Monthly Archives: May 2008

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.

Drugging Deportees: Being the “Evil that We Deplore”

Debbie says:

Laurie and I generally try to stay away from blogging about the horrors of the U.S. incumbent government, because 1) so many people do that well; and 2) most of it isn’t directly related to body image (even though that’s not always what we blog about). This particular outrage, however, is, among other things, a body image issue.

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.

The government’s forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the “pre-flight cocktail,” as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.

Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places.

Internal government records show that most sedated deportees received a cocktail of three drugs that included Haldol, also known as haloperidol, a medication normally used to treat schizophrenia and other acute psychotic states.

They were also given Ativan, used to control anxiety, and all but three were given Cogentin, a medication that is supposed to lessen Haldol’s side effects of muscle spasms and rigidity.

Haldol gained notoriety in the Soviet Union, where it was often given to political dissidents imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals. “In the history of oppression, using haloperidol is kind of like detaining people in Abu Ghraib,” the infamous prison in Iraq, said Nigel Rodley, who teaches international human rights law at the University of Essex in Britain and is a former United Nations special investigator on torture.

There is, sadly, lots more.

Other people are writing very appropriately writing about this outrage as a civil rights violation, as doing the things we demonized our old enemies for (as Barbara Lee said after 9/11, “Let us not become the evil that we deplore.”) Also, of course, although some Europeans have been affected, you know this is enforced racially, with people of color bearing the brunt.

I don’t want to lose sight of our officials’ vast and deep disregard for health and the human body. Far far too strong a drug for this purpose, Haldol, or haloperidol can have a variety of short-term and lasting side effects, up through and including fatal ones. “The potentially fatal neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a significant possible side effect. Haloperidol and fluphenazine are the two drugs which cause NMS most often.”

If a) restraints are necessary for safety, and b) physical restraints are not appropriate for some reason (two very big “ifs”), there are lots and lots of pharmacological steps before Haldol. We need only look at our prisons to remind ourselves that we don’t live in a world that offers any respect whatsoever to the bodies (or minds) of the people we incarcerate, but this is a particularly nauseating example.

Now that the story is in major U.S. newspapers, anyone know of any groups or activists organizing around this issue? I’m interested.

Bittersweet thanks to alibi shop for the link.