body image

Eating Disorders Affect Asian Women Too

Photo of mannequins in a store in Montrealby Sasha Fierce

This past week, numerous countries around the world, including Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, took part in the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW). According to the website, NEDAW aims to “promote public and media attention to the seriousness of eating disorders and improve education about the biological underpinnings, environmental triggers, warning signs and how to help those struggling.”

This year, the organizers chose to focus on the theme “I Had No Idea” in an attempt to combat misconceptions about eating disorders. Although there are numerous misunderstandings about eating disorders, I find it particularly disconcerting that much of the discourse on eating disorders seems to focus almost exclusively on white women.

From the numerous conversations I have had with my friends and classmates over the years, I have come to the painful realization that many people simply and genuinely believe that Asian women are genetically blessed to be thin. As a female of Asian descent myself, I find it difficult to discuss my personal experiences with self-esteem and body image issues without hearing someone respond with an inconsiderate attempt to be funny: “But you’re Asian. Asians don’t get fat. You have naturally fast metabolism! You’re so small – what do you have to worry about?”

It is unfair that so many Asian women are faced with the unrealistic expectation to be naturally slim. There was a period of time when I did meet this expectation: growing up, I was always a skinny girl. No matter how much I ate, my grandmother would force feed me and ask me whether my parents were feeding me enough.

I was skinny until I entered high school, started birth control, and my body changed. At 5’2 and 115 pounds, my family and then-boyfriend began to “joke” that I was “chubby”, “fat”, and “porky”. I was no longer told to eat more, but was instead reminded to watch what I eat and to make sure I got enough exercise. I am always either too thin or too fat – there is no middle ground, no comfortable medium.

“For many Asian girls,” Noel Duan notes, “being thin is imperative; being a fat Asian—or even an Asian of “normal” weight—basically implies you’re a glutton who managed to out eat your own superfast metabolism. To be an attractive Asian girl, being thin is supposed to be a given.” Read more

Posted on by Sasha Fierce in Feminism, Racism 5 Comments

Lululemon Body-Shaming One of Many Problems With the Company

Photo of woman on the floor doing a yoga poseby Jarrah Hodge

Over a decade ago when lululemon started in Vancouver and quickly took off, I remember a lot of Vancouverites feeling proud. At UBC it was rare to walk between classes and not pass by at least one girl wearing a hoodie or three-quarter-length pants with that iconic omega symbol logo.

I remember going into a lululemon store and feeling good to shop there, like I was doing something good for myself and helping a local, socially-conscious business.

Judging by the success of the business over the years, a lot of customers must have continued to feel that way.

But that goodwill has surely been challenged by the recent lululemon body-shaming through comments made by founder/Ayn Rand fan/company spiritual leader Chip Wilson. The controversy started when Wilson and his wife appeared on Bloomberg TV and Wilson was asked about complaints that some of lululemon’s pants were too sheer. Wilson’s response? Blame women’s bodies:

“Some bodies actually do not work for it,” Wilson replied. When asked to elaborate, he continued, “Even our small size will fit an extra large. It is really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, and how much they use them.”

You’re saying women are paying you up to $130 a pair for yoga pants and they shouldn’t expect them to last if their thighs rub together? News flash: most women’s thighs touch. Do you really think it’s up to your women customers to work to fit your pants rather than the other way around?

Wilson has now sort-of-not-really apologized for his comments, in a YouTube message that lasts less than a minute and appears to be targeted more at staff than customers. He apologizes that he’s “put you all through this” but never says his comments were wrong.

I’m not remotely shocked, because lululemon has a long history of reinforcing gender norms and body ideals.

For one, they don’t sell clothes for women larger than a size 12. In 2005, Wilson said he would never sell larger sizes because they would require more fabric to make, so he’d have to charge even more. He tried to make it seem that just not making the clothes was his way of being “sensitive” to plus-sized customers. Even that sad excuse doens’t explain why staff have reported the size 10 and 12 merchandise is separated out from the smaller sizes and practically hidden in some stores.

Although recently lululemon is trying harder to market to men, their customer base, upon which their success is built, has always been women. Lyndsay at Our Feminist Playschool gave me the heads-up about a 2009 blog post by Wilson that reveals even more about his messed-up beliefs about women, in case you weren’t turned off enough by his fat-shaming. You should hop over to read the whole thing, but it starts out: Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 5 Comments

Enjoying Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night

Rebel wilson in Super Fun Night promo imageby A. Lynn. Cross-posted with permission from its original at Nerdy Feminist

[Content note: body talk, mild spoilers for the show]

I like Rebel Wilson. I think she’s hilarious and strange and hilariously strange in all the right ways. I loved her (even if she creeped me out) in Bridesmaids. I loved her in Bachlorette (even if the movie over all disappointed me,) I love her in interviews, and I loved her character in the Pitch Perfect trailer (even though I never actually saw the damn movie yet, whoops.)

So when I heard she had a show coming out this fall, I was pretty excited. I’m four episodes in and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

Let me start with some things that I love about the show…

1) Women are central to the show:

Rebel Wilson, as her character Kimmie with her best friends and roommates, Helen-Alice and Marika

Wilson’s character lives with her best friends, Helen-Alice (Liza Lapria) and Marika (Lauren Ash). They are all very different but are close and support each other through various things like dating and self-esteem slumps. These three characters, in addition to Kimmie’s workplace (more on that later) are the central focus of the show. And they’re not the traditional female leads. Both Wilson and Ash have bodies that are bigger than the average actress and Lapira is of Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese descent. Ash’s character, Marika isn’t traditionally feminine in the slightest, and none of these women are reduced to the usual eye candy status. Read more

Posted on by A Lynn in Pop Culture 1 Comment

Armpits For August: Get Your Pits Out!

Picture of the authorby Jessica Critcher

For the month of August, women in the UK and all over the world (like me for example) are abandoning razors. Armpits 4 August is raising awareness and funds for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and sparking a larger conversation about gender norms and beauty practices, specifically with regards to underarm hair.

The reasoning behind it is pretty brilliant. A common symptom of PCOS is hirsutism, or excessive hair growth. So in addition to PCOS’s invisible symptoms like migraines, pain and infertility, many sufferers also have to deal with visible symptoms like hair growth, hair loss, weight gain and acne. By swearing off shaving for a month, participants demonstrate solidarity for some under-discussed problems– both PCOS and social pressure to conform to a standard idea of what is beautiful.

As is often the case, the political is personal in this campaign. A few of my friends have PCOS. And while I’m having fun rocking out my armpit hair and raising money for a good cause, my favorite part of Armpits for August is that it gives us a platform to discuss topics we might otherwise hide. As the A4A slogan suggests, it’s time to get our pits out. I’ll go first.

Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon

The author, Jessica, as a childIn the fifth grade, my teacher separated our class by gender and showed us a terrifying video about things that were going to happen to our bodies. We got some samples of maxi-pads and a little book about the whole process, which I put in my sock drawer and forgot. I was busy. I had important 11-year-old things to do.

One day, just as the video foretold, I noticed hair in my armpits. I hadn’t been spared. Everything in the video was going to happen to me– blood and microscopic eggs, breasts, acne, the whole package. I was scared, but excited that a grown-up thing had happened to me. I proudly showed my mother, who matched my excitement. I figured there was something people did about this, or next steps to take, but I wasn’t very concerned about it.

Later while I was playing in the yard, a grown man pointed out my underarm hair. This was the first time a man had ever expressed an opinion about my body to me. This incident, and not the appearance of the hair itself, is where I actually started to feel my transition into womanhood. It was an innocuous comment, but I felt so embarrassed I wanted to die. At eleven, I began to hate and resent my body.

It was clear that I had stood out in a socially unacceptable way. I asked my mother to help me get rid of it. She loaned me her electric razor, but even that was too shameful. The damn thing was too loud. I thought the whole neighborhood would hear me dealing with my disgusting underarm hair. I asked for disposable razors, and I shaved my underarms (and eventually my legs) for over a decade without another thought. This marker that I was becoming an adult was something I learned to dislike and conceal.

To Shave, or Not To Shave? That is Not Really a Productive Question.

I always think back to that day when I have conversations about double standards and social norms, or when someone asks me why I don’t shave my underarms. Or, especially, when other women tell me they just happen to like the look and feel of shaving. I really liked it too – because I had been taught very early to see underarm hair as disgusting and embarrassing, and because shaving conveniently protected me from criticism and ridicule. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid those things. Read more

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism 3 Comments

FFFF: Ellen Takes Down Abercrombie & Fitch

Funny Feminist Friday Film square logoAbercrombie & Fitch plus size clothing? It doesn’t exist. “Beauty isn’t between a size zero and a size eight,” says Ellen Degeneres in this takedown of Abercrombie & Fitch and other retailers who think they’re too cool to carry clothes for any woman bigger than a size 10.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, FFFF Leave a comment

Magazine: a (not) love letter

Represent Projectby Jarrah Hodge

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!

Read more about what the other judges have to say, and more about Kathleen at the REPRESENT blog.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

GF Reads: Airbrushed Nation: The Lure and Loathing of Women’s Magazines

Airbrushed Nation Cover

by Ashli Scale

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

Posted on by Ashli Scale in Feminism, Pop Culture 3 Comments