The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Archive for the ‘body image’ Category

The Twenty-Eighth Down Under Feminists Carnival

Posted by caitlinate on September 4, 2010

Oh my gawd, hi everyone. So this is the first time I’ve done a blog carnival and I put my hand up for it 6 months ago not realising that this was going to be like the busiest two or three weeks I would be having all year. So! There is no theme and things might be organised a little incoherently but I hope I’ve done a good job and you like…

WELCOME to the 28th Down Under Feminists Carnival!

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Announcements, Blog Watch, body image, domestic violence, Family, glbt, Interviews, law, Media Watch, music, Politics, porn, Relationships, reproductive rights, sex, Trans, violence against women, women we love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Hey, That’s My Bush!

Posted by Mel Campbell on August 13, 2010

Sasha Grey is a 22-year-old alt-porn star. The ‘alt’ part means she looks like a fairly ordinary, doe-eyed hipster girl with no apparent silicone enhancements. She also has a tendency to intellectualise and aestheticise the extreme sex acts she has become famous for committing to film.

Grey has done non-pornographic acting as well. Having suffered through Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, I can tell you there are planks of wood more likely to win an Oscar.

However, this week Grey appeared, as herself, in Entourage – Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) was dating her. The episode was called ‘Hair’, and by this the writers meant pubic hair. The episode whipped viewers into a Twitter frenzy of disgust because… in a full-frontal nude shot, Grey had actual pubes. Or, as Americans grotesquely refer to them, “bush”.

If you want to check out Grey’s hairstyle yourself, click here (NSFW).

Now last weekend I went to see the Carol Jerrems show at Heide. Jerrems was a Melbourne photographer who took lots of nude shots during the ’70s, and I can say that I found the luxuriant pubes on some of the women quite startling. So when I clicked through to see what all the Sasha Grey fuss was about, that was the sort of “’70s bush” I was expecting.

Instead, I thought it looked quite manicured. It annoyed and saddened me that the Twitter critics would consider this neat triangle to be ‘overgrown’, ‘enormous’, ‘wild’ or ‘disgusting’. Have these people never seen a woman who has a snail trail of hair down her stomach? Whose pubic hair continues down the tops of her thighs? Who has a hairy arse-crack? Have they seen Demi Moore’s pubes (really NSFW) from back in the early ’80s?

If Sasha Grey – a woman who makes her living from sex – is supposedly so repulsive, think of the shame that other women might feel, imagining how men might talk about their bodies behind their backs. I’ve heard some of my male friends talking openly about the body hair of the women they’ve fucked in ways that made me feel embarrassed for those women. Some poor chick had hairy nipples (“and not just one or two hairs – that’s normal – she had really hairy nipples!”), while another had trimmed her pubes rather than waxing or shaving, which my friend charmingly likened to a ‘toothbrush’.

On the other hand, think of women who enjoy grooming their body hair – who consider it part of their general beauty routine – and are told that having little or no pubic hair ‘pedophilises’ them and makes them dupes of a pornified culture, surrendering their womanly pubes in order to meet with men’s aesthetic approval.

In many ways, the arguments circulating in regard to women’s pubic hair remind me of the arguments around body shape and size. An artificial dichotomy is set up – whether that be skinny/fat or hairy/hairless – women are made to ‘take sides’, and both sides are made to feel ashamed, as if neither has a claim to be a ‘real woman’.

To anyone who feels moved to comment on a woman’s body hair, or tell her to shave it off or to let it grow… fuck off! It doesn’t belong to you.

Posted in body image, Film & Television, porn, sex | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

I know which Kylie I prefer

Posted by caitlinate on April 24, 2010

Kylie Northover is not the right answer. They wrote this article. Should you be uninterested in following the link and reading the whole article, let me summarise the main gist:

– Female performers are only as good as how attractive the writer finds them. Older female performers are embarrassing because they aren’t, in the opinion of the author, hot. Because they are no longer considered hot they should retire lest anyone be confronted by the horrifying spectacle of an older woman performing or being in the limelight. If they can’t retire they could take a job as ‘a judge on British reality show The X Factor. It’s a nice, dignified role, befitting an elegantly maturing pop star.’

– Kylie Minogue is an ancient 42 years old.  She should ‘pack away her breasts’ and ‘unhand the shorty-shorts’ lest she turn out like… Madonna. Kylie should really just wake up and realise that, like all women, all she is worth is what she looks like – and Kylie Northover doesn’t think she looks all that great.

I’m too tired to say anything more than: fuck this sexist, age-ist shit. If you wanna be a journalist surely there are better ways to do it than attacking other women.

Posted in body image, Media Watch, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Jackie Frank: doing her bit for ethical editorial standards

Posted by Nic Heath on January 5, 2010

Next month Marie Claire will hit newsstands with an untouched photograph of a nude Jennifer Hawkins gracing the cover.

According to the Daily Telegraph, editor of Marie Claire, Jackie Frank, said the publication of the images…

“…will raise funds for eating disorders support group the Butterfly Foundation, [and] were inspired by a Marie Claire survey of 5500 readers which found only 12 per cent of women were happy with their bodies.”

Putting on a magazine cover an untouched photograph of a naturally beautiful woman, and one whose body is a commodity and thus the product of much investment (time and work), and saying it is because 88 per cent of the surveyed readership are unhappy with their body, is an exercise in untruth. Crucially, it is also admitting that the publication of airbrushed photos of women is detrimental to the self esteem of the female audience who reads the magazine, no matter what the editors say.

Untouched photographs of Jennifer Hawkins and Bianca Dye published in Australian magazines (

Publishing this untouched photograph, amid the unsurprising media hoopla, is more about ethical editorial standards than boosting female body image. It’s about honesty and transparency, and about admitting that positing images of digitally altered women as pinnacles of beauty has a negative effect on female readers who are led to believe that in order to be as beautiful as possible they need to look like what are effectively cartoons.

Jen Hawkins as role model is not what should be happening here. Photographs of women who don’t represent the zenith of current ideas about beauty would be more suitable to be marketed as providing women with role models – and since the story broke Mumbrella has quoted Jackie Frank denying the role model spin (“we’re not saying Jennifer is what all women should aspire to”). Jen Hawkins here is just being beautiful, as she is. Jackie Frank’s decision to use this photo on the cover should not be considered “daring” or “revolutionary” – it should be accepted practice.

It is more educational than anything – that something as insignificant (and I would say fetching!) as a model’s waist crease would normally be removed from a photograph destined for magazine publication astounds me. I would love to see magazine pages filled with women who have not been digitally enhanced and homogenised – like these photos of Jen, and too Bianca Dye in Madison.

Clem Bastow makes a necessary point when she writes, “It’s imperative that women stop defining ourselves by our body shape. There are simply more important things to worry about – pay issues, maternity leave and sexual violence spring to mind – and better things to celebrate, such as our minds, hearts and work.”

However right now, in this imperfect world, women are influenced by the images they see on billboards, in magazines and on the Internet. If the practice of digitally altering photographs to remove perceived flaws and blemishes is not to be outlawed immediately, then in the short term magazines such as Marie Claire should be impelled to clearly state when photographs have been airbrushed.

Posted in body image, Celebrity | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

Does This Ad Make YOU Want To Read Essential Baby?

Posted by Clem Bastow on November 24, 2009

How much do I not want to click-through to Essential Baby today? Let me count the ways:

So, for those keeping score, that’s a faceless/objectified (pregnant) woman, wearing “sexy” lingerie, referred to as “like mini-vans”, under the banner “Pregnant women: hot or not?” and all within an ad roughly the size of a credit card. I believe that’s some sort of a record!

Yes, that is precisely how they are advertising Fairfax Digital’s parenting site via sidebars on The ad links to “Essential Baby blogger” Joseph Kelly’s blog entry on whether or not he found his wife – the aforementioned “transportational unit for conveying children” (which isn’t as offensive as the decontextualised excerpt might suggest).

Stay classy, Essential Baby!

Posted in body image, Family, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Watching The Ad Breaks | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

How Can Feminist Mums Avoid Being Humourless Childhood-Ruiners?

Posted by Mel Campbell on September 14, 2009

Jo Case has a fascinating article at Kill Your Darlings that focuses on a new book from Spinifex Press called Getting Real: Challenging The Sexualisation Of Girls. This is a topic The Dawn Chorus has discussed before, and these posts have always attracted lots of comments from mums who talk about the challenges they face trying to raise both boys and girls in the face of so many gendered cultural imperatives, from obsessing over the colour pink to seeing one’s body as a constant renovation project.

In a way, the comments people have made on blog posts like this – especially ones that come from personal experience of parenting – interest me more than the issues of female sexualisation (raunch culture) in the media, which are so mainstream it’s dispiriting, especially when they’re conflated with “empowerment”. The impression I get is that on one front, mums feel strongly enough about the issue to ban Barbies and pink things, to refuse to buy slutty pre-teen clothes and to stand up to schools and organisations who condone sexualised behaviour and attitudes.

Then there’s a subset of parents who appear to find this stuff amusing and ironic. Before the story got a little too old, I was planning to write a story for The Enthusiast about the quality of ‘edginess’, and the way that to involve children – who are consensually imagined as ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’ – in these knowing gestures treads an especially keen edge between propriety and obscenity. Indeed, as the Cotton On example reveals, certain companies actively market their products as ‘edgy’; part of the appeal to their consumers is that other people might find them offensive, and hence these consumers feel more sophisticated because they ‘get’ the joke.

That, for my mind, is the most confronting aspect of parenting – especially of girls. Are you going to be the kind of humourless, daggy mum who interferes in everything that’s cool and is a source of mortification to your children (“You just don’t GET it, Mum!”), or are you going to be a hip mum who helps your kids navigate pop culture rather than trying to restrict their access to it?

I mean, as adults we all fondly tell stories about the wowserish parents who banned junk food and served pitiful Pritikin imitations of the foods kids love; who prevented us from watching commercial TV, or even any TV at all; who wouldn’t buy the ‘cool’ clothes so we had to look like dicks in front of our friends; who wouldn’t buy the in-demand toys such as Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. (Oh boy, I’m showing my age with that one!)

But this just goes to show that kids don’t ever forget this stuff. Time can transform an embarrassing mum into an endearingly daggy one, but do we have to accept being an embarrassment to our children as the price of ‘protecting’ them from a culture they desperately want to participate in? Do we ‘know better’ than our kids or should we perhaps try to find some middle ground with them, rather than being the inflexible person banning things?

One of my main worries as a feminist is that feminism is so often about being angry and disapproving; it rarely seems hip unless it concedes something to raunch culture. Just last week I was thinking, “No wonder people say feminists are unattractive; nobody likes hanging out with angry people.” Perhaps we should also consider what we’re teaching children about feminism if their main experience of it is telling them what they’re not allowed to do.

Posted in body image, Family, Parenting & Family | Tagged: , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

Womens’ bodies are whale like

Posted by Cate on August 18, 2009

I was angered on Friday to receive a copy of PETA’s latest marketing campaign to turn meat eaters over to all things vegetarian…. petasavethewhales

Yes apparently womens’ bikinied bodies that don’t fit some lithe physique that’s unattainable to many are ‘whale’ like and contain ‘blubber.

Further, their press release states,

“Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA has a free ‘Vegetarian Starter Kit’ for people who want to lose pounds while eating as much as they like.

I was vegetarian myself for 10 years during which I certainly was not able to lose pounds eating whatever I  liked. And haven’t PETA made women feel inadequate enough about their bodies with their advertisements of naked vegetarian female celebrities, usually draped with fruit or baby animals?

PETA also fail to consider the reality that many women are curvy or ‘overweight’ despite a vegetarian diet? You can eat a lot of vegan Oreos or ice cream in one sitting. They also seem keen to simply ‘guilt’ women into restricting what they eat, for weight loss instead of ethical reasons. Certainly one step towards an eating disorder for those with any propensities for such things. It reminds me of when I was at school and the participants in the World Vision 40 Hour Famine were overwhelming young girls.

Posted in body image, Politics, Women's Health | Tagged: | 20 Comments »

“For Fuck’s Sake” Corner: Britney Spears Edition

Posted by Clem Bastow on March 5, 2009

So, I realise there are some newspapers and magazines out there that are about as right-on as a wet t-shirt contest, but that doesn’t stop me from being disappointed/angry/disbelieving at just how low they’ll stoop sometimes. As the pop-culturally-aware of you will realise, Britney Spears has just made her “proper” comeback by launching her Circus tour in New Orleans. She’s match-fit and, according to most reviews, back in fine form. So, leave it to our favourites, The Daily Mail, to come up with this single-entendre shocker:


Okay, got that? Wanna see what this hulking hambeast they’re referring to looks like? The actual picture they’re running, to illustrate said bulky bigness? From that headline, Britney must have been putting away the pecan pies, right? WRONG:


Wow – honk, honk! Move over, wide load, we’re trying to get etc etc.

Honestly, where will the madness ever end? As mscate noted the other day, the media doesn’t cause eating disorders or poor body image, but it’s a hard slog staying positive when someone as fit, healthy and gorgeous as Britney Spears is described as “bulky” and “big”. Everyone, all together now: SIGH. Now, back to the fight.

Posted in body image, Celebrity, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Models And Magazines To Yet Again Tell You About Body Image

Posted by Cate on March 4, 2009

Was I the only one who sniggered when I read that Model and TV host Sarah Murdoch is hoping to use her experiences in the fashion industry and as a ballerina to help girls develop positive views of their bodies?

“I hope that my unique perspective can in some way help develop national strategies that promote healthy body image, especially in girls and young women.” reports

I think unique is the right word as I can hardly image that her view point represents the many women who are not models or on television. Girlfriend editor Sarah Cornish, and former Cosmo editor, Mia Freeman will also be involved.  So, a bunch of skinny white, famous women who sell images of mostly white skinny, women* are going to tell the rest of the female population, many of whom are not white and skinny, how to have a good body image?

Admittedly, and a number of representatives from health, media and youth groups are also part of the group who  are apparently considering issues such as a voluntary code of practice for portraying body image in the media, the labelling of digitally retouched or modified images, greater diversity of body shapes and sizes and mandatory model age limits.

Does this mean there will be more fat black chicks in magazines? How about women with disabilities in your favourite soapie? Have you ever seen a fashion editorial which includes women with disabilities? I don’t think I have, besides the odd Para-Olympian. Surely being in a wheelchair doesn’t negate ones desire for an outfit that makes you happy every time you put it on? What about women over thirty? And in regard to diversity, will women of different shapes and sizes be presented positively whatever their size and shape, or will their size only be sanctioned by an appearance on a weight loss show?

On what’s this about a voluntary code of practice? I wonder if this is this merely a way for various designers and industry staffers to negate any responsibility for the images they portray and how they relate to the psyche of young people. When you consider the dollars spent t trend spotting to create those edgy, quirkiness, it’s a shame they can’t make ‘fat’ the new fashion, rather than constant portrayals of underweight teens in skinny jeans and canvas shoes.

Youth Minister Kate Ellis proclaims:

“Young Australians are telling us loud and clear that they are concerned about negative body image and the impact that it has on them, their friends and the community.”

“This is not an attack on skinny models, it is a genuine attempt to tackle an issue that is harming our young Australians.”

Some stats from Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria:

  • Currently, body image despondency is at both ends of the equation. Mission Australia’s 2007 survey of 29,000 young Australians found Body Image was the most concerning issue for young people.
  • The Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health, which included 14,686 women aged 18-23 years, revealed 66.5% had a BMI within a healthy weight range, however only 21.6% of these women were happy with their weight.[li]
  • A large number (41%) of children are specifically worried about the way they look with 35% concerned about being overweight (44% of girls and 27% of boys) and 16% being too skinny.[liv]
  • A 2007 Sydney University study of nearly 9,000 adolescents showed one in five teenage girls starved themselves or vomit up their food to control their weight. Eight per cent of girls used smoking for weight control.[lv]

I’m not suggesting that the fashion industry or media or models cause body image problems or indeed eating disorders. Both involve a complex interplay of environmental, psychological and personal factors. But they certainly don’t help. Most women don’t have eating disorders. But many have poor body image which can contribute to the causation of eating disorders and a lifelong feeling is poor self esteem.

I think that to position the blame solely in the hands of the media is completely wrong. Magazines are obstensibly about marketing and selling fashion. They can only market what’s available and it’s evident that most clothing is designed for women within certain size constraints. As fashion design Elise Slater notes on the fabulous website of the Anybody Organisation:

At no other time in history has fashion’s ideal been so narrow and restricting, with identi-kit ultra-thin models being the global ideal. And this isn’t the fault of the models, it is the fault of the designers who are demanding these anorexically-thin figures.The most ridiculous aspect of the fashion industry at present is that bodies are being cut to fit the fashions, whereas it should be the cloth that is cut to fit the body.

I’m not suggesting that the fashion industry or media or models cause body image problems or indeed eating disorders. Both involve a complex interplay of environmental, psychological and personal factors. But they certainly don’t help. What I’d like to see:

– Greater representation of sizes, ethnicities and ages on the telly and in magazines.

– Depictions of plus -sized women who aren’t tall, big boned and big boobed. This is not the same as fat/curvy/chunky silhouettes and clothes move entirely differently on a larger body. I want fat women so I can see what the clothes really look like!

– Plus sized clothing that is made for plus sized women of diverse proportions. I don’t want skinny jeans or lycra pants in my size. Adding a few inches of fabric doesn’t mean the outfit will fit in a manner that is pleasing to me.

*I was pleased with Mia Freedman’s ‘body love’ efforts in Cleo and the decision to include a range of body sizes in the mag. It’s certainly better than nothing.

Some of my favourite body image resources:

Posted in body image, Celebrity, Fashion, Film & Television, Media Watch, Women's Health | 6 Comments »

Australian Family Association: Female Genitals (Cunts) “Offensive”, “Degrading” To Women

Posted by Clem Bastow on March 1, 2009

Yes, you did read that headline correctly.

Readers interested in the art world, living in Adelaide or attending Adelaide Fringe (or who RSVP’d to the Facebook event!) will likely be aware of Greg Taylor’s new exhibition, CUNTS… and other conversations, which features 140 life-sized sculpted portraits of, well, cunts.

(For the record, I subscribe to the excellent Betty Dodson’s use of the term “cunt” rather than “vagina”, because as she notes – even if it is geared towards sexual identity rather than just identity – “technically speaking, the vagina is the birth canal, so using this term leaves out the other parts of a woman’s sex organ”).

Far from the sensationalist angle you would be forgiven for expecting if you read the tabloid news (and we’ll get to that in a minute), the exhibition serves a noble and much needed purpose: to remind people – and, yes, women – that all cunts are different, and all of them are beautiful. From the press release:

“It is a challenging show to some, but it is a work of celebration and empowerment to others. It’s the kind of show that makes a stimulating backdrop for women’s issues to be discussed, which I encourage,” he says.

CUNTS previewed in Melbourne in 2008 and attracted 2000 visitors over ten days including school groups, mothers with their daughters and medical students sent by their university lecturer.

The models for CUNTS range in age from 18 to 78 and are from various religious backgrounds; Christians of many denominations, including Catholic, Protestant, Salvation Army as well as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, Witches and Atheists. The women come from all walks of life; teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, writers, actors, musicians, artists, life models, students, architects and theologians. The models are heterosexual, bisexual, lesbians. Some are virgins. All of them want one thing; for young women to be free of growing up with fear, ignorance and loathing of their bodies and sexuality. [my emphasis – Clem]

Xanya Mamunya is a harpist whose cunt features among the works. She says of the modelling process, “It was empowering because I am from a generation that never even looked down there. I wasn’t even told about the menstrual cycle until I thought I was bleeding to death. Modelling for the exhibition made me feel that I was part of something that I think is very important – for everyone.”

It’s such a stand-up inspiration for an art show that, naturally, the Australian Family Association and their associated cronies had to come and spoil the show. And boy, did they ever, stepping beyond their usual sex/body-phobia into a whole new realm: yes, women’s genitals are offensive and degrading… to women!

The Australian Family Association also attacked Mr Taylor’s use of the word and images as degrading to women and totally inappropriate for public display. Spokeswoman Gabrielle Walsh said there was absolutely no excuse for the public display of the sculptures or the “C” word.

“He shouldn’t be allowed to force these images and words upon us in public for all to view, including children,” she said. “It’s an abuse of public space and women, in particular, would find them deeply offensive.”

One wonders if Ms Walsh feels personally “offended” or “degraded” by the very thing lurking inside her pants. Fellow blogger Audrey Apple launched the exhibition (with her work hat on); we were discussing the infuriating uproar this morning via email and she had this to say:

Personally, I feel degraded by the notion that the Australian Family Association, with their regressive anti female, anti homosexual and anti sexuality agenda, feels that they can speak for ME. In fact, it’s my experience so far that women especially have responded positively to the exhibition. If the AFA weren’t so determined to believe that bodies are disgusting – and women’s bodies especially – then they might actually learn something. In a world where more and more women are having cosmetic surgery to make their vaginas and labia look ‘presentable’, it’s the height of obscenity to declare an exhibition celebrating vaginal diversity ‘vulgar’ and ‘offensive’.

Throughout the gnashing of teeth by AFA (and Australia Post, and – yes – “State secretary of the Communications Electrical Electronic Energy Information Postal Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia, Graham Lorrain”), it’s hard to work out what has sent them into more of a lather: the use of the word “cunt”, or the images of women’s genitals?

On the former topic, yes, it’s true that the “worst” words you can throw at a person have been narrowed down to two that are distinctly female: “cunt”, and “motherfucker”. But it’s worth reclaiming “cunt” (as many people, feminist and otherwise, are aiming to do); it’s a fine, old word with a rich etymological history (hell, it was good enough for Shakespeare!). If we can take back “bitch” and other epithets, why not “cunt”? Why not take it as a compliment? A cursory Google search on the topic will reveal an extensive library of pro-cunt blogging, journalism and web-ringing.

Indeed, it is easier to believe (though harder to accept) that it’s the former – images of cunts – that is the main issue at hand. And why wouldn’t it be? Women’s magazines aren’t allowed to print images of women’s genitals (i.e. for sexual education) unless they are the homogenised line drawings of tampon leaflets (I recall Mia Freedman, when she was Editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, even running an editorial push for readers to “write to their local member of Parliament” – so to speak – in an effort to get rid of these archaic censorship laws). Porn magazines airbrush women’s labia until they look like neat little purses. Women of all walks of life are talked into plastic surgery in order to achieve “designer vaginas“.

But calling women’s genitals “deeply offensive”? It seems the depths of society’s fucked-up-ness are yet to be plumbed.

Posted in art, body image, Faith and Religion, Family, Media Watch, Politics, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »