Posted by Diana Denza · October 11, 2013 8:58 PM
· 1 reaction
“You’re so thin. Are you a dancer?” a fellow intern asked after looking me up and down. I had just turned 21 and was starting my first summer internship in the accessories closet at a major women’s magazine. I was awkward. I was going through overwhelming life changes. I was sad. I was emaciated.
My body–or what was left of it_soon became the envy of fellow interns. Obsessively counting calories and finding new ways to limit food intake gave me a false sense of power over my life, which I felt was quickly spiraling out of control. I didn’t have a trust fund or designer clothing, but I had my body, a body I would try to starve into perfection.
Spending 14-hour days running errands and organizing the fashion closet accelerated my weight loss. I pushed through headaches and dizziness to haul heavy bags across town and carefully photograph and organize jewelry, shoes, and handbags. At times, I almost forgot that I was running on a sugar-free Jello, coffee, and a bagel with the dough ripped out of it. I used to call my sister in a panic when I ate a granola bar.
Posted by Paulina Pinsky · September 17, 2013 8:05 PM
· 5 reactions
Every day the word “fat” shows up and it is always uninvited. When I was last home from school in June, I brought up Kim Kardashian during a family dinner. I hadn’t even completed my thought about how disgusting I found the media’s emphasis on her weight gain during her pregnancy, before my mother interrupted me: “Yeah. She got really fat.” I paused and looked at my father, hoping that he would start a riot on my behalf; he just mumbled his medical opinion under his breath, saying, “You know, it’s very unhealthy for the baby to gain that much weight. Could be Eclampsia, which is very serious.”
I'm never been someone who uses makeup to any real extent. Actually, I never learned how to apply it when the pre-teen window of opportunity to do so was wide open. As a result, it rarely dawns on me to put any on before I leave the house and truth be told I'm just a bit lazy about it. A little of blush, a little mascara, some clear lip gloss. Most of what I own is probably past its use date. Let me be clear, I take no issue with women wearing makeup nor do I believe that she must have a poor body or self image just because she uses it. I get it, some women just really like it. When I can remember to put it on I like it too...sometimes. I personally know quite a few women who rely on their makeup routine to the extent that they won't leave the house without it. That's where the title of this blog comes from, you know that commonly uttered expression, 'I have to put my face on'.
Posted by Leah Sweet · August 03, 2013 9:24 PM
· 3 reactions
“Damn, heifer…” As I exit an upscale supermarket last week, my body size is apparently so remarkable that it is mentioned, if barely audibly, by the store’s security guard.
I should be horribly offended. Right? That’s what my friends say when I recount the incident to them later. “What did you DO?” they ask, wide-eyed and furious by proxy. And though I appreciate their outrage, the truth is that I did nothing. But my lack of response, contrary to what one might think, didn’t stem from feeling intimidated or embarrassed. Actually, I felt little at all, and I consider my indifference the proud result of therapy, practice at loving myself, and ironically, weight gain.
I remember looking in the full-length mirror, dressed up for a nightclub and saying to my twin sister, “I’m so beautiful. I’m so hot." I was probably around 16-years-old. My beauty felt like an achievement, like something I was really proud of, like an accomplishment. I still question my fascination with my appearance and don’t find that it’s a topic that is discussed amongst women, even in feminist circles. It’s very common to hear about women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies; women’s positive interest with their appearance is rarely discussed.
It feels like a taboo subject, something I shouldn't be discussing. Ok, I know what you're thinking—most women aren’t happy with the way they look like and I should be celebrating it rather than analyzing it, but I think that what appears on the surface as something really great can also feel rather complicated on the inside.
You may have heard or read that Turkish Airlines implemented a ban on wearing red lipstick or nail polish because it was said to undermine the “visual integrity” of the airline. Whether it does or doesn't do this, it's pretty clear that red isn't associated with purity in this situation. I disagree with the ban for my own feminist reasons but always think it is wise to consider the cultural context in which such decisions are made (and in this case overturned as a result of pressure). In my search for other articles about Turkish Airlines I found a second and contrasting example of the use of red (and flight attendants, coincidentally).
Posted by Danielle Orner · June 14, 2013 11:33 PM
· 4 reactions
Whenever I catch a glance of myself in a store window as I walk past, I'm surprised. I've been an amputee for thirteen years – ever since I was diagnosed with bone cancer at age fifteen. Still, in my head, I think I walk just like everyone else. The full-length windows show me differently. I have a slight limp. My hip dips as I walk. My prosthetic socket is visible through the side of my jeans and squishes up one butt cheek. I'm fascinated by this stranger everyone else sees. Even now, there are so few differently-able people in the media that I will sometimes walk back and forth trying to image what I look like to other people. A process that becomes more complicated when I am wearing shorts or a dress.
I dislike the way my prosthetic leg looks most when it is off. I roll it under the bed at night. I cover it with a towel by the pool. It looks lifeless, dead. I am reminded that one day it will be left behind when I die. It will be someone's job to take a piece of me to be dismantled and donated to landmine victims overseas. The actual appearance of the titanium pole, plastic foot, and springs don't bother me as much as the way other people stare. I can feel it when you touch me. I can also feel the way a friend freezes the first time they do it and are afraid they've done something wrong. Their body language communicates their debate of whether or not to take their hand away.
In this culture of images, our currency is made up of envious or admiring glances. Advertising encourages us to be the center of attention but only for the right reasons. I've become accustom to the way people look at my body as they try to figure out is wrong. I'm not used to the nasty looks people give me when I am with my girlfriend.
When I first came out a year ago, a female friend commented, “so you like ugly girls.” She immediately tried to pass it off as a joke. We were flipping through Facebook profiles of the girls I had crushes on. In some ways, I am so grateful to her for her insensitive slip-up. Her accidental honesty made me realize I was trying to blend in and pass for a beauty norm I didn't even find attractive. Real punishments exist for falling off the grid of accepted standards. Yet, real freedom comes from trusting your own vision.
After tweaking my knee recently while teaching a fitness class, my first thought was—to quote a text I sent to my best friend about two hours after the incident—I am a fucking idiot. The idiocy, as far as I was concerned, was my refusal to stop pushing myself despite the signals my body was giving me over the last few weeks. Signals in the form of pain. Some context—I’ve had five orthopedic surgeries on my right leg since 2005. Most recently in December 2012, I needed a second ankle ligament reconstruction after rupturing the first, plus a knee surgery to fix a torn meniscus and pop a few cysts.
The reason I dropped the F bomb on myself was because I felt so angry and frustrated for not learning the lesson of self care. I was injured and then beating myself up further for not stopping. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to know this is not exactly compassionate, loving-kindness. Even after years of working on my inner monologue and teaching others to do the same, I still found myself failing the “Would you treat a friend that way?” test (note: I treat my friends very well.).
I can’t overstate the importance and high stakes of reigning in self-hate, blame and shame in favor of a gentle attitude towards the self. I share that story because even at 36, I am very much a work in progress. The initial idea for this article was to write about the bulimia I developed a when I was 18 and when I found myself more drawn to write on the subject of injuries and self care, I fast realized they are closely related. I grew up with a “No pain, no gain!” and “Walk it off!” mentality. The perfectionism I internalized became a way to measure myself against goals that were simply unattainable. The eating disorder I developed and then the string of body breakdowns share similar roots and my healing from both is the tree of self love.
I spend an unnatural amount of time concerned with the shape and size of my body...
....I study, inspect, and scrutinize it constantly. How does it look in certain clothes? How does it feel in them? Do my thighs or hips feel tight in my trousers? Is my body taking up more room in my clothes than it did yesterday? No, I'm not conceited or vain about the way I look. If anything, I'm self-deprecating. I'm better than I once was though. Well, maybe just a bit. There was a time when I would cancel on friends because I 'felt' fat. I would also discreetly sneak a peak at my body in just about every reflective surface as a way to visually reassure myself. When that got to be too much I would avoid looking all together because I knew that I would only have unkind words for myself and I just couldn't bear it.
Thursday, April 25th, 2013 was the inaugural public meeting for Endangered Bodies, NYC. I arrived a little late to find a room already full of women. I took a seat at the back as I typically do. Not because I'm particularly shy either. A number of people shared their thoughts, ideas, desires, and hopes for the group. I was impressed with the creativity of some of the ideas and the enthusiasm and energy with which they were delivered. We began setting out goals and objectives that correspond to our mission. One such objective, and a critical one at that, is to establish Endangered Bodies, NYC as representative of many voices: women and girls of course, but also men, boys, people of color, socially disadvantaged, and disabled people. We all live in this world and are exposed to the same social and cultural references to body and appearance ideals.