Body Image: My Name’s Scarlett, And I’m a Fat-Shamer.

I preach on this here blog about body policing and that a thin woman’s body is no more public property than a large woman’s.

But the other day, I found myself guilty of fat-shaming.

I was speaking to a friend about a mutual acquaintance’s new boyfriend. I marveled at the fact that said acquaintance had a boyfriend, as she is morbidly obese.

I’m cringing just typing those words. If anyone should be ashamed, it’s me.

I pride myself on being colour-blind, disability-blind, weight-blind, gender-blind, sexual orientation-blind and whatever other blindness you can think of. But I slipped up.

Health issues aside, which this woman would have to have, or be on the verge of having, everyone deserves love and acceptance and no one deserves to be judged by the way they look.

I’m judged by the way I look every single day. Because I take pride in my appearance and dress nicely, people think I’m well off, which couldn’t be further from the truth!

Because I am in tune with my inner teen, and speak the way of the “OMG Girl”, people think I’m dumb.

Because I usually wear tight, body-con dresses when I go out dancing because they make me feel good, people think I’m a slut (whatever that means).

One misconception I don’t have to deal with is people thinking I’m unhealthy and unlovable because of my weight.

So, I’m going to use this regrettable incident to practice what I preach. Down with fat-shaming!

Related: UPDATED: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

So a Tattoo Makes Me Public Property, Huh?

So Misunderstood.

SlutWalk.

Unfinished Business at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Images via Top News, The Daily Telegraph, Yahind News.

Book Review: Mia Culpa—Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman.

 

Mia Freedman really is a brand unto herself. We all know she revolutionised the magazine world at age 25 as editor of Cosmopolitan. Her blog, MamaMia, really came into its own during last year’s federal election, offering a different take on politics for modern women. And she’s now a three-time published author with her own television show on SkyNews!

Of course she credits her husband, Jason, her kids, friends, family and MamaMia team with supporting her and helping run her media juggernaut, all of whom she writes about—sometimes anonymously, but oftentimes not—in her latest memoir-cum-“long, wonderful dinner-party conversation”, Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life.

A lot of the material that makes up Mia Culpa I’ve read before, I will admit, in Freedman’s Sunday Life column, her blog, and various other publications she makes appearances in. But I’ve been known to revisit favourite blog posts and articles before, so it was very enjoyable to read Freedman’s musings on everything from sex to SNAGS (p. 64–67) to showering (p. 290) to breastfeeding (p. 175–179) to interior design (p. 129) to social stamina (read: non-existent when you have a young family, p. 131–136) to Christmas (p. 148–152) to how many children you want/have (p. 71–75) to the hypocrisy of being a certain-meat eater (“I’ve never eaten things like duck or rabbit or deer because I relate to those animals in a way I don’t relate to chickens—perhaps because many of them were storybook characters. Bambi, anyone?” [p. 145]. Guilty as charged) to Disney princesses (p. 180) to The Secret (p. 301).

Some of my favourite parts existed in the first chapter and were a nice way to begin the book. In it, Freedman writes about grooming standards in long-term relationships (p. 4–12), choosing between your ass or your face as you grow older (p. 13–16), skinny-shaming VS. fat-shaming (p. 16–23) and the pre-requisite rant on unrealistic portrayal of women VS. men in the media (p. 23–32). But when she puts it like this, it’s hard not to see Freedman’s point:

“Pretend the world was full of pictures of naked men. On billboards and the sides of buses, in magazines and ads for beer, cars and deodorant. Imagine there were penises everywhere you turned and you couldn’t escape seeing them every day.

“And all the images of nude men were fake. Every male model and celebrity had had penile enlargement surgery, and afterwards, his penis had been extensively photoshopped to make it look even bigger. So now, all the penises you saw in the media every day were knee-length and as thick as an arm.

“One day, next to a magazine article about a celebrity with a foot-long penis, you read the headline: ‘This is what a 43-year-old penis looks like’. The caption underneath read: ‘Asked for the secret to his long schlong, former male model Markus Schenkenberg insists he was just born that way. “I wear cotton boxer shorts and I exfoliate in the shower,” he shrugs. “That’s all I do.”’

“After reading a hundred stories like that and being bombarded by 10,000 images of men with surgically altered and digitally enhanced penises, do you think you might look down at your natural, un-photoshopped trouser snake and feel a little… deflated? Inadequate? Insecure? Angry?”

There’s also some of Freedman’s fascinating thoughts on being a “try-sexual” as per Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” (p. 241–244), which has been written about extensively on sites like MamaMia and Rachel Hills, and tattoos (more on that to come later today).

You don’t have to be a Freedman fan-girl to enjoy this book; I would recommend it to anyone who happens to be of the female gender, and even those who don’t happen to be but are just looking for some enlightenment on the species.

Related: MamaMia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood by Mia Freedman Review.

UPDATED: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

“Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] MamaMia Gets a TV Show.

[MamaMia] Cindy Crawford is Naked in Allure Magazine. And 43.

[MamaMia] I Kissed a Girl. Because I Had Something to Sell.

[MamaMia] Kissing a Woman Does Not a Lesbian Make.

[Rachel Hills] The Rise of the Guy-On-Guy Kiss.

Image via Australian Women Online.

UPDATED: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

This is a post that is constantly evolving, as the skinny- VS. fat-shaming debate is always growing and changing. Below, a snippet from Kim Powell’s News with Nipples, in response to Bob Ellis’ take on the ADFA sex scandal, which I linked to last week:

“The belief that women’s bodies are public property is all around us. News websites and tabloid mags are filled with body policing—’evidence’ of a baby bump, boob jobs, nose jobs, a hint of cellulite helpfully circled and ridiculed, weight gains, weight losses, muffin tops, what a ‘real’ woman should look like, skin and muscles in motion decried as freakish, etc etc. (My personal belief is that if you’re going to enlarge a photo of a thigh in motion and hysterically scream ‘See! Cellulite! Here! Here! This woman’s body is disgusting!’ then you need to include exactly the same photo of your own thighs. Fair’s fair. Sure, there are people who make a living from their bodies looking a certain way, but we all know the magazines insist the photos are digitally altered so frankly, they can fuck right off with their body policing.)”

More on this to come next week.

*

I originally wrote this article in December last year in relation to my mum and her weight problems.

Now, I’m updating with a comment my friend April posted around the same time:

“My mum is faced with the same skinny-shaming as yours. She gets called anorexic all the time. She has always been thin. Her bones have always been visible. And although she is of a rather small stature, her average weight of 42kg is well below the normal weight range. However, my mum doesn’t have an eating disorder or even a problem with food (if you don’t factor in her aversion to vegetables!). My mum put on quite a lot of weight when pregnant with me, peaking at a size 14. That is the biggest she’s ever been and it took a toll on her poor skin. The fact she has stretch marks or even wrinkles that have come with age do not affect her self esteem anywhere near as much as people pointing out her weight (or lack there of!). I don’t know if it’s ever brought her to tears but I have witnessed her get angry about it. There is only so much judgment we can take. My mum still has a womanly figure, with child bearing hips and thighs that touch. It’s what she’s been given and she’s learnt to live with it. But when it comes down to it, if people ever actually saw a real anorexic they would definitely see my mother’s au natural body in a different light.”

I’ve met April’s mum before, and can’t say her size was the first thing I noticed about her. Then again, I’m used to tiny mums!

But on the weekend I went to a part at April’s auntie’s house, which her mother also attended. Some comments about April’s mothers’ weight I overheard prompted me to republish this post, with an added musing: JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT COMMENTING ON SOMEONE’S FAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY OTHER NEGATIVE COMMENTS JUSTIFIABLE. If you don’t have anything nice to say (like, “You look great” or “Wow, you’ve got a lovely shape”), don’t say anything at all.

*

My mum is very thin.

She wasn’t always, though. In her late teenage years and early twenties, she was quite overweight. Dare I say, borderline obese?

Now, though, she’s tiny. At 52 years of age (and about 47kgs on the scale), she struggles to put and keep weight on.

She is constantly told how skinny she is by friends, family and even people she’s just met. If she were heavier, do you think people would be drawing as much attention to her weight; at least to her face? I doubt it (with the exception of the media if she were a public figure).

Why do people feel the need to objectify and vilify thin women—using their weight as a weapon against them? Is it because it’s un-PC to do so with a fat person? Because they’re jealous? I would tend to lean more towards the former.

I have received this treatment myself, and while my body is nowhere near the slight size of my mother’s, I do try to take care of it by exercising. And to offset the fattening effects of my sweet-tooth indulgences. (The other day I ate a whole block of Cadbury Top Deck. And another whole block the following day!)

I wasn’t always the size I am now, either. (Truth be told, however, I have always hovered around a size 12; now I’m just more toned and lean towards a size 10.) In high school, my weekends usually consisted of sitting on the couch watching Friends and Will & Grace and eating. I led a very sedentary lifestyle back then; the difference between me then and me now is the fact that I exercise to counteract hours spent at the desk (okay, I won’t lie; it’s usually the couch!) blogging, or evenings spent chilling out with some books, magazines, blogs and TV.

So what gives people the right to blatantly draw attention to a small frame to the inhabitant of that frame? Don’t get me wrong; inhabitants of a larger frame have attention drawn to them all the time. But we usually have the decency to not do it to their faces. I don’t know which is worse; personally, that kind of thing is water off a duck’s back to me. Because I come across as cold, aloof and feeling-less, people think I have emotions of steel and they can say and do anything they want to me. I can take a lot of shit, but people like my mother can’t. People pointing out her pin-thinness is a sore subject for her; it’s not like she wants to be that thin.

I think it comes down to a similar school of thought that slut-shaming belongs to. And that seems to be that women who sell their bodies out to succumbing to the ideal shape or to receiving sexual pleasure are at the mercy of ridicule from others.

In this day and age, we’re learning to accept the curves of a larger woman (but only as large as the advertising and magazine industry displays as acceptable). But when can we learn to accept that women do take care of their bodies, and shouldn’t be singled out for doing so. More importantly, though, when will we learn to accept that some people really just can’t put weight on, and they shouldn’t be targeted as succumbing to the narrow beauty ideal presented by society. Much the same way as overweight people shouldn’t be targeted for not succumbing to it.

Thoughts?

Elsewhere: [News with Nipples] Bob Ellis & Believing You Own Someone’s Body.

Images via Holy Taco, Losing Weight Zone, Pink Sheep of the Family.

Magazines: Who Condemns Baby-Body Bullying…

 

… But when the celebs in question aren’t actually pregnant, it raises the skinny- vs. fat-shaming debate, and whether people in the public eye’s bodies should be public property, too.

Kudos to Nicole Richie, who has come out with this statement:

“To publicly point out a change in anyone’s body is mean-spirited and cruel.”

God knows Richie’s had her fair share of body-bashing in the media. You go, girl!

Khloe Kardashian is another celeb who’s wrestled with both her weight (being perceived as the “fat”, “ugly” sister in comparison to siblings Kim and Kourtney probably doesn’t help) and her struggle to get pregnant:

“The media makes me feel like I’m barren and why can’t you get pregnant? I am 26 years old… When it happens, it’s going to happen.”

American Idol winner Carrie Underwood goes on to say that, “When I wear something a little baggier, I’m like, nope, people are going to think I’m hiding something.”

I’d better stop going out in public in baggy jumpers and layered shirts, then! But thankfully, I’m not a celebrity whose body, actions and shopping list is scrutinised by all manner of media.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Who Says There Has To Be An “Ugly Sister”?

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

Megan Fox’s body politics:

“… You have a picture of said body—made even thinner through creative posing—that’s used to sell underwear. In other words, she is paid to be thin. Period. All the talk about her abs and her weight-training regimen don’t have anything to do with the reality: Her body is her business. Literally. It’s her business, not ours, whether she’s healthy—that’s between Ms. Fox and her doctor. And it’s her business—an integral part of her financial strategy—to be thin.”

This is a superb, graphic and thought-provoking piece of writing on waxing, vaginoplasty and the ubiquity of female lady-parts. Semi-NSFW, but I recommend reading it at any cost:

“… while we can look over with horror at a tribe of women who claim that if their five-year-old happened to bleed excessively after having her clitoris cut off, that she must have been a witch, here in our own backyard, we give it some fancy name like vaginoplasty and somehow it’s less archaic? Goodness, we’re so civilized.”

Bern Morley on song lyrics and what we let our children listen to. Good stuff.

The double standards of cheating. FYI, I don’t agree with them.

Sachar Mathias divulges her favourite black dolls. Does this make-shift Michael Jackson Ken count? It is circa late ’90s/early ’00s—his face mask, baby-dangling period—so maybe not…

Anti-Semitism in the fashion house of Christian Dior goes further back than just John Galliano’s comments.

James Franco was a jerk to Kristina Wong. I think he’s a jerk in general.

CNN recently published an article asking if “whites are racially oppressed?” That’s like saying there needs to be an international men’s day if there’s a women’s one. Seriously, someone tried to argue that to me last week!

Charlie Sheen and “The Disposable Woman”.

Thanks for the shoutout, Beauty Redefined.

Celebrities behaving badly: who’s responsible?:

“But is it the responsibility of the media to be the moral gatekeepers of what we should and shouldn’t know about? Is it their responsibility to diagnose supposed ‘mental illness’ and on that basis, stop reporting on certain stories?

“… If drug addled celebrities on the front pages didn’t sell, they wouldn’t be there. So is the problem us? Just who is egging on who[m] here?”

Alissa Warren is a bit unsure if Waity Kaity is the royal for her.

Rick Morton on Pauline Hanson’s political return.

Images via Jezebel, Carlen Altman.

UPDATED: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

I originally wrote this article in December last year in relation to my mum and her weight problems.

Now, I’m updating with a comment my friend April posted around the same time:

“My mum is faced with the same skinny-shaming as yours. She gets called anorexic all the time. She has always been thin. Her bones have always been visible. And although she is of a rather small stature, her average weight of 42kg is well below the normal weight range. However, my mum doesn’t have an eating disorder or even a problem with food (if you don’t factor in her aversion to vegetables!). My mum put on quite a lot of weight when pregnant with me, peaking at a size 14. That is the biggest she’s ever been and it took a toll on her poor skin. The fact she has stretch marks or even wrinkles that have come with age do not affect her self esteem anywhere near as much as people pointing out her weight (or lack thereof!). I don’t know if it’s ever brought her to tears but I have witnessed her get angry about it. There is only so much judgment we can take. My mum still has a womanly figure, with child bearing hips and thighs that touch. It’s what she’s been given and she’s learnt to live with it. But when it comes down to it, if people ever actually saw a real anorexic they would definitely see my mother’s au natural body in a different light.”

I’ve met April’s mum before, and can’t say her size was the first thing I noticed about her. Then again, I’m used to tiny mums!

But on the weekend I went to a part at April’s auntie’s house, which her mother also attended. Some comments about April’s mothers’ weight I overheard prompted me to republish this post, with an added musing: JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT COMMENTING ON SOMEONE’S FAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY OTHER NEGATIVE COMMENTS JUSTIFIABLE. If you don’t have anything nice to say (like, “You look great” or “Wow, you’ve got a lovely shape”), don’t say anything at all.

My mum is very thin.

She wasn’t always, though. In her late teenage years and early twenties, she was quite overweight. Dare I say, borderline obese?

Now, though, she’s tiny. At 53 years of age (and about 47kgs on the scale), she struggles to put and keep weight on.

She is constantly told how skinny she is by friends, family and even people she’s just met. If she were heavier, do you think people would be drawing as much attention to her weight; at least to her face? I doubt it (with the exception of the media if she were a public figure).

Why do people feel the need to objectify and vilify thin women—using their weight as a weapon against them? Is it because it’s un-PC to do so with a fat person? Because they’re jealous? I would tend to lean more towards the former.

I have received this treatment myself, and while my body is nowhere near the slight size of my mother’s, I do try to take care of it by exercising. And to offset the fattening effects of my sweet-tooth indulgences. (The other day I ate a whole block of Cadbury Top Deck. And another whole block the following day!)

I wasn’t always the size I am now, either. (Truth be told, however, I have always hovered around a size 12; now I’m just more toned and lean towards a size 10.) In high school, my weekends usually consisted of sitting on the couch watching Friends and Will & Grace and eating. I led a very sedentary lifestyle back then; the difference between me then and me now is the fact that I exercise to counteract hours spent at the desk (okay, I won’t lie; it’s usually the couch!) blogging, or evenings spent chilling out with some books, magazines, blogs and TV.

So what gives people the right to blatantly draw attention to a small frame to the inhabitant of that frame? Don’t get me wrong; inhabitants of a larger frame have attention drawn to them all the time. But we usually have the decency to not do it to their faces. I don’t know which is worse; personally, that kind of thing is water off a duck’s back to me. Because I come across as cold, aloof and feeling-less, people think I have emotions of steel and they can say and do anything they want to me. I can take a lot of shit, but people like my mother can’t. People pointing out her pin-thinness is a sore subject for her; it’s not like she wants to be that thin.

I think it comes down to a similar school of thought that slut-shaming belongs to. And that seems to be that women who sell their bodies out to succumbing to the ideal shape or to receiving sexual pleasure are at the mercy of ridicule from others.

In this day and age, we’re learning to accept the curves of a larger woman (but only as large as the advertising and magazine industry displays as acceptable). But when can we learn to accept that women do take care of their bodies, and shouldn’t be singled out for doing so. More importantly, though, when will we learn to accept that some people really just can’t put weight on, and they shouldn’t be targeted as succumbing to the narrow beauty ideal presented by society. Much the same way as overweight people shouldn’t be targeted for not succumbing to it.

Related: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

Images via Holy Taco, Losing Weight Zone, Pink Sheep of the Family.

One Year On: The Jennifer Hawkins/Marie Claire Scandal.

 

Here are my thoughts on the topic in the form of a (edited) comment on  a since-deleted post on Girl with a Satchel:

“This really is a double-edged sword, huh? All magazines are a medium that can make you feel bad about yourself only if you let them, which I agree with 100%.

“I don’t believe the media is the ‘hypodermic’ needle we all heard about in media studies at school; turn off the TV or don’t buy the magazine if you believe they facilitate negative body image.

“However, my first thought when seeing the Jennifer Hawkins cover, was ‘oh, her thighs are obviously her problem area. There are a few shadows there and some discolouration’. HORRIBLE, I know, but it just goes to show that I, along with almost everyone out there, am a product of our perfectionist culture and our unrealistic expectations of women.

“Now, in reality, Hawkins looks AMAZINGher face is stunning, her chest and torso look toned and terrific, and if I had her thighs, all my problems would be solved (according to the hypodermic theory, at least). I don’t agree with all the negative comments out there regarding Hawkins as unrealistic and damaging to women’s self-esteem. Nor do I agree with those who say porn stars, strippers, prostitutes, bikini and lingerie models, supermodels, catalogue models, plus sized models, regular girls on the beach or in the club or on the street who are scantily dressed or ANY WOMAN who enjoys flaunting her best assets are victims of objectification by the media and the male species’ desire to view women as sexy playthings and nothing more.

“I regard myself as a feminist, however, and feel that if any woman is proud to show off their bodies, faces, brains, WHATEVER, then that’s empowering and I say to them, ‘you go girl!’.”

My feelings have stayed much the same as I look back on the controversy from a more enlightened perspective, having been reading a lot more and writing blog posts on such topics in the past nine months (I could have had a baby in that time!) that The Scarlett Woman has been out there in the blogosphere.

Satchel Girl Erica Bartle responded to my comments above, saying that “I don’t think any woman should be excluded from the body image debate on the grounds of her appearance,” even a “hot model” like Hawkins.

This sounds a lot like the arguments that were put forth at the “Feminism Has Failed” debate which I attended a few months ago, and have blogged quite often about here:

“Controversially, [Gaye] Alcorn referenced the Body Image Advisory Board and its chairwomen, the ‘gorgeous’ Mia Freedman, Sarah Murdoch and Kate Ellis, saying that of course they had beautiful women to front the campaign, because it wouldn’t have gotten any publicity with Plain Janes. Out of everything the affirmative team said, this was the only thing I took issue with. ‘Like, sorry those women happen to be genetically blessed, but they have as much right to talk about body image and beauty as a less fortunate-looking woman does. You can’t help the way you’re born,’ I said to my friend, who satirically replied, ‘Well, it’s about beauty, hello?!’ Gold.”

Another argument from the affirmative team harkens back to Bartle’s point: Hawkins “can’t be all things to all women”, just as “feminists can’t be accountable for all feminist issues at all times”.

Again, just because Hawkins looks the way she does doesn’t give the general public the right to criticise her for her decision to pose un-airbrushed for Marie Claire, nor does it give them the right to speak about her body as if she is somehow disconnected from it; as if a celebrity’s body becomes public property.

I’m not sure what the “publicity stunt” has done for body image in Australia one year on, much like the publication of Lizzie Miller’s plus-sized tummy in UK Glamour last year. Personally, though, Hawkins’ show of body love has ignited in me the courage to stand up for others who are objectified for their smaller size (just as I would for a larger person), and Miller’s pot belly instilled acceptance of my own.

Related: Has Feminism Failed?

Body Image: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Girl Talk: Glamour Gives Good Belly.

[Let’s Drink Tea & Get Laid] The Lies That Link Us Together.