Archive for April, 2012

ImageWhat would you like to accessorize today? Your ears? Your neck? Your wrist?

Perhaps your genitalia?

With vajazzling, which is the practice of placing glitter and jewels to the bikini area, and pejazzling, which involves Swarovski crystals being used upon the male genital area, you can now do so.

I recall my initial reactions to the aforementioned practices. I viewed them simply as odd methods of embodiment to engage in, without giving much thought into what they may mean in terms of body-related societal expectations.

While analyzing vajazzling and pejazzling, I wondered about whether or not there could possibly be a link between them and an increasing openness towards body parts that have been considered too taboo to even discuss at times. After all, the method of adding glitter, jewels, and crystals – products that shine, that are meant to be worn in order to increase visibility of oneself – draw attention to the places they are being applied upon. Therefore, it appears as though the phenomenons involve an attempt to incite viewer interest in the genitalia. By doing so, the practices seem to remove the earlier restrictive societal expectations placed upon genitalia (in terms of the encouragement of a lack of thinking about them, discussing them, making them more “apparent”, etc.), and replace them with a more unbarred mindset.

ImageHowever, could vajazzling and pejazzling signal another form of thinking (that may be seen as not so transformative in nature)? Perhaps, they point to beauty standards that are shifting to encompass more body parts (i.e. not just the face) and that delineate that one must consistently change parts of themselves to appear better. In this case, those who engage in the practices could be adhering to a societal ideal that entails they should change their genitalia, or, at least, make it be more visually appealing.

One article states, “following on from the almost cult-level success of the ‘vajazzle’ comes its evil twin brother, the ‘pejazzle'”, delineating that not everyone is all too happy about these forms of embodiment. This may mean that society is still remaining closed-minded about genitalia, that it has not gained much ground in fostering a “need for change” mindset towards the parts, or maybe neither. What do you think?

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Double Standards

Lately I have noticed that there are so many double standards nowadays. Today I was at my friend’s flag football game and noticed that there was one female player on the opposing team. I was happy to see a female allowed to play with males in a sports game but got upset when I found out that the team gets more points when a female scores. It seems hypocritical to allow a girl to play but then give us a handicap. Even when it comes discussing sports males automatically think that females do not know anything. However, in my group of friends my best girl friend knows more about football than some of my male friends. It seems that because men are always placing a certain stereotype on females, we in return do the same. 

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Here’s a description of the project from the the artist Holly Norris’ website:

“American Able” intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are made invisible in advertising and mass media. I chose American Apparel not just for their notable style, but also for their claims that many of their models are just ‘every day’ women who are employees, friends and fans of the company. However, these women fit particular body types. Their campaigns are highly sexualized and feature women who are generally thin, and who appear to be able-bodied. Women with disabilities go unrepresented, not only in American Apparel advertising, but also in most of popular culture. Rarely, if ever, are women with disabilities portrayed in anything other than an asexual manner, for ‘disabled’ bodies are largely perceived as ‘undesirable.’ In a society where sexuality is created and performed over and over within popular culture, the invisibility of women with disabilities in many ways denies their sexuality, particularly within a public context.

Too often, the pervasive influence of imagery in mass media goes unexamined, consumed en masse by the public. However, this imagery has real, oppressive effects on people who are continuously ‘othered’ by society. The model, Jes Sachse, and I intend to reveal these stories by placing her in a position where women with disabilities are typically excluded.

I think this project is extremely fascinating in its critiques of advertising and mass media, specifically American Apparel, and the projects counter-depictions of disability.

How is Norris’ explanation of the invisibility of disabled bodies in mass media, including the de-sexualization and undesirability often seen intrinsic to disability, parallel to Garland-Thomson’s “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory”? Do you believe that the depictions of disability in American Able are revolutionary? Can these counter-depictions of disabled bodies truly change advertising and mass media and the ways in which we view disability in our society?

Some of the following images by be not safe for work (NSFW).

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I’ve been aware of The Adipositivity Project for a number of years.  Most people who float around Fat Acceptance circles online are aware of it, but when I’ve shown it to friends who aren’t aware of FA, it’s always surprised them.  I thought, given the reading for our next class, this was at least visually on topic.  I’m also always a fan of activism through art and you can’t say Substantia Jones’ photographs aren’t beautiful or radical.   Many of the photographs are nudes, so beware if you decide to click through.  I’ve pulled some of the more modest ones to show the intent of the images.

Adipose: Of or relating to fat.

Positivity: Characterized by or displaying acceptance or affirmation.

 The Adipositivity Project aims to promote size acceptance, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather, through a visual display of fat physicality. The sort that’s normally unseen.

The hope is to widen definitions of physical beauty. Literally.

The photographs here are close details of the fat female form, without the inclusion of faces. One reason for this is to coax observers into imagining they’re looking at the fat women in their own lives, ideally then accepting them as having aesthetic appeal which, for better or worse, often translates into more complete forms of acceptance.

The women you see in these images are educators, executives, mothers, musicians, professionals, performers, artists, activists, clerks, and writers. They are perhaps even the women you’ve clucked at on the subway, rolled your eyes at in the market, or joked about with your friends.

This is what they look like with their clothes off.

Some are showing you their bodies proudly. Others timidly. And some quite reluctantly. But they all share a determination in altering commonly accepted notions of a narrow and specific beauty ideal.

I love this project, especially considering the attempts by the media to include “real” bodies through the use of marketing like the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and “plus size” (really a size 6-12) models, and how different these fat people look from those culturally approved fat bodies.  These aren’t the media portrayed idea of what is “real” (and how problematic is that word in regards to any person?).  These (mostly) women, according to the BMI (another problematic method of judgment!), are obese, or more likely morbidly obese (sometimes called Death Fat in the FA community).  Most of them probably weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 or 300 or even 400 pounds – yet I don’t think they look like the stereotypical bed-ridden mordibly obese person most non-fats think of when they hear those numbers. Or maybe they do look like those ZOMG FAT people to you.

However you see them, these people are fat, but they have accepted the bodies they have and are living their lives in them.

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Recently my dad asked me if I would like to go out to dinner and a movie with him and I was touched! I thought it was sweet of him to want to spend some time together. Little did I know what I was in store for. When I asked my dad what movie he would like to go see he said there was a movie out that he had been wanting to see, so I just agreed not knowing what it was, thinking whatever it was it couldn’t be TOO bad, but I was completely wrong.
When we got to the theatre he asked for two tickets to October Baby, I had never heard of it. My dad and I settled into our seats in the nearly empty theatre. As the movie began I could tell it was going to be sappy, melodramatic, and a real tear-jerker for those who could connect with the message of the film. I also quickly realized that it was a Christian Pro-Life film.
The film tells the fictitious story of a Christian girl in college who discovers after having health issues that she is the product of a failed abortion. She learns that her parents are not her biological parents and she was adopted. The main character has a difficult time coming to terms with this and goes on a road-trip with her quirky and hip friends to find her birth mother. She is able to find her birth mother after meeting a nurse who used to work at the abortion clinic and remembered the day of the failed abortion. The nurse tells horrific stories of what would go on at the clinic and there are many tears. When the main girl confronts her mother she denies being her mom and in the end the main character writes her a note letting her know that she has “let go” and has forgiven her. Also at the end, you see that the nurse who used to work at the clinic now works in the Labor and Delivery Unit in a hospital. A happy ending for all…
Just when I thought the torture was over, a video of an interview with the actress that played the birth mother started to play during the credits. So of course my dad wanted to stay to watch that. She basically said that she felt that this role was perfect for her because when she was younger she had an abortion and through playing this role she felt some closure. She also felt like she was doing her part to help other women from making the same “mistake” that she did.
By the end of this film I was furious. My dad is Christian and although I was raised Catholic I made my dad aware that I was not religious back in high school. The issue of religion (and politics) have created a large barrier in our relationship. So as the film ended and he asked me if I liked it, I was angered, how could he think I would enjoy this movie? Does he know me at all?  I told him that I really hated it. He then called me a week later asking if I had thought about it and liked it anymore. I answered, “No, Dad. I still really hate it.”
What I found problematic with this film is the fact that it was basically instilling false fears into peoples minds about a sensitive subject that is already under attack politically. People were walking away from this film feeling validated in their viewpoints against abortion and women’s rights. Does my dad now think that failed abortions happen all the time? I am not trying to imply that this never happens, it does. But is it really something that needs to be embraced into the anti-choice movement? Also, I believe that if access to safer abortions were increased in the first place this would not be a problem to consider at all. This option of course was not considered in the film though. Instead, they simply vilified the birth mother and portrayed her as a vein,s elf-interested lawyer who has chosen to turn her back on her daughter. Even though the women who played the birth mother has gone through the experience of getting an abortion in real life and should understand the hard decision it can be, she chose to accept this portrayal.
Needless to say, before I ever accept another offer to go to the movies with my dad again, I will thoroughly research the film.


Here is the link for the film’s website. On there is the video of the actress discussing her abortion that played during the credits. The video is called “October Baby Stories: Shari”      http://octoberbabymovie.net/#


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Nudity in the airport

Nudity is something everyone comes encounters on a daily basis. Whether it is in the shower or changing clothes the entire populace is naked at some time or another. Although individuals tend to see themselves nude regularly, under certain social situations nudity is considered as a taboo occurrence. However, some people strip their clothes to reveal their undergarments or naked bodies as a sign of protest.

Recently, on April 10, 2012 an unidentified woman was spotted naked in a Denver airport. Denver channel reports the woman was reported to be smoking in a non-smoking terminal, when the woman was asked to put out her cigarette she responded by taking off her clothes. There is differential discourse regarding the causation of this woman’s’ actions.  Reports cannot definitively tell whether the woman stripped her clothes was a result of an airport employee asking her to put her cigarette or if she was protesting against Transportation security administration or TSA pat downs. Denver police claim that the woman was experiencing a nervous breakdown while she unclothed herself. The unidentified woman was not arrested but instead taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation. There has been other news coverage regarding individuals who stripped their clothing at an airport because they were protesting against TSA pat downs. For example, a fifty two year old woman in a wheelchair was reported stripping down to her black lingerie to get through security at Will Rogers World Airport in 2010. In addition, a college student who was protesting against TSA pat downs stripped down to a speedo in November of 2010. Nudity or almost nude bodies undoubtedly brings attention to a situation or cause. Nudity is a factor of life that everyone must encounter. The United States has sexualized the body to the point that we as a society feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when we view another’s nude body or when someone touches ours for an extended amount of time. Therefore, issues such as TSA pat down become problematic because many Americans believe in social situations the body should not be touched extensively or seen without clothes on.

Some people report that these pat downs are an invasive of privacy and feel very uncomfortable after the pat down was conducted. After September 11, airports have become aggressive in mitigating terrorist or suspicious activity that may potentially harm their passengers.  Now the question I pose to all of you is do you believe airports is invading autonomy over people’s bodies even if it occurs for a brief period of time? More specifically, what would you do if you perceived an airport official to have touched you in a sensitive area longer than deemed necessary?

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According to a “recent study,” conducted by a company that maintains an online self-diagnostic tool and then misinterpreted by some website on the internet, “1 in 4 British women has misdiagnosed themselves on the Internet.”  Mind you, this wasn’t just posted on any old internet, it was posted on the Internet, so it’s totally legit, guys.  I believe it.  (By the way, Jezebel has some commentary that, while not problem-free, tickles the funny bone.)

This blog needs more color, so here's a rainbow.

Regardless, it raises some important questions about the role of diagnosis and self-diagnosis.  When overused or used irresponsibly, self-diagnosis on the internet can lead to a lot of unnecessary worry.  It’s an especially big problem in a culture that does not openly discuss bodies or illness, making it difficult to determine what is “normal” and “abnormal” for a body to do.  Female bodies, disabled bodies, older bodies, trans bodies, and non-white bodies, in particular, are susceptible to this kind of worry.  If your body was never “normal” to begin with, how can you possibly know if something is wrong?  If your body has always been strange or mysterious or untrustworthy, when does it cross the line from weird to dangerous, or sick?

I don’t have exact answers to these questions.  I do know, however, that since the majority of people cannot afford to see a doctor every time their body aches or something leaks, and since most female, aging, disabled, trans, and non-white bodies (to name a few) are not given serious consideration in the doctor’s office, the internet is an important diagnostic tool.  Several years ago, for reasons I can’t remember, I found a diagnosis for myself on the internet, and it was a major turning point.  As far as I knew, this was the way that I had always been, but at that time, I started to realize that it wasn’t the way that I would always have to be. It didn’t change my anxiety, but just having a name for it allowed me two conceptualize the phobia and my personality as two separate things.

These people stared at this x-ray for hours before realizing that it was blank.

When I later filled out an inventory or questionnaire, I hit every one of the symptoms.  But I never would have known that these were symptoms without coming across that page on the internet.  How could a doctor have possibly diagnosed me if I never expressed that anything was wrong?

Of course, my story might be unusual, and it might be somewhat unique due to my class privilege.  Still, I maintain that the internet should have a place in diagnosis, since no doctor can ever know a person’s body better than the person themself.  What do you think?  Does self-diagnosis cause more harm than good?  How can the internet be used or changed to improve diagnosis and available medical information?

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