feminism

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I Stand With Shakesville

Published July 29, 2014 by sleepydumpling

It’s time for us all to break the silence.  It’s time for us to stand up together.

If you haven’t already heard about the harassment and abuse that Liss over at Shakesville is constantly under, please take the time to read her latest post.  Probably best to have read it before you continue reading here.

I am so angry about this.  Both for Liss, because I know how horrible it is to be subjected to abuse and harassment like this, but also because this shit happens time and time and time again to women online and nothing is ever done about it.  I could list hundreds of women I know who have gone through this.  Some of them I like and agree with, some of them I don’t.  It doesn’t matter – women online of all backgrounds and experiences are harassed and bullied and abused simply because they are women and are active online.

Firstly, let me state clearly that I fully stand with Melissa McEwen and Shakesville.  Shakesville has been incredibly important to me for some years now.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything over there, nor am I interested in every single post.  Because despite the abusers portraying people who read/follow/participate on Shakesville as some kind of clueless fool or victim, I’m a grown adult with a brain who can read and decide which posts are of value to me, and which I leave to other people who get something out of them.  Liss’s work at Shakesville, and that of her contributors and moderators, has been integral in both educating me and giving me food for thought to be able to make up my own mind on so many topics.  It has also been vital in building my self esteem as a fat woman, to hear Liss and others talk about their experiences, many of which I can truly identify with.  I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for years of reading Shakesville.  Not to mention that I have been directed to and met many other amazing writers and activists via Shakesville, be it by links in posts, guest posts or other commenters.

I have always felt safe when commenting on Shakesville.  Even when I disagree with something.  I know that over there, there is a dedicated team who keep the space free of bullying and work very hard to keep threads on topic and respectful.  That is a very rare environment for a woman online, believe me.

But I’ve also felt challenged by the writing over on Shakesville.  It makes me think.  Makes me ask questions of myself and others.  It’s good to be intellectually challenged about things.  It’s good to have your ideology tested regularly.  Sometimes I disagree with someone on a topic, and that’s OK.  I can choose to not read it at any time, to skip posts or give up altogether.  Mind you, nothing about Shakesville has made me feel like I needed to walk away from reading it, even when I have disagreed or been disinterested.  I like the mature, passionate, intelligent voices I am presented there.  I like that I can rely on the comments not to descend into hatred, attacks and insults.  It has inspired how I try to keep my comment policy.

Personally speaking, I am glad to have met Liss online.  She is whip-smart, funny, passionate and articulate.  She is also kind and thoughtful.  She shows she cares so often when others remain silent.  She has cute pets that make me smile and I enjoy her selfies and other photos she shares.  Even though we’ve never met in person, and we don’t talk as often as I might with other folk I know and am closer to online, I consider her a friend.  And I’m angry that a friend has been subjected to the abuse that she has.

I know this is going to draw me more harassment and abuse, because this is the way these people operate – they attempt to silence anyone who supports their target so that they isolate her further.  That is their objective – our silence.  They’re not going to get it from me.  I’m already harassed daily by those who want my silence, and even when I am not active online they come after me.  I long for people to stand with me and support me in the face of the harassment and abuse I receive, and it’s the right thing to do to stand by Liss in the face of hers.

I am no stranger to online abuse and harassment myself.

A couple of years ago I attempted to start an online magazine for marginalised women in the wake of yet another horrible example of “women’s media” being harmful to marginalised women.  Within 48 hours I was harassed, abused and bullied relentlessly, as were those who supported the project, until I had to pull the plug on it because I could not protect the very women I was aiming to give space to.  Most of it over a typo.

Daily I open my email to find hate mail telling me to kill myself, that I’m disgusting, that I am dirty, smelly, diseased and dying.  Emails describing how they’re going to rape me, beat me or murder me.  Another favourite method is to describe how someone horrible is going to rape/murder me – they delight in either creating fictional creeps/murderers/rapists or describing known ones.  Alternatively they love to describe how not even the most disgusting, creepy man on earth would touch me.

Someone was ringing my home phone regularly and laughing down the line at me or on to my voice mail, or calling me a cunt/fat slut/bitch/etc until I unplugged my phone since I wasn’t using it anyway.  I have come home to find notes stuck in my mailbox that simply point out that they know I where I live.  I have received my own address emailed to me by fake email addresses.  I have had my employer contacted by someone who demanded they demote me because they believed I wasn’t qualified enough.  I have had my work contact numbers and addresses given to hundreds of weight loss businesses, diabetes clinics and gyms/personal trainers, so that I was inundated with these businesses contacting me at work following up on what they thought was my genuine interest in their business, wasting their time, my employers and mine.

They’ve created fake social media profiles of me.  They create social media profiles just to harass me, so that no matter how many I block, they just create another one.  They leave anonymous hate on all of my social media profiles.  They email or message me gross pornography and gore.

There are pages and pages and pages of hate filled screed online about me.  I see them linked to this blog, and people sometimes send them to me out of wanting to help (it doesn’t), and sometimes the authors of this bullshit send it to me themselves, just to goad me.  There are pages discussing my hair, dissecting every little thing about it to ridicule me.  They speculate over how often I wash it and what with, what brand colour I use on it and what technique I use to colour it.  There are people who keep dossiers my online mentions of food.  Others save/download every photograph of me that is online and then deface them.  There are pages discussing my health, and dissecting photographs of me to try to find outward evidence of Type 2 Diabetes (I have it, have never hidden that).  They discuss whether or not I have pain or illnesses, rubbing their hands in glee when they think I do.

They look for mentions of my family and friends and colleagues, and try to make me believe that nobody likes me, that everyone is laughing at me behind my back, that I am alone and unloved.

Generally they just find every way to try to abuse or harass me they can.  The saddest thing is that I am just one of multitudes of women online, some of whom suffer far, far more disgusting abuse.  The objective is to drive us off the internet.  There is even a fucking website devoted to driving people off the internet, with users referring to it as “my internet”, as though they have some right to it that they can decide others don’t.  Silencing people with abuse and harassment is not criticism or disagreement.  It’s bullying.  Instead of behaving like a decent human being and just turning their back on the person they’ve decided they hate and not reading their work or visiting their website, they make it their mission to drive them away altogether.  Not content with making them unwelcome in their spaces online, they are determined to drive them out of ALL spaces online.

The truth of it is that as strong and courageous as any woman is, this constant abuse and harassment DOES cost us.  It costs us our freedom, our voice, our peace of mind and our emotional wellbeing.  It costs us relationships with people who cannot understand what it is like to be constantly abused and harassed, and with those afraid to be subjected to that abuse and harassment by association with us.  It costs us actual money to mitigate the very real dangers we face.  It costs us money in security for our homes, safe transport when we feel we cannot use public transport or travel alone safely, in software and services to block and filter and screen the abuse and attacks.  For some it costs their careers and access to education. But worst of all it costs us our physical safety.

I know exactly what is going to happen.  People are going to make excuses for the behaviour of these abusers and harassers.  They will suggest that women just ignore it, or don’t go online.  There will be those that suggest that Liss and I and other women bring it upon ourselves because we are so “opinionated”.  Others will say that we cannot take criticism – as though these things are not at all abuse and harassment. Criticism is “I disagree with you because…” or “I find the way you handled this problematic because…”  It’s not rape and death threats, stalking, harassment, name-calling, keeping dossiers and trying to silence someone.

They’ll say “Oh these are just sad losers on the internet.” as though they do no harm, or only harm themselves.  Or those around us will just stay silent.   They’ll read this or Liss’s piece, or any of the other examples of it that are written by the incredible strong, courageous women who put themselves online and they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say, “What can I do?”

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

It’s time for everyone to stand up and clearly state that the abuse of women online is unacceptable in any form.  Not just to make it clear to the perpetrators that their time is coming to an end and that they will not be permitted to continue this behaviour, but to show support to those who suffer at the hands of these abusers.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Published March 8, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Yes, March 8th is International Women’s Day, and to celebrate/acknowledge it, I’d like to talk about just how life has changed for me as a woman, and with women over the years.

IWD

All my life, I felt like I wasn’t “girlie” enough.  When I was small it was because I was poor and didn’t have the pretty clothes and things that other girls had, and because I was repeatedly told I was fat.  I felt like being a girl was a competition, and because I couldn’t compete, I wasn’t “girlie”.  Then along came puberty and I really did become fat.  Add hairy and spotty into the equation, that made me feel like I had even less of a right to girlhood.  As I passed through my teens and into adulthood, I still believed that because I didn’t fit what the media, my family, and men in general told me a woman should be, I still didn’t feel like I belonged to womanhood.

My response to that was to internalise misogyny.  I started to tell myself that “I’m not like other girls” and consequently I couldn’t be friends with women or girls.  I surrounded myself with male friends, denounced anything that read as “feminine”, shaved my head and wore big clunky boots and a lot of flannel.  I thought if I couldn’t “compete” with women, I didn’t want to be like one.

You see that’s what misogyny is.  It’s the myth of “femininity”.  The myth that womanhood fits one narrow band of features and behaviours, and that womanhood is a competition between the female of our species to appeal to male of our species, and only those that “win” the attention of men are allowed to consider themselves “feminine”.  Femininity is measured by how pleasing a woman is to men – by her appearance, her voice, her behaviour and her sexual availability.

Not to mention that fat women are so othered by society in so many ways that rob them of the things that are supposed to mark femininity – society sets the standards of femininity and then denies them to fat women.  When you cannot buy the clothes that are considered acceptable, when you are not seen represented by marketing and the media, when you are treated as sub-human, you cannot participate in society as a peer.  When you are led to believe that life is a competition, and that you are not a peer of the population in general, you tend to opt out.

There is no wonder that so many fat women (as well as other marginalised women) internalise the misogyny that is continually poured on us.

But for me, somewhere about the same time as fat liberation, I found feminism.  I started to question the way women are treated in our culture, and I started to see just how girls and women are forced into competition with each other to prove this thing called “femininity”, to prove their worthiness as human beings.  I learned to value myself not only as a woman, but as a fat woman.  I learned that girlhood and womanhood are far more diverse than society leads us to believe, and that there are no hard and fast rules about what makes a woman a woman.

I also began to see just how badly many of the men in my life, those who I believed were my friends, were treating me.  I began to recognise just how many of them dismissed my opinion, ridiculed my feelings, refused to respect my physical boundaries and generally just treated me with disrespect.  I finally put an end to the friendship with the man who was supposed to be my best friend, but had been repeatedly sexually assaulting me for the entire span of our 15 year friendship – assault which I had been groomed to believe was my fault and that I deserved it, and that I was silly for feeling uncomfortable and upset about.  I began to expect better of the men in my life.  Which meant that many of the ones I already had in my life either left or had to be removed, but it meant that there was room in my life for good men (y’all know who you are fellas) who treat me with respect.  The men I have in my life these days are amazing, and I’m honoured to know them.

Another factor that changed for me on discovering feminism and fat activism is that I’ve enjoyed participating in things that are coded as “feminine”, where I did not before.  I wear dresses.  I love anything pink.  I enjoy having my nails done and growing my hair long so that I can pin flowers and bows in it.  These things are not any indicator of womanhood, but are things usually denied to women who are seen as unacceptable.  It’s nice to have the option to participate in things that are seen as traditionally feminine.

That doesn’t mean you have to perform “femininity” to be a woman, after all “femininity” is a social construct.   What  it means is that you give yourself permission to enjoy those things that are coded as feminine regardless of whether you fit society’s narrow definitions of womanhood.

I’ve realised that how others judge me is not indicative of my womanhood.  My womanhood is my identity, not for others to bestow upon me if they deem me worthy.

However the greatest benefit of feminism and fat activism for me has been the discovery that now that I don’t feel in any way competitive towards other women, I’ve discovered I really like women.  I’ve made far more women friends and they in turn have enriched my life in more ways than I can express.  I enjoy the company of other women immensely and found that we have more in common than we have in difference.

So this is for you, all of the women in my life, all of the women who read my blog and all of the women who have been convinced by others that they’re not good enough, not “feminine” enough, that they don’t belong to womanhood.  YOU determine your womanhood, not others.

Here’s to the women of the world.  May you see your own value.

Stuff I Dig Volume 1

Published October 13, 2013 by sleepydumpling

As part of trying to get back into the swing of things, I’ve decided to attempt to do a semi-regular post of things that I find online that I really dig.  Be it interesting articles, fatshion, artworks, things that make me laugh.  A kind of potted view of the things I post all over the internet, be it Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or anywhere else I lurk about.  It gives me a chance to signal boost some cool stuff, and to talk about the things I dig with you all.  Sometimes it might have a method or layout, other times it might just be a hotch potch of stuff.

I really encourage  you to share stuff in the comments that you’ve been interested in, but please keep it to positive stuff – no posting some shitty journalist hating on fat people, or any other douchenozzle behaving badly.  Let’s not give those people the signal boost.  Though thoughtful and kick arse responses to douchecanoes are welcome!

So, let me see, what have I been into lately…

Fat Activism

Gradient Lair on Thin Privilege and Intersectionality

A powerful piece from Rebecca Shaw on coming out as fat.

Kyla the Great’s tips on dealing with haters and harassers.

My favourite piece of the past few days, Elizabeth Tamny on the visibility of fat people and THAT Elle cover with Melissa McCarthy.

Caitlin Seida writes about how her photograph was stolen online and set upon by Reddit trolls.

Fatshion Inspiration

My lovely friend Bek, she of Colourful Curves, wrote an excellent guest post on Suger Coat It on how to do fatshion on a budget.

Check out these amazing paua shell look nails by karengnails:

paua nails

Here’s Jodie of Fat Additives looking as fierce as fuck in Autograph:

fat additives

I made such a noise of awe when I saw this photograph of Leah from Sweet Tea Kisses:

sweet tea kisses

I loved this post from Maiya Mayhem on fashion rules for fat girls:

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Feminism

I love this piece by Laurie Penny on the idea that feminism needs re-branding.

Skepchick on why she doesn’t go to the police when she is on the receiving end of online threats and harassment.

A Good Cause

You know how hard it is to find a decent bra?  Well, some women have it way, way harder than we do.  And we can help them by sending them bras in pretty much any condition (yep, they need them that bad!)   So you know those bras you have kicking around that have a broken underwire, or don’t fit you?  Send them along to the Uplift Project.

Cuteness

Hear the mighty lion roar!

If you follow me on Tumblr at all, you know that I am totally besotted with Tom Hiddleston.  I mean look at how pretty he is:

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hiddles 2

No really, he’s delicious.  Look, here he is practicing swordplay for the upcoming production of Coriolanus (which I have tickets to a broadcast of!)

Nipples!

Nipples!

Food

Look at how gorgeous this polka dotted cake is!

polka dotted cake

Laughs

Read the reviews on these sugar free gummi bears.  Maybe don’t read them in public (or at the office lunch table like I did – I got stares!)

Jess of Ghost of Enid has done this brilliant set of Tony Abbott: Minister for Women posters.  Political statements are so effective when infused with humour.  Here’s an example:

minister for women

And here’s Kermit the Frog doing his take on Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”:

wrecking ball

Other Fab Stuff

Does anyone want to buy me a house?  I mean look at this library:

dream library

Music

Let me finish with the most kick arse girl band you will see in a long, long time.  You need to watch to at least 2 minutes in to get the full benefit.

My Fat Body is ME

Published October 23, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Earlier today this post raced through my online networks like a brush fire.  With good reason, it’s an excellent piece that really lays out how fat hate has permeated so many people’s attitudes, and makes clear reasons why people need to think about what they are saying and what kind of stigma they are placing on the shoulders of fat people.

But, as is always the way with these pieces, the comments kick off with someone who simply doesn’t get it and makes the situation worse.  This person, who calls themselves a feminist (yeah right, as Flavia Dzodan says, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit) says:

But I’m also a public health scholar. I’m doing my Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health. Obesity is a chronic disease that we talk about in nearly every class. We talk about markers for childhood obesity, what leads to adult obesity, and how to curb this epidemic.

The comment does go on further and she argues with several people who call her out on this fat hating crap.  You can go and look at it if you like, the link is up there in the first sentence.  You can see how spectacularly she misses the entire point of the piece for yourself if you like.

I won’t go into the ableism and classism of the attitudes of people like the commenter here, as they both deserve posts of their own.  What I want to do tonight is address the attitude that “obesity is a chronic disease” and that we need to “curb this epidemic”. *cough* eugenics *cough*

Not about how this is complete and utter bullshit that other people have busted more eloquently and thoroughly than I could ever do, but how people like this woman are so fucking blind to the hate that they spew.  I mean, this bigot has just compared fatness (I refuse to use the word obesity to describe our fat bodies – same goes to any other medicalised word to describe physical size) to “cancer and heart disease and communicable diseases”.  I shit you not.  How anyone can fail to see this as hatred is beyond me.

Let’s break it down with some statements…

  • My fat body is not diseased.
  • I do not have/suffer obesity.  I am a fat person.
  • I am not a diseased person because I am fat.
  • My fat body is not something to be prevented, cured or eradicated.
  • I do not need anyone, be they organisation, company or individual to try to rid me of my body.
  • My fat flesh is part of me, it is not some parasite to be excised.
  • My fat flesh is not a virus to be vaccinated against, it is my body.
  • I will never again give anyone the power of starving my fat off my body, with absolutely no regard to the damage the methods of starvation cause on my body long term.
  • I will never again allow anyone to force me to apologise for my body.
  • I will never again kneel in subjugation to those who feel they are superior to me because of my fat body.
  • My fat body is not a contagion to be quarantined from “decent” society.
  • My fat body is not an affliction, a blight on humanity.
  • My fat body is not a mark of shame, or an indicator of failure.
  • My fat body is not a communicable disease, nor is it a cancer.
  • My fat body is ME and I have a right to live my life without vilification and stigma.

Anyone who seriously believes that fat bodies are any of the things above or that fat people have a debt to humanity to starve or punish themselves to meet other people’s aesthetic standards is a fat hating bigot.  It’s time we stopped dancing around the subject and named them for what they are.  No one of us has to be polite or respectful to people who believe that we are lesser than others because of the size, shape, ability and function of our bodies.  We don’t have to justify our existence, our happiness, our peace, our dignity to ANYONE on this earth.

It’s time we cut the crap with the whole “agreeing to disagree” rubbish and allowing people to be “entitled to their opinions”.  No, I don’t have to agree to anything with a person who treats me as sub-human.  Nobody is entitled to an opinion that vilifies and stigmatises another human being.  Our rights as human beings get priority over opinion, every single time.

To All the Lionesses of the World

Published April 8, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Bit of housekeeping first – I’m in today’s Sun Herald (Sydney), an interview I did back in January about fat activism and living in a fat body.  Take a look!

Anyhoo…

A friend posted this article to Facebook recently and it has got me thinking about what my aims and methods are as a feminist and fat activist.  I don’t agree with everything the writer of the article stands for (bringing “love and light” to the world – yeah, I’m more looking for fairness, respect and equity, not a big old hug fest where everyone gets along all rosy, and the whole “warrior princess” thing makes me want to barf) but I did connect with her perspective on feminism not being about “winning” – it’s not a zero sum game – that building up basic human rights for women (and fat people) is not about winning over men (or thin people), it’s not going to reduce anyone else’s rights to expand ours.  There’s enough space in the world for all of us to have our basic human rights met without one group or another losing theirs.

Pieces like this make me think further about where I fit in the world, where my “place” is.  Particularly as so often people are out to “put me in my place” because they’ve decided that I am somehow out of it.  Either because I’m a woman who doesn’t apologise for her emotions, or sit quietly when other people (ie men) want to speak, or because I’m a fat woman, who refuses to be ashamed of her fat body.  There is always someone attempting to “take me down a peg or two”, “put me in my place”, or “remind me not to get too big for my boots.”

Well, I say, if I’m too big for my boots, it’s time to get a new pair of boots.

I really believe that the world won’t be changed by tapping the people in power and privilege on the shoulder and whispering “excuse me” in a small, polite voice.  Not at all.  We need to raise our voices, get bolshy and if nobody takes notice, start metaphorically shoving our way through.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I have had people denounce feminism to me, saying that women who fight for their basic rights need to moderate themselves in some way.  Be more polite, don’t get angry, don’t put men down, don’t hate men, don’t be so extremist.  As if somehow, demanding that women be treated as human beings and be allowed to have complete autonomy over their own bodies is extreme!  Or that it is somehow denigrating, hateful or damaging to men!

My pet hate is when people (particularly women) say “I’m not feminist, I’m equalist.”  Sometimes they misuse the word “humanist” to mean the same thing as “equalist”.  This is more internalised misogyny, that need to be polite, pleasant and “fair” to men so that they don’t feel threatened by women demanding to be treated as human beings.  Again, as though fighting for women’s rights would be directly removing rights from men – which is a complete fallacy.  This shaming of feminism, as if it’s somehow harmful or unreasonable, is carefully nurtured by those who are against women having autonomy over their bodies and lives, and those seeds are sown in the minds of women so that they remain compliant and work to police other women.

I believe that the constant calls for women to be “moderate, to “settle down”, and “don’t get so emotional/angry” and “don’t be so extreme” are just deeply ingrained misogynistic messages that tell women we are not worthy of being heard, that displaying emotion (especially anger) is somehow shameful or wrong, and that it is “extreme” to expect women to be treated as human beings.

Not to mention that any display of emotion from women other than smiling compliance is seen as anger.  If you set boundaries, express passion or dedication, or even just disagree with someone, it’s labelled as “angry”.  Firstly, women have many emotions, all of them nuanced and unique.  And secondly, so WHAT if a woman is angry about the injustices towards women in general?  We SHOULD be angry at the way women are treated all over the world.  We should be angry that we are not allowed to decide what we do with our own bodies.  We should be angry that generally women are paid less than men when they do the same work.  We should be angry that our bodies are considered public property, to be groped, probed, raped and examined without our consent.  We should be angry that women who are from further marginalised groups, be they fat, women of colour, women with disabilities, trans*, poor or any other marginalised groups, are even further oppressed than women with privilege.  We should be angry that around the world, girl babies are murdered just because of their gender, “culled” because they are seen as a burden.  We should be angry that women are used as punching bags for the frustrations of some men.

I ask – knowing what is happening to women of the world – why AREN’T you angry?

Get angry.  Show emotion.  Argue.  Speak up.  Demand better.

We won’t change the world by purring prettily, or mewing in mild protest.  We’ll change it by roaring.  After all, both lions and lionesses roar.

Where’s your roar?

American Apparel Marketing and the Objectification of Women

Published December 4, 2010 by sleepydumpling

*Heads up:  This post is going to have several photographs of women in little to no clothing, in poses that may represent sexual acts.  If you feel you may find these photographs offensive, triggering or upsetting, please do not continue reading this post.  This post also may not be considered safe for work, children or your Grandma.  Come back and have a look when you’re at home/they’re not watching.

I need to write the post that others failed when they wrote about American Apparel’s marketing and promotions.  It’s been a big week for me, with another big week coming, and I wasn’t sure I would have the spoons to blog about this topic yet, but I can’t leave it alone.

I won’t link to other posts.  You really don’t need to read them, they’re full of slut shaming (the misogynistic  judgement of women for having/displaying any sexuality), denial of female sexuality and general loathing towards women who they deem outside the “nice girl” box.  There is the use of words like slutification, pornification and sexualisation.  All of which conflate female sexuality with objectification, which is not helpful at all in taking on the negative stereotypes of women that are perpetuated in marketing and media.  Plus there is a rather massive dose of bullying and mean girl behaviour going on with most of them too.

Instead, I want to talk about American Apparel and the objectification of women that they perpetuate with their marketing.

I don’t know if any of you have seen any of American Apparel’s marketing.  Here’s an example:

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Now American Apparel make a whole bunch of Lycra/Spandex/Elastane stuff that you would consider as dance wear, gym wear, sports wear etc.  So yeah, it’s the kind of thing you expect to see dancers in, and it’s body fitting, because that’s what those kinds of garments are meant to do.  Tights, leotards, socks and similar things aren’t meant to be baggy and body hiding.

However, American Apparel seem to really think that women should always be presented in sexual positions in their marketing.  Legs open, bent over with bared buttocks, sexually available and open.  Often you won’t see the woman’s face, but if you do, she’s expressionless, vacant, compliant, submissive.  There is often alcohol involved which to me implies a removal of control from the women depicted as well.  Often the female models are splayed out in beds, sometimes with other clothing partially removed or yanked down to expose buttocks and genital areas.  Here are a few more examples:

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Very provocative stuff, as you can see.  Women in American Apparel marketing are treated as objects, laid out and available for the viewer to have whatever they like of them.

I’m not sure who this is marketing too.  Is it the women who would wear these items of clothing?  Would they respond favourably to this kind of imagery and go out and buy these products?  Or are the marketing images aimed at someone else?  Are they designed to create buzz in their controversy?

If you do a Google Image search for American Apparel, you will find they also sell men’s garments too, as well as some children’s pieces.  I noticed that the imagery for men and children are far, far less objectified than those for women.  The male models chosen always seem to be older looking than the women they use for their marketing too.  And they seem to opt for white men and children yet with a lot of the marketing images of women, they choose a high proportion of very young looking Asian and Latin American women.

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Personally I find the objectification of women in American Apparel’s marketing highly offensive.  Women are almost always shown in their images with either their legs spread or on all fours, regularly headless or at least expressionless.  Cameras are focused on genitals or the buttocks, even when the model’s face appears in the photograph.  The models are presented like sex dolls, completely devoid of any humanity in most cases.  Women are treated as objects for the gratification of others, rather than as human beings or of having emotions, thoughts, or intelligence of their own.  This is not about the sexualisation of women, it’s actually about a woman’s sexuality being removed from her, and her being nothing more than an object to be used.

In fact, American Apparel make it very clear that they don’t want a whole person when it comes to women.  They only want body parts:

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As you can see – they only want your backside, or there’s some breast there that they are willing to accept as well.

American Apparel’s marketing is very much aimed at young people.  It sends the message to the young people who view these marketing images that women are nothing more than parts to be used, ogled, spread out.  It’s not about the women in the ads being “slutty” or pornographic, it’s about the removal of humanity from the female subjects in the marketing.

Don’t buy from American Apparel.  Tell your friends and family not to buy from American Apparel.  Tell American Apparel that their marketing is offensive and unacceptable.  But don’t attach terms like slut, porn or sexuality to these marketing images.  They are dehumanised and objectified, not sexualised/slutified/pornified.

*Dr Samantha Thomas has also posted a great piece about the concept of “slutification”.  It’s well worth reading, go here to read it.

Lynx Still Stynx – So Do Unilever

Published October 3, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Well, well, well.  I got a response from Unilever regarding my complaint to them about their Lynx Lodge campaign.  Brace yourselves for some of the worst correspondence to a customer complaint that you are likely to see:

Dear Kath

Thank you for your feedback and the opportunity to address your concerns regarding our marketing activations.

While acknowledging the raised points I would like to take the opportunity to outline Unilever¿s practice standards regarding the marketing activities involving our products:

¿We take marketing responsibilities very seriously and are committed to responsible marketing
¿In all cases we follow the regulatory guidelines, while being respectful of differing views, and taking care not to offend.
¿Unilever adopted a global guideline to prevent the use of ‘size zero’ models or actors in its advertising to ensure that our advertising does not promote ‘unhealthy’ slimness.
¿We follow explicit guidelines about direct advertising to young children.

Unilever has a wide portfolio of everyday consumer brands, offering products to consumers that address different needs. Each of our brands talks to its target consumers in a way that is relevant and that communicates the brand¿s own unique proposition. Sometimes that proposition is serious and informative; at other times it is light-hearted and amusing.

Lynx communicates to its consumers through a series of light-hearted and tongue-in-check advertisements that feature fantasy situations that rarely happen for guys in the real world. Lynx strives to create marketing campaigns and promotions that make women laugh as much as men, and the women featured in our advertising are always in on the joke.

The campaign for Lynx aims to build the confidence of young men. For Lynx, it is about the ¿Lynx effect¿ ¿ the boost that using Lynx can give to the confidence of young men that often find themselves daunted by the dating game.

We do take the concerns of consumers very seriously and thank you for your feedback.

Again, we apologise for any offence caused and thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Sue Connolly
Consumer Relations Consultant
http://www.unilever.com.au

Where do I start?  I would start with the weird punctuation and spelling (I’ve left it in) but that wouldn’t be fair.  Let’s start with the “practice standards”:

¿We take marketing responsibilities very seriously and are committed to responsible marketing

So portraying women as subservient toys waiting with nothing to do until the men arrive at Lynx Lodge is responsible marketing?  So offering a “campaign for real beauty”, and a “self esteem fund” for women through one range of products absolves Unilever of any irresponsible behaviour in their other ranges?

¿In all cases we follow the regulatory guidelines, while being respectful of differing views, and taking care not to offend.

I am offended.  Dozens of other women are offended.  Do you care Unilever?  Or are you bothered that people are offended, not that you’ve done something to offend them?  The last sentence is a clear indicator of that:

Again, we apologise for any offence caused and thank you for taking the time to contact us.

You apologise for any offense but what are you doing to rectify the situation?

¿Unilever adopted a global guideline to prevent the use of ‘size zero’ models or actors in its advertising to ensure that our advertising does not promote ‘unhealthy’ slimness.

Ok so you don’t use size zero models, but you’re more than happy to use any other size models to objectify women to peddle a cheap deodorant?

How about the rest of the letter.  Here’s a fun sentence for you:

Lynx communicates to its consumers through a series of light-hearted and tongue-in-check advertisements that feature fantasy situations that rarely happen for guys in the real world.

But does the objectification rarely happen for women in the real world Unilever?  Are women just supposed to “suck it up” so that you can give those poor guys a bit of fantasy?  How about creating a fantasy situation that rarely happens for women in the real world?  One where women aren’t expected to be man pleasers just because the guys might need it.

And then comes the Pièce de résistance:

The campaign for Lynx aims to build the confidence of young men. For Lynx, it is about the ¿Lynx effect¿ ¿ the boost that using Lynx can give to the confidence of young men that often find themselves daunted by the dating game.

Do they Sue Connolly?  How daunted do you think women feel by the dating game when young men are told in advertising campaigns from Unilever that they can have “The Lynx Lodge kitchen staff (a heavily photoshopped young woman in a cleavage-baring chef outfit) will effortlessly whip up a barbecue platter, hearty burger or blood-red steak on request.”?  In the bedroom of Lynx Lodge, two girls dressed in maid outfits pillowfight while the page says “After fluffing your pillows, Lodge staff will tuck you in and prepare you for sweet dreams.”

I’m sure young women must be SO excited to jump into the dating game with guys who have had their confidence built by the advertising of Lynx brand.

I won’t link back to the Lynx Lodge website, they don’t need the hits.  Needless to say, there is now a link that says “Watch the Ad too hot for YouTube” that wasn’t there when I wrote the earlier blog post.

And fellas?  I think you should be asking Unilever just what they think of you as intelligent human beings if they feel that you’re going to rush out to buy their product just to get yourselves dates.  I personally like to believe that most men are a whole lot more intelligent and streetwise than that – it’s a pity that Unilever don’t seem to hold the same high opinion of their male customers.

Let’s tie it back to the work Unilever are supposedly doing on body image and self esteem.  Do Unilever really think that any messages (and they’re problematic) that women and girls receive from their Dove campaigns are not at all affected by those that they put out via the Lynx brand?  Do they think that women just turn off the television in an ad break when the Lynx ad comes on?  Or close the magazine?  Perhaps they think that women just have blinkers and can’t see advertising that’s not intended for them.  Don’t look girls, this is men’s business.

Do Unilever believe that there is no way to advertise to young men, to build their confidence up than at the expense of young women?  Do unilever really think that their male customers are so simple and one dimensional?

Not good enough Unilever.  I know you sent out the exact same letter to other customers who contacted you as well (I saw two on Twitter and another on Facebook within a day of getting mine).  Your customers deserve better.

I encourage you, my readers, to not purchase anything from Unilever where possible.  Here’s a link to the brands that Unilever own.  These include:

Lynx, Dove, Sunsilk, Rexona, Bertolli, Bushells, Continental, Flora, Lipton, Raguletto, Streets, Lan-Choo, Domestos, Drive, Jif, OMO, Persil, Surf, Impulse, Lux, Lifebuoy, Lux, Pears, Vaseline.

There others but these are the ones I pulled off their website quickly.

I’m going to send this post to Sue Connolly in a day or so, so please, post in the comments below, share with your friends and better still, contact Unilever yourself, here is the link.

Lynx Really Does Stink! (So Does Woolworths)

Published September 27, 2010 by sleepydumpling

A lightning quick post tonight.  I’ve just read this piece on Melinda Tankard Reist’s blog about the current competition campaign from Unilever for the Lynx men’s deoderant brand.

Basically the competition reads like it’s a chance for men to win a holiday in a brothel, where women are served up for their pleasure, in a distinctly pornographic manner.

I find it incredibly offensive that in one of their campaigns, for their brand Dove, they push the body image message with their “Campaign for Real Beauty”, supposedly a positive campaign for women, but with their Lynx brand, they’re using the objectification of women as subservient man-pleasers with no other value than their sex to peddle cheap deodorant and body wash.

To really rub salt into the wound, this campaign is being supported and promoted by Woolworths supermarkets.  A company that purports to:

“recognises we have a high level of social responsibility, and we take these responsibilities seriously”

as well as:

As a member of those communities we understand that we have a duty to be more than just a retail outlet, but to also make a positive impact on the societies that we serve. We work to the principle that we can never take our customers for granted – we need to earn their trust and respect and this means acting responsibly both inside and outside our stores.

If you find this campaign as offensive and misogynistic as I do, please take the time to contact Woolworths and Unilever (I used the Dove contact page) and tell them very clearly that this campaign is unacceptable.  If you blog or use social media, share the web links as much as you can and ask your friends and family to contact Woolworths and Unilever as well.  If you can, and I realise not everyone has the luxury of choice, buy your groceries elsewhere too, until they pull this campaign.

On Women and Enjoyment

Published September 19, 2010 by sleepydumpling

It was a small comment on this great post by meowser on Fat Fu that set a lightbulb off in my mind.  While talking about food shaming, this really jumped out at me:

Seriously. I will never be able to understand how the same women who (rightly) opine that women should have the right to drink like men frequently balk at the idea that women should be allowed to eat like men. Sure, you can inhale a thousand calories’ worth of Cosmopolitans or Coronas and fall off your barstool and that’s badass righteous, but gods forbid you should indulge in a cheeseburger. On a bun made with white flour. With fries. And a full-sugar soft drink. (You food slut, you.)

The emphasis is mine.

That’s what this is all about isn’t it?  That’s what the objection to fat women really boils down to.  The perception that women who are fat, must eat a lot, so therefore they are food sluts.  Because if a woman enjoys ANYTHING, be it food, sex,  shopping, alcohol, working, you name it, then she must be enjoying it to excess, be gluttonous, addicted, enslaved by her enjoyment, and by extension, a slut.

Of course, feminism steps up for most of these things, and says that women should be able to enjoy things as much as men, but as Meowser rightly says, often not when it comes to food.  The slut shaming is still there, only it’s not sex or drinking and so on, it’s food.  Because so many people believe, and some of those people are feminists, that fat is still the most disgusting vice that one can have.

The idea that women enjoying anything, regardless of how much they are enjoying it, is somehow un-ladylike is antiquated and offensive.  Surely we’ve moved past the age where women were expected to be “dainty” about everything in their lives?  We’re not allowed to please ourselves in any way, instead women are expected to be pleasing to others.  And it’s not just men.  A lot of the most hateful vitriol that women suffer comes from other women.  The piece that Meowser is responding to in her blog post is by a woman who calls herself a feminist, published on Feministe.  It was really disheartening to read this from a feminist, when it’s hard enough fighting the narrow minded expectations of misogynists, without having to deal with it from within our own sphere.

Until we can shift the thinking that women enjoying themselves in any way is somehow un-ladylike and unfeminine, we’re still going to be oppressed as a gender.  It doesn’t matter if it’s sex, or food, or anything else – slut shaming is still slut shaming.

While women are forced to feel guilt for what they eat (or what they are perceived to be eating by their body shape/size), they’re not free to be equal human beings, and disordered behaviours and damaged body image will run rife.

Valuable

Published September 5, 2010 by sleepydumpling

It has happened again, I’ve been inspired to blog by another fabulous Fat Acceptance writer.  There are some amazing writers out there, and they just get me thinking and writing so effectively.

In particular, this post by the lovely Jessica of Tangled Up In Lace, who as well as providing a great blog, has one of the most fabulous Tumblr’s in existence.  I reblog more of her stuff on Tumblr than anyone else.

Anyway, back to the post of Jessica’s that has inspired this post.  Jessica shares an experience in her post of being duped into attending an event by being given sketchy and misleading information.  She and her friend turned up to what they were led to believe was a fat positive pinup modelling shoot, but turned out to be an event to promote a porn website and BBW (big, beautiful woman) nightclub.  She goes on to give her thoughts about fat admiration and the BBW concept, which then segues into thoughts on feederism.

I get quite angry when I find people using Fat Acceptance and Fat Admiration/BBW as interchangeable concepts.  Please understand, I don’t have any issues with fat admiration, or the BBW culture per se, but I don’t believe it is right to equate the two as being Fat Acceptance.

To me, Fat Acceptance is a social justice movement.  It’s about ending prejudice and bigotry, about pride, respect, dignity and inclusion.  To have that broken down to a mere vehicle for sexual attraction diminishes the importance of what FA activists and advocates are doing to a mere “Hey I’m hot too.”  Yes, fat admiration and the BBW culture is often a very effective way to raise ones self esteem, and strong self esteem is at the very core of FA, but to break it down to merely promoting fat being sexy undermines the power of being included and respected in society as the fat people we are.

It’s great to feel beautiful and sexy.  But to have that as the primary identifier of who you are, and to be considered attractive and sexy just for your fatness and not because of anything else about you removes any depth or complexity to you as a person.

In my mind, to reduce a person to mere fatness for sexual pleasure is no different to reducing a person to mere fatness with the aim of curing or eradicating obesity.  It makes fat people “other” than the human beings that they are.

And yet, I would say a significant portion of the visitors to Fat Acceptance blogs are fat admirers/BBW fans.  How do I know this?  Let’s start with the most prominent search terms used to navigate into this blog alone.  They’re all about fat body parts, and most of them are about “hot/sexy” fat body parts.  Again, it’s lovely to be admired, but it’s incredibly frustrating to be seen as just a bunch of fat body parts sought out for sexual gratification.

I also see it in a less sexual form, where fat women are celebrated for being gorgeous and glamorous by other women, and attention being paid merely to how they look, without any consequence to the rest of them.  Their intellect, their humour, their kindness, their outspokenness, their passion, their eloquence and so on.  The very focus is on how the fat women look, rather than who they actually are.

It isn’t helped that when we finally get a voice in mainstream media, that very mainstream media focuses on how we look as opposed to what we think, what we need and want, and who we really are.

Not only does this diminish those beautiful, glamorous, gorgeous women to their external appearance, but it sends the message that women are only valuable for their looks, and that those who are not considered beautiful, or glamorous, or gorgeous have less worth, that they don’t have a place in Fat Acceptance and society in general.

All of us are worth far more than that.  Fat Acceptance is worth far more than that.

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