Book Review: The Beauty Myth

“We do not need to change our bodies, we need to change the rules. Beyond the myth, women will still be blamed for our appearances by whomever needs to blame us. So let’s stop blaming ourselves and stop running and stop apologizing, and let’s start to please ourselves once and for all. The ‘beautiful’ woman does not win under the myth, neither does anyone else. The woman who is subjected to the continual adulation of strangers does not win, nor does the woman who denies herself attention. The woman who wears a uniform does not win, nor does the woman with a designer outfit for every day of the year. You do not win by struggling to the top of a caste system, you win by refusing to be trapped within one at all. The woman wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world to change to truly see her.

A woman wins by giving herself and other women permission — to eat; to be sexual; to age; to wear overalls, a paste tiara, a Balenciaga gown, a second-hand opera cloak, or combat boots; to cover up or to go practically naked; to do whatever we choose in following — or ignoring — our own aesthetic. A woman wins when she feels that what each woman does with her own body — unforced, uncoerced — is her own business.

When many individual women exempt themselves from the economy, it will begin to dissolve. Institutions, some men, and some women, will continue to try to use women’s appearance against us. But we won’t bite.” – The Beauty Myth

Though there are undoubtedly many key statistics and facts and statements, I felt the above quote nicely summarized my most recent reading, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. What an integral piece of reading for women everywhere – and men, too, for that matter; an imperative look into our society and the world around us and how the beauty myth shapes pretty much every aspect of that, and what we must do to fight back against it.

Wolf examines several key pieces of life: work, culture, religion, sex, hunger and violence, and picks apart each one to discuss how the beauty myth is present in that specific topic.

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No Hate, No Mandate Rally – Buffalo, NY January 21, 2017

16142575_10208835590951144_3929003454227523844_nAlright, so I’m a few days late with this post, but I still wanted to get some of my thoughts down for safekeeping before *too* long! This past Saturday, I attended my first real political event (aside from voting): the “No Hate, No Mandate” March and Rally right here in Buffalo, NY.

It was a very last-minute decision of mine to attend. I learned about the events through Facebook (thanks for the heads-up, social media!) and decided on probably Friday, in the midst of the inauguration, that I wanted to attend. My frustrations regarding the political climate of our country have boiled over, and I decided to put some action behind my words.

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I Guess It’s Time to Get Political

The original FB post.Well, I wasn’t planning on getting political over here, but I want to share this. And hey, this *is* my website after all!

Okay, I’ve tried to not post anything political, but I can’t be quiet anymore. I saw a post shared on my Facebook feed last night and it absolutely infuriated me, so it’s time to unpack everything that’s wrong with this, and with Trump as a candidate. (See a screenshot of the post I wrote this in response to, to the left.)

You don’t care that he called a woman fat? Cool. How about the fact that he LITERALLY said it is okay to sexually assault a woman? One in every six American women has been sexually assaulted at one point in her life. Trump’s comments, and people who think like he does, are not okay by any means! That line of thinking is why we have people like Brock Turner in our world. So hey, if you’re not okay with Brock Turner (which please, tell me you aren’t) and you’re not okay with things like rape, you should definitely not be excusing Trump’s comments.

While we’re on the topic – a woman (or man!) embracing their sexuality, or having CONSENSUAL sex, is not equivalent to sexual assault!!!! A woman should be free to make the CHOICE of modeling for Victoria’s Secret if she wants to. If you’re not comfortable with it, it’s your decision not to watch, just as it’s her decision to participate. Sexual assault – what Trump was talking about – is NON-CONSENSUAL AND IS NEVER OKAY BY ANY MEANS. And no, it doesn’t matter if he spoke those words privately. Not one bit. (Keep in mind that he has also been accused of rape multiple times, including at least one underage case, and was reported as ‘walking unannounced into dressing rooms at Miss Teen USA’ — walking in on undressed contestants AS YOUNG AS 15.)

In addition, the sexualization (which is not necessarily the same as degradation & those things need to be discussed separately) of women in rap music/etc. IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO SEXUAL ASSAULT EITHER. Earlier this week, someone shared a meme that basically equated the reading of Fifty Shades of Gray, a fictional piece of fantasy literature, to sexual assault in real life, in an attempt to say that it’s okay. THOSE ARE NOT THE SAME THINGS!!! That’d be like me stealing your car and then saying “Well, you play Grand Theft Auto, dude. Same thing.” IT’S. NOT. (Of course, the people who think Trump’s words were okay, but are against things like Victoria’s Secret etc. are the same people who think a woman who is raped was ‘asking for it.’) UGH.

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The Gender Gap in Newspaper Bylines

Last week, I came across a survey about the gender gap between male and female bylines at major newspapers across the United States. Newspapers surveyed included The New York Times, The Denver Post and The Chicago Sun-Times, and numbers were compiled from about 27,000 pieces of content produced during three months in 2014. The survey was engineered by the Women’s Media Center.

The numbers were generally not great. Male bylines largely outnumbered female bylines at most of the newspapers surveyed, including a 68 percent to 32 percent gap at The New York Times.

You can access the full report here, but it really struck a chord with me. As a journalism graduate (hello, Buffalo State College, class of 2012), and a female in that subject, it’s quite depressing to see the gender gap here, especially at some of the biggest newspapers in the country.

My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to undertake this project on a local level. For the month of June, I’ll be looking at the daily editions of The Buffalo News and comparing the percentage of male bylines to female bylines.

For the first week of June, male bylines outnumbered female bylines by a margin of 354-155 at The Buffalo News. This is a massive gender gap, albeit in just a one-week timeframe. Male bylines outnumbered female bylines EVERY day, including 56-21 and 59-19 numbers on Wednesday and Thursday of that week.

In addition to tallying overall daily counts, I broke it down by section. Muhales outnumbered females in EVERY section, aside from Sunday’s special Home & Style/Travel section. Male bylines outnumbered female bylines by a 55-8 margin in the sports section, and by a 48-16 margin in the business section. In the “cover” section, which includes the biggest local news, as well as national and world news – often pulled from the wire and written originally by reporters from papers such as The Los Angeles Times – women were outnumbered 82-37.

Even in the opinion section, women were vastly outnumbered by men, by a 58-20 margin.

The section where female bylines appeared the most: arts & entertainment. But even there, male bylines outnumbered the female bylines by a 48-38 margin, including a 21-4 margin in Thursday’s special “GUSTO” section.

For a full daily breakdown of the numbers, check out this PDF: Gender Gap TBN June 2015 Week 1.

How To Help: National Suicide Prevention Week

Yesterday, September 10th, marked World Suicide Prevention Day, and all this week is considered National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States. While it’s astounding to me that we need to designate specific dates or weeks for these initiatives – shouldn’t every day be World Suicide Prevention Day? – I can understand specifying a date/week to focus on awareness of this issue.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, approximately one million people die each year worldwide from suicide. That’s one suicide every 40 seconds. The association also says that for every completed suicide, there are estimated 10-20 attempts.

This is an issue that affects everyone, worldwide.

That’s the thing about mental illness- it doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re poor, middle-class, or the richest man on Earth; whether you’re homeless or have a fancy home with seven bedrooms; whether you have a job or not, have kids or not, have a significant other or not. Regardless of class, gender, race, sexual orientation, upbringing or any other factor you can think of – mental illness does not discriminate, and it can affect anyone.

By this point, you’re probably thinking: Well, how can I help? An issue this national, this global, may seem like a huge task, but everyone can help end the stigma that surrounds mental illness and allow people to feel comfortable talking about their thoughts. Mental health is an important aspect of our daily lives, just as important as our physical health, and it should be treated as such, both in the good times and the bad times.

Did you know that more people in the United States die each year from suicide than from homicide?

So… what can you do?

Help yourself, then help others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling, whether that’s help from a friend or family member or a professional. It’s easy to hide within yourself and not reach out, but I promise you, things can get better. Don’t ever give up hope. As someone who has dealt with mental health issues in the past, I know it isn’t easy. I know it’s scary and may seem ridiculously intimidating to approach someone about your problems. I know you may not feel “worth it” or “important.” You are. I love you, lots of other people love you, and life can be an amazing thing, but you have to stick around to see it.

Be willing to listen to others, and don’t be afraid to approach someone if you feel like they may be in danger. Don’t isolate yourself and don’t isolate others who may be feeling that way. Mental illness has a stigma attached to it, but we can end that.

For more information, check out the links for further reading below.