Sunday, 26 February 2012

Thinspiration

I watched Gok Wan's Naked Truth this week, as mention by a friend, as it addressed key issues that our teenagers have to face: body image, bullying and not being 'normal'. The three-episode series was emotional,nearly crying on the first episode where young girls suffering with major anxieties in their attempts to be thin. 
 Paige was addicted to looking at websites that encouraged you to be thin -'Thinspiration'- and had lots of shocking images that had been overly photoshopped to give an appearence of ultra skinny. Her main hang up was that in all the pictures she scouted through on a daily basis, was the fact that none of the models' thighs touched and had no visible hips. Because of this, she was under the believe that she was fat. It is very shocking that a young girl, I think she was 15, truly believed she was too fat when she had such a petite body. She even photoshopped pictures of herself before putting them on Facebook as she was self-conscious of how she looked.

One of the images that Paige used as thinspiration.

 During the episode, Gok also met Brianna, a recovering anerexic despite still being 15. Her story was touching, a horrible addiction to pro-anorexia websites and talking to people online who encouraged bad eating habits. Gok took her to meet the wonderful people at Body Gossip to help her tell her story as part of their ongoing campaign. Watch the video below for her story.



Well done Gok and Body Gossip for their on going ambition to raise awareness in young people about a subject that just is not discussed in society, let alone in schools. Young people, male or female, have pressures around them that they must be 'perfect' and yet they are still developing. They must realise to love themselves as their body is on going changes for the whole of their lives.
 



Watch more of their videos on their Youtube page here

Links

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Rediscovered Slut.

I was trying to find something from my old work and came across this. I had completely forgotten about it and it made me chuckle when it feel out an old sketchbook. It was made as a response to the phrase 'Scurrilous Boat', the self-initiated theme of my Final Major Project at university[see previous posts]. I forgot how spontaneous I was with experiments.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Blacksmith and the Bosom

Back in July, I went to a local agricultural show- the New Forest Show- where lovely folk come together to show off their farm animals, produce[cheese, fudge etc] alongside many countryside retailers and charities too. It was here where I saw the blacksmith tent, showcasing some delicate items with a few blacksmiths busy at work making pokers and candlesticks. They are there every year, but this year I became fascinated with what they were doing and fell in love with the candlesticks, hooks and other intricate ornaments that they had on show. I noticed that some of them were from a college course in Dorset and made note to look into them later.Some intense searching and realisation of the costs of these courses, led me to looking for a local artist who runs workshops. And to my delight I found Cara. 

Cara Wassenberg is a sculpture and artist blacksmith who has a studio based just outside of Petersfield, and it was her beautiful nature-inspired sculptures that interested me in her workshops.


Leaf Globe by Cara Wassenberg.

So today, myself and two other lovely ladies headed to her farm-based studio and learnt to bend, mould and twist metal[not the technical terms]. Firstly, we all experimented with steel, making the head of a poker, from which I swiftly moved onto working with a plate copper so I could practice molding some curves.


First bit of blacksmith-ing- the end of my poker [which did not get finished]. I love the little point I made!

When booking the workshop with Cara, she asked in advanced about what I would like to make by the end of it, to which I had not really thought of anything specific; I just wanted to learn some basic techniques as an introduction to the blacksmith craft. I was stumped to be honest, and only in the last few weeks I really came up with anything that I thought I would feel would be fitting to me and my work: the female body.

Copper Breast experiment.


My first experimentation with copper was to become a beautiful breast, made with various techniques, mainly hammering against or on curved tools. I can tell you now that hammering was a lot of work, and took a lot of concentration to make sure that you are molding the shape to how you want it.


The back of the Copper Body and detail of the stomach area.

Although my figure [named Eve] looks a bit bumpy, I completely adore what I have created. Whilst in her studio working, we were surrounded by lots of pieces that she had made, which were so inspiring from simple hanging ducks to her more familiar delicate leaves. We were also surrounded by hammers of all sizes and shapes as well as other useful tools that Cara helped us use to make our final pieces.


Whilst I curved my copper sheet into a female figure, my fellow participants sculptured a gorgeous leaf shaped fruit bowl and a very beautifully twisted poker.The whole day was a buzz, very overwhelming and we all left very pleased with ourselves. I would so love to return to try more if I had time and money, as there is endless experimentation with the creative arts.

Thank you Cara!

 Links
Cara Wassenberg 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

What Size Am I?

Via a Twitter link, I found this interesting and extremely clever program. What Size Am I? looks at high street brands and the way that they size their women's clothing. Created by web developer Anna Powell-Smith, the program works by entering your essential numbers [Chest-Waist-Hip] and then the graph will place you from the many pre-drawn lines and tell you what size clothes will fit you best in a particular shop. For example, below, my 36-30-36 body means that I would best fit into size 12 clothes from New look or Top Shop. 



Of course, it is also depends on what suits my purse too.

Links
What Size Am I? Website for finding the right clothes for your size.
Anna on Twitter

Saturday, 18 February 2012

"Ultimately, I don't care if you're offended."

Yesterday I was trawling through a few articles and videos and came across quite a shocking article about a children’s TV presenter Cerrie Burnell.
How do you explain a missing hand to a child?

I was not aware of a small uproar by parents in early 2009, when the BBC had hired Cerrie, now 32, to present CBeebies. The fuss from parents came because Cerrie’s right arm stops below the elbow. I find it fairly disgusting that so many parents complained because it was apparently ‘scaring children’ and parents were finding it hard to explain.
‘One father said he feared it would give his daughter nightmares and a mother said her two-year-old girl could not watch because she thought the presenter had been hurt.’ 
BBC, 24th Feb 2009

It is very simple; she was born like that. It is a disability [if that is the politically correct term] that the actress, singer and playwright Cerrie has dealt with all her life and has done very well for herself despite prejudices such as these from parents. She was advised to wear a prosthetic arm to help further her career by drama tutors, despite her rejection of ever using the aid when she was only 9 years old.

And look how well she is doing now despite this disability and having to put up with such prejudices. A report in 2006 suggested that 6% of children are born with defects worldwide, some a lot more serious than Cerries, which means that parents should really be telling their children the truth so that their child will be more aware of these circumstances.  Obviously parents need to be comfortable talking to their child about such a sensitive subject, and the child also needs to be at the right age to understand the situation. But at the end of the day, children are inquisitive and always wanting to know more. As Cerrie told the BBC, her presence on children’s TV presents the ideal opportunity for parents to explain and to “show what they can achieve on merit.”

"I'm not going to restrict my own physicality because someone is uncomfortable with it – they're just going to have to deal with it.” – Cerrie Burnell to Emine Saner at the Guardian.

We are all different. And no matter what shape, colour, gender, or disability we are, we are all capable of achieving whatever we want.

Links
Cerrie Burnell Interview with the Guardian
Birth Defect Report by March of Dimes

The Empowerment of the Heel

I am a woman who wants to admit early on in life that actually I don’t like shoes all that much, well specifically I don’t like high heels. For an outing last night, such a rare delightful evening with numerous cocktails, I beautied myself in my usual pretty and decided to wear my favourite little tan kitten heels. What I realized this evening, was that this might possibly be one of the last occasions I EVER wear heels. And yet, I know I can never give them up. Giving up heels would be like loosing a part of my femininity.

My decision isn’t simply because I have returned home with blistered heels or sore toes. The decision comes with my unlady-like grace that did not enhance me in any way but an extra 2 inches that, as a 5ft 9inch woman, I don’t actually need. I only own a fair range of shoes- converses, boots, flats and a hand full of heels- but in all honesty, I rarely wear the heels. Whilst I university, I strived to wear heels whilst out with my peers, trying to desperately fit in with the leggy ladies that strutted with a lot more grace and confidence than myself. As much as I tried, I have come to admit that I struggle. BOY do I struggle.

Heels on a night out during university.

First off, I believe I am a woman of good height. The extra height heels give me means that even with kitten heels, I can start to match, or even tower over, fellow men. A fairly daunting idea to be honest. I once spent a relationship banned from heels, as my partner was already shorter than me without the extra boost. I think that my feet were fairly grateful for the break from the blisters, sores and wonky strides.

Secondly, I have big feet. My flippers are a good UK size 9[EU 43], and if I am very lucky I can drop down a size. The pain I have shopping can be beyond frustrating; it is like finding the right length jeans or particular size furniture to slot into that particularly awkward gap in the living room.  Some shops are coming to realize that there is a niche for us well endowed ladies, with high street shop New Look being my own, possibly only, source for well fitting shoes. For a good few years they have stocked a small range of shoes that go up to a 9, and even having a wide fit range on more shoes. I have noticed the rise in trend to celebrate the big-footed women in magazines over the last couple of years. Paris Hilton. Cameron Diaz. Nicole Kidman. These struggles probably come easier to them with endless cash flows, they could have someone make them a pair with no problem. But unfortunately for me, and other regular ladies, the struggle continues.

Don’t get me wrong, I like having a pair of shoes that much a new dress or outfit. However, with shoes comes great responsibility and skill. Heels can be extremely empowering with a feeling of indestructability whilst they can also be a major downfall in an instant. Anybody can spot a woman, or indeed man, who cannot walk properly in heels; the wobbly strut and that awkward leg shape that doesn’t look quite natural. And when you see that female struggling past you, you empathize with her determination to be seen as a real woman. And I think back to so many nights out, and even interviews, where I have lumbered myself painfully about, wanting to be accepted as a woman who can work heels. I can’t folks, I haven’t been graced with balance or elegance.
 My sister, a regular clubbing fanatic, goes out in her heels dancing and often comes back a little soar carrying her shoes, like so many young women do. Once she came back aching, heels in hands, and was blessed with large blisters on her heels for weeks. Seriously, weeks. She could not stop moaning, but unfortunately for her, my attitude was simple; the pain was self-inflicted like some kind of foot binding fetish.  And for some people, that is exactly how it is seen. The foot binding can be seen as self-harm like tightly worn corsets in the 1800’s, which often caused problems such as deformity, respiratory problems and even fertility issues.

Alexander McQueen shoes with an awkward heel.
 
A friend last night mentioned in conversation that men dig a woman in heels, that it is ‘sexy’. And I know what she means. In a Guardian article by Hannah Betts, she talks about her own experiences and lust towards the high heel, and speaks to Dr Gad Saad, author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption.  He states that:
"High heels may well be the most potent aphrodisiac ever concocted… The height sensuously alters the whole anatomy - foot, leg, thigh, hips, pelvis, buttocks, breasts. Men are perfectly frank in admitting that high heels stimulate their sexual appetite, and women, consequently, assign to stilted shoes all the magic of a love potion.”
 In her article, Betts covers some history of the heel, as well as health issues that seem to be more and more common. Cosmetic surgery for the feet is increasing, with Dr Michael O’Neill, a podiatric surgeon, listing the potential damage that prolonged wear might lead to; ‘ incontinence, stress fractures, back and hip problems, in addition to more than the odd broken ankle. Jaw, neck and head pain may also be a consequence, with menstrual dysfunction and fertility problems completing the lamentable package.’  Is walking in heels really worth the pain, distress and even surgery?

 There is no denying that a woman who can elongate her legs and gracefully glide along with her head held high can be a stunning look. That is, unless the heel becomes too great that it is painful to look at. 

 Take former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham who has made herself known in the fashion industry and continuously glides in astonishingly high heels that my feet weep at the sight of the heels. The worst occasion was at the Royal wedding last year when heavily pregnant Beckham wore extreme heels that made me wince at every step. Even TV personality Amanda Holden was spotted in dangerously high heels whilst heavily pregnant. As a health conscious person, I am not sure what would possess a woman to want to wear such high heels when carrying a child. The sight of these women makes my feet cringe and my mind wanting to give them a lecture like I am some old nagging geriatric.

But really, what it comes down to is how it makes us feel; woman and men who wear heels, be them kitten heels or towering stilettos, feel empowered, sexually or physically. It is my awkward determination to stride tall as a woman and to feel the empowerment of the heel that I continue to battle with my shoes. For some the high heel is an everyday object with no fuss, whilst others will struggle to find their footing quite literally. Although I know deep down I will still slip on a cute kitten heel for those rare special occasions, I also know that I can still walk tall as an empowered woman without the heels.
 
Links
Why Woman Still Torture Themselves with Heels by Hannah Betts at Guardian

Friday, 17 February 2012

Maybe That's Okay

Written by Kate Tym, 'What are we protecting our children from?' is a performance piece involving TV presenters and actresses.


Links
Body Gossip website

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Being Naked is not an Offence

A man has been fined £315 for being naked.

 Mr Keer, from Leeds, was rambling through the beautiful countryside of Yorkshire last October, when he spotted by a woman walking her dog who "had a disgusted frown across her face". The woman in question reported the man and he has since been charged with causing distress. Keer, who has a light hearted manner, keeping score of the reactions from passers-by as he rambles about in nothing but his shoes, bag and cap. On this particular day, the scoring was positive, tallying 15-0, until PC Buxton arrested him and demanded to reclothed himself immediately.

Nigel, an eager naturist with his freedom on show, has previously put his naked ambitious to use by completing challenges naked for charity. I am not sure the last time I heard someone’s body causing so must distress that they would have to fine someone,let alone take them to court! Either the lady in question has a faint heart and seeing a naked person out of the blue could cause a terrible shock, or simply she just hasn’t seen a full man naked in a very long time,if at all.
I am hoping with a tally of 15-1, that this woman is in the minority of people who wouldn’t take Mr Keers naked preference in good jest. If a man,or woman, wants to walk naked, I certainly wouldn’t stop him, I’d salute him. If you don’t like it, don’t look!
Keep rambling naked Nigel!
Links

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Terroists in Dresses.

"People laugh and say what ridiculous things to do, but it was never done for fun. They had to get the notice of the public and that was their way of doing it."

 Having read a couple of books about the Suffragettes movement over Christmas, it is great to see a BBC radio documentary questioning their militant tactics.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Eternal Fear of Public Nudity.


Iceland; A land of the Aurora Borealis, Nordic history and stunning volcanic scenery. However, whilst I was there enjoying the gloomy English-esque weather, I found myself questioning my body confidence.
 On the second day in the city venturing to and from museums and cafes, we were treated with 25mph winds. This pretty much made us retreat back to our spa hotel and enjoy the complimentary facilities that were hidden in the basement – a small swimming pool, sauna, steam room and gym. Next to the swimming pool, there was a small but amazingly lush warm pool, heated to 40° which just melted you away to a place far from reality. Enjoying the pools and other accessories was not what caused panic over the lumps and bumps of my body. It was the changing rooms I feared pre-swim. And post-swim too.
 I have recently started swimming again, and have gotten into the usual routine of either finding myself a deserted cubicle or completing the redressing-behind-a-large-towel routine after a lengthy swim. My usual routine was upset in Iceland by the hygiene rules that every one must shower before entering the pool. Naked.
 I wasn’t aware of this rule at the hotel spa, until I had counted the mass of naked women and realized I was the only one walking around in swim wear [a young girl and me that is]. With my increasing pool visits, I am used to seeing the naked female form, alongside my continuing research into feminism and woman’s issues, but this seemed a different experience. It was my naked body in the center of that changing room.
 After my realization that I had not showered in conjunction with their rules whilst using the facilities, I became self conscious that maybe I was prudish about my body or that in actual fact I was actually more self-conscious in public with my body than I had realized.
 As much as I rant on here that people must be comfortable with their bodies, I felt like I was a massive hypocrite, covering as much of my body as possible with my swimsuit, towel or spare flexing limb. This initial trip to the spa had me re-considering how comfortable was I with my body, in all honesty, for there was many women in front of me dressing down to their naked skin without hesitation. These women were at least a decade or two older than me, so I can draw out two conclusions; either these women embrace the rules of showering naked alongside other women and get on with it. Or these women have, with age and experience, accepted their bodies for what they are.
 The day after, I was in another changing room at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, where rules were very much the same- shower naked before and after use of the pool, cleaning intimate areas. I was prepared to comply with the rules but as the shower area was empty, I essentially got away with a shower, keeping the swimwear on. I was too conscious in the open planned shower room with the wider mix of old and younger women I had seen wandering around the lockers. If I could get away with hiding my lady lumps, I would. And I thinking many people I know would too, men and women.
 A few hours of swimming and lazing in mineral waters, I faced doing the reverse procedure. After so much panic and showering clothed, I bared all and I finally got naked in the public showers. And I really didn’t understand why I, or anyone, would be so stubborn not to get naked- we are all women; we’ve seen it all before. Just watch anything on TV after 9pm and you will have the occasional butt crack or breast. I got redressed in a tiny room, where I was accompanied by two other ladies and had already stopped using my towel and hands as cover. Why is it that women are so self-conscious? Why am I so self-conscious- I am fairly happy with my curved size-12 body.

What I want to find out from my experience of being naked in public is how do others find the experience. What is it that makes us shy and strategically change under the cover of a damp towel or have a particular re-dressing routine so that no intimate part of the body is shown to prying eyes? Is it the pressure that women must have perfect bodies, or is it just shyness from showing a little buttock, nipple or pubic hair?

It is fair to say, that when I return to swimming this week, I will not head for the cubicle to hide my embarrassment. I will change with the rest of the woman, baring as much buttocks as I please.

How was Iceland?

Wet and windy with the most amazing terrain, simply. Whilst there, it was warmer than England however the wind was ridiculously powerful, nearly knocking us over on the way to the National Museum. I am hoping that Chris, my traveling buddy for this trip, will upload his photos online so you can see some wonderful shots of Iceland.
 Whilst I was there, I also had a personal experience relating to my continuing research and interest in body image which I have since blogged about, so please do have a read.
For now, here are some shots of the amazing landscapes and the weather.

The weather - Wet and cloudy, which meant we did not get a good chance to see the Northern Lights.
The rough terrain in the south, with patches of snow, and the landscape surrounding north Reykjavik.

 Ducks on frozen lake Tjornin in central Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon Spa in the south of Iceland. The central town, and throughout the country, there was a mix of architecture of homes and industrial buildings with some of the most intriguing the bright colour homes along the central lake.
The geothermal waters were 40degrees, whilst the air was 3/4degrees with occasional patches of rain and hail. The peaks in the background occassionally disappeared from sight by the low clouds of rain. If you go to Blue Lagoon, the waters are full of minerals and can really damage your hair! Mine took a couple of washes to get back to normal, however my face is feeling so smooth from the natural silica mud masks available at the side of the pool. Bit of a tourist trap, but so relaxing and worth a few hours of your time.


Chocolate cake at C is for Cookie, a small cafe of one of the main streets. Couldn't finish it's sickeningly sweet goodness.

Chain Hits My Chest

Before I headed off to Iceland, this video was posted online of M.I.A.'s new song Bad Girls, directed by Romain Gavras, who also directed M.I.A.'s controversial video for Born Free. The video for Bad Girls has one simple to-the-point message - a massive middle finger to the laws and culture of Saudi Arabia where it is illegal and socially unacceptable for a woman to drive. The video has M.I.A in blinged up Saudi dress with lots of chains, sitting comfortably on a car being driven on its side, whilst there are also long shots of woman doing car stunts that make Fast and Furious look dull. 


Saudi Arabia's culture has been scrutinized by many for being too behind the times, with it being the only country to ban women from driving as well as woman having to acquire written approval from a particular male guardian [eg father, husband, brother or son] to leave the country, work or go abroad. Well done M.I.A and Roman Gavras for keeping this ridiculous sexist ban in the public eye.


Manal Al-Sharif being filmed as she drives around with a license that she acquired in America. She was later arrested, held for ten days and signed an agreement not to talk to the press or drive again. In June 2011, a number of women, thought to be between 30-40, all drove out in protest of the laws through the streets of the Saudi capital, and none of them were reported to have been stopped. See article from the Guardian.

Links

Yarn Bombing and False Beauty

A bit of Yarn bombing in Reykjavik this week.

And as I am blogging, this advert has been spotted in Hackney, London this week, addressing the issue of false beauty in the media, specifically advertising.


Links

Friday, 10 February 2012

Goddess Ideal 2012

Through Twitter I found a link to a Daily Mail article, as I seem to be finding so much these days on there, which addressed an interesting issue of the aesthetics of the woman's body. The article in question - What if Botticelli had Photoshop - looks at glorious old paintings by Sandro Botticelli, Francesco Hayez and other painters who obviously adored women's figures with a bit of meat on them. Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano has edited the original images with the use of Photoshop, to impose the 'size zero' body shape that society is so obsessed with. The images raise the question of the ideology of a woman's body in the modern day, where the original paintings portray curved and rounded figures and the edited images a much slender ,yet still busty, female figure.

 Venus Playing with Two Doves [1830] by Francesco Hayez.


 The Birth of Venus [1485-6] by Sandro Botticelli
Original

 The Birth of Venus [1485-6] by Sandro Botticelli
Edited version.


The Birth Of Venus (1879), by William-Adolphe Bouguereau


The difference in the figures is fairly striking. The difference in the bodies would be a number a dress sizes in this modern era and yet women, and men, strive to have a slender body. What ever happened to having a bit of meat on you like the pale curves of these stunning paintings? What is it that strives people to be slender, as personally, I believe that there is a limit to when being slender becomes worryingly too thin.Of course, some women are born with a naturally skinny frame, but the majority of us have curves, lumps and bumps in various places. Look at the body shapes that magazines promote- Pear, Apple, Hour-glass, Column, Cello, Upside-down triangle, triangle and even more. This endless amount of metaphors to define our body shape clearly shows we are all different and we should embrace our bust-waist-hips figures whatever way they curve.

Links

Moss Muff

Couldn't help myself,I love these randomly quirky kinda images.

There is nothing wrong with a back beard.

Good on Fosters for encouraging good body image for men, in a great lighthearted manner. Although it might just be an ad bantering about the quarrels of being a man, I think it still could be reassuring for men.  As much as a man with a hairy back scares me, I would never get a man to wax it, unless he actually wanted to. What do you men think- Are you paranoid? Do you wax?

Of Monsters

A  great music video I saw whilst out in Iceland this week, check out the make up about 50 secs into the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men video. Great animation pieces and shows off great character of the band which I think some mainstream bands/artists lack. And it's tasteful.



Sunday, 5 February 2012

Boscombe.

Today I popped down to Bournemouth with a friend to check out the Boscombe Vintage Market. O my, I was in heaven! Pretty dresses, unique jewellery, handmade items and LACE! I am a sucker for updating my box of fabrics and buttons and today was a treat. I haggled with a lovely lady and got myself some second hand beautiful lace.

 Leaflet for the market.
 Pretty lacing
Totally undecided with what to do with it. It's so pretty and dainty.

 Vintage lacing.
 Delicate lacing- some as wide as  5mm.


The market was well worth the trip, collecting a few business cards on my way round. I am sure I will return for a nice bag or jewellery soon! The market is every month, sometimes holding an extra date a month for special occasions like Christmas and Valentines day.
Check it out if you are about!


Links

Friday, 3 February 2012

Phallology

I figured because I have gone on about vaginas enough, I would even it out a little. I discovered today that there is a Penis Museum! Monday I leave for Iceland for a 4-day trip, and whilst looking for things to do, I found The Icelandic Phallological Museum! Who would have thought it! The museum holds various penis specimens from a variety of animals. Have not really found much for the female equivilent-Vagina Museum. Can only find a very outdated-looking website discussing a brief history of the vulva in art and culture, which is still  interesting all the same.

Links
Vulva Museum Website.