Posts tagged #self-image

Every Girl Needs Positive Reinforcement

Have you ever heard of the Operation Beautiful movement? I just did and I simply have to share as the campaign struck me as quite beautiful in and of itself.

The mission is to assist girls to grow up to be “healthy, strong, and happy”. Who doesn’t want that for the girls in their life? Who doesn’t want that for all girls? I know I do.

The concept it to leave random, positive post-it notes around town, in places which would typically be used by young girls in the hopes of instilling a nugget of encouragement and kindness, a little of which could make a huge impact. Things like:

 

The founder of Operation Beautiful, Caitlin Boyle, was inspired to create this organization after suffering debilitating self-doubt as a preteen and teen. With the love and support of a good friend she managed to change her negative outlook into a positive one and realized what an important crossroads she had navigated successfully. This brought her to the realization that she wanted to help other girls like her friend had helped her and give positive feedback to counterbalance the comparisons to airbrushed models in magazines and online, and the bombardment of unattainable standards by advertisers whose use scare tactics as a marketing method, making us feel like we are not good enough.

Puberty is a delicate time in our development on all levels: physically, emotionally and even intellectually. It seems to be the stage of life where we go from being happy-go-lucky children with nary a care in the world to suddenly find ourselves self-aware and self-conscious and acutely aware of our changing bodies. In many cases, we feel like we have lost control of who we thought we were and feel like our bodies and hormones are betraying us. Adolescence is a time of transition and like most transitions it is rife with pain and problems.

I like the concept of Operation Beautiful on many levels. I like that it’s random and anonymous. I like that it’s basically doing a random act of kindness but it takes it almost a step farther because you leave a note somewhere and undoubtedly will never know or see the reaction it caused. I like that it takes the adage “it takes a village” to raise children and those brave and kind souls who leave notes are doing their bit to help raise young women with confidence and hopefully banish self-loathing. This is crucial in order to grow up with grace and dignity and self-respect. I grew up with British parents and it just wasn’t in their nature to praise me. I distinctly remember getting ready to leave my house to go out with friends and invariably my mother would say something like “You’re not going out like that are you?”, basically undermining any confidence I had previously felt about my attire (which was generally tame and nondescript) and I would leave feeling bad about myself. Isn’t a mother’s job to say something more along the lines of “You look lovely dear.”?

Operation Beautiful serves as a counterbalance to the mainstream media that is constantly undermining young women and it serves them a small dose of praise and inspiration.  I encourage more people to be conscious of their words and actions, especially concerning teens, and to try to model affirmative communication. If the chance to say something kind in a note you leave stuck to some random bathroom or change room mirror reveals itself to you, please take out that marker and leave a message. It can’t possibly hurt and just might help a young woman feel better about themselves.

'Dancing at the Shame Prom'

shame-jpeg-420x659.jpg

shame. noun. a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour:

  • His face burned with shame.
  • She hung her head in shame.
  • He could not live with the shame of other people knowing the truth.
  • I would die of shame if she ever found out.

The first feminist book I have read this year to fulfill my pledge at the Hiding Spot2013 Feminist Reads Challenge is ‘Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the stories that kept us small.’ This is an anthology by 28 assorted female writers, edited by Amy Ferris & Hollye Dexter. 

Shame is an inherently human emotion ( a fox feels no shaming for brutally killing a rabbit) and one that can hide in the recesses of our consciousness for a lifetime.  Shame can alter our core self-esteem, making us vulnerable and so many aspects of our lives can be negatively affected.  Shame is also oftentimes transferred onto us by others, be they family members (which occurs frequently in this book), acquaintances or society as a whole and this is commonly done to keep us quiet about our transgressions (real or otherwise) and made to feel small.  But as these stories prove, the shame we carry deep within the shadows of our soul can be diluted by sharing it with others, and with any luck, release the bearer of her burden.

This book is a banquet of emotions, filled with dark details and lonely depths but one which is ultimately cathartic. The stories inside are many things including poignant,  tragic, human, profound, hopeful and most especially loving.

Recently I read the quote “I write to give testimony. I read to bear witness” and that sentiment has never felt truer to me than when I read this book. I was bearing witness to the shame felt by these courageous writers who entrusted me with their stories. Stories as harrowing as being sexually abused as a young girl, having an abortion at the age of eighteen, and walking away from an adoption when a child became available, and all are stitched together with honesty from the author and trust towards the reader. This book is at once heavy in theme and substance yet made lighter for the reading; a  necessary step on the road to enlightenment. As I alluded to in the title of this post, I am grateful and wish to express my intense thankfulness to the authors for allowing me the privilege of reading their words and sharing their lives. I would like to be the kind of person that could admit my shame publicly, but even after reading this graceful tomb I am unable to follow the intrepid example of these talented writers. (Does this mean my shame is compounded?)

I quite enjoyed the extra page at the end of each story with a blurb about what the author hopes the reader takes away with them. I was piqued by my takeaway being different to what the author had hoped on more than one occasion, which made me appreciate how the art we create can be interpreted in so many different ways by others.

If you have the opportunity to read this book, I highly recommend you do so. If you’re anything like me you will be given the gift of intense emotional impact and may even find yourself wiser, kinder and more empathetic as a result.

 

Posted on March 15, 2013 .

Real Life is Unretouched

shutterstock_3147808-420x278.jpg

Feby is a huge fan of  the Keep It Real Challenge in partnership with Spark SummitI Am That Girl  and Endangered Bodies .  This is what feminism is, women helping other women.  This speaks to me on every level; as a woman, wife, mother, sister, consumer, thinker.    It started out with a 14 year-old girl, Julia Bluhm who launched a petition through change.org to get Seventeen magazine to use one real, unaltered photo spread per month. She wanted to see real girls like her and her friends reflected in the pages of the popular magazine. The petition has 83716 signatures as of today.  Julia was invited to meet with the editor-in-chief Ann Shoket but did not get a commitment to stop the photoshopped and airbrushed ways. This is unfortunate.  So together with  Women showing other women how they are being manipulated, degraded and damaged by pictures in magazines that are digitally distorted and as a result, so is our consciousness (sub or otherwise) of what beauty is.  The best part of this campaign is that it offers a solution to the problem; contact the magazines guilty of mass fraud and call them out on their practices.  Use social media to ruffle the sails of traditional media.  The plan of attack occurs over three days.  Yesterday was the first day and participants were  encouraged to tweet to editors of popular culture and beauty magazines using the hashtag #KeepItReal. @Febytweets proudly joined the trending movement on twitter:



On the second day we are to blog (which is what you’re reading now) and here are some excellent ones around the web; Peace & Love KaleidoscopeBig Fat Feminist and Small Strokes Fell Big Oaks.

Tomorrow we are urged to take pictures of what real beauty is using Instagram.

I agree that this photoshopping crap has to have a line – pun intended – drawn on the screen.  At it’s core photoshop and other programs are fantastic graphic design tools that make it possible for the creator to follow his imagination.  Problems occur when that imagination is targeted on distorting the images of girls and women to a point where the majority of the image is now forgery, usually in the goal of selling a product that purports to make such perfection possible.  It’s fraud served up straight.  For those of you not familiar with what photoshop can do, check out this video   The Photoshop Effect To make matters worse these images are force fed to a young female audience by magazines that claim to be ‘for’ them and yet because their readers can never attain the fake ideals they presented in their pages,  girls are prone to depression, dieting, low self-esteem and eating disorders.  Doesn’t a magazine have the responsibility to represent its readers in a realistic and positive manner?  Call me naive but one would assume its mission statement is to empower and enlighten and entertain its readership ( or something similar) NOT to intimidate, bully and delude them. At this time mass media is the biggest bully around and it is invariably young girls who are the victims.  The statistics are frightening;

     “32% of teenage girls admit to starving themselves to lose weight”

                        ”The number one  magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner.”

             “3 out of 4 teenage girls feel depressed, guilty and shameful after spending 3 minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.” 

There are so many important elements of being a living and breathing human being; how we feel, what we think, what we say, what we do that are far more compelling than how we look.  Yet because we are women we are trained and manipulated to feel less than whole if we are not impeccably toned, groomed, dressed, accessorized, coiffed and made-up.  Sadly,  the contents of most magazines focus on esthetics and how to achieve the best possible you , on the outside.  The advertisements between such articles show beautiful women with extremely long eyelashes pitching mascara and yet the photo of the models’ eyelashes are digitally enhanced.  Or we see perfect skin on a pretty girl who in real life has pores and freckles and blemishes, even when wearing the foundation being featured.  How is this even legal?  Why are we selling impossible ideals to young women?  It can only serve to harm their self-confidence, self-esteem and general well-being. So, we implore all the editors and staff at womens magazines to stop or reduce the amount of digital interference on the images on their pages, to reflect their readers in a realistic light and not sucker them with falsification.