Why I don’t miss Snapchat.

I don’t miss Snapchat. At all. And for lots of reasons. But one of them is the same reason that a Verily editor who recently wrote about Snapchat is sick of the app: some of its filters “Photoshop” your dang face.

She wrote:

In one swipe, my face was transformed to standards that the fashion and beauty industry has been pushing for decades: wide eyes, a petite nose, a thinner face, and a crystal clear complexion. I felt, in a word, ugly.

The filters she decries can be defended as “for fun.” But they are also disguises that reinforce the lies that the shapes of our faces and eyes, the tones and types of our skin, should align with a set of standards that human bodies don’t naturally meet. Continue reading “Why I don’t miss Snapchat.”

“Check out my daughter’s butt!”

My purse still stinks of the cigarette smoke that clouded the air at a bar on Friday night.

There, one of my brother’s bands played (he’s in two). I brought cupcakes (true story), sipped water, sat alone while they played, and watched people.

One woman wore a blue sweater and a big smile with jeans and black boots. She danced the slow songs with her husband and the fast ones with her daughters.

Between songs, she spun a daughter around, whose back end she pointed toward the stage.

“Check out my daughter’s butt!”

It is unusual, in my experience, and mildly awkward for a proud mother to invite a band and bar patrons to gawk at her daughter’s body.

Our bodies are under critical spotlights enough.

The commercial that boasts the cure for “embarrassing” stretch marks illuminates our stretch marks. How thin our lashes are is magnified by the product the promises thick ones. The fastest route to freedom from unwanted facial hair implies something is wrong with the people who have it.

I have a problem with this.

I have a problem with a mom’s decision to compare one butt with others, and with makeup manufacturers making up problems and making the products that “solve” them. With advertisers telling us there’s something wrong with us when the inevitable happens (like wrinkles or gray hair). With our culture’s complicity in perpetuating the longstanding myth advertisers have created: one kind of body is better than others.

Who says butts have to look a certain way (except for the maker of Spanx, who is now a billionaire)?

Who says legs on female bodies have to be hairless? If the rumor I’ve heard is right, women in the US don’t shave because God wants women to be hairless. We shave because Bic created a razor for women, said body hair isn’t ladylike, and put an ad about in a magazine.

Think critically.

Would we be embarrassed by stretch marks if commercials didn’t call them embarrassing?

Would women be desperate to rid their faces of hair if ads didn’t call it unwanted?

Would women be motivated by what other people think of their bodies if their parents (or significant others) didn’t encourage it?

Would women be devastated when their bodies don’t fit the right mold, the right bra, the right pants?

Our worth doesn’t depend on how we look, or on what other people think of it. We don’t have to stand under critical spotlights, but we hold daughters and sisters and mothers and wives there when the only compliments we give them are about their bodies.

There is nothing wrong with bodies, but we thankfully are made of and for far more than bone and flesh.


In my childhood, I looked forward to November for three reasons: birthdays (mine, my mom’s and my grandma’s), Thanksgiving dinner and the arrival — via our mailbox and newspapers — of toy catalogs, which I’d use to make my Christmas list.

So this morning, when I stumbled upon a toy catalog in the newspaper, I had to have a look, for old times’ sake. I didn’t figure I’d find the Play-Doh and crayons and board games of yore. But I have one word in response to what I did find, like Bratz and Monster High dolls (the latter of which I had never heard of). That one word is this:


Of all the things one could buy for kids to play with, “the fun toys” — according to the ad — are the ones in short skirts, tight shirts and pairs of fishnet stockings (which they wear on their anatomically impossible legs).

The “fun toys” are these:

And these:

And if you like how fishnets look on your daughter’s doll, you can also buy them for your daughter:

We wonder why, when a four year old girl is asked what she wants most in the world, it’s to look like Hannah Montana (1). We wonder why little girls look (and act) like teenagers, why teenagers look (and act) like adults. But then, when the impact of dolls dressed like the ones in this ad is questioned, parents say, “Please… every girl plays with this stuff. It’s what they like!”

And why is that?

“When you don’t think critically about what is being consumed, you will throw up your hands and say ‘this is what everybody wears!’ (or ‘this is what every kid plays with!’),” said my human sexuality professor — Dr. Dae Sheridan (2) — in a class over the summer. “You won’t realize this is an industry designed to take your money … you can change the demand.”

She added, “We’re pushing our children into these little boxes based on what’s available to purchase. Be a savvy consumer. Think about Bratz dolls. They have large lips and boobs, tiny waists (and are) dressed in fishnets and belly shirts … Parents say ‘this is just what kids wear’ (and ‘this is just what kids play with’) but it wouldn’t be … if parents stood up and (stopped buying it). We have to question it.”


– – – –

1. It’s Time to Reshape Our Beauty Standards

2. Dr. Dae Sheridan

Don’t “should” on me.

When I was a little kid, I stood in front of a department store’s fitting room mirror in what would become my new dress. I twirled around in it. I fiddled with its floppy collar and poked its buttons and bows. I held up a matching hat and patent leather purse. I smiled.

“Aren’t I pretty?” I asked my mom.

“Yes,” she said. “Of course.”

“Good,” I thought. Her answer satisfied me. And simply, I moved on.

I didn’t know then that when girls grow into women, it is rarely that easy. Most of us don’t smile anymore when we look at mirrors. Instead, we scrutinize. We point out the parts of us we think are too big or small. Fret over wrinkles. Curl hair that’s straight. Straighten hair that’s curly. Color grays. Cover imperfections. Whiten teeth. Wax and pluck. Diet pills. Body wraps. Brow lifts. Botox. Boob jobs. Some women get fat sucked out of their butts and injected into their boobs. Others have had a toe on each foot amputated to make uncomfortable shoes bearable.

We aren’t satisfied. Ever. What a way to live. It is sad and unhealthy. It is a disaster for women and men alike. And frankly, it pisses me off.

But it makes sense.

Why would we be satisfied when men exist who tell their girlfriends and wives what to wear and what body parts to augment?

Why would we be satisfied when we are bombarded by ads that imply that teeth should be perfectly white, you can’t be attractive with cellulite or stretch marks, hair should always be shiny, hair shouldn’t be gray, boobs should be big, boobs shouldn’t sag, eyelashes should be thick, wrinkled skin should be avoided, it’s gross if you sweat and people who aren’t skinny aren’t happy?

Since I hate to be a bearer of bad news, let me give you some good news: Teeth don’t stay white when you use them. Cellulite and stretch marks happen. Hair turns gray and frizzes. People sweat. Boobs are hangy blobs of fat that come in various sizes and are good for feeding babies. The girls in the mascara ads are wearing false lashes. Skin gets wrinkly. There is something wrong with you if you don’t sweat. There is nothing wrong with you if you have curves. So, stop “shoulding” on us. And if you do it, stop “shoulding” on yourself. There is no good reason to make your body do what our culture says it should when our culture says “God forbid your body functions normally.”

In the words of a producer of the fabulous documentary America the Beautiful, these industries of so-called beauty “bring women down in order to sell products to bring them up.” They fabricate a problem and sell you a solution. In the process, what both men and women expect of women morphs until it is unattainable. We are taught to deplore what occurs naturally so when it happens — and it will — we hate ourselves and will do anything (i.e. spend everything) to “fix” it.

You don’t have to do that anymore. You are not defined by what other people think of you. You are not defined by how you look compared to someone else. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.