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

OMG. It’s not about JLAW. It’s about Genuine Body Acceptance.

love+the+word+fatAs some of you are aware I have written a petition on change.org: Kelloggs, Tyra Banks and Jennifer Lawrence – Stop Shaming Fatness But Continue to Support Actions Against Body Hatred

Other bloggers out there are addressing this too, including The Militant Baker, Jenny Trout and Fat Body Politics.

And much to my surprise – some people just don’t get it. So I’m writing this post to be clear.

To clarify, I like JLAW and I think she’s a definite supporter of people accepting their bodies but she is still perpetuating fat shame. When she said we should “outlaw” the word fat – I don’t think she knew what she was saying. I think she was talking about how people who are not fat get called fat, or call themselves fat.

And yes, it’s ridiculous to call thin girls fat because they’re not. And when some one does call someone thin “fat,” they are trying to insult thin people – by saying they are like me, fat. This is the same idea as the boy on the playground getting called a pussy – he’s weak, badly performing masculinity – and therefore he’s a pussy, a vagina, a woman – the insult is that he is less than a man, a woman – this is clear sexism. When some one calls you fat they they are shaming your body by calling it a less acceptable body – a fat one – this is body prejudice.

“Outlawing” the use of the word fat doesn’t encourage those of us who are fat to accept our bodies. If I am fat am I also worth outlawing? And really, the fear of fat – i.e. the idea that fat is this horrible thing to be avoided – doesn’t help others reach a place of body acceptance.  JLaw is most often acknowledging her body as healthy – and telling us that her body shouldn’t be condemned – and it shouldn’t, but neither should mine. My body is awesome and FAT. You can’t “outlaw” the use of the word fat and not at the same time underscore the idea that being fat is a bad thing, a thing I should be ashamed of.

To be clear I understand that people feel bad when they are called fat. This is because fat is a word we use to shame people. But outlawing the use of the word on TV doesn’t stop that – it affirms it. It literally takes it to the extreme telling people that calling some one fat is such a horrendous insult that we can’t bear to hear it in the media – you can’t get rid of the word without dissing the people who are actually fat.

We feel bad when people call us fat because we think that being fat is unacceptable and because we have been shamed. This is what we have to work on – normalizing the idea that there are fat bodies and there always will be and that’s okay. One of the ways that we can work on this is to recognize that Fat is just a description.

Fat, like short, tall, blue eyed etc. is a descriptive word which has been taken out of context and made an insult – much like the negative use of the word “gay” – to mean uncool.  Clearly, we should stop using the word as an insult – but we can still call gay people gay and fat people are fat because that’s what they are.

Genuine body positivity would mean that even if someone was fat, they wouldn’t have to feel body shame. I believe that we need to raise awareness – shift our perspective and create a world that accepts all people. Currently, in our culture it is perfectly acceptable for people to be cruel to fatness and fat people. It reminds me of Peggy Macintosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html). We live blindly in privilege until we open our eyes and become aware of the prejudice and shame all around us.

In reality, my petition and the blog posts you’re all seeing aren’t about JLAW – she is just a catalyst for a much larger issue – recognizing that “body acceptance” and fat acceptance are not always synonymous and they should be.

tumblr_lf2ck0q2sc1qfrak5o1_400

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.

Have y’all seen this Thai ad for a push up bra?

I think this is really forward thinking — but then I wonder if I am in some way not well enough informed about the reality behind this humor. I would love to be informed. What are your thoughts on this?

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.

Understanding a little Judith Butler…

So let’s be honest here – postmodern philosophers write using such dense language that I am fairly certain you need a graduate degree to dissect what they’re saying.  Perhaps and undergrad in philosophy can handle the serious post-modernists, but this PhD student (that’s right, I just talked about myself in the third person) didn’t really get a handle on postmodernists until grad school. That said, I think that  no matter whether you choose to agree or disagree with her, grasping Judith Butler is key to contemporary feminist thought/queer theory. In particular, I think we all need to genuinely understand her concept of performativty.

Judith Butler’s book  Gender Trouble (1999) presents the idea of gender as “performative,” implying that gender is not an innate quality linked to sex but rather a series of “fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means” (2584). Butler uses “the performance of drag” to exemplify “those aspects of gendered experience which are falsely naturalized as a unity” (2549-50). She shows how the very nature of the drag performance – the idea that both physical and mental gender codes can be enacted by any/either/all sexes – unearths gender as “parody” rather than innate bodily function (2550). In other words gender is an enactment separate from our chromosomal sex, which is learned and practiced, quite like playing the piano. Butler’s details an understanding of gender as performance and parody, so that she can underscore the idea that these performances are “repeated…with the strategic aim of maintaining gender within its binary frame,” which in turn maintains the patriarchal and heteronormative dynamic of western cultural traditions. Butler purposes that escape from this binary lockdown could possibly be achieved through the “failure to repeat, a de-formity, or a parodic repetition that exposes the effect of abiding identity as a politically tenuous construction” (2552). More simply, she is saying in order to escape the boxes imposed by culturally constructed gender norms, we have perform and repeat other gender constructions so that they might expose the nature of gender as performance.

If you are interested in Judith Butler’s ideas there was wonderful documentary  about her thinking created by Arte, which you can watch on You tube. Take a look at the first installment:

Work Cited

Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” 2001. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed.Leitch Vincent, et al. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2010. 2540-53. Print.

The Age Old Question: Is Gaga a Feminist?

A few weeks ago – okay, maybe it was a few  months ago – V – of The Porch fame brought up the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful Celebrities. The topic raised concerning this list was the fact that Lady Gaga had sprinted past the big O earning the #1 spot. At the time I was pretty flabbergasted and called for an explanation – I wanted details – I wanted to genuinely understand the credentials that made one eligible for this position and it turned out that in this case the argument was quite limited. The list only dealt with a year at a time, and it was Gaga’s domination of the social networking phenomena that earned her number one status.

To be honest – at first glance I found her sort of gimmicky and never really looked back until her “power” to shape and influence came to my attention and then I was suddenly interested.  What to we make of this intentional enigma? I studied. I watched her on Letterman:

I read about her on the Ms. Blog, QueerPlanet, Bitch, The New York Times, and the LA Times. I listened to her music and trolled her social media sites. Admittedly, she is more than meets the eye – and pretty catchy. And  I also noticed that there are a lot of people trying to decide if she represents anything feminist. Is she third wave feminism? Is she the end of feminism? And if she has all this influence that Forbes says she does will she influence a generation one way or another with regards to feminism?

The quote most often turned to regarding gaga and feminism is as follows:

I’m not a feminist – I, I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars…

Clearly, Gaga is making the same mistake that so many have made before her – she is reading feminism as a political movement that hates men – and all things that have been associated with stereotypical masculinity. But despite this comment many have identified her as a third wave feminist because she sees herself as powerful – and perhaps some would argue that second wave feminists paved the road upon which she’s walking – in other words they helped create a world in which a woman could claim power of all kinds.

But either way – I am fairly certain that Gaga will play a role in how we define gender in the future – mostly because she is very post-modern. She doesn’t seem to define herself as belonging to anything in particular and she constantly seems to redefine the boundries of normal and gender performance – very Judith Butler, if I do say so myself. I apologize these thoughts on Gaga are just beginning. I have to think about this some more…

What do y’all think?  

– feed my brain, think about this with me.

Italian Vogue’s Curvy Cover…Is this continued objectification?

So the feminist blogosphere is talking about the “plus-size” models on the cover of Italian Vogue.  This year I am presenting a paper at NWSA that deal with issues I think this image is raising yet  again – My paper was concered with an image in Glamour Magazine in 2009 – Perhaps you remember it:

The Glamour article entitled “Oh. Wow. These  Bodies are Beautiful.”[1]  looked to prove plus-size[2] models equal in Beauty to their super thin counterparts. The article questioned the beauty/fashion industry’s obsession with thinness and announces Glamour magazine’s pledge to start a “body confidence…revolution” (Field 241). As you can see above, the visual focus of the article was a two page photograph of seven plus-size models, naked, their eyes wooing the camera, their lips poised to part, the bodies draped and cuddled together, like lovers, lovers being watched.  Like many models that have come before them, these plus-sized models are objectified, turned into the object of male-gaze.

In light of this objectification, I find myself wondering what exactly a ‘body confidence… revolution’ entails? True, it’s hard to deny the intrinsic joy in seeing somewhat bigger bodies, which could be considered Othered bodies, represented as both normal and sexual, and I enjoyed reading Glamour’s call for a ‘revolution,’ but on close inspection, these plus-sized models that Glamour was cheering about aren’t truly representative of the majority of bodies that have been Othered.

And beyond that I can’t help but note that this should not be the welcome these Othered bodies are looking for, an ushering into the realm of sexually subjugated objects? Is that what a ‘body confidence… revolution’ entails, a move from abjection to objectification?

Understanding women as objects isn’t something new or unfamiliar.  Ringing in the second wave of Feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, explains the nature of women’s cultural standing. She says, “humanity is male and man defines woman not as herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being” (116). In other words, masculinity is perceived as the norm or the superior state of humanity and femininity exists as “inessential” opposition to this norm, the object against which the subject defines himself (116).  Beauvoir advocates the rise of woman from object to subject by assuming the role of the masculine. In other words women would no longer be confined to the ‘feminine’ roles, such as that of wife, mother, teacher or domestic. Arguably, women have attained this status; we can be everything from astronauts to porn stars, but our position as Other remains.

Like the postmodern feminists, I link this continued objectification to the controlling influence of that which gets representation and the limitations of how we understand our socially constructed genders. Currently, women can choose any lifestyle they desire but they are predominately represented as Beauty objects, and so we perceive ourselves as such. Theorists like Bordo and Bartky provide us with the feminist understanding of Foucault’s docile bodies, bodies that inflict self-disciplinary action in response to the internalization of cultural norms, or rather the nature of human beings to respond to cultural representations or metanarratives by trying to assimilate/homogenize to the standards set by them. The female Beauty standard is such a metanarrative.  The ingestion of this narrative as the prescriptive norm and the self-inflicted oppression occurring under its weight are at the center of women’s continued objectification.


[1] The title of the Glamour article insinuates surprise, as if no one would have guessed that the bodies that often kept from representation could be equally beautiful to the bodies we repeatedly represent.

[2] It is worth noting that the title plus-size is inherently prejudicial. Plus implies more than the norm, referencing the continued representation of larger models as Othered bodies.