February Links

Debbie says:

Just after the turn of the year, when everybody and her sister was telling you how they were going to lose weight in 2016, Veronica Bayetti Flores at Feministing released a whole post of great music videos to counteract the bullshit.  Here’s just one of my favorites, from Mz 007 in St. Louis:

And we really need those antidotes, because Ragen Chastain at Dances with Fat, who is always alert to fat-shaming, found one of the most horrifying anti-fat stories ever (and that’s not easy):

Elaine Yu, an assistant professor and clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, will be conducting a clinical trial to see if taking pills containing the freeze dried fecal matter of thin people will make fat people thin….

Fecal transplants have been found to a legitimate, and very helpful, treatment to help people with bacterial infections, and the freeze-dried poo pill technology was developed as a way to facilitate these transplants. So now Professor Yu is going to give 20 fat people 6 weekly doses of poop pills (far fewer than in the bacterial infection studies where subjects were given 15 pills a day for 2 days), then track their weight at 3, 6,  and 12 months, telling subjects not to make changes to their eating and exercise habits (obviously, that’s difficult to determine, and I imagine that knowing that you are ingesting poo might have an effect on appetite – I know that researching ingesting poo did for me.)

Further into the post, Ragen deconstructs the assumptions behind this incomprehensible experiment with her usual good sense and flair.

Also deconstructing assumptions about fat we find Ampersand reviewing the Swedish study which said, basically, that you can’t be fat and fit.

I’m not saying that this Swedish study should be ignored (although it has limitations – see below). But it’s one data point among many…

This study only measured fitness at age 18….

So the study didn’t measure if being currently fat and fit reduces current mortality; it measured whether being fat and fit at age 18 reduces mortality over the next three decades. That’s an interesting thing to study – but it’s hard to see how this speaks to whether or not someone like me – a 47 year old fat man – might reduce my risk of mortality with regular exercise in my current life.

Furthermore, since the study only followed male subjects, it’s unclear if these results can be generalized to women.

Staying in the same arena, I saw lots of  links to this story by Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley at Gastropod about why calories don’t correlate to weight. This article doesn’t excerpt well, because it makes so many separate points. If you are at all interested in what calories are, how they are calculated in the lab, how the lab calculations relate to what happens in your body, and why restricting calories doesn’t seem to change your weight (if it doesn’t), this is a don’t-miss story. I’m adding it to my file of “send to people who claim losing weight is simple” links.

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I did not realize that 2015 showed a marked spike in news and information about menstruation, but apparently I’m the only person who didn’t. Reina Gattuso at Feministing links to a number of mainstream articles on the subject, and then focuses on two student-led anti-period-shaming groups: Pads Against Sexism and Happy to Bleed.

According to the organizers, Pads Against Sexism (also called Pads Against Patriarchy) was inspired by a public art project by German artist Elone Kastratia, who celebrated International Women’s Day by sticking sanitary napkins (period diapers? vagina towels?) with feminist messages across her city….

Activist Nikita Azad started Happy to Bleed in November, as one of a chorus of feminist responses to a statement by Prayar Gopalakrishnan, president of the Travancore Devaswom Hindu Temple administering Board in the southern state of Kerala. Women aren’t currently allowed access to the state’s Sabarimala Temple (one manifestation of many world religions’ charming tendency to stigmatize menstruation). Gopalakrishnan posited that this could change when a magical machine was put into use to detect whether blood was — in the immortal words of Trump – coming out women’s whatevers

In response, Azad posted a rallying cry wherein she encouraged feminists across the country to post their own messages of menstrual solidarity on pads and social media.

A flurry of media activity in response to both campaigns helped lower the stigma and raised the profile of menstrual issues in India. Writers also took down the idea that periods are only chill because they’re important in making babies and babies are important to patriarchy. And Azad and other activists pointed out that menstrual stigma particularly affects lower-caste women and women living in poverty, who are often forced to miss school during their periods or have no sanitary accommodations at work. 

Oh, how I wish this conversation had been around when I was in high school and college!

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Two victories for trans people. The Transgender Law Center reports on advances in restroom availability:

This week, San Francisco joins Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Austin, Seattle, Santa Fe, and New York City in requiring all businesses and city buildings to designate single-stall restrooms as all-gender. While transgender and gender nonconforming people have the legal right to use restrooms that correspond to their gender, this kind of legislation is still a relief for people with disabilities, trans and gender nonconforming people, and families with small children — not to mention women simply tired of waiting on line for the women’s restroom while the single-stall men’s bathroom stands empty.

And Bobby Hankinson at Towleroad reports on advances in competition guidelines:

Previously, trans athletes were required to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. According to guidelines made public on Sunday, the new recommendations remove any restrictions on trans men, and allow trans women to compete in the Olympic Games after one year of hormone replacement therapy.

“The new IOC transgender guidelines fix almost all of the deficiencies with the old rules,” chief medical physicist, radiation oncology, Providence Portland Medical Center Joanna Harper wrote to Outsports via email. “Hopefully, organizations such as the ITA will quickly adapt to the new IOC guidelines and all of the outdated trans policies will get replaced soon.”

Harper, who is also a trans woman, attended the Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism that helped craft these guidelines in November.

And finally, if you are interested in artistic interpretations of human/cyborg/machine transformations, George Dvorsky at io9 shared a fascinating video. Sonoya Mizuno dances in “Wide Open,” the latest music video from the British electronic duo The Chemical Brothers.

 

All links from my regular reading, which includes Feministe, Shakesville, and Sociological Images,, along with Feministing, and io9, which are featured here, along with other sites. Also, we’re always on the lookout for interesting posts that connect racism and body image, and even more so during Black History Month, so send links if you have them.

Luscious Bodies: Lascivious Backlash

Laurie and Debbie say:

In Australia, the handmade cosmetics company Lush has launched an advertising campaign called “Go Naked,” which, as Brad Esposito at BuzzFeed reports, has met with both praise and opposition.

four happy naked women from the back, touching each other

Most responses to the campaign have been positive,says Courtney Fry, an employee and one of the models:

“We have also had requests from customers wanting to continue the campaign in store and pose for the photo themselves as they felt it helped their children grow up feeling that their bodies are natural and normal, not something to be ashamed of and have our insecurities exploited for the sale of cosmetics.”

but a few complaints caused the Australian Advertising Standards Board to declare the images “pornographic” and ask Lush to remove them from a mall in Queensland, which the company agreed to do.

Laurie's photograph of five fat nudes at Baker Beach in San Francisco

These images are close to our hearts. Laurie’s photograph above, from Women En Large, is fine art and not advertising, but the commonalities with the Lush campaign are very real. Both, for very different purposes, are committed to showing real bodies, women comfortable together, and satisfied with who they are.

While it’s no surprise that a small portion of the population finds these images disturbing and inappropriate, it’s interesting to think about why. The complaints quoted in the BuzzFeed article are all about what children will see: the images were apparently on large billboards at eye level.

three women with triangular solid shower gel covering their private parts

To worry about children seeing these photographs, you have to make several assumptions. So many parents displace their own fears, discomforts, and learned objections onto their children.

First, they assume it’s inappropriate for children to see nudity (or certain kinds of nudity). Why? Because children can be (“because I am”) unsettled and confused by sexuality (which we are bombarded with in thousands of ways every day) and somehow sexuality and nudity have become conflated, even though almost everyone is nonsexually nude for at least some moments every day.

Second, they assume it’s inappropriate for children to see (“for me to see”) certain kinds of touch. The women touching each others’ butts in the top advertisement are not engaging in sexual behavior, but they are engaging in intimate touch, and many people have no concept of intimate nonsexual touch, so the connection must be sexual or it would have no context and be incomprehensible.

Third, these images raise fears that your child might become a Lesbian, or bring home a fat sweetheart, or whatever combination of fears you have for your child’s puberty, adolescence, and adulthood.

Finally, and most threatening, pictures like these (and like Laurie’s) normalize a kind of body comfort and comfort with other bodies which children might (“oh, how horrible, I might”) begin to believe is okay, or even something to look for in life.

Lush has the right idea:

Lush’s Australasia director, Peta Granger, said the decision from the ASB would not affect the way they advertise in the future.

“We want our messages to empower people, not make them feel awful about themselves over a body that is probably not ever real due to how much it’s been digitally ‘enhanced’.”