arvan's picture

Body Image

Image courtesy of All

(I went looking for content on "Body Image" today and found mostly information related to how the media tell women to be skinny, neurotic and attractive.  While I agree that this occurs en masse, I also wanted some information that applied to all gender assignments.  Luckily, I stumbled across this nifty post from the UCLA Student Health & Wellness Center)

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Your perception of how your body looks forms your body image.  Interestingly, a perfectly-toned 20 year old fitness model could have a very poor body image, while an average-shaped 50 year old man or woman could have a great body image.  Regardless of how closely your actual figure resembles your perception, your body image can affect your self-esteem, your eating and exercise behaviors, and your relationships with others.

Read on to learn…

·        What factors influence your body image.

·        Whether or not it’s possible to achieve the “ideal body.”

·        Is the “ideal body” really your key to health, success, beauty, & happiness?

·        What can you do to improve your body image.

Why are so many people unhappy with their bodies?

Size Prejudice

In American culture (and particularly in southern California), there is a lot of emphasis placed on body weight, size, and appearance.  And, we are conditioned from a very young age to believe that self-worth is derived from these external characteristics.  For example, being thin and/or muscular is associated with being “hard-working, successful, popular, beautiful, strong, and self-disciplined.”  On the other hand, being “fat” is associated with being “lazy, ignorant, hated, ugly, weak, and lacking will-power.” These stereotypes are prevalent in our society; and they are reinforced by the media, our family and friends, and even well-respected health professionals.  As a result, we often unfairly judge others and label them based on their weight and size alone.  We feel great anxiety and pressure to achieve and/or maintain a very lean physique.  And, we believe that if we can just be thinner or more muscular, we can be happier, more successful, and more accepted by society. 

The Media

The media sets unrealistic standards for what body weight and appearance is considered “normal.”  Girls are indoctrinated at a very young age that Barbie is how a woman is supposed to look (i.e. no fat anywhere on your body, but huge breasts).  NOTE:  If Barbie were life-size, she would stand 5’9” and weigh 110 lb. (only 76% of what is considered a healthy weight for her height).  Her measurements would be 39-18-33, and she would not menstruate due to inadequate levels of fat on her body.  Similarly, boys are given the impression that men naturally have muscles bulging all over their bodies.  Take a look at their plastic action-figures (like GI Joe Extreme) in toy stores.  If GI Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep.  In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders’. These body ideals are reinforced every day on TV shows, movies, magazine covers, and even video games. At UCLA, where the crowd is young and the warm climate promotes use of revealing clothing, the exaltation and expectation of extreme leanness is even more exaggerated.

And the media’s portrayal of what is “normal” keeps getting thinner and thinner for women and more muscular and ripped for men.  Twenty-five years ago, the average female model weighed 8% less than the average American woman.  Currently, the average female model weighs 23% below her average weight.  Similar trends are seen with men.  The average Playgirl centerfold man has shed about 12 lbs. of fat, while putting on approximately 27 lb. of muscle over the past 25 years.

With these media images and body ideals, it’s little wonder that women and men feel inadequate, ashamed, and dissatisfied with how they look.  Only about 5% of women have the genetic make up to ever achieve the ultra-long and thin model body type so pervasive in the media.  Yet that is the only body type that women see and can compare themselves to.  Similarly, all boys see is a body ideal that for most men is impossible to achieve without illegal anabolic steroids.  There is a physiological limit to how much muscle a man can attain naturally, given his height, frame, and body fat percentage.  Unfortunately, however, the action figure heroes on toy store shelves and male fitness models on magazine covers and ads suggest otherwise.

arvan's picture

When the body is music

(Image courtesy of Crammed Disc and Staff Benda Bilili)

I have been listening for conversations about people with disabilities who are speaking up about their experiences in claiming their own identity on their own terms and not society's.  Empowering organizations, advocacy and rights groups or websites, writers and anyone in between. 

Today, I found a website called The New Internationalist.  I posted a couple things from them already and was happy to add them to my bookmark file.  I was about to leave the site, happy in my previous discoveries, when I stumbled upon something in the 'mixed media' section of the site, that just rocked my world: Staff Benda Bilili. 

There is nothing more beautiful to me than the human spirit, conveyed through music - guided by emotion instead of demographics.  I don't want to buy from the 'record industry' because they found a way to call something 'music' and sell it to me.  I want to feel the industry of a person's life, played out in the space where their body meets the musical instrument or it becomes the instrument.  I don't need to know the language of the song, to hear the soul of the singer. 

arvan's picture

Forbidden fruit: Why shouldn't disabled people have sex or become parents?

From The New Internationalist (issue 233)

Illustration by NANCY WILLIS

Anne Finger examines one of the deepest and most damaging prejudices.

Before she became a paraplegic, Los Angeles resident DeVonna Cervantes liked to dye her pubic hair 'fun colours' - turquoise, purple, jet black. After DeVonna became disabled, a beautician friend of hers came to the rehabilitation unit and, as a Christmas present, dyed DeVonna's pubic hair a hot pink.

But there's no such thing as 'private parts' in a rehab hospital. Soon the staff, who'd seen her dye job when they were catheterizing her, sent the staff psychiatrist around to see her. Cervantes says that he told her: 'I know it is very hard to accept that you have lost your sexuality but you don't need to draw attention to it this way.' Cervantes spent the remainder of the 50-minute session arguing with him, and, in perhaps the only true medical miracle I've ever heard of, convinced him that he was wrong - that this was normal behaviour for her.

arvan's picture

Will designer brains divide humanity?

From: Humanity+, comes this conversation considering the impact that body and brain improvement will have on class division.

New Scientist reports on “a recent Neuroscience in Context meeting in Berlin, Germany, where anthropologists, technologists, neurologists, archaeologists and philosophers met to consider the implications of this next stage of human brain development.”

It won’t be long before “clip-on” computer aids become available for everybody, says Andy Clark, a pro-enhancement philosopher at the University of Edinburgh in the UK. These could be anything from memory aids to the ability to “search” for information stored in your brain. “We’ll get a flowering of brain augmentations, some seeping through from the disabled community…

arvan's picture

SexGenderBody: Home-field Advantage

I recently cross-posted over at my favorite political blog, The Motley Moose.  In the comments, a discussion developed with one or two people lamenting their perception that the topics of sex, gender, body were being 'walled away' here in a separate space, distinct from 'mainstream' conversations.  The concern was that by 'segregating' or distinguishing SGB as separate conversations, a separate space, a separate people, then stereotypes would be strengthened and both the sgb communities and the non-sgb communities would suffer a loss of relatedness.  The commenters did not see any difference between personal identity politics and larger, group identity politics - both are part of the same human experience.

I agree with their concerns completely.  It is their assessment of this site that I wish to clarify. is not a walled community for people to either isolate within or be in any way segregated.  That model is a traditional example of how a community is formed and supported in creating an identity.  This site aims to promote the community of our shared humanity.  Everyone on this planet has a self-definition of their own sex, gender, body.  There is no sub-set, no partition, no 'minority' culture.  We are all human and we all are individual & unique.

Annabelle River's picture

Reflections on puppy play

I originally went hunting for the BDSM community because I knew I wanted more impact play in my life.  But as soon as I starting meeting other kinky people, my world burst forth with possibilities of kinks I'd never heard of to consider.  One of the more intriguing of which was puppy play.

Most practitioners of puppy play feel it as an expression of power play: the submissive puppy and the dominant owner or trainer.  Puppy play also lends itself as an excuse to design and to wear some fabulously imaginative fetish gear, made by top-brand fetish outfitters such as Mr. S (pictured hood), JT's Stockroom (pictured mitts), and Northbound Leather (pictured tail).

But honestly, when I first heard of kinky people pretending to be puppies, my first reaction was a flashback to being a little girl and fighting with other girls who wanted to play "House" but didn't want to let me play the dog.  My grandfather was a veterinarian; my parents brought home my first dog when I was three; and strange dogs greet me enthusiastically as a friend in a way that strange humans don't.  When I was young enough to play make-believe without raising anyone's eyebrows, my closest friends and I spent plenty of time on our hands and knees barking at each other.  For me, it was a lot more fun than pretending that some doll was a baby.  And now, as an adult, my more vivid memories of play-pretend still delight me.

arvan's picture

Now, there's something you don't see everyday...

After reading The Ultimates' primer on swing lifestyle, I got to thinking about shaving.  I don't swing, so this whole conversation about hair was new to me.  I'm  a fairly hairy individual.  Not quite Austin Powers, but my Welsh blood has me wearing a sweater all year long. 

Honestly, I've always been proud of it.  When I was a teen, my hair was among the first signals of my adult body to arrive.  I wasn't the guy that had a full beard in Freshman English, but by Junior year, I had more hair on my chest than my old man. 

In my 20's & 30's, I thought my hair looked pretty good.  Curly, bushy and vibrant.  It was soft and sensual.  I would run my fingers across it on hot summer nights when sleeping on the sheets was the only choice. 

I thought of shaving hair as something for swimmers or openly gay men that were into the pretty boy image.  I saw myself as some sort of hybrid between Burt Reynolds and Che Guevara, thumbing my nose at body-grooming neuroses with bravado in pursuit of the "real (hairy) man" lifestyle.

arvan's picture

I Was A Teenage Sexist Chicken

This post is not about Sexism or Feminism, it is about my experience in talking about them.

I have had several conversations lately about how people engage in debate over sex / gender / body (SGB) identity issues.  I am launching a blog that supports dialogue on those issues and in the communities that they create.  As I frame the terms of the conversations and the goals of the site, I have begun to articulate my view on the structure of dialogue itself.

arvan's picture

Welcome To SexGenderBody

I define my sex, gender, body.  You define yours.

These words summarize the intention of this site.  There are no experts to tell us how to claim or identify our own sex, gender, body (sgb).

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