Friday, January 20, 2012

6 is the new 14

Plus Model Magazine recently released the January 2012.  In it is a spread showing a size 14 plus sized model standing next to, hugging, and embracing a runway model.  The contrast is stark and shows the extreme thinness of the runway model. She kinda scares me actually.

And the size fourteen is beautiful.  Her name is  Katya Zharkova and she is Russian.  She is lovely and even though there is "extra flesh" there is something very pleasing about her lines and curves.   I realized what it was, she looks normal.

This makes sense when one realizes that the average American woman is size 14 or over.  And the average clothing manufacturer makes clothing for women size 14 or under.  Twenty years ago, a runway model was size two to size eight, and a plus size model was size 12 to size 18.  Think Emme.

Today, a plus sized model is a size 6 to a size 14. !!??

As a woman in America, I have never particularly thought of myself as pretty.  I have seen myself as strong, or attractive, or clearly confident.  Pretty was never an adjective I aspired to.  When I grew up, you were either pretty or smart.  I wanted Smart.  I wanted to be annoying smug Hermoine Granger and not Cho Chang who ruined it for everyone because she wasn't strong enough to fight back.

And as far as my size goes.  I am a big girl.  I am almost six feet tall, and the last time I was a size 12 I was 12.  I was in junior high school.  I was a swimmer and strong muscles do not allow for a girl being a size nuthin.'  Most of us who swam the fly were sizes 10-14.  Only one girl I know is still a size 10, and it is because she still swims and runs, and even works as a coach.  The rest of us are real people who exercise as a part of our daily lives, but not as a profession anymore.

One question I have is whether or not the sizes have remained constant throughout the years.  It seems that a size ten today is the equivalent of a size something completely different years ago, and the size ten is different for different manufacturers.

The bottom line is that size 6 is not the new anything.  It remains that a number is just a number.  What we assign to it in terms of social meaning is up to us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Elliot, the Fairy Princess

These are my friend Heather's kids.  Her daughter, Annie, is on the left, dressed in a very stylish witch outfit.  Her son, Eliot, is on the right, dressed as a fairy princess, sporting the most rockin' red wig I have ever seen. (Go, Eliot!).

He looks incredibly happy there and probably was. He has no idea of the gender suppositions that prevent little boys the simple joys of a sparkly skirt and glitter shoes. 

In twenty years he may want to kill his parents for letting him dress the way he wanted to for Halloween at age two.  For now, he is gleeful.  In twenty years the confines of society will have caught up to him. The teasing will be paramount and his parents will be responsible, at least in his mind.  Or maybe not.  Maybe this is a sign of things to come, and sparkly dresses will always be a favorite.  Who knows.  Either way I would like to point out that he is TWO.

I would also like to point out that this is a COSTUME. Costumes are a part of normal development and play.  Anyone who gets all riled up and mutters about "my son wouldn't  . . ."  about a child wearing a dress has issues.  It ain't the kid who is messed up about gender. It is not a reflection of anything other than the fact that he felt like wearing it and his parents and sister are cool enough to have let him.  In my own lifetime I have been a pirate, a cowboy, a soldier, a mommy, a daddy, a teacher, a "Bad Man," Cinderella, Captain Hook AND Peter Pan.  I'm sure there were a lot more things along the way.  These are just the ones that come to mind.  Some of them I have played the part of as an adult during my nanny days. 

And a two year old little boy wearing something shiny is NOT an indicator of sexuality.  Nor is a little girl who likes Legos. A costume is just another toy exploring the imagination.  It is not about gender, or sexuality, or really, you.

Negotiating gender is always tricky because each action we take is a combination of personal choice and public message.  When you are two, the only public you care about is your immediate family.  Personal choice is sometimes dictated by what the needs of others are, otherwise all the shoes in the house will be in the bathroom for some inexplicable reason, there will be Barbie dolls drowning in the pool, and paint on the dog. 

Two year olds have an inherent sense of what is fair and what is not.  They want what their siblings have because fair is fair.  Eliot has even thrown a tantrum screaming for an American Girl doll because Annie has one.  Fair is fair. He is dressed in a costume that his sister once wore. Fair is fair.

He is not making a statement.  He is not being political.  He does not know what feminism means (although knowing his mother, he will). He is being a two year old who loves his sister and wants to have fun.  And it sure looks like he is doing just that, doesn't it?

All those in favor of Eliot for the best fairy princess there ever was?  Shout hallelujah and comment below.  He gets my vote.

I am following Sandberg's route.

This is Sheryl Sandberg.  She is the COO of Facebook and I would kill to work with her and learn from her.  Any of my readers know how to make that happen? (okay, maybe not kill in the literal sense, but I could definitely go all Guido on someone's ass).

I am kind of a big fan of Sandberg's   She has said some important things in a couple of speeches to some people who needed to hear it,  Specifically she addressed her remarks to women. Once at a TED talk and again at the commencement message to Barnard College.

I have long thought that many women collude in their own oppression.  Sometimes knowingly, but mostly not.  I think the as feminist we so often look to what is being done to us, that we forget how we have participated in allowing the situation. As professional, or even on our way up, when we forget that we represent all women, even though that isn't fair.  

It isn't fair that the lesser regarded group is often held to a higher standard than the group that is in power.  It isn't.  And yet it is the reality of how our society works.  When the a member of the lesser regarded group performs badly, it reflects a stereotype held by the group in power.  When a member of the lesser regarded group performs well, it is a reflection of that individual.  If enough members perform well in a given situaiton, then the stereotype changes.

This is Sandberg's message.  "Don't leave before you leave."  What this translates to is that even if you know you are leaving the job you do on the last day needs to be the same as the job you do on your best day.  This is hugely important for women as we are the lesser regarded group in science and technology.  Business, too.  We can recreate our own reputations as well as that of women in tech and business just by holding ourselves to doing our jobs.

We can create choices for ourselves if we hold ourselves to higher standards. But this doesn't mean we have to be a bitch about it.  And this is Sandberg's second message: Be nice.  Have some manners.  It is easier.  And you don't have to act like a masculine jackass in order to be considered a professional woman.

You know what?  I'm in.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Wish for You on this New Year's Day, 2012

 May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you are wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or sing or build or live as only you can. And I hope in the next year, you surprise yourself. --

Stolen from Neil Gaimen, but given from my heart
 I truly mean this. It is a wonderful way to live your life and all things on the list should be resolutions, not goals, for the coming year.  A goal is something with an end in sight.  A resolution is a lifestyle change since you resolve to do it everyday. Every damn day I will kiss someone, and make art and read and try to surprise myself.
oh how I will try,
I hope you do too.