Blogging Our Real Bodies

Laurie and Debbie say:

Fitness Magazine is not where one would usually look for positive body image articles, but this one. which centers on BlogHer and quotes Laurie, is both good and interesting. (Of course, we would prefer that it wasn’t surrounded on all sides by swimsuit models with muscular navels.) has seen an explosion of interest on the topic of body image. “Since July 2007, we’ve added 151 new blogs to our site relating to women’s bodies,” says [Lisa] Stone [co-founder of BlogHer]. “Ten years ago, you’d read an occasional comment on a message board in reaction to a model’s photo in a magazine: ‘Am I the only one who thinks real women don’t look like this?’ But garnering critical mass was difficult. The expansion of the Internet makes it easy to share these feelings.” Think of the Web as a virtual watercooler: In a country where 64 million people are obese, as many as 10 million suffer from eating disorders, and untold others feel inadequate every time they drive past another airbrushed model on a highway billboard, it was high time there was an outlet for the emotions surrounding women and body-image issues.

The perceived anonymity of the Web — even when sharing something as intimate as a photo of your body — has allowed thousands of women the safety to say what they really think. As the trend grows, body-image Web sites have become more specialized. In 2006, Bonnie Crowder, 30, launched The Shape of a Mother, uploading an image of her post-baby body — stretch marks, folds, and all — in an effort to support other women who’d recently given birth. “The post-pregnancy body is one of society’s greatest secrets,” Crowder wrote on her Web site. “Sure, we all talk about sagging boobs, but no one ever sees them. It is my dream to create a Web site where women of all ages, shapes, and sizes can share images of their bodies so it will no longer be secret.”

Suzanne Reisman swmsuit brigade

We’re all for body pride, but really, who the heck has the guts (or exhibitionist urge) to post a picture of herself in her birthday suit online for the whole world to see? “The answer I get the most — and it resonates with me personally — is, ‘I am tired of feeling embarrassed about the way I look,'” says Suzanne Reisman [pictured above], 32, founder of a blog about feminism and other topics. “Women feel under assault from images that don’t look anything like them, and the online community offers an opportunity to say, ‘There is nothing wrong with having an average body.'”

Here’s an example we found just searching on Flickr. Notice from the caption that model/student Beckie Jones considers this to be an “unattractive” photo, and she posted it anyway. (We would disagree with her assessment.)

The article makes a passing mention of the body image panel which Laurie moderated at last year’s BlogHer conference. The same eagerness–even hunger–which the Fitness article describes was evident at that panel. Laurie will be moderating a related panel at this year’s conference in San Francisco. The more we are bombarded with images of improbably and impossibly perfect bodies, the more of us feel disenfranchised and invisible. And the web provides the means to (using a phrase Laurie has long used about her work) make the invisible visible.