Monthly Archives: December 2011

[Never Say Diet] Body Image Baggage and the Holidays

chocolate-covered-marshmallow-reindeer

I actually wrote this Never Say Diet post back before Thanksgiving, but I somehow missed posting about it here (maybe this was why). (Un)Fortunately, it’s what we in the news biz call an “evergreen” because, well, mountains of holiday food + family members who press all of your body image buttons can = mayhem at Christmas or Chanukah just as easily as at Thanksgiving. I could probably also make a note to repost this at the 4th of July. See also: Arbor Day.

So I brainstormed some helpful responses to the variety of well-meaning (or, um… not so much) comments you might get about your weight/body/food choices/etc as you gather round the yule log this weekend. Oh, and since this post first went up, Ragen on Dances With Fat has written about avoiding holiday weight shame and wading through weight loss compliments, which are both fantastic reads if you’re anxious about facing either/or.

I mean, hopefully it won’t even be a thing. Your loved ones will gather, merrying will be made, and food will be enjoyed as the nourishing, community-building, comfort-providing, joyful experience that it should be.

But just in case, please remember: You look great. Your health is your business. And you can eat (or not eat) whatever you want. 

Wishing you all everything that’s merry and bright! xo

[Photo: Adorable and tasty chocolate-covered marshmallow reindeer — with pretzel antlers, gah! — via Pinterest, originally from here.]

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Sh*t Girls Say: Funny Because It’s True? Or True…But Not All That Funny?

The newest episode of Shit Girls Say is out, so I’m pondering the meaning of it all over on iVillage today. Is it really funny? Subversively funny? Sexist-ly funny? Or just not funny enough? Why can’t YouTube just stick to LOL-ing about cats?

One quick coda: I wrote that I didn’t think any real, live, self-respecting girl would ever yell “Twinsies!” when she discovers that she and Juliette Lewis are wearing matching bracelets, the way Kyle Sheppard does in Episode One.

But anyone who has ever shown up wearing the same article of clothing as me can tell you that I will immediately exclaim, “People will know we’re friends!!”

Which, I think you’ll agree, is just better. Nevertheless: Well-played, Sheppard. Well. Played.

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What Do Women (and Men) Want From Work?

More Magazine Great Careers 2011 Virginia Sole-Smith

Yesterday I brought you up to speed on some of my recent writings, but I saved this one for its very own post because it’s a bit more of a thinker. 10 Great Careers for Women Who Want a Life is online now and ran in the November issue of More Magazine.

As part of our research for this story, the More editors commissioned a survey of 500 professionally employed women (aged 35 to 60 with at least a college degree, and annual household incomes starting at $60,000 to $75,000) to find out what women want out of careers today —  and the results were pretty surprising. In a word: Flexibility, which 92 percent of women say is important in a job (second only to salary) — up from 73 percent in 2009. 43 percent of survey participants also said that they are less ambitious now than they were ten years ago; 73 percent said they don’t want their boss’s job.

But this isn’t yet another story about women opting out of the workforce or being unable to have it all. Because what our research showed — and what my own very unscientific surveys of friends and myself confirm — is that women are still ambitious as hell, but we’re defining ambition differently and more holistically now. For starters, I’d venture the possibility that anybody saying they’re less ambitious now than they were a decade ago has just been really efficient about getting sh*t done… she may have checked a bunch of things off her professional to do list and be feeling like she’s made the mark she wanted to make in the world. And I sure prefer on that glass-half-full interpretation over the glass-half-empty idea that women are giving up on trying to achieve their dreams because it’s all just gotten too hard.

This research says they haven’t — it’s just that the dreams have changed. A lot of women (and, I’m pretty sure, men too, if we’d asked ’em!) don’t want the corporate America definition of ambition and success — corner offices and big paychecks that come with crazy hours, pressure and politics. 65 percent of women surveyed said it’s more important to have time in their life than to make more money at their job. Women do want rewarding, challenging careers, plus time to be with their families and time to pursue their own interests and passions —  in other words, they want a life. (Hence, our headline.)

Which I think sounds pretty cool and exciting. Most of my friends are a tad younger than the women More surveyed. We’re still piecing together what ambition means to us, what we want out of life and whether those goals conflict or can possibly support each other. And we worry a lot about how to have careers and families. Because this kind of ambition is new — we don’t have a ton of role models for doing it precisely this way. Especially since the recession, we’re more used to seeing women who are stretched too thin, doing too much and not really loving any of it. Over on Eat the Damn Cake, Kate wrote about being haunted by an invisible baby last week and sparked a fascinating comment thread of women at all different stages of the game sharing their perspectives on such matters. A lot of us are hella nervous about the whole thing. To which I want to offer this reassurance, via the More women:

Household or childcare demands have prevented 16 percent of woman from trying to advance in their careers. But 53 percent say those demands have never gotten in their way.

I mean, it’s only a tiny majority — and 31 percent of women apparently didn’t advance for other reasons? — but I feel like I can deal with those odds.

But there was some bad news in the More survey, too: 33 percent of women agree that at most companies, employees with flexible schedules are promoted less often than employees who work regular hours. Yeah. It’s one thing to decide for yourself that you’re ready to boldly go into these uncharted “new ambition” waters. It’s another to convince your boss that it will all work out if you’re still in corporate America. Especially because 54 percent of the women surveyed said that other women had never helped them advance in their careers.

54 percent! That number is so depressing. Apparently I’m part of a (lucky) minority because I have other women to thank for virtually all of my career. So ladies, listen up: We need to be doing way better here. Women aren’t helping women nearly enough and unfortunately, I think this new ambition concept can actually get in the way, because it becomes one of those questions (like SlutWalks) that divide young feminists and old feminists. Women who fought really hard to get out of the kitchen and into the boardroom don’t understand why women today want to be in both rooms.

And that’s where we need to take this whole conversation past gender altogether — because workplace flexibility isn’t just a way of keeping working moms sane. (Here’s proof: The women in the More survey were even more likely to say they’d take flexibility over a bigger paycheck if they were single!) But as long as we keep making this a women’s issue, it will remain an easy to dismiss window dressing kind of concern that employers can use to divide employees into their definition of “ambitious” and “successful” or not. When the fact is, flexibility is something women and men want because it creates a more employee-friendly culture that’s better for everyone (employers, too).

So here’s the good news: There are some industries that have already gotten this memo. Which brings me back to 10 Great Careers for Women Who Want a Life — and men too (they just don’t read More). In case you’re already charting your way out of your current inflexible work existence and need some ideas.

Thoughts? Do you feel like our idea of ambition has changed? How much do you value flexibility in your career — and do you have as much of it as you want or need? 

PS. Ooh, plus the whole project has been generating some nice media buzz: Check out my editor, the incomparable Jennifer Braunschweiger (see above re: women helping women with careers!) on the CBS Early Show and MSNBC, talking through the data. Meanwhile, I got  a shout-out from this Chicago Sun Times blogger, though wow, do I think she misinterpreted the story’s takeaway message. Women naturally derive more satisfaction from their home life while men naturally care more about work? That kind of reductionist thinking is helping exactly nobody, male or female.

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Michele Bachman’s Dating Advice and Other News

iVillage pulled me off the body image beat again last week so I could bring you these two breaking news stories:

  • While Michele Bachman believes a woman can be President (I mean, as far as we can tell from her campaign efforts) but she sure doesn’t think it’s okay for a girl to do something crazy, like call a boy up for a date.

And while I’m throwing links at you, here are a few other articles of mine that came out recently(-ish) and are making the rounds of the interweb. Click, link, love, etc.

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[Never Say Diet] AskMen.com Thinks You’re Fat

But don’t worry. This website — which culls its literary talent from the very finest of frat boys and 40-year-old virgins — won’t come right out and say that to your face. Instead, they present a slideshow, imaginatively titled “Top 10 Subtle Ways to Tell Her She’s Getting Fat,” so we can all learn and share.

I don’t usually link directly to garbage like this, but in this case, I am — so y’all can click-through and add your votes to the “First Impression” poll. I trust that you will not feel that reading this article makes you “a better man.”

Because here are some of the gems on their list: “Buy her smaller clothes” on purpose, “try serving her smaller-than-usual portions,” and “plan a beach vacation” — all to shame your lady until she looks down at her body in horror and realizes how fat she has apparently gotten. Maybe because she has, I don’t know, birthed your child recently? Is too busy working hard to support your family to get the gym? Or is just a human with a full life and better things to do with her time than constantly train to be your sexbot? Anyway, as soon as the light dawns thanks to all these sneaky AskMen strategies, she’ll apologize for putting you through the hell of having to look at that. Oh and vow to take up a shame diet of carrots and Spin classes, obvs, until she can shrink back down to a person worthy of your love. Everybody wins!

There are so many things wrong with this story (and AskMen.com in general, and the slideshow’s author, Thomas Foley, in particular) that it was hard to know where to begin. When I put this on my Monday ideas memo for Angela, my iVillage editor, the best I could do was, “Gross, gross, grossgrossgross. Gross. They are gross. What is wrong with everybody? Gross.” Etc.

I’ve gotten a little bit more coherent in today’s Never Say Diet post, but wow. A lot of feelings. One thought that came to me after I wrote the post, so I’m sharing it here:

It’s not so much the core idea — one person in a relationship feeling less than attracted to the other due to a recent change in that person’s physical appearance — that is so abhorrent. It is gross to assume that anytime a woman gets fatter, her partner will automatically lose interest in her — plenty of people are attracted to bigger people of both genders in general, and plenty of other people are so attracted to their particular romantic partners that the standard fluctuations in weight that life brings don’t really do much to change that fact. Still, plenty of people aren’t attracted to bigger people, ever, and that’s their deal. Mostly. It’s also society’s deal, of course, because if we had an overall broader definition of beauty, “fat” wouldn’t be so automatically synonymous with “unf*ckable” in the eyes of AskMen.com and friends.

But what’s truly abhorrent about AskMen.com’s take on the issue is that it assumes that open communication with your partner is completely off the table — that there’s no respectful way to have a conversation about her appearance, health, lifestyle choices and/or whether any of the above is impacting your relationship. And that is a bunch of bullsh*t. I’m not saying that conversation will be fun or easy. But — excuse the gendered phrase but it seems appropriate here — manning up and having it sure beats AskMen.com’s approved tactics of lying and guilt-tripping your way through the issue.

Thoughts? Do you agree that it’s okay for one partner to sometimes not be so into something about their partner’s body — or is that never the business of anybody except that body’s owner?

Or should we just talk about how grossgrossgross that AskMen.com story is? Tip #5 is “Playfully grab her love handles.” I mean. You can’t make this sh*t up. More on all of that over on Never Say Diet. 

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Body By Glamour Spoils You For Choice

Glamour Don't

On page 160 of the December issue, Glamour invites you to “design your best body,” explaining that the difference about — weight training? society’s expectations? democracy? it is unclear — today is “you can pick your look.”

So. Big decision time. Do you want to be a tall, leggy blonde like Gwyneth? Or a tall, leggy blonde like Cameron? Are you confused by the many, many options here? We can go over them again. Slowly. Does it help to know that Gwyneth has wee little muscles (aka “mini”) while Cameron’s bulkier brawn was apparently named after a feminine hygiene product? No? Then however will you decide? 

Surely, you aren’t still wasting time loving the body you currently have, no matter how lacking in blonde legginess it may be. Glamour set us all straight on that notion months ago.

Oh lady mags. Surely, we can raise the bar just an inch or two more?

PS. Thanks to Kate of Her Two Cents for the tip (and the scan!) on this.

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[Never Say Diet] Does The World Really Need Another Online Dating Site?

Whitney Thompson Dating Site

It’s a valid question — but it is not the question that former America’s Next Top Model winner Whitney Thompson asked herself when she set out to create her new online dating site, “The Big and The Beautiful.” Thompson seems to have been asking, “what can I do to earn $40 per month from tons of women I’ve never met?” Or, alternatively, “how many times can I use the word ‘real’ when I describe my new project?”

The answer to the latter question is three, as in: “I created this site for real women with real curves … looking for real pleasure,” says Whitney.

As regular readers know, copious use of the misguided “real woman” concept is one of the first warning signs of bodywashing… which is a term I just made up for when celebrities or companies pretend to be all about body positivity but are really all about themselves. Like what Bare Escentuals and CoverGirl did here. I’m borrowing liberally from greenwashing and pinkwashing, obvs. Except, yes, my term sounds like a sponge bath. We can work on it.

Anyway, I have my suspicions about Miss Whitney’s dating site, or really, whether we should be working on creating separate dating sites for bigger people in the first place. I explain them over on Never Say Diet today. So you should go check that out now. 

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