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Archive for February, 2012

Amanda Palmer (probably my favorite musician, artists, what have you) has a disagreement with the managers of Roadrunner Records, her then point of contact for making music. The short version of  a long story is that for her solo album entitled Who Killed Amanda Palmer? the manager of Roadrunner Records (who also has bands such as Kiss, Korn, Theory of a Deadman, and Nickleback) told her that the video for “Leeds United” would need to be altered because her stomach looked fat. He said according to Palmer, “i’m a guy, amanda. i understand what people like.” The longer version of these events was posted on her blog which is linked here. Amazingly enough, I do believe this is the body he said people would not like:

She proclaimed a return to love the belly, although in her own vanity she was frequently self-conscious of it. After posting a photograph of her belly, many of her fans felt inclined to follow in her actions. At one point there was a website devoted to those pictures (which I can’t happen to find now), but they have been collectively amassed and put on various sites. There have been discussions about how the body should be loved as it is. An interesting take of the Rebellyon is discussed here.

I am actually really saddened by the fact that this occurred because by one man’s standards, the body was judged as if by societal judgement. The amazing thing is that her fan base provided the grounds for substantial protest against the record company (which she was finally able to drop after harsh criticisms). Her body has been put on display by the mediums she works in and it is evident there is a place for politics in this space, but was it fair for the manager to assert the ideal body that her audience would like?

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Transitioning is often seen through a medical lens, marked by physical changes to the body including hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery. While transitioning clearly demonstrates the fluidity of gender, the body, and how gender and the body interact and are perceived, the locations of sex on the body are often viewed as static. For someone to have fully transitioned, their gender and biological sex would seemingly “match.” I am in support of people doing whatever it is they need to do to feel good about their gender and I am in no way against this type of transitioning. However, what I believe is problematic is how this is typically seen as the default for trans* people. Not all trans* people transition or transition in this particular way.

The Phallic Titty Manifesto, a zine by a friend Jackie Wang

discusses the ambiguity of flesh, tits as dicks and dicks as clits, erotic lactation, Judith Butler, pregnant bodies, Louise Bourgeois, the lesbian phallus, unmaking and remaking bodies, expanding erogenous zones, and queer sex.

Through a queer lens, sex is no longer isolated to biological parts associated with our sex at birth or if they are their weight no longer holds. In this sense, there is a radical capability to transition or transgresses gender norms while still seemingly embodying the sex you were assigned at birth.

This makes me think of the usage of terms “female-bodied” and “male-bodied.” I have typically heard them used in the context of referring to trans*, genderqueer, and non-gender conforming folks. While someone will refer to someone with “they/their” pronouns in one breath, they will use “female-bodied” or “male-bodied” to refer to them in another. While I think this is subjective, dependent on the specific person and how they like to be referred to, I think this is extremely interesting. From this example, it is clear how deeply embedded sex and gender are in physical bodies. I think at times terms like these can (unintentionally) reinscribe the gender binary, in which some folks clearly do not identify with. If someone is trans*, why wouldn’t they be trans*-bodied (or however they would like to be referred)? Do you think it is inherently impossible to view the body, specifically sex on the body as fluid?

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Transgendered Kids

Most people spend years and years trying to figure out who they truly are. What if you didn’t need decades to figure it out? What if you knew since the age of 11 or even sooner that what you were born into was not fitting of who you were supposed to be. The transition from male to female or female to male (transgenderism) that an increasing amount of individuals are beginning to make has become an uncomfortable and extremely controversial subject for many. Most people see black and white and fall on either end of the spectrum as far as right or wrong goes concerning transgenderedness. These positions become all the stronger however, when children are involved.

The documentary, Jazz: A Family in Transition, and supplementary articles about this courageous kid raised a few questions for me. As much as I value individualism and seeking happiness, when should someone be allowed to have control of their own body? 18 is the official age when an individual can provide legal consent to make important decisions especially life altering ones without parental permission.  But as a parent when do you allow your child to make decisions regarding their identity, appearance, and ultimately their life. Jazz’s parents not only allow her to dress as girl but they have also considered actions for a more permanent changed and have shared her story with the world all of which will impact her for the long run.

Another part of the article that I found interesting was the excerpt regarding the special box of hand -me down bras that Jazz keeps in hopes of one day being able to fill them out with breasts of her own. Though Jazz has already assumed the female gender role, it is interesting to see how the physical features matter. Something such as breasts not only affect Jazz’s self concept, but it also affects the way that others will perceive her and her gendered roles in society.

As Jazz is rapidly approaching puberty, her and her parents now face the question as to whether or not begin Jazz on hormones and hormone therapy to offset the male traits that she would encounter ones puberty starts. As with most medications, there are side effects, many of which can be extremely harsh especially for children. The fact that medications, and hormone therapy is a very real reality for Jazz and her family is intriguing. Unlike many transgendered individuals, Jazz has the support of her family and is able to dress and act accordingly to the gender that she identifies with even at such a young age. The fact that her and her family are strongly considering these possibilities despite all of the ways it can affect her body for the worse is interesting. Though Jazz already assumes the role of female, it seems as though she won’t feel complete until the physical matches up to the socially constructed definition of what a woman is.

 

http://janetmock.com/2011/11/25/i-am-jazz-transgender-jeanette-documentary/

to see the documentary, enter I am Jazz: A Family In Transition into the Youtube search

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The crucifixion of Jesus have been painted for decades. But for some reason they all look the same. He has little to no blood and has a halo that surrounds his head. Different artist my add his mother or other disciples but the amount of blood is little or none. Now this is a quite interesting depiction when from the 39 stripes on his back, the nails in his has and feet and not to mention the crown of thorns on his head one would think there would be more blood. But is we compare a picture like this: now if you would compare this typical portrayal of Jesu to the most recent depiction done by Mel Gibson and the Passion Of Christ  in this youtube clip (start watching from 2:10-4:05… be advised it is very bloody. The movie is R rated) http://youtu.be/G52Ejcf2qu8

So my question is why did earlier depictions of Jesus show Him as barely having a scratch on Him what that depiction is unrealistic. The whips they had were adorned with nails. So the nails on the whips went in his skin and then ripped off his flesh. Not only that but to make sure He was dead they pierced His side with a spear so that blood came gushing out. But society has it that what is on the inside of the body must remain on the inside. The that raises the question is there an inward and outside part of the body? Because I thought they were one in the same. But the parts of the body that we can not see should remain unseen. As soon there is a breach between the seen and unseen there is a problem. Heaven forbid we sneeze or leak and by all means possible defiantly do not bleed. We get cuts and bruised but of course we have bandaids to cover it up. And then heaven forbid we talk about females that might bleed five times a month. But don’t worry there are ways of hiding that too. So please do not bleed because that makes you human and we al know society basically wants us to be robots.

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Facebook is deleting personal pictures of Mom’s breastfeeding and calling them obscene.

Moms are being ordered to cover up in malls and Target if they are breastfeeding.

Isn’t breastfeeding what women are encouraged to do?  Hasn’t the healthy party line been to breastfeed for at least the first few months to build immunity in babies?  Some communities are encouraging women to breastfeed to help curb childhood obesity.  There are proven health benefits for both the child and mother.  So, women are being told to breastfeed on the one hand and then told they can’t do it anywhere but in their homes on the other.  If they want to breastfeed in public, they must hide themselves away in a bathroom.  How dare they offend anyone with the view of their children breastfeeding!

Maggie Gyllenhaal breastfeeding

Women spend their entire lives held up as sexual beings, as objects.  But where does that end when a woman becomes a mother and wants to breastfeed her child?  Hasn’t the image of “the mother” become one that is without sexuality?  Maybe breastfeeding blurs that line for some.  We see this attitude in breast cancer awareness campaigns crying to “Save the boobies!” as well.  Women’s worth is in their sexuality and if they use their breasts to feed their children (some might say the breasts most primal and “natural” purpose) they are being viewed under that same sexual gaze.  Is our society so sexually repressed (and obsessed) that we can’t separate breasts from being sexual objects?

Part of the British campaign to encourage breastfeeding

Many breastfeeding moms are taking to activism to try and bring awareness to the issue.  Recently on etsy, an innovative breastfeeding mom created a crocheted “boobie beanie.”  They can be made in any skin tone and nipple shade, to match your own.

The Boobie Beanie!

Other mom’s are holding “breastfeed-in’s,” at facebook’s corporate headquarters or at local malls.  Celebrities have also taken to the cause, breastfeeding in public and allowing the paparazzi to take pictures of them with their children.  In Britain, they even had a celebrity campaign to encourage breastfeeding.  Unfortunately, until we as a society can move past this constant sexualization of breasts, I fear things will still be difficult for breastfeeding mommies.

Mayim Bailik breastfeeding on the subway in NYC.

 

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The media heavily covered the death of legendary singer Whitney Houston.  There was much speculation about the circumstances surrounding her death all of which were reported on in the media.  The latest story about the singer’s death is the National Enquirer publishing a photo of the late singer in her casket.  There is an article on Celebritology on the Washington Post which reports on this latest media frenzy.  Where do we draw the line when it comes to respect of the deceased?  Is showing their body in a casket appropriate, especially when her family did not authorize such a photograph to be published let alone taken? 

The singer’s entire life was in front of paparazzi as is any other celeb’s.  But is this same extreme invasion of privacy acceptable after death when the star is no longer her to be a voice for herself?  The media feeling the need to publish such a picture is extremely indicative of  how we view bodies.  Whitney was famous mostly for her voice, however the voice went with the face and body.  At one point in time she was a model, however her notoriety came from her vocal skills and stylings.  So following death people do not separate the two?  The deceased corpse is no longer able to produce the angelic sounds that it once did, however there is such a focus on the body. 

In my opinion it is extremely disrespectful of not only the celebrity but her family as well to post pictures of her body in a casket.  Why does the media feel such a need to be so intrusive into the lives of people?  There should be more of a line drawn between reporting on what needs to be known or what is of interest and respect of the privacy of those being reported on.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/celebritology/post/national-enquirer-publishes-photo-it-alleges-shows-whitney-houston-in-casket-has-a-line-been-crossed/2012/02/22/gIQAjrrnTR_blog.html

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Often, we talk about “beauty standards” as a single set of rules, as though they can be internalized and followed the way one might follow the rules of grammar or mathematics.  Beauty standards have very real consequences for those who break them and also those who don’t, and they are so pervasive as to seem universal.  But they aren’t universal.

Take, for example, the context of the fashion industry.  Granted, there are plenty of harmful aspects of consumerism and misogyny in fashion in general.  Still, fashion is, purportedly, an art that pushes boundaries, even if it has inherited the unfortunate boundaries of the society of which it is a part.  This is an essay in itself.  What is interesting for the purposes of this post is how the beauty standards for fashion models differ from those for the average person in a given culture.  The purpose of fashion is to push boundaries, and so it continually shapes the beauty standards and trends for average people and then changes them.

Similarly, models are not held to the same set of standards.  Successful models have a certain set of common characteristics (tall, thin), as well as something that makes them “stand out”: a sharp nose, strong brow, angular jaw line.    At the same time, the desire for models who are tall and thin has necessarily led to an increase in models with androgynous bodies.  Perhaps the most popular androgynous model at the moment is Andrej Pejic, who in one season walked five men’s shows and four women’s shows.

His body seems to be proof that even biology is not dichotomous.  One would expect this to be more threatening, yet Andrej reports a happy, carefree childhood.  His mother is doting, his brother is supportive, and the hardest part of his teenage years, he says, was figuring out who he was.  The freedom that he seems to have felt from pressure to look or act a certain way, the ability to decide for himself who he wanted to be, is remarkable.  The following interview shows him to be level-headed and surprisingly unaffected by his sudden success as a model.

In the context of fashion, androgyny seems more acceptable, relatively speaking.  What do you think makes this the case?  Is this a positive move, or does it just reflect a fetishization of “unusual” bodies?

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It is interesting to watch the way prescription drugs are consumed in America. We tend to obsess over the benefits of prescriptions and gloss over the possible side effects. Every commercial for a prescription drug is required to announce the side effects, but who can actually hear them? There is usually a man with low-pitched voice racing through the possible inconveniences as if they are minor possibilities.

Apart from a 4 hour erection, Viagra can also cause loss of vision, diarrhea, dyspepsia, and dizziness. It can also be fatal when taken with other drugs, especially drugs for heart related health problems. This information is not commonly discussed. Every commercial has the side effects mention as mandated by the FDA. It is the consumers responsibility to understand these side effects, ask questions, and take necessary precautions. Unfortunately, as a society we are more eager to reap the benefits then we are to take caution over the adverse effects.

I felt that Viagra was a great attention grabber for this post, but this is greater than the erection verses vision debate. There are so many prescriptions out there for a wide range of serious and minor illnesses that have side effects of varying degrees of significance. We have become comfortable putting chemicals in our body for self medication or as instructed by a health professional without thinking about the consequences. I don’t remember ever pausing to think that my aspirin can give me stomach ulcers before consuming it. Whether it is an over the counter drug or a prescription medication, we need to pay closer attention to the warnings labels, especially if the drug is a personal desire and not necessary for health maintenance, like Viagra or Latisse.

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Over the summer I was an intern in the gardens at an intentional community called Heathcote. Intentional communities are essentially communes but the members do not have a shared income or business, so the members have outside jobs.  I instantly felt at home with the members, a group of older radicals and hairy second-wave feminists. One Saturday evening  the community was hosting a hot tub party in their handmade cob hot tub that sits over a fire. Although I was not interested in getting in, considering it was the middle of the summer and extremely hot, I was interested in attending the party to enjoy some conversation and vegan marshmallows. The party was taking place about a 10 minute walk through the woods from where my room was. As I approached I started to notice something was odd, everyone in the hot tub was naked.         I was stunned. These people I had gotten to know so well through everyday interactions were now baring it all in front of me. Going into this internship I was not expecting to see my boss, the intern coordinator, naked. My own reaction to the nudity of the community members was surprising to me. I needed to analyze why I felt so uncomfortable about this.
My first thought was that I felt uncomfortable because no one has warned me in advance that clothing was optional, and perhaps they should have. But, what was the real reason for my discomfort? The human body itself is simply raw material, however it is also packed with meaning given by society. The body is sexualized; society has created a framework in which certain body parts are not to be shown to the public. Even in more enclosed and safe environments, like the one I was in, to many is thought to be eccentric. Sexualized body parts are labeled with words like “private” and are expected to stay that way unless that are being used for arousal.
Something many young people rarely see is a naked average-sized body, imperfections, cellulite, and all. When “plus-sized” women are shown in the media, like in the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty,  the images of the body are distorted with airbrushing, thus creating a false idea of what a “real” body looks like. Because of my instilled sexualized associations and my lack of experience in seeing what real naked bodies look like, my experience at the hot tub party was an awkward one.

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Are humans their bodies or are we separate entities from our body? The Cartesian ideology alleges that the mind and body are separate entities. In contrast, the dogma of holistic embodiment states there is a strong alliance between the self and the body. In essence, the holistic viewpoint explicitly states that humans’ are their bodies. Many people in this country believe in the latter of these viewpoints. They express themselves through their bodies and concern themselves with how others perceive them.

One of the last acceptable forms of discrimination within this country is prejudice against overweight or obese individuals. There is a common connotation that overweight or obese individuals are perceived to be lazy and unattractive.  Conversely, People considered to be skinny or of ideal weight are regarded as beautiful and hardworking. Few people want to carry the stigma of being overweight. As a result, the implication of size drives a good majority of people to become obsessed about their weight. Many people try to mitigate this issue by employing quick fix strategies such as consuming weight loss pills and exercising extensively.

The booming industry of weight control and weight loss regiments demonstrates our acceptance of the holistic ideology.  Our obsession with body image illustrates that we believe our “selves” are directly tied to our bodies. The notion that we are our bodies suggests that we cannot accept negative impressions of ourselves. Many people feel as that in order to be more confident about their selfhood they must conform to what is deemed beautiful and acceptable.

In America, the acceptable view of beauty has narrow constraints and many are now falling short of because of the rapidly growing overweight population. With the ideal size of Americans changing; will the standard of beauty adjust as well? More importantly why do we rely so heavily on our outer appearances to dictate our confidence and selfhood?

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