Sunday, 25 August 2013

Why so negative about MMBodyPositive?

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So Mamamia has recently launched a body positive challenge, detailed here:

It involves six steps over six weeks to change women's negative perceptions of their bodies. Where women post:
1: My face without make up.
2: The body part I used to cover up.
3: What I’m proud my body can do. 
4: My post baby body.
5: My face after exercise.
6: The body shaming comment I won’t let bother me any more.


And as you could expect, EVERYONE burst out in applause too!! No. Joking. The cynics (Helen Razer & others) are calling hypocritical face-cream feminism bullshit on the whole deal. Because reasons.

Apparently the MMBodyPositive campaign is a reinforcement of women as commodities, posting make-up free pictures is self-commoditisation and SILLY. And the real work of feminism lies in revolutionary action for improving women's socio-economic status. Further, a lot of women call ‘bullshit’ on the idea that going makeup free is challenging, or that any of this should even be an issue at all. We should all just SHUT UP about bodies, stop obsessing over bodies, then the problems will go away!

OK. Lets work through these issues, quickly, because we got shit to do, like, REVOLUTION:

1. MMBodyPositive may not be an economic revolution; I don’t think it claimed to be one. BUT. Since when does being middle-class disentitle women to having meaningful issues? Does the fact that women are financially struggling mean that we cannot also care for women struggling to cope with body-image pressures - to the point of self-starvation, invasive surgeries, depression, or suicide? Do we really need to compete over which issue trumps the other? OR can we get on with doing as much as we can, and supporting others to do the same?

2. MMBodyPositive is NOT JUST selfies. I agree selfies fuel body-consciousness, but this campaign is not a selfies competition. This campaign is asking women to take back the right to look however-the-heck they want. By posting images of reality online, perhaps we can make a dent in the overwhelming sea of 'glamour' BS that we swim through every time we log onto social media! A recent stat showed women on average are 'body monitoring' (thinking about their looks) every 15 minutes. You might say this campaign just worsens the self-consciousness, but please, how do we address the issue without drawing attention to it? We know that many women feel shit, disordered eating is becoming normal, body dysmorphia is flourishing, we CANNOT attack these problems by talking about rainbows and sunshine. We do need to first look at ourselves in acceptance and change thought patterns, we have to encourage the work of self-acceptance. Sure, some people might misuse the campaign to score points. But please, point out any social change campaign that wasn’t affected by misunderstanding or misuse... And, besides the selfies, the other activities of MMBodyPositive ask women to reject shame they’ve experienced, to focus on their bodies as functional and to normalise their bodies’ roles in mothering. The abhorrent pressures on new mothers cannot be denied, anyone who shines a light on this issue and helps new mums has done a-hellava-lot more than the nay-sayers, I say.

3. MMBodyPositive has started discourse on issues that are REAL and that NEED our attention. Yes, we can agree this is not a campaign for economic revolution. Interestingly, I haven’t come across Helen Razer’s revolutionary social change campaigns myself. But point being, issues related to body image are SERIOUS, they are hurting girls and women, read the recent APA report for an overview. These issues are finally being considered by policy makers thanks to the work of tireless campaigners. Girls as young as 6 years are dieting and worrying about glamour, there is a spike in young women being hospitalized with mental illness, consider the surging rates of eating disorders even in the aged population, reflect on the booming cosmetic surgery rates – and the links between surgery with mental illness including suicide. You need to only take a quick glance at stats to realize the seriousness of this pain and suffering. It also doesn’t take a sociological genius to notice the surge in ‘glamourised’ and sexualised media and intuit that this will impact the populace. When larger portions of young girls suddenly claim their aspiration is glamour modeling than anything else, you can be sure that this media has gone too far. Girls didn’t get these ‘sexy’ ideas from playing outside and climbing trees too much.

4. Showing diversity of women IS a worthy goal:
I’ve only ever come across a few women’s post-baby pics posted online, but I’ve noticed there is a HUGE response. Particularly from women who comment that they ‘have never thought they would see a body like theirs’. Truly, women are constantly being told that there is only ONE type of body allowed, and if you don’t have it, you don’t exist, you are invisible (notice how famous people suddenly hide post-partum until SURPRISE I’M SKINNY AGAIN! DID IT IN TWO WEEKS!!). Sure you could confuse this campaign with commodifying more body-types, or perhaps you could consider the value of normalising a wide-range of body-types such that commoditisation is fruitless, whom are you going to sell the ‘beauty’ products to if women feel comfortable in their skin?

In my discussion with Helen Razer on being anti-MMBodyPositive she queried sociological theories that prove ‘body image’ issues actually exist and are impacting people…

It wasn’t enough to cite renowned author and psychoanalyst Susie Orbach who recently presented in Sydney on the notion of ‘body anxiety’ and the disturbing trends in women’s health as of recent. This is all ‘made-up’ bullshit according to Razer. According to Susie Orbach, however, we do not have the necessary theories to explain the sudden and rampant attack on women’s body image. We currently rely on authors who theorised in earlier decades, and whose theories were developed before ‘glamour modeling’ was even acceptable, let alone in our faces 24/7. We do not have the necessary understanding to explain exactly how the media body-image onslaught is affecting women, but alarming statistics CANNOT be denied.

I realize MMBodyPositive may not appeal to all women; certainly I am not onboard with selfies. BUT, perhaps the fact MMBodyPositive has sparked conversations and shone light on some of these issues means the campaign has already achieved something.

I am quite sure that women who are suffering with body-image shame (and I know many personally) do need media that supports them, women who are suffering in silence and shame cannot participate in revolution, let alone live to their full potential.

Image above: Body Image Movement Blog

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Rant: pretty? sexy? no F OFF!

It was probably somewhere between seeing the six-thousandth bikini shoot posted online, the 10 thousand ads for ‘weightloss’ that look strangely like porn ads, and the millionth ad for ‘best’ plastic surgeons… And I suddenly thought – fuck this shit. Fuck it all. Fuck off the makeup, fuck off with the stupid hair styles that are impossible and a waste of time, fuck off with the ridiculous painful shoes, fuck off with waxing every follicle of fucking hair off my body, fuck off with the false notion that looking like a Barbie is going to achieve anything except unwanted attention. Fuck off with selling this image to little girls, which will one day be my little girl who will be told over and over again how she would be happy, how she would be loved, how she would be worthy, if only she would LOOK a certain way. And if she does look that way, she will be treated like a piece of meat anyway. Fuck off with the girls’ constantly condescending each other- only ever complimenting their image and nothing else. Fuck off with pretty, perfect, bikini bodies and glamour. Does anyone truly believe that if you push your tits up three inches higher and pack on three inches thicker makeup that suddenly your self-esteem and value will skyrocket? No.  Surely. This sadistic bullshit ties a woman down to obsessing over mirrors, weight scales and plastic surgeons offices, ensuring she can never use her mental capacity fully nor be taken seriously. Whether she is a professional in business, sports, politics or media – all of these places have been secured for men’s voices with women as stand-in props who smile, look pretty and keep quiet. Either you’re a woman who cannot be taken seriously because you look too pretty, or you’re a woman who has no place because you look too ugly. Pre-second-wave feminism women’s roles were restricted to housework and raising children, post-feminism women’s roles have been relegated even more so. We are now merely eye-candy, bodies as public property for ogling and critiquing, bodies plastered on every magazine, shop window, bus shelter and billboard, breasts NOT suitable for breastfeeding, vaginas that need to be reshaped post-partum, stomachs that need to be flatter. Bodies no longer our own, but the property of a variety of industries selling us our own commoditisation. Essentially women are told over and over that they ought to look pre-pubescent with tits the size of their own heads. And if you do have this image, then chances you're probably expected to put your body on show, selling your sexuality to titillate narrow-minded men. Relegating the power of your own sexuality into the hands of the sex industry. Women might have gained legal rights post-second-wave feminism but in the last few decades we’ve lost the right to own our body and mind for our own purposes.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

I shaved my hair - 6 steps of reclaiming power

I got called a ‘fucking dyke’ the other day, it was one of those situations where I’d usually get whistled at or cat-called by a group of random guys.. But this time I was a ‘fucking dyke’!
Well. I fucking love it. 

Let me add context here - I shaved my hair because I truly wanted to go 'against the grain'. Everywhere I look all I see is 'Victoria's Secret' hair styles, and I'm starting to think young women are becoming more and more uniform and conforming in their identities. I wanted to go against this trend, and without knowledge or care of what is fashionable - I took to hacking my hair off.

And really what the fuck was I thinking by not wanting to look like every other woman on the face of the earth!? I guess if I don’t resemble a Playboy-esque sperm receptacle then I MUST BE A FUCKING DYKE!! HELLO!
Let me break down the analysis of how I went from being a girl who is often whistled at, to a girl who is a fucking dyke. And let me explain why 1. I'd prefer to be called a dyke than whistled at, and 2. why all of this comes down to male power over women.

Not long ago my hair was longer, etc, and I often received random flattering remarks. But those compliments always left me feeling weird, clearly I was a ‘thing’ they’d like to fuck, not an actual human being of true value. I can't count the amount of times a random guy has taken it upon himself to come and speak to me and make remarks about my appearance.. 

WHY do guys feel they have the adjudication over female appearances? WHY do guys feel that I care what their opinion is? WHY do guys think they have the agency to share their opinions on my looks with me? WHY do I not have the agency to tell them to fuck off??? Every remark about my appearance only ever made me feel like a 'thing', and undermined my intelligence and nature. BUT rest assured, if I did not respond politely to a male posturing his power over my appearance, I would swiftly be called a bitch - as has often been the case. GREAT STUFF!

Usually after a guy complimenting my looks they would go on to offer further compliments over their shock that I was articulate, that I was polite, or that I was well-educated... Obviously in each of these circumstances it was heartening to know that a guy had approached me with the assumptions that I was: 1. Hoping to sexually appeal him 2. Wanting his opinion on my sexual appeal, 3. Dumb, 4. Inarticulate, 5. Rude.

With all those assumptions covered I think its safe to say that every guy who approached me was doing so with the notion that I was merely a dumb, voiceless, piece of ass, and not a worthwhile human being except possibly for sex.

Well I didn’t want to be a ‘thing’ so I guess shaving my hair did the trick. 
I realise many people expect women to conform- to be sexually provocative 'glamour', and not have power to define their own body any other way. This guy was SO threatened that he had to try attack my sexuality (!?)

Let me break down the process of reclaiming my power: 
1. Guy expects women to be sexually appealing to him 
2. Guy expects women to value his opinion on sexual appeal 
3. Guy expects he has the power to adjudicate over defining woman's sexual appeal 
4. Gal (me) decided to undermine that power - going against normative 'sexual appeal' of 'sexy hair'
5. Guy is threatened that a woman would dare undermine his power to see women as sexual objects
6. Guy needs to attack the gal as homosexual, as the only way to explain why she dare not sexually appeal to him.

 Fail. Not insulted. Flattered. Thank you ‘fucking dyke’ guy, I’m so glad my body does not resemble a soulless hetero fuck toy. For the first time a random comment has left me feeling empowered about choosing the way I look for myself and not for others. Winninnngggg!

I'm interested to hear other peoples experiences with changing their appearance for their own purposes and against the 'norm'... Did it suddenly become apparent to you just how much focus is on a woman conforming to 'sex appeal'?? Do you see guys ever getting the same pressure?
Let me know on twitter @lauragene01 or in the comments below!! :)
May I take this opportunity to mention Margaret Cho -

Thursday, 25 July 2013

What's the harm in a selfie?

What’s the harm in a #selfie?

Australia’s Next Top Model on Fox8TV recently launched a competition for girls (and guys) to take photos of themselves (selfies) and post them online, in order for judges to select the ‘best selfie’ – how this is judged I do not know.

Sounds fine, right? Except if you consider that participants only need be 13 years old to enter in this kind of modelling competition. And especially if you consider that ‘selfies’ are renowned for being sexually provocative, usually showing lips pursed ready to kiss, or cleavage exposed in a sexually styled pose.  Girls as young as 8 and 9 have been taking part in this online ‘selfies’ competition. This means girls as young as 8 and 9 are fully aware of being ‘sexy’ and are encouraged to take photos of themselves to share online with millions of internet users - and no security precautions.

If that doesn’t seem problematic enough, then take a moment to consider websites that host ‘sexy selfies’ or ‘naked selfies’. These websites assumedly pull 'selfies' from instagram and other social media these kind of websites give shocking insights as to the kind of images young girls are sharing, these pictures very quickly turn from sexy into outright underage child pornography.

So how does taking sexualised self-images have a place in a 13 years old life?

When I was 13 I knew nothing about being pretty, nor did I understand the idea of sexy. When I was 13 I wouldn’t have had a clue on how to take a photo of myself, nor would I have ever cared to do so. I remember being one of the first young people to get the mobile phone with a camera, but certainly I’d never considered taking ‘sexy’ photos. It simply was never a pressure that I experienced.

Its 13 years since I was 13, and now 13 year old girls are openly encouraged to model and self photograph by TV shows, celebrities and peers alike, this means that 13 year olds are going to have to be fully aware of their image, they are going to learn to be self-conscious, they are going to learn what constitutes pretty, beautiful and sexy, they are going to learn to judge themselves and others on their ‘sexiness’, and for this ‘sexy’ learning curve what are the likely outcomes? What will this mean for their relationships with themselves, with girls, boys and their health?

A quick look at some recent statistics of girls under 16 will give some hard-hitting insights as to the effects of this growing trend. 70% of girls report being unhappy with their body image. While only a small percentage of children are obese, around 25% of young girls cite wanting to diet, lose weight and have plastic surgery (NEDC 2013). We are talking about young girls – unhappy in life, dieting and wanting to surgically mutilate their healthy bodies! This is not to mention the pervasive effects of eating disorders on life expectancy and mental health outcomes. Studies have CLEARLY shown that exposure to TV left girls feeling dissatisfied with their bodies and lead to disordered eating habits. We are literally KILLING our children with this media.

We can also take a look at the research surrounding sexual experiences of young girls, growing trends toward earlier sexual encounters, growing rates of forced sexual encounters and sexual violence. And in particular relevance, the growing trend for young girls to share their own pornographic images.

Is it then fair for Fox8TV to dismiss taking ‘selfies’ as a fun, light-hearted activity for young people? Does that response do justice to the millions of suffering girls and boys who feel unhappy in their own skin, who are going to struggle with happiness and confidence because of this pressure? Does Fox8’s response do justice to the young people literally starving themselves to death? Does Fox8’s response do justice to the young people whose lives are cut short at the hands of an eating disorder? What responsibility does Fox8 take for the pressure their ‘beauty competitions’ place on young and vulnerable people?


It infuriates me further to see that these problems are lumped onto the young girls. Girls are given instruction that they must ‘increase their confidence’ they must ‘learn resilience’ or ‘dress more modestly’. If we look at the pressure on young girls in today’s world, the likelihood of being psychologically resilient is basically null and void. Today’s media forces low self-esteem on girls, particularly by these invasive modelling competitions, pitting girls against one another, enforcing the idea loud and clear to all little girls ‘YOUR VALUE IS DEFINED BY YOUR LOOKS’.

Thank you Fox8 producers; I wonder how you sleep at night.

Anyone needing support to cope with pressure, self-esteem or eating concerns should see their GP immediately. Resources are also available on

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

I'm thin and fit, and I'm tired of 'fitspiration'

So in a culture obsessed with image/youth/thinness I should probably be happy, I mean I AM thin, so ‘winning’!! I could probably go ahead and post photos of myself like YAY ME! But really, that would make me feel like a narcissistic dick.

A lot of women do speak up against these ‘fitness’ images and people will often say “your just jealous coz your fat etc”…  It seems that big people’s opinions are invalid.. So as a 'validly' opinionated thin person I can say that thin exhibitionism isn’t healthy or helpful.

I will list rather than blab about why:

- Fitness/health has nothing to do with appearance, so why do these women have more makeup, hair and tits than anything else? They are actually promoting cosmetic surgery and dieting, not health, this is my main gripe.

- If these images are inspiring hardcore workouts then they should show all types of people running/lifting/boxing, sweating, no makeup, etc.

- Where are images of healthy people who are bigger/older/disabled/etc? These people are fit and healthy too.. These 'thinspo' pages show such a narrow ideal of ‘health’ that is all about young women/men, I can’t even imagine how older/minority groups feel when they see it.

- I don’t know how body insecurity feels.. But I see women in my own family (bless) and I feel their shame, guilt, pain, they hate their body, they think they aren’t worthy of love, they think they aren’t worthy of food!!! I just want to shake them like “LOVE YOURSELF YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH, JUST EAT THE DAMN CAKE!!” Hopefully empathy helps me understand.

- I think a lot of people are shamed into exercise and diet by these pages, rather than loving themselves first and foremost.

- Personally, I know that thin doesn’t equate with health. I’ve had so many back and joint problems in the past, because I was lacking nutrition and strength! Even my doctors always insisted that I was fit and healthy- wrong!!

- Lastly, if people were encouraged to just love themselves and disregard image, I wonder how much more time people could put into perusing other goals, doing what they love, making progress, feeling good etc… Evidence tells us that we cannot perform cognitively if we are self-conscious.
I know ‘fitness images’ might inspire workouts, but what about inspiring women and men to be more than an image?

And of course what about the effect on young peoples self-esteem, relationships, we know all kinds of body image disorders are on the rise- are these people really helping with that?

Maybe the fact that my body shape has fitted in this ‘ideal’ means that I see these photos and I don’t find them attractive, I just think – ‘what the actual fuck are you doing’…

I’m all for people building health, but I think it starts with relaxation, self-acceptance and blocking out bullshit media. Whether the label is ‘skinny’ or ‘healthy’ - the overall goal is still about being unrealistically thin and fitting a very narrow idea of 'attractive'.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Starting musings on morethanimage

I have a lot of thoughts and discussions on the imagery in the media, the sexualised version of women in particular and the impact this has on individuals, relationships, families and particularly children.
For myself I am still exploring what that impact is, though despite my confidence and happiness with myself I am realising this impact could be more pervasive and difficult to define than I realised.
This is a home to collect these thoughts, images and ideas and hopefully to get thoughts from other people. My aim is that this will culminate in more critique, more in-depth thinking and hopefully people having the confidence to say and share more.