Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Body Policing Redux

My first-ever guest post! I'm so excited--particularly because it's over at Beauty Redefined, which was one of the first (and best) sites I found dedicated to examining the value we assign to beauty.

The brains behind Beauty Redefined, Lindsay and Lexie Kite are twin sisters working on their PhDs in communication at the University of Utah, studying representations of female bodies in popular media. What I loved about their site from day 1 was how it gave me specific numbers and terminology for things I'd always sensed or noticed about magazines but didn't ever examine from a data-based perspective. Whether they're breaking down why it's not men who are to blame for women's body-image issues (the patriarchy, after all, is separate from "men"), examining our willingness to accept normalized pornography, or giving us images that make us question our obsession with the numbers of weight and clothing sizes, the Kite sisters are doing excellent work worth following.

(If you've already read last week's essay about body policing, know that it's the same post--but with a better headline and far cuter graphics, even if we'll all miss the stripper-cop from the original post. Enjoy!)


  1. Congrats on your fascinating guest post - bravo! It is funny how there seems to be a "comment-free" zone. When I was at my heaviest (I gain almost all my weight in my chest) people commented on the size of my boobs openly - like they were not part of me. It was really disconcerting, especially for an insecure 20-something. It drove me to become a diet and exercise addict and consequently, in my late 20's to lose a good 30lbs and develop a crazy mind-set about my body. I am proud to say that is behind me, but what makes me sad is how much I enjoyed being on the other side of the coin. How much I liked being policed for being lean. The, "I hate you"s were music to my ears, I loved being told I looked too skinny - that was my goal. I don't ever want to go back to that place of seeking approval (for my body size) or the place of being so hard on myself in an effort to avoid comments on my boobs...I just want to be me!

  2. Egads--I do remember that in college, and I think I was young enough to believe the simple equation of "big boobs = good!" that it didn't occur to me that you and other women with the same build might might not particularly want to hear it. (Not that I was commenting, but you know what I mean.) We fetishize breasts so much that it doesn't surprise me to hear that people treated them as being somehow separate from you.

    And, you know, I can't lie: In many ways it felt great to be told that I looked thin, even when it was an evaluative sort of comment. My objection was more intellectual than emotional--but I also know that I wasn't approaching my weight loss with a healthy mind-set. Hell, even if I'd been 100% healthy about it, it was obvious I was trying to lose weight and it didn't necessarily bother me...it was more just interesting to see the shift. My point is, I think it's great that you can feel sorrow about that time in your life, but also know that it's pretty much impossible to resist hearing "I hate you"s as a positive thing in that sense--beauty and envy are deeply linked and how are we to reject envy wholesale, you know?

    The comments that endured, both in my mind and my soul, were the ones that just acknowledged that I was transforming in some way--I was losing weight as a reaction to ending a terrible relationship and I think in some ways I needed to transform, and some perceptive people picked up on that.

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