feminism

I’m over the body positivity movement

I feel better than ever about my body, but I'm over the body positivity movement. Here are five reasons why.(photo by Patrick Hendry via Unsplash)

Ooh, unpopular opinion time. Because if there’s one thing that seems to have really become “in” over the past few years, it’s body positivity: loving your physical form exactly as is, basically giving a big ol’ middle finger to society’s established norms of acceptable beauty, weight, and body shape. It’s a nice idea on paper, but IRL, although I now feel better than ever about my body, I’m over the body positivity movement. Here’s why.

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Kristen Stewart’s plastic surgery remarks aren’t body positive. Here’s why.

In case you somehow missed it online or on social media, plastic surgery was once again a buzzy topic this weekend, this time thanks to Kristen Stewart. In her cover interview for the June issue of Harper’s Bazaar U.K., the 25-year-old actress said that not only would she never consider getting plastic surgery, she had some strong opinions about women who do:

“I am so freaked out by the idea of doing anything. And maybe that’s completely arrogant but I don’t want to change anything about myself. I think the women who do are losing their minds. It’s vandalism.”

Predictably, the internet exploded, with lots of people proud of her for standing up against the pressure on women to alter their looks to be “better” or prettier. I think it’s great that Stewart is confident in her own skin and doesn’t feel the need to bow to Hollywood pressure to conform to a certain body standard. However, I think we need to pause for a moment before we retweet her remarks, because her comments are not as body positive as they appear to be.

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Monthly covers: August 2014

I thought it might be fun to start doing a monthly run-down of the magazines I’m reading for the month and what’s inside. I read quite a few, but these are the more popular fashion and beauty-related titles that showed up in my mailbox this month.

Monthly covers Aug14 1

Allure. On the cover: Rachel McAdams. Highlights: Finding out that lots of fall’s hottest clothes are already in my closet. Not so hot: Yet another article on the “new” nude makeup. (Is there really anything “new” about it?)

Elle. On the cover: Kristin Wiig. Highlights: Guys, Kristen is wearing my uniform, aka my Olivia Dunham outfit. Not so hot: More of the same ol’ “miracle products” and “sexy hair without a blow-dryer” articles that have been done to death. Yawn.

Glamour. On the cover: Katie Holmes. Highlights: An awesome ’60s-mod fashion shoot with Anna Kendrick. Not so hot: Most of this issue was a bit of a yawn, which is weird, since I normally love Glamour. Oh well.

InStyle. On the cover: Zooey Deschanel. Highlights: Zooey talking about feminism. Not so hot: So much fur. Why does fall fashion have to include so much fur?

Monthly covers Aug14 2

Lucky. On the cover: Solange Knowles. Highlights: A piece on fall’s pants silhouettes, plus some neat jeans to shop for autumn. Not so hot: This was another issue that just felt really snoozy to me.

Marie Claire. On the cover: Zoe Saldana. Highlights: Zoe’s interview. She’s so feisty. Not so hot: Everyone’s going bonkers about denim right now, and so many of the pieces featured are just out of my budget range or not at all suited to my body.

Natural Health. On the cover: Jenna Dewan-Tatum. Highlights: I didn’t know Jenna was a vegan! Some interesting articles on mediation, yoga and natural stress relief. Not so hot: Product recommendations that are only partially natural or are tested on animals.

Women’s Health. On the cover: Shailene Woodley. Highlights: Shai’s interview; I feel like we’d be great friends in real life. Plus, a really interesting article delving into the possible root cause and recommended cure for most types of chronic pain (like migraines). I struggle with migraines so any chance at a natural cure is always interesting to me. Not so hot: Swimsuit magic? Please. It’ll take more than a magic swimsuit to get me beach-ready. I like fitness magazines because they inspire me to be healthier, but I also feel like some of the articles can really trigger self-loathing–if people who are already so hyper-fit are looking for visually slimming swimsuits, what hope is there for the rest of us?

 

Why Jezebel’s Lena Dunham photo bounty is going too far

 

If you haven’t heard by now, Girls writer and actress Lena Dunham is gracing the February cover of Vogue magazine. Landing the feature spread in the fashion Bible is usually enough to light up the Internet anyway, but Dunham’s photoshoot got an extra boost of publicity this week after feminist snark site Jezebel raised a hullabaloo over her retouched photos. The ruckus culminated in the site offering a $10,000 bounty for unretouched photos from the shoot, which were subsequently delivered and failed to impress almost everyone who saw them. (You can see an example over here on Yahoo! Shine.)

So what on earth is the big deal? (More after the break.)


I mean, this is the same website that railed for days about Jennifer Lawrence’s Flare magazine slim-down, and put out a bounty for unretouched pictures from Lupita Nyong’o’s Vanity Fair shoot, and…wait, what? You mean to tell me they didn’t? But…why not? Aren’t all Photoshopped shoots created equal?

Apparently not.

There are a lot of reasons I have a problem with Jezebel’s actions. For starters, it reeks of Mean Girl faux-feminism. The assumption seems to be that Lena is clearly so fat and squishy and non-pretty that she must require loads of Photoshop to be worthy of a magazine like Vogue. Whereas, with a thin and traditionally pretty celeb like Jennifer, well–yes, it’s a big deal that she was airbrushed, because she’s pretty. She doesn’t need it. But it’s not like there are juicy, horrifyingly unairbrushed photos to be dug up, right? But surely in this case there’s some dirt to be had, and we want to see it, dammit.

Which brings me to the second thing that makes me so queasy: Jezebel is essentially saying that Lena’s body is not her own. Never mind that Lena seems to be pretty happy with her photo shoot, apparently Tweeting about it on Thursday. Never mind that it’s a truth universally acknowledged that magazines airbrush their pictures and that, as Lena herself has pointed out, Vogue‘s photo department makes a habit of retouching photos for a fantastical interpretation of the world. No one has been misled into thinking their photos are unretouched.

In Jezebel’s world, how Lena feels about her body is of secondary concern to how everyone else feels about her body. Jezebel is trying to pretend that they’re shaming Vogue on her behalf, but let’s be real here. Lena didn’t call for the release of the photos; a bunch of voyeuristic editors decided that they had the right to see them, no matter what anyone else though of the matter. Because, you know, feminism.

It would be nice to see a round of huzzahs for a female comic, and a curvy one at that, landing the cover of what is probably the most prestigious fashion magazine in the world. Being a woman in Hollywood is hard. Being a female comic is harder. Being curvy? Now you’ve got a triple threat. But instead of showing a little female support for a woman who has taken the entertainment world by storm–not for being a reality TV star, or for dating someone famous, or for posing for Maxim–but for being talented and raw and real–Jezebel decided it was time to throw her to the wolves. Because that’s what they did: under the guise of making Vogue look bad, they invited everyone to return to the debate over Lena’s fat, fat, fat body, and everything that’s apparently wrong with it (hint: fat).

It also bugs me that Jezebel is so transfixed by Lena’s body, and not by many of the other bodies that have been altered before hers. The site has been guilty before of holding up the faux-feminist myth of “the real woman” and “the real female body”, and I feel like they’re doing it again. They’re so eager to prove that a “real” woman with a “real” shape is being altered, but what about a thinner woman (J-Law)? What about a woman of color (Lupita)? They’re not getting nearly the same press, and that’s wrong. (And yes, I realized that both of those women were mentioned on the site, but they didn’t receive nearly the same level of vitriol that Lena has.) All bodies–short, tall, fat, thin, dark, light–are real bodies. All women are real women. Sites like Jezebel need to stop selectively flying the body-positive flag only when it suits them.

And you know what, I understand that some of Dunham’s fans will be unhappy with her photos. She preaches body positivity and appears in a magazine that’s known for being anything but; I can see where someone would cry foul. But let’s be honest with ourselves: how many of us edit, crop and alter our own photos before we post them to social media? Apply filters on Instagram? Ask for a light bit of retouching for the wedding photo package that cost more than our first car? Be fair. If you were appearing in a magazine read by millions of people, wouldn’t you want your photos to be the very best they could possibly be? Maybe ask for those god-awful undereye circles to be whisked away, for your terrible posture to be digitally corrected? I think Lena probably feels the same as any other young woman enjoying her moment on the world stage–equal parts thrilled to bits and scared to death–and if someone gives her a light perk in her photos, she probably doesn’t mind.

There’s one more thing that bothers me, and that’s the nasty fact that a website actually shelled out $10,000 for what basically amounts to a publicity stunt. Jezebel is notorious for their click-bait-y headlines and this just seems like another attempt to drive traffic to the site. Sure, they’re shrouding the whole thing in self-righteous rhetoric about the evils of airbrushing and body positivity, but their angle seems to have nothing to do with being body-positive; it just seems like a chance to boost pageviews. And I can’t help but wonder: how many body-positive or feminist charities could have benefited from that $10,000?