Tag Archives: bodies

Feedback on Sexy-Soccer-Player Debate

Last week I wrote about the Sexist Thighs genre of World Cup listicles, the ones that zoom in on rippling muscles and rank the “best” of the body parts. In my essay, I tried to walk the fine line between acknowledging the problematic double standard of sexualizing female athletes (which I frown upon) and male athletes (which some people say is A-Ok because it’s only every four years and guys don’t get this all the time and blah blah blah…), while simultaneously arguing that contextual differences around male and female bodies mean we can’t measure objectification from an even playing field, because there isn’t one.

I wanted to share some feedback I got from all directions, because I think the complexities of this issue are many and there’s plenty of stereotype to go around.

From A, who felt generally in agreement, but took issue with my characterization of how much easier men have it in the media landscape:

“Young men are constantly bombarded with images of what a “sexy” and “successful” man looks like. Society has also conflated sexiness and career/financial success. Those who are good looking are successful in their careers and vice versa. This ultimately stems from a standard of beauty put on young men by fashion outlets (Abercrombie), TV (Don Draper), politics (Aaron Shock), and sports (Tom Brady). Just like it is somewhat easier for you wonderful, smart women to be successful despite certain gender stereotypes there are men who struggle against the “watch sports, let women cook, go into finance drive fancy cars blah blah blah” measure of success that is put upon up.”
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From C., who felt that the athleticism displayed by world class athletes (male and female) makes for healthier idolization than, say, regular old hot people:
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“The world cup is THE global sporting event. The men who compete in it are incredibly talented athletes and have the bodies to match. It’s not just that they have great thighs but that they are strong and coordinated. Also, part of what has been great about those lists is how diverse they are compared to the average “hot celebrity” compilation…But let’s flip it. Say there’s a women’s sporting event big enough that lists are being made about hottest female athletes (I’m sure this happened in the Olympics). I’m actually not upset about a slideshow that draws attention to the bodies of female athletes who are strong and capable…I don’t think you need to defend men from pictures of world-class male athletes any more than you need to defend women from pictures of world-class female athletes. These are people in the best shape of their lives who have worked really hard to get that way, and that’s a thing to admire.”

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C’s point is very interesting, and in general I’m much more in favor of fawning over what bodies can do vs. how they look, even though those two things are very related. I used to have this amazing coffee table book of photography of athletes with lineups of champions illustrating the range of physiques that can accomplish crazy feats:

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If that’s what we were talking about when we talk about “athletic physiques” then I’m all for it, because it truly prioritizes achievement over aesthetics, but that’s almost never what we’re talking about. Just as we don’t celebrate the physiques of weightlifting women in mainstream media, we don’t celebrate the 114lb, 5’2″ physiques of male marathoners either. They may be champions, but they don’t fit the “hot body” model we’ve come to expect.

Even when we talk athletic excellence, we are usually limiting our body worship to bodies that fit within the cutout of what we are already told is attractive. It doesn’t matter that Taylor Townsend is a tennis star, her body doesn’t look the way we think “fit” looks, and her sponsorship options already reflect how “confusing” people find that gap.

All of that is to say, soccer players are an interesting test case because they are athletically gifted and also perfect fits for what we have already deemed the “ideal physique.” I’m not sure we can separate those things and say that our adulation is about fitness rather than abdominal definition. And if it is about abdominal definition, then we have to own that, and we have to defend that, which personally, I’m not prepared to do.

Related Post: But what if you don’t look like a runner?

Related Post: How Title IX changed my life

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Filed under Body Image, Gender, Media, Sports

S(Monday) Scraps 105

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1. TEXAS: This is a long and beautiful piece by Amy Gentry for The Rumpus about abortion, body politics, and who we’re really protecting.

2. BADASS: Senator Claire McCaskill replies to James Taranto’s horrifying essay about how the fight against sexual assault in the military is actually a “war on men” and male sexuality. Taranto: 0, McCaskill: ALL OF THE POINTS.

3. TRAVEL: Fascinating essay by travel writer Simon Winchester about a tiny island of 300 people, Tristan de Cunha, and how he got banned from visiting for violating local customs.

4. HISTORY: In the wake of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Slate has an example of the dizzyingly confusing literacy tests that were used in the 50s and 60s to prevent black people from voting.

5. PLANNED PARENTHOOD: In case you ever forget what Planned Parenthood provides, a lovely essay from the blog What Are You Doing Here, Are You Lost?

6. CITIES: Chicago Magazine has an awesome series of panoramic shots of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, pre- and during industrial development.

Related Post: Sunday 104 – Books in pie-chart form, awesome ASL translators, what is a bro?

Related Post: Sunday 103 – Awesome people reading, pin-up presidents, Rich Kids of Instagram

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Filed under Art, Body Image, Chicago, Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

I Will Not Be Joining Your Gym

This is not the gym I visited, but it is pretty emblematic of the “fitness” attitude that I dislike.

Yesterday, I thought about joining a gym. It’s in my building, group classes, shower access, blah blah blah. I went to investigate and it turns out, I will not be joining this gym. Here’s why:

The scene: The lobby of the swanky-swank, fancy-schmancy gym (or “training gym,” as our tour guide kept emphasizing).

The Characters: Our trainer/guide, equal parts super white teeth and commission-based enthusiasm. Me and my very tall, very leggy, very lean friend. Just a reminder: leggy, lean, and tall are not adjectives used to describe me. 

The trainers asks us about our current exercise habits. I answer truthfully (yoga and elliptical-based cardio). My friend scoffs and confesses that, despite being a former athlete, she hasn’t worked out in a year. He tells her that she “looks like she’s in good shape.”

I should tell you a few things about this gym. The motto is “Look Good Naked.” They have classes like “Pain and Pleasure,” and “ASSolutely ABBulous” (Note: I have no idea why they capitalize the second B). The trainer, in his reiteration of the gym’s training focus, referred to helping clients “achieve a certain aesthetic vision”.

I should say right now that this gym is probably perfect for many people, and more power to them. Many people do work out specifically to “achieve a certain aesthetic vision.” From a use-case perspective, this aesthetic pitch is probably dead-on 85% of the time. But for me, it did nothing but convince me that this is really not a place I want to spend very much time.

I want my body to be healthier and stronger, and I measure that by achievement. Run longer, run faster, do more push-ups, hold hurdler’s pose an extra two breaths. I’m not saying I don’t look in the mirror every once in a while and wonder what life would be like with a body different than the one I have, I do. But then I remind myself that this is the body I’ve got, and it’s actually pretty fucking awesome and I smile and move on with my day.

On a broader note, the comment about “looking like you’re in good shape” drives me up the wall. In one sentence, it encapsulates our general conflation of thinness and fitness. What you mean when you say “You look like you’re in good shape” is “You look thin.” I do not look thin, therefore I do not look like I’m in good shape. This is NOT a criticism of my lovely friend, but criticism of the attitude of the trainer and the gym that the only metric for exercise success is weight and/or waist size. He’s a fitness professional who, presumably, has had some considerable training in exercise and nutrition. He, presumably, is aware that some big people can run 5Ks and some thin people can’t climb a flight of stairs. It’s a measure of his, and probably his employer’s, priorities that the illusion of  fitness (as indicated by dress size) is prioritized over cardiovascular or muscular health.

I did not enroll.

Related Post: Amy is afraid people won’t want her as a running coach because she doesn’t look the way a lot of running coaches look.

Related Post: A yoga studio that bans skinny people? Yeah… no.

Related Post: Don’t take my picture! Come on, you’re at the beach!

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Sports

Disneyfied Dudes

We can talk for hours about princess culture and how sexualized the outfits of Disney’s female characters are, and we probably already have. But Sanjay Newton (a student I think?) made this really cool video about Disney’s treatment of men (via Sociological Images). From Mulan to Beauty and the Beast, Disney teaches boys that “being a man” requires constant aggression, big muscles, occasional violence, and suavity with the ladies.

And lest we think objectification goes one direction, here’s a vaguely disturbing, NSFWish gallery of pin-up style illustrations of Disney’s male heroes. As far as fan fiction goes, these are pretty harmless. After all, who hasn’t had the occasional Aladdin fantasy? The thing is, these image are clearly exaggerated in a sexualized manner (ahem bulges), but their bodies really aren’t a far cry from the original illustrations. It’s all washboard abs, gigantic biceps, and brawny pecs. Talk about narrow beauty constraints, there’s not even a curly-headed prince among them!

John Smith of Pocohantes

I still believe the beauty standards that we hold women to are more pervasive and ultimately more damaging, but this shit is no good either. There’s a reason we are seeing a rise in eating disorders and plastic surgery among men. We can’t pin it all on Disney, by any means, but I’ve spent so much time thinking about the princess crap that I never really stopped to wonder what the male characters taught boys. It’s not pretty.

Related Post: Did you know how cheap it is to make body “enhancement” pills and sell them for a fortune?

Related Post: Ruby, 1998.

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Filed under Body Image, Gender, Hollywood, Media

“Don’t take my picture,” “Come on! You’re at the beach!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Tuesday’s post, trying to find a better way to articulate what bothers me about the hotties of Occupy Wall Street blog. I keep returning to this experience I had on a beach last summer:

I was standing on the boardwalk, one hand waving down the path, the other on the phone with a friend who was trying to find me. I was barefoot, in a bikini. People streamed by me, paying me no attention. A guy in his forties walked a few paces past me, then turned and stopped. He had a camera in his hand, and he started talking my picture.”What are you doing?” I said, “Don’t take my picture.”

“Whatever,” he said, grinning, and snapped another photo.

“I said, ‘Don’t take my picture!'”

“Come on,” he said, “You’re at the beach!”

I told him to fuck off, and he eventually did. I was shaken, and pissed, but I didn’t know what to do. Now this guy has pictures of me in a bathing suit that I did not say he could take. For all I know, they’re on a “Ladies at North Ave Beach” blog.

His “Come on! You’re at the beach!” was what sealed it for me. In his mind, my very presence was enough to justify being objectified. We’ve already talked ad nauseum about how a person’s clothes or demeanor never justifies rape, and I’m not equating having a picture taken to sexual assault, but the principle is the same. Whether I caused it or not, his desire or arousal is not my problem, and he has no claim to my person or my image to satisfy it.

While Steven Greenstreet’s motives seem purer than my beach photographer’s, his site is guided by the same principle. Paraphrased to the max, it goes something like this: I find you attractive, therefore your primary purpose is to be my eye candy, and I will treat you accordingly. Snapping mega-zoom photos for a “hot girls” blog or stealing a beachside bikini shot for God knows what are both just variations on a pretty ugly theme.

Related Post: My least favorite Atlantic columnist adds histrionics and drama to everything.

Related Post: Remember Karen Owen from the Duke Fuck List? I’m not sure it was worth all the controversy.

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Filed under Body Image, Media, Sex

That There Is Some Magical Shit

It’s national Love Your Body Day.

I do love my body. It does amazing stuff. Like seriously, there is some crazy awesome science fiction shit going on up in here, except, you know, not fictional…. It sweats to cool me down when I’m hot, shivers to keep me warm. It heals scratches and scrapes as if they were never there. It calluses the bottoms of my feet when I need protection. It dilates my pupils to adjust to the light, it even pops my ears when I fly. It gives me butterflies in my stomach when something good happens, and sends warning signals up my spine when I need to be more careful.

At this very moment, my stomach is literally rumbling to tell me I’m hungry. My muscles are knitting themselves back together after yesterday’s work-out. My thumb is replacing the nail I damaged when I slammed it in a car door. My lungs are breathing, my heart is beating, my liver is processing the beer I drank last night.

It carries me up four fucking flights of stairs every day, walks me to work, sits, bends, folds, creases, wrinkles, stretches, and holds up the bowling ball that is my head. It runs, skips, jumps, dances, twirls, tip-toes, and sometimes stands upside down.

Yeah, sometimes it looks fantastic, and sometimes less so, but who fucking cares? Look at all the incredible shit it can do!

Related Post: Sigh.. American Apparel, Curve Appeal, and the “real women” issue.

Related Post: I do want to be like Amy!

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Sunday Scraps 31

1. STEVE: There are a ton of great profiles this week of Steve Jobs. Rather than read those, spend 15 minutes listening to his 2005 commencement speech to Stanford University.

2. FEMINISM: This is the latest in the Tropes vs. Women series of clips from Feminist Frequency. Anita Sarkeesian digs into the “straw feminist” cliche, in which feminist characters are pushed to extreme views in order to distance more likable characters from ever identifying with feminism.

3. SPORTS: ESPN‘s “Body Issue” is out, and the gallery is jaw dropping. Spend some time gaping at Apolo Ohno, Gretchen Bleiler and Blake Griffin in the buff.

4. CRAFT: Bettencourt Chase is one of my new favorite all-things-pretty blogs. Crafts, photography, recipes, they’ve got it all. Look at that cake batter sprinkle bark. That’s just ridiculous.

5. POLITICS: Jon Stewart has a grand old time with old footage of Mitt Romney, the flip-flopping king of spin.

6. MICHAEL: Here’s a fun profile in NYMag about writer Michael Lewis and and the fame and fortune that seem to follow his pen (or, as is more likely, Macbook.)

Related Post: Mindy Kaling, soda bottle lamps, cereal boxes, and the Oxford comma.

Related Post: Suri’s burn book, Michael K Williams, “shorty.”

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