Category Archives: Love

Why I Hate the “Fat is Beautiful” Movement

I am a size zero. Being thin is in my genes. I eat. I am healthy and happy. I have to work hard every day to put on (and keep on) fat and muscle. It’s a struggle.

So I had a visceral reaction the first time I saw Dove’s “real women have curves” campaign for “real bodies.” The idea seems good on the surface, but what idea is Dove really selling us?

Dove is a multi-million-dollar corporation. The idea that Dove is encouraging “real” beauty by selling us beauty products is, in itself, laughable. Dove uses statistics (like this one: “Only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful”) and images of women’s bodies to sell us the idea that Dove is made for “real” women (not those skinny bitches who are not “real” women). The message is incredibly cynical and insidious.

In other words. They are using this image:

Dove Advertisement

…to do the same thing to women as does this image:

What advertising is selling women is the gap. For Dove, the gap is between “real” women and “not-real” (skinny) women. For Armani, the gap is between you and the ideal woman. Either way, the end-game is to get you to buy things. The problem is that this message is a destructive one that seeps below the surface and poisons our thoughts about ourselves and about women on the other side of all the manufactured gaps.

I cringe every time I hear a corporation (or person) bang on about how only large/curvy/thin/fat/big/skinny women are healthy or beautiful. Such messages are not just hurtful to every woman excluded from the body-of-the-year definition of what is beautiful, they are also concepts mobilized to encourage competition and dissatisfaction among women. They funnel female energy away from loving, accepting, and nurturing one another and into competing with each other over what is most attractive and appealing.

I would say I wish male bodies were exposed to the same scrutiny as ours, but that’s not the solution. The solution starts with showing men (and women) the effect they can have on female health and self-esteem by being kind, accepting, and loving toward women instead of belittling, categorizing, and objectifying them.

Yes, fat is beautiful. So is thin.

The next time you are tempted to criticize another woman’s body, just imagine a man (let’s make him unattractive, whatever your idea of unattractive is) leaning back in his leather chair and smiling cynically at the inertia he has created to feed into the destruction of female self-esteem. Every time we push each other down, he is winning.

I refuse to buy Dove products and prefer real images like this:

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A short thought on friendship

In my senior year of college, I broke up with my then-boyfriend late at night. My dear friend Kate called me immediately after I messaged her, came over to my house without being asked and slept with me in my bed because she knew I was hurting and that companionship was what I needed most.

She did this even though she was a very talented rower, and had to be awake at 4:00am the next morning for practice. Five years later, this is still one of the most touching, thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.

Thoughtfulness is about thinking of nice things to do for others, and then doing them. And there is nothing like a close, loving friendship.

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Weddings vs. Marriages: Why I Don’t Hate Kim Kardashian

My parents, for better or for worse, have been married for thirty years. My father thinks about marriage as a life-long commitment to a person you choose to love every day. I have never thought about my wedding, or valued large weddings. I have never thought about what engagement ring I would like. I only ever thought about the man.

So I had a visceral reaction when I found out Kim Kardashian was getting a divorce after 72 days of marriage. Why? Because her wedding/fundraiser makes a mockery of the institution of marriage? Because hundreds of thousands of young women watched a woman get married for money and fame instead of love?

No. I was disgusted because I totally fell for it. I was genuinely happy for her. She seemed like an insecure, misguided, beautiful, imperfect human being. It seemed as though she fell in love with someone she truly appreciated and cherished and that she was confronting some important issues from her childhood in the process of committing to him. Why else would one televise something as private as a romantic courtship?

Looking back, the Kardashian wedding/fundraiser was only a symptom of the problem. She is not destroying marriage. She’s just one person, and she is so highly scrutinized, she must live in terror of any missteps. Hers wasn’t even the shortest celebrity “marriage”, by far.

The metamorphosis of the institution of marriage is just a symptom. So are the excesses of the wedding industry. The disease is the rampant materialism that has come to define America.

More and more, I see celebrities and role models who focus on the wedding instead of on marriage. I fear for our children, and especially our daughters, when I see the messages they will receive from cradle to tomb about what appropriate behavior is for a woman, how she should express her morals and values, and what those morals and values should be.

What kind of message does this wedding obsession (as opposed to a desire for marriage) send about what defines women? It’s not a good one. It reinforces the idea that women are shallow and superficial. It encourages the myth that throwing a lavish party is a reasonable, desired, and necessary act for all committed couples.

It suggests that those who choose to invest their money in a down-payment for a house, a trip around the world, or a child’s education (instead of a one-day celebration) are the unreasonable ones. It suggests that one day (the wedding) is more fun and important than what you will build every day for the rest of your lives together (marriage).

But women are not the only ones to be blamed for their desire for lavish wedding spending.

I trace the idea that materialism and consumption represent love to the creation of the market for engagement rings. In the 1930’s, DeBeers, the famous diamond company, singlehandedly created the market for diamond engagement rings. To combat twenty years in decreased sales, DeBeers launched their “A Diamond is Forever” campaign. They sold women the idea that you are not loved unless your future husband puts a diamond on your finger. The campaign was wildly successful, and most women today cannot imagine becoming engaged or married without a diamond.

The wedding industry has exploded in size similarly: by creating an excess of “need” where there was—and is—no need.

Women have been taught that weddings are the zenith of romance. A wedding should be the best day of one’s life. In a truly bizarre twist, women are now encouraged to plan a wedding before there is even a man in the picture. The popular television show “Say Yes to the Dress” features many single (as in, not even in a relationship) women who shop Kleinfeld’s racks for wedding dresses ranging from $2,000 to $50,000. As with many other things that we consume, weddings have become a booming industry, a 40 billion dollar industry, in fact.

There are tremendous incentives in place for advertisers to do everything possible to get women to spend money. Women spend $5 trillion dollars every year, which represents half of the US GDP. Selling “beauty” is a big part of this (I’ll talk about this later), as is selling the idea that you are only loved if you have a diamond and a wedding. Advertising companies constantly target women with images and slogans; the goal is to make women feel bad about themselves so they will buy things to fill a newly-created void.

What is my point? It doesn’t have to be like this. And being aware that we are being manipulated is the first step in changing our perspective on what we consume. The 2011 documentary Miss Representation ends with the thought that women control the US economy. We are capable of exercising tremendous power as consumers (or non-consumers).

A wedding can be a beautiful affair—a true celebration of the love a couple has found and their excitement in committing to each other for the rest of their lives. But a wedding is not love, happiness, or joy. Marriage is.

What are your thoughts on the wedding industry?

Here are some other people’s thoughts on excessive consumption:

-Slate.com article: Diamonds are  Girl’s Worst Friend

-The 2011 documentary Miss Representation is an eye-opening look at how images in the media are used against women.

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How to Get Her What She Wants for Christmas (2011 Gift-Giving Guide)

Retailers have nicknamed the Saturday before Christmas “Father’s Day” for all the men who start their shopping that day.  So, men, if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping, do not despair. You are in the majority! However, it is December already, and if you are totally clueless about what to get the special women in your life, you need to get moving. So let’s get started!

What does she want?

We hope you’ve been paying attention in the past couple weeks, because most women (72%) have either “directly told” you or used “the power of suggestion” to tell you what they want. Many express that they trust you to choose something appropriate, but also know that you appreciate ubiquitous hints.

A woman (at least 68% in this survey) would like to be surprised by a gift instead of receiving something she has asked for. So your goal here is to demonstrate your listening skills while choosing something tangential. For example, if she has mentioned that she needs some new earrings, search for a beautiful necklace. You get the picture.

How much should I spend?

Let’s start with the good news. More than half of respondents would be happy to receive any gift. As one participant said, “As long as it’s thoughtful and from the heart, it doesn’t matter!” Most women think $100-$200 is an appropriate amount for a significant other to spend on a Christmas gift. Many women (31%) would be happy to receive a gift costing $35-$75 or $75-$100. The even better news? If you are shopping for a friend or acquaintance, most women hope for a gift in the $10-$35 range.

Can you be more specific?

Yes! Below, I review the top 6 types of gifts women would like to receive, along with giving specific suggestions within each category.

1. Experiences

The gift women would most like to receive is an experience-related gift. To women, this means: a trip, a nice dinner, a winter hike, or a night out with family or friends. The number one item on a woman’s wish list is a trip–to spend some time with you or to see her friends or family. Since a flight is a big item, most women would also love help with travel expenses. You can wrap up your “help” along with a homemade card explaining your gift.

In the “experiences” category, women would also appreciate “a nice dinner and a weekend alone” with you. Other options for experience-related gifts: dance classes (find a local ballet studio), yoga classes, and rock-climbing or other athletic pursuits. My top choice in the experiences category is a warm winter hat and an outdoor weekend away to hike or ski. Bonus points: fold up a letter describing your destination and slip it into the hat-box.

2. The Little Things

Accessories are a close second to experience-related gifts and are among the most sought-after Christmas gifts. Jewelry is the big one here, although women express a lot of understanding that men are trying to save this season. There are many jewelry options out there, but to stay in the $100-$200 range, you can start with Zales holiday sales, Macy’s, and Ann Taylor.

Also prominent in the accessories category are handbags. Try looking at Coach and Nordstrom. The reward: she can wear jewelry or a handbag every day, and she will think about you every time she puts on your gift.

3. Apparel

My top pick in this category is something cozy, warm, and beautiful that she can wear around the holidays to show off how awesome her significant other is. Think: sweaters, vests, a coat, a scarf, or gloves. There are some beautiful options at Ann Taylor, which is my number-one pick for an item in the apparel category. Other options include JCrew favorites and Banana Republic gifts under $100. Two great lesser-known options: Velvet tees and Asos.com’s dresses.

Is she outdoorsy? She could benefit from new hiking shoes, a fleece, or running shoes. Does she wear nice shoes? If you’re not sure, does she wear different shoes sometimes? Especially shoes with a heel? If so, take a look at: High-end Ballet Flats and holiday shoes at Zappos.com. Several women expressed special interest in boots to wear this winter.

4. Beauty Products

Also ranking high on wish lists are beauty products. Buying a woman perfume gives you a chance to show off your knowledge of what she has and likes or to give her some adorable reasoning behind why you chose a new scent. Many sites make lists of top-rated scents, but if she has something she already loves, women say they would appreciate a refill. Here are some top-rated scents or you can search through your local Macy’s or Bloomingdales to see what you like. Always classic are DKNY and Michael Kors (Michael by Michael Kors was gifted to me 4 years ago and became my signature scent).

Makeup is a highly requested item, as well. If you know where she shops, that’s enough (see number 5). My number-one item in this category is a an item from or gift certificate for MAC or Sephora. Many women love the Beautyblender, and at $20-$25 it’s a great option for a stocking-stuffer.

If you want to get major bonus-points, try SK-II’s brightening line or their facial treatment essence. This is one of women’s most-loved beauty products (and is also one of the most expensive lines in the world–see how much work we go through to look good for you?) and has been dubbed “holy water” by regular users. I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now. That’s ok! Check it out anyway. Other favorite brands are Clarins and Clinique. Go for something moisturizing, nothing “spot-correcting” or anything like that; we all want to have a pleasant Christmas, after all.

5. Gift certificates

This doesn’t mean we don’t trust you to choose something nice! Many women enjoy the process of picking out their own items (crazy, right?). A gift certificate to a store she loves is a great option for a Christmas gift.  Specific stores women would like gift certificates for include: Sephora, MAC, and Amazon.com.

Many women also say they would love a relaxing spa day or salon gift certificate. This could mean a massage, facial, or products. Ask her what salon she goes to or look in her shower (not creepy if you’re doing gift-reconnaissance, just make sure you don’t get caught) and see what products she uses. My top pick in the gift certificate category is a cut and color at a local Aveda or Bumble and Bumble salon.

6. Electronics and Books

My number-one pick in this category is the FitBit Activity and Sleep Tracker. It is an awesome little gadget that any woman who works out would love to have. Women are also excited about the Kindle, the iPod Touch, and computers. A computer is a big-ticket items, so assistance toward purchasing one is also a good option. Books are a bit more tricky, but any animal-lover would enjoy Paul Nicklen’s stunning arctic photography and everyone loves a good novel. If you’re really stumped, try a beautiful journal from Smythson or the famous Moleskine notebooks.

So what is the bottom line here? The special woman in your life will be happy with anything that is special and from-the heart (Aww!). Family, time off work, time with friends, decorations, and warm fuzzy holiday feelings are most important to women during the holiday season.

As one woman put it, “anything that falls in line with my interests is always good (like he remembered that I said I like this, or wanted that, and he got it).” This is your chance to get her something she wouldn’t get for herself. The best gift is knowing that you listened.

Good luck!

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