I wore my bathing suit once this summer, in late August when I went to visit a friend at her parents' house on the Jersey shore. I blame my failure to launch a more timely Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos on this, as in previous summers I self-consciously pranced around in swimwear, wondering why I looked so "bad" despite my generally healthy weight, earlier and more frequently. Certainly, this summer has had no fewer body image and photoshopping scandals than summers past. But, better late than never, so on this last official day of summer, I ask that people join me in the fight to bring real, untouched photos of women to the blogosphere.
The need for girls and women to see what real women look like in photographs is critical. Every day, we are bombarded with altered images of models who we are pressured to emulate. Since no one - not even the actual models - can achieve these looks, the lack of seeing ourselves in photographs has dangerous physical and psychological effects. As a Wall Street Journal article reported on Sept. 2, 2009, 60% of girls think that they need to be thin to be popular. In the article, my friend Claire Mysko pointed out that, "girls today see body images in ads that are even further from reality. Retouching is rampant." Since studies also show that media images can trigger extreme dieting in girls, it is important for girls - and women - to see pictures of what happy, healthy, unaltered women look like to know what is "normal." ("Normal," of course, including a huge range of sizes and body types.)
In August, Self magazine - a magazine dedicated to healthy living, including eating and exercising, for women - released its September issue. The cover featured a photo of singer Kelly Clarkson. Except that it was a version of Kelly that doesn't exist. The photo was altered to make Clarkson look thinner. Margaret at Jezebel noted that, "Two Self editors have announced their magazine was right to give Kelly Clarkson a slimmer body on their September issue, explaining that covers shouldn't reflect reality, but 'inspire women to want to be their best.'" Uh huh.
The Kelly Clarkson-Self incident was fresh on the brain at In My Hair when she also wrote about a photo showing a model with a belly in Glamour magazine:
In Glamour's September issue you'll find plus-size model Lizzie Miller and her midriff. On page 194, is Miller laughing in her underwear while forgetting to tuck in a charming little paunch.
"The reaction to that one picture has been incredible," Miller said yesterday, speaking over the phone from her fourth-floor apartment in midtown Manhattan.
...Miller said she has received emails and messages on Facebook, including one from a woman who said the picture inspired her to throw away her diet pills and laxatives; and from a man who claimed that only now, after Miller's un-self-conscious image hit newsstands, will his similarly proportioned girlfriend believe him when he tells her she's pretty.
Maybe I'm too emotionally invested in the topic of body image and female self-hatred, but I cried when I read that. For the past two summers, I took a deep breath and posted pictures of myself in bathing suit online. I asked other women to post a picture of themselves in their swimwear to show people that there is not just one way to look; women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes. The responses were great - including this lovely shot of Motherscribe in 2008 and Grace at What if No One's Watching? in 2007.
This year, while thinking about how wonderful it was that so many women joined the Brigade, and about how great Miller's photo is, I decided to go one step further. I have enough problems seeing myself in a one piece swimsuit, although I look just fine. To live up to the challenge that women look great as they are, I took my Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos (deep breath) in a bikini:
And, really, although it is scary to post for the world to see and judge, it's also just fine - nothing to be ashamed of! Still, it would definitely be easier for me to accept how I look if I could regularly see other women posting their pictures, proud of themselves as they are.
Is anyone willing to join me in the 2009 Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos? If so, post your photo on your blog, then leave a comment on this post with the link. Trust me, you'll look great!
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