Month: August 2015

Yardsticks, One Pieces, and Dignity.

This video is over two years old, but it has just come across my radar.

This article by Katelyn Beaty presents some great counterpoints to Jessica’s arguments, if you desire a more robust understanding of the issues at play.

swimsuits

One of the swimsuits in Jessica’s line. It’s okay I guess….not sure why you would put cap sleeves on a swimsuit but to each her own.

I could sympathize with Jessica’s memory of struggling to find a fashionable but modest swimsuit as a young woman. In middle school I angrily insisted to my own parents that I would one day open a store called “Ashley’s Modest But Cute Bathing Suits.” Jessica beat me to it, and designed her own swimsuit line with a mission to “Get as many women as possible into one piece swim suits.”

Cringe

Hey Jess, here’s some advice: As a first step for trying to “avoid clothes your grandma would wear,” try not to be inspired by the decade she was born? 100 years ago you would have been called you a whore for wearing your little skirt/shirt combo there, so don’t pretend.

Listen, I don’t want to criticize this beautiful lady. God bless her, she seems smart and sweet and well-meaning. Plus she was the White Power Ranger. Mad respect. But this has got me thinking about “modesty” messages, particularly in Christianity.

Katelyn really hits the nail on the head in her article when she says “Christians both really care about modesty and yet are still trying to define it.”

My experience with the issue has proved the truth of that statement. Read: confusion and legalism abound.

In 7th grade, my church had a women’s conference for middle and high school girls and their moms. In a break-out session on modesty, we sat in a classroom while the instructor put images of women on the screen. For each image, we had to yell out “Trashy” or “Classy” based on the perceived modesty of their outfits.*

skirt

This though.

In high school I attended a small Christian school. According to the dress code, Girls’ skirts could be no more than 3 inches above the knee when standing, and 5 inches above the ground when kneeling. Students would be brought down to the front office and made to kneel while a staff member measured the potentially offending lengths with a yardstick. (God forbid you were at 5 and a half inches).**

In Freshman year of college, I attended a Halloween party with a Christian fellowship group that I have mentioned in previous blogs. Some of the boys dressed up as Spartans from the movie 300. Their costumes involved them not wearing shirts, and some of the girls requested that they put their shirts BACK ON because their topless-ness was causing the girls to “stumble.” There were also instances of men being asked to keep their shirts on at the beach for the same reason.***

All of these stories make me want to repeatedly smash my face against a blunt object, and believe me when I say that they are just a small sampling. Needless to say, I am moderately jaded and moderately bitter.

There are so many factors at play here, but I hope I can hit on some truths, or at least contribute to the dialogue.

In her presentation,Jessica spoke about dressing modestly to communicate one’s dignity.bikini

dig·ni·ty
ˈdiɡnədē/
noun
the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect. 

I am appalled and saddened that this woman thinks her dignity could be compromised if she wore a two-piece swimsuit. You are not more worthy of respect because you wear more clothing. You are not less worth of respect because you wear less clothing. You are worthy because you are a human being. You are a person. So let’s not get that confused.

Even the Bible backs that up:

1 Timothy 2:9-10

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God”

This verse is frequently cited as why Christian women should be wearing plain, GAP-esque clothing (YOU HEARD ME), but I think that is an improper interpretation. In light of the Gospel, I feel that Paul is saying “The actions you clothe yourself with are much more important than your clothes.” Or, more simply, “Who you are is more important than what you’re wearing.”

arrowsSo hey Church…While you are teaching young girls to literally yell out “TRASHY” when they see a few inches of tummy on the beach, Jesus is yelling even louder “LOVELY. IMPORTANT. BEAUTIFUL.”

Perhaps even more disturbing, you are teaching girls to view themselves as less dignified, less respectable, less love-able, less important if they dress “immodestly.” This is how you get 22 year old women who feel SHAME over every stare they elicit.

“While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them.” || Rachel Held Evans

TRU TRU TRU^^

So basically, you get to wear whatever the heck you want if it settles right on your conscience and makes you feel good. Nobody gets to judge you for it. Not a single person. Throw away your yardsticks.

* I love and trust my church and this does not reflect its views at all, as I have come to understand them.No church and no person is perfect. #Gospel

** This school provided me with a great education, many caring teachers, and I have come to truly appreciate it.
*** This group meant a lot to me. I learned a lot of very important things about God, and made lasting friends.

My Top 5 Tips for Improved Body Image

If you are semi-happy with the way you look, DO NOT, for the love of all that is good and holy, plug your height and weight info into an online BMI calculator. It will tell you awful things.

During my super skinny phase. Check out that bikini bridge I didn't even know I had

During my super skinny phase. Check out that “bikini bridge” I didn’t even know I had

I’ve always had pretty good self image for a woman. I probably think about my appearance an average amount, if not below

average. I don’t wear make up very frequently, I get on the scale maybe once a month out of sheer curiosity. I feel fine about going to the mall in a T-shirt.

There have been blips, of course.

When I was a senior in high school I was very depressed and dipped down to 109 lbs. (For reference, I am now about 140). I didn’t have a disorder or anything, I guess eating just wasn’t super high on my priority list at the time. Anyway, it really freaked me out that I apparently couldn’t stop losing weight.

The summer between high school and college my family went on vacation to California, and I remember ordering a chocolate milkshake at every meal just to beef myself up. So then I had to walk around with this really gross food baby on my otherwise small frame.

In college I got all complain-y and girly, thinking I was “sooooo fat” at a buck twenty-five.

awk food baby

Here you can see the awk food baby. I swear I gained 10 pounds that week just from milkshakes.

“No one can tell” that I’ve put on 30 lbs in the last 6-ish years.  (They probably can, and they’re just being nice). Of course, 10 of that was needed, and it has distributed itself pretty evenly.

I’ve always had all these little tricks for determining if I’ve gained an unacceptable amount of weight, but now its just like “Yeah, if I can still fit comfortably on a roller coaster I’m probably fine.”

Only in the the last few years have I discovered that I actually do have an eating disorder. No one really talks about it, because it’s not as serious or dramatic or obvious as, say, bulimia. It’s called BED, or Binge-Eating Disorder.

It involves eating an obscene amount of food very quickly. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a new package of cookies in front of me and the next thing I know I have eaten them all. ALL OF THEM. Like a hundred cookies. Or, the other day I bought munchkins at Dunkin Donuts and all of a sudden I had eaten the whole frikkin container. Over 1600 calories of donuts in like 3 minutes.

binge eatingThere are other qualifiers for the disorder, like feeling sick but continuing to eat, “glazing over” and not realizing what you are doing, feeling very guilty afterwards, etc. I even find that I go into a kind of robotic monotony, chewing each cookie the same number of times, grabbing the next one in the same way, etc. It’s weird, okay?

So I self-diagnosed this borderline hilarious, pish-poshable disorder that I realized actually affects me a lot.

And I wonder what the heck makes me do this. What’s at the bottom of it? I think because I want to feel good and happy and I can’t always achieve that easily. So when I feel pleasure eating a cookie, I love that I can control something that makes me feel great. So if each cookie gives me 5 “pleasure points.”  I’ll gain 5 HUNDRED pleasure points if I eat all the cookies. Thank God it’s cookies and not heroin because this is how people OD.
TLDR; I’m basically a drug addict.

This is the first time I’ve even told anyone about this, so obviously I’m still trying to create a strategy for getting better.

I want to throw out some body image encouragement and advice to my homies (especially my ladyhomies)

  1. Everyone in the whole world has something about their bodies that they don’t like. Even Brazilian butt models.
    Secret: No one notices your “flaws” as much as you do. If you’re always complaining about them, that’s all anyone can see when they look at you. If you carry them like you’ve never even thought about it, 9 times out of 10 no one else will think about it either.
  2. If you catch yourself looking in the mirror for longer than 1 minute, make yourself stop.
    high-ponytail-workout-hairstyle

    Not me. (It was hard to tell, I know).


    We can lose years of our lives obsessing over things that are not immediately changeable. Stop groping your chub-chub like it’ll fall off if you squeeze it hard enough. 

  3. Don’t weigh yourself every day.
    It’s so easy to get hung up on a number that can change for any number of reasons. I once lamented to a male friend that I had gained 5 pounds. He said “I take shits that weigh 5 pounds.” I think about that often.
  4. Practice taking flattering and unflattering selfies.
    I know this sounds crazy. But it important to remember that you can MAKE yourself look better or worse. You can highlight your features or your insecurities. Own both. Snapchat a gross selfie to your best friend. It can help you to feel in control of your insecurities instead of them controlling you.
  5. Make your body do something that you can be proud of.
    I always hear women saying “I love my body because it carried my children.” or “I love my body because it is strong and has carried me.” My body hasn’t brought me through 2 world wars or anything, so I’m trying to start making my body do things that I can be proud of. Like become more flexible, run a 5k, or survive a cliff jump. Do activities with your body and you will find that you are more fond of it than you once thought.