positive body image

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I Am My Own Worst Enemy

by Colette Coughlin

When I was a seventy-pound twelve year old, my dad used to call me "Thunder Thighs". His intentions were not to feed a future eating disorder, he was just teasing, that's who he was. But I put it into my emotional backpack and consciously or unconsciously, pulled it out later to flog myself with it and affirm my physical imperfections and overall unworthiness. Until I had enough of that crap...

Worse, a friend of mine confided that his ex-wife, who had been sexually abused by her father, and naturally had issues with intimacy, could get mean and even violent with him sometimes. Once, in a rage, she told him he had the smallest penis she had ever seen (how many she had to compare to, we don't really know...). Although he didn't let this get in the way of future relationships... do you think he ever discussed this openly or forgot about it? Probably not, but fortunately he didn't let it stop him from loving other women.

These are the tiny little things that great big wars are built on. Wars with others, but worse, wars within ourselves.

exposing body image issues's picture

Female body image; the search for REAL visuals

by Colette Coughlin

This is one of my less-flattering self-portraits; not only could I not stand the sight of myself that day, I was also in a nasty mood. I took pictures anyways and later turned this one into a drawing.  By the time I'd finishing sketching my scowl, I'd forgotten the disgust I felt about the picture. Everybody has rotten days, feels ugly, wishes things were different sometimes. So what? This too, passes... yet the visual models (as in examples) most of us feel we need to live up to are rarely less than super-models. Super made-up, super-fixed-up, super dressed-up people with ideal figures who we see on every magazine cover, poster, publicity, movie, and TV show we come across. It's become so pervasive that we've forgotten it's not real life!

I share my scowling self with you hoping it might make you feel better about how you look... but how often do we really see people, regular people, at their less-than-best, particularly when it comes to nudity?

exposing body image issues's picture

Reflections on the Motivations of a Sympathetic Witness and the Male Nude

By Judith Brisson

Ironically, thirty years later, I probably have a more positive bodily self-image than I did then. My skin was a lot thinner in my twenties and careless or cruel comments more easily left their marks. I’m not implying that all is well in that lobe of the mind – my bodily self-consciousness I believe is ineluctably tied into the corporate political economy and the use of the youthful female form as a primary vehicle for promotion in advertising houses.

Yes I’m something of a sell-out: I mask my aging with products chemical and textile, supporting the corresponding aspects of the economy with plenty of my hard-earned dough and endangering my health in the process. Phthalates and poisoned rabbit eyes float around in my guilty un-conscience. I do it to circulate more fluidly – that is less self-consciously - in a youthful world, where I happen to spend a lot of time. Unlike many traditions from around the globe, age can be easily sidelined in our culture.

At least that’s the rationale I mentally employ as I while away my time pursuing the numerous high-maintenance tasks of the middle-aged woman. But the real reason is more insidious than that: my theory is that corporate composite of the female image eats away at my self-esteem, constantly reminding me of my numerous flaws by means of an endless array of mechanisms larger than life, including posting building-sized images of fourteen year-olds in designer pants slung low enough to expose pubic hair (if there were any to be seen).

It’s something of a comparison game that takes place at some sub-conscious level later on when I am alone with my body and contemplating its shortcomings.  In a search to understand my compulsion to focus on body image, I document, alongside collaborator Colette Coughlin, the struggles of men in maintaining a healthy and positive body image in a highly aestheticized world.

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SKIN: A Town Hall for Positive Body Image (FRIDA)


There is a wonderful event coming up in Chicago, that people should know about.  FRIDA (Feminist Response In Disability Activism):

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