Once upon a time — before URLs, handles, likes and shares — I put some good old-fashioned postage stamps inside an envelope and sent away for a zine (made of actual paper!) that was filled with some very big ideas. I was 16 and the zine was called i’m so fucking beautiful, a title that hooked me instantly because at the time I was quite literally starving myself of that sentiment. I was all punk rock by day, but I had a couple of dirty secrets that did not exactly jibe with the Manic Panic and combat boots:
- I thought calories were evil. Unfortunately this didn’t stop me from willingly and regularly consuming wretched diet foods that were almost certainly concocted in the bowels of hell. Listen, when a chocolate product in a plastic tub includes instructions on how it can be enjoyed frozen as “ice cream” or microwaved into a “shake,” it no longer qualifies as food, okay? But I ate (and drank!) that sugar-free, chemical-laden kryptonite sludge like it was my duty, each scoop and sip meticulously tallied in my Calories and Fat Grams Journal, which was really more of a disturbing collection of numbers and equations scribbled on Post-Its and scrap paper than an actual journal. Think “A Beautiful Mind” for the eating disordered set.
- I kept a stash of “thinspiration” featuring pictures of models I tore from magazines (‘90s-style! Old school!). I wanted to be that kind of beautiful. And the more I stared at those images, the more fervently I started to believe in that waifish brand of perfection. So I made myself sick chasing sizes that were smaller than the small sizes I already wore. I developed a mortal fear of weight gain. And while my weight fluctuated up and down and back up again as I abused it with brutal cycles of starvation, bingeing, and purging, I was never anywhere remotely close to being plus-sized, full-figured, curvy or any other palatable euphemism for that oh-so-terrifying F-word.
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“I think it’s about time people stopped judging women on their appearance and more on their intellect. Like you can appreciate my style without having to appreciate my weight. It’s not actually mutually inclusive. I just get frustrated because, just because I exist in this shape, doesn’t mean that I’m like advocating it and being like, ‘I look great.’ How do you know I’m not looking in the mirror and going ‘I wish I could gain ten pounds?’ Which is actually quite often the case. But if you say that you sound like you’re bragging that you’re naturally thin, and you’re not allowed to do that because even though it’s not the ideal weight, it kind of is as well. So it’s really fucked up. And how people that are bigger can be on the front covers of magazines being like ‘I’m really happy with my shape.’ But if I was to do that, I’d be compeltely criticized and ridiculed. But why can’t I be happy with how I look? … I’m just a bit sick of it. I just think that whole culture of hatred, and also feeling like it’s your right to judge people when you don’t know them is really fucked up.”
– This is Alexa Chung talking to Fashionista about the controversy that erupted awhile back when she posted a picture of herself looking quite thin on Instagram. Chung was derided by commenters on the site for being “thinspiration” for women with eating disorders. The whole interview is quite good and I recommend you read the entire thing. She says some very smart things about how naturally thin and skinny women are not immune to body scrutiny and, while it doesn’t compare equally to larger-sized women, it’s still body-policing. As a naturally skinny person, Chung is on the receiving end of insinuations and comments that she must have an eating disorder. Larger women can’t win and skinnier women can’t win, either. Alexa is right: it’s time we stopped judging all women on their appearance. [Fashionista]
Katie Couric revealed last week that she struggled with bulimia in her early 20s—and sadly, she’s far from the only celebrity to have battled an eating disorder. The Huffington Post rounds up a dozen:
- Jessica Alba: She once said that she had trouble adjusting to “a woman’s body with natural fat in places.” “I freaked out,” she said, and her obsession turned into an eating disorder.
- Katharine McPhee: The American Idol and Smash star revealed that she struggled with bulimia for five years—and that it almost destroyed her vocal chords. Read more…
I have vilified Lady Gaga in the past (to much condemnation, given her rabid fanbase): the contrived, weird-for-attention shtick really wears on me, particularly considering it comes hand-in-hand with what basically amounts to catchy, radio-friendly pop music with a pseudo-controversial religious message here and there. I can live with her message of peace, love, and acceptance, but that isn’t enough to make a fan out of me. Here’s what is: in defense of her recent 25-pound weight gain and the ensuing media scrutiny, Gaga gets naked, or at least stripped to her skivvies, to set the “Body Revolution” in motion. Keep reading »
This piece was originally published on xoJane.com.
A new study into the hoary underworld of pro-anorexia bloggers has discovered the unexpected: pro-ana communities may not exclusively be the dark pits of self-destruction they are typically assumed to be. The survey, conducted by researchers from Indiana University, suggests rather candidly that pro-ana communities may provide better support than traditional eating disorder treatments, and that said communities even continue to provide assistance to those who have decided to begin recovery. Keep reading »
A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my boyfriend’s living room table, alone, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, my laptop open, trying to fend off both a cold and a bad mood. I was frustrated that I couldn’t pick amongst the multiple documents I had open that required my urgent attention, and angry at myself for feeling tired and frustrated, a vicious cycle of inertia and self-hatred. Rationally, I know that I’m lucky to be able to be my own boss and make my own schedule, so when I fall down on the job, I get upset. I was also antsy because I was in suburbia; I live in New York City, and right outside my door, within a one-block walk, are a bagel shop, a diner, three 24-hour delis, a nail salon, a dry cleaner and more. Where he lives, I can walk for coffee in just five minutes, but I’m pretty much the only one walking. I felt trapped, and stressed, and cranky, and turned to something I thought would soothe those feelings: food. Keep reading »
Franca Sozzani excels at many things. She is the long-standing editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia and, in 1994, she was even made the editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Italia in its entirety. She is acknowledged as a contemporary and collaborator to, among others, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Peter Lindbergh, and Paolo Roversi, unarguably the most influential fashion photographers of the past two decades. She is credited as the driving force, alongside Meisel, behind the groundbreaking “supermodel” movement in the ’90s. Last year, she launched Vogue Curvy, a branch of the magazine’s Italian edition geared towards plus-sized women. Sozzani has accomplished a great variety of things, but despite her apparent devotion to targeting her publication towards a medley of body shapes and sizes, she herself champions thinness. It’s a true study in contradiction: she encourages others to appropriate acceptance of all body types, but at the bottom line, the girls that land the coveted cover of her magazine — not to mention Sozzani herself — are built like greyhounds.
Which brings me to my point: Vogue Italia has a history, more so than any other Vogue publication, of promoting the emaciated look, so why, in the name of all that is good and holy (which is nothing, these days), did Franca Sozzani, notorious for her use of strikingly thin models, give a speech about anorexia, obesity, and body image at Harvard?
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Our favorite new Internet timewaster, Pinterest has in recent weeks become a haven for online pro-anorexia and eating disorder communities. Drawn to the site’s image-heavy, community-oriented style, thinsporation posters have recently flooded the site, posting pictures of jutting hips, emaciated models and concave bellies, emblazoned with pro-ana slogans like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” And, most importantly, Pinterest posters can post anonymously, meaning that users can reach out to one another but still feel safe.
But all of that is about to change.
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The battle against photo manipulation, namely within the realm of fashion, is an ongoing one with no end in sight. It seems like more fuel is constantly being fed to the fire: a (stunning) size 10 model depicted as a waifish size zero here, an errant penis there. England was the first to ban an advertisement featuring a malnourished model last year, and it would seem that Israel took notes on the subject. The country gave the go-ahead to a new law on Monday, a mandate that forces all advertisements to explicitly admit to the usage of digital imaging in order to make a model appear slimmer. Liad Gil-Har, an assistant to one of the law’s sponsors, said, “We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real.” Keep reading »
Angelina Jolie, despite the fact that she was not a nominee, was the talk of the Academy Awards. There was the whole Leg Thrusting Debacle — the actress was quite dramatic about using the high slit on her dress to display her right leg — but the blogosphere was also exploding with comments and questions about her weight. Namely, that she looked “gaunt,” “too skinny,” and “shrinking,” with many crowing that she should “eat a cheeseburger” and “put a lil’ more meat on those bones.”
I will admit to being one of those people who commented on her being too thin. I’ve been thinking about that reaction though, and am disappointed in myself for snarking on her weight. Keep reading »