Tag Archives: media literacy

WARNING: this is my body, not yours!

Stella Boonshoft’s blog, The Body Love Blog, has gotten a lot of well deserved attention over the past few days. If you haven’t heard, she posted a scantily clad photo of herself showing off her body. Stella explained, “I found that after years of struggling with my body image that really there was no way to justify the bullying and the torment I endured as a child and as a teen.” She went on to say that, “we don’t have the authority to make assumptions about other people’s health based on the way they look. And I finally came to a place where I was really happy with the way I looked… I wanted to give a message to the bullies who had tormented me that it didn’t work.”

Stella’s blog post:
WARNING: Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. Well I’m not going to stand for that. This is my body. Not yours. MINE. Meaning the choices I make about it, are none of your f****** business. Meaning my size, IS NONE OF YOUR F****** BUSINESS.

If my big belly and fat arms and stretch marks and thick thighs offend you, then that’s okay. I’m not going to hide my body and my being to benefit your delicate sensitivities.

This picture is for the strange man at my nanny’s church who told me my belly was too big when I was five.

This picture is for my horseback riding trainer telling me I was too fat when I was nine.

This picture is for the girl from summer camp who told me I’d be really pretty if I just lost a few pounds

This picture is for all the f****** stupid advertising agents who are selling us cream to get rid of our stretch marks, a perfectly normal thing most people have (I got mine during puberty)

This picture is for the boy at the party who told me I looked like a beached whale.

This picture is for Emily from middle school, who bullied me incessantly, made mocking videos about me, sent me nasty emails, and called me “lard”. She made me feel like I didn’t deserve to exist. Just because I happened to be bigger than her. I was 12. And she continued to bully me via social media into high school.

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.

THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT

Stella, you are right! Your body is her own, your body is beautiful and you are stunning! Thank you for your courage!

And for everyone else… let’s be inspired!

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Barneys, leave Minnie Mouse alone!

Change.org has begun a petition against the Barneys’ “Electric Holiday” display for this upcoming holiday season. See here for the details about this outrageous display and then go here to sign the petition.

Please pass this along to everyone who you feel might be a potential supporter. Thank you!


skinny minnie

Women’s Wear Daily reported yesterday that Barneys teamed up with The Walt Disney Co. to create “Electric Holiday,” an exciting film for the upcoming holiday season. Merging the concept of Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade with high fashion, the film will feature Disney’s most famed characters on a Paris catwalk.

When interviewed about the project, Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman detailed the immense time spent reviewing, “The world of the Paris fashion shows, of fashion, of people in fashion, of the rituals, all of the idiosyncrasies. The important thing to me was always that it had to be authentic. It really had to hit the nail on the head in every detail… When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion,” Freedman recalled. “The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress. There was a real moment of silence, because these characters don’t change. I said, ‘If we’re going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,’ and they agreed. When you see Goofy, Minnie and Mickey, they are runway models.”

It seems that the bodies of the original Disney characters have been deemed unacceptable for the runway. These iconic characters needed to be turned into supermodels. In order to fit the mold, they were severely slimmed down (read: made gaunt and anorexic).

Needless to say, Electric Holiday has sparked generous amounts of controversy. What do you think about it? High fashion or highly disturbing?


to be or not to be connected (and how much)

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Over the past 20+ years, the internet has become a source replete with information and seemingly everything else one needs, and now even social networking! Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, GooglePlus+, digg, flickr, Pinterest, Foursquare, and countless more social networking sites have banked millions of users in a flash. People are eager to virtually connect.

This acquisition between man and machine has led “Internet Addiction Disorder” to be considered as a new diagnosis in the upcoming revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The point is, people can’t seem to get enough! A 2011 comScore report explained that, “social networking is the most popular online activity worldwide accounting for nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online in October 2011.”

Many studies have revealed a positive correlation between time spent on the internet and levels of depression and anxiety. I have heard many first-hand accounts of the “to be or not to be connected” dilemma. It seems that so much happens through social networking that it is actually extremely difficult for teens (and increasingly, for adults) to not be connected. And once connected, it’s even harder to prevent yourself from falling into the deep abyss that is social networking.

Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, births, deaths, sales, events, gatherings, parties, you name it, it’s out there. Status updates, tweets, Photoshop (yes, people alter their photos) and Instagram allow users to show only their most prideful moments and impress upon their viewers only the life that they want to promote having. People show only what they want others to see. The idea of who they want to be. A true avatar. Of course, at the deep end of the abyss lie phenomena such as exchanging passwords, “Facebook stalking” and bullying.

There is also a valuable side to it all. Social networking has aided in countless reconnections of long lost friendships, can be a source of speedy free flowing, useful information, and can offer a forum in which to broadly share anything in one fell swoop. And let’s face it, it can be fun!

So, if you engage in online social networking, to be or not to be connected is probably less the question than the question of how much feels like the right balance to you. How much time and how many networking outlets allow you to get what you are looking for but not creep over the edge of “too much?”

Some things to keep in mind as you engage online:
Behave responsibly. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
There is no privacy guarantee. Anything can be cut and pasted
Be selective. Choose your friends wisely!
Use trusted sources.
Know where your information is coming from.
Don’t believe everything you read. Realize that people share what they choose to share and that many times, this is not the entire story.
Don’t compare. Just as we must be weary about the altered photos we see in magazines, we must be clear that we may be getting the edited versions, photos and stories of the people with whom we connect.
Know your limits. Recognize when you are spending excess amounts of time glowing by the light of your computer screen and know when to back away.
Recognize when social networking changes from fun into depression or anxiety, e.g.: “everyone else is doing… except for me.” “I need to post something to show that I am fun, cool, popular, etc.”

So off you go, perhaps to tweet or to check your Facebook. Whatever you choose to do, make it your intention to keep in mind what you are wanting to get out of these engagements and make sure that you get what you are looking for. If you’re not, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate, scale things back or pull the plug for a while! Or… mix it up and go old school! Turn off your computer and your phone and engage over a coffee or a meal with someone!


not so happily ever after

What little girl doesn’t like princesses? Most of them have been swallowed up by the whole phenomenon. While these princesses frequently have strengths, what is front of mind for most tots is that these princesses are beautiful, wear fancy dresses, jewels and shoes.

Sometimes these messages are covert. Typically, the “bad” characters in Disney films are overweight.

Sometimes these messages are overt. In Gnomio and Juliet, just before her first date, the frog says to Juliet,”You know he’s going to ditch you when he finds out how much you weigh.”

In the film Ice Princess, there were a few scenes about food. In one, the mother gave her daughter a hard time because she wanted a cheeseburger. In another, a skater wanted the server to measure out the cheese in her salad at the skating rink snack bar.

Our little boys are taught that good looks, money and charm are the things that matter.

Parents are in a very powerful position, believe it or not, even more powerful than the messages in these films. What we can do is watch these films WITH our children and talk about what was portrayed. We can offer a different message, dispel the warped belief systems illustrated and empower our children to view themselves, their friends and people at large, in a different way.

How are you handling this issue with your children? Is there anything you can you do differently to be more effective? What do you notice when you have these conversations with them?


miss representation: the film

Don’t miss this important documentary, premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) this Thursday, October 20th at 9pm.

About the film (taken directly from the Miss Representation website):
Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.


don’t dish it out if you can’t take it

Nancy Upton submitted photos of herself to American Apparel in response to their plus-sized campaign call:

Think you are the Next BIG Thing?

Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up.

Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL!

Show us what you’re workin’ with!

Despite finding the contest “sarcastic, condescending and insulting,” Nancy Upton won the popular vote. What did she win? A letter of explanation from American Apparel’s Creative Director as to why, despite winning the popular vote, she will not be the actual winner of the contest:

Dear Nancy Upton,

My name is Iris Alonzo and I am a Creative Director at American Apparel. Along with four other women, I conceived of the Next BIG Thing campaign for American Apparel. Firstly, we are very sorry that we offended you. Our only motive was to discover and celebrate the many beautiful XL women around the globe who enjoy our brand, and to promote the recent size additions to our collection. Nothing more, nothing less. We would also like to assure you that no one is getting fired over your stunt, as you expressed concern about in a recent interview. We are fortunate to have a great boss who trusts and believes in our instincts and ideas, and we are still very excited about all of our Next BIG Things and looking forward to meeting our new XL brand ambassadors.

It’s a shame that your project attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge based on your personal distaste for our use of light-hearted language, and that “bootylicous” was too much for you to handle. While we may be a bit TOO inspired by Beyoncé, and do have a tendency to occasionally go pun-crazy, we try not to take ourselves too seriously around here. I wonder if you had taken just a moment to imagine that this campaign could actually be well intentioned, and that my team and I are not out to offend and insult women, would you have still behaved in the same way, mocking the confident and excited participants who put themselves out there? Maybe you’ll find it interesting that in addition to simply responding to customer demand and feedback, when you’re a vertically-integrated company, actual jobs are created from new size additions. In this case, for the XL women who will model them, industrial workers that make them, retail employees that sell them and beyond. That’s the amazing reality of American Apparel’s business.

Though I could spend hours responding to your accusations and assumptions, this isn’t the appropriate forum for that, so I will only briefly address a few issues here. In regards to April Flores’ “that’s not our demographic” experience, I don’t recall the name of the confused employee credited with saying that, but he or she was sadly uninformed, and our company certainly does not endorse their statement. For as long as I can remember, we have offered sizes up to 3XL in our basic styles, and as far as adding larger sizes to the rest of our line is concerned, if there is the demand and manufacturing power to support it, we’re always game. There are thousands of brands in the market who have no intention of supporting natural – and completely normal – full-figured women, and American Apparel is making a conscious effort to change that, both with our models and our line. If every brand that tried to do this was met with such negative press, we may have to wait another decade for the mainstream to embrace something so simple.

In the past, American Apparel has been targeted for various reasons, many times by journalists who weren’t willing to go the extra mile to even visit the factory or meet the people in charge. Dov is a great executive director and American Industrialist, but there are hundreds of other decision-makers in our company, over half of whom are women. I suppose you have read a few too many negative pieces about us that have helped to form your opinion of who we are and what we stand for, and perhaps this has clouded your ability to give us a chance. I get it. I read some of it too. As a creative who isn’t always the most tactful and tends to stay away from the limelight, maybe I haven’t spoken up as much as I should have over the past 8 years that I’ve worked at American Apparel. Perhaps I could have shed some light on some issues that have been left cloudy over the years. However, sensational media will always need something to latch on to and success, spandex and individuality (and mutton chops circa 2004) are certainly easy targets. And who knows – maybe the PR ups and downs are all part of our DNA as a company. What I do know is that after all the years I have been working for this company I can wholeheartedly say that American Apparel is an amazing and inspiring place to work. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can represent of a ton of people I know when I say that we really like Dov and we passionately believe in his vision for a beautiful factory with sustainable practices. We are the largest sewing factory in North America, after all…10,000 jobs is nothing to sniff at. A lot of people would be very sad if this company wasn’t around.

That said, we realize that we are in no way perfect and that we’re still learning. We want to do better or differently in many areas, and we are actively working on them every day. You’re literally witnessing a transparent, sincere, innovative, creative company go through puberty in the spotlight of modern media. It’s not easy!

Oh – and regarding winning the contest, while you were clearly the popular choice, we have decided to award the prizes to other contestants that we feel truly exemplify the idea of beauty inside and out, and whom we will be proud to have representing our company.

Please feel free to contact me directly anytime. If you want to know the real scoop about our company before writing a story, I’ve got it (or if I don’t, I can put you in touch with the person that does!).

Best of luck,

Iris Alonzo
Creative Director
American Apparel

Ms. Upton told the Daily Beast “…the message that a subservient, nearly naked woman has always earned a place in American Apparel’s advertising with no trouble, but that larger women need to vote each other down and compete against one another to even deserve a chance… I decided that instead of rolling my eyes and saying “ick” as I’d done in the past, I’d get off my “full-sized fanny” and craft a response. A new level of my mind had been offended by their actions, so a new level of reaction was required.”

While Ms. Upton admits to her photos having a sarcastic tone, they do display a similar tone to American Apparel’s typical advertisements that objectify women (see photos both above and below). Contest aside, it feels confusing to me that American Apparel would be so offended by photos so characteristic of their own creativity.

This conflict has received a good deal of press and since then, American Apparel has invited Ms. Upton to it’s Los Angeles factory to meet with the creative directors who designed the contest.


honte sur vous vogue paris

A few months prior to Vogue Italia trying its hand at broadening the stringent societal definition of beauty in their July 2011 ‘Real Beauties’ issue (see Real Women Have Curves), the 15-page photo spread of the 10-year-old French model, Thylane Lena-Rose Blandeau (see here for photos), graced the January 2011 issue of Vogue Paris, leaving the Parent’s Union up in arms about the sexualization of children in the media. Their statement to the Daily Mail: ‘Photo shoots requiring her, a ten-year-old-girl, to dress in full make-up, teetering heels and a dress with a cleavage cut to the waist across her prepubescent body deny Miss Blondeau the right to be the child she is.’

Thylane does not stand alone. Elle Fanning, 13, and Hailee Steinfeld, 14, have also signed on with top designers.

This so beautifully represents the ubiquitous tug of war that occurs with more and more frequency and vigor. What do you think? How young is too young?


not pretty enough

Lancôme was recently taken to task with complaints about their use of photo-altering techniques in advertisements featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington. It seems that even these two beauties are not pretty enough to escape an airbrusher’s heavy hand.

The complaints spoke directly to the advertising of unrealistic images of beauty and its societal backlash and were subsequently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. Hats off to Jo Swinson for making the call to the Advertising watchdog and for getting the ball rolling.

Take away: While Swinson may have had her political background and Parliament on her side, we all have the power to make these calls and demands. I remember a dog food commercial that aired in maybe 2003-ish. It suggested that dogs were overweight and needed to be put on a diet. While there are times when this may be true and different types of mealplans or dog food may be in order, that was not the intent of this commercial. The ad was taken off the air after the manufacturer was inundated with angry consumers reacting to the message.

So… if it bothers you, say something! We do have the power to affect change!

To read full story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2019162/Julia-Roberts-Christy-Turlington-L-Oreal-adverts-banned-airbrushing.html


guidelines for advertising

Kudos to the American Medical Association (AMA) who, yesterday, adopted several new policies, one of which recognizes the impact of advertising and media on children & adolescents, self-esteem and body image. This particular policy encourages advertising associations to join forces with health organizations in an effort to develop guidelines for advertising, e.g.: discouraging the use of altered images. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/a11-new-policies.page

This is a great step… let’s see what develops from this encouragement.