Babies airbrushed to look “more perfect”

•November 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The UK’s Practical Parenting and Pregnancy magazine admitted to airbrushing babies. The reasons? So they could, “put them across in their best light.”

According to an article on Jezebel, one editor explained,”We lightened his eyes and his general skin tone, smoothed out any blotches and the creases on his arms…But we want it to look natural.”

Is this some kind of sick joke? They are babies. Our society starts with the most innocent form of life, and retouches them because apparently baby wrinkles are not acceptable.

What kind of message does this send?

Interview with Revolution of Real Women Part II

•November 12, 2009 • 1 Comment

Here is part II of my interview with Brianne Widaman. See part I just below this post!!

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JK: Especially for women, how do you think the media pressures society to look good?

RRW: We still live in a patriarchal society. No matter how far we’ve come to redefine what it means to be a woman, we’re still faced with stereotypes that seek to pigeonhole us and label us. As we’ve been asking for years, “Ever felt like you weren’t thin enough, pretty enough, athletic, tall, short, normal, curvy, sexy, smart, wealthy, successful or PERFECT enough?” We’re hit from an infinite number of angles to change ourselves to be more accepted by others and society. Men face these challenges in different ways as well, but when you have far more women battling potentially fatal eating disorders than breast cancer, you know we’ve got to wake up and fast.

JK: What can women, and everyone in general, do to avoid these societal pressures?

RRW: Media is not going to go away. In fact, it will likely only continue to grow in ways we can’t even imagine. That’s why it’s so important to infiltrate it now and CREATE the media we wish to see – more positive, diverse and realistic images of women in media. If we don’t get organized and DO something about it, the change isn’t going to happen. That’s where RRW comes in – we’re leading the way for an organized movement to finally do something about it.

It’s important to believe in yourself. Realize that so much of what we see in the mainstream is false, manipulated and created to make you feel inadequate. Don’t give anyone else the power to define YOU. It’s easier said than done, right? Baby steps are the most crucial part of this. As a movement, we will take baby steps and big steps together. It’s all a part of how serious and lasting changing comes to be.

JK: Anything else you can tell me?

RRW: I think it’s important to point out that both men AND women experience negative effects from mass media. Not only is there an increase in the percentage of men experiencing body-image issues and eating disorders, but they also have women in their lives, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, girlfriends and wives who have a very wounded, distorted sense of self. They see how we allow it to control our confidence and ambitions. Something unique that we have chosen to include in our campaign are the voices, participation and concerns of men. Everyone must be represented at the table for this to really work.

Interview with Revolution of Real Women Part I

•November 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I recently interviewed Brianne Widaman of Revolution of Real Women, which is a group that aims to empower women to be true to themselves, rather then what everyone else says they should be. Widaman started RRW when she was in recovery for anorexia and bulimia.

The group has grown to 19,000 members and is extremely successful. Widaman says that Revolution of Real Women is essentially a media she created that she wished to see in society.

I loved interviewing Brianne and want to thank her very much for her time!! Good luck with Revoution of Real Women, it’s amazing and I hope only the best for you!

Follow Revolution of Real Women on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and MySpace.

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JK: Tell me about the Revolution of Real Women. How did it start?

RRW: REVOLUTION OF REAL WOMEN™ started back in 2005 when I created a Flickr group (which still exists today: www.flickr.com/groups/RealWomen) because I wanted to create a group that was more about empowering women to be true to themselves rather than what everyone else said they should be.

When membership began to steadily increase, I realized I needed to spread the message and began to expand to other social networking sites.  Today, we have over 19,000 members (what we call our “ALLIES™”) across all of our different sites and groups. It’s always amazing to me to see how interested people are in this subject. The most common responses I get when I tell someone about the campaign are “Wow! That’s really needed right now,” and “It’s about time!”

I started RRW when I was in the early stages of my own recovery from anorexia and bulimia. It was really a way for me to create the media I wished to see… (yes, similar to the Ghandi saying “Be the change you wish to see.”) to celebrate the messages I thought women needed to be hearing instead of the ‘airbrush-this’ and ‘lipo-that’ talk that’s, unfortunately, a part of our society.

JK: What does the Revolution of Real Women aim to achieve? What are your goals?

RRW: Our core goal has not changed. We focus on being both a positive source of information and encouragement to women as well as a strong and fearless ALLY™ when it comes to speaking up for a woman’s right to be her authentic self. One of the most critical ways we can go about making LASTING change is by providing women with the knowledge of how manipulated we really are when it comes to advertising. This campaign is about ousting the misperceptions we’ve come to accept as truth – that we should be using what mass media tells us in shaping who and what we are.

At the core, most of the offenders of women’s self-esteem just want to make money. Ignoring the biggest players in the game, no matter how powerful they might be, is not going to make them go away. We need to convince them that there’s just as much, if not more money to be made by uplifting women rather than degrading and manipulating them.  In doing so, we will have to engage in conversations both with our ALLIES™ as well as our ADversaries™ to come to a place of understanding and common ground. We welcome the involvement of every individual throughout the globe to magazine editors, television executives and producers to fashion designers and modeling agencies… ALL parts of the mass media machine must be involved.

We are currently in the final stages of launching our long-anticipated website (RevolutionOfRealWomen.com) where members will be able to join our campaign and take part, not only in the IDEA of a revolution, but a virtual, even physical one as well. I can’t go into too much detail, but we wanted to find a way to make it easy for people to get free information as well as participate in the movement. REVOLUTION OF REAL WOMEN.com will be a powerful hub of activists and advocates who believe in empowering women and making lasting change when it comes to how women are portrayed in media and how women feel about themselves.

As far as future goals go, I try not to limit myself or the campaign. I have a pretty varied background from the music and entertainment industries to politics and non-profit work, so the sky is the limit on what RRW will seek to do to spread our message and create really and lasting change.

JK: Do you believe that the media places negative pressure on society to be skinny?

RRW: Well, yes, I think that’s probably a given, though it would be a mistake not to look at the whole picture. To simply go and blame the “media” isn’t entirely fair. That’s a broad term and it encompasses a lot more than one might expect. When we’re facing such a huge dichotomy between the issue of obesity and eating disorders in our country, it’s hard to deny that something’s messing with the message. Moderation in life, in so many ways, is the key.

We really embrace the “Health At Every Size” philosophy. It allows women room to be their genetically authentic size, and goes to show that just because one woman weighs more than the next, that does not necessarily mean one is healthier than the other.

JK: Do you think the media has gradually improved throughout the years pertaining to its body image messages? Or, do you believe the messages have gotten worse?

RRW: That depends if you’re looking at the big picture or not. On a broader scale, yes, absolutely – media has become more detrimental by increasingly using of our self-esteem and insecurities as their leveraging points. They’ve gotten way too good at it.

However, it wouldn’t be fair of me not to acknowledge the smaller ways in which we, as a society, are trying to better the situation. Activist and interest groups are seeking to help. Big names like Dove are putting themselves out there with more positive messages to encourage young women to believe in themselves. Even magazines have made some baby steps as of recently by including more average-sized women on its pages. There’s even a modeling agency that’s caught my attention named the Ben Barry Agency – they are working from inside the fashion industry to fight size and age discrimination.

These are all our “ALLIES™”. What we’re experiencing is the culmination of years of revolutionary ‘talk’, and combining that with an organized effort to actually join together and DO something about it. There’s a buzz in the air right now, and for me, it’s absolutely invigorating. We’re going to do it.

Glamour Mag November cover

•November 11, 2009 • 1 Comment

In the November issue of Glamour Magazine, Anansa Sims talks about fashion, body image, and her famous mother. Sims is one of the eight plus-sized models who posed for the magazine – naked.

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Sims’ mother is Beverly Johnson, who is one of the first woman of color to appear on the cover of American Vogue.

When asked in this interview about the fashion industry’s obsession with thinness, Sims said, “I feel the industry is getting a lot better. Slowly but surely, things are changing in the right direction. I’m proud to be a part of this much-needed movement. The average woman in America is a size 14, and those women need to be acknowledged and represented.”

Men and body image

•November 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ok boys… I realized that I blog waaay too much about women, and I feel as though I’m being biased. So, here’s your turn.

Adios Barbie is a website, which also focuses on body image and the media. One of their journalists, Chris Godsey, recently blogged about how he felt when it comes to the media’s depiction of the perfect body pertaining to men. Case and point, Brad Pitt.

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Don’t lie guys, all the ladies know that all men have a secret “man crush” on Brad Pitt. How could you not? If you’ve seen Fight Club, then I refuse to believe that you don’t have a mini crush on him.  He has rock hard abs, a chisled body, he’s hilarious, he always plays a great character, and he’s been with some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood.

Godsey blogs, “While I’m cool with thinking those guys are fine, I’m bothered by my occasional inability to see them, Men’s Health magazine, or any Soloflex commercial, without honestly believing that unless I have three percent body fat, a hairless torso and washboard abs, I’m a sorry human being.”

So while men put on this “cool” image about being laid back and not caring about anything, do they secretly obsess about the way they look just as women do?

Godsey continues, “It’s like I’m a woman. My sense self-esteem too often depends on how I see my body, and my body image is increasingly affected (infected?) by a continuous, arbitrary onslaught of images and messages that dictate the rights and wrongs of physical appearance. And I’m not the only guy going through it.”

There you have it, ladies. Men do care, just as we do. Godsey even admits at one point that after watching Fight Club, he counted calories, skipped breakfast, and doubled the week’s workouts. Wow.

Godsey concludes, “Body image is no longer an exclusively female problem. In fact, men now have between 10%  to 20% of all eating disorders. Body image isn’t limited by race, culture, religion, social or financial status, education or geography either. It’s a human problem, and it runs remarkably deep. And since we caused it, I’d like to believe we have the ability to fix it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Interview with a recovered ED patient Part II

•November 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

Here is Part II of my interview with Kendra Sebelius. Part I is just one post below!

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JK: Were you apart of Fat Talk Free week?

KS: I did. I shared awareness through twitter, followed through my Facebook, and was mindful of my own self talk. I think this was a very powerful movement because I think we often overestimate the affect our own thoughts have upon our self esteem and body image. I think FTFW was a great start – but I think it is a call for a wider spread movement – one that brings awareness to how we talk to ourselves on a daily basis. We do not only use “fat talk”, we are often judgmental, cruel, mean to ourselves on so many different levels. Often the thoughts we think about ourselves we would never accept from another person. We have powerful influence over our self esteem and body image. Being mindful of how we talk to ourselves should be a daily life campaign in my opinion. 

JK: I’m sure you have heard about/seen the Ralph Lauren photoshopped advertisements. What do you think about these and the message they are giving to the public about society?

KS: I have heard and read many articles and seen interviews about this. Of course I worry about the messages this sends to people. I get saddened by stories like this but I choose to look at it from a different perspective. Using photoshop as a way to alter photos is nothing new – it happens everyday and I feel stories like this helps my cause and many others in this positive body image movement. I believe it is such great bad press that it reaches HUGE audiences and this gives us the ability to use stories like this to further our message. We have the opportunity to write, share and talk about this story with the people in our daily lives, especially our children. We can use this as a way to show the truth of images, showing this “ideal beauty” does not exist, and get children and people to start critically thinking about the messages they see on a daily basis. Creating awareness and sharing this stories helps people question the images and messages they see. I believe our message and influence is just as powerful as those in business, because we can not only reach people through social media, but we can choose to talk to the people in our real lives and start to talk about these issues.

JK: What do you aim to achieve by tweeting about body image? 

KS: This is a great question, and one that actually stumped me at first! I honestly hope by tweeting about body image, that I am spreading awareness of how we think of body image. I think we have to understand what body image is, how we personally view ourselves, and how we wish to change that. I also think its important to remind myself of how I view others. No one likes to make rash judgments based on appearance, but I think so many people do, and I hope by tweeting, and spreading advocacy on body image that I can get people to start to be more mindful of how they think and treat others. We do not know others stories, or struggles, and by creating awareness and hopefully getting people to really think about their own body image, they can start to see others with more compassion. I also am of course hope to help people in their own personal recovery from eating disorders, but that is a noble and large goal. I hope by tweeting my own personal struggles that I can help others know they are not alone, that they do not have to struggle alone, and that their voices are important.  I hope to be a voice, but not the voice. I hope to be able to share others peoples hopes, struggles, successes, and recovery stories. 

JK: Anything else you can tell me? 

KS: I love what I do, and I wish there were more hours in the day to do everything I want to do! I live authentically now, something I never understood until I entered recovery. I am normal in that I too struggle with body image, I have days where I have to smack negative self talk out of my head. But the ability to recognize harmful self talk in myself gives me hope that it is possible for me to be able to help if only one person in the work I do through Twitter, Facebook, my blog, or through Mentor Connect.  

I am grateful for the many people that are part of this movement. I have met so many wonderful advocates and am humbled to be a part of this journey to help change things one tweet, one message, one blog at a time.

Interview with a recovered ED patient Part I

•November 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Kendra Sebelius has a BA in Business Economics, her life was all planned out for her. She’s smart and she’s a hard worker, but she also struggled with multiple forms of eating disorders throughout her life. 

I was lucky enough to interview Kendra and hear about her inspiring story and her life. She’s an inspiration to all who battle an eating disorder or struggle with negative body image. She says that through recovery, relapse, and recovery again – she was able to find her life path.

Currently, Kendra helps those who struggle with addictions and eating disorders. She started blogging and tweeting about these disorders and is known as “A Voice in Recovery.” You can find Kendra through Facebook, Twitter, or follow her blog.

Thank you so much to Kendra for allowing me to interview! It was a pleasure and I hope we can stay in touch. 

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JK: Tell me a little about yourself (career, goals, background).

KS: I have a BA in Business Economics. I currently “make my living” by being a Senior Accountant at a consulting company that helps restructure and reorganize companies in financial distress. Whoa – that being said – I am NOT the accountant type 🙂 I set out in early life to have a career where I made money, and have done well at that goal. I also am in recovery from an eating disorder. Well – you could say maybe even more than one eating disorder, I was a flip flopper amongst them all. My birthday is November 5, and I will be 30 and within two weeks will also be two years sober. A little over a year ago I moved across the country after a long road trip visiting all parts of America. I have been through a lot with my addictions, and being in recovery is my greatest blessing I have been given in life. It is through recovery, relapse, and recovery again that I have discovered my life path. My destiny so to speak. My mission in life is to help people who struggle with addictions and eating disorders and help give a voice to the diversification of these disorders. About a year ago I started advocacy and then shortly after started a Voice in Recovery and since then I have become a mentor through Mentor Connect, and will soon be a support group co-leader, and hopefully helping with a study at a nearby hospital on eating disorders. Advocacy, blogging, tweeting, volunteering, is al a “side” passion to me 🙂 I think of it as round the clock, work – but ultimately the most rewarding thing in my life. 

JK: What do you aim to achieve by receiving your PhD in the field of eating disorders?

KS: I am not sure at this point what path my education will lead me. Having a Business Economics degree, I am currently taking night classes when I can and trying to find my path in education. I do not know if it will lead me to a masters of social work, clinical psych, PhD, PsyD, or what, and I am ok with that at this point. I want to help people. Whatever path I am taken on in this journey of life, I will find a way to help people who struggle with eating disorders. I want people to know they are not alone, that their voices matter. I hope to start a book soon sharing voices on those in recovery. There are so many memoirs, and stories of ‘in the disorder’ that I want to show the other side of eating disorders. I want to share what recovery looks like to those who are currently going through it. My aim is to show how diverse the population is, that it is not just Anorexia, and Bulimia that plague people; there are many people with BED, and those in the EDNOS category (hopefully to change with the DSM V). It is not just a white, women issue. It affects men and women, all races, and more needs to be shared from ALL the voices of those in recovery. My aim is to in a way be a vessel and not only support those struggling, but to be one that can share their voices with the public. 

JK: Do you believe the mass media directly affects body image? 

KS: I think it is a hard argument for anyone to say the media has no influence on people. Companies spend millions of dollars on campaigns for exactly this – the ability to influence peoples purchasing dollars. That being said, I cannot say for a fact say the amount of influence it has. Just this week an article came out on various websites, including Jezebel, talking about a British study saying half of girls 16-21 would consider plastic surgery, 95% would like to change their bodies, and 5% of 11-16 year olds would consider Botox (http://jezebel.com/5395999/study-tweens-already-thinking-about-botox). How can we honestly say the media has no influence? I think a main issue with the media is that we compare ourselves to the images we see in print, on tv, in movies, in commercials. Another recent study showed that while people make rapid comparisons, when reminded that real life is not being shown, they are able to look at things with a critical eye, and those comparisons become less relevant (http://www.physorg.com/news169741002.html). That is a powerful study and we as body image, eating disorder, self esteem advocates should have hope that what we do matters!

JK: What do you think people can do to prevent the mass media’s influence on their bodies?  

KS: We are not going to change the media, nor do I think we should. I know many people support governments intervening and banning or labeling pictures that have been photoshopped. I am not of the mindset that a government should have influence over a business. I believe the influence and messages may not change, but I believe we have a responsibility to teach our children to critically think about the messages they receive. I believe friends, social networks, and family has just as much influence over child as do the messages from the mass media. I believe teaching children and teens about the messages, showing the realities of what they are doing can help people start to critically look at messages they receive in the future. Since taking on this journey as an advocate, the more stories I read, the more news I pay attention to, the more I can see through the messages that are being sent. That is why Dove workshops, and other school and community programs are great. 

 I think we need to challenge the stigmas in society, that looks aren’t everything and that there is no one ideal size. I also think its incredible important to spread awareness that diets are unhealthy, do not last, and have a larger hep that more people start to ban “diet” talk. I wish people could see the diet industry is one of the greatest business enterprises of all time! They make a lot of money at peoples expense. Helping to spread awareness of the dangers of dieting will hopefully also make people critically think about how their behaviors may affect the children, friends, and people in their lives. I think parents need to be mindful of diet and weight talk around children. I think this PDF is a GREAT start and sums up a variety of ways people can help build body self esteem: http://nature.berkeley.edu/cwh/PDFs/CCOC_05_PDFs/3D-Real_Kids_All_Sizes.pdf

I think peer to peer education is a great way to help lesson the influence of the media as well. Teens especially, listen to their peers. Creating awareness in this community is critical in the prevention of eating disorders, helping build positive body image, and also gives teens the ability to use their voice. I believe kids and teens have very powerful voices and can create large change in this movement. If you look at whatkidscando.org you will see many things – but this one study shows 11 high school students trying to create a program of education to prevent negative body image and other risk factors for developing eating disorders (http://whatkidscando.org/specialcollections/student_research_action/sehome/Sehomefinalreport.pdf). It is things like this that give me hope that we can and are making changes everyday!