Monthly Archives: June 2010

Too Many Interesting Topics!

Laurie and Debbie say:

We were going to write our usual single-topic post today, but we kept sending each other too many interesting options. So here are a bunch of body image articles that we hope will interest you as much as they interest us:

Sins Invalid is a performance project on disability and sexuality. Sparkymonster linked to this post at Dis/positional featuring excerpts from Matt Fraser’s performance at the 2009 performance series in San Francisco.


It’s really good art and a powerful expression of the issues. We really want to see what he does next!

In the same post, Sparkymonster points out American Able, artist Holly Norris’s social commentary pastiches on a series American Apparel ads. Norris, and her model Jes Sachse, “intend to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media.” Norris has protected her work against reproduction around the Web and the blogosphere, so be sure and click through and take a look.

The whole feminist blogosphere is talking about the horrific procedures being done through the Medical College of Cornell University, in which babies who have large clitorises are subjected to surgeries and very very nasty follow-up procedures as young girls to “determine that they still experience sexual sensitivity.” (Very triggering information at the link.) Not only is this wrong in all the ways we’re sure you can imagine, it also (in the case of some of the young girls) disguises the reality of intersexuality into a vague and unfocused “abnormality” which is, without data, considered a “psychological risk.” Bird of Paradox, in one of many fine responses, focuses on the intersexuality issue.

I have to say that I’m completely mystified why the writers of any article detailing such shocking treatment and human rights abuses against intersex children should feel it necessary to leave out the salient fact that the subjects of the research are intersex. But one thing is clear: if we, as a society, are going to condone the treatment of intersex people like worthless lab rats and then deliberately airbrush them out of high-profile news stories about the injustices they’ve suffered, then how are we ever going to be able to start making amends for the human rights abuses inflicted against them in the name of medical science?

On a related note, professor and novelist Nnedi Okorafor writes about African reactions to her new novel, Who Fears Death, which approaches female genital cutting from a different perspective.

I am very proud of my Igbo-ness. However, culture is alive and it is fluid. It is not made of stone nor is it absolute. Some traditions/practices will be discarded and some will be added, but the culture still remains what it is. It is like a shape-shifting octopus that can lose a tentacle but still remain a shape-shifting octopus (yes, that image is meant to be complicated). Just because I believe that aspects of my culture are problematic does not mean I am “betraying” my people by pointing out those problems.

If you don’t think all bodies are beautiful, does that mean you have to think some of them are ugly enough to decapitate and replace with advertising? Interbest Outdoor Billboards has a new campaign to fill their billboard space that Shakesville finds especially disturbing.

picture of a white supersize woman in profile, wearing a white bra and panties. The photograph is cropped at the top so you can only see the tiniest bit of her chin. The caption is "The sooner you advertise here, the better." On the right, the same picture in the distance, on a billboard.

What we notice here is that despite the snapshot quality of the photograph, for anyone who can shed their preconceptions, she’s attractive. One of the two other photos in the campaign (which you can see at the link) is a white man with his hands behind his back, so that his hairy chest and not-terribly big potbelly show over his white briefs. The photograph is cropped below his shoulders. He looks just fine to us. The campaign also includes a third photo, which is a close-up of an unshaved man picking his nose which, as Melissa at Shakesville points out, implies that “being fat is just a bad habit you don’t have the will or courtesy to break.”

Last week, Debbie posted about Neli, the young man who was arrested for being autistic and black. In the comments of that post, his mother pointed to this video, in which Neli tells his own story.

On the occasion of New York’s Gay Pride Day, the New York Times published a feature on Storme DeLarverie,, now in a nursing home in Brooklyn, “who fought the police in 1969 at the historic riot at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village that kicked off the gay rights movement.” The article gives us some background on Ms. Delarverie and also reminds readers that “the first gay pride parade in 1970 was not a parade at all but a protest marking the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.”

Let us close with a fat-positive U.S. government stamp. There’s a nice short biography of Kate Smith at this link.

Kate Smith, famous singer, wearing an evening gown, and smiling at the camera

Sex Sells … Medical Imaging?

Debbie says:

Eizo, a Japanese company also doing business in Europe and around the world, has a new way to sell its medical monitors and imaging devices, with a “pin-up” calendar of skeletal images.

I’m no stranger to sex, or conventionally beautiful women, as sales devices, but I have to say that I don’t think of skeletons as sexy, and I imagine that I’m not alone in this. (I also imagine that some people will find these images very sexy indeed.)

Two things make this interesting to me:

First of all, the viewers (except anyone who is actually attracted to skeletal images) have to be so familiar with conventionally sexy poses that they can automatically “dress” the images with skin and hair and smiles. Of course, this is a lot easier because we have such predetermined senses of what color that skin should be, how smooth it is, what the hair should look like, what an advertising version of an inviting smile is.

Second, even in the realm of medical imaging, satisfying the stereotypical male gaze is more important than demonstrating the product. For medical purposes, these images would be just as useful (and perhaps more useful) if they represented a variety of sizes, shapes, ages, and sexes. (Since the way they’re done allows us to see the skin lines, it seems pretty clear that this is either one model, or several similar-looking tall, thin women. Assuming the model or models are young, they’re also in a demographic statistically less likely to need the kind of imaging work being sold here.) But the calendar isn’t a medical tool, it’s a sales tool; they want their customers to remember Eizo’s name and, in time-honored fashion, they’ve done that by associating their name with sex.

I wonder if it’s working for them.

(Thanks to Sociological Images for finding this one.)