FOX and ABC refuse to air Lane Bryant lingerie commercial

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

12th February 2010

Feel Good Friday

by Rachel

Here’s a link for those of you absolutely dismayed at the news of the impending demise of the Tyra show. Plus-size blogger Anna unashamedly copped to lying about her dismal wardrobe in order to get on a Tyra show for “plus-size girls who feel like they can’t be fashionable because of their size.” Anna wasn’t picked to be on the show as a guest, but producers said they liked her “energy” and asked her if she would ask a pre-given questions of panelists as a plant in the audience. The question posed of her? “What sexual position is best for reducing jiggle?” Yes, seriously!  Anna agreed (somewhat) to the request and the ensuing experience is both hilarious and absurd even by Tyra standards.

Oh, Tyra! Who will reign as the ridiculous diva of daytime television after you’re gone?

posted in Body Image, Humor, Rachel, Television & Film | 4 Comments

18th January 2010

“One Big Happy Family”: Inspiration or fatsploitation?

by Rachel

From the station that helped destroy the Gosselin’s marriage comes a new series called “One Big Happy Family.” The series, which premiered last month on TLC, documents the efforts of a black North Carolina brood, in which all four members weigh in at more than 300 pounds, to slim down. The show’s producer, Mike Duffy, likened it to the TLC show “Little People, Big World,” saying that “One Big Happy Family” is instead “about big people living in a little world — fat people living in a skinny world.”  Show clips are available here.

The Boston Herald calls it “TLC’s latest attempt to exploit a family for ratings.” Monsters and Critics says, “Trainwreck reality TV doesn’t get much bigger than the TLC effort, One Big Happy Family.” Variety says, “One Big Happy Family joins a TLC lineup that often seems devoted more to pithy titles than anything else.” And a CNN report last week drew attention to “big” concerns whether or not the show is “potentially exploitive of the family, whose ‘fat and happy’ attitude has drawn comparisons to the comedic Klump family from the Eddie Murphy film ‘The Nutty Professor.’”

Granted, the Cole family’s attempts, at times, can seem like buffoonery. For instance, in the clip above, the family is shown eating a voracious amount of pancakes, which mother Tameka says the family can work off later with a walk around a local water park (an excursion undoubtedly suggested by show producers). Once there, they indulge in a big, sugary piece of funnel cake. Chairs break beneath their weight and the family is turned away from a water park ride for their size. But weight-loss reality shows are, by their very nature, exploitive, which begs the question of why the sudden concern and criticism over this weight-loss reality show.

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Body Politic, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Race Issues, Rachel, Television & Film | 19 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.


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

10th December 2009

Guest blogger Filmi Girl: Appetite and deprivation in the Twilight series

by Rachel

You may remember guest-blogger Kara (a.k.a. Filmi Girl) from her great post on the whittling waistlines of Bollywood actresses.  Now she’s back with a guest post on the body image struggles inherent in the popular Twilight series, specifically Bella’s desire to rid herself of her human body and the disturbing descriptions of physical sensations and appetite.  I’ve read a lot of feminist critiques on the Twilight series, mostly concerning the books’ not-so-subtle messages of abstinence and the unbalanced relationship dynamic between the main characters, but Filmi Girl’s is a new take I haven’t yet seen before.  It is, to say the least, food for thought.

Filmi Girl writes:

Imagine you’re reading a story about a girl starting over a new high school. As she enters the cafeteria, her eyes are drawn towards a certain group of kids – all physical perfection and effortless cool.

“They weren’t talking, and they weren’t eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them…As I watched, the small girl rose with her tray – unopened soda, unbitten apple – and walked away with a quick, graceful lope that belonged on a runway.” (Twilight, p. 18-19)

To me, this doesn’t say ‘vampire’ as much as ‘pro-ana.’

While I don’t think that Stephenie Meyer, author of The Twilight Saga, was deliberately encouraging young women make an unopened soda and unbitten apple their lunch of choice, the scene is an early indicator of the twisted relationship with appetite that runs through the whole series. There are plenty of disturbing facets to The Twilight Saga, from Edward’s abusive behavior towards Bella and the imprinting which seems more like child grooming, that have been looked at in depth but I haven’t seen much on appetite – or rather, Bella’s desire to rid herself of her appetites.

For those gentle readers unfamiliar with the tragic tale of Bella Swan, resident of Forks, Washington, let me give you a crash course. Bella, age 17, moves to Forks, Washington at the beginning of Twilight. At her new high school, she meets and develops a crush on a mysterious student – a student who finds being around her intolerable and yet won’t leave her alone: (the pale Adonis) Edward Cullen. In a fit of self-loathing, Edward reveals his true self to her. He takes off his shirt in a patch of sunlight, his chest sparkling with the glittery skin of a Meyer-verse vampire. But while Edward is a predator, built to feed on the human race, he has adopted a lifestyle referred to as “vegetarianism.” Edward only eats non-human animals and compares the experience to a human living on tofu, keeping their hunger at bay but never being fully satisfied (this is Meyer’s take on vegetarianism, not mine). Bella gradually moves into his world, getting to know his “family” of like-minded vampires (the Cullens), until one day she catches the attention of a particularly vicious vampire named James who is moving through the Cullen territory and decides to make a meal of her. Bella flees to Phoenix under the protection of Cullens but despite their best efforts, is still captured by James. Edward and his family rescue her and kill James but not before James has a chance to deliver a giant bite to her arm, that will kill her. Edward bravely sucks out the vampire “venom,” knowing that he will kill her if he cannot stop himself in time. He does. Bella lives and returns to Forks, still infatuated with Edward.

In the second book, New Moon, Edward leaves Bella – telling her that he no longer loves her – and Bella works her way into a deep depression. She emerges from it with the help of her good friend Jacob Black, a Quileute Indian boy who lives on the local reservation. Jacob and Bella develop a genuine friendship, although it’s hinted that Jacob feels something more, but are interrupted from furthering their relationship by Edward, who under the false assumption that Bella has died, is going to kill himself by provoking the Volturi, a sect of vampire nobles – the vampire drama queen equivalent of “suicide by cop.” Bella, still feeling the pull of obsession towards Edward, goes to stop him. Edward is saved and reveals that he had left Bella for her own good and that he never stopped loving her. Bella forgives him and returns to Forks with Edward. Jacob isn’t so quick to forget and vows that he will not let her throw her life away. Eclipse, the third book, follows the love triangle and Bella’s desperate attempts to become a vampire, which at times sound chillingly like preparations for suicide. At the end of Eclipse, Bella discovers she loves both men – but Edward more and ends with Bella still human but engaged to be married to him.

Perhaps it takes someone who has struggled with her own appetites to view Bella’s quest for vampire-hood (if that is the correct term) in quite this way. Vampire stories have traditionally mined crevices of human desire that are not socially acceptable, substituting blood lust for passions unnamed, such as homosexual desire (Carmilla, 1872) or, more recently, general teenage restlessness and ennui (The Lost Boys, 1987). But the Meyer-verse vampires Bella is infatuated with actively battle their own unacceptable hungers – living off of non-human animals instead of allowing themselves to be physically satisfied. The life of a Cullen is filled with self-deprivation. As Edward himself says, “I can’t be sure, of course, but I’d compare it to living on tofu and soy milk; we call ourselves vegetarians, our own little inside joke. It doesn’t completely satiate the hunger – or rather thirst. But it keeps us strong enough to resist. Most of the time.” (Twilight, p. 188)

Leaving aside Meyer’s views on vegetarianism, we are clearly meant to find Edward’s heroic resistance to his own physiology to be admirable. It is never suggested that the Cullens could eat donated human blood, either from willing victims or from the hospital. Human blood is a forbidden food. And Edward’s morbid pull towards Bella seems, at times, less like romance and more like a dieter eyeballing a particularly delicious slice of cake. He gets a perverse satisfaction from abstaining. “‘Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,’ he whispered. ‘You have a very floral smell, like lavender… or freesia,’ he noted. ‘It’s mouthwatering.’” (Twilight, p. 306)

And Edward’s thirst appears to be his only physical desire. All evidence in The Twilight Saga points to Edward being a 100+ year old virgin. Bella is the one pushing their sexual relationship and Edward keeps her from pushing too far. In Eclipse, Edward does initiate some sexual touching with Bella but it is only as prelude to his marriage proposal and he gets more aroused by the sight of Bella wearing his engagement ring (although Bella feels it weighing heavily on her hand) than by Bella herself. Edward is master of his physical desires – more superego than vampire.

Bella is constantly comparing herself to Edward and finding herself lacking. She is uncomfortable in her own body, a feeling extremely familiar to this former 17-year old girl. It’s made more painful to the reader because everything is written from Bella’s point-of-view. In the first book, especially, the reader is treated to endless descriptions of Edward’s physical beauty contrasted with Bella’s self-loathing descriptions of her own clumsiness or her plainness or her fragile human body. Edward is described as a statue of Adonis come to life – cold and hard to the touch, but physically perfect. Bella wants nothing more than to be just like him. She is already asking to be turned into a vampire by the end of Twilight and Eclipse has her begging and pleading with Edward to perform the deed.

Through the course of the three books, Bella tries and tries to rid herself of her human desires. She rarely eats. Although she cooks dinner for her father, she doesn’t take any enjoyment in it – it’s a duty and one she dispatches with little thought. In one memorable scene, to me at least, her father takes her out for a celebratory dinner and not only is Bella ungrateful for the gesture, she doesn’t actually eat her food. She waits until her father isn’t looking and then tucks bits of her hamburger into her napkin. Perhaps she is unconsciously echoing Edward, who spends his time at the school cafeteria doing exactly the same thing. She is not yet a vampire but is already abstaining from food and physical pleasure.

Bella’s sexual desires are another thing she is made to feel ashamed of. While the supposed erotic chastity is a big selling point, I never saw it. Instead a mutual desire to take things slow, Edward withholds his physical affections. He explains to Bella that he might devour her if he allowed himself to go too far but that doesn’t stop Edward from chastising Bella for wanting to explore her sexual drive. In one particularly vile scene in Eclipse, Edward snuggles up to her on a giant bed only to pull away when she begins to reciprocate he tells her, “I was just trying to illustrate the benefits of the bed you don’t seem to like. Don’t get carried away.” The benefits of the bed being only available after marriage, which she does not want.

This shaming of Bella just makes New Moon, in which the character of Jacob Black takes the forefront in the narrative, more frustrating, as the book shows the reader what Bella would be like free from the influence of Edward. The chapters of New Moon are filled with food and physical pleasures. Bella eats muffins and enjoys an outdoor spaghetti party. Bella holds hands with Jacob and accepts warm and friendly bear hugs. She goes hiking with Jacob and walks. Edward would literally carry her when they went places. Under the calming influence of Jacob, Bella begins interacting with her school friends and the pages of New Moon show a Bella much more sympathetic and human than in any other book in the series. The tragedy of The Twilight Saga is that the promise of this Bella, who grows up and accepts herself, is thrown away as soon as Edward enters back into the picture.

The final scenes of Eclipse show Bella having a vision of her happy, human life with Jacob. She turns it down in favor of a life of constraint and prohibition with Edward. Bella will never be full again.

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Eating Disorders, Feminist Topics, Guest Blogger, Mental Health, Television & Film | 29 Comments

25th November 2009

The almost-Thanksgiving “What I am Thankful For” post

by Rachel

Happy almost-Thanksgiving to all my American readers.  This post is coming to you a day early because, like so many of my fellow countrymen, I’ll be taking tomorrow off to sleep in before gorging on some Tofurkey and pumpkin pie and then vegging out in a stupified food coma with my closest friends and family.  When writing about Thanksgiving, I’m mindful that it’s traditional, especially for women, to dwell on one of these tried and true topics:

  • How to Prepare the Perfect Sumptuous Thanksgiving Bounty with All The Trimmings
  • How to Avoid Going Berserk and Attacking Your Annoying Relatives and In-Laws with a Carving Knife
  • How Not to Eat a Bazillion Calories and Subsequently Watch Your Ass Double in Size
  • Why, Two Decades After Second-Wave Feminism, Women Still Slave Away in the Kitchen While Men Get to Sit on Their Asses and Watch Football All Day
  • Or, the most popular of subjects: Feeling All Thankful and Shit

I’m generally not the kind of person to make a maudlin list of things I’m thankful for, but it does seem to be the obligatory Thanksgiving cliche, so I’ll bite.  It goes without saying, of course, that I’m thankful for my friends and family, good (mental and physical) health and that I live in a country where I am free to make such sappy and mushy posts like this one.  So, here goes a list of 10 random things I am thankful for:

1.  A job

Considering all the layoffs this year, especially in my field of journalism, I am so grateful that I am still gainfully employed in a job that, for the most part, I love and doesn’t keep my ass confined in cubicle hell.

2. The Internet

I am so, so glad Al Gore invented this, because how else could I waste time when I should be working than by playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook?  The Internet also gives me the power to work from home, the opportunity to pursue my passions and hobbies, a soapbox by which I can unleash all my innermost rants and raves and allows me to cheaply indulge my book-buying compulsions.  But most of all, it’s allowed me to meet so many awesome people — not to mention, my husband — and to discover and read dozens of smart, witty bloggers.  Thanks, Al!

3. My furbabies

The outpouring of support I received from you all here after my cat Grayson died indicates that I’m not the only sucker for a furry face.  My kitties give me so much and all they ask for in return are food (preferably canned), shelter and the occasional rub behind the ears.  I am so grateful for them, as well as the chance to open our home this year to two more unwanted kittens and one traumatized cat.

4. Morningstar Farms

Seriously, because I think we’d be reduced to eating peanut butter and jelly most days if not for its easy-to-fix line of faux meat products.

5.  Dark chocolate, avocados, eggs, coffee, peanut butter, sunshine

And everything else “experts” warned us were harmful that have turned out to be good for us, after all.

6. My brother and sister-in-law’s poor planning

Their admitted carelessness means that I’ll be getting a new (and our family’s first) nephew in December!  I am so very grateful for the chance to mold little Chase into a Bruce Cockburn-loving, tree-hugging, feminist, vegetarian, lefty Pittsburgh Steeler’s fan.

7.  Having a great stylist on speed dial

My prematurely-bald husband simply doesn’t understand how a good or bad hair day can set the tone for the entire day.  Yay for a stylist who knows how to cut short hair well!

8.  Netflix and my DVR

I am grateful for Netflix for how else could I wile away the weekends catching up on the entire 11 seasons of Law & Order: SVU on demand?  And to my DVR, for allowing me to mercifully fast forward through those god-awful Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem TV commercials.

9.  Adderall (and a good prescription health care plan)

Since going on Adderall for ADD a couple years ago, I now no longer have to embark on a daily hunt for my car keys (and other misplaced items) and have managed to actually finish a few projects through to completion.  Hurrah for legal amphetamines!

10.  And last, but certainly not least… Readers of The-F-Word!

Because you all totally rock!

So, Americans and non-Americans alike… what are you thankful for?

posted in Other, Personal, Rachel, Television & Film, Vegetarianism | 7 Comments

20th November 2009

Oprah to mauling victim: Blind? Disfigured? At least you won’t get fat

by Rachel

Oprah and chimp victim Charla Nash

You’ve heard of the Connecticut woman who was mauled by a 200-pound chimpanzee, right?  Charla Nash, 65, was visiting a friend last February when her friend’s pet chimp attacked her, tearing off her nose, lips,  eyelids and hands before being shot dead by cops. Nash later lost her eyes to infection and her facial disfigurement is such that she is a candidate for a face transplant.

Nash went on the Oprah show last week to reveal her disfigurement and share heartbreaking details on her life since the attack, including the fact that she now has to eat everything through a straw. The plus side of getting mauled by a chimp?  In a cringe-worthy response, Oprah told Nash that eating through a straw will help her keep her weight down.

Oh, Oprah.  I’ve certainly been known to blurt out awkward gaffes that I later obsess over and curse myself about for weeks after, but never have I stuck my foot in my mouth quite this far.  I’m sure Oprah was trying to defuse an emotionally-charged situation with humor, but to use her own weight woes as a point of shared commiseration with such a horribly mangled victim goes beyond the pale.

I would post a clip, but as as Newsweek’s Jesse Ellison discovered, that particular segment seems to have mysteriously disappeared from YouTube despite other clips allowed to remain.  When she asked Harpo if they had specifically targeted that clip for copyright violations, a spokeswoman simply replied, “Unable to confirm.” I think we can all confirm that Oprah’s response warrants a major FAIL.

posted in Fat Bias, Rachel, Television & Film | 28 Comments

10th November 2009

CNN’s Candy Crowley sports slimmer figure

by Rachel

If watching TV truly kills brain cells, I committed a neural holocaust during the presidential primary and election.  If I wasn’t obsessively refreshing FiveThirtyEight for the latest state forecasts, I was glued to MSNBC or CNN’s television coverage of all things political.  During my brief affair with David Gergen, Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow, I also became a great fan of Candy Crowley, CNN’s award-winning senior political correspondent.  Crowley, 60, virtually lived out of a suitcase while covering Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House and then both conventions, every debate and other stops along the campaign trail.  Her commentary and coverage was consistently smart, thorough and as unbiased as a journalist can hope to be.  And I’m not her only admirer  — there’s even a Facebook group devoted to her by the name, “Candy Crowley is quite possibly the smartest, most articulate woman ever.”

CNN tapped many smart and competent women in their election coverage, but the hoary Crowley stood out to me not only for her decades of experience, but also for her sassy style and the fact that she rocked it as the station’s lone plus-size pundit.  So, imagine my surprise when anchor Heidi Collins this morning introduced the gaunt-faced, hollow-eyed, much thinner and older looking correspondent as the same indomitable Candy Crowley.  The photo on the left is from February of last year and the image on the right is from this election night clip (fast forward to minute 1:52) from last week.

Candy Crowley weight loss

The internet buzz is speculating that Crowley had weight loss surgery, but neither Crowley or CNN have addressed the issue much less confirmed it — and they shouldn’t have to.  Crowley’s profile photo from this 2003 story shows her as significantly thinner and in an undated interview with Rachael Ray, she indicated that she eats a healthy vegetarian! diet, so perhaps the fuller-figured Crowley we saw last fall was but a temporary result of her nomadic lifestyle while covering the election.  In any case, I hope that Crowley’s weight loss has been achieved healthily and and that it wasn’t undertaken out of professional pressure to conform to those draconian standards usually thrust on women in the national spotlight. There are enough hungry women on television without adding Crowley to that list.

posted in Feminist Topics, Rachel, Television & Film | 14 Comments

5th November 2009

Kirstie Alley to get new weight loss reality show

by Rachel

Speaking of Jenny Craig spokescelebrities…  Oh, Kirstie.  Does your masochism know no end?

The former Jenny Craig spokescelebrity and once-again fat actress has a new weight loss reality television show coming out next year on A&E.  As CNN reports, the yet-unnamed series will follow Kirstie as “she juggles producing a feature film, sticking to a new weight-loss program and raising her two daughters True and Lillie, all while looking for love.”  I wonder if the same program Kirstie will be shown following is a not-so-subtle tie-in to the anticipated weight-loss brand she announced months ago.

The network has so far only committed to to half-hour episodes, begging the question: If Kirstie loses the weight in season one, will viewers tune in for a second?   Stay tuned for more of the Kirstie Alley “fatty-roller coaster ride.”

posted in Diets, Fat Bias, Rachel, Television & Film | 8 Comments

5th November 2009

What’s wrong with this lineup?

by Rachel

So, there’s a lecture series called Smart Talk Connected Conversations and it’s coming to Cincinnati for the 12th year in January.  The celebrity-based spoken word series invites intriguing and influential women to present their stories in an intimate setting in what is supposed to be an uplifting, educational and empowering experience for women.  Here’s the line-up for the 2010 series in Cincinnati.  Can you spot the odd woman out?

  • Helen Hunt: The critically acclaimed, award-winning actress, known for her roles in the sitcom “Mad About You” and movie “As Good As It Gets,” will speak on her experiences as a director, writer and mother.
  • Ann Compton: Throughout her journalism career, the first woman to cover the White House on a fulltime basis has balanced her professional obligations with those of her family, and will share unique insight behind the headlines of Capitol stories.
  • Patricia Heaton: The actress, who earned accolades as the wife in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” will discuss her idyllic childhood in Ohio, career struggles and the challenges of balancing a career and motherhood.
  • Lee Woodruff: The author, journalist and contributing editor for “Good Morning America” had to face dramatic change when her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq.
  • Valerie Bertinelli: The actress, author and Jenny Craig shill spokescelebrity will relate  her struggles with dieting and weight loss.

Does anyone else find Valerie’s recounting of how she lost her not-so-fat ass while following a dubiously effective and outrageously expensive diet of refined sugar, additives, artificial ingredients, added sugars, and hydrogenated oils as vapidly uninspiring as I do?

posted in Diets, Feminist Topics, Rachel, Television & Film | 17 Comments

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