Americans are obsessed with breasts. Not just looking at them, judging them, but controlling and legislating them. Like the old “children should be seen and not heard,” there are rules about just how, when, and why breasts are exposed. In public and in private. Even if those breasts are doing the most natural thing in the world: feeding babies. According to the “seen but not heard” societal law, the sucking sounds of an infant clearly ought to be held against the child — except that mothers are blamed for everything, including the soft but necessary noises of a nursing infant.
But we all know it’s not the noises thing that bothers people so. It’s the sight of a nipple. Even the fear of seeing a nipple outrages folks. Sadly, we are not winning this fight for the right to bare our breasts. But Robyn and Michelle Lytle, a Chicago-based couple, are on a mission to fight it. In a not-so-subtle way. They are the women behind The TaTa Top Shop, which sells TaTa Tops: bikini tops in various flesh shades — complete with nipples.
Now, before you think this is some sort of gag gift thing, like those t-shirts ; it’s not. “The TaTa Top was created in response to current censorship issues regarding women’s bodies.”
Always one to push boundaries and challenge authority, Michelle decided that The TaTa Top was the perfect way to stir things up and get people questioning the current law.
The TaTa Top is far more than nipples on a bikini top. As a brand we work to promote questioning the social norm and digging deeper when it comes to society’s expectations.
…From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to use a sense of humor to shed light on some serious issues while simultaneously raising funds for two areas we are extremely passionate about: breast cancer awareness and women’s rights. It’s great to create a product that makes people laugh, but it’s even better to be able to do something very serious with that success. For each TaTa Top sold, $5 goes directly towards supporting one of our partnered organizations, and this is what it’s all about!
But the couple isn’t above selling a few of these bikini tops for bachelorette parties. I doubt they would mind — or could control — selling them for bachelor parties either. (Because nothing is funnier than a man dressed like a woman, right?) At least the Lytle’s and their charities would get some money. Proving that nipples — at least faux nipples — are good for something.
With so much money being spent on the costumes, is it any wonder Subway would latch onto our vain desire to look better in those costumes? If our cultural definition of “better looking” is thin (or at least “thinner”), it makes dollars and cents to pull that marketing string. And if you want to cry out in body image outrage (apparently not seeing the shirtless man in the Viking costume at the table, as well as the humor of the commercial itself), go ahead. I’ll cynically counter with the point that Subway also wants us to be alive next year ~ if only to be customers. Having a business that’s all about eating healthier really is a great business model; it really does cost more to acquire new customers than to retain existing customers, you know.
Anyway, I think the negative response to this Subway commercial is itself sexist.
Where were the complaints about men having to slim down so they didn’t have to wear those huge pants?
The collective “we” saw that as a healthy move. There was no out-cry then.
But a woman wants to be sexy? A woman who dares to admit she wants to be sexy?
Oh hell no! We simply can’t have any of that!
Meanwhile, Natalie Mitchell, the actress in the ad who models all the sexy costumes (complete with “Foxy Fullback”), is keeping mum until this latest, mainly feminist, frenzy passes. Keep an eye on her Tumblr page for comment.
The prototype contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity to provide an indication of mood levels.
The aim was to find out if wearable technology could help prevent stress-related over-eating.
Mood data was provided to the wearer via a smartphone app in order to highlight when “emotional eating” was likely to occur.
A team from Microsoft’s visualisation and interaction research group embedded an electrocardiogram and electro-dermal activities sensors as well as a gyroscope and accelerometer in the bra.
In their paper, the researchers say using a bra “was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG [electrocardiogram] near the heart”.
As if women don’t hear enough messages about our moods, behaviors, and weight; we now must hear directly from our clothing. And not just when they tighten around us.
Once you spend the time necessary for the equipment to learn all about you and your emotional eating habits, find correlations between your heart and skin activity, and you take the time to participate in the food & mood logging, the premise is rather simple. The sensors, custom boards called GRASP for Genitic Remote Access Sensing Platform (That name was by design?!), will then transmit the mood data to a mobile phone application using Bluetooth — then the messages from the “EmoTree” will begin to “suggest interventions” — i.e. nag the crap out of you.
One such intervention is to remind you to relax by taking some deep breaths — instructing you to tap on the little bird on the screen with every slow breath you take. Sounds a lot like it’s going to turn into Angry Birds, right? I can only imagine how stressed me would like to tap the hell out of some bird willing to tweet, however politely and privately, that Fatty-McFat-Face-me had better concentrate on her breathing & stay away from the fridge.
There are also plans for the bra & app combo to offer other “distracting interventions”, whatever those are. What could be more distracting than your cell phone telling you to calm the hell down and not to eat? …Maybe it will play a humorous video clip or something nice. Or maybe it will be something more shaming. Like maybe it will it communicate with your friends and suggest they provide a personal intervention: “Jackie, your fat friend Deanna is stressed and heading for the ice cream again! Wouldn’t it be nice if you called her and listened to her bitch about her mother for awhile?”
What obviously springs to mind with this whole thing is the butt-load, err, bra-load of potential uses and abuses. What about hacks? Will there be bras to assess and monitor our other moods? Like one to tell us about our sexual arousal — with an app to alert our partners, of course. Perhaps it will even be like those hook-up apps, telling any stranger who signs up (or hacks into the program) that a randy dame is nearby. “Your honor, she was asking for it — she was wearing that bra app!” Whatever info is collected, maybe the NSA will need that data dump too.
The researchers don’t want us to think this whole idea is sexist. They noted that “efforts to create a similar piece of underwear for men worked less well, largely because the sensors were located too far away from the heart.” Well, jeeze, scientists, don’t fat men have those man-boobs? They surely could benefit from a bro, no? And don’t men wear something else everyday — something above the waist, like, I don’t know, a shirt?
Naw, that wouldn’t make any sense; we must focus on how women look because that’s what they are here for. And notice, there’s no mention or suggestion regarding anorexia or other health disorders. Fat — women’s fat — is the health issue to focus on.
The good news here is that this mood-bra isn’t ready for market just yet; users in the study found the device “tedious” as the GRASP boards had to be recharged every 3-4 hours.
Then again, that’s about how long some of us can bear to wear our bras.
As for me, if I’m going to invest in any new tech bras, it might be the bra that can detect cancer. Let’s see if that one actually makes it to market.
I have not been doing a lot of “link round-up” posts since I’ve been curating at Scoop.it, but sometimes I will still find a thing or two which will spawn so many quick thoughts that it seems best to fire all the rounds in one quick-draw post. That’s certainly the case today as one vintage image and one blog post have me quickly shooting from the hip.
“I Knew,” Said The Sioux, “That Squaws Would Go For His Scalp”
I don’t know that I actually have to beat all the dead horses in this vintage ad, do I? With so much horribleness going on, it’s hard to imagine that Jeris would survive; but the company — and it’s hair tonic — is still around today. I do hope they die a little on the inside whenever this ad is resurrected.
While we are on the subject of hair…
Lip Mag has a piece on hair: crowning glory: hair, sex and gender. My profound dislike for the absence of capitals in headlines aside, the post is rather provocative and worthy of a good read. However, it is a bit incomplete. I don’t think it is proper to discuss or rant about such things as “long and blonde” being the ideal femininity standards for women’s hair without pointing out that there are some biological reasons for this.
Often, “beauty” is really just about genetics, healthy children, and the survival of the species. Long hair is a sign of health, and health is genetically preferred. Lighter hair, especially blonde hair, is often an indicator of youth and therefore fertility. The fair skin which typically, naturally, accompanies the blonde hair also makes it easier to see signs of disease, infestation, infection, and the like. Such blemishes are signs of genetic weakness, aging, or other potential problems with the viability of offspring. This is all hardwired into humans biologically. It’s primal evolution. This is why fake blondes enjoy the same attention as natural blondes; for even when everyone knows they’re seeing a bleach-bottle-blonde, the sight triggers an unconscious response of, “Yes, this is preferred genetic material.” This biological drive is what is sets many “beauty standards”. And since blondes, especially the light-white-skinned and blue-eyed variety, are fewer in numbers, their rarity is akin to “coveted and collectible”. [After decades of hair styles, lengths, and colors I know (NWS) that blondes do have more fun — if by “fun” you mean “attention.” Not all of it positive, either; especially when the attention is from other women (NWS). Women hating or deriding blondes, real or fake, is like any other body shaming issue and should be stopped.]
While genetics and evolution are typically not conscious thoughts in the process of calling someone “beautiful” or “attractive”, there are many recorded acts of using beauty standards as markers for desirability in gender and race. From the Bible and organized eugenics programs to the less organized attacks of societal judgements (NWS), history shows that women have been — and continue to be — judged, humiliated, marked, and controlled by their hair.
This brings be back to the aforementioned issue of “scalping” and how I often feel that the current trend in removing the pubic hair of women is not unlike the “pussy scalping jokes” of the past (NWS). It’s not only racist, but all about controlling women and their bodies.
The five female figures on the cover of this vintage cookbook depict the five cooks featured in the book itself. These five women are said to be three generations of one family. From the bottom left working our way to the top right are “Grandmother” Grace Toulouse Hunt, “Mother” Priscilla Wayne Sprague, “Newly Married Daughter” Dorothy Hunt Hales, “Collegiate Daughter” Jeanne Wayne Sprague, and “Teenage Daughter” Nancy Grace Sprague.
While I can admit to certain body changes in terms of aging, I find the rounding of age in proportion to hem length somewhat amusing… Not only is Grandma rather stout, but combined with her nearly floor-length dress she closely resembles a Russian nesting doll. And notice how only newly married Dorothy has curves in all the right places — illustrating her appropriate fertility status. (Heck, her proportions make me want to ask the new wife when she’s going to have a baby!) Perhaps even more amazing, this illustrated figure study of body image stereotypes is the artwork of one of these women; at least Dorothy “Dot” Hunt Hales is the artist credited. (More on that later.)
The story or “personality” behind this cookbook is that newlywed Dot writes home to her mother asking for some recipes. The occasion is the wonderful celebration of their 6 month wedding anniversary and the young bride has learned how important cooking and food is to her marriage:
I have discovered one important thing in the past six months — glamour and romance can be preserved in marriage if one’s husband is well-fed and comfortable.
Mother is, of course, no doubt delighted her daughter has seen the light and become a believer in the old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Not only is mom thrilled to help her wise and dutiful newly married daughter Dot, but mom enlists the help of Dot’s grandmother and sisters. These are their “letters” from the front of the vintage book:
And then, the most amazing thing happens! “One of the top men of Jack Sprat Foods, Inc., heard about it” and they decided to publish the cookbook! Enter Western Grocer Company, owner of the food brand, as publisher; enter the advertisements for Jack Sprat brand foods.
While the “homey, friendly” premise seems rather contrived to the jaded consumers of today (and the corporate ads themselves also draw into question Dot’s artwork), the book’s editor, Priscilla Wayne Sprague appears to be an actual author. But the proposed family relationships get a bit confusing…. My research continues and shall be reported soon. (Watch this space.)
I also have to share some information from the vintage cookbook’s section by college daughter Jeanne. Jeanne’s appearance certainly tones down any sex appeal, and we are likely to suppose any fears about daughters in college along with it. And even if such imagery might lend itself to jokes about college girl experimentation and stereotypical lesbian dress, the experimentation in the kitchen appears to have been limited — at least for sorority girls.
A College Girl (this one at least) doesn’t really cook at all — sororities provide cooks and sincerely hope they can keep the girls out of the kitchen. There are certain things, however, that the cook just isn’t in on, such as late Sunday sandwiches with you and your date — or rush teas and other occasions of state.
When the cook is out and the girls have free rein in the kitchen, here are some of the foods they can cook. All of these recipes are of the type that can be prepared quickly, cheaply and (for the benefit of the dates) charmingly.
Oh, how can poor Jeanne ever get her M.R.S. degree if she doesn’t cook?!
This vintage book from 1941 has some of the racism you might expect from the 1930s and 40s. At the bottom of the page, Jeanne starts a story which continues on the next page:
One of the girls at the sorority house is Irish — shanty Irish — we call her, because she has simple tastes — fried potatoes, baked beans and such. But one time I tasted the baked concoction she used to make and believe me there was nothing “shanty” about it — it was pure Park Avenue — here it is:
It is recipes like this one, based on canned goods, which certainly marks a change (if not decline) in cooking itself. This turning point in American history turns out to be a good thing for Jack Sprat Foods, Inc. and the Western Grocer Company. The grocery store addresses this issue in one of the advertisements for the Jack Sprat brand:
“Now, when I was a girl,” said Mom
“They used to joke about ‘cooks who were lost without can-openers.’ But it’s just a pleasant smile these days.”
“Why, Mom?” questioned Nancy, giving just the opening Mom wanted.
“Because now we get the very finest foods in cans — just take these Jack Sprat Peaches, for example.” Mom emphasized her point by holding a can at arm’s length.
“These are peaches at their very best — completely ripened on the tree, and canned quickly, to capture the fresh flavor and the precious vitamins all fresh fruits contain. No more sweating over a hot stove for me, when Jack Sprat will do the job for me so well!”
Of course Nancy agrees with Mom. What modern girl wouldn’t rather play tennis or swim on a summer afternoon, instead of helping can fruit in a sizzling kitchen?
Mom’s verdict applies not only to Jack Sprat Peaches, but to pears, apricots, pineapple, and an arm-long list of fine berries. You’ll find it pays to let Jack Sprat do your canning too.
If the convenience of modern canned foods was the advent of more free time for girls and women, perhaps it can be linked not only to the decline in cooking skills but to the decline in the “way to a man’s heart” adage. Men such as Barry Popik say this approach works for dogs and not men; however ironic the dog reference may seem to me, Popik seems to be saying this food-as-lure lore doesn’t work. Also, men at AskMen no longer find cooking on their top list of skills necessary in a female partner. Enlightenment reaches us, maybe? Would that such enlightenment about female body images would change as well.
“I’m a shapeshifter… I explore the different forms my body can take using different mediums.” – Lisa Bufano. Photo by Gerhard Aba.
Lisa Bufano is a performance artist whose work incorporates elements of doll-making, animation, and dance. Bufano was a competitive gymnast as a child and a go-go dancer in college before she lost her lower legs and all her fingers due to a staphylococcus bacterial infection at the age of 21. Shortly after this occurred, Bufano went on to study stop-motion animation and sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
See on coilhouse.net
Further analyses showed that men’s preferences for larger female breasts were significantly associated with a greater tendency to be benevolently sexist, to objectify women, and to be hostile towards women.
Having spent most of my adult life in the “large to very large” categories of breasts, I can attest to some of this in a personal sense. The very fact that I know the category of my breast size is due more to male attention than bra shopping. Really.
Food for thought in terms of beauty standards — and I wonder how this fits in with masochistic “women’s magazines” which push not only the standards but beauty products as well.
Where I live, Lane Bryant is the only store which carries bras over the size of DD cups. Supersillious of the majority of stores to stop at the very size of the average American woman; surely there are great numbers over that size. You can’t open a browser window to a health site or news page, turn on TV or radio, or leave the house and not know how big we American’s are; myself included. It’s not just the USA, and weight isn’t the only reason for the overly-developed bosoms in developed nations either. If I were a CEO of an apparel manufacturer or chain, I’d find limiting bra sizes to exclude such a huge part of the market not only worthy of eyeball rolls, but I’d roll some heads too. It’s unacceptable. But the fact is, there is only one store in the whole metropolitan area which sells bras larger than double-d cups; and that store is Lane Bryant.
So I’m shopping for bras at Lane Bryant, which means finding one that fits. I can’t just use the size that’s on my current Lane Bryant bra, because it no longer properly fits — in fact, none of my Lane Bryant bras seem to fit after say a dozen washings. The center piece pulls away, no longer sits flush against my breastbone. I know from Ali Cudby, and the aches and pains in my own body, as well as how my form looks, that this is no good.
Maybe this is all just a result of the cheapening of clothing, thanks to WalMart. But I hope not.
There are two sales associates at my disposal, one presumably training the other in this nearly-empty store. I try to ask them for some suggestions. I know from decades of previous retail work, that they aren’t really trained for much past working the register and meeting sales quotas, but I figure they know from their own figures and customer comments or complaints which bras are least likely to have the problem.
I describe my problem and the clerk-in-training eagerly replies that her bras all do the same. Rather shocked, I begin to explain that that is not how a bra is supposed to fit — that’s when the more experienced clerk interrupts me.
“When you’re talking about an E cup or larger, that’s an awful lot to ask of a bra,” she says.
Now I’m even more shocked.
“Yes…” I begin, “But the bras aren’t just supposed to ‘be larger’ but actually fit. When bras don’t fit right, there are aches and pains… Plus the rest of your clothes look sloppy.”
“Yes,” she replied, with a tense smile, “But at that size…”
“Well, if you wear a size 26 pants, they still have to fit, right?” I challenge her. “I mean the crotch is where it’s supposed to be, not at the knees. The pants are larger — but not just larger. They have to fit.”
In that magical retail blend of “the customer was always right” and “if you have nothing nice to say…” she had nothing to say in reply. The other clerk kept a smile on her face, but, taking her clues from her superior, she too was silent.
Now I was more than shocked; I was disturbed and saddened. Here’s a plus-sized lady working in a shop selling plus-sized clothing, and she’s making excuses for accepting clothing that doesn’t fit.
I don’t know whether the clerk’s stance was some reflexive act in defense of the company she works for; or if it was a sad commentary on average-sized women, working in a fashion store or not, who are told they are “large,” “plus sized,” or even “fat” who feel they aren’t worthy of clothing that actually fits them.
In any case, all that was left for me to do was to try on bras until I found one that I could pronounce “fitting” and worthy of purchasing; then take it home and see if it fares any better than the others had. (My fingers are crossed that it does; but the past few years has taught me not to hold my breath.)
There are plenty of reasons right here in this one shopping experience to explain Oprah’s claims that 85% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. (There is some confusion regarding the Oprah statistic and the much touted 80% figure which may have started with a Wacoal study in 2005. Also, here’s a medical study regarding women with thoracic spine or posterior chest wall pain which says of the 80% who wear ill-fitting bras, 70% are wearing bras that are too small, and the BBC reports that 100% of women going into a hospital clinic for breast reduction surgery were wearing improperly fitting bras. Clearly this is an issue!)
The reality is that ordering dozens or even a handful of bras to try on is not an option for the majority of women in this country. WalMart may have cheap bras (both in terms of quality and price), but even online, the largest size they have is a 48DDD and only in one bra. Most bras over a DD cost $30 to $45 (and, of course, much higher). Few women have hundreds of dollars to tie-up in ordering bras — even if they are returning most of them. We are the 99%, or the 80%, if you prefer; not the 1%. So we remain held hostage by the inaccessibility.
What worse, we are women who already held hostage by our breasts. Along with our vaginas and uteri, our breasts are legislated. We dare not bare our breasts in public, not even to feed our children. Many school and employment policies have dress codes which require female employees to wear bras. (We make 77 cents for every dollar a man does, and we are required to wear garments with a heftier price-tag than men too.) Gawd forbid we show a bra strap. All because breasts not bound enough can be too sexy or whatever; especially larger breasts. As if there weren’t enough judgements from pigs, we as a society allow judgements about female breasts.We’re supposed to blame and contain breasts as opposed to make men responsible for their silliness or worse. It’s all the American versions of the burka and sharia law.
As if having larger breasts weren’t problematic enough, just finding the right bras to do all this — as well as prevent the pains that insurance typically won’t cover — is thwarted by not having access to bras in our size range.
Fortunately for Olympic athletes, they don’t have to rely on their looks to get to the podium, or even get to the Games. However gorgeous their displayed bodies might grow because of intensive conditioning — if they are swimmers or gymnasts or runners — it’s what they can DO with those bodies that counts.
Then there are those, like the fencers and archers and equestrians, who may or may not have a pretty face or gorgeous bods, but who deliver the goods while buttoned up to the chin in traditional gear, even gloves and helmets or top hats, with only their faces visible.
While Warren’s article was about what the LGBT community might learn from events such as the Olympics, it’s clear that “we heteros” have a long way to go ourselves. Some of us are forgetting to honor and admire the dedication, skill, and prowess of our female athletes when there’s beauty standards and products to sell.
You (and I) can talk about the difficulty of finding fashions that fit women ’til we’re blue in the face. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then these vintage Berlei lingerie “Figure Type Indicators” can save us some breath — and thereby our complexions, right?
These “Type Indicators” were like slide rules for the female form, used to assist in the proper fitting of foundation garments. I’ll let the Powerhouse Museum, where I found information in and additional images in their Berlei collection), explain:
It enabled a fitter to determine the client’s precise bust, waist and hip measurements so that she could be fitted with a foundation garment. The chart featured a moveable disc for indicating bust measurement and a moveable pointer for indicating waist measurement. Hip measurement sizes were printed on the border surrounding the moveable disc. An instruction sheet with illustrations was pasted onto the back of the chart and is headed, “How to Use The NEWMAN – BERLEI Type Indicator”.
Overall the chart is very similar to P3645-28/2, Berlei’s first version of The Berlei Type Indicator, with some slight variations. The names for the five body types vary slightly, in this case “Type L.H (Large Hip) Type S.B. (Sway Back) Type L.A. (Large Abdomen) Type A (Average) and Type S.B.W. (Short Below Waist)”, as do the colours for the silhouettes and corresponding areas on the moveable disc. They are pink (Large Hip), green (Sway Back), yellow (Large Abdomen), orange (Average) and grey (Short Below Waist). On the instructions sheet it also states that clients would need to consult the P.N. Fitting Guide.
While the curator at the Powerhouse mentions an earlier version — and by collection artifact number (P3645-28/2), I could not find it on their site. However, I think the point about the complicated nature of fitting the female form has been made. Even if you simplify all women down to five types.
And say what you will about these five types of women’s bodies; they are better than the usual foundation garment fit guides which list us by age and wear, i.e. “matronly.” Should you require proof of that too, let me know and I’ll see if I can stomach scanning those. (Heh, “stomach” a girdle post.)
I’m not sure if we’re supposed to sing it… But this is how the sales “poetry” reads:
How dear to my heart is the “Comfort Hip” Corset,
A well moulded figure ’twas made to adorn,
I’m sure, as an elegant, close fitting corset,
It lays over all make I ever have worn.
Oh, my! with delight it is driving me crazy,
The feelings that thrill me no language can tell;
Just look at its shape, — oh, ain’t it a daisy!
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
The close fitting corset — the “Lock Claso” corset–
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
It clings to my waist to tightly and neatly,
Its fair rounded shape shows no wrinkle or fold;
It fits this plump figure of mine as completely
As if I’d been melted and poured in its mould.
How fertile the mind that was moved to design it,
Such a comfort pervades each depression and swell,
The waist would entice a strong arm to entwine it,–
The waist of this corset that fits me so well.
The close fitting corset,–the “Lock Clasp” corset–
The “comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
Of course I will wear it to parties and dances,
And gentlemen there will my figure admire!
The ladies will throw me envious glances,
And that’s just the state of affairs I desire;
For feminine envy and male admiration
Proclaim that their object’s considered a belle.
Oh, thou art of beauty — the fair consummation —
My “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
The Five-Hook corset — the “Lock Clasp” corset–
The “Comfort Hip” corset that fits me so well.
If this is to be sung, the reason I cannot sing along isn’t because I don’t know the melody; the phrase about desiring “feminine envy and male admiration” coupled with referring to one’s self as an object makes me gag.
Given all the ruckus about breast feeding in public (something which relegated me to the isolation of many a stuffy room, even during family gatherings), I consider the right to bare breasts right up there with the right to bear arms. So meet crusader and an activist Moira Johnston, aka The East Village Topless Lady, who is working to spread the all-important message that it is legal for women to be topless — at least in New York City, since 1992.
Among other things, the 29-year-old discusses being harassed by middle-aged men and debating going topless with passersby (including one man who says topless women are “going against God’s law”). Johnston also tells how she was detained by cops for over an hour this week (because she was topless near the children’s park in the square), then released when they realized they couldn’t keep her. The arresting officer told her “it could be considered endangering the children…I asked his personal opinion, and he said he didn’t think it was endangering the children.”
And then there are the bare breasted broads abroad, taking to the streets, using their bare breasts to sell more than merchandise or sex itself. The women of Ukrainian based FEMEN use it to sell social change. They demonstrate for everything from women’s rights and the economy to terrorism and corruption, including against politicians like Putin.
FEMEN was founded by three young women living in Khmelnytskyi, Oksana Shachko, Anna Hutsol, and Sasha Shevchenko, primarily university students whose parents hoped that they would get married early. From an interview with Shachko:
There were hardly any jobs to be had, and the men drank. The girls, for their part, spent long evenings discussing philosophy, Marxism and the situation of women in post-Soviet society. They decided that instead of getting married, they would bring about change.
There were only three of them at first, but now the movement, whose ranks include students, journalists and economists, has spread throughout Ukraine and includes more than 300 women. Calling themselves “Femen,” they have started a movement that has also caught hold among women in Tunisia and the United States. It’s a movement that even encourages experienced women’s rights activists to undress.
Not surprisingly, FEMEN activists appear all over Europe, including in the Vatican City.
Should you wish to take to the streets to defend your right to bare breasts, or to bare your breasts for social change, you’d better know the laws. [It’s currently illegal for women to be topless anywhere in the US, save for breastfeeding (which still raises hell), except for New York.] Not that imprisonment is always seen as a barrier to activists of social change; but you should know what you’re up against and make your educated decisions.
As a researcher *, I disagree that corsets were as restrictive as the roles women had in society. Because women controlled how tight they laced, could remove stays, etc., there was far more control by the individual over her corset than her culture. Culture has been far more damaging, suffocating, than any corset.
There were actually significant health issues directly tied to corsetry, as well, particularly when the fashions dictated the smallest possible waist. Women did permanent damage to their lungs and even rearranged their internal organs to accommodate corsets! Plus, it was (in my oh-so humble opinion) a lovely turn of phrase…and I love a good turn of phrase. :)
In that sense, women today who are not wearing a properly fitting comfortable bra are doing far worse things to themselves and their bodies than corsets, really. We are imprisoned by the places and times we live in, yes, but our ignorance of our bodies, our bras, is some sort of self-inflicted madness at this point…
Agreed, especially as society is less rigid today and women have much more opportunity to make decisions for themselves about how to dress, especially underneath their clothes.
To that extent, I see your book as a companion piece to the iconic Our Bodies, Ourselves. How can we be the action figures we need to be in our lives without knowing this fundamental functional part of our lives? That question may be rhetorical… (Feel free to comment though!)
Naturally, I love the idea of being a companion piece to the seminal Our Bodies, Ourselves! When it comes to bras, specifically, the thing I love is how empowered women feel when they figure out how fit works on their bodies. It’s fantastic to help a woman feel better in her skin and move past the negative body image messages perpetrated by the media.
I’m glad you mentioned body image messages in the media… Fundamentally, we women think we know our breasts. But we really don’t. I think we more about how our breasts are “supposed” to appear, clothed or not, and we certainly have feelings about that… But we really don’t know our own breasts, do we? How does this compound the matter of fit?
I don’t think I’ve said that women don’t know their own breasts, but women certainly get mixed messages about the role of breasts in society.
No, you didn’t say that bit about women not knowing our own breasts; I did. *wink* It seems we don’t know as much as we should, or we wouldn’t suffer with bras that don’t fit!
If you’ve never been taught how a bra should fit, and you may not even be aware of brands that are designed for your specific body type, it’s like trying to hit a moving target with a blindfold on!
In Chapter Two, in Once Upon A Time, When Fit Was A Fairy Tale, you discuss the fairy tale of fit:
Bra fitting can be confusing because there are so many pieces to literally fit together, and it’s not something most American women are taught — not at home, in school, or anywhere else. There’s no real mechanism for that education. It’s not taught in high school health classes. Many mothers overlook the chance to help their daughters get fit correctly, perhaps because they never experienced the benefits of the right fit themselves.
So poor bra fit is literally passed down through the generations!
Historically, speaking, what’s to blame for this? How much of women’s ignorance to the issues of bra fit are our fault? How much do we, must we, hold others accountable for? How do we take back our breasts, our health, our lives? Is there anything we can do at the consumer level?
I think economics and the bottom-line thinking that has been so pervasive in America is the culprit. Customer service has left the building in a lot of areas of the department store (except the men’s suit department…hmmm).
The good news is that I see a swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction. There are an increasing number of fit-based boutiques out there. Right now, most of them cater to the high end of the market, but it could be a beginning of a movement. I’d like to think so, at least! The product is there, the message is getting out…so I’m optimistic about the direction this industry is going.
We’ve all heard (and quite possibly ignored) the percentages of women who are not wearing a properly fitting bra; what does this percentage mean in terms of number of women?
The numbers are staggering. Between 80-100 million American women spend several billion dollars each year on bras that don’t fit and cause them physical and emotional harm!
And that’s just women over the age of 18 — the youngest group of women are actually most likely to wear bras that don’t fit.
I know you’re not a doctor; and neither am I, but I’d guess this phenomenon of poor fitting bras and the increase of medications for depression, anxiety, aches and pains, lethargy, et al. is likely related. My readers might think I exaggerate — do you have any comments on the links between poor fitting bras and the things that ail us?
I know that women who have gotten fitted report that they no longer have daily headaches, shoulder aches and back pain. They stand taller and feel better — both physically and emotionally. I know that was true for me, and my experience is what led to me writing this book.
To say that proper bra fit can be life-changing may sound overblown to some, but I’ve seen it happen way too many times to question the phenomenon!
The reason I find your work, your book, so amazing is that women spend how many hours a day in their bras? I mean, even if we take them off the second we can, it’s a lot of hours to be miserable! Like that seminal feminist work, Busted! is based on the principal that we can be instruments of change — for ourselves, personally, and for society itself. In order to do that, we need to be educated. Did you have any idea when you began your work as a bra coach that you’d be writing such a book? Did the connections between bras and health, society, etc. surprise you?
First off, thanks! I really appreciate it. My work has evolved very organically. It started with my own moment of realization, when I found pretty bras that fit and were comfortable. I started talking to my friends about my discoveries and began helping them. Then friends started bringing friends, and the seeds of my fit methodology began to gel, and I started talking to industry experts and blogging about my experiences. The more I learned, the more I realized how pervasive this issue is, both from a comfort standpoint and also that connection to self-image so many women face.
Bra coaching goes way beyond bras — it goes to the core of how we carry ourselves as women. I didn’t expect that, and every time I hear back from someone who has benefitted from my fit methodology, it’s incredibly fulfilling. Helping women feel better about themselves is rewarding on so many levels.
Is this an American problem; are things better in the UK or elsewhere?
Culturally, women from the European countries seem to value buying fewer items of better quality more than in the US. And in the UK there is a wider array of product available in more places, it’s just easier to find stores that carry a variety of sizes. But availability of product doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence of fit. Fit is a challenge worldwide, simply because there are so few standards for sizing within the industry.
I would love to see American women placing more value on finding a quality garment that fits, versus going for the least expensive, or only buying on promotion.
Since you work with bra designers and other in the manufacturing industry I have to ask, how much of the problems regarding limited bra sizes begin there? Or is it the retailers who are the biggest problem?
I think there’s a ton of great product out there in a huge range of sizes – like I’ve said, 28AAA through 56N. The challenge is finding what works for you.
There are real issues for retailers when it comes to stocking that wide range of products, the amount of inventory required is mind-boggling. So (as with most things in life) it’s more complicated than it seems and I honestly believe that most manufacturers and retailers want their customers to be thrilled with their purchases.
Rather than focus on the inherent problems, I see a great opportunity for women — own the solution by understanding fit on your own body and finding the products that work for you, either in local stores or online. It’s very empowering!
Now go forth, ladies, empower yourselves with Busted!
* In fairness to Ali, and for clarification for you readers, I should note the following. Ali and I had a bit more of a discussion about corsets and history. She is operating off the more generally accepted wisdom about corsets, yet when I proffered her my research (What If Everything You Knew About The Corset Was Wrong?, Corsets Are Too Sexy?, Corsets Bound To Stay Suffrage), she not only read the posts but called them “fascinating!” We happily agreed to the following: Corsets, while restrictive, may not have been AS restrictive as women’s roles in society. That is probably more than a humble research obsessed feminist historical blogger can really ask for.
Ali Cudby is American’s #1 Bra Coach, the founder of Fab Foundations™ — and one hell of a great woman with a mission I adore. I was introduced to her by my friend and lingerie blogger, A Slip Of A Girl — who is, by the way, currently running a contest where you can win one of five copies of the book signed by the author. Go ahead; go enter the contest now. I’ll wait.
When Slip told me there was a book which could actually assist me in finding a bra — or even several bras! — which would fit while looking good and feeling super, I was skeptical. It seemed like the cosmetic ad promises: hope in a jar; hope between the covers. But quickly I found that Cudby’s book was more than hope and promises — it was a plan that works!
It was then that I became smitten with Ali Cudby, starting a dialog which was so long and insightful, that I’m breaking up the interview into two parts. We begin with the personal…
Ali, your story, like mine, begins with the problems of big busted women — but that’s not the only women who have difficulty. Were you surprised — horrified? — that smaller-busted women also suffered from the insanity?
In the very beginning, I started with the idea of covering only full-busted women in the book – it never occurred to me that petite women had similar issues. I was shocked when I started hearing the stories from smaller-busted women. We all deserve to feel beautiful, and when you’re told to shop in the children’s department, or told you don’t even need a bra, it makes petite women feel like they don’t even count among the ranks of women. That’s a huge barrier to feeling feminine, so it makes sense that this book is for everybody…and every body!
There are 16 questions in the Personal Assessment at the end of Chapter One — I’m too embarrassed to admit how many of them I had the positive-sounding, but negative-in-reality, response of “Yes.” (In fact, I found myself starting with an emotional “Yes! She gets me — this must be common!” but after so many, my ego deflated…) How many of the 16 problem symptoms do you think the average woman has?
Great question! The intent of the Personal Assessment is certainly not to make your ego deflate — sorry! — but hopefully to help you realize that all of these issues will be addressed in the book. They are common!
I would say that the majority of women I fit (if they’re being honest) would be answering “yes” to at least 10 of the 16 questions, and oftentimes more like 13-14. The idea of the Personal Assessment in the beginning is to make it clear that there’s an issue (guess I did that!) and have the book guide you through turning all of those issues around by the final FabFit Assessment at the end of the book.
Obviously, the best way for a woman to get a bra that really fits, is to go into a store and try them on. But what about the times where literally, you cannot find a store with bras larger than 38DD — and those are, in fact, too small? (Yes, this is personal experience! Every clerk I asked about the possibility of bras in larger sizes, of hidden stock consisting of the less-flattering-on-display bra sizes, was shocked — as if I belonged in a circus!)
Are we really forced to order a bunch of guessed sizes in several bra styles and brands, have them shipped to us? I mean even if these places have easy return/exchange policies, this wreaks havoc with a lady’s finances! How do we at least narrow down such a big search so that we have less up front (so to speak!) investment in bras?
Hearing your story makes my blood boil! Too many women are made to feel like THEY are the problem and it’s absolutely NOT TRUE! The good news is that there are great (and gorgeous) bras out there, in a variety of price points and in sizes that range from 28AAA all the way to 56N!
In the book, I go through specific steps to help make Internet shopping work for you. That should cut down on both the confusion and the outlay of cash.
I also have a secret website only for people who buy the book, and not only is there great information on the site, but there are exclusive coupons as well. And I’m in conversation for contests and other goodies for the page. Heck, the book practically pays for itself! :)
In your book, you talk about the prices of bras. While you are clear to say that you don’t have to buy the most expensive bras, there is some truth in getting what you pay for as well… What’s a respectable, reasonable, price to pay for a decent bra? What’s the average lifespan of any bra? A properly fitting bra?
I think there’s a balancing act when it comes to price. Some of the most expensive bras out there are pieces of art, but not designed with fit in mind. Then there are very expensive bras that are absolutely amazing for fit, and are made from the finest materials, have incredible hand-stitched embroidery, lace, etc. You absolutely get what you pay for! But do you need to spend that kind of coin to get a bra that will fit properly? No, you don’t.
You are asking a bra to do a job, and for some of us, it’s a big job. You want a quality bra that will last without stretching out or falling apart.
Unfortunately, you can’t depend on price as a good indicator of quality, and that’s why I break down the quality indicators of a bra in the book — from construction to embellishments — to help you get the most bang for your buck.
How you take care of your bras will also have a HUGE impact on how long they last. There are a lot of numbers thrown around the industry for the lifespan of a bra, but I say it should last around 6 months of wearings, or until it’s no longer doing the job of supporting your bust.
[Breaking down the price of “expensive” to the ridiculous… Ladies, if you buy a $70 bra, that’s like $11 a month. If you even wear that bra 10 times, that’s just over a dollar a day. Remember those old “less than the cost of a cup of coffee” commercials, designed to make you weak with the need to help a stranger? Why aren’t you moved to help yourself first? Tsk Tsk Tsk Charity begins at home! In this economy, can you afford to waste money on disposable cheap bras each month?]
Aside from the obvious changes in our bodies, such as weight changes, pregnancy, etc., how often should a woman go through the bra assessment? What are the average number of times a woman’s body changes enough to warrant a bra check?
You should reassess your fit every six months, plus any time your body undergoes a weight fluctuation of 5 or more pounds. Let’s say you get this book when you’re 20. If you use the information you learn to buy bras, you’re looking at 50+ years of bra purchasing. That’s around 100 times that you need to reassess your fit. And you need more than one bra, so figure you have at least 3-5 bras at any one time (the barest of minimums, including sports bras.) That’s a lot of bras over a lifetime! I think every woman deserves to look and feel amazing, and shouldn’t waste money on bras that don’t work for her body. (How many ill-fitting bras are collecting dust in your lingerie drawer?)
You know the old adage that you give someone fish and they eat for a day, or you teach someone to fish and they eat for a lifetime? Well, this book is all about teaching women to fish, so to speak. :) That’s why I call myself a bra coach – because I want all women to learn how to understand fit for their unique bodies, for the rest of their lives.
[That means, ladies, that Busted! is a book that pays for itself — and quickly. That’s even before you get to the secret goodies stashed on Ali’s site. Get this book before you even get the aforementioned quality bra and that bra will fit!]
Normally I talk about things. Objects. I normally don’t blog about personal stuff. Observations, experiences, yes; but I like to think of them as part of a larger conversation. Maybe even making a point now and then. But today is one of those days…
The first six minutes of my day went like this:
* Wake up; walk to the bathroom. On the way, pass dog poop. Having nothing in my hands to pick it up and having to pee with urgency, I pass it.
* In the bathroom, I find the last person to shower, the teenage daughter, has not turned the water all the way off and so it had been dripping for hours.
* I walk to “my office,” which currently is my laptop on a TV tray in front of the couch. But hubby, who was home for lunch, left his tray out, making a wall of obstacles for me to move before I could even get there.
* Once seated, I find that hubby has left my portion of the day’s mail on top of my closed laptop. It consists of a Lane Bryant clothing catalog (OK, so I’m still fat), and a promotional piece in an envelope — from Beltone Hearing Aid Service. What?! I mean I can hear just fine; I’m not that old. I just can’t believe this is the start to my day.
It’s hard enough just being a woman in this country, what with all the limits, legislational and cultural, on my person. But how do you face them all when you literally wake up to crap and the day spirals away into annoyance after annoyance?
We all know comic book art, pinups, and many other art forms exaggerate the human form; especially the female form. However, if you want any sort of realism at all — let alone to avoid complaints about body image, statements that comic book nerds have never seen nude chicks, etc. — check out this illustrated tutorial by Ovens (aka Unconventional oven), of Effort Comics (18+ webcomic):
In case you don’t have a pair of your own, haven’t ever seen naked boobs before, or simply forget about physics, this is an excellent reminder. It also pleases me as it points out that our female finer points move, are affected by position & gravity, may not point at all, and may even sag — all of which is natural and beautiful.
I say, exaggerate away, artists, as long as you get the most simple basics of flesh and physics right.
The ladies of The View were not immune to the irony of having a show about infertility one day after the show with Nadya Suleman aka the Octomom. In their Hot Topics discussion (always my favorite part of the show), Whoopi noted it and there was brief discussion on why Suleman arouses so much heated debate.
At first I was surprised when Hasselbeck defended Suleman — I expected her to be a hard-line republican on the welfare business at the expense of fetal life, even though that fetal life was a medical “opt in” not a manual one — and by a single mother yet. And I was more than a bit surprised by Whoopi as well. I wasn’t surprised at her talk of responsibility in having so many kid so much as what was missing from the conversation.
See, what bothers me the most about all the Octomom haters is the lack of compassion and tolerance. Not just for the buckets of crazy that motivate having so many children, but for outrage expressed at her while folks like the Duggars (of 101 Christian Pups & Counting) continue to skate — even past Jon & Kate Plus 8 before the marital drama. I vented about all this before, but here it is again:
Before watching the Dateline interview of Nadya Suleman, my only interest in this story was the passing thought of, “Will this family replace Jon & Kate Plus 8??” I honestly had no idea of the squawking & hostility towards this mother of six who just gave birth to octuplets. In fact, I was surprised to hear of it — and that’s what drew me towards the show.
(Personally, I’d like to lay a large part of this concerned indignation from our nation on the bitterly infertile; but even the fertile seem to be pissed off. So it’s larger than that… Hit a larger American nerve.)
What I saw was an articulate young woman who managed to keep her own anger at bay, who seemed understanding and forgiving of people who do not accept her decision, and was composed yet passionate as she tactfully mentioned her beliefs about the sanctity of life. But it was her earliest statements, regarding other large families, which seemed to lie at the root of all of the hullabaloo.
When two parent families give birth to &/or adopt other children, people seem to respect them. We’re fascinated, yes; we’ve got television shows, both series and ‘specials’, dedicated to such large & extraordinary families. But we treat them with respect in those shows.
However, few seem to respect this woman. As they said on Chelsea Lately, single, unemployed moms who aren’t entrenched in their community church aren’t cute. Funny? Sure. But too true; and that’s what’s not funny. As were the comments Chelsea Handler made tonight (Tuesday, February 10th) about a new mom having a French tip manicure — seeing those nails near such paper-fragile premature baby skin made me whine and wince. And yes, there are some questions about where the money for manicures and whatever is going on with mom’s new lips… But would these statements be made with such heat about other new moms?
Would we trust the judgment of children? When her older children are questioned on Dateline, they mention ‘squishy’ (aka crowded living space) and crying babies. Those may be true things, and even un-coached or non-parroted statements they heard from adults; but are children known for their unselfishness? Not all children welcome additional siblings period. Does that mean parents or persons considering becoming parents take the advice or sentiments of their children to heart and not increase their family’s size because their children complained?
I’m no pro-lifer, but as the mother of special needs children are the plethora of haters (& Dateline) actually saying that it is irresponsible for a family to increase in size because they have special needs children? And sure, special needs kids come with extra bills — but I don’t see anyone worried about me and my family struggling to care for my special needs kids… Where’s the concern for us?
I’m not saying I think Ms. Suleman has all answers or answers that I’d like to hear when it comes to caring for her children; but then, see, that’s the point: This is not my family, these are not my questions to answer, I am not the judge. I’m not a Christian, but I think that’s supposed to be the Christian way; to leave the judging to God.
This is not to say that I, or anyone, shouldn’t care about the welfare of this family, these 14 children — but then most of the people worried are freaking out about the word ‘welfare’ so maybe I shouldn’t use that word…
We currently have no test or licensing practices for parenthood; even adoption has few rules if one has enough money. And don’t let money fool you either; money doesn’t free any family from neglect and abuse — which is what most everyone is talking about in defense of their questioning this woman’s right to a large family.
But it seems to me, too much emphasis is this woman’s single status. It seems to be the bottom line of all the upset reminding me of the old fuss about Murhpy Brown having a baby; a big moral debate about choosing to be a single mom.
Have a two-parent family who keeps popping out children because they don’t believe in birth control, and few take them to task for their lack of common sense, even when they live on the government dole, or in a house that is ‘squishy’. Extra points if they evoke God a lot. And when they have specific religious or church affiliations, no one dares to really berate them because they have religious protections & a coven of church brothers and sisters.
You want examples? Fine. Those annoying Duggars (of 17 and Counting) take their kids to a “wild life refuge” and allow/encourage their kids to feed animals pasty white bread from their mouths, run & chase animals despite the “do not chase the animals” signs — and when asked, bozo dad Duggar says he wasn’t worried about his kids. Apparently God will protect his kids from his own stupidity. Plus they do all sorts of impractical and stunting things to their kids in the name of religion — so we aren’t supposed to judge. Even my beloved Kate of Jon & Kate Plus 8 totes & promotes her faith.
Most egregiously of all, the Murphy family, headed by John and Jeanette Murphy, who, already the parents of four, opened up their home — aka privately adopted — 23 children with Down Syndrome and were the subject of Our 27 Kids. If you want to talk about what’s fair to the children you already have, where’s the outrage that they placed upon their young biological children (two who existed before they began adopting, and two born after) the burdens of special needs siblings? It’s not just the daily grind either — it’s for the lifetime of those children they’ve adopted. As a mom who has had to deal with the safety of one child’s future — aka legal guardianship — in light of other children’s needs, I can’t imagine saddling children with 23 such responsibilities.
But we don’t talk about these issues. Or their economic dole. The Murphy’s admit they too take food stamps, like Ms. Suleman; Jon & Kate likely don’t need them due to their TV deal, their church, etc.; and I bet the Duggars took food stamps & more — at least before the TV deal — and their children, ill-prepared for the real world, are destined to return to such public assistance in the future. But we don’t talk about them because these are two parent families who evoke the name of God & their idea of His vision of morality when speaking of their large families. In the case of the Gosselins & the Murphys, their marital status is a tacit approval of God for most of the gossip-mongering public so ready to judge Suleman.
I guess Suleman should get all kooky with an old time religion and marry a man; preferably the man who biologically fathered her kids — the man her mother claims offered to married her. Then would everyone just shut up about her — or at least just talk about the blessings and realities of raising so many tiny babies? Judging isn’t going to diaper and feed those eight babies. Or her six other children. Nor is is going to help a new mom with her stress. It’s just empty finger pointing.
Well, it’s not completely empty finger pointing… Every finger pointed at Suleman has three more fingers pointed back the the finger pointer. And maybe those people should start there, looking at what makes them so judgmental.
Whew. I’m glad to have that all off my chest. Again.
But back to The View.
(Not that this whole discussion wasn’t about The View; it was. Like I said, Hot Topics is my favorite part of the show, primarily because it’s just like how women talk. But it’s time to leave the Octomom alone and move along.)
The short version, for those too lazy to click the above link and watch, it that Giuliana stated that her doctor advised her to gain 5 to 10 pounds to assist conception — and Giuliana resisted.
Now I get that her career is to be a thin woman-child waif on the red carpet etc., and that such a gig requires her to be thin, plus lose an extra 10 for the camera. But her reluctance seemed to have exposed a resentment that she should have to do such a thing in order to have a baby — as opposed to the more sane response that her career ideal weight would be so low that it would interfere with her basic biology.
Giuliana and Bill are both to be admired for sharing their intimate problems for, as they state, the ability to remove the taboo from fertility issues. So I don’t want to sound too harsh or kick folks when they are already down. But…
Giuliana’s statements regarding her earlier career-formed impressions that as a 20-something watching 40-somethings having babies had led her astray, given her the wrong impression about how much time she and her biological clock really had. So perhaps it’s time for Giuliana to see that she too is sending unfortunate messages to women.
By resisting those baby-needed 10 pounds, by emotionally fearing the horrid industry standard of “fat” rather than be horrified by just what those standards do to her and other women who aim to be so slim, she is not only receiving the wrong message, but sending it too.
She would do herself and those who view and idolize her better by accepting the literal baby fat and making a stink about the fictitious and unhealthy standards.
As a Brand Ambassador for The View, I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items to facilitate my review; as you can tell from my long-winded posts about The View, the tote or whatever I may get is not my priority, but I mention it to be ethical.
Goldie, like the Atria dress above, had an incredible way of taking a simple, even older looking fashion design, and breathing new life into it.
Some people think of Goldie Hawn — and any babydoll mini dress, really — as an exploitative thing. They tend to view short feminine dresses as something sinister involving the sexualization of children. But I don’t think that’s quite right… At least not always.
If you remove the ‘babydoll’ from the description, and just look at the dresses, they do express traits we tend to equate with children: simplicity, innocence, delight in bright cheery colors (not dwelling in those dull colors symbolical of adult conformity), the unencumbered freedom of a swinging skirt above bare mobile legs. But are these things only for children?
Sure, I think Goldie’s warm, sunny, playful confidence was sexy — but not one that risked the promotion of pedophilia. You ought not mistake childlike for being an actual child.
Like so many of the characters Goldie played, she may have seemed direct and simple to the point of silliness, but her innocence was anything but dumb; possessing the wisdom of a child and the charm of childlike innocence without being a child is beautiful. And Goldie matched that beauty with her own natural beauty which didn’t rely on lots of accessories and artifice. For a woman to be so comfortable in her own skin, happy to express that she was a girl — not just unapologetically female, but celebrating femininity — that’s spectacular.
In the 60’s and 70’s, Goldie was a visual reminder to avoid, as The Graduate would say, the ‘plastics,’ the mold-fitting uniformity of the establishment. But unlike the cold mod of Twiggy which held you at a disdainful fashion distance (and at a fashionable distance of social disdain), Goldie invited you in to play with her. Not (simply) sexually; but to come play, laugh, learn, and experience with her.
In truth, such babydoll dresses better suit the slim and less ‘womanly’ shaped among us. In part because curves require garments with more structure to restrain &/or retain than most babydoll dresses have. But primarily the problem isn’t so much that babydoll dresses are less apt at covering ample bosoms and rounder aft-areas (things which could be addressed if fashion was properly sized for real women’s bodies), but rather that society deems such displays of female form, however natural, as solicitations — offers to men that women and children have no right to refuse.
That people don’t always see the more honest virtues in those retro babydoll dresses makes me more than a little sad; it makes me ill.
About 15 years ago, I sent a letter to Disney (on behalf of my Disney stock-owning and Disney-loving daughter) demanding that they diversify their stock of Disney characters and stories.
Among other things, I suggested they make stories about adventurous mice, a la The Rescuers, who either didn’t all sound like white folk or who helped more than white children — both maybe. And I said they ought to include princesses of color in their films — and that maybe these princess didn’t have to be exclusively limited to exotic locations, like Princess Jasmine.
Since this letter of mine, there has been Pocahontas & Mulan, each’s ethnicity presented as exotic and distant via the pageantry of location and historical period as Jasmine. But now there’s the first black Disney princess, Princess Tiana in The Princess & The Frog.
(I know this sounds like one of those new Windows 7 commercials — but If I had any affect on The Mouse, it took 15 years to get past the corporate layers of white defenses.)
Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose is the voice of Princess Tiana and she’s excited, telling People magazine, “This feels amazing. Not only is [Tiana] the first black princess, she’s the first American princess. So, the scope and the significance is larger than people even realize.”
Apparently Rose is so excited that she’s forgotten that Pocahontas was a Native American. While the ‘princess’ title may be debatable and the treatment of Native Americans is deplorable, is Pocahontas’ status as American really questioned?
If your daughter is a Disney princess fan — and you meet the other requirements — maybe you’d like to be on The Tyra Show:
Does your little girl love Disney princesses? Is she eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first black Disney princess, Princess Tiana? Have you always wanted to take your daughter to Disney World but have never had the means? Do you have an emotional story to share?
Emmy Award Winning Talk Show is looking for deserving moms and daughters who love Disney Princesses! Daughters should be ages 7-11. Must be available Tuesday, November 17 and the following Thursday to Friday.
My kids are all past Disney princess, but my niece isn’t (and my nephew is half charmed by them, half held hostage by his older sister’s demands). But even if there weren’t Disney kids in my clan, I’d still be glad to see an African American Disney princess. Because fairy tails may not come true, but believing in the magic of them is so much easier to do when folks look and sound more like you; not to mention what this does to those with delusions of white superiority.
Because my first Barbie dolls had been my aunt’s, I had a lot of the original stuff, including those (now highly collectible) palest blue whispers of chiffon pleated underpants. I remembered being struck by the incongruity of such angles — the square-ish lines of the boxy panties themselves and the triangular points of the pleats — against the round curves of plump plastic. As I slipped them over Babs’ firm flesh, I wondered what her shape would do to the shape of those panties… Miraculously, some of the pleating remained when Barbie wore them — and in fact, the pleating was fully retained once removed from the doll. These were things I was highly suspicious of.
I wondered if those puffs of pleats remained beneath Barbie’s outerwear… They weren’t really visible; Barbie did not suffer from visible panty lines either. But like that refrigerator light problem, there was no way to see-to-believe, no way to really know.
While many blame Barbie for a plethora of society’s ills, I’m not so convinced. I learned many things from Barbie, including, but not limited to, the pure impossibility of comparing myself to a doll (let alone coming up short in such a comparison).
Barbie was a doll, her movements were not only dictated & restricted by manufactured bendable knees & stiff elbows, but whatever limited movements Babs had could only be made at my whim. Her permanently arched foot did not relax when her shoes were removed, nor when she went to sleep. (This, I would learn years later as a department store sales person, was quite probably the most realistic thing about Barbie.) When I cut her hair, it did not grow back. Ever. When her leg popped-off at the hip, you could just press it firmly back into place; no blood, no guts, just the glory of fixing a problem yourself.
Barbie was not real and I knew it.
Her lack of areolas and nipples did not make me question the existence of mine. The enormous size of her breasts and their skewed proportionality did not make me question the size and proportion of my mother’s bustline, that of any other female that I knew, or my own breasts when I developed them. Barbie’s flat tummy did not make me question my plump belly or that of any other female; hers was hard unforgiving plastic, ours were flesh — as flexible, purposeful and forgiving as our arms. Our bodies existed for more than posing, for draping fabrics, for pretending. We are not dolls; we are a human.
Of course, as a child, I didn’t exactly articulate these things to myself or anyone else; these were simply the lessons of play. (Are those the ingrained messages they want to protect children from?)
OK, so Barbie’s hyper-beauty was unrealistic, so what? I had a brain. I was no more in danger from this fashion doll than boys who played smash-up with Hot Wheels cars were from driving like the world was a demotion derby they could just get up and walk away from. Kids can tell reality from pretend, especially when they have emotionally & intelligently available adults who answer questions and talk with them, not at them.
(This is not to say that Barbie, media images, etc. do not have an impact; but that’s more a matter of a collective accumulation of messages. And I’ll continue to pull at those threads.)
However — getting back to Barbie’s pleated underwear, what started all this in my mind was spotting these vintage knife pleated panties.
I instantly thought of the mysteries of those angles on Barbie’s curves, of how I wondered just how real flesh would react with those pleats… Puckers & folds in your pants or beneath a slip-protected skirt, would they be there under your clothes? Or would your flesh fill them out, curves rubbing-out the angles? If they were there, what would they feel like? Would they remain when you took those panties off? Puckers & folds, those are usually considered imperfections — yet here they are, for living humans, not just dolls.
These vintage panties are beautiful little mysteries to me. And until I find a pair in my size, this is how they shall remain to me.
I know it’s a crappy photo (it’s beginning to be a habit), but at least you’ll believe me when I say that Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Solution and Richard Elliott Friedman Disappearance of God were shelved as “Romance” in the thrift store. Sure, customers could have done it; but that’s no less amusing to me.
Hanesbrands research found that 60 percent of women shopping at Walmart fit plus sizes, said John Marsh, senior vice president and general manager of the manufacturer’s casual-wear division. About 40 percent of overweight women are comfortable wearing clothes designed as plus size, rather than buying extra-large of regular garments, he said.
Average sized women (for that’s what size 12 and up is!) are comfortable with the “plus size” label because we know that honest-to-goodness clothing designed at a plus size is made to fit bigger bodies; you don’t just add an inch or more all over and think, “Well that’s that! Now it will fit.”
This reminds me of last week’s episode of Shark Tank…
When fashion designer Gayla Bentley appeared, asking for a $250,000 investment (for a 20% stake) in her company so that she could make beautiful clothes easily accessible for large women by expanding her business to include a store to cater to them (and better brand herself), she was met with the a-duh moment from a supposedly savvy investor.
Kevin O’Leary, ever-arrogant (and admittedly the show’s love-to-hate guy), said, “Is it possible that larger sized women (and don’t beat me with at stick) don’t care about fashion as much?”
As if a 60% market share were just that easily ignored (that is has been is an enigma wrapped in a bitter wienie coating), Bentley (completely charming as well as intelligent and talented) continued to educate he and other doubters with the facts, including her own success; currently the designer sells her products wholesale and online and last year her sales were $500,000. (Yet no bank would give her a loan.) You can watch the episode here (and find out more at Wallet Pop, but the final outcome was that Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John (of FUBU fame) went in 50-50; now we just have to wait to see Bentley’s efforts to bring real plus size designer fashions to department stores near you & I.
While I’m in no way comparing Just My Size &/or Hanesbrands to Gayla Bentley’s fashions or those by any actual designer, I am encouraged that big business is beginning to see big T n A as a way to fatten their own bottom lines.
The following fascinating artworks are the creation of artist Tamar Stone, who uses art to “tell the stories of women’s lives that have been constricted by their various situations throughout history.”
Tamar’s work is inspired by her own experiences, including spending her teen years a la Lisa Kudrow in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion wearing a back brace to correct Scoliosis, which not only amplified the usual adolescent feelings of isolation and body insecurities but developed in Tamar an increased sensitivity to “correction” and the need to fit in. The result is artwork which explores women’s lives. And yours truly getting a crush on the artist.
In her corset books, not only the moments in which issues of appearance, self esteem and assimilation captured — but the methods and mechanics by which physical restrictions, voluntarily or involuntarily, have literally shaped women are examined.
In her bed books, the intimate and intricate institution of beds throughout history are scrutinized, from the primary female domestic associations to the primal sexual and biological connotations, with readers being asked to unmake miniature beds in order to see what lies beneath the neat covers — and then remake the rumpled beds, neatly hiding the secrets again.
Charmed and fascinated, I gushingly asked Tamar for an interview — I figured she’d understand my elation. She did.
…Well, at least she agreed to the interview (who knows if she really understands my girlie crush?)
Tamar, I’m in lurve, deeply and seriously, with the corset and bed books. Do you sell them? Keep them? Are they in museums or what?
Thanks so much for loving the artists books! My dealer, Priscilla Juvelis, sells them for me — or at least tries to. In this economy, the few people who have been collecting them haven’t and won’t buy anything this year, and the universities that have collected my work in the past are also not spending any money. They cost somewhere between $5,000 – $6,000 each, being that they are one of a kind etc.
At this point, it takes a few years to make each book (corset and bed) from doing all the research/reading of historical text, and then putting it together into a “story line.” I then make a paper dummy of the corset books to figure out how it will all look (that’s right, I put those corsets on a copier machine and glue stick and scotch tape them together). Somehow “seeing” them in this manner and working with my hands helps me think about how/what I want to say — before I get on a computer to start creating Photoshop files etc.
I work with a person who does machine embroidery and who is much better sewer than I am. (I figure, if I expect someone to pay for the work — it should be the best technical work that I can afford and that I expect my projects to look like. I get kind of picky in that way, and my sewing skills are pretty spastic actually, so I’m happy to employ a professional.)
Anyway, because it takes so long for each piece, by the time they are finished I really just want to get them out of my hands and into Priscilla’s so she can try to sell them. I don’t actually make a lot of money off of the projects, just enough to turn it around into a new project. Which is why I have to keep my day job of coordinating business meetings, although as a freelancer, this year has been terrible and the reality is that I may have to take some sort of full time job to start paying the bills — and that would really cut back on the art time… But such is life.
Did you have any formal training?
I went to art school, but I majored in photography and minored in graphic design. I just took one book making class at Pratt Institute in the mid-80’s, but it taught me that I was not cut out for any kind of “formal” book making. I didn’t have the patience to even use a bone folder! My final project for that class was a plastic book I sewed together with things stuffed inside the pages to make overlapping ideas… Even back then…
When did you begin creating your art books? Who &/or what inspired you to begin — and what was your first piece?
Around the mid- 1990’s I started my first “limb” book, your/my… insecurities are my limbs, while working at a job I really didn’t like, but it had a great copy machine and I decided I should try to get something out of the job for me as I felt so disconnected from the work.
So my book about “limbs” is really trying to figure out how to piece myself back together in a way — using overlapping images and text.
Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I was using Xeroxes, a glue stick, and an Exacto blade. I laid out the pages so I could get two pages on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch page when I copied them, and then just cut the page in 1/2 to get the two pages.
The next piece, To Exert…as oneself, takes that idea further using black & white and color in the images — and the buckle straps that hold the book together were actually made by the man, Alfred Chin, who had made my Milwaukee Brace back in the 1970’s. It was very special for me to be able to find him again and involve him in my art work.
OK, not to continually crush-on the talent — but how cool is it that she got back in-touch with the guy who made her (probably-hated) back brace to have him make hinges for her artwork?! I’m totally crushing on Tamar Stone; there’s more to come! While you’re waiting for the next installment, check out Tamar’s website and what’s for sale.
“If I had as many love affairs as you give me credit for, I would be speaking to you from a jar at the Harvard Medical School.”
~ Frank Sinatra ~
Ahh, Frank. Everybody loves the Frank. Or at least he was convinced of that.
Is anything as suave & steeped in romance as Frank crooning to you as you eat spaghetti? Maybe… But at least you like pasta, right? Or at least eating…? No? Well, you can’t please everybody.
So even if Mr. Sinatra had as many women as rumored, he wouldn’t have pleased all of them either. And he likely wouldn’t have cared.
But women care. We can please 4,566,782 people, and we worry about the one we didn’t please. Why is that?
Thinking about all that just makes me want some pasta. Or Frank, crooning in my ear as I swirl around a dance floor…
…I hope I dance well enough… that guy over there is looking at me funny…
See? Even in my fantasies, someone isn’t thrilled with me.
That’s why, I guess, we see women’s magazines & television talk shows pander to and exploit female insecurities. Even while they profess to be helping women get over their self-loathing, they sensationalize — ridiculing the person, mocking the appearance of the body part they already are insecure about. Sometimes they even make fun of the women who are proud of the way they or their body part appears. Just look at these casting calls from the past two days:
Can a Snuggie or long nails or body fat really be such a relationship problem? I argue that whoever thinks these things are (or can be) relationship problems is the one with a real problem. And I don’t say that glibly.
Whoever gives the status of the Snuggie so much importance that it not only becomes a “constant source of arguing in your home” but you’d be willing to go on television and argue it some more clearly has a carnival-fun-house-mirror view of reality.
If this is how you see yourself, you have a toxic relationship with yourself.
If this is how you see and treat your spouse, you have a toxic relationship with them.
And clearly the media that exploits these people for (they hope!) the money in our pockets has a toxic relationship with their guests and their audiences.
And if you can see just how distorted that is (and I pray that you do!), then you ought to be able to replace the word “Snuggie” with “hair,” “weight,” “fingernails,” or whatever silly appearance-obsessed insecurity-driven show topics show up in casting calls later this week.
I refuse to watch these shows, to prey on the insecurities of others as entertainment. And whenever someone in my fantasies starts to look at me funny, I give them the boot.
I may not be as full of myself as Sinatra was; but I sure as hell won’t be so insecure with myself (or my spouse, for that matter) that I’d consider myself freakish enough to participate in one of these shows — or be in a jar at the Harvard Medical School.