Let’s Have Some Links

Debbie says:

The last few times I’ve sat down to do links, I’ve ended up with themed posts, but this time I have a wider range.

You might think Serena Williams wouldn’t be expected to smile when she had just defeated her sister and close friend, but no. Anita Little at Sociological Images defends Williams.


… during a post-match press conference on Tuesday, a reporter had the gall to ask why she wasn’t smiling.

Williams looked down and gave an exasperated sigh before shelling out the best response an athlete has given in an interview since football player Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” trademark phrase.

It’s 11:30. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t want to be here. I just want to be in bed right now and I have to wake up early to practice and I don’t want to answer any of these questions. And you keep asking me the same questions. It’s not really … you’re not making it super enjoyable.

no matter how insanely accomplished or famous you become, you will still be subjected to the innocuous-sounding but ever-so-pernicious “why don’t you smile?” interjection from those who feel entitled to make demands of women. Williams’ retort was her attempt at dismantling that sense of entitlement. For those who say the reporter’s question was a harmless jest, they should ask themselves if Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal would ever be expected to defend their stern or tired expressions.

Williams is being honored, along with eleven other inspiring women, in a huge sea change in the famous Pirelli calendar.

Usually known for featuring the most beautiful models of the day, the famed Pirelli calendar is taking 2016’s issue in a whole new direction by featuring some of the world’s most inspiring women – from artists to athletes and even to bloggers.

In a preview clip aired on the New York Magazine website, the likes of Serena Williams, Patti Smith and Yoko Ono are spotted posing for legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Perhaps Pirelli has been paying attention to Rosie Nelson, crusading inside the modeling industry for ditching the skin-and-bones look. Liz Dwyer at TakePart reports:

“When I walked into one of the UK’s biggest model agencies last year they told me I ticked all the boxes except one—I needed to lose weight. So I did,” wrote 23-year-old Rosie Nelson on the Change.org petition she launched. “Four months later I lost nearly [14 pounds and] 2 inches off my hips. When I returned to the same agency they told me to lose more weight, they wanted me ‘down to the bone.’”

“When I look in the mirror I see someone that is healthy and comfortable in their skin. That’s because I had the guts to carve out my own path and refuse to let people pressure me into losing more and more weight,” wrote Nelson. “But… the reminders are everywhere that we need a law to protect young girls, and boys, who are put under pressure to be dangerously thin.”

Being healthy and comfortable in your skin is something so many of us are looking for. Sydnee Thompson at Black Girl Dangerous reminds us that “Defining Your Gender As A Black Queer Femme Is Revolutionary“:

Growing up, I knew three things: One, I was a girl. Two, I didn’t like it. And three, there was nothing I could do about either of them.

But how could I trust my feelings? As a Black femme, I already had the deck stacked against me. No matter what we feel, society tells us from the beginning it doesn’t matter. We face misogynoir that deems us unworthy of femininity and womanhood by default while simultaneously being objectified and fetishized, not to mention femmephobia that forces us to adhere to standards of presentation and then punishes us for it.

From childhood, we’re objects for the consumption of others, lacking agency or inherent value. All of that baggage muddies the waters when you realize you’re different and start trying to figure out why. Is it the internalized oppression talking, something else, or both?

Read the rest: Thompson is a clear, powerful, angry writer.

Jennifer Swann at TakePart talks about advances in transgender health care–and one trans woman behind a lot of the positive change.

Though [Tommilynn] Travis now lives in California, one of 16 states that have banned health care discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, she has nonetheless faced insurance-related delays and outright denials for transition-related health care.

But Travis now knows that such denials can be illegal, and she is at the forefront of a movement to get all trans people access to health care and force health insurance companies to pay for hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. …

All the hours Travis has spent “calling, fussing, trying to figure out who’s in charge, who’s holding things back—it’s going to pay off for all these other people who were too scared to say anything,” she says. She’s no longer alone in the fight for transgender health care, as she sometimes felt she was in New Mexico. Now she’s surrounded by a community of transgender men and women with urgent medical needs. “Rather than just be an advocate for myself,” she says, she now has “these 400, 500 other girls” to fight for. “It’s not just me. That’s the way I always try to look at it—as not just helping me but helping everybody where I can.”

And just in case you thought — as I kind of did — that you were versed in the complexities of gender, here’s an amazing gender variation story from Diane Kelly at Throb.

In an article for the BBC Magazine, Michael Mosely talks to families [in the Dominican Republic] with children that were brought up as girls because they lacked obvious testes or a penis at birth, but grew penises and had their testicles descend when they neared puberty. The local name for these children is “guevedoces”, or “penis at twelve.” But the change they go through isn’t magic–it’s an example of how multi-layered and complex human sexual development really is.

Here’s how it works.

The condition is the result of an enzyme deficiency. Guevedoces are genetically male, and have Y chromosomes in all of their cells. Their earliest sexual development is also normal: a gene on the Y chromosome turns the undeveloped gonads of the 7 week old embryo into testes, which soon start pumping out male hormones. Two of those hormones–testosterone and Mullerian-inhibiting substance–are critical for the development of the internal male reproductive system. …

When guevedoces are born, their external genitalia look female even though their internal reproductive structures are male. They’re raised as girls. But at puberty, the testes inside their abdomens start producing large amounts of testosterone. The effect is startling.

During puberty, testosterone makes the penis and testes grow into their larger adult form. The same thing happens to the guevedoces: but since their penis starts closer to the size of a clitoris, there’s a lot more growing to do.

I would have liked Kelly to acknowledge that there is no such thing as “the size of a clitoris,” (some are bigger than some penises). but basically I’m just fascinated by the story.

As always, I harvest my links from my usual reading around the web. Laurie found the Pirelli calendar story, and I thank Lizzy for pointing out the guevedoces story; I had already found it, but you never know — I might have missed it.

“We Deserve to Look Like Ourselves”

Debbie says:

I’ve been a fan of Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist, for some time, and in fact have recommended her to people looking for nutrition advice. Last week, she wrote an extremely important essay about the relationship between body image and photography.


As most journeys to self-esteem do, Michelle’s starts with her history of being called “ugly.” She had a brief foray into “pretty” in her mid-teens, and then she got fat.

I didn’t look in the mirror for a long time, still believing in the misogynist fever-dream of “vanity.” For a long time, after I gained weight, I felt I didn’t have the right to leave the house or exist in public, that maybe I was too ugly to even deserve to live — even though I knew that, intellectually, to be bullshit. I took steps to fight against it, but it was a long, slow battle.

I started to come out of it around age 27, and took the first photos of myself in a long time. A couple years later, I got my first webcam and began taking more self portraits. When I was surprised by the way I looked in the pictures, I realized that I wasn’t actually familiar with how I looked, because I avoided looking at myself so much. This disturbed me; I deserved to carry a self-image in my head instead of a vague, dread-inducing void.

Later, as I took more pictures, this thought changed slightly: I also deserved to show other people what my image of myself looked like, how I saw myself. Whether or not this matched up with how they saw me was almost irrelevant — their image of me was no more objective or true than my image of myself. I deserved to be able to say, with my photos, to other people, “Hey, I know you see a crude barometer of my social status when you look at me, but this is what I, a human, actually look like.”

Laurie is on vacation, so I can’t get a comment from her, but all of this is right down the center of what we believed when we started working on Women En Large, and what we both believe even more now.


Here’s Michelle again:

I have weighed a lot of weights in my life, and looked a lot of different ways, and I have been human the whole time.

For reasons I shouldn’t have to spell out, this is really, really important for people’s health and well-being. We need to be allowed to see ourselves as human, at any size, and to see ourselves represented alongside other humans. We need to be able to share our images in public, if we want, and push the recognition of our humanity. Mostly, we need to be allowed to have images of ourselves imbedded in our brains, alongside everyone else. When we see nothing but images of people who don’t look like us celebrated and represented by our own culture, little by little, it degrades our sense of being human. It is a form of systemic emotional abuse.

The end of Michelle’s essay goes into what happens to us when the images we deserve are digitally altered, or mocked, and what that means.

I don’t have much to add. Michelle has, very effectively, nailed why Laurie and I do what we do, and why we think body image is not just interesting, not just important, but critical to living in a better world.