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The Beauty Advantage

2nd August 2010

The Beauty Advantage

by Rachel

I meant to post this the other week, but that pesky thing called life got in the way and I back-burnered it.  Newsweek has put together an awesome special feature on the advantages (and yes, even disadvantages) of being beautiful and how it can affect our lives, careers and health.  There are a lot of great multimedia links to follow, but here’s a few that caught my attention:

(And in my own addendum on the subject, I highly recommend Kathy Peiss’ Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture and — what I consider the definitive work on the history of American cultural beauty standards — Lois W. Banner’s American Beauty: A Social History…Through Two Centuries of the American Idea, Ideal, and Image of the Beautiful Woman.)

I think that most of us would agree that lookism is A Bad Thing, but surprisingly, in a survey conducted by Newsweek, only 46 percent of the public said they would favor a law making hiring discrimination based on appearance illegal.  Is this a case of a deluded public who’s bought the beauty myth hook, line and sinker?  Or could it be a pragmatic public realizing the practicalities of such a law difficult to enforce?   Your thoughts on this and the other columns and galleries in Newsweek’s special feature on beauty?

posted in Body Image, Fashion, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Pop Culture, Rachel, vintage ads | 4 Comments

9th June 2010

The Wednesday Weigh-In

by Rachel

Margarita Tartakovsky of the blog Weightless interviews Cheryl Kerrigan, author of the new book Telling ED NO! and Other Practical Tools to Conquer Your Eating Disorder and Find Freedom.

Fat Lot of Good blogger Bri weighs in on a recent study that found that children whose mothers were chronically abused by their partners were more likely to be fat by age 5.  Because being fat is so much more pressing of an issue than being victimized by domestic violence.

Urban Outfitters removes what many are calling a pro-ana t-shirt from its website, but the “Eat Less” shirt remains available in stores.   Outraged?  Join the Girlcott Urban Outfitters group on Facebook.

Should appearance-based discrimination be treated with the same weight as we give to other -isms like racism and sexism?  That’s the question Deborah Rhodes tackles in her new book, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. Read Dahlia Lithwick’s review of the book on Slate.

Just when you thought the insanity would never end…  It’s not enough that some parents lose custody of their obese children because of their weight.  Now a British animal welfare council has seized custody of an obese dog.  The pudgy pup Gucci is said to now be on a strict diet and exercise regime at a special canine fat club.

FEAST has launched its Around the Dinner Table Plate Drive through June.  The fundraising initiative supports the group’s mission, which is to empower families and support parents and caregivers in helping loved ones recover from eating disorders.

The British Mail’s Lucy Taylor ruminates on on how she gave up running and learned to simply enjoy the journey.

Oprah.com contributor Karen Salmansohn looks at the Fox and ABC refusal to air the sexy new Lane Bryant lingerie commercials in a different light: “The fact that a TV network would find this Lane Bryant spot far more sexually enticing than Victoria’s Secret spots — which air all the time — simply shows they’re acknowledging the extreme sexiness of voluptuous women!”

Comments?  Any links to share?  Add your two cents in the comments below.

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Body Politic, Body-Affirming, Eating Disorders, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Legal Issues, Mental Health, Non-profits, Politics, Pop Culture, Rachel | 12 Comments

25th May 2010

British “health” mag fattens up gaunt thin model

by Rachel

In a strange twist to the usual Photoshopped models debate, a British magazine has ‘fessed up to digitally manipulating an image of a shockingly thin model to make her look… heavier.

Jane Druker, editor of the ironically titled publication Healthy, admitted to airbrushing model Kamilla Wladyka’s cover shot on the April edition of the mag, explaining that the model initially *appeared* to be in good health, but had lost so much weight in the week between casting and shoot that airbrushing became necessary.   As the Daily Mail UK reports, editors added 2-3 stone, or 28-42 pounds, to Kamilla’s photo to make the 5-foot-10-inch, British size-6 model look “a little bit bigger, to make her look like she was a size ten as opposed to a size four” out of concern for the magazine’s commitment to promoting “health and wellbeing.”

‘There were plenty of clothes that we couldn’t put on her because her bones stuck out too much,’ Druker said.  ‘She looked beautiful in the face, but really thin and unwell. That’s not a reflection of what we do in our magazine, which is about good health.’

Good health?  Really?

In its defense, the magazine acted transparently and stated that they do not normally airbrush images of models to give the false illusion of health.  Yet if this model appeared to be so unnaturally thin and unhealthy that digital airbrushing was required, why wasn’t she sent home immediately and another healthier model used instead?  Oh, silly me… I forgot.  Healthy magazine, like so many others, determines health and wellbeing on almost the sole basis of appearance. And as everyone knows, thin=healthy but too thin=unhealthy, so instead let’s just made the model LOOK like she doesn’t suffer from raging anorexia, actual health be damned.

Yes, it’s a good thing that magazines and advertisers are beginning to take heed of the tragic and dangerous social implications of showing images, altered or otherwise, of super-skinny models.  But the solution is not to simply airbrush the same radically thin models into some slightly higher, but more socially-acceptable vision of conformity, but rather to actually seek out and hire models whose body shapes and sizes require very little to no airbrushing in order to meet these standards.  As eating disorder activist Susan Ringwood, who has campaigned for the use of diversely-sized fashion models, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph:

There’s a fundamental difference between using camera work to make someone look polished, and changing the shape and size of someone’s body in order to portray them looking differently, to conform to whatever ideal.  It’s just not helpful and puts huge pressure on people to keep up a hyper-perfectionism that isn’t real. If you can’t trust the health industry to be healthy, how can you expect the fashion magazines to put their house in order?

But, then again, what do we really expect from a “health” magazine that also advertises weight-loss advice on the same cover as the same gaunt-thin model airbrushed to look heavier?

posted in Body Politic, Eating Disorders, Fashion, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Pop Culture, Rachel | 14 Comments

23rd April 2010

FOX and ABC refuse to air Lane Bryant lingerie commercial

by Rachel

Outrage is brewing over FOX and ABC’s opposition to airing Lane Bryant’s sexy ad for its new Cacique Intimates lingerie. In a post on LB’s Inside Curve blog, the company claims that ABC “restricted our airtime” and refused to air the spot during Dancing With the Stars, while Fox “demanded excessive re-edits and rebuffed it three times before relenting to air it during the final 10 minutes of American Idol, but only after we threatened to pull the ad buy.” They went on to protest:

It appears that ABC and Fox have made the decision to define beauty for you by denying our new, groundbreaking Cacique commercial from airing freely on their networks.

Yes, these are the same networks that have scantily-clad housewives so desperate they seduce every man on the block, and don’t forget Bart Simpson, who has shown us the moon more often than NASA, all during what they call “prime time.”

We knew the ads were sexy, but they are not salacious. Our new commercials represent the sensuality of the curvy woman who has more to show the world than the typical waif-like lingerie model. What we didn’t know was that the networks, which regularly run Victoria’s Secret and Playtex advertising on the very shows from which we’re restricted, would object to a different view of beauty. If Victoria’s Secret and Playtex can run ads at any time during the 9pm to 10pm hour, why is Lane Bryant restricted only to the final 10 minutes?

View the commercials for yourself:

I have seen MUCH more risque ads aired on FOX and ABC even during primetime, so I’m curious to see what kind of creative excuses the stations will give for singling out these ads (ABC and FOX have yet to respond to the complaints). Size discrimination, of course, is the obvious motivator here, but I would point out that while model Ashley Graham (of Glamour’snaked fat women” shoot fame) is considered plus-size in the insanely grotesque world of modeling, her reported measurements– 36-34-47 — make her just barely plus-size in the real world the rest of us occupy, and her BMI probably wouldn’t tip past “overweight”.  For more photos of the lovely Ashley Graham, see here and here.

What do you think?  Were the ads too risque for primetime?  Or are FOX and ABC just hating on fat chicks?  Did Lane Bryant take a cue from PETA and deliberately make a too-sexy ad with hopes that a brouhaha like this might erupt, resulting in even more (free) publicity?  Share your thoughts below.

posted in Body Image, Body Politic, Pop Culture, Rachel, Television & Film | 39 Comments

2nd February 2010

What We Missed

by Rachel

A new study of 1,000 American girls between the ages of 13-17 by the Girl Scouts finds that 9 out of 10 girls say they feel pressure from the media and/or fashion industry to be skinny.  More than 80 percent of the girls polled said they’d rather see natural photos of models than digitally enhanced or altered photos.

Specialists calculate life expectancy for people with anorexia to be 25 years shorter than average.  Patients who recover however, may expect full lifespans.

A Chicago mom and grandmother shares her story of finally overcoming anorexia after 25 years of battling the disorder.

Remember the mental health parity law that passed in 2008? The The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury jointly issued new rules this week governing the law.

The Website Realself.com tracked cosmetic surgery trends by region and even city with some surprising results.

New “groundbreaking” study shows abnormal brain function in people with body dysmorphic disorder.

Eve Ensler: Girl power can save the world.

The New York Times reviews Michael Pollan’s new book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.”

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Book Reviews, Eating Disorders, Fashion, Food Culture, Mental Health, New Research, Pop Culture, Rachel, Recovery | 8 Comments

8th January 2010

Bought and sold

by Rachel

It’s Friday (!) and in case the mid-afternoon slump strikes, here’s a couple videos to slack off to.

A new PBS documentary follows four girls as they grapple with body image issues, unhealthy and confusing media images and the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.  “A Girl’s Life” is hosted by Rachel Simmons, the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence.  An educator and coach, Rachel also blogs about dating, relationships and other issues at TeenVogue. Click here for more info on the project.


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How to be the perfect wife, mother, career woman and super hot sex babe? Just buy more stuff! Sarah Haskins zeroes in on consumerist messages aimed at women in 2009.

posted in Body Image, Feminist Topics, Humor, Pop Culture, Rachel, Television & Film | 6 Comments

5th January 2010

Scholastic brings back The Babysitter’s Club!

by Rachel

If you’re, say, mid-twenties or older and female, chances are you’ve read at least one Ann M. Martin book.  Martin, of course, is the author of the The Baby-Sitter’s Club, the series about a gang of entrepreneurial 13-year-olds that taught girls everywhere the basics of capitalism.  Now, in what may be filed thus far in “Best News of the Decade,” Scholastic is re-issuing the first two books in the out-of-print, 213-title series (213? whoa!) as well as a prequel.

Outdated uncool references to perms and cassette players aside, I think the series, which was published in the mid-80s, is still relevant to today’s adolescent girl.  The characters, all diverse and unique, struggle through emotional, family and friendship issues that transcend generations.  I mean, who didn’t cry when Mimi died?  And who among us hasn’t faced at least a snob or two in the daisy chain of angst that is middle school?  The series is also pretty body-positive — the one time I recall dieting mentioned is when Stacey’s ex-best friend Laine visits and they all think it kind of dumb.  The series is being revamped to appeal to younger generations — will Claudia get in trouble for Facebooking on the job?  Will Mary Anne get caught texting to Logan in class? Let’s just hope that in bringing the series into the 21st century doesn’t go by way of the recently re-released Sweet Valley High series, which saw the “perfect size 6″ twins Elizabeth and Jessica downsized to a “perfect size 4″ and the insertion of such colloquialisms as “omigod.”

The BSC re-release is set for April.  Until then, check out this LiveJournal page called “Stoneybrook High School” with character bios on everyone the babysitters go to school with, complete with their celebrity alter egos.  Yep.  Or refresh your adolescent memories with Raina Telgemeier’s BSC comic book adaptations.  And finally, find out which babysitter you are with this handy dandy pop quiz.  I always considered myself a kind of Mary Anne/Claudia hybrid: shy and bookish, but also artsy and creative.  Who’s your favorite babysitter?

posted in Body-Affirming, Book Reviews, Pop Culture, Rachel | 14 Comments

16th October 2009

The Digest: F-words making the news

by Rachel

Hard to swallow:  Washington mom Juliet Lee has eaten five pounds of ribs, 43 inches of cheese steak sub, 31 dozen raw oysters, 13 slices of pizza, 13 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 13 date-nut-bread-and-cream-cheese sandwiches — all within minutes.  Oh, yeah… she weighs 100 pounds and wears a size-zero.

Not only are “plus-sizes” considered taboo in high fashion, so too are large breasts. The well-endowed journalist Venetia Thompson delves into the issues supporting the busty bias in this Daily Beast editorial.

Progressive or just prejudiced?  After months of guised jabs at Rep. N.J. gubernatorial challenger Chris Christie’s weight, Democratic State Committee Chairman Joe Cryan blatantly “pounded” the issue home to supporters: “What would it feel like if the next governor weighs 350 pounds?” he asked the crowd.  Meanwhile, Sen. Raymond Lesniak told the New York Magazine that Christie “looks hideous! And unhealthy… That doesn’t portray the discipline that’s necessary to lead this state.”

Fat studies scholar Amy Farrell appeared on Colbert Nation this week to discuss fat-shaming, health at every size and her new book, Fat Shame.

Fox and Burger King apologize for mocking Jessica Simpson’s weight.

Meghan McCain: Still Republican, but I can’t help but like her anyway.  In an editorial for the Daily Beast, McCain responds to the Simpson bashing with a call to stop the fat jokes.  “My weight is the great constant in my life, no matter where I am or what I am doing it is an issue that comes up,” she writes.  “I could probably cure cancer and solve all the Republican Party’s problems, and people would still make fat jokes.”

A new study finds that the simple act of exercise itself can improve body image even if you don’t lose an iota of a pound.

D’oh!  The British government is spending more than a million U.S. dollars recreating a “healthier” version of The Simpsons in an effort it says to reduce the two-dimensional “obesity epidemic.”  The campaign, which began last Monday and will run through Christmas, replaces Homer’s much-loved beer and doughnuts with fruits and vegetables and ditches the image of the family sitting on the sofa at the beginning of each episode (the fact that families need to be slumped on the sofa to even view the campaign is overlooked).  No word on how Mr. Burns, the thin-as-a-rake, delicately fragile food minimalist, will be portrayed.

For more news that didn’t make the blog, follow us on Twitter.

posted in Advertisements, Body Snarking, Book Reviews, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Fitness/Exercise, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Politics, Pop Culture, Rachel, Television & Film | 10 Comments

9th October 2009

From Hollywood to Bollywood: The whittling waistlines of Indian actresses

by Rachel

If I could travel to any part of the globe, India would be it. But as much as I love Indian food and culture, I’m not all that hip on Bollywood and the representation of Indian women in film. Luckily reader Kara (a.k.a. Filmi Girl) is a big fan. About 15 years ago, a friend gave her a cassette tape with the soundtrack from the 1980s hit Bollywood film Maine Pyaar Kiye. She was hooked. A few years later, she began watching the films the songs were centered around, and after realizing that her real life friends were uninterested in hearing her gush about Aamir, Preity and Rani, she started a blog. The 30-year-old librarian now spends her limited free time reading about her latest interest and watching large amounts of deliciously, over-the-top Indian films.  She guest blogs today about the ever whittling waistlines of Bollywood actresses.

I began watching Bollywood movies about 10 years ago. Amidst the colorful songs and costumes and dramatic storylines, I began to realize something else that appealed to me about these movies – the actresses were all of normal and healthy weights. By “normal weight,” I don’t mean Hollywood normal, I mean real life normal. From Madhuri Dixit, whose ample thighs supported her beautiful dancing to Kajol’s sturdy tomboyish frame to Karishma Kapoor’s gawky slimness, the actresses all appeared healthy and well nourished. Being beautiful included a variety of different weights and shapes and sizes, rather than a single hard-to-achieve standard.

Yet, something disturbing has happened over the last few years, the variety is disappearing and in its place has taken root something very familiar – the new global standard of beauty.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Arts and Music, Body Image, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Pop Culture, Race Issues, Television & Film | 11 Comments

24th September 2009

Newsflash to Megan Fox: Eating disorders, cutting are no normal teenage “phase”

by Rachel

In an interview this month with Rolling Stone, Jennifer’s Body star Megan Fox revealed that she used to cut herself. But, hey, it’s no biggie, because as Fox tells it, pesky things like self-harming and eating disorders are just normal teenage “phases” girls go through.

“Yeah,” she replied when asked if she’s ever cut herself. “But I don’t want to elaborate. I would never call myself a cutter. Girls go through different phases when they’re growing up, when they’re miserable and do different things, whether it’s an eating disorder or they dabble in cutting.

That’s one to add to the LA Times ever-growing list of Megan Fox gaffes.  The “23-year-old sex symbol” also opened up to the mag about her threats of physical violence to on-again boyfriend Brian Austin Green and her lingering low self-esteem:

“I’m really insecure about everything,” Fox said. “I see what I look like, but there are things that I like and things that I dislike. My hair is good. The color of my eyes is good, obviously. I’m too short. But overall, I’m not super excited about the whole thing.

“I never think I’m worthy of anything… I have a sick feeling of being mocked all the time. I have a lot of self-loathing.”

Ehem, Megan? Maybe you should be talking to a therapist instead of Rolling Stone.

posted in Eating Disorders, Mental Health, Pop Culture | 12 Comments

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