Tag Archives: body image

Body judging and concern trolling

Today the Herald Sun has yet another Daily Mail re-write by the most over-worked journalist in the country, “staff writer”. Which is code for “I’m too ashamed to put my name on this rubbish” or “I’ve just re-written a media release or another journo’s work”. And it’s yet another story about Kate Middleton.

Kate risks becoming an ever-shrinking clothes horse:

THERE are concerns that the Duchess of Cambridge will turn into an ever-shrinking clothes horse with an increasingly fixed smile.

Who is concerned? The Daily Mail journalist spoke to someone from a model agency, someone from a lingerie company, and the editor of a fashion magazine, and no one said anything about being concerned. So the concern comes from the journalist, in order to write a story about there being concerns. And you write those stories because you want to point your finger and say “look! Look closely at her body and declare it not perfect”.

As Kate wowed the world with her stunning outfits during her tour of Canada and the US, there are fears that the increasing focus on her fashion choices will see her lose even more kilos, The Daily Mail reports.

If you’re going to pretend the “increasing focus on her fashion choices” is unhealthy, then you probably shouldn’t include a judge-a-matic on Middleton’s fashion choices:

Herald Sun - Judging Kate Middleton

The Herald Sun wants to you judge Kate Middleton's appearance

To add to the body judging, the Herald Sun includes photos of Middleton with two women who are either a different shape or a different age, and the captions invite you to look at all three and judge them:

Even US actress Reese Witherspoon looks big against Kate.
Kate made ever-skinny Nicole Kidman look well rounded at a function in LA.

So you look at Kidman and Witherspoon and judge their body parts. As though women are only as good as their body parts. (And also, if you do click on the link above and see the photos, that’s well-rounded?)

But it’s concern trolling. “Oh, we are so concerned that the focus on her body will make her lose too much weight, so here, have a good close look at her body and judge it”. Then, in a few weeks when a stalker – sorry, photographer – gets a photo of Middleton at a bad angle where she looks ribby, we’ll have the “LOOK AT HER FREAKY SKINNY BODY” and “FEARS FOR KATE’S HEALTH” and “TOO SKINNY TO HAVE BABIES” headlines. She just can’t win.

Having a body in public

It’s a lovely crisp day in Sydney, so it’s probably a bit odd to be thinking about bikinis, especially when I’m wearing a bright green knee-length skirt, navy tights and these fabulous un-summery shoes:

Swing shoes for men, from RetroSpec'd Clothing

Swing shoes for men, from RetroSpec'd Clothing

But I was reading If I Hear One More Word About Beach Bodies, I’m Gonna Strangle Somebody With a Tankini at xojane and this stuck in my mind:

I hate this term. It suggests that a body that is beach-worthy must adhere to certain standards, or else be rendered unbeachable.

I have a beach body. It’s this one, the one I take to the beach.

If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s about “killing your swimsuit anxiety in 5 easy steps” and it rocks.

I’m an intelligent woman who generally doesn’t buy into the beauty industry, but I’ve still internalised this idea that only perfect bodies can be on display in public. Because I’m not a beach person (pale English skin that burns like no one’s business), I don’t tend to see a lot of semi-naked bodies. The ones I do see are in advertising, and on my friends who have lovely legs, and on women I don’t know who have lovely legs. So even though I know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, the ones I see tend to be all rather fabulous.

I am comfortable with my body, which is lucky because there’s not a lot I’m willing to do to change it. But it doesn’t mean I’m comfortable being semi-naked in public. Which is why my last two holidays – a hen’s week in Bali (not somewhere I’d normally go) and a week over NYE by a river in Tongaporutu in NZ – were initially challenging, but then reminded me of how wrong I am about what bodies look like. Bodies with cellulite, bodies with stretch marks, bodies with wobbly bits, bodies that have created babies, white bodies, tanned bodies, spraytanned bodies, muscular bodies, yoga-ed bodies.

I’m probably going out on a limb here, but I reckon my friends like me for who I am, rather than what I look like in a bikini. So why am I so nervous about being in a bikini around them? They might notice the big bruise on my thigh from where I clocked it on a railing (note to self: don’t walk around corners while looking out the window), they may notice my tats, they may notice my scars from an infection I picked up somewhere, and they may notice my cellulite. But they’re not going to care. And if they do care, well, it’s unlikely I’d have much in common with someone who would judge me by my arse.

Now, can you all remind me of this post in November?

Oh, the irony

It’s just way too easy these days to get your media release written up as a news story. I’m not targetting any specific newsroom with this criticism, because I work in one and know that when your editor wants a quirky little story, you’ll get a pat on the head if you can include boobs in it. But the time it takes you to re-write the media release and put in a call to someone vaguely related to the topic (in the case below, an art teacher), is time you could be spending chasing a real story. Something that is useful. Anyway, You’re a work of art, not a pear:

WHEN everything goes pear-shaped on a woman, she may not feel as pretty as a picture.

With some marketing magic, however, she can see herself as a Botticelli and her apple-shaped girlfriend a Rubens, rather than a Granny Smith.

Because yes! Women just want to feel pretty! And when we don’t feel “pretty as a picture” then it makes us sad. But not sad enough to cry, because that might make our eyes red and our make-up run and then we’d look ugly and we won’t be able to find a husband.

Lingerie-maker Triumph says women are tired of being compared to fruit and has taken a more romantic look at body shape, with Rembrandt, Matisse, da Vinci and Raphael the other classifications.

Here’s a hint: we’re also tired of being spoken to like we’re children. The other day, my news editor asked the newsdesk (on that shift, four women and no men) to find some stories that would appeal to female readers because the mix was “too heavy”. We asked him to explain what he meant by that and suggested he choose his words very carefully. We didn’t get an answer, but he probably meant stories like this one. “Light” stories, because you know, we don’t want to hurt our delicate lady brainz. And besides, thinking gives you wrinkles and you’ll never get a husband if you have wrinkles.

Triumph surveyed more than 1500 people and found men preferred the slender but larger-busted Raphael.

Firstly, there’s a fucking shock. And secondly, Triumph asked women how they feel about being compared to fruit, and then asked men to rate them as meat?

Body image stripped bare

I wasn’t going to blog about the Jennifer Hawkins nude marie claire cover because I thought we’d covered that topic before. But then I started thinking about specifics – what change do I want to see?

I should preface this by saying I don’t buy fashion mags, or Cleo or Cosmo or maire claire or NW or Who etc. But I do look at the pictures when I’m at the hairdressers (I don’t want to get dye on my glasses, so no reading for me). I’m not speaking on behalf of their readers – perhaps their readers like the unrealistic images presented to them (that wasn’t meant to sound so sarcastic). After all, fashion and beauty mags are about presenting a fantasy.

When I say I want to see images of ‘real women’ in the media, I mean images of what they really look like, without all the fucking airbrushing. That’s not the same as saying models should be out of a job. Like Corpulent, I don’t buy into the ‘real women have curves’ bullshit, because it’s insulting to women who don’t have curves and is exactly the same as saying ‘all women should be a size eight’.

I’m not an expert on body image, but I know my own experience. I didn’t think about how my body looked compared to other bodies until I was in year 8, and then spent the next 17 or so years feeling too fat/ugly. And that was before the crazy perfect body media saturation that we have now, so I can’t imagine how hard it must be for young people these days. Now in my 30s, my relationship with my body is more about friendship, but waiting until people grow out of their body image problems isn’t good enough. So how do we fix this? What one action do you think will make a difference?

More like Betsy Jinxx

Since I only work part time, I have a lot of spare time that I don’t use very well. I’m really good at doing nothing. The upside is I’m relaxed. The downside is I’m wasting time that could be spent reading, or practising my tap dancing, or improving my Spanish or shorthand. So I’ve decided to embark on a mini ‘How to be fabulous’ thing, but without spraypainting myself orange.

I started yesterday by looking for a pair of swimmers – which, if you know me, is pretty amazing since most of my body hasn’t seen the sunlight in over a decade. Possibly two decades. (I like to call my particular shade of whiteness my moon tan.)

I’m after a bikini because peeling off a one-piece to go to the toilet makes me feel vulnerable. I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a set of knockers, so finding a bikini is troublesome, particularly since the current thing is for padded and push up tops. I tried some on. And laughed. And then laughed again. Just thinking about moving made my boobs sway like a waterbed, so they’re not really something I can do laps in. If anyone knows of a good brand, please let me know.

So, why the heading? When I started thinking about someone who lives their life with passion, I thought of Man Friend’s sister. Betsy’s life is about passion and fun and creativity. And that’s what I’ve forgotten about lately.

Giving credit to Mia Freedman

Lexy just sent me the link to Mia Freedman’s piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on body image, suggesting I check out the comments. They’re pretty much all along the lines of:

Mia was the high queen of anorexia as editor of teen trash magazines and now she wants us to believe she has had some ‘road to Damascus’ like vision. If this is true then I hope she spends the rest oh her life trying to undue all the damage she caused in the past. But please save us the sanctimonious lectures.
incredulous – October 28, 2009, 8:52AM

Does is strike anyone else as grossly hypocritical that a woman who made her name out of being editor of three publications based entirely on making young girls feel inferior about their looks and bodies, should end up chairing a national body image advisory group?
Bit like a cannibal advising on healthy cooking and eating, isn’t it?
Sam – October 28, 2009, 9:04AM

I agree that Mia Freedman deserves some criticism for her past role as editor, but to simply dismiss what she now has to say means we’re not going to get anywhere. She has more power now, and we’re all a bit wiser. Besides, don’t we – as a society – believe in the power of redemption? Otherwise why do we let people out of jail? Why do we accept apologies and forgive people? And believe that opinions can change over time?

Check out the recommendations from the national body image advisory group on Mia’s website.

What do we think? Will it work? Or will we just have a week or two where it gets publicity and then it’s business as usual? Will models in magazines and ads continue to look like those in Vogue, or start to look more like those in Women’s Health?

Update: You should read what A shiny new coin has to say about how a “thin, white, wealthy woman who makes a living from her body meeting social standards might not be the best way to raise awareness on diverse body shapes”.

Body image and body snarking

Now, although there’s something distasteful about two women who have been complicit in creating body image issues in young people launching a report on promoting healthy body image in young people, I do have to applaud Sarah Murdoch and Mia Freedman for doing so.

I think part of the way out of this nasty place we’re in is pulling people up for body snarking. Most of the time they don’t even realise that what they’re saying is nasty. Check out the fun I’ve been having on Nedahl Stelio’s blog, where she thinks calling Amy Winehouse’s body “tragic” and saying she probably has rats in her hair is simply helpful criticism. (Wonder if she’ll thank me for generating the most comments ever on her blog?) Unfortunately, the best comment isn’t mine, but is from A Ravishing Beauty:

Wow ‘Vicky’ Beckham! I take it from that little vignette that you are BFF with the Beckhams then. No? Well perhaps you know Amy intimately and personally. As you prefix your statements with “knowing Amy” I can only assume you do.

I believe the reality is, however, that you know neither of them and that you are just a bitchy wannabe with access to the internet. News with nipples, I am with you. They are horrible unhelpful comments and it just goes to show that women don’t need men to put us down when other chicks are still the best at doling out the moral outrage at someone’s choice of hair do.

These wobbly bits won’t shake the world

I’ve blogged before on the insulpliment – a compliment that’s actually an insult – but it always surprises me how subtle it is.

Ignoring the fact that this story was around last week but only just picked up by News Ltd today, we have Glamour magazine in the US (strangely with the English spelling) with a photo of plus-sized model Lizzie Miller without her “wobbly bits” airbrushed out:

They’ve been dubbed the “wobbly bits that shook the world”, inspiring women to learn to love their “love handles”.

Shook the fashion world my jiggly arse. This image won’t change anything. Magazines have been getting positive feedback on normal-sized models for years. And now the magazine is “planning an entire edition dedicated to the improved body image issue” – body image issues they have been complicit in creating. (And how is improved body image an “issue”? Maybe it’s an issue for people whose careers are based on making women feel bad about themselves so they’ll go spend money.)

Predictably, the photo was in an article about what men really think is sexy. That’s right girls, we’ve been telling you for years that if you starve yourself men will find you sexy, but now we’re telling you that if you put on weight, then men will find you sexy. It’s never about being sexy for yourself.

When a designer/magazine wants mainstream media coverage, the easiest way is to use a “fat” model, because the media always reacts the same way: “Wow, this model is fat! How shocking! How subversive! How fashionable!” And, again predictably, the model used is never just a little overweight (in model terms). The editor apparently chose this particular photo because Miller looked happy and relaxed. Bullshit. The Daily Mail has a much better photo of her, looking far happier, but without the belly roll. A unflattering photo was deliberately used, taking us into insulpliment territory. Since when is “Wow, look at her fat bits, she’s a model, in a magazine, and she’s fat!”* a compliment?

You don’t solve body image issues by making a huge song and dance about using one “plus-sized” model, calling her fat but sexy and expecting to be applauded for it. Or by banning skinny models. How offensive to say one body type is unacceptable. A good start would be to stop calling normal-sized models “fat”.

* She’s not fat.