Magazines

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Magazines reinforce society’s view of the ideal woman. This 1930’s advertisement was for a food additive that promised to help women gain weight. The historical perspective that combines the 1930’s beauty ideal of voluptuous women and scarce food realities of the Great Depression really helps put this advertisement into perspective.

I make scenes in public on a regular basis.  My husband is used to this, even though I’m sure he still gets a little embarrassed.  Recently we were in line, ready to check out, at a grocery store and I saw two women’s magazines side by side both featuring on their covers radically different and similarly critical views of women.

One magazine lambasted Kim Kardashian for gaining weight in her pregnancy and featured several pictures of her eating various foods.  Because it is surprising that a pregnant woman would need sustenance and equally crazy that someone incubating another life might gain weight.

The other magazine had pictures of celebrities in bathing suits and criticized them for being too thin while speculating about their supposed eating disorders.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and I even shouted it loudly in line at the grocery store, much to the dis-satisfaction of the elderly couple in front of us): What do women need to look like to not be subjected to public scrutiny?!?!?!

And yes.  They’re just crappy women’s magazines.  They don’t seem important.  But historically, magazines reflect the collective expectations of women and greatly influence the roles women play within our society.

Historically, women’s magazines grew out of the gradual emancipation of women that occurred during the late 1800’s.  In an era where women were first entering college and beginning to enter the workforce, the increased spending capital of women caught the eyes of publishers and advertisers.  The women’s magazine was born.

Fast forward to the 1940’s.  Men are away at war and women must pick up the slack on the homefront to support the war effort.  Women’s magazines start featuring articles on how helping out the war effort through manual labor is the patriotic thing to do, but that women can still look feminine by wearing lipstick or ribbons in their hair while they do what used to be “men’s work”.  Magazines were filled with recipes for “quick meals for the working woman.”

Once the men return from war, magazines began to reinforce the old models of embracing   motherhood, being a wife and housekeeping.  Articles once again begin to link self-worth with cleaning products and applauding the therapeutic value of baking.  Magazines feature recipes for five course dinners that take all day to cook.

Along comes The Feminine Mystique and the second wave of feminism.  Women aren’t satisfied with their lives as mother, wife and housekeeper.  Collectively, women begin to address the “problem that has no name”.  Being free from the societal confines of woman as mother, wife and housekeeper in turn made women’s magazines scramble for another product to sell, a different way to make women collectively feel guilty.  Women’s magazines begin to reinforce that a women’s worth is in her beauty, instead.  Most specifically this transfer of guilt is about a women’s size.

Instead of making women feel guilty about a messy house, women’s magazines begin to reinforce guilt about gaining weight.  Instead of the therapeutic value of baking, we see articles about the miracles of weight loss.  Instead of making your husband happy by making a five-course meal, you can make your husband happy by looking a certain way.  Between 1968 and 1972, Vogue Magazine sees a 70 percent increase in articles about dieting.  That’s huge!  The modern diet industry as we know it begins to grow out of this transfer of guilt and affects women to this day.

ImageI guess what I am trying to say here is that it is important to see how seemingly trivial things like women’s magazines affect our lives.  I still enjoy thumbing through them from time to time.  However, we need to acknowledge that the media is powerful and makes a statement about society’s views and expectations of women.  What can we do?  Buy Ms., Bitch or Bust.  Buy DIY ‘Zines.  Donate young adult books with strong female characters to your local library.  Hell.  Just call out bullshit when you see it (even if it is in the line at the grocery store.  To quote Tina Fey (on her Bust Magazine photo shoot):

 

Feminists do the best Photoshop, because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color. They leave your disgusting knuckles, but they take out some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Not To Be A Dick To Your Fat Friends

How Not To Be A Dick To Your Fat Friends

I really enjoyed this article linked above because it touched upon many of the things I frequently feel.  For instance, I know my friends mean well when they say “You’re not fat”.  I also know that my friends are only trying to relate to me over statements that amount to self-loathing (“Ugh.  Don’t you just hate your upper arms?”).  However, neither of these activities are constructive and they both make assumptions that 1) Fat is a negative attribute and 2) that shared physical attributes that bother you about your appearance should bother me, too.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve done both those things, but it makes you think a little bit about how what you say effects others.

There’s all kinds of other goodies in that blog entry.  It is just an all-around excellent read.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Body Autonomy

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So there’s always this nagging voice in the back of my head saying “a passionate person from one side and a passionate person from the opposite side does not necessarily make a balanced world.”  I don’t want my friends and readers to think that because they have a dietary regimen or because dietary restrictions have lead to weight loss or that because they changed their lifestyle because they discovered they have high cholesterol or because they just naturally have a conventionally attractive body that I want to shame them.  If I thought that, I’d be no better than the oppression I’m trying to escape.  We’re all on different parts of our journey.  We all have different and beautiful bodies.

I truly believe that people are capable of making their own health decisions.  This is a concept of body autonomy.

If you want to diet, I’ll still be your friend.  If you want to eat your birthday cake leftovers for every meal during the days following your birthday, I’ll still be your friend (I have done both of those things.  I really like cake.).

However, this does not mean that I have to keep my opinion to myself regarding things I am enthusiastic about.  Those who are close to me know that I am a caring person who can easily maintain respect for those with whom I have a divergence of opinion or lifestyle.  I do not think that opinions will change if we keep our ideas to ourselves and I will advocate for concepts and movements for which I have much passion.

Dictating that my friends abstain from dieting or insisting that they fit into a mold that works for me is just as bad as the body-shaming food-policing culture I am attempting to break away from

So, in short: Be safe.  Be healthy.  Be confident.  Be yourself.

What is This “Size Acceptance” of Which You Speak?

Hello everyone!

I thought it would be good to start things off by talking about what size acceptance is all about.  Quite simply it is the acknowledgement that fat people are subject to several different kinds and levels of discrimination.  Size activists consequently acknowledge that discrimination based on size is not warranted or acceptable.

A related concept is the “Health at Every Size” movement.  This movement believes that there is a natural diversity of body types and people of any size can be healthy.  HAES advocates encourage eating for pleasure and for health and that physical movement is integral to your well-being, independent of your physical size.

I know that many of you are saying “Leah, shut the front door.  Do you mean to tell me fat people can be healthy?”  And to that question, I answer with a resounding YES!  Here is a small amount of the many tidbits of medical academia that indicate being “overweight” is not a death sentence:

A recent article in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) stated that “(being) overweight was associated with lower mortality.”

An article in the September, 8 2004 JAMA showed that a lack of activity, not weight, was the biggest predictor of heart disease.

Even the New England Journal of Medicine states that: “Given the enormous social pressure to lose weight, one might suppose there is clear and overwhelming evidence of the risks of obesity and the benefits of weight loss.  Unfortunately, the data linking overweight and death as well as the data showing the beneficial effects of weight loss are limited, fragmentary and often ambiguous.”

So there you have it.  A thin couch potato is less likely to be healthy than a fat active person.  Hence, “Health At Every Size.”

But Leah, won’t a healthy lifestyle AUTOMATICALLY lead to a thin physique?  Not necessarily, my friends.  There are active healthy eaters of all shapes and sizes!  What is guaranteed to be unhealthy is a weight loss and gain cycle that frequently accompanies dieting.  What is even more certain to increase mortality are harsh treatments such as diet pills or weight-loss surgeries.  More on that later, my friends!

Let’s review:
1) You can be healthy, independent of your size.
2) Fat people are people, too.
3) Skinny or fat, we all are beautiful and should be treated with respect.

More on why dieting is no bueno and why society wants you to think that being overweight is going to kill us all in subsequent posts.  But first, here’s a photo of me being a ham after running a race.  Because running is a fun, fulfilling, healthy activity for people of any size!  Image