Back in March I participated in Media Action Média‘s first REPRESENT 3-minute video contest as a submitter and guest judge. I was really impressed to see all the creative and thoughtful submissions from young people all across Canada around the issues of representation of women and girls in the media.
I realized today that I’d forgotten to share with you the excellent winning video, by Kathleen Clark of Ottawa. Her “Magazine: a (not) love letter” has a creative and unique visual concept combined with humour to clearly convey just how messed up magazine representations of women are. Enjoy!
Like many girls, I grew up reading Seventeen Magazine, Cosmo and Vogue. Also like many girls, I had horribly low self-esteem and I hated by body. I spent hours agonizing over the models’ faces and bodies, wondering how I could achieve the perfection found in the glossy pages of my magazines.
No matter how much information I gleaned from the magazines about improving my body, dressing in style and enhancing my looks with make-up, nothing seemed to work. I even spent most of my allowance on cosmetics, clothes and diet products recommended by these magazines. No matter how much money I threw at the “problem” of my appearance I could not achieve what these magazines promised.
Many years later I read a book called The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. This book was a game-changer for me because it completely opened my eyes to the manipulation of the beauty, diet and fitness industries. I had always considered myself intelligent, savvy and a bit of a conspiracy theorist so how did I get duped for so many years? This insight kick-started my interest in the body acceptance movement so when I was given the opportunity to review Jennifer Nelson’s book Airbrushed Nation: The Lure and Loathing of Women’s Magazines, I was thrilled. Read more
My latest episode of Feminism F.A.Q. is on the issue of objectification, specifically sexual objectification, and why this is an issue for feminists. Check out the video below and read my notes and the transcript after the jump.
The Women’s Sports Foundation released this video in support of Title IX and the foundation’s own “Keep Her in the Game” campaign, in order to show the way social pressures make it difficult for girls to continue participating in organized sports. As the foundation points out:
“From ages 6-9, girls and boys demonstrate an equal level of interest in sports. But by age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. Yet we know that girls who stay in sports are proven to have higher self-esteem, better body image, get better grades and avoid things like drugs, smoking and teen pregnancy. Social stigma, lack of access, safety, poor role models and the rising costs of participation are among the reasons girls leave sports.”
As I recently mentioned, I kinda love the Olympics. I’m a sucker for them. I’m not sure what it is, because I do not enjoy any other sports related thing. But every two years (winter/summer) I’m stuck at my TV.
I think one thing that I particularly enjoy is that women seem to receive as much attention and almost as much legitimacy as men’s competitions. That’s a rare thing. For example, I’m so used to people going gaga over the NBA and totally forgetting that the WNBA exists. (PS, why isn’t it the MNBA and the WNBA–oh right, men are considered the standard. *Eye roll*).
But NBC is really crushing my spirits with their coverage. Last night, I turned into the late night segment and caught a discussion between Bob Costas, Shaun White, and John McEnroe. Apparently, McEnroe is at his first Olympics and White is there for the first time as a spectator. So they were chitchatting about their experience watching women’s beach volleyball. And of course, it dissolved into a dude bro yuk yuk session about the women’s bodies. Objectification to the max. (And LITERALLY while I was writing this, another male NBC commentator just talked about how when he went to the beach volleyball game, it was “sensory overload” because of the women’s bodies.)
I stewed for a bit and then moved on. I wish I could say this is the end of it, but of course there’s more. The media takes every possible opportunity to comment on women’s bodies, and Olympians are not exempt. Read more
This week I’m taking part in the Keep it Real Challenge, hosted by Miss Representation , Spark Summit, and other partner organizations dedicated to changing media representations of women and girls. Inspired by 14-year-old Julia Bluhm’s campaign to get Seventeen to publish one unaltered spread of photos per issue, the campaign aims to get several mainstream print magazines to issue that commitment. Seventeen said no to Bluhm but the first day of the challenge – focused on tweets using the #keepitreal hashtag – was inspiring. The hashtag reached over 1.5 million people and specifically targeted the Twitter accounts of a list of mainstream women’s magazines and their editors. USWeekly, Glamour, and Lucky all tweeted interest in reconsidering their magazine’s use of Photoshop, and the editor of Marie Claire also reached out personally to Miss Representation to discuss the issue. It can be easy to get discouraged about the negative sexist things we can find on the internet, but this kind of mobilization shows that social media has enormous potential to bring progressives and feminists together to lobby for change and achieve it.
That said, there are still a bunch on the list of magazines that haven’t taken action. I’m personally really hoping for commitments from the teen magazines: Teen Vogue, Twist, J14, and Seventeen, as well as Women’s Health mainly because it strikes me as incredibly hypocritical to have a magazine about health that actually undermines it by promoting the idea that unrealistic, hyper-edited photos of women are actually achievable. For just a few examples of what I’m talking about check out GF contributor Sarah Jensen’s Pinterest board “Photoshop Disasters”.
But maybe I’ve gotten a bit ahead of myself. I wanted people to know why I’m participating in this challenge. The first most obvious reason is the stats on why this issue matters. The Keep it Real group has put together a list of some of the most startling ones (in easily sharable images, hint, hint), among them:
80% of 10-year-old American girls have been on a diet.
The number of cosmetic surgical procedures in the US has increased 457% from 1997 to 2007.
3 out of 4 teenage girls feel depressed, guilty, and shameful after spending three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.
But it’s also because I remember reading these magazines. Read more
I’ve been involved in something very special for the past year and half. Something that is having a positive impact on my life and the lives of the others. A movement that is making my mind and body healthier and stronger than ever before. And that something is the ability to be active and fit in a safe environment. I’ve dedicated time to myself and made it a priority. I’ve done things I didn’t think I’d be able to do. I’ve climbed mountains. I’ve run a 5k race (and will be running 10k in the fall). I now consider myself an athlete and a plus-sized one at that.
Almost two years ago I was looking for more challenging activities to be involved in. I liked to swim and walk but I was ready to take on something more physically demanding. However, I didn’t want to do one of those scary Survivor boot camps either. I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable and that there was a good chance I’d get left in the dust.
And that was when I stumbled on small fitness organization called Body Exchange. Boot camps specifically designed for people who are plus-sized or are beginners to fitness. With a focus on fitness opposed to weight loss. It took me weeks and a co-worker’s support before I actually decided to take the plunge and give it a try.
I was pleasantly surprised how much I actually enjoyed going to the boot camps. After years of joining gyms and hating them (I strongly believe gyms for the most part are a breeding ground for bad body image) I finally found something I liked to do. And that was challenging and most importantly was a comfortable and safe environment for me and my big body to work out.
Recently, Body Exchange was featured in The Province in what was supposed to be exposure for what this company is doing for plus-sized clients. However, instead of highlighting what great changes Body Exchange has made in the in lives of its clients the article instead decided to highlight the exclusivity of Body Exchange. Instead of being something positive and safe for big people it turned was portrayed as something discriminatory against ‘skinny’ bodies. Read more