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Our Culture is the Biggest Loser: Gender, Body Image, and Everyday Acts of Rebellion

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Title: Our Culture is the Biggest Loser: Gender, Body Image, and Everyday Acts of Rebellion


1
Our Culture is the Biggest Loser Gender, Body
Image, and Everyday Acts of Rebellion
Michael Levine, Ph.D., FAED Department of
Psychology, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH
43022-9623 April 24, 2008 Rockridge High School,
Vancouver, BC Levine_at_kenyon.edu
2
Dr. Michael Levine
  • 1. Professor of Psychology, Kenyon College
    BMI 30.0476483 Obese
  • Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology Fellow, Academy
    of Eating Disorders Daughter is Philosophy
    Political Science major Wife has Ph.D. in
    Medieval history, teaches in Religious Studies
    and WGS Both shop at Victorias Secret. . . .
  • 3. Age 58 Really likes Pat Benatar
  • 4. Grew up in Southern California Idol was
    philandering, alcoholic, immature superstar
    ballplayer Mickey Mantle
  • No body images issues at all
  • Note Rare photo -- Michael Levine
  • as assistant professor, Fall 1979

3
ITS TIME TO STAND UP IF YOU REALLY DO BELIEVE
THAT
  • The type of person you are
  • your character,
  • your substance,
  • your spirit and guts
  • are more important than your
  • weight or pants size.

4
ITS TIME TO STAND UP IF -- YOU REALLY DONT
BELIEVE THAT
  • Every person
  • is entitled to
  • respect and dignity
  • no matter what their
  • size and shape,
  • their apparent fitness,
  • the color of their skin,
  • or their gender

5
ITS TIME TO STAND UP IF YOU REALLY DO BELIEVE
THAT
  • Individual differences -- diversity -- in height
    and weight and body shape are a very bad thing
  • And
  • All girls should be tall and thin, while all
    boys should be tall and muscular People should
    be more like the manikins in the store

Model for Rosa Cha Spring 2007 Fashion
Week 9-14-06
6
ITS TIME TO STAND UP IF YOU REALLY DO BELIEVE
THAT
  • People -- and especially girls -- should treat
    their bodies as objects, things, and commodities
    to be sculpted, starved, leered at, jeered at,
    sneered at, and painted into shape -- that
    peoples bodies are in many ways no different
    than cars. . . .

7
ITS TIME TO STAND UP IF -- YOU REALLY DONT
BELIEVE THAT
  • You can tell how good a person is -- how
    talented, caring, friendly, trustworthy, funny,
    spirited, spiritual -- by watching what they eat
    and seeing how much they weigh or whether they
    work out a lot and look hot but somehow cool

8
Easily Extracted Messages Indulge a Little BUT
somehow Dont Make Yourself Crazy
You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin
9
Levines Wrestle-mania Correlation does not
imply Causality, But. . . .
  • Pronounced gender difference in body image issues
    and disordered eating (8-101)
  • Developmental and historical risk points
  • The normative discontent
  • Hows that War on Obesity
  • workin out for ya?
  • Emergence of body image problems steroid abuse
    among males

1904 American Greeting Cards
2005
10
On Shared Ground -- Weight (too much or too
little), Health, Disordered Eating
  • Body dissatisfaction ?life dissatisfaction
  • Disturbances of interoceptive awareness
  • Unhealthy dieting
  • Maladaptive weight management
  • Binge-eating and chaotic food consumption
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Dealing with culture(s) and cultural change
  • Unhealthy relationships with food/activity/exercis
    e

11
Levines Recommended Principles of Everyday
Rebellion and Truly Primary Prevention
  • The issue for prevention is us and our cultures,
    not them and their eating disorders or their
    obesity. Thus we must think contextually and in
    terms of how each member of the community can
    contribute

12
Sometimes it is Hard to Love the One Body
Youre With
13
Pervasive Messages-- Multiple Sources
  • Health professionals
  • Parents
  • Educators
  • Mass media
  • Books
  • Peers
  • Citizens

14
Do You Think Barbie Still Dreams of Ken?
Barbie Ken (1950s)
Michael Levine as undergraduate in The Iliad
(1968)
Spawn
15
An Even Greater Less Ethnic American Hero
1970
2000
16
The Adonis Ideal
  • Mesomorphic ideal
  • Men are defined by size, power, and strength
  • Lean muscular attractive
  • muscularity manly success
  • muscularity health

All Muscle except for Fat in Head
17
Love Or at Least Accept and Care For the Body
Youre With
  • Body dissatisfaction is neither feminine nor
    normal in
  • the sense of being natural
  • and unchangeable
  • Body dissatisfaction is
  • not motivational
  • Body dissatisfaction is
  • typically not harmless
  • Body dissatisfaction often feeds on prejudice,
    trauma,
  • and object -- ification

18
The Issue is Us (Weekly) - Continued
  • Prevention will failand may well be harmfulif
    it concentrates solely on the definition of
    clinical syndromes, the portrayal of fascinating
    cases, and the dangers of disordered eating.
  • The issue is the cost to individuals and
    society of set of issues, each of which (1)
    relates to negative body image and disordered
    eating and (2) could be seen spectrum or
    continuum
  • negative body image internalization
    of impossible ideals
  • self-objectification drive for
    thinness/leanness
  • fear of fat unhealthy weight
    management
  • shaky self-esteem chaotic
    (including binge-) eating
  • compensatory extremes of
    activity/exercise
  • extremes (perfectionism)

19
Everyday Acts of Rebellion and Machine-Focused
Raging (MFR) Take Ovaries Culture change
requires a critical/analytic perspective,
attention to social justice, and activism--and
thus it requires dialogue, collaboration, and
courage.
  • This cause is not altogether and exclusively
    womens cause. It is the cause of human
    brotherhood as well as human sisterhood, and both
    must rise and fall together. Woman cannot be
    elevated without elevating man, and man cannot be
    depressed without depressing woman also.
  • - Frederick Douglas
  • 1848

20
Us Weekly The Hyprocritic Oath Easily Extracted
Messages
  • WEIGHTISM
  • Prejudice
  • Vilification of fat and fat people, especially
    females
  • Glorification of slenderness

21
Fat People Spoil the Environment
  • Fat people lack self-control
  • Fat people are neurotic and overeat for
    psychological reasons
  • Weight and shape are highly malleable
  • Fat and weight make you sick thin is healthier
  • Fat people cannot be physically fit
  • Fat people need to diet, and fatter people need
    to diet a lot (more)

22
Beauty Standards 1940s 1950s
23
But. . . But. . . But What?
24
No, Really You are Still the Object of My Gaze
(and Your Own?) 2005
  • Bad Ad Contest Winner for 2005, New Mexico
    Media Literacy Project
  • www.mnmlp.org
  • Submitted by Max Africk. Isidore Newman
    School, New Orleans LA Teacher Ann Sayas

Open Season Advertisement for __________?
Everybody wants a piece of Dentyne Gum
25
Easily Extracted Messages VIII But. . . But
When Tempted To Overindulge (1930)
We do not say smoking Luckies reduces flesh. We
do say that when tempted to overindulge, reach
for a Lucky instead.
26
I know weve come a long way were changing
day-to-day
Woman 112 lbs Body wt 111 lbs Pantsuit 1 lb
BMI at 58 is 16.9
27
Some Things are Like Prevention Hard to
Understand How it Could Happen, But It Needs to
be Done
28
But What, Like, Really, Can Anybody Do?
  • Kenyon
  • 2001-2002 ?
  • Andy Mills Becky
  • Osborn Erica
  • Neitz (01)
  • (with support from Drs.
  • Levine, Smolak, Murnen
  • and
  • several counselors, teachers, and
    principals in the Mt. Vernon City School System)

See www.gurze.com
29
THE POLITICAL Hope is Everywhere and so is
determination and skill
  • Dads and Daughters, Inc.
  • Joe Kelly and Nancy Gruver
  • www.dadsanddaughters.org
  • Protest, praise, advocacy

30
One Person in a Small Town Can Begin the Process
of Making a Difference
  • A great model an ongoing narrative of
    courage, resistance, and change is the Red
    Wing, MN non-profit organization described at
    Higherself.com, which grew out of the GO GIRLSTM
    program guided by
  • Sarah Stinson
  • High school girls who have
  • Protested
  • Taught
  • Advocated
  • Testified in the US congress
  • Formed a non-profit corporation

31
Become Educated and Truly Literate
  • Content
  • The Clash
  • Critical analysis
  • Gender and identity
  • Health and performance ? well-being
  • Action and activism
  • Media and cultural literacy
  • Processes
  • Dialogue
  • Discovery
  • Teaching
  • Social norms
  • Integration

32
THE PERSONAL Body Image Remember and Practice
The Bill of Rights I have and will exercise the
right to
  • Nourish my body and spirit
  • Appreciate my body, which will never be perfect
  • Feel good in and about my body
  • Remind myself that there are hundreds of very
    admirable people whose body shapes vary
    tremendously my role or real models
  • Exercise my control over what I watch, pay
    attention to, talk back to, buy. . . .
  • Remind myself, constantly if necessary, of the
    following 10 or more good things about my body
  • Be fit and energetic, no matter what I look like
  • To dance, swim, sunbathe, and be active no matter
    what I look like
  • To wear clothes that are comfortable and express
    my selfmy styleno matter what I look like

33
Body Image Be a Real Super Model
  • Reject weightism as an untenable form
  • of prejudice
  • Modify your body image, not your
  • weight and shape
  • a. Practice refusing self-criticism,
  • not restricting
  • b. Draining the mirror the scale
  • c. Drunk on the street test
  • Make contact with people,
  • not war on your body, your mind,
  • your spirit. Refuse fat talk or the BDG
  • Hills Daily Diet of Praise Affirming
  • skill, strength, care, presence

34
THE PERSONAL Body Image Be a Real Super Model
  • Study culture, cultures,
  • history, gender, resistance,
  • transformation--for both
  • boys and girls
  • Talk to others, making
  • the private into the public
  • Promote safety, respect,
  • and substance

35
Sensible Nutrition, Activity, and Other Changes
for Health
  • Make healthy lifestyle changes, not war on your
    weight, your body, and your spirit
  • Nourish yourself with sufficient fuel
  • eating small(er) amounts throughout the day
  • Dont diet -- reject the dieting mentality
  • Eat less salt, red meat, saturated fat
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Exercise and Be Active for the four Fs Fun,
    Fitness, Friendship, and Function

36
THE PERSONAL Sensible Nutrition, Activity,
and Other Changes for Health
  • Make healthy lifestyle changes, not war
  • on your weight, your body, and your spirit
  • Make meals sociable and pleasant
  • No calorie- or fat-talk at meals
  • No watching people eat
  • Turn off the TV
  • Whats eating me? Not What am I
  • eating?

37
Reverse Care Bear Stare and the Conditional
Negative Ray Not Ready to Make Nice
Lost Cat Card from Caddylax Graffix
38
Were Not Going to Take It
  • When will women not be compelled to view their
    bodies as science projects, gardens to be weeded,
    dogs to be trained?
  • Marge Piercy, cited in M. Maine (2000)
  • ANAD Hersheys (1988)
  • EDAP Hormels (1996)

1983 Nobel Prize Winner (Chemistry) Barbara
McClintock at Cornell, 1929
39
ITS TIME TO STAND UP IF -- YOU REALLY DO BELIEVE
THAT
  • People should work together with their family,
    their friends, their colleagues, their church,
    and other groups who refuse to keep silent and to
    sit still when they see injustice and lack of
    necessary resources in the world That it is
    important to take a stand for what is HEALTHY and
    RIGHT and DECENT. . . .

40
Hope is the Thing with Feathers. . . .
  • Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
    committed citizens can change the world. Indeed,
    its the only thing that ever has.
  • -- Margaret Mead

Pillars of Fulfillment Tribute to Dr. Lori
Irving (1963 2001) by Women Who
Weld Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
41
Liberal Arts and Health at Every Size
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