Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2011

I applogize for my absence from this blog last week, and return now to the previous discussion about how media influences our feelings about body image.

               

Please say the following two phrases out loud:

1) “It looks ok”

2) “I look ok”

Notice the difference between these two phrases. Which one do you use when trying on clothes? My default answer for too long was “I look…” rather than “It looks…” Finding clothing that both fits comfortably and looks good on me has been something I’ve struggled with for many years. Often, my feelings of self-esteem have ebbed and flowed based on how I completed the sentence “I look…”

“I look good” meant smart, confident and happy.

“I look bad” meant stupid, fat, ugly.

Many people, regardless of their actual clothing size, have a similar realtionship between their clothes/appearance and their self-worth.

This topic is addressed in The Body Myth in the chapter on culture and body image:

“Less than a century ago, most women made their own clothes…The arrival of retail, mass-produced, ready to wear clothing in the 1920’s ushered in a new era of anxiety about the shape of our body dimensions…Alterations (if we can even get them at the store) cost extra for us; over in the men’s suit department, alterations are free. The unspoken assumption is that a woman’s body must change to fit into the garment, no matter how arbitrarily sized and styled, while the clothing itself is changed to fit whatever shape or waistline a man has.”

I was shocked when I read this! Of course I knew that alterations were available at the tailor only for women, but I honestly had no idea that alterations are commonly done in store for free for men. In short, the fashion industry conditons women to think “I look” rather than “It looks” when they try on clothing. 

Recently, I’ve been trying to consciously replace “I look” with “It looks” when I go shopping for clothes. If an outfit is not working for me, I no longer automatically assume that my body is the probem, or that how the outfit fits defines my worth. Instead, I move on until I can find something that looks better on my body at that given moment in time. It’s not a perfect process, but I have gradually come to feel better about how “I look” by realizing that it’s really about how “it looks” on me.

Food for thought: What other unspoken assumptions do you think the fashion industry makes about women’s bodies? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Read Full Post »

A bit off topic from some of my other recent posts, but I felt this was something I had to talk about right now.

Last week a storm swept through the body image blog-o-sphere in response to Jessica Weiner’s essay in the September issue of Glamour magazine entitled “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me.”  While I agree with many of the concerns raised in the critiques (see below for a detailed and thoughtful critique)  http://healthateverysizeblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-haes-files-loving-your-body-wont-kill-you-but-being-targeted-for-a-curse-might/, there were also parts of the article I could definitely relate to.

I admit I am not unbiased when it comes to Jessica Weiner. I discovered her book Do I Look Fat in This? (which was recently republished under the title Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds From Now) at a critical point in my life. It was 2005, years before I had ever heard of the Health at Every Size movement. I was struggling through the challenges of my 20’s, and still deep in the process of hating myself because of how I looked, when I read in my daily paper that an author was giving a talk at the local bookstore that evening about her new book, which focused on improving body image, self-esteem and eliminating the “language of fat.” I was intrigued, and on a whim headed over to the book store to check it out. What I heard and saw amazed me.  Here was a woman who looked like me, and was undeniably witty, beautiful and comfortable in her own skin. She spoke about her book and about being at peace with her body with a confidence that cannot be faked (all while living and working in impossibly thin and beautiful Los Angeles, California!!!)  Even in my body hating days, I’d heard trite talk about “loving yourself, flaws and all.” Except the people pushing this message were always half my size and appeared (to me) flawless. Hello mixed messages. Attending Jessica Weiner’s talk that night was the first time I ever realized that you can be a larger woman and still be confident, beautiful, and at peace with how you look.

Fast forward to last week. In the Glamour article, Jessica describes how her journey to accept her body and stop focusing on her weight lead her to, for a time, ignore her health. After a jarring comment made by a stranger at one of her book signings, Jessica met with her doctor for the first time in several years. She discovered that her weight was higher than it had ever been and her health numbers were poorer than she wanted them to be. With her doctor’s guidance and support she has lost 25 pounds in the past 18 months, and her cholesterol and blood sugar numbers are in the appropriate ranges.  However, she still would prefer to lose another 25-30 pounds in order to stay out of the health danger zone.

Two main points of criticism have been Ms. Weiner’s focus on her weight rather than her blood work as an indicator of her health, and her claims that she was loving and accepting her body while at the same time ignoring its health prior to seeing her doctor.  I have mixed feelings about these critiques.

I acknowledge the wisdom of the Health at Every Size approach to health, which suggests that a person’s behaviors more than any specific weight direct how healthy or unhealthy a person is at any given point in time. However, I also believe Ms. Weiner was saying she felt that the weight she was at the time of her initial check-up was too much for her body to feel healthy. As her behaviors changed her weight and her health improved. It is possible for someone to make the same behavior changes, lose no weight, and still improve their health. The point is that each person’s body is different. I have recently lost a small amount of weight while adopting more healthy behaviors. While I agree that even if I’d lost no weight I could still have improved my health, the fact that I did lose what I did indicates to me that the extra weight I was carrying around was not healthy for me and my body  at this point in time.

As for loving one’s body without taking the time to care for it, I agree with this critique, although it’s something I still struggle with too. Restricting myself isn’t loving my body, but neither is gorging on processed foods. It can feel like a fine line at times, finding a way to take care of and love the body I have. I believe Ms. Weiner  recognized in the article that when she ignored her body’s health she wasn’t really loving her body.

I leave you with a few words from Jessica Weiner’s chapter on health in the book Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds from Now:  “Being healthy is about having a well-rounded life. Moving your body, eating balanced meals, and working on your emotional and spiritual health.” I believe, despite the controversy from her recent article, in that message and I’m pretty sure Ms. Weiner still does too.

Read Full Post »

For today’s post, I wanted to look at iconic pop culture females from the 80’s and 90’s and iconic pop culture females from the most recent decade (2000-2010). I will be posting side by side pictures of 3 major archtypes — the “girl next door,” “female pop star” and “tv scripted drama star”

Girl Next Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left is Molly Ringwold in all of her 80’s Glory in the movie Sixteen Candles. On the right, Kristen Stewart as the angstfilled girl next door Bella Swan in the Twilight saga.

Female Pop Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left Madonna’s first album cover, on the right Britney Spears’ debut album cover

TV Scripted Drama Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left the cast of the hit Fox series Beverly Hills 90210 which debuted in the fall of 1990, on the right the cast of the OC, whch first aired 13 years later on the same network in the fall of 2003.

As you can see, the visual content of what a pretty woman looks like has changed very little in the last 30 years. All of the basics are still there: straight hair, clear skin and a slender build. What has changed in the last 30 years is the frequency and variety of outlets with which we as the public are presented with these images in the media today.

Food for thought: What differences or similarities do you see in the pictures shown above?

Read Full Post »

I mentioned this theory yesterday in my review of the book, The Body Myth by Margo Maine and Joe Kelly. The book provides a detailed examination of the individual, familial and societal factors behind our current cultural idealization of female youthfulness, thinness and physical perfection.

In reviewing societal factors that help perpetuate the Body Myth, Maine and Kelly suggest that mass media has replaced our extended families of origin in guiding our worldview and beliefs about what is desirable and undesirable.

While our nuclear families still have considerable influence over our thoughts and beliefs, the roles of our extended families have been diminished as we continue to become ever more overscheduled and isolated from a sense of community outside of our immediate family. At the same time, technology and the variety of media continue to expand at an exponential pace, and have come to fill the void left by out withdrawl from other aspects of face-to-face community.

This theory made a lot of sense to me. I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the primary source of media was television. The internet first became readily available as I was going to college. I can still remember the sounds of my dial up modem connecting to AOL.

In my day job I work with school aged children who have grown up with the internet and social media as an unquestionable constant in their lives.

As a late edition Gen Xer I am familiar with and comfortable using technology (such as this blog), but even so I already see significant differences in use of and access to technology between my generation and the generation that came just after me.

If I want information about something, I will google or search wikipedia and read a text file about it. When the kids I work with want information, they will search youtube or google images and watch a video how to do something or look at a picture of it. And they aren’t stuck sitting at a computer to do it!

My generation, and even moreso the current generation have been been saturated with media messages in a way few, if any, generations before us have. Instead of asking grandma Sally or Uncle Bill for advice, we watch a reality show or ask Uncle Google or Aunt Wikipedia. And most of us rarely, if ever, stop to question the advice we are being given, instead accepting it as absolute fact.

Tomorrow I will be examining in more detail how the media messages about body image have evolved over time.

Read Full Post »

I mentioned this theory yesterday in my review of the book, The Body Myth by Margo Maine and Joe Kelly. The book provides a detailed examination of the individual, familial and societal factors behind our current cultural idealization of female youthfulness, thinness and physical perfection.

In reviewing societal factors that help perpetuate the Body Myth, Maine and Kelly suggest that mass media has replaced our extended families of origin in guiding our worldview and beliefs about what is desirable and undesirable.

While our nuclear families still have considerable influence over our thoughts and beliefs, the roles of our extended families have been diminished as we continue to become ever more overscheduled and isolated from a sense of community outside of our immediate family. At the same time, technology and the variety of media continue to expand at an exponential pace, and have come to fill the void left by out withdrawl from other aspects of face-to-face community.

This theory made a lot of sense to me. I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the primary source of media was television. The internet first became readily available as I was going to college. I can still remember the sounds of my dial up modem connecting to AOL.

In my day job I work with school aged children who have grown up with the internet and social media as an unquestionable constant in their lives.

As a late edition Gen Xer I am familiar with and comfortable using technology (such as this blog), but even so I already see significant differences in use of and access to technology between my generation and the generation that came just after me.

If I want information about something, I will google or search wikipedia and read a text file about it. When the kids I work with want information, they will search youtube or google images and watch a video how to do something or look at a picture of it. And they aren’t stuck sitting at a computer to do it!

My generation, and even moreso the current generation have been been saturated with media messages in a way few, if any, generations before us have. Instead of asking grandma Sally or Uncle Bill for advice, we watch a reality show or ask Uncle Google or Aunt Wikipedia. And most of us rarely, if ever, stop to question the advice we are being given, instead accepting it as absolute fact.

Tomorrow I will be examining in more detail how the media messages about body image have evolved over time.

Read Full Post »

I mentioned this theory yesterday in my review of the book, The Body Myth by Margo Maine and Joe Kelly. The book provides a detailed examination of the individual, familial and societal factors behind our current cultural idealization of female youthfulness, thinness and physical perfection.

In reviewing societal factors that help perpetuate the Body Myth, Maine and Kelly suggest that mass media has replaced our extended families of origin in guiding our worldview and beliefs about what is desirable and undesirable.

While our nuclear families still have considerable influence over our thoughts and beliefs, the roles of our extended families have been diminished as we continue to become ever more overscheduled and isolated from a sense of community outside of our immediate family. At the same time, technology and the variety of media continue to expand at an exponential pace, and have come to fill the void left by out withdrawl from other aspects of face-to-face community.

This theory made a lot of sense to me. I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the primary source of media was television. The internet first became readily available as I was going to college. I can still remember the sounds of my dial up modem connecting to AOL.

In my day job I work with school aged children who have grown up with the internet and social media as an unquestionable constant in their lives.

As a late edition Gen Xer I am familiar with and comfortable using technology (such as this blog), but even so I already see significant differences in use of and access to technology between my generation and the generation that came just after me.

If I want information about something, I will google or search wikipedia and read a text file about it. When the kids I work with want information, they will search youtube or google images and watch a video how to do something or look at a picture of it. And they aren’t stuck sitting at a computer to do it!

My generation, and even moreso the current generation have been been saturated with media messages in a way few, if any, generations before us have. Instead of asking grandma Sally or Uncle Bill for advice, we watch a reality show or ask Uncle Google or Aunt Wikipedia. And most of us rarely, if ever, stop to question the advice we are being given, instead accepting it as absolute fact.

Tomorrow I will be examining in more detail how the media messages about body image have evolved over time.

Read Full Post »

From time to time I will be reviewing/recomending books about body image that I have found helpful in the hope that others will too. Today’s recomedation is The Body Myth, by Dr. Margo Maine and Joe Kelly. Margo Maine is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Joe Kelly is the co-founder of Dads and Daughters (DADs), the first national advocay non-profit for fathers and daughters.

For those who prefer reading books in print rather than digital format, be advised that this book was published in 2005 and is difficult, if not impossible, to find on the bookstore shelf. However it is easy to order a paper copy from amazon.com, and the book is also available for download to a kindle or other digital reading device.  Either way it is well worth the read.

Maine and Kelly define the Body Myth as “the mistaken belief that life’s meaning, our self-worth, and our worth to others are (and ought to be) based on how our body looks, what we weigh, and what we eat.”  Throughout the book, Main and Kelly do an excellent job of examining the individual, familial and societal factors that have led to the Body Myth becoming so prevalent and almost unquestioningly accepted in our current culture. They also discuss practical action steps people can take to lessen the hold of the Body Myth in their own lives and in society as a whole.  It definitely made me think differently about my own feelings about my body.

One of the sections I was most drawn to was the chapter on how culture shapes us. Maine and Kelly suggest that in our increasingly isolated and on-the-go world, media and popular culture has come to serve the same function that our extended families once did.

“A hundred years ago, it was hard (although still possible) for a woman to escape her extended                                              family and its standards, even though she could never entirely escape its influence on her development. Today, most Western women cannot escape the influence of the media and its promotion of the Body Myth. Every day, this culture-as-extended-family tells us that the most important and valuable thing about a woman is her external, physical appearance. That’s a radically different message from the one our grandmothers got from their extended families.”

I’ve always been interested in the interaction between individuals and the culture they are a part of. Why do certain messages become dominant in a culture at a certain point in time? This idea of media and pop-culture as a replacement of our extended families was something I’d never considered before. It makes a lot of sense as to why cultural images of beauty have such a strong hold over us in society today. This is a topic I will be exploring in further detail over the next week.

Overall, The Body Myth is a compelling and thought-provoking read. I highly recommend it!

Food for thought: What books on body image would YOU recommend?

 

 

Read Full Post »