Archive for the 'Self-esteem' Category

Real Beauty?

Earlier this week, Dove released an advertisement called Real Beauty Sketches, the latest video in their self-esteem campaign. Reception to this video has been largely positive, and while I understand why women are embracing the ad, all that glitters is not revolutionary gold.

We live in a society where we are told in many different overt and covert ways that a woman’s only value is her beauty. Smart? Successful? Courageous? Not enough. Germaine Greer wrote about the ridiculousness of this idea late last year:

“At an event in Amsterdam recently, I was ordered by a woman on the stage to take the hand of the woman next to me, who happened to be 76-year-old Hedy d’Ancona, and tell her she was beautiful. This would be more conducive to her self-esteem, apparently, than reminding her that, having served as a minister under two Dutch governments, as a member of the European Parliament, and as chairman of Dutch Oxfam, she was immensely distinguished and I was honoured to be sitting next to her.”

On top of that, this Dove ad tells us is that it is also not enough to be merely beautiful, you have to know it too. Those superficial messages of body politics – Love yourself! Nothing is sexier than confidence! You’re prettier without make-up! – is just another way of prescribing how women should look, feel, and act. It’s not your responsibility to be beautiful.

Not to mention that the form of ‘beauty’ that is being valued by Dove is the same beauty ideal that is presented by other beauty companies. I am loathe to rewrite things that have already been written perfectly, so I am going to quote a massive chunk of jazzylittledrop’s excellent post on this subject:

Let’s look at which descriptors the editors chose to include. When the participants described themselves, these were some of the things that were implied as negatives: fat, rounder face, freckles, fatter, 40— starting to get crows feet, moles, scars…  Whereas some of the implied positive descriptors used by others were: thin face, nice thin chin, nice eyes that lit up when she spoke and were very expressive (my actual favorite), short and cute nose, her face was fairly thin (this was said twice), and very nice blue eyes. So… I don’t know if anyone else is picking up on this, but it kinda seems to be enforcing our very narrow cultural perception of “beauty”: young, light-skinned, thin. No real diversity celebrated in race, age, or body shape. So you’re beautiful… if you’re thin, don’t have noticeable wrinkles or scars, and have blue eyes. If you’re fat or old… uh, maybe other people don’t think you look as fat and old as you do yourself? Great? Oh, and by the way, there are real women who look like the women on the left. What are you saying about them, exactly?

Indeed, for all their talk on real women and self-esteem, Dove has only ever presented a narrow definition of beauty in their advertisement campaigns. In 2010, Jezebel revealed a Craigslist ad seeking models for Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign that seemed at odds with their messaging:

DOVE “REAL WOMEN” PRINT CASTING JUNE 28-30, 2010 in NYC
ABSOLUTELY NO ACTRESSES / MODELS OR REALITY SHOW PARTICIPANTS or ANY ONE CARRYING A HEADSHOT!!!!
REAL WOMEN ONLY!
LOOKING FOR 3-4 REAL WOMEN for a DOVE PRINT CAMPAIGN!

AGES 35-45, CAUCASIAN, HISPANIC, AFRICAN AMERICAN, & ASIAN!

SHOOT: SUNDAY, JULY 18 in NYC! MUST BE AVAILABLE FOR THE SHOOT!
RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only

YOU WILL BE PHOTOGRAPHED FOR THE CAMPAIGN IN A TOWEL!
BEAUTIFUL ARMS AND LEGS AND FACE WILL BE SHOWN!
MUST HAVE FLAWLESS SKIN, NO TATTOOS OR SCARS!
Well groomed and clean…Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.

 Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
STYLISH AND COOL!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!

 PLEASE SUBMIT SNAPSHOTS of FACE & BODY ASAP & WE WILL CALL YOU IN FOR A CASTING NEXT WEEK 6/28-6/30 in NYC!

According to Dove’s description for their latest video, “Women are their own worst beauty critics … Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.” What Dove fail to explain is the part they play in this statistic (and the part of their parent company, but I’ll get to that in a minute). Dove claims to promote ‘real beauty’ in ‘real women’ but only if that beauty is accessible, and more importantly, marketable to a mainstream audience. Which gives you a strong sense of their motivation.

Dove is owned by Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company with products from foods and beverages to cleaning agents to personal care. Two of Unilever’s brands are Pond’s and Fair and Lovely, both of which market skin whitening products in India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Timor Leste. In 2007, Fair and Lovely had to withdraw television advertisements that depicted sad, unemployed, single, dark skinned women suddenly finding new boyfriends and glamorous careers after they had lightened their skin. There is a very clear message there that stands in stark opposition to Dove’s “You are more beautiful than you think” rhetoric.

(The hypocrisy of Unilever owning Lynx/Axe, renowned for its sexist advertisements, has been written about by people more intelligent than me.)

No matter how unethical you think that is, Unilever is well within its rights to send those kinds of mixed messages because they are a company responsible for many brands in many countries selling products for profit.

This is not to offend or dismiss people that have gained something from this ad. I certainly value my body-confidence and, as someone who’s first positive thoughts were the result of compliments from others, I know that there is no ‘right’ path to a strong self-esteem. However, Dove’s campaigns deserve to be critiqued. To paraphrase @definatalie, a multinational company is not the best source of empowerment (particularly when that company is actively trying to disempower your brown sisters).

Two Piece Swimsuit, Two Middle Fingers

I love the beach. I spend all summer there and spend the rest of the year pining for summer so I can park myself on the sand again. For most of my life, I’ve lived in the same house in a small coastal town with a beach literally down the road. When the Boyfriend and I move in together, we want to live in eastern Sydney so the Pacific isn’t too far away. I’m emotionally dependent on the ocean. I feel my whole body relax when I smell the sea air and I physically ache for a swim when I’ve gone a while without a dip. My love runs deep.

When I go for a swim, I wear a bikini. I’ve been wearing two piece cossies since I was about 10 years old. I find them more comfortable, it’s quick and easy to change out of my swimmer bottoms right there on the sand when I come out of the water (to avoid getting thrush) and – the Cancer Council will have me hanged for this – I like having an even tan.

I’ve been planning a bikini post for months. I was always going to show my half-naked self on Corpulent to tell everyone that I’m not ashamed of my body (and hopefully encourage you to not be ashamed of yours). I was going to wait until it was a little warmer and I had a bit more of a tan to take some photos and write this post. However, my schedule was pushed ahead by this gem of an article by Natasha Hughes.

Hughes’ article questions suitable beach attire; namely whether “overweight Australian women” should wear bikinis. The article itself is tiny – less than 250 words – but it made me furious. The most bilious section states, “I know there’s going to be two schools of thought on this but I’m with the Fat Should be Camouflaged College. Who wants to be exposed to someone’s rolls? Where is their sense of style, of decency?”

Decency? DECENCY?! How’s this for fucking decency:

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The article was published on Tuesday and, 6 days later, Hughes’ spiteful words still make me angry. I hate the sense of entitlement that comes with a question like, “Who wants to be exposed to someone’s rolls?” Hughes’ tone is reflected in many of the comments. According to them, displaying our bodies becomes a vicious action – we are “subjecting”, “inflicting” and “confronting” – because our fat is “disgusting”, “nauseating”, “gross” and my personal favourite “pollution for the eyes”.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I despise the idea that all fatties (and indeed, anyone with bodies outside the beauty ideal) must shield the eyes of the poor, unsuspecting public from the offensiveness of their bodies. Listen and repeat after me: Life is not a beauty pageant. We do not exist to be aesthetically pleasing to the judgemental eyes of strangers.

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As Lesley wrote on Fatshionista,

You do not have to be beautiful. It’s not your responsibility to be beautiful, for yourself or for anyone else, not for your family or your partner or your friends or some stranger on the street who finds your face unpleasant.

Similar sentiments were written by Erin on A Dress A Day,

You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

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There is a fabulous quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that states, “One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much. Clothes, first. Of course one needs less in the sun. But one needs less anyway, one finds suddenly … One finds one is shedding not only clothes – but vanity.”

That beautifully encapsulates what I love about the beach and what I hate hate hate about Hughes’ article. The beach necessitates freedom but Hughes is trying to apply bullshit sartorial decorum to it. True style and true decency is borne from a comfort in one’s skin and a confidence in the image one is presenting to the world. Fat hate masquerading as bland fashion advice? How terribly passé.

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Fancy “inflicting” your flesh on others?

  • By Ro Designs has cute bikinis and monokinis from size 1X (which equates to a US size 18/20) to 6X
  • noXceptions is an Australian online store that stocks a few two piece togs from an Australian size 16 to 40
  • Stacked on etsy has adorable custom retro two pieces
  • Midnight Black has adorable 40s and 50s style bikinis up to a 2X (more styles are available in their Newtown store)
  • Pin Up Girl Clothing also has retro bikinis, but their plus size stock is a bit low. I saw a couple of US size 18s and 20s, as well as a few 14s and 16s in their main range.
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore stocks bikinis up to an Australian size 20
  • Big Gals Lingerie has bikinis in a number of different styles in sizes 1X (US size 16/18) and 2X (US size 20/22)
  • Love Your Peaches has two pieces from 1X (US size 14/16) to 6X (US size 34/36). However, their website states that their clothing runs large and recommends ordering a size down.
  • Monif C sells saucy high waisted bikinis
  • If you’re on the smaller side of fat,  Asos sells bikinis up to a UK size 18 and Outdoor Girl sells bikinis up to a 2X (US size 18)
  • Smaller fats with smaller boobs: Don’t disregard straight size surf/swimwear shops. I found my bikini in a Rip Curl shop. That said, I found it after looking in many other stores, so if you’re going to hunt for a straight size bikini be prepared for some frustration.

Menfolk, I don’t mean to exclude you. I love seeing a man in a pair of swim briefs so please feel emboldened to “expose” your rolls too. I know that Speedo’s only go up to a 44”/110cm waist, so if anyone knows where to get plus size swimwear for men please leave it in the comments.

New to Fat Acceptance?

It has come to my attention that, thanks to my recent claim to outrageous fame, people may be coming here with little to no understanding of what fat acceptance actually is. (Including people from my real life – shout out to my MB 314 crew!) I write with a level of assumed knowledge, so it’s only fair that I provide some introductory information so you have an understanding of where I’m coming from.

Treat this like a class. You know how teachers act like you’re wasting their time when you ask a question that shows you haven’t done the reading? This applies here.

Welcome to Fat Acceptance 101.

Fat Acceptance 101 – Required Reading

Weight. An emotional issue. at Discourse
A balanced post, calling for both sides of the obesity debate to respect the experiences of others.

“Aren’t you worried about your health?” at Cosmopolitan Australia (written by me!)
Just So We’re Clear… Some Fat Facts
at Body Love Wellness
Don’t You Realize Fat is Unhealthy? at Shapely Prose
Some posts that bust the common myths surrounding obesity.

The HAES Manifesto by Dr Linda Bacon
Brief overview of why diets don’t work and what health at every size, or HAES, is.

Health at Every Size: choice or coercion? at Fat Nutritionist
By far the most comprehensive explanation I’ve read of what HAES really means.

Second Verse, Same as the First; Fat Acceptance is for Everyone at The Rotund
Exactly what the title says: Fat acceptance isn’t limited to fatties.

Choice and Hate at Catalytic Reactions
Breaking down the common argument ‘fat is a choice’.

Acceptance is not ‘giving up’ at Spilt Milk
A beautiful post that rebutts the assumptions made about fat acceptance and explains perfectly what I love about this movement.

What are the benefits of being fat?

Living corpulent has some pretty obvious downsides. Fat children are bullied. Fat adults pay more for seats on airplanes. Health care professionals have weight bias. We’re sized out of fashionable and practical clothing. Mainstream media falls over itself (yes, I do consider mainstream media to be a monolithic entity from time to time) trying to tell us all the varied and interesting ways we will clog up the health system/die early. Advocating fat acceptance opens oneself up to a never-ending parade of stupid. It’s enough to get a chubster down from time to time.

But what rocks about being fat? This body shape that impacts our lives in so many ways can’t be all bad, so what are the advantages?

The coolest academic on the block, Dr Samantha Thomas, asked exactly this on twitter. She’s a fat acceptance ally and works in the field of fat studies, but found herself completely stumped when she considered it herself. So she asked her followers, ‘What are the benefits of being fat?’

I managed to think of a whole bunch:

  • Fat is really fun to play with. I absent-mindedly grab, squish and jiggle my belly all the time (to the embarrassment of my long-suffering mother). Other people, who have less fat than me, are also intrigued by the soft bits of my body and are very pleased when I let them jiggle an arm or poke me in the belly.
  • In my opinion and contrary to popular belief, many items of clothing look better with curves stretching them out.
  • Big hips make Latin dancing easier. Even when I do a smaller hip shake in my samba class, I look like I’m doing more than my skinny peers.
  • The extra cushioning means that fat people are excellent huggers and spooning partners.
  • All those studies that show we’re less likely to die from chronic illnesses, infections, invasive procedures etc (as outlined so helpfully in Junkfood Science’s posts on obesity).
  • We make excellent life drawing subjects. As the Boyfriend – who is quite an impressive artist, though he will refute it when he reads this - says, “Nothing is more boring to draw than a perfect body.”
  • We can turn on the sex. All the tight clothing and fleshy parts can be very indecent when we want them to be. (Or, as Jackie of Fatuosity so eloquently put it, “Hips. Boobs. *drool*”)

My fellow twitterers (tweeters? twits?) also delivered some pearlers:

  • Kim from news with nipples – “The extra layers of fat provide warmth in winter, so you don’t need to run the heater. Win for you, win for the environment.”
  • Elizabeth from Spilt Milk came up with a few – “Protective of internal organs (like how women gain weight in pregnancy for cushioning)”, “More adipose tissue in face can make you look younger” and “My cat & my child both like sitting on me cause I’m soft!”
  • Nick from Axis of Fat said “Studies have shown that as you get older, additional fat stores can prolong life.”
  • madamQ – “higher weight correlates w stronger bones” and “it’s a good arsehole filter! Why would I want to be friends with the kind of person who doesn’t like me the way I am?”
  • HipOh_Potamus came up with one of my favourites – “more body to tattoo”

This exercise is not about ‘promoting obesity’ (which, by the way, is my favourite piece of anti-FA rhetoric) or replacing one beauty ideal with another. This is about recognising that some experiences are unique to the fat body and that these experiences can be really awesome. It’s a topic not often covered and I think it’s worth owning what is enjoyable about our fatness.

Sock it to me, commenters. What are the benefits of being fat?

OoTD No. 6 – The Final Hurdle

I never wear bodycon. I’ve seen fat girls wearing bodycon clothing before and they looked fantastic, but I’ve always thought it was a style I could never rock.

You see, the way fat sits on my body means I have quite a noticeable pot belly. For something so chubby, it’s surprisingly firm and it sticks right out. Not only that, but the way my back arches means my belly always sticks out further than my boobs. Even though I shake my belly at my family and even though I say I love how I look, I never had the guts (yuk yuk) to wear something tight enough to put my stomach firmly on display.

This was my last hurdle to absolute body acceptance. Over the years, I had managed to embrace all the parts of my body I used to hate. I’m now very good friends with my thick thighs, proud arse, soft upper arms and double chin. But for some unknown reason, whenever clothing was stretched across my stomach, I always felt too exposed. Too imperfect. Too fat.

So when I saw a black, zippered, bodycon tunic in Target a couple of months ago, I had to buy it. I didn’t know when I’d be comfortable enough to wear it, but I knew that I had to get over this ridiculous body shame.

And I did.

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Amazing purple framed glasses: Cutler and Gross
Tunic: Target
Domino brooch: A vintage store near Carnaby St in London
Leggings: Beth Ditto at Evans
Sneakers: Converse Lady Weapon from Asos

“Guys talk about female body image”

That’s the title of an article by David Penberthy currently up on The Punch. The Punch is an Australian opinion site, owned by News Limited. David Penberthy has been a News Limited employee for years, and is the former editor of Sydney’s tabloid, the Daily Telegraph.

The reason for David jumping on the self-esteem bandwagon is that Australia has been knee-deep in a body image discussion. Last month, the National Advisory Group on Body Image – which was established by the Australian government in March – submitted the Proposed National Strategy on Body Image to the government. Among the recommendations is a Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image, which recommends using ‘healthy weight’ models (a pretty ambiguous term), realistic and natural images of people and disclosure when images of people have been digitally manipulated. The report is currently under consideration by the government, and they will release their response in 2010. You can read the complete report here or, if you’re lazy, a summary of the recommendations here.

So that’s all pretty positive. There was a lot of consulatation and the report attracted a lot of national press. But David felt that this process what missing something, and that something was men.

The Punch has today assembled this special package of pieces about female body image through the eyes of blokes.

Nevermind that the report is aimed at both sexes (though it should be noted that there is a focus on females) and is primarily targeted to school-aged people. Forget that. David wants to talk about chicks he thinks are hot.

We were moved to embark on this project because the one missing feature from the important national debate about female body image is that at no stage has anybody asked the blokes what they think.

It’s a pity – because there is now some interesting evidence that women are laying a serious guilt-trip on themselves and reinforcing stereotypes about their size and shape which have absolutely no bearing on whether men find them attractive or not.

This is the most petulant statement I’ve read in a long time. ALL THIS TALK ABOUT HOW WOMEN FEEL ABOUT THEMSELVES AND NO ONE ASKED MEEEEEEEEEEE.

I get that this, though obviously sensationalist, was well-intentioned and that too many women think that they are unattractive to others. But it’s so fucking ridiculous for anyone to think that the magic cure to low self-esteem is what men find attractive. Get your hand off it, Dave.

It’s possible that men haven’t been quizzed on their sexual preferences as part of the consultation process because a woman’s body image should not be tethered to what men find attractive. How revolutionary.

A Body Revolution

I was contacted by a brand new blogger, Dominique Silva, asking me to put the call out for her. Dom has created the blog A Body Revolution.

In her words:

I created this blog to help women learn to love themselves. … I hope that one day whether you are a size 2 or a size 22, whether your nose sticks out more than you think it should, whether your knees have scars, whether you believe your skin is too light or too dark, I hope that you will go out into the world with your head held high. Be confident and accept your body.

The Body Revolution is looking a wee bit empty because she is counting on us, dear readers, for her content.

Dom wants you to send her pictures of the parts of your body that you used to hate but have since come to accept, or even love. It can be something small (freckles, hair, fingernails), something big (belly, legs, back), or it can be your entire body. She’d also like a paragraph or two about why you used to hate it and how you came to love it. Please send your pictures and your stories to thebodyrev@gmail.com.

I think this is a smashing idea and I’m jumping right on board. This is the picture and story I have sent in:

I hated my bottom for years. Growing up in a white coastal town – surrounded by thin, blonde, ample breasted surfer girls – it was obviously wrong. It stood, and continues to stand, between me and pants. I wished there was some way I could just cut it off and look like everyone else.

Until I started to like not looking like everyone else.

Now, I like how it curves so arrogantly. The way my bottom sticks out is unashamedly sexy. It’s intimidating. It’s indecent. My arse breaks hearts!

I love my bottom and will never again want it to look like everyone else’s. I love every glorious jiggling centimetre of it.

(Yes, they are stretch marks on my hip. And I love them too.)

We are still here.

I wasn’t going to write about this heinous opinion piece by Susie O’Brien from Melbourne’s Herald Sun, mainly because I don’t like to engage with idiots. (You know, like those people who insist that all Muslims are terrorists. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, nothing will change their mind.) I don’t usually have the energy to go to war with such overwhelming stupidity.

Secondly, this opinion piece has been flogged to death by my fellow fat antipodeans who have stomped down practically every sentence Susie has written. But I just couldn’t help myself. Bitch made me mad.

I want to get this out of the way first:

[T]his month’s Fashion Week abandoned the usual stick insects for some models who were size 14-18. It was a breakthrough to see fashion shows using not just ridiculously skinny models that make thin women feel fat. But was it really a breakthrough for good health?

Lady, do not be dissing on BGM Models. Those ladies are complete hotty begotties and I will not hear a word against them. (Courtney Maxwell, call me?)

Now to wade our way through the idiocy:

[M]any need encouragement to lose weight instead of being told to feel good about being overweight.

As well as the runway shows in Australia there’s Drop Dead Diva, which follows the life of a larger lawyer who’s a skinny model reincarnated. And, reflecting the expanding girth of many Australians, more and more retailers, such as Myer, Sportsgirl and even Ed Hardy, are jumping on the bandwagon, and offering larger sizes.

Yes, larger teens deserve to be able to wear fashionable clothes, like everyone else. But the discourse of self-empowerment surrounding the move is stopping us asking why so many young people are size 16 or more in the first place. Sure, such moves reflect the reality of a rapidly growing population, but they also serve to normalise a size that is not healthy for most young people.

Losing weight is hard work. It takes sacrifice and effort. As a mother of three in my late 30s with a new gym membership, I know this first-hand. It’s much easier to accept the pro-fat manifesto than hit the treadmill.

Sorry to tell you, Susie, but you are late to the party.

We have already been “encouraged” to lose weight. We’ve been “encouraged” (and patronised and teased and insulted) by our family or our friends or our partners or complete strangers or the media. Repeatedly. For years.

We have been ignored by designers and clothing stores for god knows how long and we have been treated as invisible by television shows and movies.

We have restricted our diets and we have run on the treadmills. We’ve poured out sweat and we’ve made our muscles ache.

Yet our fat still jiggles and we are still here.

In fact, Susie, we are more than just “here”. In spite of so much hatred – from others and from within – we have learnt to love ourselves and our bodies. We have developed fashion styles that’ll blow your mind and we have designed our own clothing ranges. We’ve become models (or model agents) because our bodies are just that spectacular. And we have created the Fatosphere – a growing corner of the internet that is of full of fat opinionated loud mouths who will shout you down every single time.

We are still here, Susie. You’ve got to do a lot better than that to get rid of us.

What do you love about yourself?

Lilli at Frocks & Frou Frou, Sonya at No More Mumus and Natalie at Definatalie have started an online self-love trend, answering the question “What do you love about yourself?”

I think this is fabulous idea. 

I wasted my entire adolescence on low self-esteem, talking myself down and wishing that I looked nothing like me. I have had more than enough body hate bullshit for one lifetime. I am now rather arrogant and y’all should be too. Arrogance is a GOOD thing and, rather helpfully, it’s also really really fun!

What I love about myself:

  • I love my shamelessness. I’m outgoing and bawdy, I dance in public, and I wear loud clothing/accessories.
  • I love my skin. Thanks, Asian genes!
  • I love that I smile big, laugh easily, and that my laugh is a loud cackle.
  • I love my pot belly. Whenever my mum tells me to lose weight, I lift up my top and shake my belly at her. True story.
  • I love my butt. It’s big and proud and sticks out like a table.
  • I love my curly wurly hair.
  • I love that I am affectionate. I give awesome hugs.

Your turn! What do you love about yourself?


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