I hope you are enjoying the last section of the course. We’re exploring the cultural meanings of the beauty ideal, the politics of body modification and plastic surgery, and the protest strategies against size-ism. Our central concerns are “Why do bodies matter so much to women’s self-worth?” ‘How is this ideal beauty made and constructed?” and “How much of what we see is a real body?” We have been exploring the body in more depth, as we talk about body histories, body parts, body health, and body violence.
Like the previous post on activist strategies around sexuality, here are some activist attempts to change this particularly damaging part of “self improvement culture”:
Operation Beautiful: On a Mission to End ‘Fat Talk’ - post-it notes with positive messages to re-channel our thinking. This one is very popular, but its effectiveness needs to be critically evaluated.
A Fat Rant - Shown in class by our Fat Acceptance presenters! Joy Nash became a Youtube star with her frank, unabashed attempt to reclaim the “F” word as a positive term. How well does her style of humor carry her message?
A Fashion Advice Counter-factual - Just a small attempt to invert the thinking around “makeover style.” The blogger asks “I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where the fashion industry encouraged us to ‘emphasize’ our differences from one another, instead of trying to make us all look the same?”
Cover Girl Culture - a documentary that attempts to give parents tools to raise their daughters inside of a perfection-obsessed culture.
Blogs/tumblr communities for fat or size acceptance - Big Fat Blog, Stop Hating Your Body, Riots Not Diets, and Bodies in American Culture are just a few examples.
And Refinery29 wonders whether this online fat acceptance community focuses too much on “body types” and too little on messages without size-exclusivity:
“Our culture presents women with a lot of ‘double binds,’” Scott said. “Messages like, ‘love your body, but lose 20 pounds,’ or ‘Go on a diet, but diets don’t work.’ The idea of positive community is great, but only if self-love comes out of it.” [They] recommended girls seek out blogs that focus on positive messages rather than certain body types, such as Operation Beautiful, a site where women take photos of inspiring, anonymous notes that they leave in public places for other women to find.
What are some criteria for evaluating these strategies? Perhaps it might be how they reject, shift, or reaffirm the standards of beauty and its connection to women’s bodies. In other words, do they challenge the idea that “body size is an objective and essential measure of attractiveness and that women’s self-esteem and resistance to negative judgments of their own attractiveness must come at the expense of other women, with whom them are always, and inevitably, in competition”? (via Sociological Images)
Finally, a documentary series explores the role of genetics and weight: Why Are Thin People Not Fat? In it, an experiment is conducted that makes skinny people to eat as much as they can over the course of a month to see how much weight they gain. The conclusions might surprise you!