Recommended Reading

Five book selections on women and beauty: Simone de Beauvoir, Arlie Russell Hochschild, Linda Grant, John Berger, Aileen Ribeiro.
The initial inspiration for The Beheld was, unsurprisingly, The Beauty Myth. But when Rebekkah Dilts of Radar Productions interviewed me recently, I found myself articulating for the first time why I’m eager to look beyond The Beauty Myth. Wolf’s work is incredibly powerful and necessary—we’re hardly free of the “Iron Maiden” of beauty standards, but if it weren’t for The Beauty Myth giving a name and common language to those standards, we’d feel a lot more isolated in our internal struggle regarding our bodies/our selves (and possibly more passively accepting of the rules of beauty too). But as I said, I’m eager to look beyond this polemic from 20 years ago. I bring up its age not to say it’s no longer relevant but rather to point out that it is relevant, perhaps more than ever—and that we’re still stuck in a lot of the… Read More...

Body Image Warrior Roundup

Earlier this week I shared two Body Image Warrior Week pieces that particularly resonated with me, but I took something valuable from each post I…
Earlier this week I shared two Body Image Warrior Week pieces that particularly resonated with me, but I took something valuable from each post I read related to the project. Whether it’s Caitlin Constantine’s questioning of “the single story” of the female body, Rosie Molinary’s challenge for each of us to find our “announcement,” Patti Gibbons’s raised eyebrow at the lingo about “problem areas,” or Blossoming Badass’s revelation that sharing body image woes can lessen one’s private burden, this week I’ve had the privilege of reading body image stories all over the map. Below are snippets from BIWW participants—it started with a group of 11 bloggers; these are the ones I haven’t yet featured individually, plus two bloggers who joined in throughout the week who are on my reading list. Here's a list of all known participants. Enjoy, take care… Read More...

Links Roundup 3.2.12

Santorum-colored nail polish, the Anti-Flirt Club, ancient funerary cosmetics, and more.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. Like this, but on your head, and $400 an hour. From Head... Cinnamon bun: Why did so many Oscar hairstyles resemble baked goods? ...To Toe...  The pedicure that hate built: Need a new shade for your pedi? Try Santorum. I think this nail polish, from ManGlaze, a nail polish company targeting men, is hilarious. It also makes me wonder why no nail polish aimed toward the vast majority of its wearers—you know, women—did this first. (Of course, the company's other offerings include names like Lesbihonest and Butt Taco, so it's not like they're necessarily freedom fighters over there at ManGlaze HQ.) There's plenty of humor to be found in shade names for women's cosmetics but I can't think of anything explicitly political (however crude) offhand. Anyone? ...And… Read More...

On Body Neutrality

Body neutrality is a white flag thrown into the ring. It is the gauntlet thrown down when you realize that what you’re doing? It just isn’t working for you.
  As a part of Body Image Warrior Week, a collective of style, beauty, and body image bloggers is sharing content in order to promote various perspectives on body image. Mara Glatzel from Medicinal Marzipan has long been one of my favorite body image bloggers, in part for her worldview and in part for her graceful, inspirational prose. But what strikes me most about Medicinal Marzipan is its honesty: Glatzel shares her vulnerabilities as well as triumphs in the route to wellness, including mourning the loss of comfort of emotional eating and acknowledging that nobody is going to give you permission to eat--so you've got to give that permission to yourself. She understands that in working one's way to body love, sometimes a prolonged stop in the land of neutrality is required--and with that, I give you: *   *  … Read More...

Interview: Leah Smith, Public Policy Ph.D. Student, Lubbock, TX

"My clothes are a way of putting up a shield, of saying to the world that the things people might believe about little people aren't true. That's not who I believe I am—this is who I am."
The first time Leah Smith saw a little person, she turned to her mother and said, “So that’s what I’m going to look like when I’m an adult?” Her mother said, “Yeah,” to which Smith replied, “I think that’s okay.” Now vice president of public relations for Little People of America, a support group and information center for people of short stature, Smith works to let others know what she intuited in that moment. (Smith is speaking here on her own behalf, not in her public relations role with LPA.) She’s also working toward her Ph.D. in public policy, with a focus on disability policy, including discrimination and employment policy for people with disabilities. Her first love, however, was fashion design, in which she earned an associate degree. We talked about redefining fashion to include little people, the division between… Read More...

Body Image Tips From Plato

With the Theory of Forms, every particular instance of an apple is understood as an approximate expression of its Ideal Form, inherently flawed. And when we're talking about body image and how we see ourselves, that’s where the problems start.
Yesterday I wrote about the need to not conflate body image and eating disorders, something that's too easy to do and that doesn't help us get to the root causes of eating disorders. But that doesn't mean that body image isn't also a crucial part of the puzzle. When Sally McGraw of Already Pretty reached out to a group of body image bloggers about the possibility of banding together to do a project under the umbrella of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I saw that she wasn't positing body image as being the end sum of eating disorders, but rather as something worthy of discussion in its own right. And thus, Body Image Warrior Week was born. Throughout the week I'll publish a handful of pieces written by different members of the inaugural collective—which you can be a part of. Click… Read More...

Beside the Point: Appearance Anxiety in Eating Disorders

If we keep the focus of eating disorder conversations on women's bodies, we're doing exactly what women with eating disorders do to themselves.
  In preparation for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week—which starts today—the Renfrew Center sent out an interesting press release, one you’d think would be right up my alley. “Barefaced and Beautiful,” a campaign from the Renfrew Center, one of the best-known eating disorder treatment facilities in the United States, is encouraging women to post photos of themselves on various social media without any makeup. The point is to...well, they sort of lost me on that. I think the idea is to display pride in one’s natural, unadorned self, the idea being that...you don't need to...adorn yourself....with an eating disorder?   Yes, I’m being intentionally dense here. Obviously the idea was to touch on the role of appearance dissatisfaction in eating disorders, using something plenty of people wear—makeup—as an entryway to talk about the larger issue. (Certainly it’s more on point… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere: 2.24.12

Beauty news of the week: the sale of the Mary Kay mansion, Downton Abbey perfume, Shaq giving a pedicure, and more.
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head... Mad women: Pillbox hats off to The Gloss for not going gaga over the Estee Lauder Mad Men collection. I love the show and am writing this sporting a smock and a beehive, so I'm not opposed to aping the style. But as Jamie Peck points out, "I’m wary of mindless nostalgia for an era that was actually pretty terrible for women in a lot of ways, ways Mad Men examines with unflinching honesty.... I worry some women might be taking the utterly wrong message from the show if thinking about Mad Men gets them in a  happy, makeup-buying mood and not a gutted, 'this shit’s not fair, why won’t they let Joan fulfill her intellectual potential?' mood." ...To Toe... Shaq attack: I'm over male celebrities getting… Read More...

Thoughts on a Word: Nappy

Not everyone can say "nappy" and come away unscathed. Say it to, or even just near, the wrong person and it might just blow up in your face.
With a tagline like “Not your average beauty blog,” it’s hardly a surprise that I’m a fan of re: thinking beauty. Yassira L. Diggs’s experience as both a makeup artist and writer ensures her work has a candid, sharp, informed insight; in particular, her breadth of work on natural hair has heightened my understanding of the issue. After reading a piece in which she mentioned her thoughts on the word nappy, I asked her if she’d be willing to elaborate on her ideas surrounding this ever-potent word--and much to my delight, she agreed. Besides maintaining re: thinking beauty, Yassira also writes about thrifting at The Thrifted, and you can learn more about her skills as a makeup artist at carbonmade.    Nappy is, at the very least, to be handled with caution. It may mean diaper in some parts of… Read More...

Best in Show

I don’t particularly like dogs, at least not as a species. Some of them are perfectly lovely creatures I’m happy to share space with on…
I don’t particularly like dogs, at least not as a species. Some of them are perfectly lovely creatures I’m happy to share space with on an as-needed basis; others are sources of anything ranging from annoyance to terror. So it wasn’t the dogs that got me into the Westminster Dog Show the other day, not exactly. I was on the treadmill at the gym, which is where I watch things I normally wouldn’t, like the news, or CSI, or the Westminster Dog Show. It was basically the only thing on that had nothing to do with Rick Santorum (shudder!) or sports (men throwing things at other things, why do I care?), so the kennel club it was. I wound up enjoying it from a sort of removed, absurdist standpoint, made all the easier by the fact that I was watching the toy dog… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere 2.17.12

What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head… Headucation: African-American hair salons have a long history…
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head... Headucation: African-American hair salons have a long history of being hotbeds of activism. That thrives today, but the Beauty Is It salon in Staten Island is making it official with a news exhibit called "Black Women in American Culture and History"—including, of course, a nod to Madame CJ Walker. ...To Toe... The pedicure of the future: When the Burgundy Girls dreamed up this galactic nail treatment they were picturing it for manicures, but I'm more apt to go wild on my toes than my hands. Am I alone on this? Either way, this look is glittery gorgeousness. ...And Everything In Between: Girltanked: Know some young female innovators? (Of course you do.) Girltank, a new think tank of young female social entrepreneurs across the… Read More...

Interview: Sister Nancy Ruth, Life-Professed Member of the Order of St. Andrew, Hudson Valley, New York

Every time Sister Nancy Ruth turned on the television, a nun would be waiting. “Movies, TV shows—just something about nuns whenever I’d turn on the…
Every time Sister Nancy Ruth turned on the television, a nun would be waiting. “Movies, TV shows—just something about nuns whenever I’d turn on the TV. Every time,” she says. She took it as a calling to become a nun, but her family responsibilities meant she couldn’t live in a convent. “So I prayed about it. I said, ‘God, you know what my situation is. I can’t go into a convent, I can’t be cloistered.’ The very next day, I opened a magazine called the Anglican Digest, and there was an ad for the Order of St. Andrew. He answered my prayer.” She’s been a nun with the Order of St. Andrew—which allows its brothers and sisters to live independently, hold jobs, and marry—for 17 years, and she became life-professed in 2000. In addition to her responsibilities within the order,… Read More...

Breaking Down Beauty: Physiognomy Revisited

Just If you really want the magic decoder ring to the image, scroll to page 61. when you thought you’d read enough from me about…
Just when you thought you’d read enough from me about physiognomy—the discredited pseudoscience of face-reading to determine character—for one month, here I come, wagging my charts with dimensions of bulbous foreheads and “lipless mouths” that “denote housewifery.” It’s just that in thinking more about the notion of “It” girls as a modern-day version of the science of face-reading, I realized I’d sort of fast-forwarded into that idea without looking at the more direct ways physiognomy is very much alive today. Its rebirth isn’t called physiognomy, of course; it’s called something like "a universal conception of personality structure," which sounds much less nefarious than a discredited science based on phrases like “I have never yet seen a nose with a broad back, whether arched or rectilinear, that did not appertain to an extraordinary man.” Researchers use facial characteristics to explain things… Read More...

Beauty Blogosphere 2.10.12

What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head… The extravaganza: Seems that we’ve always liked to…
Vintage illustration of bouffant hairdo
What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. From Head... The extravaganza: Seems that we've always liked to mock vanity, and there's none better than Sissydude's hilarious collection of antique images satirizing elaborate hairstyles of yore. (via Final Fashion) Celebrate good times?: Mark Black History Month—with a sale on hair relaxers! Oh my. To be sure, hair relaxers have a place in black history; plenty of black women straighten their hair and they're not race traitors because of it. But couldn't Family Dollar have come up with a better way to celebrate Black History Month? Like changing their name for the month to Family Fifty-Eight Cents to mark the continuing pay disparity between black and white Americans? (Actually, I now see this was from two years ago. But the misguided idea here is… Read More...

Thoughts on a Word: Glamour (Part II)

I’ve had my chance to expound on glamour (which, of course, I did from my chaise longue with a Manhattan in hand while my protégé took dictation),…
I’ve had my chance to expound on glamour (which, of course, I did from my chaise longue with a Manhattan in hand while my protégé took dictation), but the concept of glamour is intriguing enough to warrant a revisiting—not from me, but from four women who each have their own distinct relationship with glamour. I’m delighted that each of them—author Virginia Postrel, publicist Lauren Cerand, artist Lisa Ferber, and novelist Carolyn Turgeon—took the time and effort to share their thoughts on glamour with me. And now, with you.   *    *    *    Virginia Postrel, author, columnist, and speaker who is currently writing a book about glamour, to be published by The Free Press in early 2013. She explores "the magic of glamour in its many manifestations" at DeepGlamour.net, a group blog.   Like humor, glamour arises from the interaction of an audience and an… Read More...

Thoughts on a Word: Glamour (Part I)

Glamour is an illusion, and an allusion too. Glamour is a performance, a creation, a recipe, but one with give. Glamour is elegance minus restraint,…
"Glamour" entry from vintage dictionary
Glamour is an illusion, and an allusion too. Glamour is a performance, a creation, a recipe, but one with give. Glamour is elegance minus restraint, romance plus distance, sparkle sans naivete. Glamour is Grace Kelly, Harlow, Jean (picture of a beauty queen). Glamour is $3.99 on U.S. newsstands, $4.99 Canada. Glamour is artifice. Glamour is red lipstick, Marcel waves, a pause before speaking, and artfully placed yet seemingly casual references to time spent in Capri. Glamour is—let’s face it—a cigarette. Glamour is Jessica Rabbitt, and it’s Miss Piggy too. Glamour is adult. Glamour cannot be purchased, but it can’t be created out of thin air either. Glamour is both postmodern and yesterday. Glamour is an accomplishment. Glamour is magic. In fact, glamour began quite literally with magic. Growing from the Scottish gramarye around 1720, glamer was a sort of spell… Read More...