely willing to help out those who didn’t was super refreshing. What was more refreshing was the fact that women (who attended the female identified masturbation workshop, I have no idea what went on at the male identified one) were not helping each other out of obligatory sisterhood, but out of actual desire.

I do have one question though. It seems as if I am encountering a barrage of social justice-y causes, open dialogue, and fun terms like “doing gender,” “dispel the myth,” and “social construct” just in the nick of time- before I enter the real world. Why does it have to be that way? What If we taught these terms, habits, and ideals before having them hurriedly shoved in our faces? This has been bothering me a lot lately. Obviously this isn’t going to happen any time soon given the other pressing problems in our educational system, but what is so wrong about introducing the concept of loving your body to grade school students? What if these so-crazy-they-just-might-work ideas had a place in every elementary school curriculum? We would probably live in a much more understanding environment, where no one would need to ask in a college class what “the gender binary system” is.

dyyyyyspeeeellllll mmmmmmyyyyythhhhhhsssssssssss.
I am so sorry for the above display of crazy.

Some Social Conundra

October 14, 2009 § 6 Comments

Hi all!

I just took my sociology mid term which consisted of 3 essays. I obviously ended up writing all three on feminist issues despite the fact that probably 75% of our readings are about men. I thought one was particularly interesting, so I think I’ll try to recreate it for you all, though probably in a way more casual manner seeing as how this is a blog post and I’m tired of being overly articulate. Here ’tis:

The U.S. is full of very rigid behavioral norms, ideological beliefs and standards that dictate everything from sidewalk etiquette to how we perceive beauty. We, as a country, tend to hardcore judge people for failing to reach these standards, even though in so many cases people do not have the appropriate means to do so. The really fun thing is, however, that we also hardcore judge people when they attempt to meet our high standards by means of which we do not approve. I smell a conundrum.
It is far too common for young women (and old women, and men, but the article I read focused mainly on young women so I will too) to resort to deviant behavior in order to meet our traditional standards of beauty. I’m talking about eating disorders. We all know that in the U.S. we are all about being thin, fair, leggy, busty, etc. We also all know that these things are impossible for everyone to be, and not even particularly desirable. Uniqueness is super hot. So are curves in places that aren’t your boobs. So is every skin color. However, at times, we forget this, and that’s ok because we are human! What is not ok is that society puts SO MUCH pressure on us to change how we naturally are, in order to become the ideal woman.This is what causes eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. While many of us view the victims of eating disorders with pity or empathy, there are a great deal of us who for some reason look down on women with eating disorders. We want them to be skinny and beautiful, but only when they buy products to become that way. These beliefs are obviously linked to the influence of the media and our strong devotion to consumer culture, but we cannot let those things take full responsibility. We are of the mindset that to eat unhealthily small amounts and call it dieting is ok. To refuse to eat at all (or to develop eating habits that can be perceived as elements of an eating disorder), is not cool, and we marginalize the HELL out of those who do. (Hey run on, wassup?)

If I haven’t made it clear enough, our social conundrum is this:
We commend women for being thin and beautiful, but look down on those who strive to achieve this end. I am, of course, not endorsing Anorexia or Bulimia. But many women hardly have a choice given all the social pressures. these are, after all, diagnosed disorders! Psychological ones. We, as a society, must be more sympathetic to victims of eating disorders, considering that society set up such a hard position for any woman (exception: Malibu Barbie).

My second example is the social stigmatization of exotic dancers, or strippers. Most people are generally not fans of the idea of women exploiting their bodies for money. There are many terrible things about this industry, for sure. Working conditions are typically not great, many women do not enjoy dancing for the pleasure of random men, and I am sure a lot of violence can happen on the job. However, when society views these women as immoral sluts, I get pretty pissed off.

I get pissed off because, on their off days, most of these women do not want to be defined as exotic dancers. many are mothers. If they are not, they are trying to make a life for themselves. We, as a country, judge them especially harshly if they do not make enough money to provide for their children or themselves. A failed mother is probably considered a million times worse than a full time stripper. We ask, “how hard is it to find a decent job, one that does not use sex as a commodity? Why can’t these women be good role models for their children?” Guess what! It’s really fucking hard for quite a few people to find stable jobs. Furthermore, I’d rather feed my children than teach them ridiculously rigid standards for women. Yeah.

Basically, in our society we set up impossible standards to meet. We provide very few ways of meeting those standards that ARE socially acceptable. We show huge disdain for those who feel compelled to meet these standards through acts of social deviance. This is so problematic (I’ve been told this is a favorite vocab word for gender and women studies majors, probably because it can be applied to absolutely everything) I can’t even stand it.

I hope you enjoyed my feminist sociological rant. I wish I could properly cite the readings this was all based on… will try to do so in the future.

Praxis. (Part One?)

August 25, 2009 § 3 Comments

Cannot will myself to sleep, amidst my summer of supposed ‘relaxation and teenage antics.’ In fact, though I have wordlessly skimped on Women’s Glib, I am just re-situating with a computer now, my old pixilated comrade.

My summer has required me to find so many different facets for talking about women’s liberation. Now close to 4 am, my sister’s contented sighs from her dreams just reaching my ears, I turn to you, Women’s Glib!

I entered summer a few months ago by crewing for an old sloop activist-with-a-banjo Pete Seeger had erected 40 years ago to teach water education while sailing the Hudson River. Boat hierarchies are some of the strictest political systems, and I, as an apprentice, was on the lowest rung. Above me was the deckhand, the bosun, (or the handy person), the engineer, the second mate, the chief mate, and the captain.

Old sailing lore told of boats sinking and crew getting scurvy as a result of women being on a boat, let alone crewing for one. Yet years later, on a boat modeled off of mid 1800s cargo ships, both apprentices, the education intern, one of the educators, the deckhand, the bosun, the second mate, the chief mate, AND one of the alternating captains were all female. And holy shit, these women could sail.

In the month I lived on the vessel, I labored along side them as we worked 15 hour days through thunderstorms, maneuvered off and onto docks, and used power tools I hadn’t even touched before. Not only was I nearly keeled over at their work ethic and assertiveness, but they were some of the most kind and healthiest people I’ve met. It is so refreshing to be able to shy away completely from glossy magazines and primping and preening. These girls ate very full meals (I should know, I cooked a few of them) and never once suggested doing anything for means of image control/manipulation. (We were, arguably, hauling up a 3000 pound mainsail a few times a day).

In fact, I was able to engage in a phenomenon that continued as a trend into my summer. I had never before realized how often I saw my own reflection, be it in mirrors or even the glass facades of New York buildings. On the boat there were none, (or perhaps a tiny one?) so that we were all consistently as beautiful as we felt. So often I should look ABSOLUTELY RADIANT, because my stomach and heart are both practically lifted to my throat, (which would obviously enable flying); yet when I look in the mirror I am greeted with a different face, neck and shoulders completely. There was no battle to compare how well I felt to the archetype ‘good looking white female’ that encroaches every space I’ve found, spitting gender binaries out at me from rooftop ads and conversations. It was so nice to just assume that the way I looked synched with the way I felt. Ultimate liberation for me at this point was living with kickass female role models, and having a shape-shifter body, where I became my feelings. Has that ever happened to you? If so, how? Oops, digression!

Alcohol Advertising in Inwood

August 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

Hey, so it’s been like 3 years since I have posted anything, but here it goes.  SO, my job this summer is to research and map out the community of Inwood in terms of alcohol availability as well as the prominence of alcohol advertising.  I am creating a Google Map that will compile all if this on one handy map, which I will definitely post here once I’m done.  First of all, you would not believe how many ads there are, second of all, if anyone ever actually stopped to look at these ads (like I did), you would be SHOCKED.  The way women are portrayed was so scary that I didn’t know what to do.  Every deli, corner store, and bodega is covered in ads; most depicting women nearly naked, and often bent over, not facing the camera.  I would show you a picture, but it is SO not appropriate, and I do not want to promote anything like that.  This is not some magazine, where you can just turn the page; this is on every block, on every corner, basically everywhere you look.  Also, Inwood is a young neighborhood, most of the population is very young, many under 18.  The thing is, you would think “wow, that’s not subtle.” But really, it is.  You don’t notice it unless you stop to look at it, and I am sure many elementary school-age boys and girls do see these every day.

What do you do though?  These stores cannot and will not survive without alcohol advertisements, and who could POSSIBLY make alcohol advertisements without demoralizing women?

Princess Fat-Shaming

June 19, 2009 § 14 Comments

Via Latoya at Racialicious, I see a series of photographs by Dina Goldstein entitled “Fallen Princesses”. Goldstein says of her project:

These works place Fairy Tale characters in modern day scenarios. In all of the images the Princess is placed in an environment that articulates her conflict. The ‘…happily ever after’ is replaced with a realistic outcome and addresses current issues.

It’s a cool idea, artistically speaking, and some of the images are very thought-provoking. I especially liked the irony in the portrait of Snow White, an exhausted-looking young mother burdened by four kids.

But the project has some disastrous issues. Latoya’s post (go read it) and the subsequent comment thread are a nice breakdown of some troubling ethnic and racial stereotypes that Goldstein presents in her reappropriated version of Jasmine. And I’m also uncomfortable with Goldstein’s depiction of the “fallen” Little Red Riding Hood, boringly titled “Not so Little Riding Hood”:

red riding hood

Commenter Brenda DeShazer writes:

Excellent, let’s reinforce the stereotype that fat people gobble huge quantities of burgers and sodas.

For reals. I see two glaringly problematic stereotypes embodied in this photograph: that fat people eat indiscriminantly and “unhealthily”; and that being fat is the ultimate downfall.

This is the polemic “realistic outcome” that Goldstein came up with? Seems to me that she herself has fallen back on unoriginal (and clearly offensive) stereotypes.

Students Speak: V*gina

June 6, 2009 § 3 Comments

V*gina – by Ilana, a high school junior.

2005-2006: I was on the young end of the spectrum as an eighth grader. I had turned thirteen in 2005 and would stay that way until high school. Even as the baby of the grade, I had 34 B breasts that seemed to pop up over night, literally. Along with the breasts came hips and a shape that was not meant for my age. As my body changed, so did the attitudes of the people around me — both of boys and girls – but I couldn’t figure out why. As my perspective of my body was impacted, I felt obligated to adjust how I dressed. I began to cover up my body, which had previously never caused me discomfort. In addition, once I became involved with boys, I was suddenly labeled a slut for reasons I did not understand. But wait, I can’t possibly be the only one who felt like this. There must be some rationale. Let’s look back at the perception of women in our society…

1999: A scantily-clad Britney Spears, age 17, is on the cover of Rolling Stone, almost naked. The picture of young Britney shows her in a school-girl’s outfit lying on a bed with her white shirt unbuttoned completely, exposing a black bra. The photo is suggestive, provocative, and potentially perceived as slutty. 17 may be one year away from adulthood but why is this young pop star exposing herself like this? Many considered this photo inappropriate and as setting a bad example for Britney’s younger fans. An association to sex quickly accompanied her fame. This caused an uproar by many who saw Britney as representing all that was wrong with women. She was exposing a part of her that was meant to be kept secret from all. Women are not supposed to be as explicit with their bodies because this leads many to believe they want sex and will engage in it readily. A woman who is free with her sexuality is one who does not respect herself, and thus is labeled a slut. Such comments have been made about other teen pop stars like Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens. These two girls were seen as young and innocent. However, the moment both of them exposed their bodies, a Britney cycle ensued.

2009: I must ask, how can it be that society so rejects women’s display of their sexuality? Britney was sexy and not afraid to show it, nor ashamed of the associations that accompanied her Lolita-esque photo. If Britney was comfortable with the photo shoot, and Miley Cyrus is not concerned with how she looks why is everyone else? Why must we demean a woman’s choices of how she handles herself if she is comfortable? The same applies to a woman’s sexual experiences. Women are seen as sluts if they are “too loose.” Let’s look further back…

1973: Erica Jong’s book Fear of Flying is published. This is a tale of a woman who recounts sexual experiences with an openness that had previously only been associated with men. Its release caused a huge uproar, which indicated that society was not ready to hear the truth about women’s sexual desires. Women had been, and continue to be, seen as having a more passive approach to sexual desire and action. In Fear of Flying, the untraditional character, Isadora, defies sexual conventions as she describes “the zipless fuck.” This is defined as an entirely sexual encounter that is based solely on desire and pleasure. Isadora states that it the “purest thing there is” and that she has never had one.

2009: But why has Isadora never been able to have a “zipless fuck?” Is it because she is afraid of the judgment she will receive? Has she internalized the notion that this feeling is unfeminine and forbidden? Or is she afraid of rejection because this approach too forward for a woman? Though for women today a “zipless fuck” is no longer “rarer than a unicorn,” the subject is still provocative. Women are not taught by society about their sexual essence and power, and struggle to learn through experience. Our sex drive is just as strong as men’s; however, we are expected to suppress it. This duplicity in society, praising men’s exploits while condemning women’s sexual freedom, presents women with an identity crisis. In addition to this, the way that a woman dresses or acts is a reflection of her sexuality. How can I feel comfortable with my sexuality when I am being told it diminishes me as a person? How can I feel comfortable with my sexuality when I am told that my comfort in my body and my desire to show it is wrong? Who will offer me much needed guidance, beyond fictional characters? Women are too easily intimidated by other’s judgments and thus become uncomfortable with themselves and their sexuality. A woman’s desires are just as valid as a man’s. Women should embrace their sexuality and not believe that their natural instincts and desires deplete their integrity.

Unfortunately, society will not change as fast as us. We will not wake up tomorrow to a world that promotes our sexuality as part of our femininity, or that allows us to dress as we please. However, we can assume the power ourselves. Every woman who can find strength in herself and her sexuality and can achieve happiness through it will lead a more complete life. I am not advocating rampant sex, or random nudity, I am simply saying the sex you chose to have and the clothing you chose to wear is yours. As long as you’re comfortable with the choices you have made, you are no slut.

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke; Spice Up YOUR Relationship, by Jennifer; Letters From Kartini, by Nia; Coming Out As A Feminist, by Shani; Inequality, by Sasha

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