Photoshop’s greatest hits

It’s nothing most of our readers haven’t seen before, but Newsweek has a refresher course on the “biggest airbrushing scandals” of the 2000s. Consider it a visual illustration of the impossibly narrow standards of beauty that we’ve been talking about this week (and note especially how the women of color involved have had their skin lightened to fit that epically narrow ideal).

ETA: For shame, Newsweek! Looks like you got the “inspiration” for this piece — along with many of the examples — from our friends at Jezebel. Thank heavens for the mainstream media, doing all that original reporting, am I right?

Friday fluff: Tiny crafts

As those of you on Ravelry know, I’m kind of an obsessive knitter. I mostly do scarves, hats, and sweaters, but lately I’ve been charmed by the idea of making really small items that only take a few hours to do. Just this past week I’ve been making washcloths (shapes like stars and fish and other cute things) and kitty toys (filled with catnip — I cannot even sew them shut before my cats try to steal them away).

I think one reason this kind of tiny project appeals to me is that my attention span is completely shot right now due to grief and winter-induced depression. Crafting makes me feel better, but I can really only do an hour or so at a time before my brain starts going in spirals or I need to do something else.

Do you have tiny projects for the times when you don’t have a whole scarf/painting/letter in you? What small activity lifts you up for a few minutes at a time? What do you do with your itty bitty bouts of creativity?

Bonus: a great poem about a tiny painting.

Links: Golden Globes backlash, or This one goes out to the ladies

Those of you who hopped on our Golden Globe live-blogging adventure on Sunday (which was way, way more fun than I expected — GIVE YOURSELVES A HAND) might be interested in the following posts on Jezebel about (sadly predictable) sexist reactions to various women at the show:

James Cameron & Kathryn Bigelow Used To Be Married — Get Over It

‘You Don’t Put A Big Girl In A Big Dress’: Dissing Christina Hendricks

And, my personal favorite: Paper Devotes 363 Word Article To Mo’Nique’s Leg Hair

Basically these are all iterations of a theme: woman dares to look “different” (i.e., boobs, leg hair) and/or succeed artistically, must be put in her place. Well played, media journalists. What daring provocateurs you are.

In which I am defeated by a billboard

I hate this ad.

Doesn't this make you want to... buy a dress?

I stood waiting for a bus the other day while another bus idled in front of me. It had this ad on the side, bigger than life. I stared at this passive, anonymous woman, done up all ’80s-retro so you can pretend she’s not even in the present, much less someone with thoughts and desires that might conflict with your own.

There are a lot of reasons to hate American Apparel. So, so many (NSFW on all those links). But for some reason, seeing this image around town — even though the woman in it is more clothed than many others in AA ads — makes me especially sad and especially angry. To me, this looks different from the usual despicable American Apparel visual language for women’s clothing, which is of amateur porn; this looks like a woman impersonating a blow-up doll. She’s ready for you (and by you, of course, I mean Manly Straight Man You, not Woman Who Might Want to Buy a Pencil Dress You) to climb right on top of her and yank that ponytail to kingdom come. And you don’t even have to look her in her stupid eyes — they’re conveniently covered up to disguise any trace of personality!

Women are represented as sexual objects so frequently in our culture that it often barely registers for me; I walk past ads with tits and ass galore and just go “hmmph” as I go about my business. But every now and then, some image wakes me up temporarily to just how fucking disposable women are in ads, in songs, in films, in books. I take off my “just make it through your day blinkers” and look around me in horror. I don’t know why image in particular jolted me any more than another — it might have just been the amount of time I had to look at it — but I can say unequivocally that seeing this image in public made me feel unsafe. There’s no other way to put it.

This ad, like so many others, has a message: women are here for your sexual amusement. Stare at them. Talk to them. Touch them. They’re just waiting for you to do it; they put their hair up so you can grab it. They wear heels so you can ogle their legs. They’ll do whatever you want, and you don’t even have to look them in the eyes.

Links: Ladies We Love

Kate writes a mash note to Gabourey Sidibe of Precious, who could not be any more fabulous if she was abducted by aliens from the Fabulous Nebula.

Long-time SP hero Lesley from Fatshionista is the star of today’s Boston Globe! Congratulations, Lesley, on your continued march toward world domination and a more fatshionable world. We adore you!

Just a reminder

The beauty ideal is socially constructed and changes over time.

In 1912, Miss Elsie Scheel of Brooklyn, New York, was deemed the “most nearly perfect specimen of womanhood” among Cornell’s four hundred coeds. Scheel was twenty-four years old, stood five feet seven inches tall, weighed in at a healthy 171 pounds (her favorite food was beefsteak), and possessed a decidedly pear-shaped figure (it measured 35-30-40). Nevertheless, Cornell’s medical examiner […] judged her “the perfect girl,” having “not a single defect” in her physical makeup.

–Lynn Peril, College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Coeds, Then and Now, p. 256*

Miss Elsie Scheel’s BMI would have been 26.8, placing her squarely in today’s dreaded “overweight” category. At Banana Republic, to pick a random contemporary store, she would wear a size 8 top, a 12/14 bottom, and probably a 12 dress with the bust taken in. And she was the “most nearly perfect specimen of womanhood” among 400 young, mostly white women in 1912.

Peril writes that the NYT was citing fashion experts in 1923 — just 12 years later, but in the post-WWI flapper era — who said a 5’7″ inch woman (presumably also white) should weigh 110 pounds and measure 34-22-34. (Also, “The ankle should measure 8 inches” [p. 256]). The NYT did not consult the student body or the medical examiner of Cornell, current or emeritus; one wonders what this group would have made of a 60-pound reduction in specimens of “perfect womanhood.”

*This book merits the Sweet Machine Seal of Snarky Feminist Approval

Items… Of … Interest!

Please read the post title in a Futurama announcer voice.

Welcome to 2010, Shapelings! Have some links.

Kate takes on the “no fatties” dating site controversy at Broadsheet.

Jezebel’s Jenna discusses V Magazine’s latest plus size fashion shoot, which features back fat and belly rolls! For reals!

Lauredhel talks full body scanners, disability, and privacy at FWD.

Latoya inaugurates “Moff’s Law” at Racialicious, and we are totally copying her on that. It starts so deliciously and just gets better:

Of all the varieties of irritating comment out there, the absolute most annoying has to be “Why can’t you just watch the movie for what it is??? Why can’t you just enjoy it? Why do you have to analyze it???”

If you have posted such a comment, or if you are about to post such a comment, here or anywhere else, let me just advise you: Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut your goddamn fucking mouth. SHUT. UP.

Read the whole thing.

Notes toward an elegy: In praise of food

First rule of nutrition: eat or die.

Second rule of nutrition: there are no other rules.

My mother died two weeks ago. She had been deeply ill — dying for so long, so slowly. What we knew would one day happen did: she lost the ability to eat. She had a stroke that made it difficult for her to swallow, to make all those muscles in the mouth and throat cooperate; eating made her so tired — it took so much work — that she would fall asleep after half a cup of yogurt or ice cream. Her body would then work so hard to digest that tiny amount of food that she’d run a fever, every resource she had working at doing what we all try to do every day: eat enough to live. She had food available; she had trained medical help; it was just that her body faced that rule, eat or die, and made a different choice than it had before.

What food she could eat, for those few moments of wakefulness, clearly gave her pleasure. Her diet in her last weeks was ice cream, yogurt, pie filling, milkshakes — anything smooth enough to swallow easily and sugary enough to make it fun. She liked the sweet tastes on her tongue. The food she ate wasn’t to stay alive but rather to provide bodily pleasure as she slipped away. Food, like the liquid morphine she took several times a day, gave her relief from the work of dying. Eat, or die.

My mom was one of the few people in my life who never made me feel ashamed to like food. She taught me and my brothers how to bake cookies and always let us lick the bowl and wooden spoon afterwards. When I was 12 and had my tonsils out, she put me on the aforementioned ice-cream-and-milkshake regimen and read Nancy Drew books to me when I was too tired to read them myself. She knew that food was something that made us live and gave us joy: we eat, and we die, so eat well.

She was a good mother; she loved me — she loved the actual, living world — unconditionally. There are no other rules.

The Embiggening

My first post here was about a radical bodily change I was undergoing (drastic weight loss due to an undiagnosed medical condition) and how it made me think about myself, my body, and my visibility as a woman. I shrank, quickly and unintentionally, and the experience reaffirmed my commitment to FA, because people praised me so lavishly for something that was both not under my control and actually a symptom of, well, misery. I was constantly reminded of the strange world of thin privilege: my clothes no longer fit, which was dispiriting and embarrassing — but when I walked into a store I could just buy a skirt, right off the rack, just like that! (That first skirt, I’m telling you, I am still amazed over two years later.) My body felt different in certain ways (chairs felt different; I got cold more easily) but not in others (my rack still got in the way of everything; I still had the same proportions, only narrower). I had crossed the line of cultural acceptability (as I had before in my life, but without the perspective of feminist theory and FA); I was through the looking-glass, almost literally.

Now I’m back on the other side. For the last year, a change in medications has both improved the state of my rebellious organs and caused weight gain as a standard side effect. I’m back around where I started, in the inbetweenie range, with an “overweight” BMI and a cartoony-sounding bra size. And you know what? I’m happy about it. Because I feel so much better than I did when I was thinner. Any negative thoughts I start to have about my fatter body — and we all have them, because we’re trained to — are outweighed by the positive thoughts I have about, say, being able to eat cheese again without dire consequences.

This is not to say that there haven’t been things that were difficult about gaining a bunch of weight. I want to make it very clear that here I am speaking from a position where, “overweight” or not, I still retain a lot of thin privilege: doctors still listen to me (so far), people don’t demonize me to my face or on the news, I can still shop in some straight stores (to give just a few examples). Interestingly, the only person who’s commented on my fatter body so far (as contrasted to the people constantly commenting on my thinner body) is a good friend who knows why I was losing so much weight before — and her comment was that she was glad to see me looking healthier. (Okay, to be fair, Mr Machine has also commented that my rack has gotten, uh, more substantial.) The point I’m trying to reach, here, is that between my still-not-that-fat privilege and my gradual shedding of weight-obsessed or non-feminist friends over the last few years, people haven’t given me shit for gaining weight. (I’m sure my grandparents would have had some strong opinions, but dead men tell no tales, right?) I will tell you exactly what has caused me the most grief in the process of fattening up: my bras. Oh, and my boots. And my pants and belts. In other words: the clothes, the manufactured things, the objects. (But I have been patiently updating my wardrobe to keep up with my hips — and this week, I finally got some new bras (thank you Figleaves clearance!), and my world is suddenly a hundred times sunnier.)

Here’s what was not difficult or irksome about getting fatter: my body. My reflection. My shape. Losing sight of my hipbones. Noticing a fold of flesh return to my back. Watching my profile change, take up more room in the mirror. Feeling more of me moving around. I like me. I don’t mind having more of me, as long as I can afford to clothe more of me. There is no absolute value to any body size. There is no line on your mirror saying “If your hips touch this, your body is wrong.” My body’s not wrong now, and it wasn’t wrong before. It’s my body, and now that I live with respect for it, I don’t dread or thrill to its changes in size.

In that first post, way back when, I wrote this:

Right now, I’m a lot thinner than I’m used to being. Temporarily, I’m feeling a disconnect between the “real me” and the “representation of me.” But maybe I’ll stay at this weight, and I’ll realign my self-conception; maybe instead of a chubby healthy person, I’ll be a thinnish person with a medical condition. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. Maybe my health will improve again, and I’ll gain back those 20 pounds and more. I’ll adjust. I’ll be good to myself. I’ll remember that this body I live in is me and not a container or disguise or symbol for me. How will I do it? I’ll start right here.

Thanks for helping me be good to myself, Shapelings. I drink to you tonight.