What is a “normal” body?

The other day I was at Target and there was a crop top in the clearance aisle. At first I passed it up even though it was super cute because… well…. I’m not a size 2 and because I always feel like I “need” to be 10 pounds lighter. But then I remember Mindy Kaling talking about wearing a crop top because it was cute. So I grabbed the top, tried it on and it was actually pretty cute. Wearing it felt a bit revolutionary not to mention breezy. It’s all part of my re-thinking of what a “normal” body is and how to focus on being healthy and feeling sexy instead of always trying to lose another 10 pounds.

crop top

I wrote about our society’s lack of “normal” bodies in the media in the RedEye today. Check it out here or see a little snipet of it below


But usually in our culture of extremes we don’t hear from or see these women; swimsuit models jump from size zero to plus-size 16. Where’s the segment of size 8-ish women who go to the gym three times a week, do one of those intense spinning class once a month and like to eat pizza with their boyfriends? These women look normal, and they look good in bikinis too.

Last month, Mindy Kaling was on the Jimmy Kimmel show talking about what it means, at a size 8, to not represent the “traditional” standard of American beauty. “I, like, run and work out. It takes a lot of effort to look like a normal/chubby woman,” she said, to huge cheers from the audience.

I’m a pretty average, size-8 woman myself, and Mindy’s words drove home this idea that normal without reaching “perfection” can be healthy, sexy and pretty fantastic. I realized we don’t usually see normal women in the media; we don’t hear about their exercise routines or what they had for dinner. We don’t see them in their jobs and relationships, or just being successful in life.

I’m hoping for more examples of awesome, average women like Mindy Kaling and Robyn Lawley in the media. But while you’re waiting, go for a run — not to burn off the pizza from last night, but because it feels good. Throw out those ridiculous beauty magazines, because you already know that the Kardashian family is a hot mess. And for the love of God, wear whatever bikini you want. Every body is a bikini body.
Read more at http://www.redeyechicago.com/news/redeye-miss-indiana-opinion-20140617,0,6032855.column#HOJDwsA1JdSiQuCV.99


Growing Pains: Being a Transgender Ally

I’ve been working on a new study that deals with transgender identity and it’s made me realize: I’m not that great of an ally. For years I’ve been trained how to be a gay ally (along with lesbian and bi) but the T in the LGBT was often just disregarded. I’m realizing how bogus that is now and how much I need to work to confront my own privilege and become a true ally. Here’s a bit from my piece about my experience in the Daily Dot:

But what I really need is to spend more time listening and less time probing for information. Of course, I still have questions, many of which are born from privilege, but my questions do not take priority over the trans community telling their story authentically and in their own words. By focusing on the privileged interrogation of the cisgender community, we frame the story of the trans community—we say what is important, what we will listen to and what we won’t.

But if we want to be true allies, we need to stop trying to satisfy our curiosity and start learning what solidarity really means.

Read the whole of it here.

….And here is the comment that made writing this piece so worth it…..

best response ever

Why Elliot Rodger is a wake up call for young feminists

It’s been more than a week since Elliot Rodger went on a misogyny-fueled killing spree in California. For the past week, the media and society has tried to process what happened all over the interwebs everywhere from the comment section of Jezebel to the hallowed walls of Tumblr to the streaming hashtags of Twitter. There have been conversations about gun laws, mental health and of course hating women and what it means to live as #yesallwomen in a world where Elliot Rodger existed. Despite some criticism, I think many of these conversations have been productive and productively uncomfortable. This tragedy has forced Americans to talk about gender and violence in a more honest way; the gunning down young men and women in Isla Vista goes beyond debating Chris Brown’s fucked up song lyrics or the disturbingly violent rapes on Game of Thrones. We can’t pretend Elliot Rodger is a lone madman and we can’t pretend misogyny isn’t real.

For me personally it has been a wake-up call, reminding me of the tangible reasons I’m a feminist. For the feminist movement, especially for the new wave of young feminists, I hope this horrific crime is also a wake-up shout: We HAVE TO include young men in this generation’s feminist movement.

We have to start addressing the fucked-up way we teach young men to be “masculine” in the same way we are trying to change the way young women look at femininity. We need to stop the dichotomy of #notallmen and #yesallwomen, and start to see how the challenges both genders face come from the exact same disgusting source: strict gender roles and ridiculous gendered expectations based solely on if your genitalia is an innie or an outie.

Elliot believed his entire self-worth was tied up in whether or not “hot” women would sleep with him. He believed he “deserved” to sleep with hot women because he was a good man. He is operating within a dichotomously-gendered world we have created: men get women as a reward.  Of course this sucks for women – we are little more than objects to bestowed on deserving men – but it also blows for men who begin to believe they are less than if they can’t “score with the ladies.”

And if men can’t get women, their only socially approved outlet of emotion is anger and aggression. Society doesn’t let “manly men” feel sad or god-forbid talk about their feelings. They are allowed to rage and that is all; rage until they have to vomit their anger out in all sorts of cringe-worthy ways. And while all this anger may fuel the threads of Reddit, it is not helping any young men find lasting happiness and equality in the world.

#YesAllWomen deserve to live in a world free of fear of misogyny; and also #YesAllMen deserve to be able to live beyond the expectations of masculinity. Men too need a movement to break these ridiculously strict gender roles and I believe our generation of feminism should be that movement.

Feminists still have to constantly fight against the ridiculous stereotype that feminists are “man-haters.” The past discourse of the second wave often pitted women against men in a ridiculous fight we both lost.

In the next generation we need to embrace men into the cause; with men we need to address issues of masculinity and the harm it does. This will not take away from the feminist movement, it can only strengthen it.

But it is not just about embracing men’s issues and addressing masculinity. We need to actively and vocally invite men into the feminist movement. We need more men on our chapter boards of NOW. We need more men writing feminist pieces in major news outlets. We need more feminist men in our ivory towers. We need more men who identify as feminist knowing the struggle is not just that of their sisters, mothers, girlfriends or partners, but that of their own. We need men invested in the feminist fight because, as we saw with Elliot Rodger, this is men’s fight too.

It bogus that we can all see pictures of Kate’s butt

From a piece I wrote for the Daily Dot….

“But perhaps more interesting than the “appropriateness” of Kate’s lack of underwear or the “civility” of the Germans for posting the pictures, let’s talk about why on God’s great booty-filled earth, a tabloid would ever print an accidental bare bottom shot of anyone who was not willing posing for a nudie photo and consenting for its publication. (We will ignore for the time being the fact that the amateur photographer has vowed to donate the money she received to charity in order to clear her own fucked-up conscience.)

The tabloid printed the picture, because like many residents of our global village, it believes the world has a right to see a woman’s body. This was the same logic used with the infamous bad girls of Hollywood crotch shots. (See: Britney SpearsParis Hilton, et al.) American tabloids have gone to extreme lengths to snap a pic of other celebs pantied or un-pantied crotches usually when these ladies are attempting to exit a car in heels.

The rule seems to be if you can angle your camera the right way, any part of a woman’s body is open to shoot and print; any part of a woman’s body can be sexualized, de-humanized then, of course, critiqued.

Because posting a picture of a woman’s private body is not enough—as a society we then feel we have the right to judge and comment on that body: it is too thin, too thick, too hairless, too hairy, too covered, too bare, too muscular, too flabby. Commenters seem to separate the photographed body from the actual human to which being it belongs. They forget that Kate Middleton’s butt actually belongs to, well, Kate Middleton, a human being who is more than her fabulous flowy dresses and toned ass.”

Read the full column here.