Selling Mixed Messages

Dear Women’s Health/Fitness Magazine Industry,

I, like so many other women, hold–either presently or some time in the past–a subscription to your publication. I may even hold a friend’s subscription as a gift. If I am not a subscriber, either presently or some time in the past, I have purchased your publication based on what the cover said that particular issue contained.

Quite frankly, I am presently, and have been for some time, frustrated and disappointed with all of you.

You talk about how those of us “real” women can achieve great results and get into the best shape of our lives, but you never once put a “real” woman on the cover. Instead, you relegate her to one of your success stories. Don’t get me wrong. Those stories are highly inspiring. But that’s all the air time any “real” woman gets. Instead, you chose your cover models carefully…and if someone messes up a little, it’s OK. You’ve got an airbrush for that.

You talk about how to get “perfect” abs…thighs…butts…arms…whatever. I’ve yet to see it delivered.

One of you recently included as a cover story a “shocking” report on detox diets…and promised to tell us the things we ought to know so as not to cause harm to our bodies. Somewhere around 3-5 pages before the printed story, you advertised a popular detox program that can be found at our local GNCs.

Many of you made a crap ton of money from selling Hydroxycut ads.

The problem is that, while ads generate revenue which you need to keep bringing us these fantastic publications each month or two, you are selling the reader mixed messages: Here’s how to get in great shape. Do these exercises. Pop these pills.

There’s rarely a Do these exercises. Eat more plants. Drink more water. kind of advertising or message on its own merit. I’ve yet to see a The reason you may not be able to lost those extra pounds may lie in your thyroid or an undiagnosed food allergy.

You are not selling health. You are perpetuating the lofty, socially-driven, unattainable ideal. And you are being irresponsible.

What would it do for your publication to instead sell REAL health and REAL beauty. The kind that are found in women of all ages, shapes and sizes? What if you stopped cowing to advertisers’ dollars and really led the way to changing popular media’s portrayal…and objectification…of women?

Oh sure. Women make the choice to purchase your publication. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to buy it. But let’s face it. Women are buying a dream. Shouldn’t you be selling them a better one?

However, I would like to say thank you for publishing letters along these lines where women write in and point out how disappointed they are that you do not portray real women. And for your yummy recipes.

Now, if you would go beyond printing the letters to actually changing your work…

Rules for Hypocrisy

This from Margaret and Helen today:

If it were up to me, I would establish a few rules right about now regarding hypocrisy.  Something along the lines of:

  • If you’re Michael Jackson’s father now is not the time to be enjoying the limelight.
  • You can’t  be Pro-Life and Pro-War at the same time.  If one of these dispositions has to be in your cadre, then pick one and  live with the consequences.
  • You can’t deny the right to marry to some and then cheat on your spouse.   The right to happily marry belongs to all no mater how unhappy it makes you.
  • You can’t tolerate the atrocities of one President for eight years and then assign the consequences to one who follows.  From this day forward everything was Reagan’s fault.
  • The Christian Right should be forced to spend a week in Iran.  May the best radicals win.
  • The Real Housewives should actually be housewives.

About that last one.  I mean it.  Really.

I LOVE it.

Judge Not…Lest You Prove Yourself a Fool

I went to the gym to run this morning. It being late June in North Carolina, it’s either run there or pass out from heat stroke. As I was stretching, I looked in on one of the classes and saw a woman with whom I’d taken other classes previously.

Now, to look at this woman, the more judgmental would think “she needs to work on her belly.” The least judgmental would applaud her for being there to improve her health. What the uninformed observer doesn’t know is that this woman recently had a baby. I know that, not because I know her personally, but because she was pregnant during those classes we took together. Really pregnant. Like 8 months pregnant. And now she’s back after having burst forth new life from the same body she was using in that fitness class this morning.

I recently had a conversation about wearing a bikini vs. not. The person with whom I was having this conversation is wearing bikinis more and more these days. By the way, she is nearing 35 and looks great. Were she and I to wear a bikini and be at the pool or on the beach next to one another, people would likely think she looks good after having a child…and wonder when mine was due.

What the uninformed observer (who probably thinks that just because I can, doesn’t mean I ought to) doesn’t know is that my body has trained for and completed two half marathons–a feat my counterpart will likely never do. (She thinks people who enjoy training for and running long distances are kinda nutty…and she’s not alone.)

What the uninformed observer won’t take into account is that we both have capable, strong bodies. Mine just disguises it better.

And so some uninformed observers will likely pass judgment. And prove themselves to be fools.

I Feel Pretty…I Feel…Pretty…Please Can I Have Plastic Surgery?

I’ve said for awhile that people in my field (and those similar to it) will have all kinds of job security…mainly because parents won’t stop screwing up their children. The latest: children and adolescents are undergoing plastic surgery–that their parents approve and pay for.

Now. Some of these procedures are legitimate cleft palate kinds of things. No problem there. Those are medically necessary procedures…WAY more than they have a cosmetic basis.

But the 16 year old girl who had lipo on her calves or the teenage cheerleader who had a breast augmentation that took her from an A cup to a D? (The latter because she thought that’s what boys found attractive at the time.)

Seriously?

The excuse…I mean…explanation is that parents don’t want their kid to be picked on by their peers. NEWSFLASH: Even if you fix your child’s nose, someone will still pick on them for something.

Instead of teaching your child about positive self-esteem/body image…and coping skills…you are feeding the everyone-has-to-look-perfect machine…and teaching your kids: Problem? We’ve got a surgery for that.

Remember, I’m not ranting about legitimate procedures that improve the child’s physical well-being (in addition to their emotional well-being). Things like a breast reduction on a teenager who has back problems (as well as self-esteem problems because boys never look her in the face) is acceptable.

We do a terrific job at sending messages that are damaging to people’s body image and self-esteem as it is. Can’t we at least find a way to teach our children that there’s a better (albeit harder) way to overcome those messages?

I’ll Never Be A Centerfold

I hate summer. It’s hot, it’s humid (at least in the southeast), and women everywhere are expected to look good in a bathing suit…and are somehow less human if they don’t.

I do love the fresh produce summer brings, however. But no matter how much I consume of summer’s bounty, I (at least I’m currently convinced) will never…ever…look like a centerfold. No matter how many miles I run or Strike! classes I go to, it’s not going to happen. Not ever.

Good thing I have days where I’m a badass. Because at the end of the day, I’d prefer that to being a pretty little flower.

Certain Unalienable Rights

The 10th Amendment to the Constitution was sort of a catch-all Amendment. It left anything not delegated to the federal government in the hands of individual states. As part of that, education was left to individual states, “which provide education as an entitlement: All children have a right to an education provided by the state within which they reside” (Merrell, Ervin, & Gimpel, 2006, p. 114). Education is also considered a property right and is covered under the 14th Amendment, which provides for equal protection as well as due process (states cannot deprive someone of life, liberty or property without due process of law) to all citizens.

In other words, education that is free and appropriate and promotes quality learning and a better quality of life is one of our unalienable rights–up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That’s why it was disturbing to read a couple of weeks ago about the controversy surrounding a bill that was recently passed by the NC Senate: the School Violence Prevention Act. It has not yet been signed into law, though Gov. Bev Perdue says she supports such measures.

This Act is an anti-bullying measure that puts school districts on alert and requires them to guard against harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity–in addition to bullying based on race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, academic ability, physical appearance…the usual. 

The bill, if passed, would require all school districts to have a policy in place that outlines methods and strategies for protecting students…by December 31, 2009. 

This bill comes at a time when a similar bill regarding hate crimes is in Congress and states are legalizing same-sex marriage.

Opponents of the bill in NC warn that this bill, which protects children from being bullied (read: getting the shit beat out of them) in school, will set a “precedent for more sweeping gay-rights initiatives in NC–up to and including same-sex marriage” (Independent Weekly, May 13, 2009). 

Really?

We’re going to make the jump from protecting children in schools to same-sex marriage?

Receiving a free and appropriate education is not only an entitlement we have according to federal and state law, it is mandated by state law (ever heard of truancy and its consequences?). If we are going to require education, shouldn’t we also be responsible for ensuring all children are in a safe learning environment where they are able to focus on their education and not their anxiety about whether they are going to get jumped that day?

What ever happened to the notion that bullying was bad? That being picked on because of the color of your skin or your gender or your sexual orientation (which, by the way, is often not a choice any more than skin color and ethnicity are), was not a good thing? 

The idea that people would oppose a bill that protects children in favor of keeping same-sex marriage off the books is preposterous. 

P.S. Two people of the same sex cannot legally be married in NC currently. Why the push for making same-sex marriage illegal? Don’t we have more pressing things to deal with…like the budget? Like the fact that NC is one of the top states for health insurance monopolies? Like job loss? Like the Easleys? OK…maybe not the Easleys. 

My point is if we say everyone has the right to education…in order to better pursue life, liberty and happiness…why are people working vehemently to oppose protecting the people to whom that right is afforded?