Archive for the ‘Self-esteem’ Category

MANOREXIA

August 24, 2012

Our new issue of GQ magazine arrived today. The magazine comes in my fiancée’s name, however we both enjoy the subscription. While I generally skip over the articles about sports and cars, I do enjoy the monthly glimpse into the male universe. What are they being told to wear, read, eat, and listen to? Why are there 20 variations of the same brown loafer in my front closet? The answers are in this magazine. Plus the ads are much more arousing and don’t illicit the same self-loathing as those in women’s magazines. Read: gorgeous men, often in states of undress. But I digress. When I picked up the new issue, I immediately noticed the coverline: “SPECIAL REPORT: WHY MEN ARE BECOMING ANOREXICS”. While there have been several reports indicating that the number of men with eating disorders has been on the rise, I was surprised to see this article in a major men’s magazine. How big is this issue?

 

In the last few years I have observed some subtle changes in the behaviour of men in general towards food. It seems more men are drinking diet soft drinks. I hear more men ordering “skinny” drinks at Starbucks (hold the whip!) or putting artificial sweeteners in their drinks. A lot of my male friends choose salad instead of fries as their side dish. At the last wedding attended, my fiancée and I were seated at a table with four male firefighters. These men were young, thin and appeared to be in good shape. Yet for some reason all four of them were on the low-carb “Southbeach Diet”. I watched with fascination as they removed the single crouton from the soup course, refused the pasta salad, and carefully removed the layer of breading from the fish. I decided not to mention that the 12 vodka sodas they each downed contained carbohydrates. I figured they would throw them up imminently. At another dinner I attended, a male guest questioned why both potatoes and rice were served: “Who serves 2 carbs??” In a female, this behaviour would likely not have even raised an eyebrow. In these cases I found it bizarre and off-putting. Yet I wouldn’t have suspected any of these men to have an eating disorder until I read this article.

 

As a woman recovering from an eating disorder I know that the triggers for anorexia and bulimia are complicated. However it has been shown that the pressures placed on women to conform to the media and societal ideal of perfection can certainly be a contributing factor. There was a time when this was a concern of women almost exclusively. In The Beauty Myth first published in 1990 Naomi Wolf writes of women’s magazines:

“Since self-hatred artificially inflates the demand and the price, the overall message to women from their magazines must remain…negative not positive. Hence the hectoring tone that no other magazines use to address adults with money in their pockets: do’s and dont’s that scold, insinuate, and condescend. The same tone in a men’s magazine-do invest in tax-free bonds; don’t vote Republican-is unthinkable.”

And:

“Unfortunately, the beauty backlash is spread and reinforced by the cycles of self-hatred provoked in women by the advertisements, photo features, and beauty copy in the glossies. These make up the beauty index, which women scan as anxiously as men scan stock reports.”

20 years later, the content of men’s magazines very closely imitates that of most women’s publications. Magazines such as GQ, Details, Maxim and Nylon Man have numerous sartorial recommendations for the stylish modern man, reinforced by photo spreads of young, fit male models. Articles detail what’s new in the worlds of technology, music, art and books, and ensure men feel sufficiently mediocre if these prizes are not acquired. Advertisements convey the quintessential male specimen, lean men in slim-cut clothing or topless displaying bulging pectoral, abdominal, and bicep muscles. Most months feature diet and fitness advice to help men look more like the sculpted, photoshopped gods gracing the glossy pages. If looking at an Armani underwear ad featuring David Beckham is the male equivalent of women having to look at a Victoria’s Secret ad featuring Giselle Bundchen then I have no problem grasping the concept of male eating disorders.

 

The article in GQ magazine reports some surprising statistics. The author, Nathaniel Penn, reports that 20% of anorexics are men, or to put it in perspective for those that aren’t great at math 1 in 5. This is up from 5% (1 in 20) only 10 years ago, and the number is increasing. It appears that men develop eating disorders for the same reasons as women. So why has there been such an increase in the number of cases? A person can be predisposed to developing an eating disorder but never actually develop the disease because they never experience a trigger. Is it simply that, as discussed above, western culture has evolved to a point where men are facing many of the same societal pressures that women have faced for decade? This is likely only a part of it.

 

An article in Details magazine published November 2011 titled “America’s New Male Body Obsession” showcased 40 images that changed the way men viewed their bodies. These images are meant to illustrate how the male ideal has changed over the last several years as well as how much more focused men have become on their physiques. Included are: Mark Wahlberg’s notorious Calvin Klein ad, Brad Pitt’s very toned body in Fight Club, Mark Jacob’s remarkable weight loss, Daniel Craig, the author of The Ultimate New York Diet, a bottle of Michelob Light beer, a picture of body wax, etc. Looking at People Magazine’s Sexiest Men list, essentially all of the men topping the list had a lean, athletic physique and are very well groomed: Ryan Gosling, Justin Theroux, Chris Evans, and the winner Bradley Cooper to name a few. Topping the music charts are songs by Fun, Maroon 5, Neon Trees and Owl City, indie and alternative musicians who insist on looking like starving artists no matter how successful they get, in skintight size 27 jeans and American Apparel deep V’s. The media and entertainment industries are screaming to men that 0% body fat and a 6-pack are essential for health and happiness. And apparently they are listening.

 

In a March 24th 2012 article on CNN.com Michael Addis, a professor of psychology at Clark University noted “male college students in his classes have changed and adapted to shifting cultural norms. In recent years, more of them spend time in the gym, focus on their appearance and monitor body mass.” He says “As women gain more financial power in society, men are expected to bring more to the table…In addition to being financially successful, they need to be well-groomed, in good shape, emotionally skilled in relationships and the emphasis on looking good is just part of the bigger package…” So a threat to male masculinity is motivating men to adopt behaviors traditionally attributed to women such as dieting and excessive exercise? Not according to some psychologists who believe men are actually trying to look more masculine by developing an obsession with muscle definition and fitness.

 

Clearly the reasons men develop eating disorders can be multifold and will be different for each person. Unfortunately, in males the disease often goes undiagnosed, at least until the patient is very ill, because doctors often won’t suspect anorexia in a male patient. Also, men are less likely to seek help due to the stigma of the disease, and the belief that it is primarily a female disease. As a result men on average will suffer with the disease longer than females, an average of 8 years. Many treatment facilities don’t admit male patients. These factors combined can be deadly, since according to the article in GQ as well as several other sources, the mortality rate of anorexia is up to 10%.

 

Most women know what it’s like to struggle with our body image. Therefore we may be in an opportune position to recognize if a man in our life is struggling with some of the same issues. It may be easier for him to talk to someone who can be empathetic rather than his male friends who he may feel aren’t experiencing the same pressures and insecurities. And the next time you find yourself worrying about what a man thinks of you, remember, he’s probably worrying about the same thing. So give yourself a break and give him one too. Nobody’s perfect.

 

 

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (www.slutwalktoronto.com), lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”

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Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.

A Cindarella Tale…

July 1, 2012

In my last blog post I self-righteously proclaimed that I would not fall victim to the superficial wedding pretense by giving in to the pressure to change my physical self striving to become the archetypical perfect bride. Well dear readers, as it turns out, I lied. I may have to lose a few inches for the wedding after all. Not from my waist or hips, not even from my butt or thighs. I don’t obsess about whether my arm jiggles when I wave or if I have cankles. I don’t have a double chin. No, my problem areas are much more stubborn than the worst of these. They are my feet.

For most of my life my lower most extremities have been a source of some embarassment. My feet are a hybrid of the worst characteristics of those of my mother and my father. My incredibly high arches, though handy in ballet class when I was 5, as well as the extreme girth of my feet come from my dad. It is thanks to my mother that I am genetically predisposed to bunions. Mine are not the feet fetishists fantasize about. Once, when taking my poor little Oma to a follow-up appointment with an orthopedic surgeon after she had broken her hip, he stopped speaking to her mid-sentence after catching sight of my feet in my high-heeled sandals. “You know you’ll get bunions if you keep wearing those!” He exclaimed! “They’re already starting!” He then proceded to take a piece of paper and trace my foot to illustrate to me exactly how my largest and smallest toes turned in, leaving hideous bony protrusions poking outwards. My grandmother was all but forgotten. His mission was to convince me to abandon high heels and strappy sandals for sensible shoes. Perhaps even orthotics. Obviously this man did not know me, as if he did he would realize I would sooner cut off my feet. If I found out I was going to die in a week would I crawl into bed and wallow? No, I would live! If I am going to bunion town, I am going to go there in style!

So far, I have staved off my fate while amassing a rather impressive and certainly not “practical” shoe collection. Sure there are a couple of pairs of runners in there for exercise and some flats for days when I might do more walking than usual, but many of my shoes would make Lady Gaga jealous. I have been called the “shoe lady” on more than one occassion. I am not a brand loyalist though I do have certain favorites. There are also some designer shoe houses I have coveted yet have never owned. I have long yearned for a pair of Christian Louboutins, Manolo Blahiks, Giuseppe Zanottis, Lanvins or my favorites, Balenciagas. Ever since seeing these brands in my first issues of Vogue I have promised myself I would one day don one such elegant and extravagant pair. When I was younger, they were galaxies out of my reach. As a gainfully employed adult I can afford more luxuries though I have always thought spending $1000 on a pair of shoes just seemed reckless and irresponsible. That was of course until I started planning my wedding. A wedding is a great excuse for spending money. Thousands of dollars for one dress? No big deal. Hundreds for a cake? But of course. A bouquet of flowers is HOW MUCH? Well, if they’re EXOTIC or out of season it only makes perfect sense. And of course you need extra special $1000 shoes. Armed with this in mind I set out to find these extraordinary shoes. The shoes I have been dreaming about half my life.

Balenciaga booties

My criteria was red. I felt drunk with giddiness as I picked out the pairs of Louboutins and Manolos and Valentinos to try on. I could barely sit still as I waited for the sales associate to bring them to me. The first pair arrived. I slipped my foot in….wait…it’s stuck! Damn it! I can’t get my gargantuan foot all the way into the shoe, it’s too narrow! Okay, next one. Same problem. Maybe I’ll try the size up. I manage to squeeze this one on (just barely) but quickly realize that there will be no way I could wear said shoe for more than about 10 minutes before agony would ensue. This conclusion is devastating as it is the most beautiful shoe I have ever tried on. Simple, elegant, just the right amount of stiletto and toe cleavage. It is the Spanx of shoes. My foot looks streamlined and thinned, tapering just right to a subtle point. I feel like crying taking the shoes off. I quickly learn that my feet are similarly too wide for the Manolos and Jimmy Choos. It seems that high fashion is made for the very small, both in body and in feet. Of all the shoes, only one pair fit, the Valentinos. Feeling like an outcast in a store full of immaculately pedicured, narrow footed women,  I leave the store dejected.

Living with the inevitable blisters, calluses and sore feet after being on my feet in tighter than ideal shoes for hours, I have managed to live with my disfigured feet without them impeding on my life too much. But now my quality of life was being affected. I couldn’t eat or sleep thinking about my defect and how I wasn’t good enough for the best of the best in shoes. Something clearly needed to be done. So, I looked into the options. My first thought was some type of seaweed wrap. They advertise them all over for slimming the body, maybe they can slim the feet too. No go. Apparently all these do is heat you up so you sweat out a bunch of water and lose water weight. I don’t need ugly AND sweaty feet. Moving on. I know in some countries they bind feet to make them smaller. China I think. I look into it and find that a)this must be done before feet reach maximum width and size and b)this is a dated and barbaric procedure. So that’s out. I’m not really getting anywhere. Then I hit paydirt. I should have known! You can actually have plastic surgery to make your feet smaller. Dr. Ali Sadrieh, founder of The Beverly Hills Aesthetic Foot Surgery in Studio City, California told the Wall Street Journal: ‘It’s unrealistic to tell women not to wear high heels. I came up with procedures that allow the women to function, pain-free, in the real world.’ At his clinic women can have several surgeries aimed entirely at enhancing the aesthetic of their feet. One procedure is the clinic’s signature ‘Cinderella procedure’ which is a preventative bunion correction which narrows feet. The clinic can also shorten toes and can take fat from a woman’s abdomen and inject it into the balls of her feet for extra cushioning in order to reduce pain when wearing high heels. Such procedures are becoming more and more popular in the US as well as the UK.

After doing some number crunching I have determined that I can’t fit both the surgery and the shoes into the wedding budget. Darn. Also, my fiancee would like me to be able to dance at our wedding without a wheelchair or crutches. (I’m getting no support from him on this!) So unfortunately it looks like I’m going to have to live with my feet the way they are and just accept them. It’s one of the many flaws that I have and I just have to try not to fixate on them. Without my feet to dislike, I know there will be something else that irks me, begging to be remedied. Unfortunately, it seems this is the way it goes. Perhaps as an exercise in selfworth we should all try to focus on our positives which always outweigh the negatives. As for the shoes, I’ll just have to settle for the Valentinos. Boo Hoo.

Why do you buy? (And no one asked you Karl Lagerfeld!)

June 13, 2012

The June issue of Elle Canada magazine features an article by Ben Barry (a modelling agent) titled “New Business Model” which basically summarizes his Ogilvy Foundation funded, Cambridge University thesis research regarding how “models-depending on their size, age, and race-influence purchasing decisions.” He notes this research differs from the majority of research into the use of extremely thin models in advertising which has traditionally focused on the impact this can have on women’s body image. As in it has already been scientifically proven that looking at gorgeous, thin, photoshopped models makes women feel crappy. Mr. Barry used a study group of more than 2 500 women aged 14 to 65 and sizes 0 to 18 from a variety of ethnic groups. He had them look at fake fashion ads all featuring the same product but with different models. The models differed in size, race, and age. He asked the women their purchase intentions when they looked at the pictures of women with similar and dissimilar sizes, ages and races as themselves. After the study, he also facilitated focus groups to discuss with the women why they may have made the decisions they did.

I think pretty much most women can guess what the results were. Women increased their purchase intentions more than 200% when the models in the mock ads were their size. When the women were over size 6 this increased to 300%. Purchase intentions also increased substantially (175%, 200% in women over 35) when women saw models their own age. Black women were 1 and a half  more likely to buy a product if the model was black. Why? In focus groups women explained that they could better imagine what the product would look like on them when the model looked like on them.  Would it look good on their body type? Would it be age appropriate? Would it look nice with their complexion?

Mr. Barry did not just do this research for his own interest’s sake. His ultimate intention is to show fashion companies that it would be fiscally wise for them to use a more diverse range of models in their ads and in their fashion shows. That it would attract a broader range of customers. As most of us are aware, most models in magazines are strikingly similar in terms of body size and shape. Even so-called “plus size” models are often smaller than the average American woman. And when was the last time you saw a woman in her late 30’s or 40’s (or older!) advertising anything fashionable? It is rare, unless it is an actress who has botoxed herself back to before she married Ashton Kutcher. Barry quotes the legendary and distasteful Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld (most recent offense being calling singer Adelle fat) “Unreachable beauty is a reminder to make an effort. But if you see something, and you can reach what you see, then you do not have to make an effort anymore.” Blech. I guess that explains his face.

Oompa Loompa

Karl Lagerfeld

While I agree that doing sit-ups with a picture of Gisele Bundchen on your ceiling may be quite motivating, I doubt most women would look at her in a bikini and want to run out and buy the same one. Watching the Victoria Secret fashion show does not make me feel like any sort of angel. The recent trend of using very young actresses to sell adult designer clothing lines, such as Dakota and Elle Fanning for Marc Jacobs or Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu is very perplexing to me. I don’t look at a child in an outfit and imagine myself in the same one. Most children and young adults I know could never afford designer clothing. It would only seem rational to target advertising to the middle aged women with established careers who are actually buying these clothes. On the other end of the spectrum, many ads show women my age (30ish) wearing incredibly short shorts (bum cleavage? Please!), jeggings, crop tops, or neon. I have no desire whatsoever to relive my teens. I have also seen ads  for skirts, suit jackets with bras underneath, or see-through  button-downs portrayed to be career wear. If I get fired, will Karl Lagerfeld hire me in Oompa Loompa Land? If I promise to keep reaching for that unreachable beauty?

Once and a while you will see a glimpse of a model in a magazine who doesn’t look emaciated, or who has a wrinkle on her perfect forehead. More and more fashion shows will send out 1 or 2 “plus size models” down their runway. Perhaps research such as Barry’s will help to convince fashion companies that diversity and a touch of reality in fashion is not a bad thing. I think Karl Lagerfeld is a lost cause. However the fashion world is ripe with successful female designers both established and up-and-coming who will hopefully have a better grasp on the female market and on the female psyche. Until then we will just have to rely on our own common sense, honest friends and camera phones to guide our purchase intentions. Just never trust the change room mirrors. They lie.

SUMMER IS HERE! TIME TO GET OUT THE BATHING SUITS:)

May 16, 2012

Source:sodahead.com

The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The temperature is rising. Summer is officially here. Spirits are high. We wait all winter for this season. We look forward to time outdoors in the parks, in the mountains and at the beach. Perhaps the only downside is that summer = bathing suit season which for us women can cause more dread than running into an ex boyfriend while at the grocery store in a sweat suit with no makeup while he is with his gorgeous new girlfriend.

There really is no greater pleasure than the search for a new swimsuit, whether for the summer season or a mid-winter vacation. There are many ways to embark on this quest. I have tried them all with differing levels of success. There is the tried and true try and buy method. No woman looks better in a bathing suit than she does under the fluorescent lighting of a department store change room. Pasty white from the winter, unshaven legs, bathing suit tried on over top of her underwear and viewing herself reflected in the funhouse mirror that seems to make its way into every change room.

Source:whohidthedonuts.blogspot.com

Buying and trying on at home can mean more flattering lighting but can lead to the depressing realization that your age is not the only thing that has gone up in the last year. Then there is the catalog or internet order method. Buying a bathing suit you admire on a swimsuit model and then guessing your size, only to receive it in the mail 4-6 weeks later and SURPRISE it doesn’t look quite the same!! Does wonders for the self esteem. Magazines this time of year will tell you that there is a bathing suit for every body type. The problem is that the models in these magazines range from 5′ 8″ to 6 feet tall and 100 pounds to 125 pounds. Their definition of curvy does not exactly represent the average woman. Most of us looking at these articles aren’t encouraged. But not to fear. There are three times as many articles telling us how to get our bodies bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. Thank you crunches! Ugh.

If you hate swimsuit shopping or donning a swimsuit you aren’t alone. A new study has found that even imagining trying on a swimsuit can put women in a bad mood. In the Journal of Sex Roles in May, psychologist Marike Tiggeman and her colleagues ‘wrote four scenarios to test the impact of clothing on self-objectification: In one, women were asked to imagine themselves trying on a swimsuit in a dressing room. In another, they imagined wearing a swimsuit while walking down a beach. The other two scenarios had the same settings, but instead of a swimsuit, the women were asked to imagine wearing jeans and a sweater.’ 102 female undergraduate students filled out questionnaires regarding their mood and feelings of body and self-objectification after imagining these scenarios. As you could imagine, imagining wearing a swimsuit made women feel worse than wearing jeans. But wearing a swimsuit in a dressing room made women most likely to self-objectify, not wearing a swimsuit walking down the beach. This shows how much self-objectification is an internal process. A 2006 study by the department of psychology at the University of California published in Body Image found that 31% of women had avoided wearing a swimsuit in public.

When it comes to attire, there is nothing more revealing a woman will wear in public than the glorified underwear that is the bathing suit. It is really no wonder women feel self conscious in swimwear. Adding to this is the mounting pressure women feel to not only have, but also to look perfect in their beach wear. Bathing suits are no longer just for the water. Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and designers have made swimwear high fashion. Couture bathing suits are found poolside at the most posh resorts and the most exotic beaches. They are a billion dollar a year business. In every magazine we see gorgeous, airbrushed women with perfect bodies modelling tiny bikinis. Tabloids determine who has the best and worst bikini bodies and call out those celebrities who have let themselves go each summer, as well as those who have (gasp) unsightly cellulite. This sends the message to us lay people that image is of utmost importance.

There are many options for swimsuits, from the bikini:

Source:telegraph.co.uk

To the tankini:

Source:modeikon.se

To the birkini:

I myself have my eye on one that I first spotted at H&M in London:

Source:www.h&m.com

It was sold out everywhere there, which tells me that I’m not the only woman that is feeling a little more modest this summer season. Or perhaps a little less interested in getting bikini ready in 6 weeks or less. But realistically, on the beach no one is airbrushed. Every woman has perceived flaws, no matter how perfect she may look to others. The important thing women need to learn is to be happy with who we are and to not obsess over every thing we want to change.

MEAN GIRLS (i.e all of us)

May 9, 2012

thetbjoshuafanclub.wordpress.com

I am in the beautiful city of London right now. I have found the locals generally accomodating and friendly in this city. Unfortunately, the city also teems with hordes of tourists wandering aimlessly, seemingly unaware of where they are and where they are going. Today alone I have been directly walked into, had my feet stepped on, been bumped into and been cut off numerous times. In a large and congested city this is almost unavoidable. What bothers me is the fact that these incidents go unacknowledged. It seems like nobody appreciates consideration for their fellow man anymore. People walk around texting without looking, run into you, and don’t bother apologizing. You let someone into your lane while driving, and they don’t even bother to give you a wave. You are walking into a building after someone, and they let the door slam in your face. Where is the courtesy?

I will admit I was once a mean girl. In the movies the mean girl is usually a beautiful yet evil creature that everyone hates yet pretends to love who manipulatively and purposefully sets out to destroy another girl who secretly makes her feel insecure. The other girl is tortured and humiliated but perseveres and ultimately prevails in life. I did not have a specific arch nemesis nor was I the alpha female in my social group. I was simply part of a large group of female friends who were considered popular at my high school. I was the traditional insecure female high school girl trying to climb the social ladder. My friends and I would often gossip about each other or turn on each other over petty dalliances. We would be cruel to girls who we felt were ‘losers’ or who dated any boys any of our friends liked. We would bully others for their physical or mental weaknesses. Of course I was not a mean girl all the time. I was a kind and true friend to many girls, several whom are now women I still consider good friends today. My lashing out as a teen came from wanting to fit in and being unsure of who I really was.

I consider myself a reformed mean girl now. As I have come to be more sure of myself I no longer have a need to drag down other people to make myself feel better. I have at times been asked to describe people I know with one word. There are some women I know who I could not find a better word to describe them with than “nice”. They are genuinely kind and caring with not a malicious or sarcastic bone in their body. They see the glass as half full. They see the world through rose colored glasses. They would bend over backwards to make sure everyone else is happy and taken care of and not resent it in the slightest.  I am not one of those women. I can be cynical and sarcastic. I can be moody and short-tempered. But I do believe I am genuinely sincere when say that I make every effort possible to be good and kind. I give to others. I share what I have. I try to think of others. I try not to be petty or jealous. I try not to be greedy. I try not to judge.

But at times like this, when it seems like the world is lacking any sort of civility, I wonder, what if I decided to abandon all attempts at kindness? Maybe I will just go on a nice strike. The next time I have a seat on a bus, maybe I’ll just keep it. Little old lady gets on? Tough. She can stand. Better yet, let her sit on her walker. She has a mobile seat, why doesn’t she use it? Person with a wheelchair? Also already seated. They will fare just fine in the aisle. Lady with a baby carriage? Why should I get up for her? I’ve been standing all day at WORK. What’s she been doing? Sitting at home? No way I’m getting up. Hold the door open for the next person? Screw that! Do it yourself. Donate to charity? I work for my money. Why can’t those lazy people in Africa just do the same thing? There are mines and stuff there they can work in. I hear people are starving there. Maybe more people should get jobs. I’m not sparing any change either. You need some lunch? I need some lunch!! Do you know how much the salad bar at Whole Foods costs? Never mind the organic soda. Go occupy something. No, I’m not free to talk. I have to catch up on Gossip Girl. It’s the season finale. I’m sorry if you’re marriage just broke up, but over 50% do so what did you expect? I can’t make it on Saturday, I just don’t like you and your cooking sucks.

This will never actually happen. It is a proven fact that doing good makes people feel happier and this has proven true for me. (This is only true when you are doing it for truly good reasons and not just to make yourself feel superiour!) But I must admit sometimes it is tempting. Here in London tipping appears to be an unusual phenomenon. So I guess if the feeling does come over me, I can feel mean just not tipping my cabbie. For the rest of you, there is nothing wrong with letting out some steam once in a while. The reason some women seem so nice is that the rest of us can’t be all of the time.

Have You Met Your Mark?

April 14, 2012

Source: healthkicker.com

Today I am having a fat day. I am bloated and puffy. I have PMS. I have a pimple. I am overly reactive and emotional. When I looked in the mirror this morning, I was all stomach and thighs, and my arms jiggled like Jell-O in my sleeveless shirt. I tried to pull on my most form-fitting jeans, but it felt like the waistband was pushing against my belly causing flesh to form a roll over the top so I opted instead for shorts with an elastic waist. I went for a walk in the sun to clear my head. I have had these thoughts before. At one time I would have let them consume me, setting the tone for the entire day and resulting in self-destructive rituals. Today I have finally found the will to put them in perspective and push them out of my mind. I am no longer a prisoner to my eating disorder.

Many women I know have “fat days”. Days when body image is lower than usual, and you feel like you are a giant in a sea of pixies. Such feelings can be brought on by any number of things; Emotional issues, hormones, guilt from overindulging in food, etc. Whatever the case, these thoughts can significantly affect a woman’s mindset and negatively affect her day to day life. Some women avoid social interactions, romantic situations, or even work when they feel they are less than attractive. The sad part is, in most cases the problem is purely psychological. A woman may feel extremely different physically from one day to the next when in fact she has not changed at all. The only difference is in her perspective. If there are any physical changes, they are usually slight, and have to do with things like salt or water retention. A person can gain or lose a few pounds in 24 hours simply due to water gain or loss.

Many women I know have certain articles of clothing that they consider markers of fat gain and loss. A common example most people are familiar with is their “skinny jeans”. If a woman can fit into her skinny jeans then she is at her own  ideal weight. If she cannot, she has a goal: to lose enough weight to fit into the skinny jeans. Conversely, a lot of women have “fat pants”. When a woman feels she has gained weight, has eaten too much, or in general when self-confidence is low, the fat pants come out.

Right now, I don’t know my exact weight. At one point in my life, I could have told you my weight to the decimal place on any given day. When I was a teenager and I first recovered from my eating disorder, I stopped weighing myself entirely. I knew that if I started to focus on numbers on a scale again, it would be difficult for me to stop. At a vintage sale one day in university I bought several items of clothing. I tried nothing on because there were no change rooms. One of the pieces was a pair of shorts, which I learned when I got home was a child’s or youth size. For some unknown reason I did not get rid of these. When I had a relapse of my eating disorder a few years ago and lost a significant amount of weight, I had no scale and therefore did not start weighing myself right away. This was one reason I was able to remain in denial about my eating disorder. But at one point, I found and put on this pair of children’s shorts and discovered that they almost fit me. From that point on, these shorts became my marker for weight loss. Eventually they fit me perfectly, and at one point even became too loose. No one besides myself has ever seen these shorts on me. I have never worn them outside of my bedroom. It wasn’t until I went to counseling that I found out this was a common practice for women with eating disorders, to use clothing items as markers. I guess this is an extreme and more destructive form of the ‘skinny jeans’ idea. I have long since parted with the shorts and the desire to be the size of a child. But I still find myself averse to clothing that is of a rigid material or too tight in the waist as I know I will constantly be gauging whether it was tighter or looser the last time I wore it. I work on myself every day, but I know it will probably be a lifelong battle. My plan of assault is to try to be open and honest and ask for help if I need it. I have found it is a lot easier to stay healthy when you can admit you aren’t perfect. I am having a fat day. But I feel better already, and tomorrow will be better still.

I fit into children's shorts at this point in my life. I thought I was fat.

Easter spells EAT!!

April 9, 2012

Source:1funny.com

 

This year I thought a bit about what Easter means to me. I’m not a religious person. I wouldn’t quite say I’m an atheist, because I think I believe in ghosts and spirits and if there is an afterlife then maybe there is a big cheese there, some head honcho, a ‘divine ruler’ if you will. But I have had enough dalliances into the Christian faith in my lifetime to seriously doubt that the answer is there. The only grandparents I have ever met are of the Mennonite faith and went to church every Sunday. My Oma does not question the existence of god, only the likelihood of seeing her family members in his kingdom of heaven in the afterlife. So far I have no chance, as I have never been baptized. (In the Mennonite faith you are baptized as an adult). It looked promising for me when I was quite young. There were a few Sunday school lessons as a young girl until my parents finally had their fill of having to go to sermons themselves so I could attend. My sister and I owned a children’s book of bible stories which I enjoyed reading. One summer my parents even sent us to a camp with a religious component. We came back thoroughly brainwashed and convinced they were going to hell for all of their sins: getting divorced, drinking alcohol, using the lord’s name in vain, swearing. They were surely going to burn. It didn’t take long to reverse the damage, we quickly realized that being a devout Christian wasn’t a lot of fun. Anyway, I have a basic understanding of the Easter story, and what it means to those of the Christian faith.

What Easter means to most people I know: FOOD. For as long as I can remember, Easter has been another reason to gather, celebrate, and eat. Much like every other holiday, it is an excuse to overindulge. Food brings people together like nothing else, and many people have holiday food traditions that have existed since they were children. For our family, the Easter meal is ham. When I think of ham, I think of Easter. But family gatherings have not always been a positive experience for me. When I was suffering with an eating disorder, the idea of family dinners terrified me. I knew there would be expectations placed on me to eat all of the delicious food, the bread, the meat and potatoes and the fat-laden gravy. I could just visualize the fat depositing right onto my stomach and my ass. I would try all of the anorexic tricks. Eating slowly, filling up my plate with vegetables, cutting things up in small pieces. But when it comes to a Mennonite feast, you can’t get out of there without a full stomach. Which meant of course that I had to throw up afterwards, which always made me feel guilty and worn out. Even in recovery, family dinners can be difficult. I still feel at times that people are watching what I eat, making sure it’s enough, but not too much. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom after a meal, I feel like I have to prove I’m not purging. Sometimes I just try to pee at record speed, even skipping washing my hands. I think “No one will think I could have thrown up that quickly!!” Other times I will try to have a conversation with someone outside of the bathroom, or sing or talk to myself loudly. No one can vomit and talk at the same time!! I have gotten over most of this now, and can just enjoy a holiday meal for the good food, and the good company. But what I’ve discovered is that for a lot of women holiday feasts can bring about feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame. People tend to eat and drink too much, abandon their diets, regain lost weight. Not to mention the stress women can be under to prepare these elaborate meals. With family dynamics shifting away from the ‘nuclear family’ idea of 2 parents, 2 ½ kids and a dog, people may have multiple meals to attend in a day or over several days. I have a friend who went to 4 dinners this weekend. She claims to have gained 10 pounds. While I doubt this is true, this 4-day gorge-fest has certainly affected her self-esteem, if not her waistline.

It’s interesting to me that in the Christian faith, Easter is a celebration of God sacrificing his only Son to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can have eternal life. This sacrifice is celebrated with gluttony. (I will note that for some Christian faiths this gluttony follows a period of fasting, I just don’t know anyone who actually does this). In the Jewish faith, the Passover feast which celebrates the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt, consists of a much less appealing spread. Each component is representative of some part of the story about the Jewish people fleeing Egypt. Matzah, or unleavened bread to represent the haste with which the Jewish people fled, maror, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, karpas, a vegetable like parsley or celery representing hope and redemption served in a bowl of salted water representing tears shed etc. For the entire 8 days of Passover, nothing with yeast is allowed, and there are several other food restrictions. It is a time of respectful sacrifice. Again, I’m not a religious person, but it sounds like by rearranging their philosophy a bit, Christians could seriously decrease their caloric intake.

For the rest of us agnostics, we just need to remember that it’s only a meal. Food is to be consumed, it shouldn’t consume us. If you eat more than you meant to, don’t beat yourself up over it. Here are some rules that might help you: If you ate an entire family-sized bag of Mini Eggs over the long weekend, don’t sweat it!! Nothing with the word mini in the name can affect your waistline significantly. Remember, red wine is good for your heart, and I read a study once that showed women who drink a glass of red wine daily are on average thinner than those that don’t. I’m sure the same is true for multiple glasses of red wine, white wine, tequila, gin, beer etc. One serving of vegetables cancels out one serving of carbohydrate. The same goes for a glass of diet soft drink. If you cook with olive oil you don’t count that as fat, because it’s “good fat”. Same goes for any fat in olives or avocados. Finally, anything you eat while cooking doesn’t count because you are doing manual labor and you are burning off all of those calories. If you feel better, it is probably a good time to mention that all Easter chocolate is now 50% off. Please, someone buy up all the Mini Eggs!!! They are my Achilles heel!

DAMN THE MA’AM

April 7, 2012

 

This morning saw me rushing to work, running late as usual. As I was leaving, my fiancee looked at me admiringly and said “I like your makeup today”. I wasn’t wearing any makeup. If there was any doubt in my mind as to whether this was the man for me, this would certainly have erased it. I humbly blushed, which I’m sure only served to increase my radiance. I am a goddess, I thought as I set forth proudly from the apartment to face the world. 

Fast forward a few minutes. I am in line at Starbucks. Finally it is my turn to give my order to the approximately 28-year old American Apparel skinny jean-clad, faux-hawked, over-caffeinated, hipster barista with the pedophile moustache my order. “What can I get you today ma’am?” MA’AM????? Heeeeelllllll no!!! You see, I have come to terms with being called ma’am in certain situations. When 15 year-old shop girls or teenage boys call me ma’am? Cute. I can see they are trying to be polite, and I have accepted that at twice their age, I may appear an old bag. When a cute little girl pointed at me and said to her mother “Look mom, that lady has red shoes” I dealt with it. I guess I’ve crossed into lady territory. I’m a woman, no longer a girl. Fine, I get it. But when some jackass dude at a coffee shop who is essentially my chronological age calls me ma’am. Not OK. To you, sir, I am a Miss. Pronounces with the ess sound, not Ms., pronounces with the zed sound, which makes me think of my old battleax of a grade one teacher. I’m 31, not 75. I still feel young and vital, and my hips don’t creak when I walk. So, dear readers, the next time you think of calling a woman ma’am, think again. It is never polite to insinuate she is a crusty old maid. But, the sun was shining, and I was determined not to let him ruin my good mood. I was still gorgeous, I was a natural knockout, I was Hebe, goddess of youth. But I did put on some lipgloss when I got to work. Hey, my lips were dry. 

Calling all Feminists: Subscribe to Playboy!

April 6, 2012

Source:freevectorlogo.blogspot.com

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.