Feminism Friday – The Blog

Reflections of a young feminist… and much more!

Modeling while Feminist… July 24, 2009

I wrote this post about a year ago now, unfortunately, I was unable to get it onto the Feministing Community due to a seriously old computer. Those problems are long gone, and while browsing my USB key recently I found this article. So while it may no longer be exactly how I feel, I do believe it deserves to see the light of day. Enjoy!

As a feminist I am often bothered by the fact that it seems to be the logical conclusion for many that modeling and anything related to it is inherently anti-feminist. That by using our own natural talent (which in this case would be our ability to meet certain standards of beauty, as created by patriarchy) to keep ourselves employed or to express ourselves artistically, we are causing some major damage to the movement.

Personally, as someone who spent around 4 years in front of the camera, a couple behind it, and who now runs used to run an online modeling agency, I think this is complete and total bunk.

First off, we all face the same misogyny and violence; in fact, many people would argue that because of our working conditions (similar to that of sex trade workers) we face greater risks than the average woman does at work. Sexual assault involving models and photographers is not at all unheard of, and in the most serious cases the model is never heard from again. Myself, I am a survivor of this scenario. As a result of that experience I created a forum dedicated to the safety of all models working online. Unfortunately, through that group I met my offenders other victim, it is such a small world after all.

Secondly, please stop trying to disregard other women’s personal choices with lame excuses about their childhoods or by assuming it is the only talent that the woman has to rely on. It is also not only a good choice if she is simply doing it as a means to an end. Every single choice we make as individuals is based upon our own lived experience as well as our current situation, and to argue otherwise is simply ridiculous.

Finally, I would like to encourage more feminists to get involved with the fashion, beauty, and modeling industries. Simply because we have a better chance at making change from the inside than we do from the sidelines. As an example, my agency only represents models over the age of 18 because I oppose the sexualization of 14-year-old models in fashion magazines, since I believe this may contribute to other societal problems such as pedophilia. (For example, the countdown to the Olsen twins turning 18 – can you say creepy?!)

While, I represent models who might be considered “plus sized” at traditional agencies, they are not designated so on my website. They are featured on the same pages as every other model I represent. None of the models are size zero, and I have someone to fit each dress size between size 2 and 16. I also make a serious effort to represent women of colour more than traditional agencies; it has always been my goal to have a very diverse roster. Unfortunately, there is more to be changed and I cannot do it alone.

I am choosing not to include a link to the website here, because I am not trying to promote it or give myself props, but to encourage others to think about how we might be able to make changes or drastically alter the industry rather than disregard it altogether.

I would love to be accepted as a feminist without being asked to resolve the apparent discrepancy in my business and my beliefs.

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Being a Feminist on a Diet… May 22, 2009

Is this okay? Did I just admit to some horrible faux-pas in the world of hard-core feminists. Am I allowed to not be okay with the current shape of my body? Will I be struck down in a god-like move by Nellie McClung or some similar historical feminist for watching what I eat and working out in an attempt to loose at least 15 pounds?

Why do I feel bad about my body? I am not sure, as I know my partner loves me the way I am and would love me at any weight. It may be a bit about being around all of my skinny girlfriends but really and truly, I think it is about the way I feel about my body. However, I do not live in a vacuum, in fact I used to be a part of the very industry I am about to criticize. That is right another attack on modeling. No surprise right?!

As a former model I actually have knowledge of how little I look like myself once I am in front of the camera, and how I change even more once Photoshop gets involved. I have never been ashamed to let other women know that my thigh was likely slimmed down in this photo or that. I stopped modeling and went back to a healthy weight – literally a 22 BMI from a 18/19. But now I am almost at 25, my age and my BMI are about to meet again. So on that level I should at least not gain anymore weight if I am to believe all the hype about healthy BMI’s which I am inclined not to.

So why do I feel some form of guilt every time I think about restraining and not having that extra cookie or piece of bread? I actually feel as if I am abandoning my cause and letting the patriarchy control the way I feel about my body. I feel as if I am leaving all my plus-size, curvy and gorgeous women behind.

And on that note, I feel like I am leaving the old me behind. See I have been here before, here and much heavier in fact. And I was never happy then! Not just because of my weight but because I was withdrawn and anti-social. Looking back I wonder how much of this was because I felt ashamed and influenced by the media to look a certain way. However, I can feel myself starting to pull away again now.

I miss having the relative freedom of being a student in a big city walking from place to place, taking your sweet time and yet never seeming to be late. I hate that I am now tied to working two jobs in a small town, always rushing to get from one place to a next, never having time to walk the distance to the next destination. Downtown may seem small but when you try to get from one side to another you still discover it takes you about an hour, which means loosing money and being late for work – not an option. However, I cannot deny that being to broke for a car, got my ass to walk from place to place, making weight gain something I had no need to be concerned about. (For more on how poverty makes people poor – check out this article in the Washington Post).

So I make enough money now, barely, to pay the bills mostly on time, pay the rent, and own a used car that I paid less that $2000 for. But I have no time to workout, no time to get out during the day and enjoy, no time to ensure I cook the most healthy meals, and barely enough time to get to the grocery store anyways. See small town businesses also have much shorter hours, no 24 hour grocery stores, we have one 24 hour gas station that doesn’t even sell milk. WAIT… I got way off track!

This is about feminism and loosing weight, dieting, exercising. But I guess that is a great example of how things intersect. Nothing exists in a vacuum and therefore there are external influences on how one behaves and interacts with others. I guess what I am concerned about is the fact that I am concerned about my weight and body image. If, I, a beauty industry insider and hard-core feminist can be swayed by the misogynist view on women presented in fashion magazines, what hope do our young women have? Why should we expect our youth to not diet and love their own bodies, as the Dove ad suggest, if we cannot do it ourselves?

I want to be a role model for young women and so I have committed to myself, and now to the world, that I will only loose weight if I can do it easily with a focus on being active, balanced and super healthy! I will not go on a diet, I will get toned by getting out an enjoying nature with a run and treat my body as a temple deserving of better than the junk I have been feeding it. I am going to find a way to be a feminist who loves the way she looks in the mirror and the way she feels inside.

And contray to what the title may have you believe, I will NOT be a feminist on a diet!