Your Body, Your Voice, Your Power

I have acne, my knees are round, my left breast is bigger than the right one, my abs are not flat (and never will be), but surprisingly enough, I’m OK with all of these things. Two years ago, though, I would not have been. I am a girl who has gone from being obese to weighing practically nothing. While I did not necessarily suffer from anorexia, I dangerously flirted with the disorder. I felt as though my entire body was socially inadequate, so in high school I determined that the only way to be accepted was to be skinny like all of the celebrities that were in my home state of California. In a mere year and a half I lost 70 pounds, at the end of it I looked like a skeleton and was in critical health. After years of therapy and seeing a nutritionist, I am finally at a healthy weight. Now as a college freshman in Texas, I try to promote more realistic expectations of the female form through my work with the campus Women’s Center.
At V to the 10th in New Orleans, we had the privilege of attending a panel regarding body issues that was lead by Rosario Dawson (RENT), Kerry Washington (The Last King Of Scotland), Ali Larter (Heros, Legally Blonde), and Amber Tamblyn (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).
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These four incredible women were completely down to earth and openly shared their struggles with an industry that pushes young actresses towards obtaining the “ideal� body. They discussed how they are consistently encouraged to dress provocatively for an audition, or as the agents say, “If you have to wear a turtleneck, make sure it’s tight, tight, tight!� All four expressed how little control they had once a magazine’s editors carried off their photos. They spoke about the concept that the media essentially commits “visual violence against women� by often airbrushing against an actress’s will. Magazines also tend to overstate what they do not enjoy (such as certain fatty foods) while minimizing all of the quirky things that make them more relatable. This keeps actresses who are feminists from ever getting these positive messages to their young fans through the cliché top teenage magazines. As for being criticized for being too fat, they all agreed that we as young women should stop telling one another (and ourselves) that we’re not good enough. Rosario added that not only the media, but her family also gives her a hard time about being too skinny or not looking “Latino enough�. But as she put it, she is “perfectly imperfect�, eats a lot, and isn’t giving into the expectations that cultures set.
Throughout the panel, each of them offered advice on how to embrace yourself and tactics on how to resist negative body obsessions. Amber Tamblyn draws attention to how silly the whole notion of being super skinny is through comedy. When she’s out at lunch and is offered a bread bowl, she will reply, “Oh, no thank you. I’m trying to get back to my birth weightâ€?. Ali Larter advocated for all women to “embrace [themselves]â€? and to “honor the body that you have.”
When they were just about out of time, Kerry Washington stressed that even after they left the stage, they would continue talking about this issue and encouraged the audience to do the same. Our society is wrapped around the notion that to become famous or well-liked, one has to be flawless. Not only is it far from the truth, it is impossible. Ultimately, we need to focus less on those degrading comments and spend more time creating diverse, accurate representations of women.
(SMU in NOLA are students Jessica Andrewartha, Meg Bell, and Allie Thompson.)

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9 Comments

  1. Posted April 18, 2008 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    glad to read these NOLA blogging posts! I was there and it was tre awesome ;)

  2. Dinea
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Ali. I knew you were awesome already, but this is great.

  3. Posted April 19, 2008 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    This report is wonderful. I couldn’t make V-to-the-Tenth’s celebrations. I had to attend the funeral of one of our best activists for the City of New Orleans, and the next day was spent getting our flooded house ready for us to move in.
    I was asked by a another woman here to write a piece from the Inter/Trans-sexed viewpoint on my vagina for V-Day, and so I did.
    I guess I’m looking for a critique. Style? It’s just mine. Content? I hope I supplied enough of that. Sense of Self and what this Society views women as? Hit me with your best shot. I can take it.
    This is about how they stole my vagina, and how I regained it. I’m not sure how to present material here, so I’m using the only path I can see here.
    Here’s the piece:
    http://gentillygirl.com/2008/04/15/they-stole-my-vagina-and-how-i-found-it/
    Don’t worry about upsetting me: can’t be done. I have ovaries, a uterus and a sewn-up vagina. I am a woman of woman born, but much of early life was spent playing a different and hated game.
    I’m just trying to be of help and to learn more.
    Blessings!

  4. Posted April 19, 2008 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    i’d love to get a chance to talk to these women (NOLA students) for my project… and ultimately to set up a support group in my area… (please send me an email if you read this)

  5. sadie_sabot
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    That sounds great. I have to say, though, that a panel on body image issues from three young women who also absolutely easily fit into the social standards of beauty in pretty much every way leaves me feeling a little…discombobulated. as someone who’s pushing 40, I’m not sure how much they have tp say to me. As smeone with a hidden disability I’m not sure how much they have tp say to me. As someone who is fat, I’m not sure how much they have to say to me.
    That said, I’m glad they’re saying what they’re saying. But my dream panel about body image issues and the impact on women would include: a woman over 50, a fat woman, a normal sized (but considered fat) woman, a woman who fits society’s rigid beauty standards, a trans woman, a trans man, and would be racially mixed (as this panel was, granted)

  6. Posted April 21, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    i actually caught them right after this discussion and asked them about feminism:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=sjIgtXVlSyw
    there are more vday videos up as well :)

  7. leslieanderson81
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    This is kind of a curious questions, more then anything else, but have you ever taken a birth control pill for your acne? It’s been such a blessing for me. It seems like I tried every other acne treatment and nothing worked. Just a thought!

  8. Posted July 13, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    This is kind of a curious questions, more then anything else, but have you ever taken a birth control pill for your acne? It’s been such a blessing for me. It seems like I tried every other acne treatment and nothing worked. Just a thought!

  9. leslieanderson81
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    This is kind of a curious questions, more then anything else, but have you ever taken a birth control pill for your acne? It’s been such a blessing for me. It seems like I tried every other acne treatment and nothing worked. Just a thought!

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