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Why I made my site, in pictures.

April 13, 2011

When I got my job I was like this

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But then I wasn’t sure what I had to do and I was like this

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Soon I realized that this was going to be a hard job

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So I brought some craft supplies and life was good

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I realized that crafts were cool and all but these young women needed more

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I learned that I needed to quit teaching crafts and start focusing on things that would help these young women but the school stopped me

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So I started a blog to explain my frustrations

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How do we fix the beauty monster?

April 9, 2011

There is not easy fix for the monster that we have created. We’ve turned beautiful girls into young women thinking that they have incurable problems. The beauty monster starts by only nipping at the toes of little girls while they try on mommies lipstick so they can be just as beautiful as she is. This cycle of girls and beauty continues with the presence of Disney princesses showing and proving that only the pretty helpless girl gets a man. We encourage this behavior as a society and tend to forget that the implications can be catastrophic.

We’ve all played a role in making this monster. Whether we watch movies that objectify women (Milburn) or we buy from a store whose advertising campaign is targeted towards being thin. When we make decisions to do things like this we are feeding this beauty monster. No matter how we look at it we’ve creating something that is out of control. But, there are ways to fix it.

Women that saw the picture above wrote to Glamour magazine in the hundreds and talked about how it was the most beautiful picture they have ever seen. Readers were able to identify with a model for the first time in most of their lives. These readers got a chance to experience being accepted for who they are.

The proverbial example from American Beauty about what beauty is is probably the best example. We see our beautiful blonde cheerleader as the beauty in the film and then later we realize that she isn’t the one the title is referring to. The culminating moment in the film is when Ricky tells the blonde cheerleader that she is not beautiful “And you’re boring, and you’re totally ordinary, and you know it.” (IMDb). The quote implies that beauty is far more than being pretty. He shows that you can be pretty on the outside but still be an ugly person. This movie won five academy awards.

No matter what way we have fed the beauty monster it’s time to starve it. We need to quit forcing little girls to play with pink toys because it furthers the gender dichotomy and, in the end, it forces girls to see only one path to femininity, that one through long blonde hair and pink high heels (Smithsonian). We need to quit supporting a movie and television industry that feels it’s acceptable to make date rape a joke. And as a whole, we need to stop defining beauty as a box that we can put people in. Beauty is only skin deep.

What defines beauty for you?

March 26, 2011

I can say with confidence that every woman (and man!) out there that is reading this is beautiful. Every person on this Earth possesses some quality that we can all find pleasing to the senses or mind. But if you pick up a Vogue or Marie Claire I would have to be a liar. Fashion industries have this ideal of beauty that is pushed into our culture daily, and have infiltrated our view of ourselves.
When I asked my class, mostly young black women, what society considers beautiful the first thing that was said was being white. In the fashion industry there is a crisis with black women as models. They are prejudiced against and the darker the skin the less they are seen on the covers of Vogue. No matter how equal we are as a society we do not see women of color as beautiful as a white woman. How are these beautiful young women supposed to see themselves as the beauty that they are when they are a beautiful chocolate brown with beautiful kinky afros and the closest thing to themselves in magazines is Tyra Banks with her perfectly straight smooth hair and her skin only shades darker than some white women. No wonder these young women feel that the only way to be beautiful is to be white! An important woman to remember in all of this is one brought up by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that of Alex Wek. (“Cocorioko Press”) She is a beautiful young woman that gets modeling jobs but was almost entirely rejected by the modeling community for her compaction and looks. She still gets jobs but they are rare.
The most important thing they said, though, was that you couldn’t be pretty unless you were skinny and tall. They really strongly believe that they have to be tall and thin to be beautiful! There is something inherently wrong with the belief that something determined by genetic markers (weight and height!) is what truly makes someone beautiful. Fashion magazines do not just say that you have to be thin through their articles on healthy food (less than 100 calorie meals!) and twenty-minute abs every day, but this is withheld just by the poses that these women hold. The cover of this month’s Vogue was a particularly emaciated looking picture of Lady Gaga in a truly sickening hair color (below) her pose is one to be thought over. You can see this pose over and over in magazines (below) Honestly I’m not sure that rakish is the image of beauty that I desire to possess. By moving your elbows in front of your body you make your body straighter and narrower showing these 100-pound girls look like starving children. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a Vogue or a Teen Vogue (targeted to 13-17 year olds!) the same pose is found in BOTH.
The most important part of the equation is that these women are even photo shopped afterward to be thinner and even more beautiful!  We’ve used photoshop to help us achieve the unattainable. We see advertisements, like that of Ralph Lauren, and we wonder where they are coming from. Filippa Hamilton was fired from Ralph Lauren for being overweight as 5’11” and 120lbs (Masnick). Because she was so over weight Ralph Lauren responded with this. That is apparently how thin they meant when they said she needed to be thin. In any case this standard was impossible to live up to before now it really is impossible because the women are not real.

The last major thing that all of the girls said and agreed on was that long hair was the only way to be beautiful. This is the most evident in America’s Next Top Model. The Craziest episodes to watch are the “make-over” ones. Some of these young women bawl and scream that their hair is going to be cut off. This is most evident in Cassandra who was told her hair was going to be cut-off so she LEFT THE SHOW (Kural). Her opportunity of a lifetime she gave up over hair. HAIR. There was no other reason for this. She gave up an entire competition rather than get a Mia Farrow cut. With an attitude like that over a collection of dead cells on your head it’s not surprising that you have to have long hair to be beautiful.
Because of all of this is it really all the surprising that body image is one of the things that women struggle the most with? Between BDD, to anorexia, to bulimia we address the symptoms but not the cause. Why are these disorders higher than they have ever been? All of these girls are taught by health instructors how to spot them but do any of them really know what causes them? Despite eating disorders onset beginning, on average, in adolescence, when polling the girls I teach very few even knew what one was (Eduguide). We should worry what garbage that magazines and advertisements are filling teens with and focus on how to stop them from being detrimental.

“In a survey of working-class fifth to twelfth grade suburban girls, sixty-nine percent reported that magazine pictures influence their idea of the perfect body shape; forty-seven percent reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.” (Eduguide)

These feelings are stemming from the pressure that is put upon young women to be prettier and more beautiful. The standard of beauty that women uphold for themselves is unrealistic and unsustainable. As we see by statistics and various other indicators we can tell that these problems are bigger than the girls themselves.

Why does our definition of beauty matter?

March 26, 2011

Every dictionary that I’ve come across sticks with one main definition of beauty; pleasing to the senses or mind (“beauty”). My question is whose senses or mind are we pleasing?
It’s funny because I was never considered a beautiful child, always cute, but never quite beautiful. I was mercilessly teased in elementary school for having a “ski-slope” nose and being “Danielle Duncan Doughnuts.” Don’t get me wrong, I had guys that thought I was cute in middle school, but nothing ever came of it. I never considered myself pretty or even attractive until at the end of eighth grade. Someone asked me, already at 5’8”, why I wasn’t a model. My answer, of course, was that I’m not beautiful enough. People continued to ask me this for years until I finally broke down. The only rational conclusion was to set-up an appointment to audition to be a model. This way, when I was turned down I could prove to everyone that I wasn’t pretty and they needed to quit saying it.
I went into the studio that recruits models and it was huge. There were little girls in frilly dresses and seven-year-old boys pouting with their hair shellacked back with copious amounts of gel. I was nervous. They had me fill out an almost five page long application about my characteristics like my weight and measurements and my hobbies. When they finally talked to me they took a couple of pictures and I never received a call back. Although I was going to prove that I was ugly I was devastated. I never thought that I could feel so rejected by something that I didn’t even want in the first place. After my experience I did some research. I found out that to be a model there is one other major component than just being tall and pretty. You had to be skinny. Now I was always thin, but after I did some research I found out that I was way too fat to be a model. At fourteen years old I was already at least fifteen pounds overweight for modeling. Now I’m 5’11” and people still approach me and say that I am very pretty and ask why I don’t model. The answer is simple, I’m too fat.
At 5’11” I am 148 pounds and I am twenty-five pounds overweight for modeling. It doesn’t matter how many times I have been told that I am pretty I will never be pretty enough to model. Somehow I don’t agree that my weight defines my beauty. Different industries have attached different values to the concept of beauty. The modeling and fashion industries and decided that I have to be a waif to model and to be beautiful. The television and movies seem to say that for me to beautiful I need to wear outfits that barely cover by body and that my body should jiggle in only the right places. The advertisers tell me that my “flaws” should be filled, expanded, or tightened and that aging is an unnatural process. We should all look like prepubescent little girls. I reject all of these notions.
At 5’11” and 148 lbs, I am beautiful. With my stomach that is not a washboard and my figure that is not a perfect hourglass I am beautiful. With my smile lines and “ski-slope” nose I am beautiful. Who is defining beauty for you?

What is Educationland?

March 26, 2011

Public education is a trip. It’s really as easy as that. I came into this world of education as most do, naïvely. My third week in college I get an email that has forever changed my life. I had a job offer from Girl Scouts offering me a position with up to eight hours a week at fifteen dollars an hours. My interest was peaked. So I sent my résumé (which is packed full of scouting experience) and then the phone call came and I had a job. Nothing in life is that perfect. There had to be a catch. Well, of course, there was. It turns out that Girl Scouts was not my employer but the school district was. I knew this could set me up for failure. School districts and I never really got along. In fifth grade I helped start a petition to get a substitute fired and in high school I went to school board meetings over policy in the school and made the paper. The school board and I have never really been friends.
I figured it was time for me to take a chance and leap into the rabbit-hole of education. As I’ve gotten further and further into Educationland I can say that it is a whole other world. The school must be hyper sensitive to parent’s requests and will do anything to avoid offending. . How do you explain female exploitation when you cannot talk about women being sold into prostitution or show the detriments of hip-hop’s attitude towards women if you aren’t even allowed to show the video that you refer to? This creates hoops for me to jump through that force me to have to choose between being a strong 10-foot tall teacher or the meek six-inch tall teenager that happens to teach.
Teaching middle schoolers is hard. There is no way to deny it. But what is even harder is trying to instill some kind of self-confidence and self love within these girls while conforming to the rules of public schools. Trying to show these young women that they are beautiful no matter their race, background, income, or the neighborhood, or showing them that even if their parents work a dead-end job they still have the ability to do anything that they want. The choices that go into my lessons are hard and always a perilous balance. I can choose to teach something controversial that these women will remember for the rest of their life or I can bring a craft paper and we can cut out hearts and make Valentines.
These beautiful young women are missing major parts of their education that plays into them learning about the gender differences and disparities in society. No one warned me that I would be perceived as less competent because I am female. No one really ever hit the nail on the head when it came to what bullying is and how to stop it. No one ever told me that I’m not your mom or teacher so if you ever need anything you can talk to me.
This website is my way of imparting this “wisdom” that I feel is some of the most important things for young women to know. The school has blocked some of the things I’ve tried to say and paperwork has made some discussions impossible. At the end of the day the school is far happier to see me teaching the girls to sew then talk about how they are beautiful and deserve the chance to get anything they want.
The entire purpose of this website is to chronicle my, irreputedly, feminist thoughts on the things these young should be concerned about or things that we have talked about as a class fleshed out in depth with references and multi-media surrounding it. This website will go down the rabbit hole and chronicle what I find in Educationland.

For an easier read here’s the story in pictures.