Last summer, I launched the Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos at BlogHer. I just returned from the beach, where I spent 25% of my time worrying that I looked fat. Yet another magazine cover air brushing scandal coursed through the blogosphere around that time. (See: Women 4 Hope; Susan Wagner and Maria Niles on BlogHer.) It hit a nerve. Why was I so obsessed with looking like a figment of the Beauty Industrial Complex's (BIC) profitable imagination?
Because women are bombarded with unrealistic images of womens (so unrealitic, in fact, that they must be created through Photoshop because not even actual models are that thing, wrinkle-free, or flawlessly complected), we doubt ourselves. We spend hours analyzing ourselves in the mirror. What can we do to hide our love handles or plump up a small bust? Clothes and cosmetics are ways to create our own illusions and hide our "flaws."
So, if there is anything women across the political spectrum have in comment, it is hatred of appearing in public in a bathing suit. There is nowhere to hide when one is decked out for the beach. Every bulge is on display; each dimple of cellulite out there to catch the sunlight. (Or at least this is true for me. Other women may find that their skinny butts leave the suit sagging or a long torso means it barely covers one's chest.) It's hard to feel confident when the constant message we receive is, "You look like crap in your natural form."
To spend so much time pondering what my ass looks like was a disturbing waste of time. I could instead worry about what happens when global warming raises the water levels and there is no beach. Or, I could actually focus on having fun. (Ridiculous, I know!)
The worst part about my obsessing was that I'm closer than ever to the "ideal." I'll never be tall or without hips and a butt, but the reality is that I am at a very healthy weight for my height. By the numbers, I hover at 61 or so inches tall and I weigh 122 pounds. The AMA claps for my BMI. Totally normal and healthy.
However, by Beauty Industrial Complex standards (what we truly seem to measure ourselves by), I am 22 pounds overweight. Approximately two of those pounds are in my arms, and the other 20 "extra" are split between my tummy, lower abdomen, hips, ass, and thighs. Since the AMA does not take out ads with women who look like me to sell healthy lifestyles, I am left comparing myself to women who are a foot taller than I am but weigh the same, not to mention are a decade younger, plus "perfected" by computer software.
What can we do to stop the insanity? The Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos was my modest attempt to fight back. I figured that if women consistently saw pictures of real women - women with bodies reflecting the full range of who we are - we might stop feeling so bad about ourselves. We'd feel normal. At peace. Like we belong. Hell, some might even puff up with pride at our natural beauty.
It was time to lead by example. I took a deep breath, put on my bathing suit, and took a picture. Then I posted it on BlogHer and my personal blog, Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants. If I can do it, so can you!, I challenged the blog world. BlogHers like Birdie Jaworski, Erin Koteki Vest, Laurie, Debra Roby, Laurie, and Angel joined me by posting pictures in the comments to my post or on their own blogs. It was awesome. Everyone looked glorious, no Photoshopping needed.
So, in honor of the start of summer, a time of year many women dread, BlogHer is bringing back the Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos. My picture is posted above, and I hope you will help take back control of women's images by posting one of yourself, too. (And I think my friend Alex's photo of herself and a friend crossing the finish of a triathlon counts, so it does not have to be a bathing suit.) Write a post on your blog, label it Swimsuit Brigade, and link back here through Mr. Linky. Only together can we take down the pernicious unreal standards set by the industry.
Have a great summer feeling comfortable in your own skin!