It’s All About That Body


You have likely already watched the music video for “All About That Bass”, I know it has been popping up in my facebook feed for over a month now. The beat is catchy, there is a musical reference to JT’s Sexyback in the middle, and the dancing/aesthetic is perfectly adorable. The message of the song is body-positive, and there is a refreshing mix of body types represented in the music video. So, really, what’s not to love? See below:

So why am I writing about it now? While most of the dialogue I have seen surrounding this clip is positive, there is a concerning thread that I have marked from time to time. Somehow, in the movement against photo-shopping and “thinspo”, a charge has been taken up by certain communities that women who are on the smaller end of the body scale are not “real women”. You’ve all seen and heard the phrase “real women have curves”.

As a plus-sized woman (and don’t even get me started on the fact that the designation “plus-size” exists and is something humans have to shop and live by) I can understand and appreciate how this saying may have gained popularity. I spent years (and still spend long moments) agonizing over my body and all of the ways it is not what it ought to be according to the messages I see and hear. However, no matter how genuine and empowering the intention, any time a proclamation is made that “real _________ equals __________”, the truth is that whatever population does not equal that blank is being marginalized. For example, look at what else popped up when I searched for that phrase on Pinterest:

[And don’t get me wrong, I love this model and have shared photos featuring her before. It’s the callous message some user slapped on that I find problematic].

Can you see how this messaging is equally problematic?

I have felt dis-empowered too many times by comparison to want to intentionally perpetrate that dynamic with anyone else. Rather than comparing ourselves to others in order to see what is lacking, why cannot we as humans support each other and recognize the beauty that lies within each of us?

I am not being trite or disingenuous or naive when I ask that question. From personal experience, I have found that in the few moments when I am truly able to drop my judgment and tallying up of individual little bits I am surprised by how beautiful I find everyone to be. Truly. And I’m not talking inner beauty or personality either. I am talking the (purely physical) inherent majesty and artistry imbued in the human body. In all human bodies. Try it.

How ridiculous is it that we judge our body types and shapes according to some arbitrary standard, when we have no control whatsoever over our bone structure? I will add, as well, that body and physical beauty standards differ dramatically by culture, geography, time period…(not even going to touch the sub-cultural influences of so-called gender identity and sexual orientation within all of those other parameters).

Let’s take a look at that music video again. While the verse includes the lyrics I find to be the most important, “Cause every inch of you is perfect/from the bottom to the top”, there are some other lines that are not quite so universally empowering. For instance, the chorus:

“Because you know I’m all about that bass/’bout that bass/’bout that bass/no treble”.

A clever play on musical terms, the bass references plus-sized women, but through other lyrics such as “boys they like a little more booty to hold at night” as well as the booty-grabbing that occurs in the video, it is clear that the “bass” refers also to booty. I’ll admit that as much as I love the song, the first time I watched the video I felt a little sting because of these lyrics. You see, I’ve got the teensiest little bass. I mean, I happen to think that my booty is perfectly adorable, but I have certainly never qualified as having “junk in my trunk”.

Isn’t that horrible? In this body-positive video, featuring a singer that has similar physical attributes to myself, one of the few things I focused on was the fact that I do not feel that I possess enough booty for men to “hold at night”.

(Again–not going to touch on the message of women as sexual objects either, that’s another post).

What is that?!

If I had let it (and have certainly done at times in the past), that tiny little moment could have been enough for me to spiral down the body-shame rabbit hole that leads to the “this-is-why-no-one-will-ever-love-me” oblivion, which in turn is absorbed and trapped by the wet blanket of perpetual self-repugnance.

Luckily, I instead chose to acknowledge the moment as my peculiar little friend, acknowledge its existence, and continue with nodding my head and finger-tapping along. (Thank you therapy).

I have a feeling that this experience is not unique. Indeed, the lyrics that directly proceed the message about body perfection highlight the universality of insecurities, “Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches Hey/No, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat”. While not all “skinny” women may think of themselves as fat, there are just as many body expectations and judgments happening on the other side of the spectrum as well–just take another look at the images pasted above.

To be completely clear, I am not saying that we should not be good custodians of our bodies and our health. I have blogged copiously on the subject of my health, my weight, and my body image journey. I am currently working on this area again, and not only have I lost 12 pounds in the last few months but I intend to lose more. What I would posit, however, is that not only are we all beautiful, but our beauty is unique and not dependent on our size. In other words, comparing one person’s beauty to another’s is the surest way to negate everyone’s.

And yes, there are times when beautiful is the furthest thing from what I feel.

You want to know what’s funny though?

As a sort of body experiment I’ve been taking some wardrobe risks lately. I decided that I was tired of waiting to wear what I want until I feel that I have carved out a body “worthy” of being shown. So, as a result, I have adopted something I am internally calling “Slightly Skanky Saturdays and Sundays”. All this movement entails is showing more skin than usual, but in a classy Emilie way. Slightly sheer shirts with a hint of bra showing through, short skirts without tights or leggings, and gracefully plunging necklines have all been a part of this experiment. My “racy” looks are likely not even a blip on most people’s wardrobe radars, but for me they have had a profound effect. The most marked instance of success during this experiment happened a few weekends ago when I wore an actual bikini to the actual beach. I frolicked in the waves, ran on the sand, and even had some photos taken to document the occurrence.

What I have found to be the most helpful about these experiments is not what I expected. Yes, I feel beautiful much more of the time now no matter what I am wearing. Yes, I feel empowered when wearing my slightly skanky ensembles. But honestly, the most powerful realization I have had was that I actually think about my body much, much less when I’m not worried about covering it up. That’s right. Instead of the non-stop inner narration I’ve been accustomed to that tracks every inch of clothing, every roll of fat sitting or standing, every slipping strap or seam alignment–instead I am experiencing a new form of freedom.

Do you have any idea how much more enjoyable life is when one layer of background tracking and judgment is removed, even for a moment or two? This is truly heady stuff.

Of course those scripts do not just disappear. After seeing the photo of myself in the full body bikini shot I had an immediate “well, I should do some core work” reaction and chose not to post the photo online. But then I moved on. And that moving on? That is a hugely important and monumental success for me.

As the internet continues to grow as a platform for education and liberation, I want to encourage intentional thought and inclusion versus comparison in our discussions surrounding beauty and body-image. I focus on my experience as a woman because that is what I know and what I have to offer, but I know that body messages and insecurities are not constrained by so-called gender roles. Tragically, they are the demesne of all humans.

Rather than parrot “It’s All About That Bass” as an example of us versus them, I hope all-sized humans can enjoy it as a fun, and meaningful, jam.

And if anyone has a lead on that mint-green hot-pant body suit please send my way–my teensy bass and I would rock it.

Sincerely,

Emilie

 

 

 

 

 

Body Image: Awful Poetry Edition.


The Problem With Mirrors and Magazines.

#1

What is wrong with my brain;

I’d really like to know?

It seems that when I drop a pound

fifteen more start to show.

#2

I am me

I am not She

She is not Me

but she’s who I’m supposed to be.

Or is she?

#3

Work, sweat;

Progress.

Wake, look;

Setback.

#4

I spy, with my mind’s eyes

Something that isn’t quite right.

My head, it knows,

But my stomach it shows,

And something inside of me lies.

The numbers are there–

they don’t matter.

I spy, with my real eyes,

Something that isn’t wrong

My head, it knows

But my stomach again shows,

And something inside of me lies.

The numbers, who cares?

I think that voice is broken.

While I may have just gone off the dramatic deep end , I do have a point to make  with my awful poetry. You lovely readers know that lately I have been making an effort to become a healthier person. (Yes, I fail many, many times but I always start anew.) So far in this process I’ve lost two pant sizes and over fifteen pounds. You would think that this would be a great victory for me, the girl who slowly gained weight during the first three years of college until she resembled a miniature blimp–albeit a blimp with great legs.

For a while, it was. When I first saw the number on the scale, when I first zipped up those skinny jeans I haven’t been able to wear since Freshman year which have been living in the basement ever since and now are too large, I was ecstatic. I had accomplished something, and I was looking good.

Then, I took another look. That tummy is still rather rotund, the upper arms and legs are not as firm or as thin as could be desired, and the face is still buried in flab. It doesn’t matter that I lost that weight, I’ve still got thirty five pounds to lose, I cannot believe I allowed my self to reach that god-forsaken state of heft,  people were probably embarrassed to be around me. They probably are still.

I am not writing to lament over what I like to jokingly call “my predicament.” It is my fault, and my fault alone, that I became unhealthy. I refused to exercise regularly and did not eat well. I spent my time in sedentary pursuits, and I made excuses for why I could not possibly be healthy.

I am not writing for a self-esteem boost, or fishing for complements. I know that I have made good progress, and I hope to continue to do so. I know that the changes I am making now will help me to be healthy and have a full life as years go on.

I am writing because my way of thinking, while almost universal, is not ok. The mind adjusts very, very quickly to changes in appearance, and the idea of “never being good enough” is far too prevalent. Yes, it is good to strive to excel in life, but not at the price of mental well-being and actual health. It is good to try hard, to not be lazy: it is bad to think “no matter what I do I can always do better.” Because what does that really mean? “I will never be good enough.”

So please, women and men, next time you look in the mirror, try taking a few moments to go over some of your positive attributes rather than just the ones that could be improved on. I will try to do the same. I will try to look back and say, “look at how far I have come.”

I recognize that I am still on a journey, but if I refuse to recognize my successes then I render them impotent.

Sincerely,

Emilie

P.S. “Awful Poetry” title borrowed from grapesofrad.

–E.E.A.S.

Why I Dress Up


On a daily basis people ask me “Why are you so dressed up?” and I never really have a response. Until now.

People expect an excuse like, “I have to perform at formal convocation today” or “I have a presentation”.

But I don’t need an excuse–and I don’t really see my outfits as dressed up.

I know that personally when I do not dress well I do not feel well, so I have resolved to look nice to the best of my abilities every single day.

Some days this means jackets heels and skirts, other days it means nice jeans a blouse and heels. On days when I have to give tours I wear flats during the morning.

I often get a lot of flack in the collegiate setting for the way I dress–bright colors, flattering cuts, and eye-catching details topped off with styled hair and polished makeup.

I have come to the conclusion that I am simply living in the wrong town. If I were in LA not only would I fit in but people would embrace my style.

I am my own individual and I refuse to dress poorly simply because I stick out on campus.

Every day is a new opportunity to reinvent your image and I think it would be a waste of an opportunity to go out in public not looking well.

Also, I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be a tiny, straight, skinny person and I am ok with it. I am working towards becoming a much more fit and healthy person but my curves are here to stay. So rather than try to stuff myself into the clothes designed for girls who seem to have never reached puberty, I am very conscientious about highlighting my assets rather than my flaws. So many girls look about 20 pounds fatter than they actually are because they don’t dress to fit their body shape. Don’t even get me started on the girls who refuse to buy things in the proper size because they are too embarrassed to admit what their size is.

A person can still dress to match current fashions without looking like some sausage stuffed into one-size-fits-all pantyhose. Let me tell you, one size and one shape never fits and looks good on all. I want women to stop trying to force themselves into one particular model. One of the greatest things about humanity is that everyone is so different.

Doctors wouldn’t prescribe the same medicine for every single person just because it was in vogue–that could cause millions of health problems and even death.

Fashionistas have just as much (if not more) influence on women, so it makes no sense to try and force all women into one look. You may say my analogy is ridiculous–how does wearing the wrong clothing for your shape adversely effect your health?

You’ve all seen the Lifetime movies about young girls, and even if they seem overly dramatic the fact is they are representing real situations that occur over and over and over and over again. Self-harm through various mediums are often caused by bad body image. But even if these issues do not manifest in everyone, the beginnings of them do. Girls, from the time they are born, feel the pressure of society bearing down on them.

In elementary school it was basic, I didn’t have the cool back pack or lunch pail, and I had to buy a certain type of pencil if I wanted friends.

In middle school I hit puberty and developed before my friends and was constantly made fun of, called a giant, told to “take off my costume because it wasn’t halloween” regularly. Then people started calling me fat, and my hair was too frizzy.

Hitting high school, I wasn’t allowed the short shorts and I didn’t get the cool pair of sneakers that everybody who was anybody had. I started surreptitiously glancing at fashion magazines, looking at the women on the front covers, and wishing I could look like them but knowing I never would. I loved the color pink and wore it every single day, and I got no end of censure for that. Towards senior year I started to wear other colors, but I had gained quite a bit of weight and I knew that the reason I was the only one without a boyfriend was because I was so “fat”.

In Freshman year of college, I didn’t have a style yet. I knew a lot of things that I liked, but I was still trying to shop in the wrong departments and fit into the style of clothing that looked good on my size might-as-well-have-been-zero roommate. Needless to say I was a mess, and not even a hot one.

As college has gone on I have developed my own style, and started buying clothing differently. I shop for things that look good on ME, and I ignore the sizes. What’s a number anyways? The hardest journey for me has been to accept where I am at, and to make myself look good now.

I admit I do have one pair of pants I bought too small, hoping that someday I could wear them. And I am a lot closer to that goal. (EDIT: 5/21/2010   Not only do these pants now fit, but they are also too large!!!!)

But dressing yourself for how you wish you look rather than how you do always makes you look bad. (Read that again.)

I’m not telling you a sob story for sympathy, the sad thing about my story is that it is NOT uncommon. Almost (if not all) every woman I know has told me about her personal struggles with a messed up body image due to the expectations she had been exposed to since a young age. I think that is so heartbreaking, and I know for a fact that a person’s belief in their appearance colors everything else they do.

So back to the original point of this post: I choose to “dress up” because I feel the best about myself when I know I look good. I am not saying everybody has to wear heels and dresses, but I do assert that in every style one can find items that flatter one’s figure. One just has to know where to look, and never to settle.

And I don’t spend that much on clothing. I usually clothing shop once a year, with a few pick ups in between. I buy 90% of my items on clearance, at end-of-the-whatever sales, and I don’t hesitate to adapt and redesign used pieces given to me as hand-me-downs. People are shocked when I tell them how much the things I own cost. I’ve never owned anything designer in my life (I’m far too poor) but most people wouldn’t be able to guess that.

I admit that I do have days where my look is a little lackluster, and if I am not leaving the house all day I enjoy loungewear as much as the next person. But if I stay grubby all day I feel grubby all day and this is unacceptable.

I need to always be able to put forward my best face so that I can give my best work.

So the next time you see me walking down the path, feel free to ask me why I’m dressed up and I will tell you that I am dressed the way I am because I am confident in myself–or rather I am becoming confident in myself.I still have a lot of self-doubt when it comes to other areas in my life, but the more I “dress up” the less I am having. I am on a journey, and my wardrobe is another step to help me attain and maintain mental and physical well-being.

I hope that you can become confident and comfortable in your image as well.

If you need any help feel free to ask.

I love helping others gain freedom and confidence in themselves.

Sincerely,

Emilie