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Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Bennett’

And so today, as I was trolling for intelligent life out here in cyberspace, I came across a few quick hits that had me scratching my head when I tried to connect the dots.

First was a great piece in Newsweek by Jessica Bennett, reviewing a new book on sex by neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam.  Their book, “A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” bills itself as the “world’s largest experiment” on what turns people on.  Their data?  A billion anonymous web searches.  You can guess the sites.  Writes Bennett:

But while Ogas’s fellow doctoral students were busy writing computer code, he and his buddy Sai Gaddam simply couldn’t stop talking about sex. Specifically, how the brain decides what turns us on. “Nobody in our field had taken a shot at sexual desire—and most of our colleagues thought we were insane to do it,” Ogas says. “But the same neural principles that apply to our higher cognitive functions apply to sexual behavior, too.”

Bennett culled a few fun stats from the book and here’s the one that got me thinking:  Men are much more likely to ogle overweight – than underweight — women.  By a ratio of three to one.

Hmmm, right?   And then I came across this:  A piece on Gawker that linked to a Today show segment on dress size confusion that included an interview with More editor Lesley Jane Seymour, who said that fashion editors sometimes have to cut the sizes out of clothes before fashion shoots to protect the fragile egos of celebrities.

And finally, we would be remiss without a mention of our newest princess-to-be, yes?  Kate has been the subject of many a link, not the least of which are those that discuss her weight.  Or lack of same.  And today I found a discussion on the Harvard Health Letter that discussed the theories that have bounced around to explain why, at 5 foot 10, Kate is suddenly down to 120 lbs.  Among them: stress, the controversial Dukan diet (think Atkins plus oat bran) — or what some have termed brideorexia.  Let’s check:

Who doesn’t want to look good for their wedding, royal or common—and these days, looking good almost always means looking thinner. It’s been noted that in many couples’ lives, no event is as photographed as their wedding. (This may be true for Will and Kate, although unlike the rest of us, they’ve a coronation to look forward to.)

I don’t know about the UK, but on this side of the pond people started turning the desire of brides to look good and lose weight into businesses several years ago. Now there are bridal boot camps, bridal workouts, bridal diet plans, and reality shows based on brides-to-be slimming down to get ready for the big day. The term “brideorexia” was coined to denote the most extreme (and frequently unhealthy) of these wedding-related weight-loss efforts.

The post includes an interview with a researcher who actually studied brideorexia and found that the brides who took pre-wedding dieting to the extreme were the exception (25 percent) rather than the rule, but still, the overall message is this, whether or not you happen to be a princess in waiting:  To look good is to look thin.

Unless, of course, you ask men.  Interesting conundrum, is it not?  So trying my best to add it all up, I recalled one of Shannon’s posts from a while ago that started thus:

So, one night last week I was having a glass of wine with a friend–and wound up with a good belly laugh at mankind’s expense. I’ll spare you the exact details of how it came up, but at one point, said friend described to me a cartoon she’d recently seen. In one frame, a pretty woman of an average build looks into the mirror in horror; her mirror image is heavier, uglier, and facial-hairier than her real self. The next frame shows a balding, beer-bellied man smiling happily as he gazes upon his reflection, which features a chiseled physique, and a full head of hair. We got a good laugh out of that, but it was one of those laughs that wound down to an OhMyGod, it’s true! And then, a far less giggly: Is the joke on us?

And maybe, in fact, it is.  Except, of course, that the joke really isn’t funny.  While all this weight stuff may seem silly, it’s a good measure of how hard we are on ourselves.  And so, we have to wonder:  what would it take to tip the scales in the other direction?

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The strangest thing popped into my inbox the other day: a BCBG ad for this season’s statement jewelry. Front and center were a couple of iterations of what you see on your left: a knuckle ring. I kid you not.

Look closely and you’ll find that the “ring” is actually two of them linking your fingers together on the inside, with a bejeweled bar across the top of two fingers on the outside. It appears to be an ironic riff on the brass knuckles of gangster movie fame.

If your education in 1930’s films has been neglected, brass knuckles were four linked metal rings with a bar of concealed weight that, when the bad guy made a fist, gave him a sneaky and powerful punch.

Back to BCBG, couple the knuckle rings with the must-have shoes of the season – platform gladiator sandals – and you have a look that screams power. I’m going somewhere with this, but it probably isn’t where you think. But before we move on, let me just say that I have never been one to judge a feminist for her fashion. In fact, I applaud feminists who aren’t afraid to wear pink (when it’s the new black), who don’t shy away from lipstick, who dress to please themselves, whether it’s sensible shoes or sexy stilettos, khaki pants or trendy little pencil skirts. Either/or is in itself is a sign of power: What we wear is more than just utility.

In fact, I remember back when I was a new mom, with a pretty sweet free-lancing gig that allowed me to work from home when Shannon was a baby. Every once in a while, when the workload built up, my boss would go sideways, call me up and rant that either I did a full-on nine-to-five in the office everyday or the arrangement was kaput. At which point, I would call the babysitter and speed to the office, where I always managed to talk myself back into working from home. At such meetings, I always wore the same pair of don’t-mess-with-me high heeled boots.

I am the first to say that my boss never noticed my boots. They meant nothing to him. But they meant a lot to me. On those days, they gave me a sense of power (and, I confess, height) which for some reason gave me the juice to speak up.

Which brings us back to the knuckle rings and all the other overt Wonder Woman fashion statements: are they signs of power for women who have seized it – or props for women who still feel they have none? Here comes my point.

For too long women have been told they have no voice, that they’ve been silenced by the patriarchy. Which was one hell of a wake-up call and rallying cry back in the early days of the women’s movement. And maybe it’s still true to a certain extent. But what I wonder is if one of the unintended consequences of the rhetoric is that many women have come to believe it — and have silenced themselves, convinced that no one will listen.

Or feel that that their only source of power is in trappings like knuckle rings.

Which was why I was so proud of Jessica Bennett, Jesse Ellison and Sarah Ball, the young Newsweek women who were willing to bite the hand that feeds them in the blistering piece entitled “Are We There Yet?” (Answer: No) that Shannon wrote about on Tuesday. It wasn’t only what they wrote that so impressed me, but the fact that they had the guts to write it. That, to quote my favorite VP, is a big, fucking deal.

What’s also a pretty big deal is the fact that Newsweek ran with the story. It’s front and center and last I heard, Bennett, Ellison and Ball are still employed.

I see two lessons here. First, we’ve got a long way to go before the work of the women’s movement is done. But second is the subtext: we do indeed have a voice. We just have to use it.

And we probably don’t need knuckle rings to do so. Unless, of course, we think they’re cool.

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