Posts Tagged ‘body image’

Feminism and being multiple

One of the oddest things I find about “being a feminist” is the amount of difficulty and debate such a label tends to conjure up. There are thousands of variations, but three key problems seem to always rear their spiky heads:

1. Many women are reluctant to identify as feminists, even though if you ask them their thoughts on specific issues they’ll respond with feminist ideas. There’s a certain ugliness associated with the label that a lot of us grow up learning to be wary of. Take this Maxim “cure a feminist” feature as exhibit A. This article from Mama Mia a few days ago also captures some of the frustrations of this situation.

2.Some feminists believe there should be a core set of bullet-points that a person must subscribe to in order to call themselves feminists. A lot of us do this even subconsciously, because it’s hard to understand how someone who agrees with us on one point could offend us so much on another. We question whether Cosmopolitan should be allowed to call itself feminist, whether Melinda Tankard Reist should be allowed to call herself a feminist.

3. The flipside of the point above is that many women feel like they’re not allowed to be part of the discussion, because they don’t meet the criteria they believe has been set out.

My thoughts keep going back to something Julia Kristeva wrote about in Women’s Time. Okay, I know it might be a bit naff or maybe just pretentious to reference Kristeva, but listen for a minute: in Women’s Time, she makes a case for a new generation of feminism (where ‘generation’ refers not necessarily to a period in linear time, but rather a signifying mental, emotional and intellectual space) that focuses on the multiplicity of individual experience. That means not only accepting that everyone will have different views and ideas, but that within each person exist myriad possible identifications, some of which might seem contradictory.


New year, new me. Or something.


This year, I will be like Taylor Swift

It’s that time of year, when I’m filled with aspirations and the best of intentions and ideas about the sort of person I want to be. I hate New Years Eve, for obvious reasons (although I did just have a pretty fun night: a cute boy, a bunch of nice strangers, beautiful hot weather, a spa, lots of wine, walking home while the sun was coming up – definitely the best New Years in a while) but I love the symbolism of a fresh start. A blank page, new diaries and calendars, days that I can make turn out however I want them to.

I always make an incredibly idealistic list of things I’m going to do and who I’m going to be, and of course I’ll never even really attempt half of them. But having lofty ambitions is better than having none at all right?

2012 is going to be amazing, because I’m going to make it that way. 2011 was actually pretty great, especially the second half of it. I’ve had a few bad years, but I think my time is finally starting. Last year I went to India, I went to New York, I joined the Voiceworks editorial committee, I got a wonderful new job, I moved apartments, I was published in Kill Your Darlings, I made lots of wonderful and talented new friends, I started running again… and I’m finally feeling pretty good.

And this year is going to be the best ever. This is going to be MY year. Here are some of the things I’m going to do: (more…)

In which I talk about Andrej Pejic some more

Andrej Pejic Hema lingerie ad

(Edit July 2014: This was written when Andreja was going by Andrej and using male pronouns. At the time, it was to the best of my knowledge that she identified as male. Any essay I would write about her today would look very different, though still celebrating how amazing she is.)

Andrej Pejic modelling bras for Hema, and why I think he is just the coolest

Okay, so anyone who has spent any time with me in the past six months or so will know that I’m completely enthralled by Andrej Pejic. I think he’s an absolute genius, and he inspires me in a lot of ways. Firstly, in the obvious sense – he inspires me because of his utterly captivating, otherworldly beauty, the way he challenges boundary after boundary, the way he continues to take everyone’s breath away with every new outfit, every new runway show, every fashion editorial.

But maybe more than that, he inspires me because he just seems so completely serene while he does it all. Obviously I have no idea how he really feels inside – but you get the sense that he’s genuinely just really comfortable with who he is, that he actually doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He just does his own thing, and he does it without being all defensive and “hey fuck you man!” about it. He’s only just turned 20, but there’s something really mature about they way he seems to really know himself.

Anyway. So this week he’s making headlines for one of his latest gigs – modelling push-up bras for Hema lingerie. Which is pure genius,  and with Andrej’s sassy, sardonic sense of humour you can just tell he loves the whole idea of it. A lot of the things he says or does, it’s like he’s secretly laughing, and you can just tell he kind of thinks this is a scream. It’s kind of on the same wavelength as the incredibly clever Dermablend concealer ad Rico Genest (better known as Zombie Boy) starred in, and I think it’s very cool. (more…)

Click on this

Here are a few articles I read this week that got me thinking, and I’d implore you to click on through.

We’re all real women … what do men or size have to do with it? by Clementine Ford on The Drum

One major problem with the whole “real women have curves” thing is that it still places female body types in adversity with one another. Instead of saying it’s okay to be any size, it just reverses the typical preference for super-skinny types and disparages those women. Saying that having curves is “better” or “more real” and “more womanly” than being skinny doesn’t help anyone. This is such an interesting and complex issue, and Clementine Ford expresses all these ideas quite eloquently. Importantly, she points out something that is easy to miss, but that’s pretty salient to the whole issue: the “men prefer curves anyway” argument that always comes up just reinforces the idea that male desire should be integral to the way we feel about our bodies.


Really little women: on Thylane Blondeau

In my latest ‘Flotsam and Feminism’ column (published in Farrago magazine), I talked about 10-year-old fashion muse Thylane Blondeau and The Beauty Myth.

Her name is Thylane Loubry Blondeau, and she’s one of the new muses of the fashion world. She’s graced the cover of high-end magazines, starred in ad campaigns for major designers, and regularly works with top fashion photographers. With her long limbs, chestnut-coloured hair and piercing blue eyes, it’s easy to see why—she’s incredibly, almost eerily beautiful. But she’s also 10 years old—and to even think of her as beautiful is to frame her within the context of adult constructs of beauty, and that has some troubling implications.

The sexualisation of young girls has been talked about to death—and while it’s definitely a serious issue, in cases like this it almost seems to miss the point. The issue is really more about objectification, rather than sexualisation. It’s about what happens if little girls are brought up to believe that their prettiness is what makes them special, that their worth is measured not in a small part by their beauty. And it’s an intrinsically gendered issue, because it emphasises the very different way we view boys and girls, even from that very young age. (more…)

The perks of being pretty

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It’s something most of us just sort of take as a given: beautiful people have it easier. This video has been floating around for the past week or so and getting quite a bit of attention for its comment on the privileges pretty women appear to get on a day-to-day basis. As an experiment, Caroline, a British journalist, hits the town dressed up in two different personas- Plain Caroline, with no makeup and her hair pulled back, dressed in conservative, unremarkable clothing, and Sexy Caroline, dolled up with red lips, curled hair, high heels and a short, tight dress. The methodology is simple- as both characters, she goes around asking for free stuff.

Not surprisingly, Sexy Caroline gets a much more favourable response, and ends up with free bus trips, taxi rides, ice creams, cakes and drinks. It reminds me of on the Simple Life when Paris and Nicole would walk into bottle shops or convenience stores or whatever and just say ‘Can we have this for free?’ and they were always, always indulged. Plain Caroline, on the other hand, finally ends up with a free drink, but spends most of the day being ignored and sent away. (more…)

Fat-talk is a feminist issue

In my ‘Flotsam and Feminism’ column for Farrago magazine this month, I talked about why calling ourselves fat is a feminist issue.


Sometimes I think my body is growing and shrinking all the time. I was a chubby child, but somewhere between Sclub7 days and my debutante ball I slimmed down. Now, a few love-and-heartbreak-induced-ups-and-downs later, I honestly cannot tell if I am fat or thin anymore. Sometimes I’ll see a photo of myself and be surprised by how small I look. Other times I’ll catch a glimpse in the mirror and be horrified by the enormous, lumbering heffalump I see looking back at me. So I’m always moaning about the “food baby” in my belly, complaining about how I’m too fat for my skinny jeans. And more often than not, someone will respond with, “What about me? I’m the fat one.”

Cosmopolitan is currently running a campaign against this sort of “fat-talk.” Following in the footsteps of many similar projects in the US, the “Say No to Fat-Talk” campaign urges women to replace all that verbalised body-hate with a healthy self-appreciation, or- as they rather cringingly call it- “fab-talk.” Despite whatever other issues Cosmo might bring up, I think it’s kind of refreshing to see a body image campaign that focuses on real life and the things we control, not just representations in the media. We know all about digital retouching and starving celebrities, and that’s important- but body-dissatisfaction is influenced by more than just supermodels and women’s magazines. (more…)

Gap-toothed is the new black

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Image: Vanity Fair

The fashion industry is bored with its own air-brushed perfectionism. Now, gap-toothed models are all the rage, moving away from traditional ideals of beauty to celebrate the authentic and quirky.

Open up a recent issue of Vogue, and you’re likely to see Georgia May Jagger, the full-lipped, goddess-haired daughter of Mick, flashing her gap-toothed smile. Or Jess Hart, Australia’s latest sweetheart, her gapped pearly-whites striking against her bronzed skin. Or the glamorous Lara Stone, declared by W magazine as the most-wanted face of the moment, proudly showing the imperfect smile that has somehow become the hottest thing around.

From advertisements, to fashion spreads, to runway shows, casting directors are going crazy over girls with a distinctive space between their two front teeth. High-end labels like Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu have all embraced the trend, and runway shows are prominently flaunting models with unusual physical features.

Gapped teeth aren’t the only distinguishing characteristic currently in demand. This season’s runway shows have seen a significant influx of models with scars, tattoos, piercings and even albino colouring.

Strange? Perhaps. But some suggest that the trend towards embracing physical quirks is a backlash against unattainable beauty standards, and the fashion industry’s traditional obsession with perfection. It’s a move away from cookie-cutter beauty, changing the aesthetic of the modern woman to celebrate distinguishing features as unique and beautiful, rather than something that needs to be fixed or hidden.

As editor-in-chief of W magazine Stefano Tonchi says, “It’s a love of for the imperfect, and the authentic.” In a world that is becoming increasingly digitally enhanced, Tonchi suggests that young people are now valuing originality and authenticity more than ever. Seeing models with natural imperfections is refreshing, helping to broaden perceptions of what is beautiful.

When Jess Hart first started modelling, her gap would often be retouched, or she would be asked to wear a prosthetic insert to cover it. Now, it’s being increasingly recognised as something cute and quirky, and she refuses to cover it up for work. “If they don’t like my gap, I don’t want to work for them,” she says.

And for many younger models, having an unusual edge is helping to get them noticed, giving them a point of difference from all the other hopefuls. Just ask Lindsey Wixson– the sweet and pretty (and gap-toothed) 16-year-old is currently featured in an exhibition at Sotheby’s, with a series of photographs following her as she attended casting calls and prepared for runway shows last year.

While it’s easy to be cynical and say this is just another ridiculous standard of beauty set by the fashion industry, any trend that embraces the unusual and encourages women to be proud of what makes them different is surely a step in the right direction. And good news for the 95% of us who don’t quite look like Jennifer Hawkins…