Fighting with the Sky

Posts Tagged ‘self esteem

I’m having a hard time accepting my own thin privilege. RMJ at Deeply Problematic wrote a post a little bit ago about coming to accept her thin privilege. That was really the first time that I thought of myself as having thin privilege and it made me kind of uncomfortable. And I want to explore that uncomfortableness here.

So what is thin privilege exactly? Anji at Shut Up, Sit Down offers these examples:

For a start, the ‘thin’ in ‘thin privilege’ does not mean “size zero”. It means “of ‘normal’ weight”. Some examples: If you can walk into Top Shop, Miss Selfridge or any other high street fashion shop and know their size range includes your clothing size, you have thin privilege. If you can book a flight without fear that other passengers will hope like hell they’re not seated next to you or worse, that you will be refused entry to the flight because of your size, you have thin privilege. If you can happily travel by car or bus or train and know that the seat will be built to accommodate your arse, you have thin privilege. If you can visit your doctor without being constantly berated about losing weight and having every physical malady you suffer attributed to your size and nothing else, you have thin privilege.

So yes, I have thin privilege.

As a child, I was very slender. But then puberty hit and as I started growing, I started putting on weight around my middle. Now, I go between a size 12 and 14 in bottoms and between large and x-large in tops, depending on the store and style. I rarely ever have to be concerned about the fatphobic things that Anji lists above (depending on the store, I’m not always guaranteed clothes in my size range). But even without being subject to blatant fatphobia, I feel as if society judges me for being fat. I have started to come to terms a little bit with my body. I have started wearing shorts shorter than knee-length again (see picture to left of me playing Red Rover with my friends). I try to dress for my body type instead of what’s “in style.”

I am, as some would say, a woman of “average”* weight and size…though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the media and clothing stores. Because of this, I have thin privilege. So, why I am so uncomfortable at accepting this kind of privilege. Part of my interest in feminism is examining different kinds of privilege and my investments in them. So why is it so hard for me to accept this privilege?

Society tells us through the media, clothing stores, new reports, etc. that the “average” is, in fact, a size 4 – maybe even a size 2. Since puberty, I have not seen myself reflected in the media and as a result, have not thought of myself as having thin privilege. There are profits to me made to make women of all sizes feel bad about themselves, so that is what the media is going to do.

I try to be aware of fatphobic language and events, but maybe my denial of accepting my thin privilege contributes to a fatphobic society. Just because I am self-conscious about my body does not mean that I don’t benefit from thin privilege. I have to start doing a better job at recognizing my investments in thin priviege.

Coming to terms with one’s own thin privilege does not mean that you will not have any body image issues. Today’s society thrives off of creating body image issues for women (and men). Owning one’s thin privilege is more about realizing the ways that you are invested in the fatphobic tendencies of society.

*I dislike using the term “average” or “normal” to describe people’s bodies. It implies that there is something abnormal or not average, when everybody’s body is different. By using this term, I am simply using it statistically…my body is statistically average. But there really is no such thing as a “normal” body. Using the term “normal” just contributes to othering and oppression.


We are all too aware that advertisements are often photoshopped. One example of breast enhancement through photoshopping is Kiera Knightly.

Kiera Knightly is a beautiful woman. Knightly is not well-endowed in the breast region and she loves her body. However, she faces a constant battle to not have her body made “curvier” in advertisments and movie promotions. This post offers the quote: “She has insisted that her figure stay in its natural state. She is proud of her body and doesn’t want it altered.”

But it seems that Knightly has been photoshopped yet again in a recent Chanel ad. To the left is that Chanel ad that has appeared for the new perfume Coco Mademosielle. She’s pictured bare chested except for suspender straps that cover her nipples.

But if we look at the picture to the right of her being “tended to” during the photoshoot, you can see that her bust is not as ample as it appears in the ad. The Daily Mail brought in an airbrushing expert to look at the ad, and he had this to say: ‘Her breast has had some shading added to it to give it the effect of being rounder and more pert and it has also been increased in size slightly.’ Chanel has not commented on the issue to confirm or deny airbrushing, but I think that it is pretty obvious that there has definitely been some digital enhancement.

And this is not the first time that Knightly’s body, specifically her breasts, have been the subject of airbrushing. In the movie promotion posters for King Arthur, Knightly appeared to have an inflated bust in the American posters (though not in the British posters…).

And we wonder why women have negative relationships with their breasts. To have someone who is happy with their body photoshopped to alter her appearance just reinforces in society that need to change our appearances — to never be happy with the way you are. Knightly loves her body and speaks up against having her body photoshopped for advertisements, yet her body continues to be airbrushed.

Continuing to use airbrushing in advertisements encourages women to have unhealthy relationships with their bodies and their breasts. By taking a woman who is relatively flat-chested and photoshopping her body to make it appear as if she is bustier is telling women with small breasts that they are not good enough — that they need to make their breasts bigger if they want to be accepted in society. Most women at some point in their lives have desires to make their breasts larger, smaller, rounder, perkier, etc. This is partly caused by the need to photoshop women in advertisements. Our obsession with bigger breasts is hurting women of all shapes and sizes.

H/T to o filthy grandeur!

In Sing-A-Long Saturday, I will be featuring a song or artist that I am particularly fond of. I will look at this song or artist through a feminist lens in order to reflect on my investments in both music and feminism. And to promote some of my favority songs and artists, because I think they’re pretty awesome.

“Young James Dean” by Girlyman

I saw Girlyman open for Dar Williams in 2005. I instantly fell in love with them. They play folky type music and have some great lyrics. My favorite song of theirs will most likely always be “Young James Dean.” It was the first song of theirs that I got and I know the lyrics by heart.

Girlyman is comprised of Nate Borofsky, Doris Muramatsu, and Ty Greenstein. This is what Muramatsu had to say about their unique name “Girlyman”:

“It’s great for us, provocative and playful. It makes people laugh. But it also hints at how we’ve never quite fit in. Nate wears make-up on stage, I’m a Japanese-American playing to mostly white audiences. Ty is a grown-up tomboy. The name Girlyman lets us acknowledge that we’re out of the mainstream, but without taking ourselves too seriously.”

I love that Girlyman doesn’t try to pretend that they are anyone but who they are.

And now onto the song: “Young James Dean”…

In the back of a camouflage truck
They locked me in once with the material
I was full of a rage no one could handle
I was a private in the army
All the real girls with their backs turned called me crazy
Called me crazy

I worked for a while at a diner
Manager said I had to wear that little uniform
Said I was part of the problem
But I was in love with that blonde girl
She kissed me twice behind the counter
But when I asked her to get into my car
She called her man, said ‘don’t bother her’
She called her man, said ‘don’t bother her’

I guess I’ll feel less than real all my life
With these feathers I made
Under me lifting me up
But I was a young James Dean
With a way with the ladies
All the real boys in their black jeans called me crazy
Called me crazy
Called me crazy
Called me crazy

This song is, to me, all about struggling to find your own identity and being yourself. The person singing the song never quite fits in with the people he/she is with.

I highly recommend checking out Girlyman’s other music.

Sorry the video is not of great quality, Girlyman doesn’t produce a lot of music videos. The song starts around 1:10:

Being that it is summertime, I understand that people get exceedingly hot. I’m often walking or driving around on a particularly warm summer day and see numerous men walking or lounging around without a shirt on. I fully understand a man’s right to do this, especially when it is very warm outside. But when a woman does it, it is indecent exposure.

I understand that breasts are sexual objects and sexual objects are a big no-no in society. But on a hot, sticky day, shirts can be awfully uncomfortable. Because of this, there are many days where I hate said shirt and wish I could shed it in public. While I often wish this, but I would never actually do it because it is not socially acceptable.

On a side note, there are many men who do not have shirts that have breasts, or at least what look like breasts. And I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I don’t always want to look at that. If men should have the pleasure of cooling off by shedding their tops, so should women…or no one should be able to. If people don’t want to see women’s breasts in public, then why should we have to see men’s breasts?

Every time I see a guy walking around without a shirt on, I wonder to myself why it’s acceptable for men while it’s not acceptable for women (I know, basic answer is breasts are sexual objects and should be covered in public). I’ve brought this up to some people and I usually get the same answer: well, why don’t you just walk around topless and demonstrate the double standard? Even if I wouldn’t be arrested for doing this, in a cultural climate like this one, where women are told to feel ashamed about their bodies, I would not feel comfortable.

So it’s not only laws that have to change, but culture’s perception of female bodies entirely (but we all know that laws reflect cultural values). As long as women are made to feel ashamed about their bodies because they are not perfect (like anyone’s is), we are not going to see any change. I have no inclination to believe that this will happen anytime soon because there is so much profit to be made, in almost every arena, on the objectification and deprecation of women’s bodies, but a woman can hope, can’t she?

And I’m not going to say that I’m completely comfortable with my body, because I’m not. I’ve struggled with my body image ever since I became aware that my body was not “perfect.” As much as I try to tell myself that it doesn’t matter what my body looks like, every time I go out anywhere, I see women whose bodies I envy and then feel ashamed about my own. And as much as I know that this is a product of societal values, it’s hard (or impossible) to completely ignore 22 years of cultural indoctrination.

I think that it is just important for every woman to be constantly trying to love their body just a little bit more (and it is a constant struggle). Be conscious of the cultural images of women’s bodies and the constant impression that your body will never be good enough. I’m not saying this is an easy thing, because it’s not. And I’m not saying that just being conscious of it will make you 100% happy with your body, because it won’t. I think that everyone just needs to be conscious of it and by doing that, it can be easier to fight these cultural images.

So in a post that started about men’s shirtless-ness, I ended up discussing women’s body image. But if men are comfortable enough with their imperfect bodies (not all men are) to walk around without shirt, why can’t women? Or why can’t women work towards being comfortable enough? Comparing the acceptablility of being topless for both men and women shows the double standard of men’s and women’s bodies. Women face more shame and criticism about their bodies than men do in the public arena.* Because of this, most women will never feel comfortable being shirtless or let alone showing a little more skin than normal on a hot day.

*Note: I do not want to say that men do not face any shame or criticism, and I cannot really speak to how much because I am not a man. I just believe that at least in the public arena, women face more criticism than men because there is the constant pressure on women (more than men, I think) to be skinny and have that “perfect” body.

Further reading:
Women should have the right to be shirtless [Daisy’s Dead Air]

With the premiere of More to Love looming in the near future, I have been thinking more and more about the portrayal of overweight people* in the media. I posted earlier about how More to Love is further objectifying overweight people. But More to Love is not the only show on television right now centered around overweight people. The Biggest Loser has been around for a while now, Dance Your Ass Off recently kicked off their first season, and Drop Dead Diva just premiere on Lifetime.

The Biggest Loser and Dance Your Ass Off are weight-loss shows centered around “bettering” yourself. These shows very clearly say that you are not good enough if you are overweight. More to Love is slightly (only slightly) harder to read because it portrays itself as loving the body that you are in. But that’s not really the message that it sends. This show defines people by their weight as if it were their only identifiable characteristic and sends the message that only overweight people can love other overweight people.

Drop Dead Diva is a slightly different case because it is an hour long dramedy (by the looks of it) where as the other shows are reality shows. [Disclaimer: I have not seen this show. I am going off of commercials and reading other blog posts about it] The basic premise of the show is that model Deb and brainy lawyer Jane die at the same time and Deb is brought back to life in Jane’s body. The only problem for Deb is that Jane is “plus-size.”* She doesn’t know how to handle. And my guess is that Deb-in-Jane’s-body learns what it is like to be “plus size” and that it is beautiful to be “plus size” as well.

While I’m sure that the aim of Drop Dead Diva is to bring light to the discrimination against and stereotypes of overweight people, I see it as having the same effect as More to Love. Focusing on weight as a part of personality further enforces the stereotype that weight matters.Drop Dead Diva: Sunday Night’s Big Comedy,” a post on the Bitch blog says…

The show itself somewhat mimics Deb’s obliviousness when it comes to the issues of fatness it seeks to address. While its intentions are coming from a place of standing up for bigger women’s right to be seen as fabulous and treated with respect, Drop Dead Diva plays on stereotypes of blondes as bubble heads and donuts as an obsessive distraction for fat women.

It then goes on to question the outcomes of the show…

On one hand, one could say that utilizing these stereotypes makes them more apparent and allows for them to be deconstructed. On the other hand, it also serves to reinforce them as true.

I think shows like
Drop Dead Diva and the reality shows focusing on overweight people do have good intentions. And there is some merit to having more normal sized people on television shows. But when they are put on television shows solely because of their weight, that’s when we have a problem. These shows fall into the stereotypes they are trying to fight. On the other hand, what would a show that focuses on overweight people loving themselves and their bodies look like and how would it avoid falling into the stereotypes?

Maybe I will have to break down and actually watch one of them, but I just don’t know if I can handle the objectification.

* I always have a hard time coming up with a label (not that there should be a label) for “overweight” people. “Overweight” implies that there is a normal weight and that these people are obviously over it. “Plus-size” has the same connotations. I normally choose to go with “overweight” because it is much more P.C. than “fat” and I don’t really care for “plus-size.” However, when discussing the plot of Drop Dead Diva, I chose “plus-size” because that is the language used in show descriptions. Does anyone this that there is a better term to use in these situations?

Further Reading:
Do Plus-Size TV Shows Inspire or Disgust? [Jezebel]
Drop Dead Diva: “Fat Things Should Not Happen To Skinny People” [Jezebel]
On “Drop Dead Diva,” Blonds are Dumb and Plus-Size Are Smart But Insecure [The Frisky]

I actually like the show What Not to Wear. I like seeing the different clothes that get picked out. I like Stacy and Clinton, sure they are mean sometimes, but they are generally pretty funny. I think part of why I like the show is because I want to be friends with Stacy and Clinton.

But when Jezebel mentioned the show in passing in an article about how teenage girls use image consultants to boost their self-esteem, I kind of went on the offensive. The Jezebel article states…

Alter’s piece explores the growing trend of image consultations for young girls, who, due to the increased societal pressures to present a certain image thanks in part to tween stars like Miley Cyrus and makeover gurus like Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, feel that their looks need an upgrade.

Sure, I will agree that stars like Miley Cyrus are not setting the best example for young girls. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to look good. I have even seen many episodes of What Not to Wear where the woman featured that show gains more self-esteem by seeing themselves in a different light.

Stacy and Clinton can be mean sometimes, ok, a lot. But their ultimate goal in that is to help the woman see that the way they are dressing is affecting other parts of their life. While I would love to say that it shouldn’t matter how you dress, but it does. People judge. Especially when you are in a professional setting, you need to send the right message with that you wear.

In this past week’s episode centering around an ex-ballerina named Holly, the woman had low self-esteem because her body was no longer to ballerina expectations, so she was not dressing to show off her body. But Stacy and Clinton helped her to feel better about her body, let go of who she was and embrace who she is, and increase her self-esteem. While I’m sure this woman will still have some self-esteem issues, I think that seeing her attractive body in attractive clothes helped her to realize that she is still a great person even if she couldn’t make it as a ballerina.

While I agree with the Jezebel article that these image consultants may not be the best solution to self-esteem problems, I do think that What Not to Wear has some benefits. Living in today’s society, appearance does matter. And looking good should not be anti-feminist. It’s possible to look good, dress for your body type (I don’t like the phrase, but it’s true), and be a feminist. And if this show can help a few people raise their self-esteem just a little bit, I think that it is doing some good. And the pressures to fit in during high school (and beyond) are not going to go away.

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