Move Over Barbie, Here Comes Something Average…

If you’ve ever considered how representations of female bodies contribute to women’s negative body image – then you’ve realized that Barbie, the icon of little girl’s toys, may not be the best influence on a girl’s relationship to the reality of her body. Take a look at this comparison image that has been floating around the internet lately:

article-2308658-19469C29000005DC-844_634x467The numbers detailed are downright absurd. Her wrists and ankles are exactly the same size. Her bust is distinctly larger than her hips – and her waist is half the size of her bust. It seems like if she was a living woman she would fall over. Actually, we know she would fall over because her feet are permanently on tip toe so that they can fit into her plastic heels. That said, even if we put her unusual foot shape aside, Barbie is not a real shaped woman.

Because Barbie doesn’t even emulate the proportions of a living woman and therefore is an arguably poor influence on perceptions of women’s bodies, graphic designer Nickolay Lamm created The Lammily Doll.0cef20209 This doll and Barbie seem to come from two very different places. Acorrding to the Lammily Website:

  • Lammily is made according to typical human body proportions and therefore promotes realistic beauty standards.
  • Lammily wears minimal makeup.
  • Lammily’s wardrobe isn’t composed of typical clothing for dolls – she is dressed with striking simplicity.
  • Lammily is fit and strong.

Another positive attribute the  of the new doll that the website does not mention is that Lammily  represents more diversity than Barbie. She has brown hair and a darker skin tone than Barbie – which means that she can be understood as either Caucasian, Hispanic or of mixed race – whereas Barbie is pretty much descendant from Aryans.

Lammily was crowdfunded and she was a great success. Lamm initially posited that to manufacture his doll he needed $95,000. He raised $465,952. This kind of response points out that we are hungry for representations that actively reject impossible body ideals and embrace a more empowered image of womanhood.

While I know Lammily is a step in the right direction – I find that I am still disheartened because I don’t really feel like she looks like the women in my life. She still idealizes a certain age and health standard and this “average” seems almost as mythical as Barbie’s disproportionate one. Perhaps Lammily needs some friends – a black girl, a fat girl, a differently-abled girl, a trans girl, a pear shaped girl, a girl with thick thighs, a girl with a juicy bootie, a curly haired girl, and yes, a blond girl… Obviously I could go on for ever.

What I’m trying to say is that Lammily is awesome, but she is just the beginning. If we really want to forward positive representations of people’s bodies than we need to genuinely represent ALL bodies.

This was originally posted @Bitchtopia

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Publicly Airing Some Thoughts on Pubic Hair

american-apparel-m_2794029aThere has been a lot of chatter recently about both the fuzzy and furless pubis. A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of coverage of Cameron Diaz’s new written endeavor, The Body Book because it features an essay entitled “In Praise of Pubes,” and currently, American Apparel is getting press because their mannequins have merkins peaking out of their panties.

I know that feminists have been known to debate the “feministy-ness” of how one decides to relate to her pubic hair – “to nair or to hair” you might say.  (Just so you know, I’m not gonna partake in a pubic hair pros and cons list, so if that’s what you’re looking for, move on.)  There are lot of thoughts surrounding this debate, and while I may lean one way or another when I’m listening to smart girls discuss their very nuanced positions on having hair down there, I ultimately think that conversations of this nature expose the very gray spectrum that feminism needs to embrace.

Let me back track. I have pubic hair. This is a choice I’ve made based on my own life experiences with my body. When I was ten years old, I didn’t sleep much. It was a drag for my parents, but after some seriously valid attempts at trying to get me to sleep at night they gave up, and let me traipse about the house while they were sleeping. It was on a night like this I discovered my first pubic hair. I was proud of that one little curly cue – proud enough to wake up my mother to tell her what I’d found. For me, that lone coarse strand marked my shift from child to pubescent teen. It was a bodily triumph.  I know, it’s a ridiculous story, but it’s mine and that’s why I have pubic hair. It has meaning to me, because I was excited to meet my pubes so why would I banish them.

Let me tell you another story; this one’s second hand, but it helps make my point so bear with me. A couple of years ago a friend of mine went to study abroad in France. She was about four years older than the other students in her study abroad program. One night, over a bottle of wine, she had a conversation with a couple of 20-year-old guys who felt that if a woman’s labia wasn’t naked, then that women was disgusting and not a viable sexual option. Arguably, from a feminist position, the perception of these douche bags would make a terrible justification for bearing your labia – because you’d be making this choice based on what others think. Not on your relationship to your body.

Shave your pubis if you look in the mirror and the naked version looks sexy to you, or if you exercise a lot and your nether hair is prone to crotch rot. Go au-naturale because you’ve done research and you feel like pubes protect you from bacterial infections or you’re excited by their relationship to pheromones.  It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you own your crotch, make decisions based on your relationship to your parts, and voice the opinion that other feminists have a right to be masters of their bodily universe and self define. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you choose to sport a 70s style full-fledged bush or not – as long as you think about it and make a choice based on your needs. This is the gray land of actual feminist empowerment.

What do we make of the American Apparel merkins? It’s up to you. Personally, I feel like they’re creepy, but I have other feminist body-positive friends who love them. As feminists, we are big enough to enjoy this publicity stunt for the conversations it starts. We can go back and forth about whether AA’s merkins forward a hipster resurgence of a furry pubic sensibility or make the bushy bush a joke.  It doesn’t matter where you land – chat about it, think about it, and in the end go with your gut. Living within feminism means having a personal opinion and trusting it.

Side note: a couple of months ago XOJane’s Emily McCombs had a feminist twitter war on this topic and wrote an article that dismissed the necessity for a feminist discussion of pubic hair because she felt there were more pressing issues for feminists to discuss. I get it, I do. I still think we’re having issues understanding what it means to live in an empowered space – one which enables us to choose freely and navigate our own course, so I have deemed this discussion of one’s right to pube or not to pube still worthy.

This post was originally posted on Bitchtopia.com

Don Jon: Legit critique of Porn and Rom-Coms

SPOILER ALERT:

MV5BMTQxNTc3NDM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5NTQ3OQ@@._V1._CR28,28.649993896484375,1271,1991.0000305175781._SX640_SY987_So, I went to see Don Jon, Joesph Gordon Levitt’s new film.  (Literally.  He wrote, directed and starred in the damn thing.)  The film is centered on the main character, Jon’s (Levitt) growth from a Jersey-shore-esq, macho, porn-addicted, women-objectifying goof into a more enlightened and fulfilled man, who values genuine connection based on the reality of individuals.

Jon, who spends most of his time acquiring notches on belt, cleaning, working out and masturbating to internet porn, begins to change by falling for Barbara (Scarlet Johansson). Basically, Jon’s porn addiction has created a monster – a man who functions as one in a constant search for female perfection, with perfection defined according to a pornographic beauty ideal. Notably, the film makes it clear that this pornographic ideal isn’t just confined to the seedy dark corners of the internet by showing  Jon oogling women on the covers of magazines on stands in supermarkets and in tv commercials. When Jon meets Barbara  the hottest girl that he has ever encountered, he decides to play the “long game” and commits to her in an attempt to score/screw/sleep with her.   Jon is able to give up other women for Barbara, but he cannot give up porn. He tells viewers that porn is “better than real pussy” – because he’ loses himself in porn, and real women are never as good. [POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: It’s worth noting that all this ‘telling’ comes with a lot of pornographic imagery]. Porn basically teaches Jon that there is a certain way that sex should be and the reality does not live up to the representation.   Throughout their relationship Barbara is clearly a pornographic conquest — but what is interesting is that Jon is equally so for Barbara.

imagesLike Jon, Barbara is basically a stereotype. She is a woman who is interested in controlling a man using sex, so that she might achieve her ultimate goal, getting married. Repeatedly in the film we see her manipulate Jon using sex – for example she convinces him to go to school and pursue a better job, while he is on the verge of orgasm. Like Jon’s porn addiction, Barbara  consistently watches romantic comedies (rom-coms) – which teach her that there is a certain way that “love” looks. Barbara’s rom-com obsession is presented as a foil to Jon’s porn obsession. In other words, the film makes a clear argument that the representations that we are watching obscure reality, rendering women as objects for sexual pleasure to men and men as objects of responsibility and violence to women.  Don Jon goes as far as to argue that these representations are forcing us to live as disconnected empty shells. The point Don Jon is making reminds me of Jane Caputi’s The Pornography of Everyday Life.

Ultimately,  Esther (Juileanne Moore), a widow teaches Jon that women are more that objects – and sex is way more than porn.  DONJON_JulianneThe movie is graphic – but it’s also funny and enjoyable. The acting is spot on and if you ask me, this is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time, which I would genuinely call feminist slanted social critique.  As long as you’re willing to put up with the pornographic images, I say see it. Here’s the preview:

 

I am not the first person to notice this – BUST magazine covered these ideas as well.

 

#hatefatshamingnotfatpeople

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with Emily McCombs who is the managing editor at XOJane.com, but I’m a fan. Emily often writes candidly about her struggles with her own body image and her attempts to embrace a Health at Every Size (HAES)® approach, a perspective which forwards the idea that good health can be reached independent of size.

Last week, Emily wrote an Article entitled, “I Worked Out With Jillian Michaels and She Made Me Feel Bad About My Body”. For those of you that don’t know, Jillian Michaels is one of the trainers on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

In the article Emily admits that she “used to really like Jillian Michaels” but after posing a HAES oriented question Emily’s affinity for Michael’s has dimmed.  You should probably read the whole article, but I’m most concerned with Michael’s Response to Emily’s Question:

[Emily]: A lot of our readers are really into size acceptance and Health at Every Size. Your brand is so aligned with weight loss, I just wonder how you feel about exercise for fitness vs. exercise for weight loss.

JilIian: I don’t even really know what that means. I’ll define health for you. If your cholesterol is good, your blood sugar’s good, your blood pressure is good, that to me is healthy. I believe that you should accept yourself as every size. But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that you’re physically healthy at every size because you’re not.

And I also don’t believjillian-michaels-yellinge that even though you might be 100 pounds overweight, you’re going, “Oh I’m good the way that I am.” BULLSHIT. I don’t believe that you don’t wake up in the morning and feel uncomfortable in your skin. I don’t believe that you don’t feel insecure when you pick your kid up from school. I don’t believe that you don’t feel uncomfortable when you’re naked in front of your husband or your wife for that matter. I don’t believe you.”

Clearly, The Biggest Loser is a show that buys in to the fat=bad/thin=good paradigm and according to the blog Dances with Fat, Michaels has a history of fat-shaming beyond the hollering, screaming and berating she does while training fat people on NBC. In particular, Michaels has been known to use the hashtag “#hateobesitynotobesepeople,” and as Ragen Chastain explains, “you can’t hate obesity but not obese people – it doesn’t work that way.  If you hate obesity, then you hate me.  I’m not a thin woman covered in fat, I’m a fat woman.   You can’t love the thin person who you wish I was without hating the fat woman I am now.”  In other words, if someone accepts their fat body or is trying to accept their fat body – they must begin by understanding that their fat is a casing to be shed. It is part of them. Jillian Michaels has made it clear that she doesn’t understand this.

Soooo… there is no reason that one would have expected Michaels to respond to Emily’s question in a manner that was fat-positive or fat-accepting, but still when I was reading Michaels’ comments my face contorted and smoke came out my ears. Who is this woman to say that if I’m fat I cannot enjoy my body? Why does she think she has the right to call my comfort and self acceptance “BULLSHIT” and impose upon me the idea that during my morning nude hours, when I’photo(3)m showering, blow-drying and primping for the day, I’m also feeling shame that my husband can see my nakedness?

Please. (Eye-Roll.)

And worse than insulting me, Micheals is confirming the fat fears of women everywhere: if I don’t ever get thin (a statistically improbably goal), I will never be happy.

ARGH! %^$&%*!!!! (Wave hands about in frustration)

The idea, that all fat women hate their bodies and not one person ever has loved them, is a lie.  It’s fat-shaming, a fat-specific form of body-shaming.

Please hear me. No matter what Jillian Micheals has to say, I am here to tell you that there are fat women, like me, who enjoy our bodies and feel comfortable in our own skin.  I can’t speak for all fat women but my fat body wears a bikini, has orgasms, lifts weights, runs, dances, has ideal blood pressure and cholesterol, eats fruits and veggies, laughs, cries, loves, struts about naked, and allows me to do pretty much anything I desire. My fat body is amazing. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Furthermore – women of all sizes and shapes – not just fat women – feel uncomfortable in their bodies and this discomfort is the issue. Being a thin or thinner woman does not ensure a release from the trappings of bodily-hate.

In western culture – which is rife with toxic messages about woman’s bodies – there is no perfect body image. (How much do you wanna bet that Jillian Michaels has days where she feels icky about her appearance?)  That said, self-hate is not the only option. We can fight for our acceptance – we can acknowledge that some days we are able to embrace our bodies and feel awesome and other days not so much; we can point out body-shaming, fat-hate and fat-shaming and tell people it’s not okay; we can insist that fashion designers acknowledge the fat body as a viable canvas for cool clothes or make these clothes ourselves; we can write letters to the media calling for a diversity of bodies in our representation or better yet make media that represents a diversity of body-types. We can stop trying to hide, step into the light and say, “I’m Fat – and it’s none of your business, so keep you hands off my body.”love your body

If you’re interested in thinking about body acceptance you should go like Emily McCombs on Facebook, and while you’re at it go like her colleague Lesley Kinzel, and my body positive website, Extraordinary Being too. [Side note: Lesley Kinzel’s awesome book, Two Whole Cakes was published in 2011 by the Feminist Press]

To learn more about the HAES® approach or to have a speaker talk to your group about fat-positive living check out Kate Harding, Hanne Blank  or me.

#hatefatshamingnotfatpeople
#iheartmybody
#fatpositive
#extrabeing

This post was originally posted on Soapbox, Inc.

Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

Hello Cupcakes — I am excited to announce that today – your very own feminist cupcake has written a guest blog for Soapbox, Inc.  Check it out here or read below:

 

Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

By Lindsey Averill

Kelly Martin Broderick posted this picture on facebook: Kellyfeminist

Only to have it changed into this meme:

082113feministmeme

It is clear that the meme attempts to use Kelly’s body type – her fatness –to insult feminism and underscore the a misogynistic misnomer that only women who are outside of the male gaze, i.e male sexual desire, chose become feminists. Clearly, the meme is childish, cruel and not factual (many people are attracted to fatness… there are whole dating sites dedicated to fatness…sigh). But, the meme also underscores exactly why feminists need to continue to concern themselves with issues like body-positivity and fat-empowerment – because when women speak up about their rights, they are still being pigeon holed based on their appearance.

Whenever something like this happens, I am reminded why, as a feminist, I still need to be fighting this particular fight – the fight for each woman to feel excellent about her body and the bodies of other women. I hate to say it – but sometimes even smart, savvy, dynamic, influential, informed, feminist women feel that they have a right to judge their bodies and the bodies of others, particularly if they are judging that body for being FAT.

In the mainstream, fatness is understood as always negative and therefore we are allowed to shame and torment it in ourselves and others. We discuss weight gain and loss endlessly: cabbage diets, juice cleanses, nutrisystem, weight watchers…We call out our muffin-tops and condemn our saddlebags. We pose in pictures with our chins stuck out or turned to the side to look thinner. We fear fatness at every turn and we save our “skinny jeans” because we refuse to believe that our bodies are awesome at any size.

I don’t mean to oversimplify, but arguably anytime we are accepting of shaming and brutalizing our bodies or the bodies of others, we are failing to see and dispute a source of oppression. As women, particularly feminist women, we need to constantly examine the messages that the media projects about our gender and our bodies and try to stand up and speak up when we see injustice.

I see injustice towards fatness. I see this injustice keep amazing women from feeling powerful and confident. I see internalized fat-hatred keeping women from being and doing awesome in the world.

I’m over it. picresized_ece6e5_1a97205ae8d4232b2a1e39a9226c626e.png_srz_205_195_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

This fed-up-with-it-ness is why I’m telling you about Kelly Martin Broderick because she is over it too. In response to the meme Kelly wrote an article for xojane entitled, “My Picture was Stolen and turned into a Fat-Shaming Anti-feminist Meme on Facebook,” and she created a tumblr, “We are What Feminists Look Like.” The tumblr calls for “folks” to send in their pictures or thoughts that make it clear that feminists come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, sexualities, genders, nationalities, political parties… you get the idea. I was thinking you should send in your picture – be over it too.

I sent in my picture: Feminist Bride

Also, if you’re ready to stop feeling oppressed by fat-hatred you should check out these amazing body-positive blogs, speakers, books, and coaches:

The Routund – Marianne Kirby
Big Fat Feminist – Kaye Toal
Dances With Fat – Ragen Chastain
Riots Not Diets – Margitte Leah
The Adipositivity Project –Substantia Jones
Body Love Wellness – Golda Poretsky
Extraordinary Being – Lindsey Averill
Two Whole Cakes – Lesley Kinzel
Big, Big, Love – Hanne Blank
Fat! So? – Marilyn Wann
Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quite Dieting and Declare a Truce with your Body – Kate Harding
Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion – Virgie Tovar
Body Drama – Nancy Redd

These suggestions are just the beginning – the world is full of amazing body-positive people, all you have to do is look.

How to cope with a world that Objectifies and Seualizes Teen Girls…

Women’s e-news published a great article how to help your teenagers deal with the objectification and sexualization of teen bodies.  And in the horrifying world where Ambercrobie And Fitch exists and makes thongs for kids, it’s a worthwhile read. AF-Thong-300x215

Lesbian Love Octogon – Final Weekend

So, if you happen to be in New York this week you should take the time and go to see The Lesbian Love Octogon, a musical, currently housed at the Krain theater.

I had the pleasure of giggling and belly laughing at this poignant and well performed show last Saturday night. The plot revolves around a group of lesbian women living on the lower east side in the ’90s. The music and lyrics are quippy and hilarious — ditties like “dyke drama and tofu scramble.” And the message the audience is left with is an increasingly valid notion – we are more than the theory that has been written about our identities.

If you don’t take my word for it check out this Time Out review.

It is also worth mentioning that the fabulous Viri Lieberman has been documenting this musical comedy’s trip too off off Broadway — so if you go there’s a chance you might spot her! Check out her promo on indie gogo.

An Afternoon in Boston…and by the way what’s up with PETA?

Randy and I are up in Boston for a good friend’s wedding, so we spent the afternoon traipsing around my old stomping grounds and few things happened that I wanted to share with you all. First, we had the pleasure of  walking past Roxy’s Grill Cheese Food Truck:

Randy noted that the Roxy Logo was similar to the new feminist cupcake logo, which I thought was pretty cool.  We ordered two sandwiches – a mac and chorizo grilled cheese and a fall inspired grilled cheese which had butternut squash, raisins and granny smith apples – can you say yum?!?! The food truck idea is so awesome – I am totally going to look this up from now on — in fact, I’m thinking I need to share more of my food exploits with y’all. Because to be honest, when I’m not thinking feminism, I’m thinking travel and food. So, if in Boston on a Friday afternoon, definitely hit up Roxy’s Grilled Cheese – they park outside the public library in Copley Square.

Secondly,  I wanted to share this gem, which they were selling at a novelty store on Newbury St:

I don’t have a whole lot of deep thoughts to go with this moment – To be honest, my first reaction was to giggle but ultimately, I think I’m offended by the ‘designer beaver’  because it’s objectifying and represents the vagina a plaything to be manipulated.

Finally, there was  another weird objectification moment at the Copley Square farmer’s market – Have y’all seen the PETA Pilgrims?  I didn’t have a camera with me, but here is an example:

Apparently sexy pilgrim outfits promote tofurkey…  This is not the first time that I’ve seen PETA use the objectification of women as a tactic for saving animals — the argument is vegetarian is “sexy.”  Take a look:

It seems so bizarre to me that a group of people who are trying to save the lives of animals would do so by capitalizing on the objectification of female bodies. I was particularly frustrated by this image, which seems to sexualized violence towards women in order to make a point about cruelty to animals:

PETA also makes fun of and perpetuates fat prejudice:

I am all for a discussion of animal rights – I am horrified by the cruelty that animals suffer at the hands of human beings – factory farming, puppy mills – these things are sickening things and you can and should read about these issues. BUT I am also horrified by PETA’s advertising campaign. Is this the kind of thinking we genuinely want to see for those that are working with a social justice issue – or isn’t the goal to rise above the commercialization and commodification of humans/animals as objects so that we can end the world’s inequalities??

Clearly, PETA doesn’t get it.

I don’t know that much about hip hop but…

I’ve been working on a lesson about the representation of women and race in hip hop videos – which includes a variety of elements – but they key texts are bell hooks article “Gangsta Culture – Sexism and Misogyny: Who Will Take the Rap?” from the book Outlaw Culture  and the documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.   My class discusses lots of things in response to the ideas in these two texts but one element that I wanted to note here on Feminist Cupcake is that there has been cultural shift that has occurred when we consider how we represent female Hip Hop artists. Consider “Ladies First” By Queen Latifah and Monie Love, which was released in 1989:

At the very least this  video is an attempt to represent a message of empowerment and most likely many would consider it exactly that – radically empowering art. It features imagery and lyrics that are political  – women who have fought for women’s rights, riots against apartheid in South Africa, messages that work against stereotypes of both women and the black community and there are no objectified images of naked booty shaking background dancers. Okay, so that’s the good stuff…now the scary.

This is Lil’ Kim’s “How Many Licks,” released in 2009:

An anatomically correct doll?  Candy Kim? Really? This is clearly and image of a completely objectified and overtly sexualized female?  What happened to the Women of Hip Hop?  Really what happened to the idea of Hip Hop as a subversive art form that worked to overturn stereotypes and fight the power?  remember Salt and Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex”?

Where’ are the hip hop groups like this now?? Groups with positive messages which inform the population about their safety and new ideas of empowerment? Artists like Lil’ Kim encourage the understanding of women as objects and this understanding creates a culture in which women are abused and assaulted. If you are not familiar with these ideas about the objectification of women’s bodies  check out Jean Killbourne’s  “Killing us softly 3” – there is a fourth version but it’s not available on the internet for free:

A Documentry Worth Watching…

So after months of wanting to see Miss Representation – I like many – watched it on the OWN network this week. The films website says,  “The film explores how the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.” And, really – it’s awesome.  Do me a favor – show it to your friends and family who say that sexism is a solved issue, so  feminism is no longer needed