It Bears Repeating

I don’t know if you have had a chance to read this incredibly well-written post from Ashley Judd‘s blog; however, if you haven’t you need to.  I was both encouraged and convicted, not to mention have welcomed the kick in the pants to use this blog for more than what it has been during the past few months.  Please read the article, original post here, and be encouraged to make a change both in yourself and in society!

The Conversation

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.

As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of both the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor eighteen years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.

However, the recent speculation and accusations about the unusual fullness of my face in March, 2012, feels different., and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hyper-sexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.

A brief analysis demonstrates that the following “conclusions” were all made on the exact same day, March 20, 2012, about the exact same woman (me), looking the exact same way, based on the exact same television appearance. The following examples are real, and come from a variety of (so-called!) legitimate news outlets (such as HuffPo, MSNBC, etc), tabloid press, and social media:

One: When I am sick for a over a month and on medication (multiple rounds of steroids), the accusation is that because my face looks puffy, I have “clearly had work done,” with otherwise credible reporters with great bravo “identifying” precisely the procedures I allegedly have had done.

Two: When my skin is nearly flawless, and at age 43, I do not yet have visible wrinkles that can be seen on television, I have had “work done,” with media outlets bolstered by consulting with plastic surgeons I have never met who “conclude” what procedures I have “clearly” had. (Notice that this is a “back-handed compliment,” too – I look so good! It simply cannot possibly be real!)

Three: When my 2012 face looks different than it did when I filmed “Double Jeopardy” in 1998, I am accused of having “messed up” my face (polite language here, the “F” word is being used more often), with a passionate lament that “Ashley has lost her familiar beauty audiences loved her for.”

Four: When I have gained weight, going from my usual size two/four to a six/eight after a lazy six months of not exercising, and that weight gain shows in my face and arms, I am a “cow” and a “pig” and I “better watch out” because my husband “is looking for his second wife.” (Did you catch how this one engenders competition and fear between women? And suggests that my husband values me based only my physical appearance? Classic sexism. We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as “fat.”)

Five: In perhaps the coup de grace, when I am acting in a dramatic scene in “Missing, the plot stating I am emotionally distressed, have been awake and on the run for days, viewers remarks ranged from “What the f*&^ did she do to her face?” to cautionary gloating, “Ladies, look at the work!” Footage from “Missing” obviously dates prior to March 2012, and the remarks about how I look while playing a character powerfully illustrate the contagious and vicious nature of the conversation. The accusations and lies, introduced to the public, now apply to me as a woman across space and time; to me as any woman and to me as every woman.

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times – I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to indentify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

A case on point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact. (That they are professional friends of mine, and know my character and values, is an additional betrayal.)

News outlets with whom I do serious work, such as publishing Op-Eds about preventing HIV, empowering poor youth worldwide, and conflict mineral mining in Democratic Republic of Congo, all ran this “story” without checking with my office first for verification, or offering me the dignity of the opportunity to comment. It’s an indictment of them, that they would even consider the content printable, and that they, too, without using time honored journalistic standards, would perpetuate with un-edifying delight such blatantly gendered, ageists, and mean-spirited content.

I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment? How can we as individuals in our private lives make adjustments that support us in shedding unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness? What can we do as families, as groups of friends? Is what girls and women can do different from what boys and men can do? What does this have to do with how women are treated in the workplace?

I ask especially how we can leverage strong female to female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others – and in my case, to the actual public. (I am also aware that inevitably some will comment that because I am a creative person, I have abdicated my right to a distinction between my public and private selves, an additional, albeit related, track of highly distorted thinking that will have to be addressed at another time).

If this conversation about me is going to be had, I will do my part to insist that is a feminist one, because it has been misogynist from the start. Who makes the fantastic leap from being sick, or gaining some weight over the winter, to a conclusion of plastic surgery? Our culture, that’s who. The insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to hetereonormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self image, how we show up our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings. Join in – and help change – The Conversation.

Sarah

I, like many women, used to hate my body. My feet were too big, my back too curved, my nose too pointy, my thighs too fat. Going to college for theatre changed all that. In the world of acting, the more different you look from everybody else, the better off you are. No one wants to cast another pretty face who the audience will forget the instant they step out of the theatre. So I learned to look at my flaws as benefits, and it made me question why women are made to feel guilty about our bodies. So my stomach isn’t perfectly flat – why should I be ashamed of that? I’m healthy, and I like myself, so why am I supposed to apologize for myself? Why am I supposed to strive toward some “ideal” physical appearance? That’s just not me, man. So here’s my advice to anyone with low self-esteem about their bodies: Take an acting class. You’ll not only learn to make a complete ass of yourself in front of people and enjoy it, but you’ll come out of it feeling more powerful and beautiful. :)

Women & Makeup: There’s More to Makeup Use Than Meets the Eye

I was recently sent this press release to share with my readers and as I’ve said before – makeup can be fun, it can be creative, and I certainly don’t believe that no one should wear makeup ever.  That being said, it’s so incredibly important to understand that we don’t need makeup to be beautiful.  Please read this!

 

PHILADELPHIA, PA (January 23, 2012) — The Renfrew Center Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to advancing the education, prevention, research and treatment of eating disorders, today announced survey results which revealed that nearly half of all women have negative feelings about their image when not wearing makeup and associate a “bare face” with feeling unattractive and insecure. Additionally, one quarter of the women surveyed began wearing makeup at age 13 or earlier. 

 

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Renfrew Center Foundation, from December 20-22, 2011—among 1,292 women 18 years of age and older. Highlights from the survey include: 

 

  • Almost Half of Women Have Negative Feelings When They Don’t Wear Makeup

Forty-four percent of women have negative feelings when they are not wearing makeup, reporting feeling unattractive (16%), self-conscious (14%) and naked/as though something is missing (14%). Only three percent of women said going without makeup made them feel more attractive.

 

  • Women Wear Makeup for Both Physical and Psychological Reasons

Almost half (44%) of women wear makeup to hide flaws in their skin. They also cited emotional responses, with 48 percent noting that they wear makeup because they like the way they look with it and 32 percent agreeing that it makes them feel good. Eleven percent said they wear makeup because it is a societal norm.

 

  • Wearing Makeup is Not Just for Adults

Of women who wear makeup, almost half started wearing it between the ages of 14 and 16 (51%), yet more than a quarter of women began using it between the ages of 11 and 13 (27%).

 

“Wearing makeup to enhance one’s appearance is normal in our society and often a right of passage for young women,” said Adrienne Ressler, National Training Director for the Renfrew Center Foundation and a renowned body image expert. “There is concern, however, when makeup no longer becomes a tool for enhancement but, rather, a security blanket that conceals negative feelings about one’s self-image and self-esteem. For many individuals, these feelings may set the stage for addictions or patterns of disordered eating to develop.”

 

During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 26 – March 3), The Renfrew Center Foundation is sponsoring a national campaign, titled Barefaced & Beautiful, Without & Within (www.renfrew.org). Through the campaign, Renfrew will encourage women nationwide to go without makeup for a day in order to start a dialogue about healthy body image and inner beauty.

 

“In this age of toddler beauty pageants, digital retouching, celebrity worship, and other unrealistic cultural messages about beauty, there are definite challenges to developing a positive body image; challenges that put women at risk for eating disorders and other self destructive behaviors,” said Ressler. “Our hope is that through Barefaced & Beautiful, Without & Within, we will promote greater understanding that real beauty and self-esteem truly begins from within.”

 

To show your support for Barefaced & Beautiful, Without & Within, The Renfrew Center Foundation is asking for women to go without makeup on Monday, February 27th and promote their participation through their social media networks by tweeting a photo or changing their Facebook profile picture to one of their natural self. To learn about participating in Barefaced & Beautiful, Without & Within, please go to www.renfrew.org.

 

The Renfrew Center Foundation

The Renfrew Center Foundation, founded in 1990, is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to advancing the education, prevention, research and treatment of eating disorders. The Renfrew Center Foundation is supported financially by private donations and funding from The Renfrew Center, the nation’s first and largest network of eating disorder treatment facilities. The Renfrew Center now operates eleven facilities in nine states. Through its programs, the Foundation aims to increase awareness of eating disorders as a public health issue and research the pathology and recovery patterns of people with eating disorders. The Foundation also seeks to educate professionals in the assessment, treatment and prevention of behavioral and emotional disorders by sponsoring an annual conference, as well as numerous seminars throughout the country. To date, the Foundation has trained nearly 25,000 professionals. For information about The Renfrew Center Foundation, please call toll-free 1-877-367-3383 or visit www.renfrew.org.

 

Survey Methodology                                                                                                         

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Renfrew Center Foundation from December 20-22, 2011 among 1,292 women ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and, therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Holly Dean at 215.875.4365.

 

About Harris Interactive                                                                                

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next.  For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

Clare

I feel beautiful when I receive compliments about my skin when I’m not wearing any makeup, not even eyebrow pencil.
It let’s me know that people can see the core of me. This is important to me, as I was an ‘ugly duckling’ through my teens
and always felt odd about my athletic tomboy figure made me feel inadequate as a young woman and embarrassed about
having smaller breasts. Eating raw food makes me feel beautiful, it’s a way of investing in my health and preserving my future.
I haven’t been ill for over 3yrs, which is a blessing, as a candida albican survivor, the last 7 yrs have played havoc with my immune system. It’s great to feel fit and healthy which enhances your beauty aura.

Pregnant Is Beautiful

I’ve been wrong a lot in my life.  I’ve thought that people I dated were “the one” which was quickly obliterated once I actually did find THE one.  I’ve thought that career paths I’ve gone down would be the thing I want to pursue, only to find out that it’s the opposite of that.  And I used to think that being skinny was the only way that one could be pretty.

And then I got pregnant.

Now it’s been a hard road, one you can read more about here, to getting to 27 weeks pregnant today.  I’ve gone through ups and downs in my weight, in my self-image, and in my confidence.  I’ve fought morning sickness, pregnancy-induced carpel tunnel syndrome, and a slew of other things that (for embarrassment’s sake) I won’t mention here.  And yes, there are times where I want to chop off all my hair, dye it platinum blonde, and go on a long run all in the name of feeling “normal” again.  But once that little boy moves inside of me, once my husband looks at my pregnant body with complete and total admiration, and once I see myself in the mirror with my belly in my hands – it all changes.

I feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.  I feel like a superhero.

And I’m reminded why it’s usually OK for me to be wrong.

Unleash Your Inner Beauty … With The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life!

Swiss cheese is a marvelous ingredient in all types of dishes. Whether it is in a quiche, fondue or in a just plain grilled cheese sandwich, the pungent and distinctive taste of Swiss is only rivaled by it’s distinctive holes.

Have you ever thought how Swiss Cheese is just like life itself? After all, life has holes. It is not smooth and predictable like Cream Cheese or American. Rather, it is more like Swiss and its how you get through the holes that counts! So – rather than wishing the holes in your life away, by embracing them, you can have a complete and full life that makes you beautiful and unique. We are all unique, just like there is no perfect slice of cheese. It is the uniqueness of the Swiss that so many of us love, and just think of how delicious you life could be if you could embrace your own imperfections and “holes” in your life! True inner beauty entails being able to embrace your imperfections, experiencing setbacks and gaining strength from bouncing back from life’s challenges and adversities, and accepting yourself, imperfections and all. Mistakes and even failures are opportunities to grow and learn rather than serve as defining moments of your life that sap your inner confidence of your beauty within.

In a package of Swiss that you buy at the market, have you ever compared one slice of cheese as better or worse than another? I doubt you do! Every slice of Swiss is unique with its holes in all different places. People are like that also! The more we compare ourselves to others, the more we judge our self worth by how we measure up to others, we will find ourselves continually falling short and failing to embrace our own special uniqueness and characteristic beauty. There is no objective cookie cutter image of beauty – we each carry our own type of beauty that makes us who we are – with our own unique imperfections and “holes” that truly makes us unique just like a piece of distinctive swiss!

So – Embrace the holes in your past that are filled with disappointments and regrets, unleash your inner beauty, as you accept that fondue can never turn back into a block of cheese! What is done is done, and instead of reworking the past, use lessons learned as a foundation for paving the way for a beautiful and pungent life now!

Just think how you can unleash your inner beauty as you learn the lessons of the Swiss Cheese Theory of Life!

And don’t forget to Smile And Say CHEESE!

Judy Belmont, M.S. is a psychotherapist and mental health/wellness speaker who has a recently released self-help book with co-author Lora Shor, MSW called, “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life! How To Get Through The Holes In Your Life Without Getting Stuck In Them! She can be reached at JABelmont@theswisscheesetheoryoflife.com and visit the Swiss cheese web site to download the first two chapters at www.theswisscheesetheoryoflife.com

Erin

Throughout the years I have come to love…
The wavy curves of my hips.
My sunny blue eyes that see beauty around me.

My rosy cheeks that color when I’m excited, or cold, or surprised.

My dirty blond curls that bounce along side me.
My big smile that helps put others at ease.
My small but powerful hands that can mold dough, paint pictures and write out stories.
My fast and strong legs that have propelled me through a triathlon and a 10K.
My capable arms that can craddle a small child.

My beating heart that allows me to dance and jump and play.

Throughout the years, regardless of the ads, the “perfect” celebrities, the pressure from every side, I have come to realize that thinking of my body as a canvas for perfection puts up walls around what my body can truly do.
Throughout the years I have realized my body is meant to move, so I have pushed myself and found power and balance deep inside my core and beauty in my reflection.
Throughout the years I have come to truly believe that I am, and you are: beautiful and capable of anything and everything just the way I am.

SHAPE Best Blogger Awards

Good morning all!  I am so excited and honored to announce that Faces of Beauty has been nominated to Shape Magazine’s Best Blogger Awards!  More than anything it’s amazing that this little blog of encouragement is being seen on a stage that will allow so many other women to see it and recognize their true beauty…and Faces of Beauty couldn’t have done it without YOU!

I would love it if you’d take a quick second and either click on the photo above or on this link right here and vote for Faces of Beauty!  The winner will win an opportunity to have a video series on Shape.com and potentially even a mention in an upcoming issue of Shape Magazine – the thought of sharing the purpose of this blog on a level like that makes my heart pound from excitement and brings tears to my eyes!

 

So what are you waiting for – head out and vote!

 

Much love,

 

Heather

Karina Dresses Winner!

Thank you so much to everyone who joined in with this giveaway.  As I said before, it’s a company I truly love with a mission that I truly believe in!  We all loved reading your stories of self-love and confidence in who you are – that’s the most beautiful part of all!

 

And now, the winner of the giveaway is:

Wendy!  Wendy, please send your address to heathersdish [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll be sure to get you in touch with the Karina Dresses team!

 

Again, thank you to everyone.  And Happy Friday!

Karina Dresses Review and Giveaway!

I don’t pretend to be a fashion guru, fashion blogger, or overall in-the-know fashionista, but one thing I do know is that feeling comfortable in your clothes and in your body are two things that are always in style.  When I first learned about Karina dresses I was ecstatic to try their dresses – they’re a fantastic Brooklyn-based clothing company that specializes in making dresses for every body!  If I’m being honest I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first, mainly because I am one of those people that is fairly difficult to shop for.  The things that I love about my body are the things that make it difficult, which I suppose is better than the alternative!  I have strong muscular thighs, I actually have a butt, and I have broad shoulders.  Not really “in style” it seems, but those are parts of my body that I adore.

That being said, once I slipped on my first Karina Dress it was pure love.  It fit in all the right places, flattered in all the right places, and I was complimented all day long on the great styling and fabric.  Not only that, they are comfortable and truly timeless.

Some facts about the dresses:

  • They are made from imported microfiber blend fabric with 4-way stretch. Dresses are machine washable, and come in limited edition prints and are constantly changing selection because they do small-batch production.
  • The dresses are unbelievably easy to wear and care for, which also makes them perfect for traveling.  They can scrunch up tiny for packing or be worn while on the road/plane/train and still look great when you get to your destination.  For Nate and I who travel for wedding photography this is a fantastic bonus – no fussing with my dress when we get there!  In fact they were mentioned on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel Blog!  We women love the EZ wear EZ care thing where you can machine wash the garment and no ironing is involved :)
  • The dresses are made to accommodate a little monthly weight gain all the way up to being pregnant and back – you can bet you’ll be getting your money’s worth!
  • The dresses are made with love in the USA, something that I can really stand behind!
  • The dresses are classy.  They show off the beautiful figure of any woman without showing off everything she has – and that right there is sexy!

Have I got your attention?  Thought so!  I’m excited to also announce that Karina Dresses has offered the readers of Faces of Beauty the chance to win one of their amazing dresses!  Here are the entry options, and please remember to leave a separate comment for each one:

  • “Like” Karina Dresses on Facebook – this one is required!
  • Leave a comment below stating what it is that makes you truly beautiful.  This can be as long or as short as you like, but I want to hear the full story of the realization of your true beauty!
  • Tell your story on Karina Dresses’ Facebook page!  Feel free to post pictures and really share your heart – Karina Dresses is full of love!

This contest is open to international readers as well, but if you live outside of the US you will be required to pay for the postage.  Giveaway ends at midnight MST on Thursday September 15, and the winner will be announced on Friday morning September 16.

 

Please note that I received this dress from Karina Dresses and the opinions here are my very own!