Archive for April, 2012

Calling all Feminists: Subscribe to Playboy!

April 6, 2012

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I am a loyal subscriber and fan of Playboy magazine.

Before you write off me and this blog entirely, just hear me out. I know many would argue this magazine is a media vehicle which idealizes and exploits women in the same way I speak out against in this very blog. That the message it sends to men and women about what a real woman should look like and how she wants to be viewed is contradictory to the actual diverse population of women in society. This is probably true to an extent. But let me explain how it came to be that I decided Playboy magazine is perhaps one of the best representations of “real” women around when it comes to media publications.

I have always looked at Playboy as a somewhat trashy men’s magazine and paid it no mind. Having the privilege of seeing a naked female body every day (my own), I saw no need to ever purchase or look at said magazine. Then, a few months ago, a silly disagreement and my stubbornness lead me to purchase my first copy of Playboy. The media was in a frenzy over the Lindsay Lohan issue, apparently a top seller. My fiancée and I happened to spot this issue in an airport newspaper stand, covered up, only the title showing. Making an offhand comment about the fuss being made about seeing a celebrity naked spiraled into a great debate:

Fiancee: “Well she wouldn’t be fully naked”

Me: “Of course she would, it’s Playboy magazine.”

Fiancee: “Not every woman is completely naked in Playboy. It’s not pornography”

Me: “Give me a break”.

It continued on for some time. I should have known better than to argue with a man about a magazine he has likely been hiding under his bed since childhood, but my obstinacy would not let me back down. The only solution was to buy the magazine to prove him wrong. He was right. (She was topless, not nude for those that actually care.)

By this time I had spent $8.99 on the magazine, and I had a whole flight ahead of me. I was going to read the thing cover to cover, regardless of the content. I was going to pull out every photo spread and look at every playmate, read about her likes and dislikes, bust, waist and hip size, perfect date spot, ambitions, turn-ons and turn-offs. But when I started reading the magazine, an unexpected thing happened. I really enjoyed it. The thing about many men’s magazines is that the content is often a lot more intelligent and less disparaging than the fashion magazines I subscribe to. While I enjoy fashion and clothing, I always feel conflicted when reading women’s magazines every month. I dislike the message the use of unrealistic tall, skinny, white models sends to women and girls. And I often hate the articles in the magazines. ‘How to please your man’; ‘How to lose 10 pounds in 10 days’; ‘5 moves to tone your tummy’; ’Where to find Mr.Right’. These magazines insult women’s intelligence and independence, and make us feel like life is all about being thin, beautiful, and in a relationship. I have to subscribe to a lot of magazines just to get a mix of fashion, book reviews, music reviews, politics, and health information: Fashion, Flare, Elle Canada, Nylon, the Economist, Harper’s, the Walrus. I have found Playboy offers a good mix of everything (minus women’s fashion-the women generally aren’t wearing much). I know, I know, it’s the classic men’s excuse: “I read Playboy for the articles”. But ladies, hear them out. The articles are really good. Notable ones: An investigation into whether there is a genetic predisposition to your political inclination, an interview with Nobel Prize winner David Cross, and a story on war tourism in Vietnam.

Of course there is no denying the naked women in the magazine. Are they exploited women of low self-esteem who have grown up in a society in which beauty is idolized and people are nonchalant towards sex? Or are they empowered women who are taking their own sexuality into their own hands? One could argue either way and I can’t answer that question. They certainly are being used as sex symbols, but they are doing so of their own volition. Women all over the world send in their pictures in the hopes of becoming the next Playmate of the month. There is no coercion here. These are not children.

But as noted before, I feel that Playboy represents women better than any other magazine I have seen before, and better than any women’s fashion magazine out there. For one, there is a lot of racial diversity in Playboy. In one issue, among the major spreads, there was 1 black, 2 white, and several Latin American models (part of a Carnival article). This is representative of most issues I have seen. In fashion magazines, racial diversity, while increasing, is rarer. When they are utilized in fashion, the non-white models often are pressured to fit into the cookie-cutter mold of the rail-thin white model, and thus may not accurately represent their race or culture. For example, culturally black and Latin embrace curvier figures. Which leads me to the second reason Playboy represents women quite well: The women look like women. Well, at least more like women than in fashion magazines. I had expected all of the models to have gigantic breasts and tiny waists, with perfectly toned stomachs, but I was happy to see that they weren’t all photoshopped to perfection. A lot of the women had meat on their bones, curves and butts, and not all of them looked like they had spent thousands of dollars on cosmetic alterations. Jaque Faria, the black brazillian model used in the March 2012 issue was beautifully curvy, with a bottom that would give Kim Kardashian a run for her money. The other Latin American models were also very voluptuous. While admittedly none of the models used were the size of the ‘average’ American woman (5’4’’, 140 pounds), but neither were they the size of the average model either, (5’11’, 117 pounds). And the women certainly look confident in their skin (and not much else). These women are imperfect but beautiful, exposed, yet proud and completely confident. So say whatever you want about any other message the magazine sends, but this resonates well with me. So I continue to subscribe.

Who’s that Green-Eyed Monster in my Mirror?

April 4, 2012

Your best friend starts dating a gorgeous, rich new man.

A colleague gets a promotion.

Your sister loses 10 pounds and looks fantastic.

Your new yoga instructor looks like a younger, hotter, fitter version of Giselle Bundchen.

Congratulations, right? So why do you have to smile through your teeth while fighting the urge to rip off her head? Welcome to the emotions of envy and jealousy. Wicked feelings that can creep up on you and turn even the most demure woman into a raging, irrational lunatic.

First, let’s distinguish between the 2 terms.

Envy: To bear a grudge towards someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys.

Jealous: Apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else.

If you are envious of someone, you want what they have. If you are jealous of someone, you believe they can take something from you. For example, you may believe they are a threat to your job or your marriage.

Why am I writing about this topic? Because this blog is devoted to issues that affect women, and to put it frankly, women are jealous bi***es! This realization came to me a couple of days ago as I miserably complained to my fiancée that a colleague had enjoyed a career success that I felt was undeserved. I admitted I was envious. I admitted I was being irrational. He said I was being petty. PETTY?? Now that is just… Well ok, I was being petty. I thought about other instances where I had been jealous or envious of others women. When I really thought about it, I had to admit that I begrudged people success, happiness, beauty, talent, popularity etc. an awful lot, and had been doing so for years.

There are many types of envy/jealousy. You can make adversaries of strangers on the street, your friends, and your colleagues. And we have all heard of sibling rivalry. I have experienced them all. I don’t want to make it sound like I resent everyone’s achievements, prosperity and good fortune. I root for the people that I care for. But intermingled with the pride and joy I feel for them when good things happen in their lives, there is a tiny yet uncontrollable yearning for them to fail miserably (or at least flounder a little).

I clearly have a problem. But I know I’m not alone. I hear the way women talk about other women around me all the time. Bullying between girls as a result of envy/jealousy/insecurity starts in elementary school and continues well into adulthood. A group of women see a beautiful woman walking down the street, claws come out and she is immediately shredded apart. Her hair, her outfit, her makeup, her shoes, anything is fair game. My grandmother still gossips about her friends, and is still competing with her twin sister. Feminist Germaine Grier said at the Fem08 conference that what worried her ‘about the future of women’s equality and feminism was women’s own misogyny”. Is it true? Do women hate other women? Gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash, author of ‘Tripping the Prom Queen-The Truth about Women and Rivalry’ has conducted research and interviews with 500 US women. She has found that 40% of women say they have had another woman steal their boyfriend, lover, husband or job in their lifetime. 25% have done the stealing. 90% of women are or have been envious and jealous of other women in their lives, with 65% saying they feel that way about their sister or best friend. 80% have been victims of another woman’s envy or jealousy.

So why do women treat each other this way? One reason is likely insecurity. If a woman has a negative self-image or poor self-esteem she may not believe herself to be worthy of obtaining what the other woman has that she covets, or she may believe the other woman superior and able to steal what she has. If the other woman is someone like a good friend or a sister, then the feelings of envy or jealousy can cause a lot of guilt, thus contributing to poor self-image. Susan Shapiro Barash believes that women create rivalries with other women due to “scarcity of goods”. She says “We (women) are taught winner takes all — the sense that there is only one (glass) slipper, one crown. And therefore, if she has it, I cannot have it.” Apparently men are immune to this practice. They may be competitive by nature, but “because men have always competed for what they do, and women compete for who they are” they are able to shout obscenities at each other on the basketball court and then shake hands afterwards. To women, being the thinnest, the most beautiful, the most successful, the richest, or smartest will help to define them and so these titles are so coveted that they are willing to push each other under the bus to achieve them, and if they cannot they will sure as hell resent the hussy who beat them out.

Envy and jealousy are natural human emotions that everyone has experienced at one time or another. But where do they get you? Wishing somebody else ill will for something that they have just wastes time that you could be spending making good things happen for you, and could potentially damage important relationships in your life. More importantly, isn’t it time that women started lifting each other up instead of holding each other down? Perhaps if we start cheering each other on and celebrating each other more of us will have the self-confidence and drive to love and believe in ourselves and strive for what we want out of life. And then we will have less to begrudge others for.

It’s all on you, Baby!!

April 3, 2012

Happiness. It’s something that most people strive for, yet often cannot define for themselves when asked to. Happiness means different things to different people, and frequently our own notion of what yields happiness changes throughout our lives as we grow and change. Some seek happiness through their relationships, some through career or financial successes, others through physical fitness or outward beauty. Happiness is subjective. Your interpretation of happiness will determine if you will achieve it in your lifetime, and you may be happy at certain times of your life and unhappy at others.

The nature of happiness means that you need to identify what will make you happy. No one else can unearth your criteria for happiness. Following this, it is your responsibility to actively pursue happiness. One thing I have noticed about women, myself included, is that we very often look to others to make us happy. In a lot of ways, this is not our fault. We have been told since we were little girls playing with dolls that one day our prince would come and sweep us off our feet. The message from many Hollywood movies and TV shows is that we need to find a man to take care of us and ‘make us happy’. The media tells us that if we alter ourselves to be skinnier and more beautiful we will be happier, so we enlist the help of hairdressers and personal trainers and makeup artists and sometimes even cosmetic surgeons who are supposed to transform us and make us happily perfect. We want our careers to fulfill us, and often failing that we aim for nuclear families and children to make us feel complete and content. We buy and read books about happiness, hoping that the authors will be able to finally unlock the secret for us. I saw 3 people reading ‘The Happiness Project’ just last week. All of them were women.

Certainly our relationships with others, careers, health, even shallow things such as physical appearance and money can contribute to happiness and satisfaction. But arguably these things don’t make you happy. Being truly happy requires self-acceptance and a good self-image. A woman has to be sure of herself and confident in who she is in order to be truly happy. When a woman is reliant on others for her happiness, it shows that she lacks self-confidence. It is nice to have the man you love tell you that you are beautiful, but you shouldn’t need this validation to feel attractive. Getting praise from a boss for a job well done feels good, but you should be confident enough in your skills and abilities that you already know your value in your field. It is probably one of the hardest challenges for women, to accept themselves for who they are. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, and continue to struggle with. But trust me, it’s worth a try. You’ll be happier for it.