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.

Profile: Rachel Hills of Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

I’ve only become familiar with Rachel Hills, sex and gender blogger at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, in the past few months, but she’s made her way to the top of my must-read blogs. Here, she answers questions about her inspiration, future writing goals and what she does in her spare time in a new city (she recently moved from Australia to begin a new chapter of her life in London).

Can you give us a quick run-down of your professional writing portfolio thus far?

I’ve been freelancing for six years now, and have written for (in alphabetical order) the ABC, The Age, The Australian, The Big Issue, The Bulletin, The Canberra Times, Cleo, Cosmopolitan, The Courier-Mail, Girlfriend, Girls’ Life (US), Glamour (UK), The Huffington Post, Jezebel, The Monthly, New Matilda, Russh, Sunday Life, Sunday Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, Vogue, The Walkley Magazine and YEN, as well as a bunch of smaller, indie magazines and blogs.

I got my start writing opinion pieces for the Sydney Morning Herald. These days, I usually write “think piece” features on personal-is-political type issues, or women’s mag fare with smarts.

How long have you been blogging at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman and what made you decide to start a blog?

I just did a quick scan of my archives and discovered I just reached my three year anniversary on October 30.

I’ve written for the internet pretty much ever since it was possible to (I started my first website in 1998), but I was always kind of hesitant of writing publicly under my own name. As a teenager because of my secret pop music loving shame, as a university student because I was involved in student politics and that makes you extremely paranoid (not of people digging up info on you when you become a politician, but of people digging up info on you and putting it in the student newspaper), and then as an adult because I didn’t want to cannibalise my own story ideas.

I cracked through basically because I loved reading other people’s blogs, and because I was inspired by the way that other journalistsparticularly in the USwere using blogs to connect with their audiences. My blog was quite different when I first started writing it, thoughit was more a mix of political commentary, scrapbook and lifecast, as opposed to the more reflective, personal-is-political blog it is today.

What are some of your favourite blogs?

I have a soft spot for blogs which make you feel like you’re getting to know the person writing itblogs like Gala Darling, Girl With A Satchel, Wordsmith Lane, The Ch!cktionary, Emily Magazine, Garance Dore, Style Rookie and The Scarlett Woman [that’s me!] are often at the top of my Google Reader.

I also love blogs that make me think about thingsFeministe, Pandagon, The Awl, Tiara The Merch Girl, Rabbit White, Kapooka Baby, Jezebel, Hugo Schwyzer, Racialicious. And people like Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Chris Guillebeau are like mentors I’ve never met when it comes to things like blogging and community building.

I’ve lost count of the number of blogs I subscribe to on Google Reader, though, so that’s really just scraping the surface of what I read.

What has been your proudest writing-related achievement to date?

I don’t think I actually have one! There are lots of stories I’m fond of, and I still get excited whenever I get a story up, but there isn’t one that stands out as being more significant than the others. I suppose the one I was most proud of at the time was that first opinion piece in the SMH. And I hope my book will be my proudest writing accomplishment in a couple of years.

And your proudest non-writing achievement?

In 2006, I travelled around the US meeting some of my favourite journalists and editors: people from The Economist, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, US Cosmopolitan and so on. Very nerdy, but also very gutsy lots of people at home thought I was a bit of a weirdo for attempting it (with a couple of notable exceptions). I’m quite proud of that.

Back to your book, to be titled The Sex Myth; how is it coming along?

Haha, it’s coming along okay. I’m dedicating a lot of time to it at the moment, and there are bits of it that I really like, which is nice. I’ve shown the overview to a few high profile people, and the response has been universally very positive. I’m just trying to get everything in place at the moment to translate that positivity into a kickass book deal.

You’ve written about workaholism and the work/life balance in the past. How do you balance all your commitments?

It was much, much harder when I was living in Australia and holding down a near full-time job. Now that I’m working for myself again, it’s much easier to fit in all the things I want to work on, and living with my partner means I still make plenty of time for myself. (When he’s away, I start working later, procrastinating more and sleeping less.)

That said, even working for myself, I’m still managing four main areas of workfreelancing, book, PhD and blogonly one of which pays. So finding time for all of them can be a bit tricky.

What is your favourite way to unwind?

Having spent the past two and a half years of my life reading books on the philosophy of sex, I’ve developed a bit of a fiction obsession recently. It’s so much easier and more relaxing to read than the academic stuff I’m usually buried in.

I’m also really enjoying getting to know London, and digging out all the interesting things there are to do here. My boyfriend often asks me how I manage to find all the things we check outphotographic treasure hunts, interactive theatre, art galleries, bars with secret passage ways.

And yoga. It’s clichéd, but it relaxes me, keeps me fit and keeps my bad neck (from too much time sitting in front of a computer) in proper alignment.

Because most bloggers write about things they’re passionate about, as I know both you and I do, do you find sometimes it’s a chore to churn out posts on, for example, mag-world musings or the happenings on your favourite TV show (you and I both share a penchant for Gossip Girl) and the like, as previously you would have done those things for pleasure? Because that’s definitely something I struggle with from time to time.

Because I write for a living, one thing I’m very careful to do is keep blogging a pleasure. The main way I do this is by writing when I’m feeling inspired: if the writing doesn’t flow easily, blogging starts to feel like an obligation… and while I have no concrete evidence of this, I suspect it makes the posts less interesting to read, too. If I’m not feeling inspired and haven’t updated much that week, I’ll try to find something else around the net that I think will be of interest to my audience and share that with them instead.

What advice do you have for other bloggers?

Don’t feel like you have to get it right immediately. Sure, the internet sticks around forever, so you want to think before you post, but blogging is something you learn by doing just like anything else, and chances are it will take you a while to find your best blogging voice. (It took me a while, and I’d been writing on the net for nearly 10 years and writing professionally for three when I started. And I’m still learning.) Experiment until you find that perfect intersection of what you love, what feels authentic for you, and what people respond to.

And finally, where do you see yourself, writing-wise, in the future?

I’d like to just keep on doing what I do now, only on a bigger and better level, with all the aspects of my work (journalism, blogging, books) feeding into one another.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman].