Friday, June 20, 2014

When you don't feel shiny

I posted a video titled Shine: 10 Women Strip Down & Share Their Thoughts On Beauty & Body Image. I'll repost it below in case you missed it.

I intended to write a long post about body image, about this video and other body-empowering ideas that have come my way, about getting naked, and about why many of us can't don't do it. It turned out this topic is harder to write about than I expected. I have a lot to say, but I'm not in a good place to write about it. In fact, I'm struggling with the entire topic from my personal issues to the restrictions society and media place on women's bodies to films like the one below that are supposed to empower women.

But mostly I'm struggling with my body and how I feel about it. And that's the lens through which I saw the film.

I can imagine many women will feel empowered by Shine. Empowered to do what, I'm not sure. Feel better about themselves? Feel more normal in their bodies? Think about their bodies as art? Dare to get naked for a reason other than sex or taking a shower? The film has everything necessary for empowerment, right? Music, soft lighting, pretty voices, smiles, a great message.

So why don't I feel empowered? I don't feel any different about my body after watching the film -- much as I enjoyed it -- than I did before. One reason is that all of those women appear to be under 30. I asked the filmmakers about that, and they responded, As far as older women's representation, we totally agree. We feel the same way which is why [we] sought to cast women of all ages for this project. We were looking for the most diverse group we could find, but for some reason only younger women felt called to participate. We talk a lot about society's under-representation and youth obsessed culture in our feature length film, The Goddess Project, which we plan to have finished by 2015. We would LOVE to see more media that showcases this, and hope in the future to create more films that share this message!

 So I didn't imagine it. Of course I didn't imagine it.

A friend on Facebook wrote: "Not sure it's really about being naked...but about a willingness to take a huge risk and doing so with others who are risking the same and the power in numbers (no matter how small.) THAT is what I think is truly empowering no matter what we wear (or NOT wear)."

I don't disagree with her about the power of numbers and taking a risk together. But I do think it's about being naked. I think it's about being naked and knowing our bodies -- no, my body is not acceptable when it's naked. Nobody could make a beautiful, empowering film about my naked body.

I don't think my reaction is the one Holli and Sara were going for. Or maybe they're too smart to be married to expectations when it comes to their work. I hope so.

As my mother has told me so often, I think too much. I'm doing it now. I truly feel joyful that those 10 women shared such an uplifting experience. I smiled the entire time I watched it, every time I watched it. It's beautiful, and I hope those 10 women get a lot of mileage out of that experience. I'm grateful they were willing to share so deeply of their experience.

So first I enjoyed it, and then the thinking started, because I needed to write something, and right now, naked bike rides and topless book clubs (that's another post) and films about young women stripping down and allowing their bodies to become art .... none of that has anything to do with me. I'm not doing that. And nobody wants to see me do that.

And let me stop right here and say I know it's not about exhibitionism, other people seeing and wanting to post photos on Instagram. Or mostly it's not. I'm not an exhibitionist.

No, it's about the horrible, hurtful, cruel comments people make about women's normal bodies if they aren't young and slim and smooth, and how those voices have become the voice in my head. Maybe in your head too.

My word for 2014 is "unpack," and I expected to unpack some body issues this year. I've had little no success. After my trip to Chicago and an unnamed state park north of the city where I participated in a nude photo shoot, I thought I had unpacked some shit. And I did for a couple of months, before I backslid. Hard. It's depressing. It's affecting my social life. I'm not sure anything will help, but I'm going to try writing and see what happens.

So I'm grateful that Sara and Holli sent me the link to Shine, and encouraged me to experience and examine my own reaction to the film. OK, they really wanted me to review it, but I had to make it all about me. Bloggers. What are you going to do? Like I said in yesterday's post, this topic has been coming at me from several directions recently, so I know I've got some unpacking to do.

I hope the 10 women in Shine carry the experience with them as a shield against the many messages women receive and swallow about our bodies. And I hope the film encourages more women -- women of all ages and body types and abilities -- to find the beauty in their bodies too.


  1. "Nice sweats, thunder thighs!" That's one of the messages I carry with me. It was something a truckload of 20 something boys yelled at me as they drove by while I was out walking one day 6 years ago. The last time a truck load of boys yelled something at me as they drove by they were screaming that I was hot and beautiful, some 25 years earlier, so that was a shock. I cried. I still have that voice in my head.

    1. And the "You're hot and beautiful," message was probably just as harmful to receive from strangers passing by because it set me up, fed my addiction to approval based on my appearance.

    2. Jen, thank you for sharing your story. Those voices are so hard to silence. It doesn't help to know that assholes say shit so easily that they don't even remember 5 minutes later .... but it gets stuck in your head for such a long time. Fuck them if they can't appreciate your powerful thighs. I wonder what they'd have to say if you used those thighs to kick them in their tiny balls.

      Yeah, that made me angry.

  2. I'm getting kind of tired of seeing videos like this, honestly.'s great. It's awesome, and I 100% support the effort, and I think it's important. But it's 10 women. And my reaction to it is, "wow, I could never do that." Or rather, "wow, I could never...ever...EVER do anything even remotely like that." So I'm not sure where it gets me (or many of us), you know? Of course, it's not all about me. But I can look at women of all ages, colors, sizes, and shapes, and I can say that they are amazing and brave and strong and beautiful...and it changes nothing about what I see when I look in the mirror. And, given, I haven't gone out looking for opportunities to get naked in front of people...but I sincerely doubt such an opportunity will land in my lap. It's just...I don't know. Everyone else's body is lovely. It's mine that is the issue. No amount of other people's nakedness is going to change that.