Bathing suits and impossible perfection

March 23, 2009 § 3 Comments

We’ve had some gorgeous spring weather in New York recently, although it’s been depressingly sporadic (lookin’ at you, global warming). Sunshine and warm breezes are something I look forward to all winter long, but like many celebration-worthy events, they can be ruined by a little old-fashioned sexism.

Misogyny and sizeism take warm weather as an opportunity get down and dirty, as Kate points out in her excellent post about the difficulties of buying a bathing suit when you’re fat.

The magazines have started. We are now in the pre-season — the “unless you’re already quite thin, it’s time to start losing weight if you want to show your body in public this summer!” phase. (If you are quite thin, please wait for our May issue, when we’ll tell you you’re too pale*, hairy, blemished, and unfashionable, your boobs are too small to go with your butt, you could still stand to tone up those muscles, and your body insecurity is a real turn-off.)

*If you’re a woman of color, you’re probably exempt from this one, but on the downside, we have no idea you exist. 

And this is precisely why I adore Shapely Prose. I’m a thin person, but I still read this hilarious, down-to-earth, morally radiant blog daily. Why? Besides the obvious – that our society’s rampant hatred of fat people is, uh, wrong – there’s the fact that it’s not just fat people’s bodies that are available for public commentary. We get mixed messages from mainstream culture: on the one hand, there is always something to be “fixed,” which means you’re naive to like your “imperfect” body – but on the other, confidence is sexy so don’t let your man see you feeling insecure. 

As women, we are constantly dealing with the immense moral weight that’s placed onto our bodies. If you’re fat, you’re lazy. If you have big breasts, you’re a slut. If you have body hair, you’re dirty and masculine. If you’re thin, you’re probably anorexic – and you could definitely still lose some weight.

We must all take up arms in the fight for fat acceptance, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because all of us whose bodies are seen as indicators of moral worth will benefit from a world where our physical selves are celebrated and accepted without critique. As Kate points out on the Shapely Prose comments page:

If you’re still not getting it, think about the difference between these two people:

Skinny Person A: You know, I really respect what you’re doing here, because people comment on my body and my eating habits all the time, and they assume I’m unhealthy just because of my weight. I don’t know what it’s like to be fat in this society, but I know what it’s like to have my body treated as public property and be judged negatively because of my size. It fucking sucks, so the Fat Acceptance movement resonates with me, and I hope I can be an ally.

Word. Allied action is where it’s at.


Vogue’s Fashion For Every Figure Issue

March 21, 2009 § 7 Comments

vogue-shape-issue-coverI seem to be an ad/product lady (and I’m not alone). I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

This week, Vogue‘s Shape issue, which touts “fashion for every figure,” has me pissed.

First off, there’s no way in hell that this magazine represents women of all shapes. The evidence is right there on the cover: above the Shape Issue: Fashion for Every Figure, from size 0 to 20 copy, I see NIP/TUCK: Designing a Perfect Body. And towards the bottom of the cover: Work It! Longer Legs, Leaner Lines, Sexier Silhouette. Because apparently only long legs and lean lines are sexy. Fuck that.

But the real misogynistic fodder is on the inside, in the Laid Bare spread (again with the long legs obsession: sky-high heels in leg-lengthening flesh tones are a revelation – really? A revelation? Because I think we’ve been seeing long, thin limbs in magazines for quite some time, and they’re certainly not missing from this issue). Pics from the spread after the jump.

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The tabloid dichotomy

February 28, 2009 § 7 Comments

curvation1I was flipping through People (which, full disclosure, I glance at if it’s in the apartment) this morning and had to lift my gaping jaw off the floor when I saw this ad.

???!!?!!?!!!!!?! An advertisement featuring a fat woman who isn’t being mocked, chastised, or scrutinized? My favorite thing about this ad – which is for Curvation, a lingerie company – is that the woman has a body that’s not just a bigger version of your standard super-skinny model. This model has somewhat different proportions than the beauty ideal, and (gasp!) her stomach even has a little roll of flesh! And she’s in a mainstream magazine!!

I also like the text, which reads…DRESS: will hug every curve. MAKEUP: just mascara. ACCESSORIES: confidence, style, wit. Most of us feminists have known for a while that fat women have just as much confidence, style, and wit as other gals, but it’s taken tabloids like People (and don’t try to tell me it’s not a tabloid) a fucking long time to get in on the secret. Kudos.

Unfortunately, I ignored my instinct to put the magazine down while the going was good, and glanced at the Oscar coverage. There was the usual “ZOMG what did you eat for breakfast today?!” section, and an estimated 99.97% of the celebrity women had egg whites in one form or another.

No offense to anyone who eats egg whites – whether you have a health issue that prevents you from eating yolks, like my grandmother, or you just like the taste – but I have a really hard time believing that so many women truly like their flavor and texture. Personally, I’d rather just skip breakfast than eat some scrambled whites – and I am not the sort of person to ever, ever skip meals. I’m reminded of what Julia Louis-Dreyfus said when asked about how she stays slim at the Emmys a couple years ago: “Basically, I never have any fun. For breakfast this morning I had scrambled egg whites. BLEH!” (Forgive me, I can’t find a full quote or video of this hilarious exchange; this is the best I can come up with.)

In summary: thank you, People, for the long-awaited gift of putting a seriously hot fat model into your magazine. When your next issue comes out, I’ll ask around to find out if there are any other great ads, so I can go straight to those pages and skip all the diet commentary that tries to make me feel guilty about my 3-real-egg-omelets.

Second Life: A Dream World?

February 17, 2009 § 3 Comments

For a research project for my Seminar class, I had to create a Second Life account. For those of you unfamiliar with Second Life, it’s a virtual world in which users’ avatars can fly, ski, dance, ride dinosaurs, etc. Second Life’s motto is “Your World. Your Imagination.” 

The first thing you do when creating a Second Life account is pick an avatar. There are about 12 initial avatars from which to pick, 6 women and 6 men. There are no transavatars, and all of the female avatars have that Barbie-esque hourglass figure that all us chicks are JUST DYING to have. You can edit the skin color, hair style, weight, height, etc. of you avatar, but only once you have arrived in your Community. Personally, I couldn’t even figure out how to do it once I arrived at my Australian beachside Community. But that’s just me. 

And so right away I was skeptical. Yeah you can change your appearance, but the website basically assumes that the ‘norm’ for female avatars will be the tiny waste/huge boobs look. 

My skepticism concerning Second Life only grew. As I wandered around the Australian island that I selected as my Community, I saw literally hundreds of virtual billboards. Because my project is largely about advertising in Second Life, I paused to look at them all. I was horrified to find that every single one featured a scantily-clad hourglassy woman.

I guess I’m just disappointed. Second Life bills itself as a utopian fantasy land where you can choose your looks, friends, setting, and everything else. But I would rather see equality than ride a unicorn.

BREAKING NEWS: [Insert starlet’s name here] has gained some weight!

February 6, 2009 § 6 Comments

If you haven’t been living in a cave for the last few weeks, I’m sure you’ve heard the news: Jessica Simpson has GAINED WEIGHT.

Am I the only one sick of seeing photos of her everywhere I go? Whether it’s an image splashed across the cover of People Magazine or linked to from one of the blogs I read or even on some pop-culture television show, I always end up getting frustrated by the obsession with women’s weight gain patterns that the media (hell, society!) tends to have. 

And it’s not just this one isolated case. From Kirstie Alley to Janet Jackson to Oprah, people just can’t seem to stop analyzing their weights. It’s also not just in cases of extreme weight gain either. How many false pregnancy accusations have there been? Often headlines have read, “JENNIFER ANNISTON PREGNANT?” or “KATIE HOLMES LOOKS PREGNANT.” A woman in our pop culture isn’t allowed to put on any weight without suddenly being knocked up. What’s even worse is the photos that have been put out in the past of celebrities”pigging out.” Oh ha ha! A famous woman indulging in a cheeseburger! What a fatty! Look how gross she looks!

These types of images (with big arrows pointing to “baby bumps,” ones showing how an actress has clearly “let herself go,”  and depicting women “stuffing their faces”) express to the public how far from the norm an overweight woman is supposed to be. You better keep that tummy tucked, or you’ll be the laughingstock of everyone you know! 

While this phenomenon isn’t only directed at women, it seems much more traditional to critique a woman’s weight than a man’s. How often have you seen images of male celebrities with captions about how clearly they need to get back on their exercise regime? 

Just think about the incredibly unrealistic standards women are held up to when Angelina Jolie isn’t allowed to eat a fucking sandwich.

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