Wonder Woman and Body Peace Advocate: My Close Friend, Bailey

Nowfoundation.org's Love Your Body Campaign Poster from 2009.

Nowfoundation.org’s Love Your Body Campaign Poster from 2009.

By Morgan Paul

Earlier this week I sat down with a good friend of mine to talk about body image. While I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive peer ground, I wanted to know how they became so supportive. Bailey and I met in the 6th grade, but it’s only been the past few years that I began to notice her body positivity. As a child she said that she was unhappy with her body, as most children are, but she also told me that when she would talk to her friends about her insecurities they would agree with her. So not only was she having these negative thoughts, but they were then being reinforced by her peers.

When kids openly talk about insecurities, it normalizes the notion that we should be unhappy with our bodies, and schools don’t help this idea. There is no intervention to body negative talk, and no support for body positive talk. When I asked Bailey about public school health classes she said that they leave things too broad. She believes that “schools should ask kids what they think, get opinions, and let them know that there are people they can talk to.” Growing up in public school I would have to agree that schools do next to nothing to inform students about health or to promote body positivity. We spent the majority of the time in my high school health class watching movies like Transformers and Cool Running.

Bailey was fortunate, as many of us are, to have access to alternative media. She soon began to think independently and stopped responding to the media’s images of women. She believes that media is a significant cause of insecurities and that exposing children to media so young is not healthy. She also explained that actresses in kid’s shows are too old to be playing the parts. Bailey found herself wanting to look like the character who is 16, but really she was trying to look more like the actress who was around age 25. Pressures from the media like this one are causing kids to grow up too quickly. Another example is the way break-ups are perceived in the media. We naturally get defensive and want to compare ourselves to their new partner, but Bailey says that we should focus more on the fact that there was obviously a problem in that relationship and that you should just be happy that you got out of it. She also says that it is never healthy to compare yourself to others. “Everyone is on their own journey,” she said, so you are not any better or worse than anybody else, you’re simply at a different part of your journey.

One of the things that stood out to me most in our discussion was when Bailey said “The amount of beauty you see in yourself you should see equally in other people.” I find that an important rule to live by, no matter how hard you try. Balance your negative thoughts with positive ones. I have been talking a lot about loving your body, but Bailey made me rethink my approach when she told me “you don’t have to love your body, but you need to love yourself.” It’s such a subtle approach to the significance placed on beauty. When we say “love yourself” people assume body, but really you need to love all of yourself. Love your imperfections and your talents and your quirks. “Loving yourself is the greatest thing you can ever do and loving yourself and others goes hand in hand,” Bailey said. “Any way that you want to better yourself and life, loving yourself will help you get there. You’ll be surprised.”

The Prevalence of “Rape Culture” in Today’s Society

By Amber Charleville

After the recent events of Maryville, a story so close to home (Maryville is an hour and a half north of Kansas City), I thought it might be a good idea to refresh old readers and introduce new readers to what the phrase “rape culture” means.

Here is a definition from the Marshal University Women’s Center’s website: “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

I don’t want to get into a detailed response to the circumstances of Maryville other than to wish for justice to prevail for all involved, but I think it’s important to reflect on the way rape culture impacts and influences our lives when we’re presented with these sorts of horrible, harsh examples. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted (RAINN.org), and with those sort of sobering statistics in our faces, we can’t deny that something is seriously wrong with our culture.

From songs like “Blame it on the Alcohol” and “Blurred Lines” to advertisements, entertainment, and news sources that perpetuate the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies, everywhere we turn we are exposed to this culture of rape that encourages men to rape and women to stay silent when they are attacked.

I encourage you all to take a moment to reflect on these things and think of ways you can work for change in your daily lives. Even something as simple as telling a friend that a “rape joke” is not okay can make a difference. I want to leave you with the below video to help you think about and recognize rape culture in action:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ5dftyWOxo[/youtube]

This is Why Violence Prevention Education is Important

VioPrev-logoRGBBy Maritza Gordillo

I came across this article on Facebook and it is just shocking.

One of the fraternity brothers of the Phi Kappa Tao at Georgia Tech decided to write an explicit email to his fellow frat brothers giving “tips” on how to get girls at parties. He explains the “7 E’s of Hooking Up,” and this, to me, is just offensive. How is it possible to talk about women in this form and how is it that we are portrayed as some toy to play around with and then afterwards get rid of? At the end of his email he states, “IF ANYTHING EVER FAILS, GO GET MORE ALCOHOL. I want to see everyone succeed at the next couple parties.” Then he signs: “In luring rapebait, [name redacted].” So, if you can’t get with a girl that is sober, then just get her drunk?

Everything about this email is wrong. We are not sex objects; getting a woman drunk and having sex without her consent is considered rape. This is unacceptable and we cannot tolerate these types of messages coming across our campuses or communities.  I hope this young man understands the implications this e-mail has brought to him and to others, and can understand that this is not funny.

There are many resources at UMKC to help those who have been the victim of sexual abuse (and any other types of violence). For more information about our Violence Prevention and Response Program, please visit http://bit.ly/c7VXW1.

To see the full article and email go to http://bit.ly/19L7lIX.

Since the email has been publicized, the fraternity brother who wrote it has issued an aopology. To read about his apology, go to http://bit.ly/1cpJu1N.

“Stop Telling Women to Smile” Exemplifies Artistic Activism

Image from Google Images.

Image from Google Images.

When I read about “Stop Telling Women to Smile” by Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, I was struck; it is a fantastic visual display aiming to raise awareness about street harassment and violence against women. The Huffington Post online Article that featured the project on Friday mentioned that Fazlalizadeh wants to bring “Stop Telling Women to Smile” to Kansas City (as well as other cities across the nation), and is looking to do so through a Kickstarter campaign; I really hope that becomes a reality!

Check out the Huffington Post article here: “Public Art Project Addresses Gender-Based Street Harassment In A Big Way”: http://huff.to/17kI8mF

To visit the “Stop Telling Women to Smile” website, click here: http://bit.ly/17Ld1BL

Demanding Equal Rights for All Bodies: Going Topless

By Morgan Paul

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPZpQhqONXU&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

As many of you may know, Sunday was topless day! As nice as that sounds on hot days like today, it has much more meaning than just avoiding tan lines and sweat stains; it was a nationwide demonstration to fight another part of our gender equity battle. Few states allow women to go topless in public, and even the ones that do will arrest women for things such as disorderly conduct. Unfortunately, this is not a high priority issue to many women because they don’t want to go topless. That is completely their choice, but this does add to the over-sexualization of women’s bodies. Women are shamed every day for showing “too much breast” or “not enough leg.” Why must we be subject to such discrimination? Men walk around topless no matter their size, amount of hair, tan lines, etc. and are never told to cover up. It’s time for us to take charge of the streets and demand equal rights for equal bodies. You can learn more and sign the petition at http://gotopless.org/

Leave Your Lipstick At Home

By Courtney Neaveill

“Gwyneth Paltrow lipstick lesbian”: Google that and you will get over two pages of results – all of which reference a recent interview that Ms. Paltrow gave with Harpaar’s Bizarre. The 39 year old film star mentioned her daughter’s affinity for pink, ruffled clothes and remarked that IF her daughter were a lesbian she would be a ‘lipstick lesbian’ – as opposed to a ‘butch’ lesbian.  So now you may be thinking, ‘what the hell is that?’ Definition incoming! The most popular description on UrbanDictionary.com, defines the lipstick lesbian as “a feminine lesbian who is attracted to other feminine lesbians. They generally enjoy fashion, flowers, perfume, sex and the city, lingerie, lipstick of course, and (gasp!) passionate sex with other women.” The authors at Wikipedia expand on their similar definition of a LL by adding “most female same-sex sex scenes in mainstream pornography [portray women] this way.”  I take issues with this designation.  It’s as if people are saying “ok- now that we know what she is, we’ll know more appropriately how to deal with her.” I think of scientists uncovering a new species of animal or better yet, Jack Hannah. “Hey everyone, how’r  ya’ll doin – I’m Jungle Jack Hanna and on today’s episode we’ll be looking for the allusive Lipstick Lesbian.” What about the lesbian who does not fit into the nicely outlined “lipstick” category – is she butch by default? Is there no such thing as a normal, everyday lesbian? I’ll admit when I first heard the term lipstick lesbian I was amused – but does this label serve a purpose or is it damaging to the gay and lesbian community?

The people over at Belladonna.org not only find lipstick classification necessary but they also commit an entire section of their website in support of feminine lesbians. The claim is that they are unidentifiable by appearance and therefore need a support community where they can find tips on how to navigate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), dating and social scene. “Since we “don’t look like Lesbians”, other Lesbians don’t recognize us, which means we are often excluded from the united front. (Also, we don’t get asked out.)” This makes sense. In 1998, the Village Voice published an article in which they addressed the lipstick lesbian phenomenon.  According to the article, after series like the L Word, Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy portrayed lesbians in a more feminine light, lesbians no longer felt obligated to wear Doc Martens and rainbow colored jewelry but instead ventured to strut around in designer clothes and high heels.  Executive producer and director of L Word, Ilene Chaiken, feels that lesbians are liberated by the increasing social acceptance of the feminine lesbian.

“I think that we all need representation, we need aspirational figures, and it’s a positive thing for girls growing up to look at a TV show and say: ‘Oh, so that’s a lesbian, and she can be successful and wear glamorous clothes. Feeling that I might be gay doesn’t relegate me to some dark corner of society.’ “

Sociologist and professor, Jane Ward, calls this “’an echo effect’: The media prefers images of beautiful women, so lesbians put energy into being pretty, and then the media reports that image as the new ideal. “It’s the same way that heterosexual femininity is packaged and sold to female consumers.” Lesbians are therefore more palatable to the media-crazed, consumer public.

So which is it – have lesbians been forced by the general public into acting and dressing more feminine or have they been liberated by lipstick and high heels? I think it is a matter of both social pressure and personal expression. Either way, it is not a very flattering reflection of U.S. American social culture when public figures like Gwyneth Paltrow keyhole people into such inescapable categories. Actress Portia de Rossi once quipped “Everyone is their own kind of lesbian. To think there’s a certain way to dress or present yourself in the world is just one more stereotype we have to fit into.”  We should not be persuaded to make the distinction between two potentially harmful clichés; the ‘lipstick’ and the ‘butch’ lesbian.  Why is it anyway that lipstick lesbians receive the special feminine treatment? One of the most beautiful expressions of femininity is the deep love and affection that one woman can have for her female friend, partner or lover; with or without lipstick.

Shame on You, Abercrombie & Fitch (Again)!

By Arzie Umali

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUbI8L90bFY[/youtube]Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has done it again. Known for controversies such as their risqué print advertisements with half-naked people and accusations of discriminatory hiring, now the retailer is selling padded, push-up bikini tops for girls as young as 8-years-old. In a story on Good Morning America, parents expressed their outrage over the over-sexualized message that selling such a garment to our young girls will bring. 

As a parent of a tween daughter, I am faced with the power struggles everyday with her trying to be more grown up than her age (or I) will allow her to be.  Young girls are already bombarded with images in the media of ideal beauty and the idea that sexing yourself up makes you more appealing.  Usually these images come from adult women in magazines or music videos that our young girls wrongly aspire to be. But now, Abercrombie is giving them the opportunity to sex it up right away at the age of 8 by wearing a bikini top that will give them a fuller figure than any 8-year-old would ever realisticly have.  That’s appalling! (And actually, we shouldn’t be surprised – they were also the retailer who, not too long ago, came out with a line of thong underwear in children’s sizes.)

So shame on you Abercrombie & Fitch, for, once again, perpetuating the myth to our young girls that their bodies are what’s important about them and for making it even more difficult for parents to convince their daughters that  big breasts DO NOT triumph over brains. You’ve also just given every creepy pedophile more reason to hang out at our neighborhood swimming pools and beaches this summer.

No Love: A Proper Representation of Lil Wayne

By Erica Rose

Image from Wikimedia

The January 2011 issue of Essence Magazine poses a major question about rapper/artist Lil Wayne and that is “can Weezy start over now that he has a second chance?”

For all of you who are not familiar with Lil Wayne, a.k.a  Weezy “F” Baby, whose real name is Dwayne Carter ; he has been a very popular artist since the 90’s and started out on the record label Cash Money. Since 1999 Lil Wayne has been a solo artist with hits in the hip-hop community such as “The Block is Hot” and “Go DJ!.” On February 9, 2010 he was jailed for a gun possession charge from 2007 and was given a 1 year sentence in prison. He was then released after 8 months on November 9th of this year.

Before Lil Wayne went in to prison most, if not all, of his music objectified and insulted women and their sexuality. Songs like “Lollipop” talks about women doing unspeakable acts for him and the song “Mrs. Officer” is about a female police officer that stops Lil Wayne’s vehicle and has sex with him. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been pulled over for a speeding ticket that has never happened to me.  In fact the female police officers that I have personally met are very professional.

What bothers me most about this particular artist is that I know so many women who support him, as well as men with wives, girlfriends, and daughters.  I constantly see on television an artist that respects Lil Wayne’s “talents” or on my Facebook page a person that has bought his album and thinks that it is the best ever. Why don’t people see what I see; a man that has little respect for women.

So to answer the question “if Lil Wayne can change or start over,” I say he can but why should he? Lil Wayne has sold over 6.5 million albums, proving that he is popular. On the day of his release, fans stood outside of the prison to celebrate his homecoming. He has yet to give a statement post-release expressing his regret about being jailed, and about changing the content of his music.

In the 1840s the Women’s Suffrage movement began to ensure that women were treated humane and equal to men. Over the years women have fought for the right to vote, work, and to not be objectified. Following artists like this can be a setback to the work that women have done. When many musicians such as Lil Wayne address women they label them by their body parts and speak about what they can do for them sexually, which is a total contradiction to the feminist movement.

An artist such as him will not change on his own, we have to change him. We ladies cannot support him. We need to go to fan sites such as LilWayneHQ.com on Facebook and explain to him (and his supporters) that we are women not objects to be conquered and that we want to be respected. Most importantly, we need to stop buying and listening to his music. If we don’t stop supporting him then we leave the door open for artists like him to capture our daughters’ hearts, and make them feel that they are to be owned and not respected.

Just the Way You Are

By Devon White

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk&feature=channel[/youtube]

In light of the Women’s Center recent body-positive initiatives like Love Your Body Day and a screening of documentaries that address self image and encourages and supports the awareness of positive body images, it’s often hard to find positive reflections of body images in today’s “sex sells” pop culture. In a social climate that often places physical perfection over substance and natural beauty, Bruno Mars recent single, “Just the Way You Are”, is homage to women’s natural beauty:

 Lyrics:

“Her eyes, her eyes

make the stars look like they’re not shining

Her hair, her hair

falls perfectly without her trying

She’s so beautiful

And I tell her everyday (yeah)

 I know, I know

When I compliment her she won’t believe me

And it’s so, it’s so

Sad to think that she don’t see what I see

But every time she asks me “Do I look okay?”

I say

 [Chorus]

When I see your face

There’s not a thing that I would change

‘Cause you’re amazing

Just the way you are

And when you smile

The whole world stops and stares for a while

‘Cause girl you’re amazing

Just the way you are”

 Music and other media are flooded with sexualized songs and images that objectify women and promote unrealistic ideas of the feminine form. As a male feminist, (that’s right, we do exist), I feel that men should not allow women’s body image to be tied to their self-worth. The music and media industry, and society at large, should be aware of the influential impact of their words, imagery and actions on everyone in our society, regardless of gender. Young girls receive so many negative messages; songs like Mars’ remind us that there are men who believe that women are naturally beautiful and don’t need society’s opinion of what a woman should look like to appreciate and love women just the way they are.  

 Indie Arie’s song “I am Not My Hair” is another great example of offering a role model for strength, empowerment and self-love.  Also, Sesame Street recently featured a catchy song called “I Love My Hair” that shows a black girl Muppet professing her love for her hair, teaching young black girls to take pride in their hair by loving their hair just the way it is.

 Let’s celebrate and promote self-love and be the role models that female youth can realistically see themselves reflected in.

A Disturbing Trend

Image from The Los Angelos Employment Attorney Blog

In a recent column in the New York Times, writer Maureen Dowd discussed a group of young men who were setting up a “fantasy draft league”.  However, this league was not for football or basketball, but for young girls in their community.

Apparently the boys set up a ranking system for how “hot” a girl was and then placed each girl in categories such as “Southside Slampigs”, which means they thought the girls would be fun sexually.  The boys then proceeded to concoct ideas about having “sex parties” in which they would score points based on sexual conquests. How is it that the nation became aware of this? The boys published their “league” on the Internet, along with many sexually charged comments on the girls, who were reportedly from neighboring prep schools.

 The league was caught before it could go any further.  According to one school official:

 “It was a regrettable and hurtful activity,” Neil Phillips, head of the Landon Upper School, said through a spokeswoman. “As educators, our role is to help boys learn from their mistakes and make better decisions going forward.”

 Will that be enough?

 You might wonder why something that happened last summer is making so many headlines recently.  That would be because the school in question, Landon, is also the alma mater for George Huguely V, who just this past month was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Yeardley Love.

 These are not the first times that the Landon school has had troubles. According to a recent article in the Washington Examiner, there was a scandal involving 10 Landon students who cheated on their SATs.  Another incident in 2007 involved a Landon graduate who was at Duke University, also a lacrosse player like Huguely, who was accused of rape.

 Reading these articles and seeing the tragedy of Yeardley Love’s death, makes you wonder why this school’s alumni seem to have trouble differentiating between right and wrong and treating women as people not prey? In my view, paying 28,000 dollars a year for prep school should mean paying for a well-rounded education that included teaching these young men that girls are not “fantasy” sex objects. It seems that Maureen Dowd was right when she wrote: “Time for a curriculum overhaul. Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey.”