As Free as a Bird

Spreading my voice on the injustices of rape culture, misogyny, and human trafficking in an effort to educate others and empower like-minded women.

Archive for the tag “self-image”

Domestic Violence Defined

Domestic Violence Defined

It is much more broad and far-reaching than many people realize.

Real Women

Real Women

This is a great reminder, even for me. We are all “real women”. Not one body type, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or religion defines that.

Beauty Redefined

How To Look Beautiful

Be yourself.

A Different Shade of Beauty

I can’t even begin to understand their pain.

 

Body Positivity

Body Positivity

Many women, and people in general, put their self-worth and their identity in their bodies. They oftentimes let societal norms and stereotypes define them, when there is much more to a person than their bodies. It is important to love your body, but just as important, if not more, to realize that your body is not the only thing that makes a person who they are. There is more to you than just your body, and it is vital to accept that fact and embrace it.

Class is in Session: Barbie and Ken 101

If you hate society and their opinions about beauty as much as I do, you will love this video.

Defining Ourselves

Don’t let the media and society tell you who you are- YOU show them who you are.

Killing Us Softly

I watched this series a few times throughout college. Kilbourne has 4 videos from throughout the years that discuss women, self-image, self-esteem, and violence against women in relation to how women are portrayed in the media. This is her most recent video. I believe spreading videos like this is vital to women’s physical and mental health. As she states in the video, degradation and dehumanization of women is just the beginning of violence against women.

 

Skinny Shaming

ImageMany people usually do not consider skinny shaming when they think about or discuss weight discrimination and weight shaming, but it is very much real. I may have never personally experienced it, but I have seen people endure it. Last night I was looking through Instagram and I noticed that a young girl posted a picture of herself in the mirror, a full-body photo and a pretty typical teen pose. I looked at the comments of what people were saying to her, and the comments weren’t really what I was expecting. Some men and boys were commenting on her body, saying that she was “cute, but flat”. While I realize when you put pictures on the internet you are opening yourself up for scrutiny, that doesn’t make what those people were saying to her okay in any way. This type of behavior is sending young girls the wrong ideas, that you are only worth what your body is, and most of the time it isn’t considered to be worth much at all. They were basically saying to her that the size of her breasts are what matter, even though she was clearly no older than 13 or 14. One, this is probably very hurtful to her and may cause her to do alterations on her body later in life. Two, I find this to be sexual harassment, and of a minor no less. Men should not be commenting on a minor’s pictures, let alone the size of her breasts. 

I know that a lot of women who are overweight do not think that the skinny girl plight is legitimate, but it is. In fact, some of the perpetrators of skinny shaming are overweight people. We have to tell ourselves that shaming anyone is just as bad as someone shaming us. It is hypocritical to go after someone and cause the same damage. I have heard the term “skinny bitches” a lot, and making fun of skinny girls saying they are “anorexic”. Hell, I am no saint here, I have judged out of anger, but it isn’t right. Anorexia is a serious disorder, and it isn’t something to accuse or make fun of. Bullying someone for their body type is hurtful, no matter what that body type is. Telling a girl she is too skinny, or “ew, gross you are so skinny”, is just as hurtful to them as it is for bigger women to hear that they are fat. The fact is we all have different shapes-unless you are somebody’s loved one and they truly need help, you shouldn’t be commenting at all, and even then..tread lightly. Anyone can be body conscious for any reason, so what’s the point in judging and abusing someone. No one wins in that game, and it may feel good at the time, but it will cause you to feel guilty later on. Be ware of what you say, and even of what you are thinking. Everyone deserves respect, not just you.

 

Fat Shaming

This is one subject in particular I am personally familiar with. In America we hear all the time that many of us are overweight, but aside from the health concerns that we are reminded of daily, there are many negative mental health side-effects that no one really bothers to mention. If you are “fat” by society’s standards, or even by your own standards, you constantly endure an emotional hell in your mind. Some women are proud to be the size that they are, or at least they say that they are, but most of us are not that lucky to have that kind of self-love. Society and your peers are constantly judging you. Even if they aren’t judging you, they have you so paranoid that you think that they are.They also attach words and feelings to being “fat” or “overweight”: lazy, disgusting, bad hygiene, lack of ambition, ugly, etc. People will oftentimes go to the next level and instead of just silently judging, they judge you out loud for the world to see and hear. This is called fat shaming. Fat shaming is said to be a “tough-love” approach, but it is usually not coming from anyone who “loves” you, and it is usually more painful than helpful. I am here to set that straight. You’re not being helpful if you are shaming someone who is fat, and it probably isn’t even your intention to love them or help them for health reasons-you just want to make yourself feel better about bullying someone. In case you still don’t understand, here is a Venn Diagram to get the message across:

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Many fat people know they need to lose weight, they may even want to lose weight, but others who are not fat do not consider that the person may have a disorder that is just as real as anorexia.

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This may sound bogus to some, but the fact is that you have no idea until you are fat. Yes, fat people can lose weight, and yes they do actually probably want to, but just like any addiction it is almost impossible to break. It is almost worse because you can stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol, but you can’t stop eating. Not every overweight person has a disorder, but I am willing to say many of them probably do. I have struggled with weight most of my life. I was chubby all throughout high school, and through some of middle school. In college I lost weight off and on, but right now I have gained back most of what I lost. It’s not because I want to be fat, but because instead of doing drugs or drinking to ease the pain of traumatic life events, I eat. It comforts me. I thought about that fact the other day and asked myself what made me gain the weight back. It was subconscious then, but I see it now. I gained weight as self-preservation, it sounds weird, but I am well aware of the connotations of being fat. I told myself: no one wants to rape a fat girl. When I was assaulted it was after I lost about 30 pounds. I looked and felt great. Now I am afraid to go there again, because this is where I am comfortable, even if I don’t like being overweight, I feel safe. Being chubby, to me, feels like having a security blanket being wrapped around me. No one will get me, because no one wants to get a fat girl. At least that is what I have been told all my life by the media and by peers.

The sad thing is, even if I did want to lose weight I feel like I can’t go to the gym. When fat people do try to lose weight and go to the gym people will stare at you wondering, “Why is that fatty here, this is a place for all the skinny people”. It doesn’t make sense, but we are judged for wanting to get healthy. They are mad we are at the gym, even though they taunt us to go to the gym. They want us to lose weight, they just don’t want to see us in the process. It’s like we are lepers.

Fat shaming is everywhere, especially during the warmer months. Chloe Angyal said it best in her article “Fat-Shaming All Around Us”.

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In reference to the photo above, Angyal wrote: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is what fat-shaming looks like. Summer’s coming, and with it, hot weather and skimpy clothes. Better look ‘good’—that is, skinny—when it arrives. Because fat people are disgusting, right?”

While I do believe health is important, health is not always the same as “skinny”. There are many curvy girls who are more healthy than some skinny girls. When I lost weight, I was still chubby to most people’s standards, but I was healthy. I was eating healthy foods, exercising constantly because I worked with kids and we were always running around, and I was mentally in the best shape of my life. I may not have been a size 2, but I was healthy. This is what I try to teach the kids that I am currently nannying. The five-year-old boy constantly talks about being fat, talks about how characters on TV are fat, and worries about getting fat. It is disgusting and devastating; it saddens me for him. This child has learned at such a young age that he better never get fat, and that fat is gross. His concern is never to be healthy, it is just to be skinny and not fat. While it is important to teach your child to be healthy, it is abusive to shame them away from getting fat; especially when they are not fat at all and perfectly healthy. He can’t even eat a snow cone and enjoy it because he is afraid to get fat, or afraid that he is fat. He always tells me that I am not fat, but that I just have a big butt (which is entirely true, and I am proud of it), but I am sure the person who warns him about being fat has mentioned me to him and warned him about getting “fat” like me. Whether that is true or not, I make a point of letting him know that the goal is to be healthy, not fat or skinny. His sister and I tried to explain to him that just because you’re chubby, doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy, and just because you are skinny, doesn’t mean you are healthy. Even though I try to encourage and enlighten him daily, he still obsesses daily about getting fat, and laughs at characters on TV who are fat, mocking them. He’s a work in progress. I hope some day it won’t be something that is constantly on his mind. Everyone should have the right to feel comfortable in their own skin.

In case you didn’t catch my photo on being bikini-ready for summer, here is a quote from Inner Subversion that says it all: “How to dress for your shape: are you human-shaped? Play up your confidence and natural sex appeal by wearing whatever the f*ck you want. Life Tip: As the weather gets warmer, continue to wear whatever the f*ck you want. Flaunt everything or keep it cool under cover. Dress to make yourself feel rad. How to get a bikini body: put a bikini on your body. Want sexy own-the-beach summer legs? Shave, or don’t because they’re your f*cking legs.”

It seems we should all be able to wear whatever we want, but that is not what we are told by society. I am sure many of you have heard about what the CEO of Abercrombie said about “fat” women and “cool kids”, if you haven’t you can read about it here. Something he may not realize is that some of the fit, or skinny people, may have lost weight. He is singling out fat women, but what about former fat women. I’ve heard many of them say that even though they are able to fit in the clothes, they will not wear them because of the message he is sending. Skinny does not make you elite or special, it doesn’t make you better than anyone (or worse). It is your body type, and it is how you, personally, decide to look. It shouldn’t be how anyone else is telling you to look. We all have the right to decide what to do with our own bodies, otherwise this country isn’t truly free. It is my body, you have no say in it, and frankly I don’t like exclusionary brands of any kind. It is discrimination, and I do not stand for discrimination.

Fat shaming does not work, it isn’t “good” or “helpful” for anyone, except the offenders. Writing “moo” on my notebook that I left in class in high school did not make me want to lose weight, it just made me sad and angry that people are so ignorant. Loving yourself is a journey, and I am still on mine.

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Oh, and to Abercrombie: You can kiss my fat ass.

They Were Wrong

Being a Sociology Major in college most of my courses revolved around society and its impact on our lives. In particular, my Pop Culture class stood out in my mind the most about the truly damaging effects of society. The media has always told us what is “cool” or pushed the idea of what is attractive. If you did not abide by the rules of cool or you stood out in any way, you were shunned, shamed, and bullied. This is not only true for teenagers, but it is just true for children and adults, as well. I am a nanny, and the little girl that I watch is bullied by one of her friends at school. This girl will send notes to all of their friends saying how the girl I watch is ugly, and the way that she dresses is ugly. The girl I watch is only nine years old. It seems ridiculous that even at such a young age she is being judged by the way that she looks. What is more appalling is that it starts even younger than many people realize. Think about the store that you shop at the most for your basic needs (i.e. Target, Wal-Mart, HEB Plus, etc). What does the boy’s isle for toys and clothes look like? It sports monster trucks, cars, tough looking characters, super heroes, blue, green, red, black. What does the girl’s isle look like? It shows you fashion, pink, purple, Barbie, princesses, dolls, and more offensively many of the toys revolve around being a mom or doing household chores. So basically all women are good for is working in the home and caring for the family, why would she want a career? If Barbie is even allowed to have a career it is fashion related, nurse, or veterinarian, since all women care about is clothes and animals. Gender roles are the first guidelines of discrimination and judgement in our lives.

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As we begin to age the onslaught of images and ideas bombard us almost non-stop. You must be stick thin, but you can’t be too thin because then you don’t have big breasts or a big butt. You must dress a certain way to attract men, but if you dress that way you are a slut. You must not be a woman of color, make yourself as light-skinned as possible, but if you are white, you must tan your skin. You must not have any dimples, moles, pimples, freckles, or imperfections.

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Instructions on how to fix your “wobbly bits” because god forbid your body moves as you walk. How shoes can make you look thinner, because that is what shoes are made for rather than to be comfortable and show your personality. The only good thing about this cover is that it has a teeny tiny print of an article title on challenging and researching your salary.

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The sex is all about him, and what he wants. What pleasures HIM, not you, not mutual pleasure. Focus on him. Oh, and how to be girlie and make guys melt. Sorry, tom boys. Apparently men aren’t allowed to be attracted to a bad ass chick that kicks butt. Ironically, under “His Pleasure Zone” is an article on date rape. That isn’t sending mixed messages or anything. I thought women are supposed to bend to the whim of every man and pleasure them. This magazine even objectified men with its bare-chested man-show.

Cosmopolitan is not all bad. It does try to appeal to all crowds with stories on strong females and how-to’s for women to protect themselves, but the problem is rather than empowering articles for women being the main focus of the magazine, they are hidden within and often times featured at the end of the magazine.

Below is an example of what the cover should portray. Strong females of any age kicking ass and taking names. How-to’s describing how to love yourself rather than trying to change yourself to fit a mold.

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Hell, I think freckles are gorgeous.

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I say, rock it full-figured beauties.

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Love yourselves super-awesome women of color.

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Own your beauty mixed women.

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Be proud of yourselves mature women.

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I say F*CK you, media. We are all hot, sexy, perfect, and beautiful. Media, you are the one that is wrong, abnormal, or needs to be altered.

Because this is not who we are.

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You cannot define us. We are strong. We are women. They. Were. Wrong.

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Rape Culture

Rape culture is when the victim of the crime is blamed, demonized, and possibly threatened for speaking up. The media will downplay the victim, if the victim is mentioned at all, and sympathize with the rapist. This usually occurs when the rapist is someone who is famous, powerful, a pillar of society, or the “All-American male” (high school football players, someone in the armed forces, involved with a fraternity, etc). The media will downplay the crime and play up the prestige of the guilty parties. They may talk about the sudden loss of their bright futures, or in the case of someone in the military, claim them to be an “American hero”.

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Sometimes it is difficult for family members and friends to understand why a victim may not speak up for a crime, and let’s be honest, people look at you with a weird/judgmental grimace on their face if you say that you don’t want to report or that you don’t want to go to counseling. While I fully support women speaking up for themselves, and strongly believe that they should report the crime, I am the first to admit that I was a woman who did not want to report. Looking at the above chart, one can begin to grasp why. Many rapists will not even go to court. When I was going through the beginning processes of reporting the crime I was made to realize how daunting the process would be. The detective I spoke with said that the process can take at least 3-5 years, and that is if the District Attorney decides that your case is even worth going to trial over. Then even if the case does make it to court the rapist is often sympathized with rather than the victim. I was afraid to go to court because, frankly, I knew I would be treated like Jane Doe from the Steubenville case. Though her case came after I reported, using the case as an example has helped my family and friends understand my hesitation with reporting or carrying on with the case. Rape culture. That is why women do not want to report the crime-not to mention your raw emotions and most private life experiences are put on display for the world to see. The rapists are made to look as if they are heroes for withstanding trial. The real heroes here are the women who are brave enough to report, or even consider it, because, unfortunately, they will be the ones enduring hell on earth-accusations, threats, name-calling, shaming, court. If you made it out, you are the hero. You’re my hero, because I have barely been brave enough to report. I am here to tell you that if you do not want to report, or you are afraid to report, you are not weird and there is nothing wrong with you. You are not any less of the one who was forced to be a victim. The rapist/abuser is at fault. Always. You are never at fault. Even if you danced around naked you are not asking for it. You should be respected; you have value. Do not let yourself be defined by being the victim. Do not let anyone judge you for acting differently than what society portrays how a rape “victim” should behave. Do not let society force you to view yourself in any way other than beautiful.

 

To This Day Project

A video about bullying and self-worth. Be sure to watch it the whole way through. It is empowering. You do not have to be defined by any negative experiences in life or by any negative names you have been called. You are real, you are beautiful, you are perfectly real.

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