body image

Things that make you smile, the body positive, Friday edition

It’s November. That’s my grumpy and sad month. So I am making an effort to note the things that make me smile. Here are some body positive things in the news this week.

Judging by the reaction on our Facebook page, this story made lots of people smile: A pro-fat camp for women? Sign me up. There was a lot of “Count me in!” and “I’m signing up!” and “Loooooove this!”

“Camp Roundup, a summer camp experience for fat women that was conceived of by a pair of friends, Alison Rampa and Erica Chiseck, was held for the first time this year in Newark, Ohio. The duo was inspired to create the camp after listening to an episode of the “Maintenance Phase” podcast that tackled the twisted history of fat camps. In the episode, hosts Michael Hobbes and Aubrey Gordon spoke about how, for decades, fat camps have shamed children for their bodies, resulting in eating disorders and the spread of beliefs that diets are effective and being fat is inherently bad. Though weight loss camps are marketed as solutions to childhood obesity, they actually spread unhealthy calorie restrictions, fad diets and intense workout sessions. As of 2019, roughly two dozen fat camps were still operating across the United States. After learning about the history of these camps, Rampa and Chiseck wondered how different their lives might have been — and how different life might be for their own children one day — if there had been a camp for fat celebration.”

Lizzo dresses up as Miss Piggy!

“Shortly after transforming herself into Marge Simpson for HalloweenLizzo took on another absolute icon for her second costume of the season: the one and only Miss Piggy. The star shared a handful of photos and videos of her tribute to the Muppet queen on Instagram, including a few where she recreated a famous pic of Piggy posing “nude” (can Muppets be nude?) with a snake draped around her body. 

“A tribute to my forever icon, MISS PIGGY. The epitome of grace, style, confidence and a warrior for love. @realmisspiggy i love you,” Lizzo wrote in her caption, though the Piggy herself has yet to respond to the glorious look. In the photo, Lizzo dons a platinum-blonde curled wig just like Miss Piggy’s, plus a pink pig nose and ears. In a video of the costume, Lizzo sets the reveal of her look to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ubiquitous “W.A.P.,” calling the slinky and sexy look a “W.A. Piggy” moment.”

Disney introduces first plus-size heroine in animated short Reflect

“Disney has debuted its first plus-size female protagonist in a short film that is being praised for exploring body positivity and overcoming self-doubt. The animation, Reflect, tells the story of Bianca, a young ballet dancer who “battles her own reflection, overcoming doubt and fear by channelling her inner strength, grace and power”. It forms part of Disney’s Short Circuit series of experimental films, released over the Disney+ streaming service last month. The six-minute feature has been pitched as an uplifting tale of conquering body dysmorphia and self-doubt.”

This list of affirmations in the spirit of body neutrality also made me smile.

Body neutral affirmations

Anything in the world of feminism, fitness, and body positivity that made you smile this week? Share your news in the comments below.

body image · diversity · fitness

Love Your Body

By Martha Muzychka

Bodies



Look at all the lovely bodies. All kinds of shapes and all kinds of sizes!

I saw this display of of pre classic bodies and my heart skipped a beat.

Look how different they all are. Each tells a story.

These days we are so focused on hyper skinny shapes, we forget our round parts, our squishy bits, our mom soft bellies, our strong arms and open hearts that hug and hold and work and soothe and love.

Love yourself today. Celebrate what your body is and what it does.

No one else will do it for you.

aging · body image · fitness · normative bodies

Thoughts about Nicole Kidman and her Biceps

Perfect magazine and Nicole Kidman

See Nicole Kidman Shows Off Her Ripped Guns In High-Fashion Perfect Magazine Photoshoot.

She looks amazing.

But not all feminist commentators had positive things to say.

Fab abs, writes Yvonne Roberts, in the Guardian, but this frantic effort to look half your age is frankly demeaning. Her piece about Nicole Kidman is making the rounds on social media and I’m amazed the range of reactions to the Roberts’ piece and to Kidman’s transformation.

One friend wonders why the focus on age, writing “There is nothing about muscles that indicates trying to look half your age. and there is nothing about hard core fitness that is demeaning to anyone. I feel like this is peak body shaming. remember when strong was the radical feminist move? Remember when it was transversive to lift heavy weights?”

A common theme in the comments was just leave women alone and stop talking about our bodies, “Judging women for how they look is so, so predictable and boring. There are so many ways to be. Leave each other the fuck alone.”

Many people talked about how looking amazing was part of Kidman’s job and no one judges men in the industry for their body building efforts. Seen The Rock lately?

I get all that. I really do. I lift weights and I don’t do it to look younger. I want to be stronger.

But still.

Tracy wrote, “My first reaction is ‘ffs please let me age in peace.’ Is there no age where we can stop chasing the oppressive aesthetic of youthful normative femininity?”

And I get that too.

The issue isn’t Nicole Kidman’s guns or her age really. The issue is about expectations that we all do that, that all women make looking young and buff our goals.

Some friends commented about how much time Kidman spends in the gym and then said maybe they could do that in retirement. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure that’s how I’d choose to spend my retirement time.

What’s attractive about retirement for me is reading more, spending more time with family, travel, but also bike trips and boat trips, long back country canoe trips and yes also, time for the gym.

For me time in the gym isn’t primarily about looks, though of course obvious muscles are a welcome side effect. Really though I go to the gym to support my other activities. I want to keep doing long canoe trips and bike trips. Being strong lets me keep doing the things that I love.

So the issue isn’t really Kidman and her biceps. It’s the norms that weigh down on women’s lives. It’s making Kidman a standard by which we judge all women. Kidman could have her biceps and her gym life. We could celebrate her achievements. The issue for feminists is Kidman as fifty-something role model for the rest of us.

I know we’ve all been thinking this past week about the representations of women in the media in light of Bell Media anchor Lisa LaFlamme’s firing from Bell Media arguably in light of her decision to stop colouring her hair during the pandemic.

[Here is an aside from Tracy, who Sam said could add things as she proofed the post: “Nicole Kidman can do what she likes. What bugs me is 1. That this is news because it makes it seem like a miracle that a 55 year-old woman could look good. 2. That looking good is in itself seen as a newsworthy achievement for older women — that is a good indication of where our value still lies. 3. That the standard is now set by a multimillionaire whose business it is to look good (and according to the normative standards of youthful feminine beauty). I frankly would rather admire Judy Dench and Helen Mirren and Lisa Laflamme who at least don’t mind looking older.” End of Tracy’s aside.]

We need a more diverse range of older women as role models including women with grey hair and without sculpted guns. Then I think we’d all feel better applauding Nicole Kidman for the way she looks and the work it took her to get there. [Tracy: hear hear!]

body image · clothing · cycling · fitness

Sam’s thoughts about shorts

I posted an article recently to our Facebook page about shorts. Called How To Wear Shorts and Love Your Legs, it told the story of a powerlifter who grew up ashamed to wear shorts because of her big legs.

In some ways it’s not a problem I have–though I certainly have big legs too–because cyclists all wear shorts. On the bike, there isn’t really a choice. Yes, there are bike dresses, about which I have complicated thoughts. but they’re not made for long distance riding.

Pretty much cyclists wear form fitting shorts. I was riding with some women recently and we took a timed selfie. The phone sat on the ground in order to get the best view of our legs. That made me laugh because usually the concern is to put the camera up high to avoid double chins.

Here’s the pic:

People at work see me in shorts because I often ride in to work and then change there. If I get carried away answering early morning email, more people than I might like see me in shorts.

But there is one place I often don’t wear shorts and it’s an odd one.

At the gym I tend to wear capris or leggings, not shorts.

I think it’s because I work out at the gym the most in the winter and there’s the leg hair issue! Then I get used to wearing capris or leggings and feel self-conscious in shorts.

It’s so odd how that feeling creeps in and how place specific it can be.

I’m good wearing shorts out and about on the weekend in daytime, but I would never go out in the evening in shorts. The other night I went sailing in bike shorts but then when we opted for dinner out on the way home, I had a last minute moment of panic about what I was wearing.

Good gravy. It was a patio in the summertime. We were eating pizza. It wasn’t exactly a fancy night out. Shorts were clearly not inappropriate, and yet…

I hate those lists of what not to wear after 50. I’m pretty sure bike shorts in public, when not actually on a bike, might be on their list. But I also recognize, as I edge closer to 60, it’s going to take a bit of work not to care.

Here’s Ernie not listening!

Ernie with socks over his ears

How about you? Shorts, yes or no? All places or just some places? Is it about modesty about a judgement about whose legs, which kind of legs, what age of legs, ought to be seen out and about in shorts?

body image · fitness

a poem for us and our bodies

CW: discussion of body image and negative self-image

During last weekend’s yoga retreat, wonderful teacher Jillian Pransky read some words I needed to hear. Words I needed to believe. Words I needed to feel. I’m going to write them twice– once as Jillian read them, and once where they live– in the poetry of Nayyirah Waheed.

and I said to my body. softly. ‘I want to be your friend’. and it took a long breath, and replied ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’

What a thought: being real friends with my body. It seems an odd thing to consider. But it’s true: my body and I haven’t been on friendly terms for most of my life.

However: last weekend, in a yoga class, hearing those words, I was struck. Is this now a possibility for me? And what would that mean, to be a friend to my body?

What it meant in that moment: to be grateful for the body I have, for what it does, for its strength and resilience and beauty and grace and solidity and persistence.

To pay attention to it: what does my body want to do in this class, and how much, and for how long, and how intensely or gingerly? If I listen, it will tell me. If I go slow, it will speak and not yell.

To respond to it and let it guide me, so it can continue to be there for me when I want to do more later. We are a team, my body and I. We could work together. Like friends. Good friends.

What does it mean going forward– being friends with my body? All relationships require accommodation and compromise, and the good ones promise moments of happiness, joy, hilarity, sadness, frustration, and hopefully contentment. But they all happen one moment at a time. I had this lovely moment of realization and gratitude and curiosity and hopefulness. Let’s see what moments there are ahead.

Here’s the whole poem. It’s called Three. By Nayyirah Waheed.

‘no’

might make them angry

but it will make you free.

If no one has ever told you, your freedom is more important than their anger.

*

and I said to my body. softly. ‘I want to be your friend’. and it took a long breath, and

replied ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’

*

If

the ocean

can calm itself,

so can you.

We

are both

salt water

mixed with

air.

body image

On photos…

It’s been a week for thinking about photos. Christine kicked it off with her post about seeing her strength and power reflected in recent photos she’d had taken. See Through A Different Lens: Seeing My Power Now. It’s a great post and I love Christine’s expressions in these powerful photos.

And then two things in my newsfeed got me thinking about photos and the images we share of ourselves online.

I liked Bodyposipanda sharing their outtakes. That was the first thing.

And then second, I read feminist philosopher Kate Manne’s essay on being captured by photos and how uncomfortable the whole process makes her feel.

Here’s an excerpt,

“I had imagined myself breezing into the photo shoot (done outside for COVID safety reasons) and saying airily to the photographer, “Just make me look like myself.” In reality, I was shy and sheepish, and inquired as to whether he could photoshop out the chickenpox scar that haunts my left eyebrow.

The photographer himself was professional and courteous and made not one comment on my appearance—a baseline level of decency, to be sure, but one which I was grateful to him for meeting. The college News & Media Relations Manager I work with here was delightful and supportive as per usual.

And yet I was never comfortable. I was never at ease. It took 1.5 hours and afterward, I was exhausted. I came home and had Szechuan food delivered, and eschewed writing for the evening in favor of some good, bad television. It was just like in the old days, when I still lived in the world of Events, not of Zooms, which I unlike many others find much less sapping. Not having to be a body in public has saved me so much time and energy and willpower and has thus given me, ironically, the capacity and critical distance to write about it in a sustained way for the first time in my life. Strangely, it feels good to write about something that feels so terrible.”

All of this made me reflect on my recent photoshoot with a U of G School of Fine and Music alum, Trina Koster. Sarah and I needed new work headshots so we went together and had fun with that.

The top one is the one I’m using now. Bottom left was a warm up photo to get me to relax. And bottom right was a more staged theatrical one we did once we were having fun with the whole thing.

And then a friend on Facebook–thanks Ray!–had more fun with Game of Thrones mood photo, bottom right, by photoshopping a sword for me. Others suggested I also needed a regal white ruffle!

Love the sword!

My advice to women in professional roles where people routinely ask you for photos is to take control of the process. Find a photographer you like and trust. Tracy, Nat, and I all recommend Ruth of Ruthless Images. I had a very good experience with Trina here in Guelph too. Relax and fine someone who’ll make it fun for you.

A friend on Facebook said that he thought his attitude to professional headshot photoshoots is different because of his experience with selfies. In an age where we take our own photos a lot and we’re used to seeing our image online, he said he now finds having his photo taken fun.

How about you? What’s your experience of being photographed?

body image · golf · media · men

Athletes’ Body Talk in the Media Serves No One

On a recent Sunday I was doing two things I rarely do: 1. watching pro golf on TV, and 2. complaining loudly at the TV. Why I was watching golf (the 2022 US Open, final round), I’m not really sure. But I do know why I was complaining.

Image by rawpixel

I was complaining because the broadcasters were making comments about the bodies of the pro golfers as they teed off on the first hole. One player was described repeatedly as “baby-faced,” another was “slender,” and a third was “sturdy.” Maybe it was just a lazy start to the commentary, but with all the history and statistics available to discuss, who is served by this body talk?

Televised commentary on athletes’ bodies is a much more prevalent issue for women, one that creates a double standard to boot. As Kathita Davidson notes, descriptions of male athletes’ bodies often reinforce perceptions of strength, athleticism, and performance. In contrast, the descriptions of women athletes’ bodies are often hetero-sexualized in ways that undermine their athleticism. As well, non-binary gendered and intersex bodies are the almost nearly always the subject of controversy and discrimination.

Body talk happens in the media at all levels of game. In the last year, two commentators were fired for making disparaging comments about high school basketball players’ bodies. At the 2021 Winter Olympics, there was pressure to focus on sports appeal and not sex appeal of the athletes. Not long after, an Olympics figure-skating commentator was fired for a degrading remark about a female Canadian figure skater (though it was about her personality, not her physique).

Focus on the bodies of athletes is not only a frequent issue but a problem, as Christine Yu observes:

Aerobic capacitypowerstrength, muscular endurancebiomechanics, strategy, tenacity, and good genes—none of which are necessarily visible to the human eye—all determine an athlete’s ability. And yet, especially with women athletes, appearance often becomes the sole focus, even when it has nothing to do with performance. This overemphasis on what athletes look like is damaging on both an individual and a cultural level, and it’s time to reconsider how we talk about their bodies.

Christine Yu, 2020, para.6

The emphasis on appearance and physique can be damaging to men and boys as well. The American Addiction Center has an article of men and body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) that highlights bigorexia, combining the Latin -orexia (an appetite for) with obsession over the big-ness of muscles. This disorder causes pain, distress, and sometimes harmful physical and dietary changes, and men are far less likely to ask for help.

The pro golfers weren’t listening to the broadcasters’ body talk as they teed off at the US Open’s, and they might not have cared about what was said.

Still, thousands of aspiring male golfers were watching and listening to the televised patter about bodies that had nothing to do with the game. By drawing attention to who is slender, sturdy, or baby-faced, the broadcasters invited body comparisons and scrutiny—to no meaningful end.

So, ultimately this post is just a reminder to anyone who gets an opportunity to talk about any athletes in front of a microphone: Focus your comments on athletic performance, not on athletic bodies.

Image by @midsizequeens
beach body · body image · fashion · feminism · normative bodies

Bodiless Swimsuit Ads Reinforce Body Norms Too

It is summer swim season! I know this because I see on my Facebook feed “beach body” memes and a dramatic uptick in swimsuit advertising.

a cute seal with the words in meme font Beach body ready...for winter
The least repulsive of the repulsive memes about beach bodies. Because cute seal.

I normally don’t pay much attention to swimwear ads because swimsuits are not that important to me. However, I can understand the appeal of shopping online: no store assistants, no dressing rooms, no drama with wrestling with ill-fitting suits.

Swimsuits from a Facebook ad that have no models wearing them.
Swimsuits from a Facebook ad that have no models wearing them. Okay, there’s one person, but the suit looks drawn on!

But this year, I have noticed that a few swimwear ads that feature either 3D-drawn images or the actual suits put on photoshopped-out mannequins. I don’t remember seeing before ads with these hovering bodies that are legless, armless, torsoless.

Tracy has noticed how the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated gives women equal opportunity to be objectified. Obviously that’s not good. If sexified suits objectify women regardless of age, and if a steady diet of these images still perpetuates body ideals, then is no body in the swimsuits our inclusive and evolved solution?

The decision to dis-embody models in these ads is likely far more economic than activist: I’m sure it’s cheaper to use realistic pictures or torso mannequins than to hire real people, and shoppers may have an easier time imagining themselves in the suit without a real body in it for comparison.

And maybe I’m making too much of these ads, but they weird me out. They make me think of Kevin Bacon as the Hollow Man in a tankini. The disembodied swimsuit model–as imperfectly resembling a human being in a way that causes “uneasiness and revulsion”–should be added to the graph visualizing the uncanny valley hypothesis.

The uncanny valley graph portraying how non-human bodies create uncertainty and revulsion the more realistic they become. Added to the image is "disembodied swimsuit ads."
By Smurrayinchester – self-made, based on image by Masahiro Mori and Karl MacDorman at CC BY-SA 3.0. Adapted by a weirded-out me.

From my feminist perspective, the no-body in these ads is not equivalent to everybody: it removes the one thing people need to wear these suits in the first place. These ads may avoid replicating images of so-called ideal bodies, but they also remove the bodies people have–complete with colour, fat, wrinkles, blemishes, scars, and hair. Ironically, the absence of real bodies features the ultimate normative body, one that is stripped of all uniqueness of size, shape, and mobility differences. In the case of the leaky, hysterical cis-female body so feared and scorned by patriarchy, what body is more “perfect” than the one that does not exist at all?

I tried to find answers to my questions (except the last one, which was rhetorical) with more Internet. While many web articles give advice on purchasing swimsuits by size, fit, fabric, style, cost, coverage, quality, versatility, quality, and “features” (like pockets), none described whether I should buy online a suit modelled by a real but photoshopped body or by an invisible but perfect fake body. I did notice that a few articles–such as Teen Vogue and TripSavvy–used these body-less swimsuit images in their feature banners as well.

For the record, in all this web searching I did notice more body-diverse swimwear than I have seen in the past. After staring at row upon row of swim-suited no-bodies, I was comforted and excited by these all-too-human ads.

Then, I realized that online shopping has its own trappings, and I closed my laptop altogether. Maybe going into an actual store to try swimwear on my own body is looking not be so bad after all.

aging · body image · cycling · fitness · Zwift

The MAMILs have met their match, the OWLs!

The OWLs

I’ve written a lot here on the blog about men and body image. See here and here and here. There’s more too, if you search around.

I hate all the teasing men in lycra get, so many MAMIL jokes.

What’s MAMIL stand for? Middle aged men in lycra. And lots of the jokes are about men’s bodies in fitted cycling clothes. I hate them.

Here’s a light hearted one, less mean than most.

Goodbye Kevin. I could look the other way with the boozing and the skirt chasing but I didn’t sign up for bicycle clothes.

But on the other hand, at least older men in bike clothes are recognized to be a phenomena. There aren’t as many older women. See Sam is racing with the guys and wondering, where are the women her age?

However, I came across a Facebook group recently for OWLS! That’s Older Women in Lycra. Here’s the group’s description: “Designed to EMPOWEROWL.bike (Older Women in Lycra) made with ❤️ for women cyclists UCA age 55 and older. OWLs are changing societal messages on aging…one ride at a time!”

There’s also this article: Say hello to the ‘owls’ – older women in Lycra

From the article, “Such men have acquired their own acronym, and it’s entered the language. Mamils – middle-aged men in Lycra – are a recognised demographic who are a target market for advertisers, with considerable buying power and much to enjoy spending their money on, from beautiful carbon-frame bikes to stylish cycle-wear. But the Mamil only tells half the story. There are also what I call Owls – older women in Lycra – and we enjoy all those things just as much. And if that makes us objects of satire as much as the Mamils are… then fine.

British Cycling, the sport’s umbrella organisation, confirms that women ­cyclists – including a significant number of older women – are rapidly on the increase. BC’s women-only Breeze Rides – its scheme to encourage women to take up cycling – have attracted more than 13,000 women since the beginning of 2015. Of these, 59 per cent are aged 35 to 54 and 29 per cent are 55-plus. In the 50 to 59 age group in last week’s Ride London 100 – the biggest sportive in Britain – an impressive 26 per cent of entrants were women. Next month no less a 51-year-old than the Countess of Wessex is taking part in a charity bike ride from Edinburgh to London. A few years ago I cycled from London to Edinburgh myself, and it’s a hell of an undertaking.”

The OWLS race on Zwift and while I can’t join them yet–they race in the afternoon spot for the TTTs–I do appreciate that they’re there.

Might also be nice to just have a mature riders group for all people, including those who don’t identify as men or women.

beach body · body image · diversity · fitness · inclusiveness · normative bodies · objectification · sexism

Inclusive objectification anyone?

Image description: Four panels each depicting a 2022 Sports Illustrated cover from one of the four versions of the 2022 SI Swimsuit Issue, from right to left Kim Kardashian, Ciara, Maye Musk, and Yumi Nu. Image from https://swimsuit.si.com/swimnews/sports-illustrated-swimsuit-2022-cover-models-kim-kardashian-ciara-maye-musk-yumi-nu

Every time the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue makes the news, I am newly and naively amazed that it still exists at all. In 2017 it made the news because it included a 63 year-old Christie Brinkley in a red bikini. I got on my high horse about that here: “Because if Christie Brinkley can pull it off so can anyone, right?”

That same year everyone applauded SI for including Hunter McGrady, whose fulsome curves defied the usual Swimsuit Issue body-type. Her inclusion was celebrated as a “breath of fresh air,” and I wondered whether anything having to do with the SI swimsuit issue is really a breath of fresh air. I don’t really think so, even if Hunter McGrady claims to be doing this not just for herself, but “but for every woman out there who has ever felt uncomfortable in their body and who wants and needs to know that you are sexy.” The same issue also included Serena Williams, a world-class athlete, to “prove” (to whom?) that a woman can be both sexy and athletic.

So this year we have a kind of repeat of all those themes — you can be curvaceous or in your seventies or have an unexpected “background” (their code for race or for ethnicity) and still we want to objectify you as a sexual object in one of our most popular issues of the year!

The editor in chief of this issue, MJ Day, doesn’t put it quite like that of course. Day says:

“We all deserve the chance to evolve. So in this issue, we encourage readers to see these models as we see them: multifaceted, multitalented—and sexy while they’re at it. The world may label them one way, but we want to focus our lens on all the ways they see themselves and how they own who they are. No matter your age, whether you’re a new mom, partner, sister, entertainer, athlete, entrepreneur, advocate, student, mentor, role model, leader or dreamer—or all of the above—we want to celebrate these women, their evolution and the many dimensions of who they are.”

(from https://swimsuit.si.com/swimnews/sports-illustrated-swimsuit-2022-cover-models-kim-kardashian-ciara-maye-musk-yumi-nu)

But in the end, despite all of their many dimensions and talents, these women are just reduced to their sexy-factor. I should note that I am not opposed to sexiness. I and several of us from the blog have been open about our boudoir photo shoots. What gets me with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is the context. This is a magazine historically designed by men for men. And its main purpose is to cover sports news. What, I ask, do women in swim suits have to do with sports news and for whom are they striking sexy poses? If they want to do it “for themselves” they can do a boudoir photo shoot.

Instead of celebrating the objectification of an ever more inclusive range of women, I can’t help but thinking a more positive step for women would be getting rid of the swimsuit issue altogether. I don’t know any women who would mind one bit, but I predict a huge outcry from the men who look forward to this issue and a subsequent loss of a sure-thing revenue item for Sports Illustrated. As long as we are willing to get on board with the objectification of women for an audience the vast majority of which is straight and male, to celebrate it as something empowering for women, and to congratulate it for “breaking barriers,” we are going to be stuck promoting that idea that women — all women — need to be sexy-to-men to be acceptable. Surely we can promote inclusion without having to piggy back on that relentless message about what makes women worthy.