|Make no bones about it... these are dangerous curves.
Size 10 - 14
Size 10 - 12
goddesses defy size
Size 8 - 14
Size 8 - 12
(Sizes listed are based on published body measurements, not on listed dress sizes.)
My pal Seska
size 8 - 10
|April 22nd, Two Thousand Two: Dangerous Curves
Okie dokie, it's time for me to stop everything and do some body-image
cheerleading, thanks in part to a reader who was brave enough to make this commentary in her blog the
other day (which only came up repeatedly in my logs likely because
her readers all rushed over to see if there really was a naked
"fat" girl somewhere):
Just hopped over to Heather's site as I am known to do after going
to Trance's. I am not a daily reader of hers more like an every
other day reader. She is a fascinating woman. Anyhow, she has
new pictures up. She is nude. Now this isn't new on her site but
this is what went through my head "Oh my God she is fat. How could
she put up those pictures? Her breasts are saggy. She's very round."
I looked at the pictures for a few more minutes and thought "She
looks very curvy. Women are supposed to be curvy. Wow she is actually
quite stunning. She looks comfortable in her skin. She couldn't
actually be enjoying her body could she?" As if the mere thought
that a woman who isn't adolescent boy shaped with breasts couldn't
be happy in her skin. As if that ounce of cellulite would stop
your from enjoying your body. That women should look like women.
Curves are not evil and breasts are beautiful.
This is what the starvation imagery does to your brain. This is
what looking at photoshopped models as goddesses does to your
sense of perspective. This is what wanting to look like Calista
Flockhart does to your brain. This is what having disordered eating
does to you. No matter what my weight is all I have ever seen
was the fat... (finish her entry here)
It may actually be the first time in my life that someone has
called me fat and it made me feel not bad, but incredibly good
(though: Hey! on the breasts bit. I pass the pencil test, dammit! But it's
just a matter of time... breasts will eventually sag, and that's
okay). This sort of reaction is better than fifty thousand people
calling me a goddess; this simple realization that not only can
curves, can being physically healthy at an average size, be sexy
and beautiful, but that it came through that one can love their
body to pieces at any size. Hooray for me!
But I have to be honest, for starters: I don't buy the notion
that the media forces the opposite down anyone's throat. I've
said it to the girls at Scarleteen, and I'll say it again here:
that damn box has an off button, and all you've got to do is get
up and turn the fucking thing off. No, we can't not see huge billboards, and yes, the Dachau or
plasticine images are in movies, in film, in magazines, what have
you. But we do get to choose not only what media we engage in
(and thus, support financially so that it continues), but also
how much credence and weight we give to it. We do get to choose
to surround ourselves with very different messages if we just
get up off of our asses (see, it even burns calories! Oh boy!)
and do it. To say that none of us have the power of critical thinking
over the media, and that we simply absorb everything like sponges
is not only to say women are not beautiful no matter their size,
but that women are also bloody well stupid. And we're not. I'm
not, you're not. So, if you're using that cant to defend or justify
making yourself unwell or hating your body, cut it the fuck out,
because you know better, and you're smarter than that. At 2, that
argument might work. At 30, when I hear that come out of women's
mouths I have frankly wonder if they're simply trying to say either
they're just stupid or that they think I am.
It'd be a bit like my saying my addiction to cigarettes is due
not to my own issues, my own addiction, but because everywhere
I go, I see people smoking and I see ads for cigarettes and they
would be an incredible load of bullshit were I to attest such.
No one makes me smoke but me. Lots of people eat meat, too, but
I don't want to do it, and no one else eating it makes me want
to. I see people being terribly nasty to each other, abusing their
children, wasting their lives on meaningless drivel, but they
can't make me do those things by doing them within my viewing
area; by doing them en masse, by doing them with cultural permission.
Critical thinking: it's a good thing to keep handy.
The media has the power it does because we give it that power:
we fuel it not only with attention, but with our money, and because
enough of us don't offer any resistance to the messages it is
sending. I have had many readers over the years write in and ask
why at Scarlet Letters we don't have more visual erotica with photos of real-sized women
besides a small few of us. And the answer to that is not that
photographers won't shoot it. The answer to that is that most
women won't take a chance and model. Now given, not every woman
can do nude modeling for reasons that aren't about body dysmorphia.
But quite a lot can and simply don't, and not getting those images
out there actually contribute to the problem. Flat out, let me make an offer: any local real-sized woman -- and by that I mean women who are
not starving themselves to death on purpose, be they a lithe size
2 or a lush size 26 -- who wants to shoot some photos to beef
up body image, even for her own private viewing alone, can contact
me and I'll shoot you for free: that's always been my policy.
You'd be amazed, I assure you, at how differently you see yourself
when someone else is looking at the beauty in you. It's never
that hard to find when you don't see someone through a dysmorphic
You can do other things: don't buy the damn magazines with the
walking skeletons in them. Better still, don't buy them, but pick
up the subscription inserts off the floor of the magazine store,
take them home and instead of your address, write on the lines:
"I'll be happy to subscribe when you start including more diverse
real-sized women and men." And send it in. The postage is on them,
and ain't that fabulous? When your local clothing store is out
of all the 8s, 12s 0r 16s, or when they don't even carry your
size, file a complaint or make a gentle suggestion to the manager.
You could tell them what the average women's size is, but they
already know that since they run out of them so damn fast. You're
the consumer: it's YOU that has the power, but only if you use it, sister.
I don't mean to be a jerk, but I think some of you chickies out
there need to hear this. When you lose a ton of weight by not
eating, while some folks might think your body looks great, I
have to tell you: most of the time people who have starved themselves
into those 4s, 2s or 0s look really, really awful. Your skin,
for starters, suffers horribly, and makeup doesn't hide those
dark circles or the slack skin hanging off your bones well at
all. Mousse doesn't fix the thinning hair. Toothpaste doesn't
hide the halitosis. The tanning booth a lot of you rush to to
try and hide the sallowness that happens when you don't eat doesn't
hide it, either. It's totally visible; we all see it. The bones
sticking out all pell-mell when it's obvious your body type wasn't
built that way? It looks atrocious. Sure, it turns heads, but
so did concentration camp victims, folks. And no one, no one is
buying that you aren't starving yourselves, in the same way that
no one is going to buy the denials of someone clearly killing
themselves with overeating. People may be telling you you look
great because they, too, buy into the Image Factory. People may
be telling you you look great because they -- not having been
in that place themselves -- think it symbolizes you having a sort
of power, rather than trying not to be as powerless as you feel
by "conquering" food and your body. People are more than likely
telling you you look great because they're too scared or selfish
to try and help you out of that awful place (maybe because they're
there too, and don't know how), and they figure it's what you
want to hear and hearing that might make you stop killing yourself
without them having to get actively involved, or acknowledge how
much they might be enabling you. Or look at how they enable their
own body negativity.
I can tell you the difference between how healthy and unhealthy
looks even from seeing myself over the years, from the years I
got as thin as I get not because of purposefully starving myself,
but because I was poor enough that I had to go without eating
all too often. I looked like ass. Did I look more like the current
ideal? Probably, but the current ideal looks like ass without
a lot of help, too. Did it look decent in photos? Sure, because
photos do put weight on, and because lighting can do a helluva
lot, as can touchups. But you know, despite the fact that like
anyone else, I've got my own body issues, I feel a lot better
about my looks now, and I look a lot better -- not in terms of
fitting a mold, in terms of looking healthy, looking happy, looking
whole, in my thirties at an average size and healthy than I did
at 25, too thin and unhealthy. And that is what people find beauty
in -- I know because it's a part of my living, and to be plain,
my users are not chubby chasers. If they were, I'd dissapoint.
The feedback I get, and the feedback other sites that promote
me get about me, about my physical appearance is that I'm sexy
as hell, flatly, and that women are comfortable and feel good
with viewing my work because I'm real. And I didn't hear that
half as much when I wore a 4 instead of a 10, when I was in my
teens and twenties, not my thirties: in part because less people
said it, and in part because I didn't feel good enough about myself
to be able to actually hear it.
I can also tell you something else in terms of what I know from
sexuality studies and surveys: a lot of people who are attracted
to that waify, this-close-to-your-deathbed-look (and I'm not talking
about women who are naturally tiny, thin or lithe -- I'm talking
about women who have starved themselves there intentionally and
who are clearly not healthy) are attracted to it because it makes
you look -- and in the worst cases, makes you literally -- docile,
weak and easily overpowered (and if you are not starving yourself
and keep ending up grossy underwieght and feel horrible, please
go to the doctor -- in a lot of instances, it is a glandular,
metabolic or nutritional problem that is treatable: sometimes
even when you're not doing it intentionally, it isn't always healthy).
In other words, because you don't look like real, grownup, strong,
powerful and healthy women. If you want someone to be attracted
to you for those reasons, that's your business. But you might
want to think about if that is what you really want. It sure isn't
what I want.
And if you buy that nearly all the celebrities you admire aren't
starving themselves to get as thin as they are, you're being a
big fat sucker. Given one of the current A-list anorexia idols
is someone I went to high school with, I can assure you that it
isn't her "quick metabolism" that causes her to be so thin, because
unless you've got a thyroid problem, your metabolism does NOT
speed up when you're over a woman 30 (and she is over 30, to boot,
not the 29 she's been for the past three years), it slows down,
and she weighed a heck of a lot more at graduation than she does
now. And she looked a whole lot better then, too. Ten bucks says
she felt doubly better.
Want to know something scary?
A size 1/2, which is purportedly the average size of your run-of-the-mill
Hollywood starlet now is the same size as a 6/8T. That's right,
the size for your average 6-8-year-old girl.
Let's all sit for a minute and let that sink in. If it has sunk
in, it's scary. If that isn't scary to you, it's time to think
about why not. Because without making value judgments, anyone
in their right mind at 20, 30, 40 would be worried if their bodies
hadn't changed from the time they were 8 years old. If we knew
anyone like that, we'd suggest they see a doctor (excepting women
of certainshapes and creeds that simply naturally ARE that small).
If we heard that about women in a third-world country -- that
many of them are the size of 6-8 year-olds -- we'd be ringing
up UNICEF or Amnesty International to find out how to help with
the apparent food shortage. Imagine our reaction if we were told
that there wasn't one, that women were intentionally and with
great effort doing so to themselves, harmfully, to meet a cultural
standard of beauty. And yet, while western people cringe at things
like foot binding or FGM, we not only turn the other cheek to,
but actively or passively encourage our fellow women to starve
not just their bodies, but their spirits.
While we're on 8-year-olds, let me tell you something I know from
teaching them: young girls learn their beauty ideals and their
eating and body care habits from their mothers and other older
women close to them. So, when you prattle on about how ugly and/or
fat (and have you noticed that fat and ugly have somehow become synonyms in popular use, and how few people
are questioning that?) you are, they hear every goddamn word.
They don't miss it when you spend every waking minute counting
calories or measuring portions. It's why -- not because of Britney
Spears and that ilk -- I had girls in my class who were eating
disordered and body dysmorphic by the time they were ten. Ten. That's the legacy they were carrying on from their mothers, aunts,
older sisters, handed right down to them in every thoughtless
comment, every awful magazine left lying around, every fat-free
food in the fridge, and it can positively verge on homicide. If
you can't get out of the nasty cycle of body hatred for yourself,
do it for everyone's daughters. Please. And if you don't do that
for them, guess what? The problem isn't the media anymore: it's
you. It's YOU who are sending those messages.
There aren't easy answers to this, it's hard, hard work. And it's
work that involves being really honest with yourself and taking
some chances. It's work that means being willing to recognize
that wanting to escape out of your body into a celebrities body
is less about wanting their body than it is about wanting their lives; wanting an escape from your life, or your feelings about yourself.
It's work that involves self-acceptance, which on many levels,
is all of our own life's work. It's work that means choosing to
take the harder way out: it's a million times easier to focus
on your hatred or dissatisfaction with your body than it is to
do so about your life -- and if you think becoming thin is going
to change most of your life, I assure you, you're really mistaken.
If I had a dime for every eating disordered woman or woman who
wasted years of her life dieting only to find out that she had
the same set of damn problems no matter her size, I'd quite literally
be a millionaire. Again, we should all be smarter than that: nothing
in life is that easy. It's just not. Hell, if every woman who
obsessed on her body and body image just knocked it the heck off
today, we could probably change the world in about ten minutes
flat with all the time and energy we'd suddenly have.
It's also harder to be positive than to be negative, especially
about your body, and especially as women (and it often appears
heterosexual women have far greater problems with this than queer
women), with women, because many of us have been reared to be
self-hating to distract us from empowering ourselves and the women
around us. And all too many of us -- even those who wave the feminist
flag high -- are feminism's worst enemy in that respect. Look,
if you can't even find ways to love women's bodies, real bodies,
there's no way in hell you can effectively love women's minds,
women's ideas, women's power. If we can't empower something so
simple as physical appearance, we are completely doomed with the
more important issues.
Hating yourself for your body is no different than hating yourself
for your ethnicity or your biological gender: you can only change
it so much (remember that even "safe" dieting only works long-term
for less than 10% of people, a number that has come up in any
and all serious long-term studies on dieting), and it is a part
of you. When you put energy into hating it and beating it up,
that's energy put into hating yourself and beating yourself up,
neither of which are ever productive or healthy. I'm not the world's
biggest Naomi Wolf fan, but she was right on target in The Beauty Myth when she said, "She wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world
to change to truly see her."
I feel better about myself today because Kathryn's initial negative
reaction to my body, which shifted her thinking to a postive and
new view, spoke greater volumes than a lot of initial-positives.
I feel even better because my willingness to put that body out
there had that one small positive impact today; its results directly
tangible. I feel better because my physical appearance had an
important emotional effect: it transcended simply being image.
I feel better to look at some of the photos above (many of which
I keep in a little file for myself for the times I too feel low
about my body) and see their resemblance to my body and self than
I do to look at photos which send a message that my body or self
isn't acceptable, isn't beautiful, isn't sexy, isn't functional.
Or the ones that don't resemble my body so much, but which give
me some good perspective on beauty and how completely masochistic
our culture's current ideals can be right now.
(Note, they range in size from 8 - 18+ and are not only all breathtaking
women, but were all pretty damn healthy and natural. Some were
actually very thin in the past, and feel better being a larger
size, like Kate Dillon, for instance. Suffice it to say, your
pictures don't have to be my pictures -- these are some of the
ones I find empowering for me that represent female physical beauty, and I figured I'd start you all off easy with the ones
that most fit current or recent beauty ideals, scaled up just
a couple sizes. And don't give me that malarkey about "Well, you're not talking about finding them sexually appealing,
that's different," because I'm queer, and I assure you I do find most of them sexually
appealing. And if you're going to the pull the "Well, you're not a man," thing, I will gladly take up the gauntlet of telling all my male
readers and members to write in and talk about real-sized women,
and the letters will go on for days, and you'll be sorry you asked.
And tell me any of the above women are not stunning and I will
promptly laugh in your face.)
You know, even if no one else in the world agrees with me, it
doesn't make much difference if I feel that way about myself (conversely,
if I don't feel good about myself, all the compliments in the
world can't fix that). And no one -- no magazine, no video, no
weight chart, no movie -- can take that away from me, because
I'm stronger than they are, and because my body is very real,
unarguable evidence that it is what it is just as it is. It can be a little smaller, a little bigger, overall or
in certain places, more or less fit, but as long as I'm engaging
in some basic, sane care of it, it's pretty much just that: my
body, looking like my body.
And the benefits of that are huge. I never have to worry, for
instance, that someone I'm dating only likes me for what I look
like, or only is attracted to me because I fit a current ideal.
I can enjoy food, enjoy cooking, enjoy eating because I know I'm
eating what's good for me (or isn't, but that I won't make a habit
of eating junk), and because food to me isn't about calories,
it's about smells and tastes and color and memories. My body makes
me feel like the original I am, not like a cookie-cutter mold.
It represents life, not death. I could go on for days, really,
and that in itself is pretty incredible because on the scale of
positive body image, I'm not even really that high sometimes --
but I'm a lot higher, sadly, than most women these days are. Than
even many preteen girls are. Ironic as it may seem, the person
in my life who has a better body image than anyone I know, who
is a tremendous role model for me on that score is Hanne, who is not a size 2, not a size 12, not even a size 18, but
who is a dyed-in-the-wool Big Fat Fabulous Chick. And you know,
if someone like Hanne can get there (Want to talk about a body
type that gets dissed all over, for which there is no representation?
Ha, we size 10s and 14s have it SO easy in comparison) -- or someone
like the remarkable amputee Vera Little -- we all can get there. If someone like the full-body burn victims
I saw in the hospital my mother worked at as a kid can deal, we
can deal. We all just need to grow some damn balls, is all.
And show them to the world with a real big smile. Maybe naked.
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
|More body image: This has created an awful lot of dialogue (and traffic, yipes!
My bandwidth bills will be the death of me), and so I continued with some additional thoughts
Addendum, April 23rd: I have recieved some truly incredible email and responses about
this entry from women with their own body image stories, and to
be honest, these letters are completely blowing my mind in terms
of their honesty, their visceral nature, their personal truth.
And that's not easy. So by all means, if you want to talk about
this with me, if you want to share your story, bring it on. And thank you to those that have. I am in awe of all of you.