Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are We Fat-Phobic?

I followed a lead on Reddit a couple of weeks ago about a possible pop culture blogger. Upon reading the description, I was totally like "YES PLEASE ME HEY LOOK!". I sent the woman some samples of my writing, she seemed to dig what she read, but then also asked me for a more contemporary pop culture piece in the style of the website. Over two weeks and a few emails later, I have not heard back from her. So, I decided to share my attempt on here, instead, since it is completely valid and discussing an important issue.

            With workouts, diets, and magazine tips, women almost everywhere are striving to improve their body image. Our society regards being thin as the desired body type for women, which often results in unrealistic photoshopped pictures of celebrities and models that are meant to set the standard for beauty. On the other end of the spectrum, whirlwind sensations such as Beyonce, Sofia Vegara, and Kim Kardashian are giving curves positive attention.
   Unfortunately, if you are a woman that does not fall into the “skinny” or “curvy” categories, your weight and self confidence are still challenged by our societal expectations of beauty. We are so quick to shame heavier bodies and pass it off as a genuine concern for women that we do not even know, with comments such as, “Poor thing, she has really let herself go,” and, “She cannot possibly be healthy or happy with that kind of lifestyle!” Why does a woman’s weight have to dictate her beauty and contentment, and are we, as a society, Fat-Phobic?
           Amanda Duberman, at the Huffington Post, shed some light on actress Mindy Kaling, dealing with this exact issue. It is easier for us to judge and criticize celebrities because we do not personally know them, and they are often objectified beyond the point of being human. Duberman writes about the “12 Things We Can Learn From Mindy Kaling”, highlighting quotes from Kaling pertaining to her weight and astounding assurance. She writes:

“In an interview with Parade magazine last September, Kaling called out those who seem to think that women must overcome some tremendous hurdle in order to feel confident:
I always get asked, “Where do you get your confidence?” I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, “You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth do you feel like you’re worth anything?”

Perhaps her worth comes from the fact that Kaling is a successful actor, producer, director, and New York Times best-selling author. It has nothing to do with her physical appearance. She does not feel the need to justify her body image, and will often be blunt about her body and love of eating in her popular television show, The Mindy Project. Her positive outlook empowers women of all body types, and she acts as a positive role model to young, Indian girls.
Kaling also made the point that women can wear whatever they wish, despite their weight. Duberman makes note that during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Kaling made fun of the fact that heavier women are often praised and seen as “brave” for wearing revealing clothes on television. After wearing a cropped top to an event, Kaling recollected that “Some people were like, “She’s just so courageous!” She then said to Kimmel, “Aren’t surgeons courageous?’”
Regrettably, heavier celebrities have to bravely embrace the fact that ignorant commentary will come with the cropped tops and tight dresses. They must be comfortable with their bodies to be able to let the negativity not affect them, or keep them from dressing and looking how they want. Women like Kaling are completely inspiring, but should also not be telling us these things that seem so obvious. Her statements should not be an epiphany to us all, but instead, common sense. When we see an average or larger sized woman in the spotlight, we are either relieved by her optimism, or disgusted by her weight. Why can’t we see her for what she is: a talented woman?
Kaling is not the only actress that refuses to let societal pressures sway her self-esteem. Recently interviewed by Rolling Stone Magazine, Melissa McCarthy seemed mostly content with her life, saying:
“I could eat healthier, I could drink less. I should be learning another language and working out more, but I’m just always saying, ‘Ah, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.’”

            Thankfully, she has not. Until we stop looking at heavier female celebrities like they are heroes for merely existing, or being completely turned off by their appearance, we need women like McCarthy and Kaling to keep making a difference and reminding us that “fat” can also be synonymous with success and beauty.

Stay lovely poopies,

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Are You A Good Witch, Or A Bad Witch?

As a child, I can remember sitting on my bed and staring at the knick-knacks on my dresser, attempting to will them to move with my mind. I would stare at the glass dolls or "Girls Rule!" picture frames, trying to get them to float, or even shift a fraction of an inch. I was totally and completely convinced that if I concentrated hard enough, I'd be able to succeed. I had seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks enough times to know how things worked.

I was also constantly obsessing over Disney's Halloweentown, and Hocus Pocus. I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a countless number of times, flinging open closets and the door to my family's eerie guest room (that literally no one has ever stayed in). I was consumed by magic and finding the ~~other~~. I'm still not completely sure that these realms do not exist.

 A few weekends ago, I spent time at a local, eccentric bookstore—The Book Loft. As I walked through the rooms, running my right hand along the shelf tops, a book on Wiccans caught my eye. Curious, and recently enlightened by an early American Literature class that I took last Spring Semester, I casually flipped through the first couple of pages with great interest. The author explained that witches are connected with nature, and that Wiccans only cast spells for positive energy. She also wrote that she and her husband were occasionally approached by Satan worshipers or individuals that wished to cast spells to harm or possess others, but that Wiccans firmly do not associate or condone any sort of Devil-worshiping or dark magic. The witches in older readings (such as Cotton Mather's accounts) were seen as satanic and malevolent by a society that feared what varied from their Christian, normative lifestyle, simply for being different

We are now in a society that honors a practicing Wiccan religion, and weaves witch figures into our pop culture through works such as Harry Potter, Wicked, and American Horror Story: Coven. So, have witches really changed? Probably not. Instead, I believe that we have turned Puritan witches into Elphaba and Hermoine. To be a powerful, magic woman is totally sexy and seemingly forbidden. And that's cool.

I have previously mentioned my incredible Buffy fandom, which is perhaps out of control. But I honestly cannot help but to drool over Dark Willow when she becomes "the big bad" of Season Six. Sweet Willow sheds her sweaters and maxi skirts for an all black outfit, dark hair, and a vein-y face that somehow, totally works.

As far as supernatural story-lines go, obviously vampires were recently (or still perhaps are?) in their prime. But the witches in mass media movement is so much different. These characters are not only witches, but women, showing that girls can be strong and take charge. Jessica Lange in AHS Season Three is a total bad-ass. Hermoine Granger was the brains of the operation throughout the whole Harry Potter series. The underlying empowerment is stronger than we realize, and completely effective, especially for those of us that are completely swept away with worlds of mysticism. 

12 years later, and I'm still trying to move things with my mind. I'm also currently contemplating a super hot witch costume for Halloween, although also in the running is a gypsy, Inara from Firefly, or Shilo from Repo! The Genetic Opera. Obviously, I have some decisions to make.

But maybe I'll just give Halloweentown another go,