WTF of the day: Fling candy bars

Andy Wright at Mother Jones nails everything wrong with Mars’s new candy bars for the lady market so perfectly, I can’t even add anything. I can only quote:

Predictably, one of the hot selling points for the Fling bar is that “at under 85 calories per finger, it’s slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice.” In other words, the candy perfectly straddles the contradictions of the angel/whore dilemma in a way its intended female consumers never will…. The PR packages that went out to media outlets contained sheer T-shirts that read “Try It In Public,” equating the act of women consuming sweets in front of other people with being as taboo as committing sex acts in front of them. 

Seriously, read the whole thing. Then come back here and scream.

Quick hit: Bodybuilding and body-shaming

After the comment thread to a fascinating post at Feministe about female bodybuilders blew up into a melee of “I don’t think these women are fuckable therefore I refuse to engage in intelligent discussion” nonsense, Roy at No Cookies for Me posts a great followup about why body-shaming is antifeminist no matter what kind of bodies you’re targeting.

When you start talking about women’s bodies with terms like “disgusting” “grotesquerie” “disfiguring” or disturbing”, you’re engaging in exactly the kind of body shaming that a lot of us have been fighting against. So, thanks for that. A woman who can bench 450 lbs without breaking a sweat is no less deserving of respect than a woman who weighs 450 lbs. It’s one thing to question the social forces that lead us to view our bodies in various ways. It’s quite another to look at pictures of particular women and proclaim them gross.

If you can’t talk about about the ways that our society idealizes unrealistic body types without calling another woman “gross” or “disgusting”, then you’re doing it wrong, and you should take a minute to figure out why.

Right on, Roy. The kneejerk reaction of “I wouldn’t hit that” to a picture of a woman who doesn’t conform to the Western beauty ideal is antifeminist because it rests on the assumption that women’s bodies are only valuable insofar as they conform to that ideal. Just as some readers (and scientists) out there are shocked, SHOCKED!, that fat women have sex even though that particular reader doesn’t get a hard-on from looking at them, no doubt these bodybuilding women have just as varied, interesting, and intense sex as the rest of us. But even if they don’t? That’s not the fucking point. They are doing something with their bodies other than looking pretty — and if that disgusts you, the problem is with you.

In search of body positivity on cable TV

So I haven’t had cable TV in several years — I do most of my TV watching via Netflix (and am thus perpetually behind by a seaons), and this has been okay with me because I have always really liked TV, and thus am prone to watch more of it than is good for my personal habits. Recently, I spent two weeks at my parents’ house, helping out as my stepfather recovered from surgery (a complicated event, because my mother is profoundly disabled due to Parkinson’s disease), and let me tell you, Shapelings, I watched a lot of damn TV. It’s a stress-coping mechanism, and it let me imaginatively escape from the sadness of dealing with my parents’ aging and ailing. When life is tough, the Dog Whisperer can really come through, is what I’m saying.

What I had forgotten in my years-long hiatus from cable TV is just how many messages about being thin you get in any given hour. It’s a constant drumbeat of forced femininity and snake oil, and I’ve forgotten how hard you need to work to tune it out. Here’s some of what my very unfocused brain remembers almost a week after turning off the TV set:

The appalling:

(Promos for) Half-Ton Dad and Half-Ton Mom

(Promos for) Ruby

Countless commercials for local weight loss clinics

Countless commercials for Weight Watchers and its ilk

Commercials for a new weight loss drug that started by saying that if you’ve tried to lose weight the usual way and you can’t, it’s not your fault! (Hey, what do you know!) All you need to do is ask your doctor about this amazing new pill! (Boo!)

The middling:

Oprah commercial: upcoming show talks about different beauty standards across the world. Incredulous announcer voice says “Find out where stretch marks and big butts are considered beautiful!” Cut to Oprah singing “There’s a place for us” to the audience.

Constant representation of very thin bodies

The good:

What Not to Wear

Now, I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about WNTW and its methods. And it’s on TLC, the very home of “Half-Ton Mom” and “Dad” above. But I’ll tell you, out of two weeks of floating in a sea of cable shows and commercials, the only moments of unabashed body positivity I saw were on WNTW. One moment in particular stands out: the episode featured a very beautiful young woman who had started wearing baggy sweatshirts and jeans all the time after gaining some weight. If you watch the show, you’re familiar with the segment where Stacy and Clinton show sample outfits and the “rules” a contestant should follow. They asked this woman (I think her name was Kandiss) what she thought of the first outfit, and she replied that it looked “slimming.” (At this point, you should imagine me sitting up straight on my couch to see how they handle this interaction.) Stacy turned to the woman and said (and I’m quoting from memory so this may not be quite verbatim), “You need to stop thinking about clothes only in terms of whether they make you look thin. Slimming is not the point — making you feel fabulous is the point! Your body is perfect.”

That last sentence is verbatim, actually: after all the body-negative nonsense that had been washing over my ears from the rest of my channel-surfing week, those words made me cry. Your body is perfect. Kandiss’s first reaction was to roll her eyes, but later in the episode she clearly saw herself as a sexy, attractive, perfect woman. It was such a beautiful moment in a sea of crap, and it reminded me of the uphill cultural battle we face. It’s easy to hate your body, fat or thin or in between: everything in our culture tells you to, constantly. It’s not easy psychologically, of course — but it’s less work. You get to fight yourself only, instead of a whole misogynist, fatphobic culture.

But every now and then, you get a glimpse of what our culture would look like if we all fought back, if we didn’t subscribe to this ridiculous fear- and shame-mongering. Your body is perfect. Pass it on.

Forty years of wankitude

Shapeling Ellen writes in:

Last night I ran across a picture of the 1965 Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. I was so surprised by the difference between then and now in terms of what is considered “ideal” that I created a side-by-side comparison of 1965 vs. 2008.

[Click here for larger version.]

I’ve never understood the hoopla over the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue — or rather, I’ve always been amazed at how incredibly mundane the whole idea is: let’s take a magazine that is, for most of the year, about sports, and for one magical week, we’ll just put softcore porn in it instead. It’s not quite like the infamously pornalicious Victoria’s Secret or Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, which do more blatantly what most advertising does, which is to buy your attention with half-naked bodies. Sports Illustrated does the same thing, but without the premise of selling you something (though I have no doubt that it makes a mint from the ads in the swimsuit issues). This issue comes out every year, and we all know what it’s going to contain — mostly naked women on beaches, in poses that perform “sexiness” in comically predictable ways. It’s a big wankfest, is what I’m saying, and it’s a boring wankfest at that.

Which is why the graphic Ellen made is so illustrative. What is considered blandly inoffensive wank material in 1965 versus 2008? There are some very obvious similarities between the two women: both are white, (dyed) blonde, and thin; both look directly at the viewer in an inviting, not hostile manner; both are showed from the front, emphasizing their hourglass figures. So: thin white blonde hourglass women who want you to look right at them, who invite your gaze. They’re on the beach to be looked at; neither has so much as a single damp lock of hair. Many aspects of the ideal wank stay the same in these two images.

However, there are striking differences. For one thing, the actual amount of swimsuit featured in this swimsuit issue is drastically different. In 1965, the swimsuit is actually kind of an interesting design (a bit Jetsons-y, don’t you think?) and covers most of the model’s torso, and it’s the only thing she’s wearing; in 2008, we see only the bottom of a bikini, and the model’s nipples are covered by beaded necklaces which would be incredibly impractical on the beach (she’s also wearing a pendant in there somewhere). This contrast — between a woman who might conceivably be swimming at some point, and a woman who could not possibly swim without strangling on her own tacky accessories — is heightened by the backdrop: the 1965 photo looks like it might actually be taken on a beach, given that we see the shoreline at a middle distance behind the model. In 2008, by contrast, the model appears to be floating on water, Christlike. In other words, she may be wearing a swimsuit, but this cover photo doesn’t even attempt to create the illusion that she’s wearing it for any reason but to please you, the theoretical male viewer. The way I see it, this contrast in framing — “oh hey, there happens to be a pretty lady on this beach” versus “HELLO SAILOR” — also extends to what is probably the most glaring difference between these two otherwise rather similar models: the way their “ideal” figures are displayed. The 1965 model smiles her apple-cheeked smile, while the 2008 model does the “my lips are open because I am ready to blow you any second now” Sexy Face that’s now standard posing fare. The 1965 model has only a little cleavage, and she has visible chub at her underarms, hips, and thighs that would be ruthlessly photoshopped out today. Even with no bikini top, the 2008 model’s breasts are perkier than her 1965 counterpart’s; her pose is chosen to emphasize her rack and her hips; and any hint of fat, wrinkles, hair, or any other sign of humanity have been digitally removed. The 1965 cover looks like a very conventionally attractive woman you might see on a beach; the 2008 version looks like a standard issue item from the Wank Factory.*

This comparison is a great example of how beauty standards that start out extremely narrow (white, thin, blonde, hairless, a certain kind of curvy) have become narrower over the last few decades. The 1965 model looks, well, kind of chubby compared to the images of “ideal” women we are used to seeing now. No doubt if they put her clone on the cover today, we would be subject to hand-wringing editorials about obesity and bad examples as straight men pile up on the fainting couch.

It’s instructive to look at this kind of image not because there was a golden era of wank fodder which was somehow okay and empowering;** there clearly wasn’t, and the swimsuit issue is a grossly overcelebrated tradition of straight-up objectification. But in a visual culture that depends on the assumption that women’s bodies are available for men’s pleasure at all times, it’s striking to see the continuities and changes in the images that work to explicitly reinforce that assumption. Vanishingly few women look like the model in the 1965 cover; no one looks like the woman in the 2008 cover, including the model herself.

*non-union

**Further reading: Joan Acocella’s review of a coffeetable book of Playboy centerfolds over the years. Sample quote: Six hundred and thirteen women are represented, but there is one basic model. On top is the face of Shirley Temple; below is the body of Jayne Mansfield. Playboy was launched in 1953, and this female image managed to draw, simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have since come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment. We are now accustomed to seeing the two tendencies combined—witness Britney Spears—but when Hefner was a young man they still seemed like opposites. Also, I can’t resist including this part: At the same time, many of these nice little girls are fantastically large-breasted. Strange to say, this top-loading often makes them appear more childlike. The breasts are smooth and round and pink; they look like balloons or beach balls. The girl seems delighted to have them, as if they had just been delivered by Santa Claus.

In Which I Muse on Mamma Mia! and Maybe Build to a Point

After I saw Mamma Mia! on stage almost four years ago, people would ask me how it was, and my answer was pretty simple: If you love silly musicals and ABBA, you’ll love it. If you don’t love one or both of those things, you’ll want to rip your own ears off. This is the kind of information I would file under, “Duh. Big duh.” And yet, I’ve read several reviews of the movie version that begin with the reviewer confessing that he or she is not really a fan of ABBA, musicals, or both — then talking about just how much they hated the movie, as if this came as a shock. Really? At least Roger Ebert (who didn’t even like the stage version) acknowledges that his personal distaste for the movie’s central hook diminishes the importance of his opinion to its target market:

[T]here are the wall-to-wall songs by ABBA, if you like that sort of thing. I don’t, not much, with a few exceptions.

But here’s the fact of the matter. This movie wasn’t made for me. It was made for the people who will love it, of which there may be a multitude. The stage musical has sold 30 million tickets, and I feel like the grouch at the party. So let me make that clear and proceed with my minority opinion.

And that right there is one of the many reasons why I love Roger Ebert. He at least gets that he doesn’t get it. (Though for Pete’s sake, he then goes on to bitch about the plot being thin. Once again, this is a MUSICAL based on ABBA SONGS. Are you kidding me?) Contrast this with Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, who says:

The brassy, bawdy musical “Mamma Mia!” presents itself as a piece of clever counter-programming to this summer’s surfeit of pounding, effects-driven comic-book movies… But filmgoers eager to sample its sunny, synth-pop pleasures are likely to feel just as bludgeoned: in this case by an Abba-bomb wrapped in a huge turquoise-colored feather boa.

Honey, those eager filmgoers are eager precisely because we want to be bludgeoned by an ABBA-bomb. Er… something like that. That’s the fucking point. If you like spangled polyester costumes and infectious ’70s pop and middle-aged women cracking themselves up every ten seconds, a turquoise-boa-wrapped ABBA-bomb doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all. And if you don’t like that stuff, what the hell are you doing at Mamma Mia!? (I mean, besides getting paid to write a review.)

That’s not to say the movie is perfect even if you do love that shit, which I totally do. If half the fun of the stage version for you is its very stageyness, be aware that like 75% of that is gone. (Some of that’s to be expected, obvy, but I’ve certainly seen movie musicals that retain a lot more of that feel.) There’s not nearly enough dancing in it for my tastes, in part because a lot of the musical numbers involve an obsessive focus on the singer, instead of shots big enough to contain the frothy group energy that makes me love musicals. And the only major actor with a typical Broadway voice is Christine Baranski — the others’ voices range from adequate (Pierce Brosnan) to lovely (Meryl Streep, Julie Walters), but they don’t sound particularly ABBAish or Broadwayish here, which cuts the fun somewhat. Also, this means Baranski often ends up sounding like that one lady in church who belts the shit out of hymns from the back row because her domestic suburban lifestyle affords her no other opportunity to show off her pipes — great voice, but it calls way too much attention to itself. On the other hand, when Baranski gets a solo, it is 100% awesome. “Does Your Mother Know?” would be worth the price of admission even if the rest of the movie completely sucked, and that number had me really wishing they’d cast the whole thing with musical theater stars instead of movie stars. (Yeah, I know, there’s overlap there, but seriously, see the movie and tell me Baranski doesn’t scream “BROADWAY DIVA!” while everyone else is screaming, “HI, I’M A FILM ACTOR WHO CAN SING TO SOME DEGREE!”)

Still, the rest of the movie doesn’t completely suck, if you like that sort of thing. No, scratch that — if you love that sort of thing. Al likes both ABBA and musicals all right, but he doesn’t love them like I do, so he went into it with some trepidation (Me: “Where do you want to sit?” Al: “In the theater where The Dark Knight is playing”), and walked out of it demanding that I buy him a drink and quit bitching about having to sit through Crank two years ago. (Never. I will never stop bitching about that.) So if you have any doubts about whether this is your kind of movie, it’s probably not. But I enjoyed it.

And now, I shall attempt to make this post something appropriate to a body acceptance blog, instead of just me rambling about a movie ’cause that’s all I felt like rambling about today. As I said somewhere in comments recently, one of the main reasons I wanted to see Mamma Mia! right away was to support the rare film written, directed, produced by, and starring women — women over 50, at that. And the whole thing surely does have a gallopingly feminine sensibility. This is not just a movie for girls; it’s a movie for girly girls. (I love watching women squeal with delight over each other’s company for like 30 seconds at a time, but I know plenty of other women who wouldn’t, to say nothing of Al.)

Furthermore, it’s a movie that celebrates older girly-girls in a way that invites younger ones — and men — to the party, but never makes it about them. I read somewhere (possibly in comments here) that Meryl Streep said her twentysomething children will be utterly mortified by her performance in Mamma Mia!, and I can totally see that. It’s not just the singing and dancing — she acquits herself perfectly well on both counts — but that the plot (such as it is) hangs on her really, really not acting her age. If it were my own mom up there, I might feel differently, and the movie does occasionally veer a little too much into Red Hat territory for my tastes (i.e., too much self-conscious “Look at us being ZANY! Isn’t it a SCREAM?” action). But mostly, it’s totally believable that once her besties and old boyfriends show up, Streep’s character instinctively starts acting like she’s in her twenties again. That’s kinda what you do. (I end up with a massive hangover after I get together with a certain one of my friends from grad school, every fucking time, and we’re already way too old for it. But somehow, I don’t think that’ll be any different when we’re 50.)

And that’s exactly what’s so charming — and transgressive — about the movie. A bunch of fiftysomething women dance around in disco-era costumes, and it’s meant to look like a good time, not a pathetic joke. There’s not a fat actress in the bunch, of course — or an actress of color, which I forgot to note when I first posted — but still, this is not how we’re used to seeing older female bodies on screen. They’re not desexualized, for one thing — but they’re also not played too far the other way, to the point where the audience is meant to laugh at the old girl thinking she’s still got it. These old(ish) girls do still got it, as a matter of fact. Part of what makes “Does Your Mother Know?” such an awesome number is that Baranski hits the perfect balance between, “Why, yes, of course, a virile young man is hot for me” and “Oh, please, honey, I’m old enough to be your mother.” There’s neither self-deprecation nor self-delusion to it, which is a pretty amazing thread running through the whole movie, actually. Streep and Walters remark on Baranski’s plastic surgery and expensive moisturizer (now with more donkey testicles), but they don’t dwell on being less painstakingly preserved themselves, apologize for looking their ages, or try to tear her down for all the artificial assistance — nor does she suggest they should be doing anything else. They all just are what they are, and they’re cool with it.

Of course, Walters’s big man-chasing number (“Take a Chance on Me”) is played for laughs — she’s the frumpiest of the three and least happy about being single — but the important thing (in context) is, she gets the dude. No matter how baggy her costumes or pushy her character, the message still gets through that any man who would pass on Julie Walters is a stone cold idiot. That’s a message I can get behind. And as for Streep, she gets to make out with Pierce Brosnan. ‘Nuff said.

So okay, let’s talk about Pierce Brosnan — and Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard. It is, frankly, weird to see these three men in supporting roles, while the women completely and utterly take center stage. Though they’re playing Streep’s old boyfriends, these are categorically girlfriend roles; the guys exist mainly to look nice, drive the plot forward as necessary, and sometimes take their shirts off. How fucking rare is that? Although I was thoroughly sick of the phrase “male gaze” by the end of just one feminist film theory class, I must say, I can’t think of another movie I’ve seen that so unabashedly employs the female gaze. Not just because there’s lots of eye candy for straight chicks, but because even male viewers are truly expected to identify with the female characters and see everything through a woman’s eyes. Meaning both that there’s no male hero and that in a movie set on a Greek island, there are no lingering shots of hot young girls in bikinis. Amanda Seyfried is plenty gorgeous in a fairly demure one-piece, but the point is not to be turned on by her, even if you are. Granted, most of the time she’s in a bathing suit, she’s hanging out with men who are old enough to be (and indeed might be) her father, but I can’t help suspecting a male director would have glossed over that pesky little fact and put her in a more revealing suit anyway — ’cause, you know, why waste that body? Meanwhile, when Baranski rocks a somewhat less demure, blazing red one-piece, we are supposed to think she’s hot — but in a way that encourages the viewer to think, “Hey, maybe I’m that hot, too!” not “Yeah, I’d hit that.”

For my money, the female gaze is exactly what throws so many male reviewers about Mamma Mia! The movie, as Ebert noted, wasn’t made for them. It’s not just that the poor widdle straight men are forced to watch a bunch of chicks doing chick stuff to an ABBA soundtrack, it’s that they’re supposed to identify with chicks doing chick stuff. They’re supposed to share in the joy when they hear old girlfriends squealing together, imagine themselves on stage rocking “Super Trouper” in sparkly polyester, and fantasize about what they might do with a shirtless Pierce Brosnan. They’re supposed to put themselves in the metallic boots — and behind the eyes — of a bunch of women, taking the same sort of gender-swapping imaginative leap women are expected to make, oh, only about EVERY GODDAMNED TIME WE GO TO THE MOVIES. Seriously, other movies I have seen this summer: Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Wanted, The Dark Knight. If I tried to identify with the female characters instead of the male heroes in those movies, I’d have been bored right out of my fucking skull. Likewise, the man who watches Mamma Mia! and attempts to envision Pierce Brosnan as someone he wants to be, not someone he wants to bang, is pretty much screwed (so to speak). To enjoy it, you’ve got to want to be Meryl Streep. And men are really not used to being put in that position at the movies because, you know, THEY NEVER ARE.

So, to sum up… It’s nowhere near as electrifying as the stage production, which I highly recommend. But considering a ticket to the movie is a hundred-odd bucks cheaper, I can’t complain too much about that — and the movie has tons of other things to recommend it, including some fucking awesome images of fiftysomething women inhabiting and enjoying their bodies instead of hiding and apologizing for them. I might go see it again just to boggle at that rarity once more.

But, you know, if you don’t love ABBA and musicals, you’ll want to rip your own ears off. That caveat still applies.

Guest Blogger LilahCello: Yes, I’ve got facial hair

I was delighted when LilahCello offered to write up her experiences with facial hair as a guest post. I know this is a topic that hits close to home for many Shapelings; we’ve talked about the politics of head hair here before, but facial hair is a subject that occasionally arises in comments and always spurs a lot of interest. Like LilahCello, I’ve had facial hair since I was a teenager — first on my upper lip, then on my chin — and have spent an inordinate amount of energy on trying to hide that fact. Like fat, facial hair is a reminder that “femininity” is not an inevitable consequence of having a female body; instead, it takes a lot of work — and often, a lot of shame.

My (online) name is LilahCello. I am 33 years old, have been married for 12 years, have 2 children, home school the older one, go to school (training to be a philosopher/ethicist), am fat, have rosacea, have facial hair, have a dog, recently lost his brother, love sunsets and the mountains, and so much more. So, that’s about it. Oh, you saw that? That teensy tiny, little admission? The one thing that I still have trouble talking about, even though I can deconstruct any misogynistic television ads, call myself fat publicly, discuss male circumcision (my field of ethical study) in graphic detail, or explain trans issues to my eight year old? Yes, I have facial hair. I do not have PCOS, I have little body hair elsewhere (although I have thick, thick hair on my head and cute hair on my toes), and I have chin hairs. A goatee, of sorts. And I am embarrassed as all hell about it. I don’t even talk about it with my very kind, loving partner of 14 years who has watched me give birth. He has literally watched my body open itself to let our sons enter this world, and I can’t talk to him about some hair on my chin?

It didn’t happen overnight. When I was a teenager, I had a couple of long, stray hairs on my cheeks. No big deal, right? Clip ‘em off and they were not thought of until I noticed them again. Then, one day, I had more hair, this time on my chin. I don’t remember the exact moment that it happened, nor do I remember much of a build-up. I just know that one day, I suddenly had hair where I hadn’t had it before. I mentioned it to a nurse practitioner during an annual exam once and said that I had to shave it off. “Oh! Don’t do that!” No? Don’t get rid of dark hair on my chin the only way I know how? Cutting it with shears was too difficult and didn’t produce the desired degree of invisibleness. I am too chicken-shit (and embarrassed) to get it waxed, and have not had the money to get it lasered off. Besides, I have heard from friends who wax that you have to let it grow out in order for the wax to adhere. No thanks! So now I shave everyday, or at least every other day, if I happen to forget (then notice it at an inconvenient time). I do it on the sly, which is no easy task in a house that is freely naked, co-showering/bathrooming, etc. I know that I will be coming into a little money when my financial aid comes in, and my plan is to go in and have this arch-nemesis laser-ly removed FOREVER! (Let’s hope that I can afford that when the time comes!) But what do I tell my husband when I go? I have a nursing baby, so I can’t be gone for long. I am guessing that there will be some sort of discomfort and redness afterward, so I can’t deny it. I think that my best bet will be to tell him after I have made the appointment.

This is the person with whom I have chosen to spend the rest of my life. I have children with him, we are equal partners in this life, and I can’t tell him this one little thing. I have talked about it with two other people. One friend who has PCOS and is studying to be a doctor, the other is a very open, unashamed woman (who had grabbed and plucked hairs from my face). Other than that, I deal with it in private. Why do we do this? Why are we so ashamed of something that A. we have no control over, and B. is a totally normal place to grow hair?

Because we are women. Women aren’t supposed to have hair on their faces (or their feet or their bellies or their nipples and so on), though many of us do. Some of us assume it is because of our heritage. All of my Italian grandmas and aunts had moustaches. I have a little bit of dark-ish hair over my lip, but not as much as on my chin. Not yet, at least. As you may remember from earlier in my post, I once had no hair on my chin. Women are supposed to be small (FAIL), quiet (FAIL), hairless (FAIL), pretty (possible FAIL), and reserved (FAIL). (Those are fails on my part. I am a loud, proud, fat, average looking, hairy-chinned woman.) Women ought to be dainty and demure, and that sure as hell doesn’t include having facial hair.

So what do we do about this? Bitch magazine had an article about this in their Spring, 2005 Masculinity issue. What struck me about the article was that women were embracing their facial hair. This is absolutely foreign to me. ME! The woman who hates gender constructs (though I willingly, and I’m sure, unwillingly, play into those constructs) was blown away. The same woman who tells her long-haired son, who is often mistaken for a girl, “So what?! Nothing wrong with being a girl or looking like one!” If I had a daughter, I would tell her the same thing if she “looked like a boy.” But I, a woman with facial hair, do everything in my power to pretend that it isn’t an issue.

Having side-tracked the Stop Her Before She Diets Again! thread to talk about this, I found out that many of you struggle with the same problem, and like me, find it very, very difficult to talk about. So, Shapelings, what is your experience with this elephant in the room –- or on our faces, to be more specific? Do you embrace and flaunt it, or do you pretend that it doesn’t exist while you secretly pluck, shave, or thread it away? How do you deal with people who notice? Do they comment on it? What methods of hair removal have you tried? And, more importantly to this Shapeling –- did it work and did it hurt [the most important question to this scaredy-cat (who has had two children with no drugs, one at home, and one preemie in the hospital, so why should she worry about a few plucky pangs — but — she — does!?!)]? I want to know how others feel, and want others to know that they are not alone or abnormal –- something I believed for years.