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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lessons on Sex? i.e. What my spam mail has to say on the topic

I get a lot of spam in my email. Today, instead of just grumbling about it, I began to actually *read* the subject lines on these emails, and they are really ridiculous. But obviously not that ridiculous, or someone wouldn't be writing them thinking that I'll open the email.

So let's see...I'm an alien from the next galaxy and I drop in to do a little anthro study on junk email topics. And imagine that, they're all about--sex. And they're all addressing men. And yep, they're all rather macho and violent, or at least James-Bond-sexy-dangerous. Here's a sampling:

"increase girth, length, and thickness"
"don't settle for anything less than 9 inches"
"length translates directly to happiness"
"cuum [sic] on her face longer and harder"
"penetrating deeper and harder"
"be a lethal weapon in the bedroom"
"you banged her while her guy waited"
...and the oh-so-believable "mariah carey wants to have your kids"

But how do these spammers propose males do these things? With pills and porn (and plastic surgery). And if you don't want to spend money trying to be SuperSexman, well shame on you. The "stop being the joke around town" type of subject lines I also see in my inbox imply that if you're not super macho, you'll be laughing stock. Which means women are laughing stock. And men who are caring are laughing stock. Couples who have loving sex are laughing stock. Just brilliant.

It's not healthy for men to feel this much pressure to be sexually aggressive, and it's not cool that insurance companies continue to cover costs of Viagra etc. while not covering birth control pills (not to mention medicines that help cancer patients and so on). When women spend money, effort, and time whittling themselves away into the "perfect" skinny body while men do the same to be bigger and more physically aggressive than ever, I'd say feminist work is really not done yet.

We all could benefit from a wider spectrum of acceptable behaviors, appearances, and ways of being. We should be free to just be who we are, since we're each all these things--simultaneously sweet, tough, sexy, powerful, and kind.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yogurt...The only food women eat with happiness (according to TV)

This video just cracks me up. Really, why is yogurt the only food (maybe besides salad) a woman can eat without guilt?

It's too bad that yogurt has become a diet aid, a stand-in for other proteins you can sink your teeth into, because you know, it's actually good. But when you have it all the time while wishing you were eating something else, it really gets old.

Poor yogurt is so tied up in all our bad body associations...

There used to be a Dannon ad that read something along the lines of, "Proof that god is a woman and she's watching her figure." I think they were trying to imply that their yogurt was heavenly, so amazing that god was eating it, but mixing together the empowering notion that throws off the patriarchy and says god might actually be female (or, gasp, sexless!) with the fact that feeling insecure about how you look (need to look good being priority #1) is an inherently female trait super duper irks me.

Women certainly deserve the quality of life that comes with health, but they definitely don't deserve the quality of life that comes with the daily air-and-yogurt lunch. Let's not confuse dieting with a healthy lifestyle, please!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Guest Post Invite

I've been doing this blogging thing for a bit and I have to say it feels strange. I'm just sort of talking into outer space as if I'm important, and it's been feeling fake and lonely.

So I have this idea of doing something I've really enjoyed on other blogs: featuring guest writers.

If you've got blog posts already written up you'd like me to feature, if you want to do a Q&A, if you want to write something especially for In Her Image readers, if [insert your brilliant idea here] - please let me know!

Feel free to comment on this post or email me at

I can't wait for your company and insightful writing to brighten up this solo shop. :)

Happy Turn Beauty Inside Out Day!

Today is Turn Beauty Inside Out Day and we should all celebrate! TBIO is meant to spark awareness and action about the images of girls and women in the media, and what we can do to expand definitions of beauty. (Every day is TBIO day for feminists, media activists, and the lot, but you know, we all need a reason to party and get our social change stuff organized.)

You can participate by requesting your free Turn Beauty Inside Out Action Kit and asking friends and parents to donate to the Turn Beauty Inside Out Campaign. Also, encourage tweens and teens you know to submit to the Turn Beauty Inside Out essay contest!

Here's the essay question:"There have been arguments that the media has portrayed/covered the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign differently because she is a woman. Do you agree with that statement? Why or Why not?"

Essays must be 500 words or less and received by June 30, 2008 via email to

1st Prize - $200 2nd Prize - $100 3rd Prize - $50

The winning essay will be distributed nationally during the Turn Beauty Inside Out campaign. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

p.s. Buy Me Something artist statement

As a p.s. to that last post, here are exhibit comments from the artist behind the Buy Me Something photos.

"Play is an integral part of the growth and learning that all children undergo on their way to adulthood. With Buy Me Something, I look specifically at the tools of play, the modern consumer experience, and how these entities provide children with an education in desire and culturally acceptable behavior. I am influenced by my own, not-always-so-traumatic childhood toy memories and fascinated by the elements of contemporary culture I see reflected, amplified and impregnated in children's commodities. My hope is that these images challenge people to consider how toys and the mechanisims that facilitate their sale inform and reproduce a distinct set of culturally-defined values." - Nat Ward

Disturbing Images of the Day

From childhood "My Scene" (obscene!) dolls to boyfriend-tracking technology, here are my disturbing images of the day.

I don't even know where to start!

"Sniff," the boyfriend-finding application was advertised on the sidebar of Facebook...It truly creeps me out how technologies and programs that bring friends together also sort of encourage a culture of spying, gawking, making fun of, and intruding. (That said, I promise not to do any of those things on Facebook and would love to be your friend :)

The "My Scene" dolls are a shot from a photography show at NYU called "Buy Me Something." If you have a chance to check that out, please report back! It looks really interesting and thought-provoking and I do wish I could go. (I'm a big fan of how the arts can make such direct points in fresh ways.)

So yeah. Today's moral is...? Girls should objectify themselves, to try from a young age to look a certain way in the hopes that one day they'll be hot and fit into a "scene" (I can't really tell if this is supposed to be a beach party, night club, strip joint, or what); meanwhile, when you get there, your self-esteem is so low that you feel you need to stalk your own boyfriend. Why are boys not to be trusted? Why is a girl's boyfriend-choosing judgment supposedly so bad that she'd need to track him? (And what partner wants to be stalked?!)

None of this is healthy, folks.

The saddest part to me is, I'm sure little girls think those dolls are glamorous and gorgeous and love them because of that. There have been studies that show girls prefer dolls (and probably even friends!) that look "pretty." Hey, when I was a kid, I had one Barbie doll (a gift) - and she always went out on the town with her boyfriend while all the other toys and dolls had to stay home to mind the house, feeling inferior. Even if her body proportions were alien, at least she had the confidence to leave her boyfriend-tracking devices at home.

I'd love to hear your take! Thanks for reading and being your awesome, aware self. :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Beautiful Mommy

Hold the phone. I just got a Media Watch Alert that included protest of a picturebook for kids called My Beautiful Mommy. No, it isn't a loving and appreciative book about how awesome moms are and why they're beautiful in so many ways, it's a book about how to adjust to your mom's plastic surgery.

What an awful, self-esteem-bashing thing to teach your daughter! Mothers' insecurities and/or values of self-worth are often passed on to their daughters, but this book has made sure we're all going in the negative direction. Having the "option" of plastic surgery as a way to happiness is not, in my humble opinion, what feminism should be achieving.

Instead of needing books that teach kids how their mothers will go to drastic measures to look a certain way (note the Mom's thought bubble of being Miss America and getting lots of attention for her surgically enhanced beauty), perhaps we should take the daughter's advice in slide 3 who says, "You're already the prettiest mommy in the whole wide world!"

Monday, May 5, 2008

Body Envy...the Shampoo

Envying someone else's body is so normal in our culture that a major shampoo brand can make an advertising pun out of it for the name of their product. Introducing Body Envy - the shampoo.

This is a 'volumizing' shampoo - it gives your hair 'body.' Body--as in bulk, resilience, stand-tall-and-be-proud fullness. We want our hair to be noticed for its fullness, its body, while we whittle away at our actual bodies in the hopes that they will be as small as possible.

Beauty standards just seem so random to me, and so damaging.

Commercials make it very clear that having shiny, "perfect" hair complements the rest of our necessarily sassy selves. Flawlessly gorgeous models swoosh their hair to show us that all kinds of things from happiness, sexiness, youth, feeling liberated and natural, to being better than the next gal are won through hair confidence. Girls spend hours posing front of the mirror, practicing to be attractive, and these motions definitely include that particular hair swooshing neck-throw-with-coy-look, which supposedly lands us a mate. (Not to mention that my African-American friends always complain, "How am I supposed to love my hair when I can't swoosh it?!")

And the shampoo takes it one step further, lest we didn't quite get the double meaning: the tinier slogan on the bottle says, "get a lift in all the right places." I'm glad that using shampoo is cheaper and less painful than plastic surgery, but it's pretty clear that having 'volumized' hair is just another piece of the pie when it comes to putting together the "perfect" image.

So, why is puffy hair better than flatter hair? Why do I need to envy other women's hair and looks, instead of appreciating their beauty? Why should I want other women to envy my hair? This is not the kind of power women really need.

It's just a name of a shampoo, you say. Your panties are in a wad and you need to chill out. I'm not blaming Herbal Essences for all the beauty regimens and lack of confidence women have to face every day, but just doing the usual probe. Most of the things we accept as obvious reveal major things about our culture that can be quite disturbing.

Looking at this shampoo bottle I'm reminded that women's lives are often spent in comparison, feeling inadequate, primping and posing and continuously being conscious of the impact looks have on social interactions and relationships. The fact that a name of a shampoo can tap into such dark feelings (that women often injure themselves or die over) in a coy, playful, attractive, making-light way bothers me.

Who knew that keeping your hair clean could be so complicated? Phew.