Children’s toys are not to blame for giving girls an unrealistic standard of beauty. They are toys and children don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what they look like nor do they compare their bodies to something so small and plastic.

You know who we compare our bodies to? Other people. Why do we do it? Because we’re constantly told to. Between the barrage of weight loss ads, the photoshopped supermodels that dominate our magazines, and the endless scrutiny of celebrities when they gain a little bit of weight, women are told from a very young age that our bodies are not good enough. Yet people like to blame Barbie and any other toy marketed toward little girls, they like to blame the supermodels for being so thin, and they love to blame the celebrities for fluctuating their weight so much. They are placing blame where it doesn’t belong and need to point their fingers elsewhere: at themselves. It’s easy to blame Barbie or a supermodel or a celebrity because then we don’t have to look at where this culture came from. We’re perpetuating this culture by continuing to body-shame women whether they are fat or skinny. We are allowing the media to create and maintain this impossible standard by sitting back and letting a toy, a model, or an actress be the scapegoat for our own insecure projections.

 

When you blame Barbie for a girl’s body image, you are saying an inanimate object has more power over a girl’s psyche than the commercial she saw of the woman who looked just fine 30 pounds heavier bragging about how much better she looks now that she lost that “unsightly body fat.”

 

When you blame the rail-thin supermodel, you are saying even thin is not good enough and that the body type she has is more influential than the person who photoshopped the picture to make her impossibly thin.

 

When you blame the celebrities, you are saying it’s acceptable to judge their lives and that a celebrity’s weight is more important than telling your daughter that her’s is just fine.

 

So how do we stop this? How do we combat this culture of body-shaming? We stop blaming the toys and the models and the celebrities, and we looks at ourselves and the body shaming we do on a daily basis. We criticize the media for refusing to make toys that encourage positive self-image, continuing to photoshop people who look beautiful just the way they are, and the paparazzi for constantly making big news when a celebrity gains or loses weight. We tell our daughters, friends, sisters and mothers that people come in many shapes and sizes and it’s okay to be fat, skinny, or somewhere in between. That our health is more important than how we look, and being fat or skinny is a superficial way of judging health or happiness.

 

EDIT: I wanted to add that I don’t think it’s a bad idea to market dolls that are more realistic and representative of girls of varying body types. I think it’s a great idea, in fact. The Lammily doll is fantastic and I think can help girls feel better about themselves. I also don’t think it’s appropriate to blame Barbie for perpetuating a negative self image when it is our own culture that created and encourages body shaming.

Pornography and feminism

September 1, 2014

Pornography is a hot topic (no pun intended) in society, and especially in feminism. A lot of feminists ague that mainstream pornography is degrading to women, gives people an unrealistic idea of sexuality and distorts body image. This is all very true, to some extent, but I don’t think that porn is inherently harmful (even the way it is depicted currently) and that with proper education and moderation, porn can be a fun little escape into fantasy where the user knows the difference between fantasy and reality (as with video games). I love porn. I think it’s a great way to enhance fantasy alone or with a partner. Are there problems with it? Oh yes, I will not refute that, but I think there are some factors people don’t always consider when arguing against porn.

The concept that porn is degrading to women is not a new one. Since porn has become more and more available, and more aggressively marketed to men, the scrutiny on the porn industry’s portrayal of women has increased exponentially. And it’s true that some porn does depict some pretty degrading stuff. The most important factor being ignored here (on both sides) is consent. In the majority of porn, the people in the videos appear to be consenting to whatever acts are being displayed. Now, note I said, appear to be. In a society where women are highly sexualized, objectified, and blamed if they are assaulted, I think it would be super awesome for the porn industry to have more depictions of enthusiastic consent where someone asks “do you want ___?” and the other says “YES!” Some videos do this. I like those ones. Most of them though, the consent is implied, and I can see where that would be problematic.

As for the unrealistic idea of sexuality, well, sure, if porn is someone’s ONLY introduction into sexuality. If parents have more active and realistic discussions about sex with their children, it might be easier for them to understand that porn is just a fantasy world when they do stumble across it one lonely night browsing the web when they’re 13.  Kids explore their sexualities much sooner than that though, and they explore each others bodies at a very early age way before they discover porn, and so when they do look at porn for the first time, chances are it’s not the first time they are looking at naked bodies and it’s probably unlikely they haven’t touched, licked, or otherwise fondled someone’s genitals (their own at the very least).

Distorted body image, okay, yeah, this is true. Most porn actors aren’t exactly average looking. Porn isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) to use airbrushed, made up, and surgically altered models. The attack here shouldn’t just be on porn, or even the media and fashion industry, but on society for continuing to consume this unrealistic and impossible standard of perfection. For them to stop producing it, the demand for it has to decrease dramatically. Public outcry isn’t going to stop them from wanting to make money, unfortunately.

I think that another very important issue that is often ignored in this debate is that with the rise of internet use and free porn sites, “mainstream” porn is being redefined. Amateur porn is more popular than ever, and different types of people of all shapes, sizes, and colors produce porn. More and more women are creating and maintaining their own cam websites and erotic picture galleries, or directing and producing porn that is more orientated to sexual pleasure and more sensual themes. Porn is not what it used to be, and I welcome anyone who is tired of the perfectly sculpted bodies, and unrealistic sex acts to do a little internet digging and find some different porn, because it’s out there, waiting for you to pleasure yourself to it.

Coming out as fat

July 27, 2014

I am a fat girl. There, I said it, I’m fat. When I say this, I am stating a factual descriptive characteristic about my body. I am not getting down on myself or fishing for compliments or even saying that I have any problem with being fat. I actually love my body. It took a long time to get there, as I had to combat conventional beauty standards, but I do love my body. I am fat and I am okay with it. This journey of learning self love and acceptance has even made me adopt fatness as an identity because when I say I am fat, people do automatically assume I am insulting myself. Having adopted this identity, and embracing my fatness in a positive way, I am still faced with some interesting challenges in combating the societal idea that fat = unattractive.

Whenever I mention to someone that I am fat the most common response I get is, “you’re not fat.” This is usually because said person finds me attractive and/or thinks I am being insecure about my body. The simple truth is that I fall on some weird in-between skinny and fat based on most people’s standards because when they envision a fat person, they think of some mis-porportioned, out of shape slob. The fact is, fatness comes in varying degrees and proportions, and I am fat. I am healthy (remarkably, as I don’t live a very healthy lifestyle), and I am beautiful, and I am perfectly okay with being fat. To deny that is to invalidate not just my identity as a fat woman, but my hard work to accept and love my body. I am 5’2″ and I weigh between 165 and 180 pounds. I am fat. In fact, according to BMI, I am obese (BMI is a bullshit medical standard, by the way). My proportions are fabulous, and I have a wonderful figure. I have never had any problems finding sexual or romantic partners, so obviously my fatness does not hinder my love life or make me unattractive.

How did I learn to love myself and accept being fat? Well, it was a journey. I have always been fat, even when I was a “healthy weight” I had a belly. I’ve gotten mistaken as pregnant since after puberty by various people. When I first got on birth control, I gained about 30 pounds. This was when I started having insecurities about my weight and body. Then I saw this glorious video and started to re-evaluate my perspective. I then began to look at myself in the mirror every day and said to myself, “I’m fat and it’s okay.” Also, The scene in Pulp Fiction where Fabienne says she wants a potbelly and that women with bellies are sexy gave me a lot of confidence because I have exactly the body she is describing! Another thing that helped me was finding just one part of my body that I was already confident about and focusing on it. For me, it’s my vulva. It’s glorious and beautiful and perfect in every way and I have always found it to be aesthetically pleasing. Having that much confidence about just one part of my body helped me to respect other parts of my body and find them more beautiful. Finally I realized, other people find me gorgeous, so yeah, being fat is not a bad thing.

Shopping sucks, because the fashion industry seems to have this idea that all fat people are proportioned the same way, but when I do find clothes that fit right, I love it. I adore how certain outfits complement my figure. I sometimes wear tight tank tops, and my breasts and my belly are prominently displayed, and I have all the confidence that I am damn sexy. And I am fat. It’s not a bad word. I’ve embraced it, and invite others to do the same. I wish more people could have the confidence I have discovered for myself, because it makes my sex life so much more gratifying, and I waste a lot less time agonizing over what to wear or whether my back rolls are showing. Whether you are fat or skinny or “somewhere in between” learn to love yourself. It will go a long way.

Masturbation

May 7, 2014

May is National Masturbation Month (yes, that’s a thing). Masturbation is a great way to get to know your own body and a fantastic way of showing a partner how you like to be touched. It has been linked to better overall health including blood pressure, relieving migraines and menstrual cramps, and some studies suggest it can even reduce your risk for certain cancers. Masturbation can also help improve sleep patterns, relieve stress, and increase your ability to orgasm with a partner. Mutual masturbation is also a good alternative to sexual intercourse if you’re worried about pregnancy or STIs (there can still be some risk, but it is very minimal).

 

Basically, masturbation is awesome, and everyone should do it. Most people do, but a lot of people lie about it. Touching yourself is not shameful, and you should not feel embarrassed about doing it. It’s natural, healthy, and best of all, fun!

If you would like to submit a question for the monthly Q&A Post, please send an email to perspectivesonsex@gmail.com

On body acceptance

March 25, 2014

Within the body positive movement, there is a lot of talk about “real” women and those “real” women being of average size and having curves. But there isn’t a lot of talk about “real” men, because the idea of hegemonic masculinity is so rampant in our culture, that many people still perceive a “real” man as a man who is muscular, “in shape”, and athletic. Why is a “real woman” plus sized, but a “real man” a macho, ripped, tough guy? How about we stop judging other people’s bodies and realize that no matter a woman’s and a man’s size, shape, or body type, they are real.

Invalidating anyone’s body is to dehumanize them, and no one deserves to be made to feel as if they are not a real person. This type of thinking leads to rape culture and bullying. If you say a skinny woman is not real, you’re saying she is not a person and ultimately, sending the message that it is okay to bully, rape, or beat her. If you say a scrawny man, or a fat man is not a real man, you are sending a message that it is okay to bully, rape, or beat him.

This kind of dehumanizing is also closely linked to transphobia, I’d I like to take a small side-step here and talk a little about that.

Trans* men and women are very often the targets of body shaming. The most common, and the most disgusting, in my opinion, is the idea that Trans* people are trying to “trick” or deceive people into sleeping with them. This is seen all too often in media, where (usually a Trans* woman) is approached by a Cis male at the bar, and he later finds out she’s “really a man.” No, no no no no. As a result, Trans* people are all too often victims of rape, assault and even murder. If you are not comfortable being with a Trans* person, own up to your transphobia, politely decline any further advances and move on. A Trans* man is a real man and a Trans* woman is a real woman, regardless of their biological sex (I will cover the difference between sex an gender more thoroughly in another post).

Back to body shaming as a whole–calling anyone too skinny can be just as damaging as calling someone too fat or too muscular. This is bullying and it can trigger intense emotional reactions that may lead to eating disorders, self harm, or even suicide.

This is not to say the media is not guilty of portraying an unrealistic standard. When I complain about the media not portraying “real” men or women, I am complaining about the excessive Photoshopping going on, not thinking that a woman who is truly a size 0 is not real, or that a man who is muscular is not real. They are just as real as a fat woman or fat man, and that’s okay. What is not okay is assigning any standard of beauty or attractiveness to any one body type for either sex or gender. It’s okay to have preferences, it’s not okay to  invalidate and dehumanize someone because they don’t fit what you find appealing.

 

If you wish to ask a question for the monthly Q&A post, please send me an email at gwendolendashammy@gmail.com