Stay Away from my Body, Tyra Banks!

[Crossposted to Amplify]

Earlier this week I caught a episode of the Tyra Show that honestly, just horrified me. The episode, called Does Size Matter: Women’s Edition, confronted this “important” question in regards to women’s butts and boobs under the guise of building positive body image. In the first half of the show Tyra had five women line up in a series of stalls that were blocked off both on top and on bottom so that the only part of these women that could be seen were their butts.

butts

Tyra then had a panel of five men, sitting just off to the side, comment on the women’s butts one at a time.

panelSome of the comments made were positive – for instance woman number one was told that she had a nice butt because she was “standing there like an action hero” and it was “even all out.”

Some of them were mean – like when woman number four was told that she needs to “do a couple of squats because [...] [her booty] has some spread to it” but he didn’t like the way it was “going up into her back.”

Some were creepy – like when woman number two was complemented on the space between her upper thighs legs which he called a “gap” and was told to “open that up” when she reflexively pressed her legs together more.

Finally, some of them were just plain weird – like when number five was told that her booty was a “Mufasa ass” (which I gather is a good thing?) The man who coined the term claimed to have used it because she had a “very healthy booty, that is a booty that says I am booty hear me roar.” He later added that he knows several guys who would like to “roar” with her booty.

girls

Now I know Tyra isn’t considered a paragon of good taste (or even sanity), which is why I debated for a long while as to whether or not I should even write about this, but I still think something has to be said. Tyra has been putting herself out there for awhile now as an advocate for body acceptance and self esteem in women and girls. She even tried to frame this exercise as something that would be positive to these women’s body image – claiming that it would help women to understand once and for all what men want – is it boobs, booties, or the “skinny minnie bodies” that the media tries to sell us. Tyra’s heart may have been in the right place, but her message is all wrong. Here’s why…

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Blogging FAIL

Its as if the Universe wanted to give me the perfect explanation as to why I have pretty much fallen off the edge of it lately, at least in terms of blogging: I just finished writing this super long post/explanation as to where the hell I’ve been lately and WordPress pretty much ate it. I pressed publish and all it published was the title (which remains unchanged, and way too pertinent now) and the word its (which I also kept on to start my re-write.) Basically everything just imploded – class, work, more work, voulenteering, getting REALLY sick… and then, in the midst of this, I FORGOT HOW TO WRITE (or at least I feel as if I have).

So posting will be sporadic for awhile, and not so well written, but I promie I’ll get some stuff up – at least the stuff I write for Amplify (because I made a commitment to them and I am determined to keep it) and the Ramapo Women’s Center Blog (because all the cool kids in the WC are blogging which means I must as well!) Maybe I’ll trhow some of my creative writing stuff on here too because, why not?!

Anyways, that was the gist of a much longer rant that WordPress ate. Now enjoy something I wrote a week ago for Amplify, while I go enjoy some more cough medicine (that probably isn’t helping me be coherent right now, come to think of it.)I miss you, blogosphere!

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I’ve had a lot of frustrating moments lately, moments that have been beating me down and making it very hard to blog. Like two days ago, I went to a game-show styled event at my college, modeled after the show Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader. One contestant, a fellow student who I actually really liked before this show, was asked who the first female speaker for the house was. He get the answer (Nancy Pelosi) right after much deliberation and the use of a lifeline; when all was said and done, however, he felt the need to quip – “I was between her and Hillary Clinton… though I’m not sure Hillary is a woman.”

There was the expected laughter, along with a few groans, and another guy sarcastically shouted out “she’s beautiful in her own way.” My boyfriend laughed (though, privatley, he knew I’d be mad and understands why – his laugh was for show and nothing more.) The men running the show laughed. Everyone around me laughed… I didn’t even crack a grin.

Its strange to note this change In myself – a year ago I probably would have chuckled a bit and moved on, chalking it up to guys joking around. I would have felt uncomfortable, in some faint way, but that discomfort wouldn’t have had a voice. Now, I just get angry. I get angry and I know why I’m angry.

Feminism was exciting for me at first – a whole new world of people and thoughts for me to embrace, people who believed that same things that I already, intuitively, believed. Its still exciting, don’t get me wrong, but along with that excitement I’m starting to feel frustration creep through – frustration at the little bits of oppression that manage to slip through each day.

In a way I feel that it’s the little things, like a Hillary joke here and there, that threaten more than big oppressions. When you fight for gay marriage or equal pay, for instance, you’re seen as an activist, as someone with a cause. People may disagree with you, of course, but its hard for them to belittle your commitment to a cause. When you try to speak out about a demeaning joke, however, its very easy for anti-feminists to label you as humorless, or frigid, or a bitch. You’re told not to make a big deal out of something so small.

The thing is, its not so small. That joke isn’t just a tired play on the Hillary-isn’t-feminine-enough meme… its an attack. It tells women that if they want power, if they want to be taken seriously they better be smart and pretty. They better present themselves in a way that goes along with their biological sex. They better not be too demanding, or too assertive- because that is not feminine…. that’s a big message for such a little joke.

I’m all about meeting people where they are but sometimes, like in this situation, its not really appropriate or feasible to start a dialogue about why a joke or a comment is offensive. Furthermore, why should I have to start a dialogue about something designed to sap my power? I’ve already been disrespected… why would I want to approach this person and start a conversation? Its hard sometimes to be an activist.

So I’m having a bit of a crisis in my activism – I seem to have lost my spark, just a bit, in a pool of frustration. I know I’m not alone. Who else has had this experience? What have you done about it How do you deal when you just want to yell F-you and flee from the room when you know you should be starting a reciprocal dialogue?

Self Esteem Awareness Month: The End

So this is much  more belated than I would have hoped but, congrats everyone, Self-Esteem Awareness Month is over! My hard-drive crashed a little over a week ago which is why I stopped posting every day, but I have a new one now so posting here should resume as my class schedule will allow. I honestly don’t have much to say right now, this has been a month of ups and downs and unfortunatley, the whole project sort of overwhelmed me towards the end. I will say I have seen progress in myself, however, as yesterday I threw on a skirt that I haven’t worn in two summers because I felt it was too short and didn’t look good on my “fat legs.”

But I wore it yesterday, and I felt good in it. That’s progress.

I hope this little experiment has been helpful to other people as well, even though it got derailed in its last week or so.

Thanks for participating!