Wednesday, March 18, 2009
According to a March 16 article from the UPI, researchers found that the perception of being overweight among American girls raised the probability of suicidal thoughts by 5.6 percent, the probability of a suicide attempts by 3.2 percent and the probability of injury causing suicide attempts by 0.6 percent. "The prevalence of body dissatisfaction, among special populations of youths such as non-black girls, is significantly higher than the general youth population, even when the underlying weight is in a healthy range," study co-author Inas Rashad of Georgia State University in Atlanta said in a statement. The study, based on 1999-2007 data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System, is scheduled to be published in Social Science and Medicine.
I don't know what else could better illustrate the devastating consequences to self-perception and self-worth that are meted out by the stigma of fatness. It is only a deeply sick, cannabalistic culture that could engrain such a powerful reflex of fatty shaming that girls internalize the message so thoroughly as to despise their bodies to the point of suicide. I use the adjective "cannabalistic" because we are all culpable in cultivating and enforcing the stigma of fatness not only in social contexts, but also, most perniciously, in our own consciousnesses. Every time a mom stands in front of her bathroom mirror berating the size of her thighs as her young daughter watches from the open door, every time a young professional woman feels like a failure as she flips through the pages of her latest issue of Cosmo and compares her appearance to those of the models' Photoshopped body products, every time a guy worries about introducing his new girlfriend to his buddies because she is not shaped like the latest model of "Hot Girl" from the lad mags (FHM, Maxim, etc.), we are sustaining the ethos of self-enforced stigmas and denigration against fat/overweight/voluptuous/name-your-euphemism body shapes that feeds this culture of toxic self-hatred. A cannabalizing media and social culture promotes self-destructive, self-annhilating, and humanity-destroying behaviors because, while explicit enforcement of body image mandates (pay discrimination against overweight individuals, fat camps, harassment of the fat girl in school without the teacher stopping it) are present and potent, this kind of overt discrimination is far less efficient than creating an environment where individuals police and shame their own body shapes and appearances into submission. And then, with the people-flesh primed with fear and self-hatred, the cannabalizing consumer culture strikes for its feast selling the products of insecurity, from cosmetic surgery to diet plans to exercise programs to beauty magazines and their wares. Feast or famine, indeed.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Nathan A. Heflick and Jamie L. Goldenberg of the University of South Florida hypothesized that focusing on a woman’s appearance will promote reduced perceptions of competence, and also, by virtue of construing the women as an “object,” perceptions of the woman as less human. To test the hypothesis, Heflick and Goldenberg took a group of 133 undergraduates and assigned them to write a few lines about one of two celebrities: vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin or actress Angelina Jolie. Half of the participants in each category were asked to write “your thoughts and feelings about this person,” while the other half were asked to write “your thoughts and feelings about this person’s appearance.” The participants were then asked to rate their subject (Palin or Jolie) in terms of various attributes, including competence.
The resulting findings largely confirmed the theory: Those who wrote about Palin’s appearance were more positive in their assessments than those who assessed her qualities as a person, but they rated her far lower in terms of competence, intelligence, and capability, and were far less likely to indicate they planned to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. The study suggests that their confidence in her abilities may have decreased the more they focused on her looks.
I find this particular line of research to be intriguing, especially considering the media's proclivity to sexualize any woman who comes even close to having authority over cultural and social structures. Michelle Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer and phenomenally successful professional who has the power to change the way that we see blackness and womanhood in America forever, is reduced to her "right to bare arms" and populist fashion choices. Despite my love-hate relationship with her over the years, Katie Couric is an established journalist whose spectacular legs should not have to be featured in every profile article about her from the election. And let's not even get started with the ball-busting and castrating nature that was ascribed to Hillary Clinton from the time she entered the public eye for daring to wear gender-neutral pant suits and not openly advertising her fuckability.
One by one, any woman in American political life who dares to make a place for herself in the power structure is subjected to the same horrifying body dissection and hotness assessment ritual that every Hollywood actress and musician must endure. It is very telling that our media culture, and therefore its consumers, see politicians and pop stars through the same lens of objectification. It doesn't matter why you're famous - if you're a woman in the public eye, your body and how you inhabit it is fair game and, in fact, is usually the first thing about you held up to public scrutiny, not your background or your policy positions. So, if you're considering a political or high-profile business career, then I'd advise you to get ahead of the media curve and try to pre-manufacture your appearance for consumption. Here are your choices: frigid bitch, slutty ho, or mannish dyke. Don't like your options? Sorry, those are the only sterotypes for women the media's got in stock. And if you don't fit easily into any stereotype, then forget the whole prominence and fame thing. Either you fit the mold or we find someone else who will.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
First off, we have Allison from New Orleans, who in her audition interview with Tyra and the Jays disclosed her jealousy of people that get bloody noses, as she loves blood and how it looks running down someone's face. Everyone living in the house with her should be advised to smile and nod when she talks while slowly backing away. Next up is London, the born-again Christian evangelizer who thanked Jesus profusely when Tyra called her name to live in the house. Yes, the Savior of Mankind had a direct role in your participation in a reality show, the producers can tell London as they pat her on the head. Plus, we've got the obligatory "issues" girls who Tyra puts on the show as "role models:" Isabella, who was booted last night, has epilepsy, and Tahlia has burns all over her body. Remind me again how a model with burns all over her body, however inspiring she may be to other burn victims, is supposed to get work in an industry where models are almost universally expected to have perfectly flawless skin? And last but certainly not least, we've got the all-purpose drama-rama role, the girl who is put in the house every cycle by the producers to instigate cat fights and shouting matches, played by Sandra, who had a riotous exchange with another girl already prior to a photo shoot. The other girl was so distracted and off-guard by her antics that she fucked up the photo and was sent packing before she even made it to the house. Imagine how much Sandra will be able to do to break her competition's will to live when she's actually living with them!
Even discounting the overall silliness of the whole "Goddess" theme of the first challenge, this cycle promises to be a new low in the CW's blockbuster series. Even the advertisers aren't impressed - most of the ad time was filled by the CW's promotions for its other shows (with 90210 and One Tree Hill 30-second spots making ANTM look like Masterpiece Theater by comparison). Speaking of ads, am I the only one who notices that the "My Life as a Cover Girl" ads, this time featuring McKey as the winner of Cycle 11, only show during ANTM breaks? Have you ever seen McKey's ads on the teevee at any other time?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The bottom image is a spoof of the top image, both photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair. Come on, you guys! For being the Judd Apatow darling funny men that Hollywood has been trying to sell us for the last two years, you could at least show a little skin. I give it an A- for concept, a D for effort. This could have been a really edgy visual commentary on the portrayal of male and female celebrities' naked bodies, but the boys chickened out. Typical.
UPDATE: Others agree!
Salon's Broadsheet March 2 round table
"Lynn Harris: Dodai at Jezebel is correct: "As any good comedian knows, you have to commit to the joke." This, in those terms, is an epic fail. So, wait: is it men who aren't funny after all?
Rebecca Traister: All this silliness does is amplify the point that men can become famous in Hollywood, and famous enough to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, without having bodies that you want to see unclothed. There is not a similar path to success for Hollywood's women.
Sarah Hepola: OK, but honestly? I would like to see Paul Rudd unclothed.
Lynn: I was thinking the same thing, sistah friend!
Tracy Clark-Flory: Ditto.
Mary Elizabeth Williams: Between the hack work and the pawning of her photos, I guess Annie Leibovitz really is hard up. That this drivel is being peddled by the same woman who shot one of the most famous male nude photos ever -- the beautiful, vulnerable image of John Lennon curled up against Yoko Ono for Rolling Stone, just makes the whole business all the more cynical and pitiful.
Please. Parody something that's iconic and interesting and anybody gave a damn about the first time. But if you insist, for God's sake, have the cojones to show some cojones. (I will concede, however, that an unbuttoned Paul Rudd is never an entirely unwelcome image.)"
― Tracy Clark-Flory
Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte, March 3:
"If you challenged the strict gender stratification where women are for shutting up and being hot and men are for staying clothed and looking, and say, put lean, naked men in a picture to be gazed at by a famous lesbian, you’d have made the point, but it wouldn’t be funny, because there’s not gotcha there. And then a lot of people would be uncomfortable, because you revealed the lie of gender essentialism. But this isn’t funny, either."
Sunday, March 1, 2009
More specifically, I examine the rapidly evolving nature of representations of the self, often defined through reference to the body, and how these representations relate to the technological innovations and communicative capabilities afforded by new media. This topic could be more broadly understood as the social uses and effects of new vs. traditional media representations of the body. The idea of the disembodied self is fascinating to me, especially as it relates to the interactions between the individual consciousness and virtual physicality.
The problem of mediated consciousness and its effects on the body translates into an exploration of the current state of body image studies regarding traditional media technologies contrasted with the potential areas of investigation of body image in new media. In this comparison, I am interested in analyzing gender and race communication throughout broadly defined textual sources in the new media and how this kind of identity communication has evolved from its uses in traditional media to new media contexts. In essence, I am motivated to probe the question of what role new media will play in shaping images of ourselves.
This line of inquiry logically leads to an interest in the psychological ramifications of body image in the new media environment, particularly related to the nature of the relationship between the body and mind. If the means and media for communicating gender, race, and physicality are shifting with the advance of technology, then how will these developments change people's relationships with themselves, their bodies, and their identities? Of special interest to me is the psychological impact of new communication technologies on disordered eating behaviors and other body dysmorphic disorders, particularly in women.