Fat people in love: Not as rare as unicorns

Hey, remember all the troglodytes over the course of your life who implied, concern trolled, or flat-out decreed that you would never find love if you’re fat? Fatshionista’s Lesley has put together the ultimate comeback: The Museum of Fat Love, “an incomplete collection of evidence proving the existence of those not-so-rare creatures: fat people in love.”

Fat people in love

Fat people in love

Like fat athletes and fat models, fat people in love are not the rare thing we’ve all been led to believe (more evidence: fat brides). I really like that the MoFL includes the stories of the people in the photos: it’s amazing what happens when you give people space to use their voices. And, you know, their heads.

Lesley is still accepting submissions from “anyone, in any variety of romantic relationship, who’d like to be included,” as well as individuals who’d like to “share themselves and their stories of self-love.”

High five a gay kid today

There’s a really wonderful article in the NYT magazine this week about queer teenagers and how cultural changes have made it safer (in many but not all areas of the US) to come out in middle school. The gist of the article is that the increased visibility of queer people in the culture at large has made it easier for kids to identify and articulate their own sexual identities, and it makes their peers more likely to accept them. Overall, despite the fact that anti-gay bullying is still widespread, many middle schools have become less like sex-and-gender torture systems and more like safe spaces. I cannot even tell you how delighted I am to hear this.

The angle I want to discuss here is not just about happy gay kids (though it cannot be repeated enough: happy gay kids! omg!), but about a word that never appears in the article but which underlies the whole thing: normativity. In this article specifically, the main cultural shift appears to be a weaking of heteronormativity. Kids these days know there are people who are not straight, and that those people aren’t doomed to lovelessness or criminality. Part of how they know this is because of pop culture, and part is this here series of tubes we’re all on. Take the case of a 12-year-old bi girl named Kera:

Kera says she was 10 when she realized she was interested in both sexes. “It was confusing for a while, because for some reason I thought that you had to be straight or gay, and that you couldn’t be both,” she told me at the coffee shop. “So I thought about it a lot, like I do about everything, and I went online and looked up bisexuality to read more about it. I realized that was me.”

This story, in its very simplicity, just about kills me, because I was Kera as a teen. My diaries from elementary school are filled with “I love so-and-so” hearts with both boys’ and girls’ names in them; my middle school days were spent furtively staring at both the widening shoulders of boys and the widening hips of girls. But I had no word for it back then, and I didn’t have Professor Google, so I just felt… well, weird. The first time I heard the word “bisexual” used in a casual way (as in, not as an insult or in a tone of disgust), it was electrifying. It was like something woke up inside of me; something in myself stood in recognition. I was 15, and a lot of my friends were dating, but I wasn’t — I was too busy having super-intense friendships with sexual tension that couldn’t be talked about because I was too busy trying to wish it away. I literally cannot imagine how different my adolescence would have been if I, like Kera, could have just looked it up and found other people like me.

The adults featured in this article are not, generally, as quick to accept this less heteronormative world as their kids are. Many of them doubt their queer children, wondering how they can possibly “know” when they’re so young, or before they’re sexually active. As the author points out, straight kids are not doubted when they have sexual or romantic feelings at the same age; many of them, in fact, are encouraged. Kera is lucky to have a mom who sees right through the fog of heteronormativity to accept what her daughter tells her:

“My first reaction to the poem [in which Kera came out], which she slipped under my bedroom door before going to hide in her room, was that she seemed really worked up about this,” her mother recalled. “But I knew I was interested in boys when I was her age, so it didn’t strike me as unusual that Kera might know she’s interested in boys and girls, put two and two together and call herself bisexual. Kids just know what those words mean a lot earlier than when I was growing up.”

You rock, Kera’s mom! Kera’s mom has passed Empathy and Cultural Diversity 101: she thinks of herself and her own experiences, compares them to her daughter’s, and acknowledges that while different, they are just variations in standard human behavior. Kera’s mom had crushes and sexual fantasies as a teenager, so she gets that Kera does, too — and she knows that if she definitely liked boys, it makes sense that her daughter would be definite about who she likes too, even if it’s different from her own desires.

Kera’s mom,* could you please adopt every queer kid in the country? Kthx!

I know this is my week for tortured analogies here, but I think that there’s something to be said for FA here, too. When we depathologize states of being that are considered abnormal, we can reveal the normative structures that propped up our pathologizing in the first place. When we accept that the categories we’re accustomed to are not best described as X and not-X (straight and not straight, thin and not-thin, etc.) but as X and Y and probably Z too, we see that X was only considered “normal” because it was important to people who are X to view it that way. When we look from a standpoint of celebrating human diversity, it seems bizarre to think of Z as abnormal or the “opposite” of X: Z is its own way of being. Thin people and straight people aren’t required to explain away their bodies and desires; they’re not asked “How do you know you’re straight?” or “Have you ever thought about trying not to be thin?” Social justice movements aren’t simply trying to flip things around and make it so that those questions do get asked of “normal” people, too; they’re trying to get rid of these demeaning, eliminationist questions in the first place.

And for some lucky kids and their cool friends and understanding teachers and awesome moms, that seems to be working.

*Or, as I probably would have called her when I was 12, Mrs Kera.

Becoming visible

Lesley at Fatshionista is posting scanned pages from her epic archive of MODE magazine, a fat fashion magazine from the late ’90s. MODE’s run corresponds almost precisely with my time in college, and my dorm had a subscription for a while (thanks to FJ, I believe). I remember almost nothing about the written content of the magazine; I assume it was on par with your standard women’s magazine, but with fewer diet tips (which is no small feat, I acknowledge). It wasn’t quite aimed at me, demographically speaking — I didn’t have the same “My people!” feeling I did the first time I read BUST, for example — but I loved reading it anyway. Because what I do remember about MODE is simple: Kate Dillon.

Kate Dillon amazed me. She was so lovely, and she was all over MODE:

On the cover:

Kate Dillon in MODE

Kate Dillon in MODE

In the fashion spreads:

In hats

In hats

And even in the ads:

In swaths

In swaths

I had never seen anyone like her in magazines: she had a rack bigger than mine, for one thing, and she had substantial thighs and upper arms and somehow she was still allowed to be in magazines because that’s how damn pretty she was. I found her completely entrancing and I had a huge crush on her and even now, ten years later, she’s all I remember about MODE.

I say this not to diss MODE — I don’t remember enough of the content to know if it would pass my feminist sniff test now — but to illustrate how much of an impact diverse media images can have on individuals. There is a line between me gaping at Kate Dillon’s hotness in MODE and me writing here. It’s not a very direct line (it has to pass through Susan Bordo and BUST and several weight changes and LJ fatshionista first!), but it’s there.

I think this may be why people are so fucking delighted when they see an image they relate to in a magazine or a movie or tv show or what have you. We are bombarded by images every day, and almost all of them portray people who look nothing like us, whether because of size, shape, race, ability, gender presentation, class markers, or just plain photoshopping. This, I imagine, is why many people seem blown away by actresses or models like Christina Hendricks, who is clearly conventionally stunning but whose hourglass figure hasn’t been (or maybe can’t be) dieted away. Most of us don’t look anything like Hendricks — but we might look more like her than like Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston or the model in the billboard across the street.

When Glamour recently ran an image of a white blonde woman in her skivvies who is conventionally beautiful in every way except for a few stretch marks and a bit of a pooch, readers fell all over themselves to thank them.  The model in the Glamour photo, Lizzi Miller, says of the reader response:

“When I read them I got teary-eyed!” she says. “I’ve been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn’t find it I would start to think there’s something wrong with the way that I looked.

Seeing Lesley’s MODE scans brought me back, momentarily, to being that girl myself: sitting on the couch in my dorm living room, flipping through magazines, and seeing Kate Dillon looking back at me, looking just a little bit more like me than anyone else I’d ever seen in a magazine.

Don’t be this boring, ever

Actual sentence appearing on cnn.com today as a caption to a photo:

Jessica Ordona (in white) disliked the fit of her jeans, so she signed up for a class she says addressed the issue.

Dear inhabitants of planet Earth: If you need a special class to make you like the fit of your jeans, YOU ARE WEARING THE WRONG JEANS.

This obviously is infuriating for all the usual FA and feminist reasons, but what’s killing me today is the sheer fucking drabness of a world where people are convinced that instead of thinking creatively about how to dress, they should pay money to sculpt their asses so they can wear the same fucking clothes as everyone else. There is a whole world of creative people out there who look awesome in clothing, and it’s not because they spend five days a week doing ass workouts. It’s because they use their fabulous minds rather than their six-pack abs to decide what to wear.

Don’t like how you look in skinny jeans? For god’s sake, wear something else. Someone profited by convincing you to put on the jeans in the first place; don’t let someone profit off the fact that they don’t fit you now that you have them.

Guest Blogger M. LeBlanc: The Fantasy of Staying Exactly As I Am (or, This Far and No Further, This Fat and No Fatter)

I’ve got a problem. And since I suspect I’m not the only one, I want to start a dialogue about this psychological artifact of Fat Hate and try to figure out what the hell we can do about it.

You see, I’m doing pretty well at accepting my body. Which is, to be sure, a fat body. I buy nice clothes that fit. Most days, I feel good about myself and the way I look. Many days, I feel downright sexy. I don’t diet, although I can’t really attribute this to fat acceptance because I’ve basically never dieted in my life. I’ve interacted with food in fucked-up ways, and tried to deprive myself of food, but always pretty much gave in by dinnertime. I have started thinking of myself as a “fat chick” in a non-pejorative way and have rid my friends/boyfriend/family of the “you’re not fat!” monkey response. I told my doctor to bug off when she prodded me about losing weight (Her: are you exercising/eating a balanced diet? Me: Yes and Yes. Look, my diet’s great. I feel great. I think I’m just fat. Her: (look of horror) I hope not! Me: (mentally) God, what a horrible thing, to just be naturally fat.)

But I still feel the instinct to diet and/or to exercise for the express purpose of losing weight. All. The. Time. Is it because I want to change the way my body looks now? Nope. It’s because although I have made peace with my fat self, I can not endure the thought of being any fatter than I am. And I think, you know, someday I’m going to get pregnant, and I’m going to age, and I’ll be even less fit than I am now, or I’ll have health problems, or I’ll have kids or a bad back or bad knees and I won’t be able to exercise. And then I’ll be fatter. Horror of horrors. I think to myself, yeah sure I look good now, when I’m young, with good skin, no wrinkles, good muscle tone, in great health. But what about in ten years?What about twenty?! The horror.

It’s an ever-changing boundary. I’m sure that if I were given a picture of my current self five years ago (when I weighed about 30 lbs less), I would have been shocked and horrified. Now, I’m cool with it. Because you know what, self-hate is a lot of work. And I don’t doubt that however I look in ten or twenty years, I’ll probably manage to be okay with it.

But still, I can’t manage to get away from the bigger-is-worse, smaller-is-better paradigm. It’s kind of hilarious, but I feel like I should lose weight now so that if I gain weight in 5 years, I’ll be back to where I am which I have decided is an “okay” place to be. The upper limit of okay. But okay.

I call it “This Fat and No Fatter.” I didn’t really put a name to the mentality until I started browsing the “women for women” section on Craigslist a few months ago and noticed a disturbing phenomenon. Unlike the m4w section, in which a lot of the posters mention a particular size of person they find acceptable (or say that they don’t care), but a huge portion of them don’t, discussions of acceptable body size are absolutely ubiquitous in the w4w section. It’s either 1) thin or “average” women looking for the same, or 2) fat chicks looking for women “my size or smaller.” These discussions are often disturbingly specific, like “no larger than size 16″ or “up to size 22″ or “under 210 lbs.” And I realized, because self-hatred is hard, women are forced to accept the bodies of other women who look like them to avoid cognitive dissonance. But any fatter? No way.

This mindset has been plaguing me since I was a kid. My dad used to advocate that I diet when I was a teenager because it would be “harder to lose it” when I was older. I don’t know whether this has any basis in fact whatsoever, but I believed it. Actually, I think I can affirmatively say that it’s total bullshit, because dieting doesn’t work, period. The only difference is that if you start dieting when you’re a teenager, you’re more likely to engage in disordered eating and have a fucked-up relationship to food for the rest of your life. But it ain’t actually gonna make you thin. I also think the approach was part of a “she’s okay now, but what if she keeps getting fatter?” mindset. Which I’m sure he’s hysterical about now but, since I told him I didn’t want to hear another word about my weight oh, about, ten years ago, I don’t have to listen to it. (To be fair, my dad lives in an environment with an even more fucked-up attitude towards fat than we have; would you believe that he, at 5’5″ and about 190 lbs, was told that he needed to lose some weight before the manager of the place would let him join the gym? That he needed to diet before he could safely exercise? Jesus.)

I can’t shake it. Even though I know, intellectually, that I’ll probably feel just fine about my body in five years or ten years, because self-hate is way more work than learning to love my body as it is, I feel, emotionally, that my future body will not be objectively okay even though my current body is objectively okay.

The power of social narratives about body image, shame, and humiliation, are incredibly strong. Because those social narratives govern how I feel about the future, while my own experience governs how I feel about the present and the past, feelings of shame dominate, and they infect the present. I feel like getting married while being fat, or being pregnant while being fat, or being a mother while being fat, or being sick while being fat, are all going to be impossibly awful and shame-filled experiences. Even though I’ve already had boyfriends while being fat, graduated from law school while being fat, tried a case before a jury while being fat, had to use crutches because I sprained my ankle while fat, performed in front of hundreds of people while being fat, interviewed for jobs while being fat, lived while being fat.

Fat acceptance isn’t just about accepting your body as it is now. It’s about accepting your future self, the one who might weigh a little more and look a little older. And she’ll be okay, too. Not just good, but great.

M. LeBlanc, if you don’t already know her, blogs at Bitch Ph.D., lawyers in Chicago, and frequently raises the level of discourse in comments here.

Beauty

I spent this weekend in rural Oregon, attending my dear friend M’s wedding. Though the weather was unusually hot for the Pacific Northwest, the setting and (outdoor) ceremony worked together so beautifully that the whole weekend felt tinged with magic. It was wonderful to celebrate my friend’s happiness in such a lovely landscape, with a running creek, pine-covered hills, and strong sunshine providing the perfect backdrop to a happy rite.

Several of us had attended a wedding in the same location three years ago; the house belongs to a friend’s parents, and they are happy to lend it to kids they’ve known for decades for a weekend of celebration. That wedding, too, was gorgeous and fun; instead of staying in hotels, many of us camped out in the field and stayed for a whole weekend, just as we did this time. M was there, and she and I especially spent a lot of time together, since Mr Machine and I were about to move to Chicago and we knew we wouldn’t see each other for months or years.

At this point you might be wondering when SP turned into my personal let’s-ramble-about-the-weekend blog. Never fear! There was a crucial difference between my experience in 2006 and my experience this weekend — and that difference was my view of beauty. Here’s the thing about my friend M: she’s gorgeous. Not just in the regular “Wow, my friends are pretty” way, but in a “Straight guys cannot be friends with me because they are too stunned by my looks” way. (Queer women somehow don’t seem to have the same problem, though I imagine we like to look at her just as much.) She’s tall and blonde and leggy and very slim, with piercing eyes and delicate features. She’s also incredibly photogenic. And the woman she married this weekend is equally stunning, though the only feature they share is their tall lean figures. Basically, in their gowns, glowing with happiness, in this lovely place, they were so pretty you could be forgiven for thinking that no one should need to get married again, because they win for Most Gorgeous Wedding In History (MGWIH). When the wedding pictures are available, I might just paper my walls with them.

In the pictures from the 2006 Oregon wedding (aka The Previous Contender for MGWIH), I am wearing a kicky black and pink striped cowl-necked dress that drapes prettily over my cleavage, and my hair is the perfect amount of wavy, and my glasses add a bit of retro nerd flair. In short, I look awesome. But you know when I realized this? Just this Friday, when looking at the 2006 photos with some of our friends who were there. When I had first seen those wedding photos, in 2006, I thought I looked terrible — lumpy and plain and, of course, fat (I was in the “fine for thee but not for me” stage of FA at the time). I was only a little bigger than I am right now, but all I could see in the pictures was my big hips and big arms hiding in that adorable dress — even though most of the time I felt pretty okay about my body. See, I was hanging out with M, and she is so beautiful that seeing myself next to her in photos was a bit like being slapped; I compared myself to her and found my looks hopelessly wanting. That wedding was beautiful and fun and I have frequently waxed nostalgic about it in the three years since, but I almost never looked at the pictures to reminisce. Why would I? They were clear evidence of how un-beautiful I was. But looking at these very same photos on Friday night, I was startled by how happy and pretty I looked; our mutual friends had even displayed a photo of me and M sitting together laughing. Seeing it framed on a mantel, I wondered how I ever thought I looked anything but wonderful that weekend.

A lot of things have changed in the last three years, but the most important change here is how I view other women’s beauty. It’s not that I used to be jealous of beautiful women, though of course I envied them some — it’s that I often felt diminished by them, as though they were so pretty just to spite me, to remind me my place in the order of things. Of course, this had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. I felt like I was passing as a pretty woman most of the time, and the presence of someone who was Certifiably Pretty revealed my true nature. Standing next to M, who is kind and generous and funny and sweet but also very very pretty, made me feel like my mask had been torn off.

Now it’s like looking with new eyes — but of course it’s really my new brain. I don’t compare myself with her; I love myself with her, because she is my friend. When I see those 2006 pictures now, I feel like I look prettier in her company; her beauty includes me now, because I look at both of us with a more generous gaze. We’re not pitted against each other in a zero-sum contest of finite beauty; we are friends in a world that is, at times, heart-rendingly beautiful.

This weekend, watching these two gorgeous women slide rings on each other’s fingers, I felt blessed too. I’ve been trained to view beauty as a rule that excludes me, a weapon that anyone could use against me: we all have. But when we try to think generously about beauty, to look for it with pleasure instead of with envy, it only expands. Beauty is not a finite quantity. It has room for you. It has room even for me.

Ex-dieters over 40: Call for stories

Shapelings over 40: My fellow VC alum Kristyn Kusek Lewis just posted the following Facebook update:

For an upcoming magazine story that I’m writing, I’m looking for women over 40 who finally learned to love their bodies when they stopped dieting, obsessing over the scale, and/or gave up an “old way” of thinking about diet and exercise. Email me if you have a story to share or know someone who does.

So of course I was like, “Dude, I know some people.” If you have a story to share, Kristyn’s e-mail is here. Also feel free to discuss in comments.

Guest Post: The Fantasy of Being White

By Mean Asian Girl

I’m a friend, neighbor and grad-school classmate of Kate’s, but while I’m a faithful reader, I’m not much of a commenter. Every once in a while, however, here is a post that resonates with me to the point that I really have to say something. This was one of them.

Me and everybody else, right? So why do I get my own special guest post — a year late, no less? For starters, read that first part again. But secondly, and more importantly, as someone who has spent a lifetime passing for thin-to-average – and I say passing because, for what it’s worth, I weigh much more than people think I do — my perspective on the issue of self-acceptance is a little different.

First, a little background: as the name indicates, I am Asian-American, specifically Korean-American, and both my parents were immigrants. I grew up in a small city in the greater Detroit area that for most of my childhood was about 70 percent white, 29 percent black, the Gonzaleses, the Yamauchis and us. The Yamauchi girls each graduated high school in three years – partly because they were smart, but I think mostly because they were not enjoying high school so much that they really needed to stick around for prom. Let’s just say that while our community was diverse, it wasn’t exactly multicultural.

I hated myself for being Asian. I hated having a weird name. I hated having parents who ate kimchi and pronounced things funny. I hated my black hair and my bowl haircut.* I, who was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, hated being asked “Where are you from?” or “What are you?” In kindergarten, I drew pictures of myself with blue eyes and blond hair.

Since self-hatred is a pretty difficult concept for a five-year-old to grasp, I boiled down all of these feelings into an intense dislike of one feature: my eyes. They were the problem. If I had different eyes, life would be better. I’d be pretty. I’d be popular. At the very least, I figured, kids on the playground would no longer be able to make fun of me by pulling their eyes into slants and pretending to spout “Chinese” gibberish. What I really meant was, if I had different eyes, kids wouldn’t be mean to me.

I was lucky. I got older, I got smarter, I got nicer friends. And unlike the Yamauchis, I had a pretty good time in high school. I got good grades. I participated in various activities I enjoyed. I had male friends – I was especially popular when it came time to study for exams – who would occasionally turn to me for a sympathetic ear about how some girl wasn’t interested in them. But I, the weird kid, the “Chinese” girl, was clearly not date material.

I graduated from high school in 1986, well before the archetype of the “hot Asian chick.” There was no Lucy Liu. There was no … well, damn. I guess even today there aren’t a lot of specific “hot Asian chicks” who capture the collective imagination. But back then it was Farrah Fawcett, Christie Brinkley and the like. Needless to say, I fell very, very far outside that ideal.

And sure, maybe it wasn’t all about race. But honestly? I think part of it was. Again, this was long before we had a biracial president. I knew very few black-white couples, let alone white-Asian or black-Asian. It was not for nothing that I had to mark “Other” for the racial-ethnic category on standardized tests.

While I was smart enough to recognize that anyone who would refuse to be my friend simply because I was Asian was a racist asshole not worthy of me, I was incapable of applying the same logic to boys I was interested in. Clearly, it wasn’t their attitudes that needed to change. I mean, we all knew Asian girls just weren’t as attractive, right? With the eyes and all?

It was around this time that I found out there was surgery to de-slant eyes. Heavenly choirs started singing, people. I’d have this surgery, and I’d be pretty. It was so simple.

But of course, it wasn’t. My “Fantasy of Being White” wasn’t exactly the same as the “Fantasy of Being Thin.” Even if I could change all of my physical features**, I would’ve had to change my name and my family members and make up an entirely new cultural background for myself. Not that that wasn’t tempting at times.

Ultimately, I started to question what my fantasy really was, and what was driving it. Did I really want to be white, or at least non-Asian? Or did I just want people to like me? Was it worth it if they liked a version of me that had been doctored significantly to meet some cultural standard of beauty?

Those of us who are fat, or use a wheelchair, or have teeth that aren’t white, or skin that isn’t either, or slanted eyes, or hair where we shouldn’t, or not enough hair where we should, or a variety of other characteristics or combinations thereof, would have to do a lot of erasing and adding and subtracting to reach some kind of beauty ideal. If we don’t, or sometimes even if we do, at some point someone in this society will tell us we’re ugly. We hear it enough and we start to believe it. That sucks, and it’s hard to overcome. Despite my own efforts, I certainly haven’t managed to do it. But self-hatred is a lot of work, too.

What I have managed to do is find friends, a husband, a career – a couple of careers, actually – and some happiness here and there “despite” having slanted eyes. I also have a daughter – she’s “Whasian,” so her eyes aren’t totally slanted – whom I hope to raise with slightly more self-esteem than I had or have.

It would be a great world if we all loved ourselves as we are. But if we don’t, or we can’t, we can at least be aware that the version of ourselves that we’re so eager to change is worth a second look.

*I am willing to embrace the various physical and cultural attributes of my ethnicity, but I draw the line at the bowl cut, which I think to some extent is some westerner’s idea of what Asian children should look like. So long as I have control over my daughter’s hair, I will have eyelid surgery before I allow her to get a bowl cut.

**Fay Weldon has a great book about a woman – not Asian, but fat, actually – who did exactly that.

They’ll kick you, then they beat you / Then they’ll tell you it’s fair

Whatever your thoughts on Michael Jackson, his fame, his music, and his troubled life, I think we can all agree that the songs from Thriller were pretty much the best thing to ever happen to music videos.

What I can’t help but think right now is that Jackson’s strange life demonstrates that it is possible to be one of the most talented, most loved people on the planet and still hate your own damn face. Embracing your body is an endless challenge in a culture that tells us certain bodies are more worthy, more valuable, more human than others.

young-michael-jackson

I would need a lot more than a Bacardi Breezer to be able to stomach this

Via Jezebel and The F-Word, a nauseating ad campaign from Bacardi (warning: link plays music and also destroys your soul) suggesting we all make ourselves feel prettier…by standing next to an “ugly girlfriend.” That concept right there tells you everything you need to know about what sexist assumptions underwrite these revolting ads: self-esteem is a zero-sum game; the key to feeling good is feeling pretty; you are always in competition with other women for male attention; standard beauty is the only way to be “hot;” women are commodities that you can “get” and trade; and so on. You know the drill; we’ve all been living it all our lives.

What the concept alone doesn’t tell you is what makes these particular women “ugly,” which is, as you can guess, that they each deviate from the beauty ideal in one or two ways. Remember, the following women are supposed to be self-evidently ugly.

Sally's so fat, she's...fat!

Sally's so fat, she's...fat!

The gorgeous hair can't distract you from her very slightly crossed eyes!

The gorgeous hair can't distract you from her very slightly crossed eyes!

My god, the woman wears GLASSES! I may faint.

My god, the woman wears GLASSES! I may faint.

Sure, she's thin and white and bikini-clad, but she looks like a horse, see?

Sure, she's thin and white and bikini-clad, but she limps, for god's sake.

So hideous, she doesn't even get a name.

WOC don't need names or background stories like those white women, right?

This is how the patriarchy and the beauty ideal collude: we are supposed to see these women and be so stunned that they aren’t thin, white, blonde, able-bodied, and perfectly symmetrical that we can only call them ugly. We’re supposed to look at these pictures and say “At least I’m prettier than her.” We’re supposed to view our female friends as accessories in our true life goal, which is to look hot for men. There are hot women, and there are ugly women, and if you’re not the hottest woman in the room, you’re automatically the ugliest.

The appalling part of these ads is not the women; it’s the blatant misogyny. Once you take off your Patriarchy Blinders (patent pending), the charge of “ugly” doesn’t even begin to make sense. If you saw these pictures without any text surrounding them, what would you think of these women? Even with the pernicious text framing them as objects of derision, this ad doesn’t work on me: these women are straight-up pretty. Pretty, stylish, and flirty even. I guess they have some of that self-esteem that’s been going around lately.

Update: Sean-Patrick Hillman of bacardi.com comments below:

June 21, 2009

Thank you for taking the time to post your story regarding Bacardi Breezer.

The campaign you are referring to ran in 2008 for two months in Israel. Even though Bacardi Breezer is not sold or distributed in the United States, we immediately notified the appropriate Bacardi affiliate and had this website shut down.

Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.