Even if your body is healthy, walking around in what amounts to a "meat suit" that you didn't get to choose (for some reason I love that expression) is one of the challenging parts of being human. I don't know that I've ever met anyone — man or woman — who wasn't frustrated or disappointed with some aspect of their body, though generally I have seen much more anxiety and anger when the focus is women and their bodies.
It makes sense; there's more at stake for them, since women are often judged first on looks, and later on talent and ability. That's not to say that attractive people in general don't have an easier time overall — there are advantages for attractive men, too — but there are plenty of successful unattractive men, while woman are more obviously penalized (or ignored) when they are no longer young and pretty. It's an unpleasant reality, but there are plenty of studies that prove this point over and over again.
Case in point: An Australian morning news anchor, Karl Stefanovic, wore the same suit on air every day for a year. Nobody noticed. He did it because his female cohost, Lisa Wilkinson, regularly got criticized for her clothing choices, and he thought that was sexist. “When you’re a woman doing breakfast TV, you quickly learn the sad truth that what you wear can sometimes generate a bigger reaction than even any political interview you ever do,” said Wilkinson in a speech. Stefanovic said, "I'm judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humor — on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they're wearing or how their hair is."
But there are all kinds of fascinating online and real-life ways that men and women are standing up for more inclusive, healthy (and frankly, interesting) ways of viewing our own bodies, and importantly, how we look at everyone else.
One project that we've covered on MNN before is the new Lammily doll, which, following a very successful Kickstarter, is now available for online order. Dubbed the "average Barbie," it's a doll created by Nickolay Lamm based on the measurements of an average young woman. Many little girls who grew up with Barbie dolls have said later that playing with such an unrealistic toy contributed to poor body image. (I'm one of them.) So Lammily is, as the kids in the video below say, "more humanlike," and a toy that "looks like my sister."
Lammily is healthy, athletic, and she even comes with a pack of reusable stickers, including freckles, blushing, scars, and even acne. (The grass-stains for the doll's knees are my favorite — as a kid my knees were always green with grass ... and usually bruised from my woodsy adventures!)
The No Makeup Series
The No Makeup Series is just that — a collection of non makeup-wearing women's images, along with their feelings about makeup. Photographer Steve Osemwenkhae says he wants to use the project to "free women from the binds of artificiality and show that beauty is more than over-the-counter purchases; it's a natural possession that should be embraced." Why does it matter whether women wear makeup or not? Because, as a recent study covered by The New York Times concluded, there's a public perception that "wearing makeup increases a woman’s likability and competence in the workplace."
The No Makeup Series is a strong statement against the idea that women "should" wear makeup (certain jobs require women — but not men — to wear lipstick, and they have been fired for not doing so, while in others it's just considered "unprofessional" for a woman not to wear it). As if a woman's plain face, unlike a man's, should be embellished. Why is that, exactly?
StyleLikeU is a mother-daughter video series that began with explorations of stylish people's closets. But Lily Mandelbaum (daughter) and Elisa Goodkind (mother) got interested in the personal stories beneath the clothes when they started The What's Underneath project, the tagline for which is "True Style is Self Acceptance." The duo explores how all kinds of people feel about their bodies — tall, pregnant, disabled, plus-sized, and of various races and ages — while they strip down for the camera. No, they don't get fully nude, they just remove clothes down to underwear, but that physical act of removing clothes while talking about their bodies uncovers powerful, and sometimes complicated and difficult feelings. It's nothing short of groundbreaking for anyone who has ever felt bad about the way they look.
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