Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Keira Knightley: "Don't (Re)Touch My Breasts!"

Keira Knightley has had her share of boob controversy. First there was the digitally enhanced King Arthur poster, followed by speculation over whether she really had enough up top to fill that hat she was holding in the recent Chanel ads. Now Keira is taking a stand, refusing any cleavage alterations on the publicity photos for her new film, "The Duchess."

"She has insisted that her figure stay in its natural state," an insider said. "She is proud of her body and doesn't want it altered."

Not so surprisingly, the creepy commenters have been out in full force responding to this news over at HuffPo. "She has no breasts because she's anorexic" is just one of a couple hundred thoughtful gems offered up in the last 24 hours. Keira has already publicly squashed the anorexia accusation. In fact, last year she sued over it, won, and donated the money from the lawsuit to a British eating disorders organization.

We throw around the "unrealistic beauty ideals" phrase, and while it's true that Keira's body type is not realistic for most of the female population, it's her body and she deserves to feel good about herself--just as people of all shapes and sizes deserve to feel good about themselves, too. The ultimate goal is body diversity, isn't it? When an actress tries to make a point about self-acceptance by calling out the practice of retouching, it really doesn't help the cause to call her a "freak of nature" or tell her to "eat a cheeseburger." [Huffington Post]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

BlogHer Highlights: Beautiful Blogging and Postive Posting

Yes, it has been a week since I returned from San Francisco. I will be the first to admit it has taken me longer to recover from the two-conferences-in-a-row experience than I anticipated. Hence the crickets chirping over here. Seeing Kara Jesella's piece on the BlogHer conference in the New York Times today reminded me that there is still a lot more I want to say about my experience.

One session in particular has been on my mind since I returned: "Beautiful Blogging and Positive Posting." The title initially set off my snark alarm, but I forged ahead because I knew Alyssa Royse from Just Cause It and Off the Rocks (a new blog she's writing with her husband, following his arrest for a DUI--"because we're not pathetic and destitute, we're just dealing with the worst f*ing situation of our lives") would be speaking, and I think she's doing some amazing work. Also on the bill were Lucrecer Braxton from Art Slam, Krystyn Heide from HopeRevo, Jen of oneplustwo, and Kyran Pittman of Notes to Self.

Alyssa mentioned that her young daughter recently came to her and asked, "Mommy, is there any good news in the world?" Ouch. The short answer to that question is yes, there is. And that's ultimately what positive posting is all about. As many of the panelists pointed out, the topics we post about don't have to fluffy and cute (although I personally enjoy some fluffy cuteness here and there). We don't have to ignore that injustice, suffering, and media b.s. exist--and we don't have to hold back our anger about it either. The point is that we need to start talking about the difference between a snark-filled rant and a post that inspires something positive in our readers. Here are a few key tenets of "positive posting" that came up:

Positive: A blog or post that serves as a catalyst for social change in the real world
Positive: A blog or post that aims to break through a taboo topic and overcome social stigma
Positive: A blog or post that builds connections through honesty

Magali and I try our best to make 5 Resolutions a combination of all three of these. We started talking publicly about our eating disorders and body image issues because we wanted to break through the silence and misconceptions surrounding these issues. We launched a blog and a network to build connections and bring about change. At the end of the day, positive posting isn't so much a particular approach to blogging as it is what naturally happens when you have a hopeful approach to life. That said, I think it's important to remind ourselves of what makes a positive post as we're writing (and reading other blogs for that matter). We might not hit the mark every time, but we think it's important to try.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Two Quick Ones

In honor of "Love Yourself Up" week, Claire did an interview over at U.K. teen queen author Lisa Clark's blog, Pink World. Check it out.

We are all over Facebook these days. You can become a fan of 5 Resolutions, Claire's book, and join our group if you haven't already. Okay, okay, we promise not to challenge you to Scrabulous.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Good times and good people in San Francisco

I got into NYC early this morning from a crazy fun week in San Francisco. And when I say "early morning," I mean 4 a.m. Thanks to some hurricane action on the east coast, my flight was delayed over two hours. Then I had to wait another hour plus some change for a cab, but I will refrain from the full Wendy Whiner spiel here. The good news is that the hellish travel experience was somewhat alleviated by the incredible in-flight entertainment options on Virgin America. A Kathy Griffin: Life on the D-List marathon followed by a Dave Eggers TED lecture on 826 Valencia? Yes, please. I'll touch that screen.

This is all to say that I am still decompressing from meeting about 500 people in the span of 5 days at Ypulse and BlogHer--all of whom are doing some pretty kick-ass work. I'll name check a few highlights now and I promise to do more detailed commentaries (after I get a proper night's sleep).

YA superstars:
Justina Chen Headley is not only an amazing author (Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) and Girl Overboard), she's also the co-founder of readergirlz. Justina makes it a point to create a social change project that ties into the themes of each of her books. And she takes a lovely photo, too!

Melissa Walker (author of the Violet series, which I reviewed last month) was all kinds of awesome. David Levithan should consider stand-up, and Lisa McMann deserves big credit for sharing her "mortifying" high school picture from her Dutch dancing days.

Girl Advocates:
I worked with Allison Keiley for years at Girls Inc., but I gained a whole new appreciation watching her in action on the "Are Girls the New Geeks?" panel at Ypulse, moderated by my girl Courtney Macavinta over at Respect Rx.

Have you seen The Midwest Teen Sex Show yet? Have you experienced the incredible-ness that is Nikol Hasler? No? Get thee to the website right now.

BlogHer Heroines:
Stephanie Quilao from Back in Skinny Jeans (who I interviewed for my book) gives new meaning to the term "authenticity." Alyssa Royse at Just Cause It was cooler than I could have imagined (and I imagined her to be pretty freakin' cool). I'm a new fan of Hope Revolution, Art Slam, and many, many other blogs that I will be adding to our list of links very soon.

Oh, and Stacy Morrison of Redbook won me over in a big way. More on that tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Live Blogging Blogher: Political Commentary

Greetings from San Francisco and the BlogHer '08 conference! My first session today is on political commentary with Jennifer Pozner of Women in Media and News and Catherine Orenstein of the Op-Ed Project.

Jennifer opened the session with this question: How many of you have engaged with media outside of your blogs? Most people in the room raised their hands, but those who didn't said they haven't engaged because they are nervous about putting themselves "out there" and exposing themselves in their communities especially when it comes to politics. Jennifer made the point that as women, we must be willing to engage in a competitive landscape. The media landscape does not look the way we want it to. Women are marginalized and "hard news" is still seen as the realm of men (white, privileged men for the most part).

Jennifer gets tons of hate mail after her TV commentary. Perhaps not so surprising (but still pretty depressing), most of those comments are usually about her physical appearance and almost never about what she actually said.

The more popular your blog is, the more likely it is that mainstream media outlets will come to you. When you get that call, you have to be prepared. Jennifer mentioned the brother-in-law test. If you can get your brother-in-law to understand your point and frame your argument in a way that he gets it, you'll know that you are better prepared to address a broad audience beyond your niche.

Catherine Orenstein posed five questions:
1. what is credibility?
2. how do you create an argument that is a contribution?
3. What is the difference between being right and being effective?
4. how can you see what you care about as part of a bigger picture?
5. how can you see your knowledge and experience in terms of its value to others?

Some stats: 85% percent of op-eds are dominated by men, 84% of political pundits are men, 84% of Hollywood producers are male, 84% of Congress are male. Get the picture?

Plenty of women are blogging, but not in the places where it has the most influence. One out of 20 political bloggers are women. Sadly, these numbers convey the idea that women's voices don't matter and that women aren't leaders.

Three things happened when Catherine published her first op-ed: She got a book deal, she was went on national television, and she was invited to speak with a Clinton adviser. In other words, there are incredible opportunities presented to those who do put themselves out there. If you're not writing your own story, someone else will. And probably not in the way you would tell it.

Public conversations are happening in an echo chamber. Catherine compares this to what happens in the movie Being John Malkovich when John Malkovich goes through the John Malkovich tunnel. That's what public debate looks like these days.

Women don't submit op-eds. Shouldn't we all be projecting our opinions into the prominent forums? So here are Catherine's thoughts on some of those questions.

What is credibility: Accountability to knowledge. What are you an expert in and why?
Creating contribution: What would be valuable? What's the evidence (statistics, quotes, news information, research).
What's the difference between being right and being effective: She shared a letter she received after she wrote an ope-ed that was critical of Sex & the City. "It's Sex & the City, not Jobs & the City," the writer pointed out. "Your version: Boring." Catherine realized that she had alienated a large portion of the audience she wanted to reach. What she learned is that before she concludes an argument, she needs to put herself in the shoes of someone who disagrees with her. Remember two words: empathy and respect. Assume that the other party is both intelligent and moral.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ypulse and BlogHer Bound!

I'm heading to San Francisco for two conferences next week...

First up: I'll be signing copies of You're Amazing! at the Ypulse Mashup on Monday, July 14th from 9:45-10:15 a.m. and then during the afternoon break from 3:20-4:00 p.m. I'm also moderating a lunch roundtable discussion on "Girls, Self-Esteem & Media." If you're registered for the conference, you can sign up for the lunch session when you check in. Hope to see you there!

Next: BlogHer! I'm doing a book signing for conference attendees on Friday, July 18th from 12:15-12:45.

I'm especially excited to finally meet Stephanie Quilao from Back in Skinny Jeans. She'll be discussing how she "came out" about her bulimia relapse on her blog earlier this year. I was so impressed with how she handled this very personal issue, and I can't wait to hear from her.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Brush With Barack and Hillary

See all those people holding their cameras in the air? I bet they got pictures that look about the same as this one. Our cell phone masterpiece was taken right after Barack Obama finished his speech this a.m. in New York. He and Hillary were up there shaking hands while some country tune (which I just learned is called "Only in America" by Brooks & Dunn. Thanks, internets!) blasted the rest of us out of the ballroom.

It was quite impressive to see a couple thousand people lined up inside the Hilton at an hour I would officially call "ungodly" (FYI: Walking in heels before coffee? Not recommended).
Barack Obama's half sister Maya Soetoro-Ng got the party started by introducing Hillary, who informed the crowd that Barack had just told her that she looked "kind of rested." And good news! Hillary says she's started exercising, too. She joked that while Barack got up early every morning on the campaign trail to work out, she got up every morning to have her hair done. Oh, did I mention this was a "women's breakfast"?

The hairdo line was a hit, as was Barack's candor when it came to talking about how he's seen the women in his life juggle work and family life--struggling to find balance and sometimes even questioning their own abilities. He acknowledged his own "complicity" in this unfair structure, and pledged his support for paid family leave and equal pay for equal work. He also made it clear that he desperately needs Hillary Clinton and Bill, too (although I think I might have seen him wince a little when mentioning Bill's name).

Of course the not-so-subtle subtext here is that he's asking supporters to help relieve Hillary's campaign debt. But money talk aside, I admit I got a little misty-eyed when he talked about the precedent she has set for girls: "Because of what Hillary accomplished, my daughters and yours look at themselves a little differently today. They’re dreaming a little bigger and setting their sights a little higher today.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rachael Ray Employee Sues Over Anorexia-Related Bias

A former employee of Rachael Ray's company is now suing, claiming that his supervisor repeatedly exhibited "hostile behavior" and made "vile," discriminatory and hurtful comments about his eating disorder.

According to court papers, accountant Aaron Ferguson was subjected to comments including, "Anorexics are sick in the head," and, "Anorexics should not be able to work." Rachael Ray is not named in the suit.

Dealing with an eating disordered colleague can be challenging. But you know what else is tough? Having an eating disorder and going to work knowing that people are probably talking about you and making judgments. Either way, blatant harassment doesn't really seem like a good solution for anyone.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, E! Online posted this headline: "Former Rachael Ray Employee Trims Fat, Loses Job." Note to E!: We're all for wordplay, but mocking a life-threatening illness is beyond tacky. [AP]

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

You're Amazing! A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self

On the off chance that you haven't already heard me shouting it from the rooftops, I would like to formally announce that my book for girls is out this week!

You're Amazing! A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self is based on the Girls Inc. "Supergirl Dilemma" study, which shows that girls are feeling increasing pressures to be perfect and please everyone. Perfectionism is a major source of girls' stress (60% of girls in the study reported that they often feel stressed), low self-esteem, and poor body image. That's the bad news. The good news is that with the right tools and support systems, girls can learn to give up the quest to be "super" and start celebrating what makes them amazing. My hope is that this book will help to kick off that celebration.

I would like to say a big, big thanks to you, dear readers! Your support and kind words have meant so much to me. Speaking of amazing...you all fit the bill.

Related links: