Lit Links

Today’s links are mostly about bodies, women’s bodies, because it’s hard to talk about fashion without talking about what’s underneath the clothes. This past week was also rife with eating disorder talk, with Lady Gaga, Katie Couric, and Stacy London all beginning to talk about their struggles with anorexia and bulimia. One of the common misconceptions about eating disorders is that they’re all about having thin bodies (that they’re about being looked at), but I think a lot of the dialogue that’s been opening up is allowing people to realize that eating disorders can often be a symptom of feeling like you’ve been reduced to being a body, that your visual manifestation is the sole arena of your representation and, perhaps, control. With that mental framework in place, what does it mean to dress ourselves?

  • Modest is Hottest?: “From a research-driven point of view, there is power in modesty. Many cultures and religions echo that sentiment  to varying degrees — that covering up your parts is crucial to respecting bodies, which are viewed as sacred. Regardless of your spiritual orientation, an open discussion about modesty from the perspective of our research can get us somewhere much more powerful and valuable than the shallow “modest is hottest” mentality so prevalent today. Here’s the truth you can stand behind: We are more than bodies to be looked at… Many discussions of modesty, from diverse cultural or religious perspectives, revolve around the idea of keeping sinful and unholy female bodies and body parts from the gaze of others — particularly men. This privileges the male gaze, in a  backward sort of way, and puts females at a disadvantage for being the ones in control of what others think or feel when seeing their bodies. When we speak of modesty strictly in terms of covering our bodies from the sexual gaze of others, we are keeping the level of discourse at the shallow waters of women and girls as bodies alone.
  • Lady Gaga, Beauty, Ugliness, and the Call for a Real Body Revolution: “Yes, a ‘body revolution’ in which we flaunt and expose our “perceived flaws” and  “make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous” in order reclaim our sense of self from the media machine is a good thing.  But there’s something else going on here. In this charged context, what does it mean to be beautiful? And what does it mean to be ugly? And another question, to complicate the binary between beauty and ugliness, because binaries never serve us well: what does it mean to be invisible entirely? Or hyper-visible?We, as the social creatures we are, long to see and be seen. And to be seen as valuable, worthy of love, and affection, and deserving of care, personal, interpersonal, social and political. There are many measures of value, and they all depend upon being “seen.”  So, this question, of what it means to see and be seen, is rooted in understanding the pain and agony of people around the world who struggle to see themselves and to be seen by others as valuable. This is about those little girls, who look at themselves in horror and anguish, feeling worthless if nobody calls them beautiful… what is the upside of ugly? Or as Lady Gaga beseeches us to, how do we “redefine heinous?” When “ugliness” carries the threat of violence and disenfranchisement, what does it mean to embrace  “ugly?” For a person whose body is dehumanized and positioned as the very definition of undesirable, is it possible to ‘redefine heinous?'”
  • Body Acceptance in the Age of the Selfie: “The latest smartphones have cameras that face not just outward to the world, but backward at us, so we can see ourselves reflected at the moment we hit the shutter button. No more guesswork or weird angles. The selfie is an Instagram staple, somehow more common and acceptable on a mobile-only platform than it is on Facebook… The selfie says, I’m here alone. It says, Here’s how I want to present myself.

    This is why Gaga’s nudes are so powerful. They’re poorly lit; they’re self-staged. Not only is there no airbrushing, but there’s no flattering lighting, no strategic body positions. They underscore the message of her accompanying words. They say, Here’s me. Just me.”

 

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