Thursday, April 4, 2013

Blogging While Pretty

(If you missed yesterday's post, start with Blogging While White. It inspired today's Blogging While Pretty.)

Do you ever get tired of seeing yet another food blogger writing about how healthy she eats while posting pretty pictures of herself? I do.

There's an unspoken message that if you eat this way, you will be just as pretty as me.

It's like watching a commercial. If you eat Yoplait Light, you will be just as happy as the woman skipping around on the TV. Likewise, if you eat paleo, you will get a muscular body. If you eat gluten-free, you will glow. If you eat vegan, you'll lose body fat. If you eat coconut oil, you will turn into a skinny white woman.

I jest...obviously. But you see what I mean, right?

When we watch TV and movies or look at magazines, we're intellectually aware that the images are edited to look ideal. But emotionally, we're just as susceptible to those perfected images as someone who has no clue that they aren't exactly real. But what about when those images don't come from companies but rather from ourselves?

We live in a very strange era, the era of Reality TV and Facebook. We all love to connect via social media, and it has become a great way for us to meet more people, hear news, and spread our messages. But underneath all of that, I believe the real reason Facebook has become such a success is because it allows us all to get a glimpse of the glamour of being a star.

We soak up the lives of famous people, and despite knowing they are not happier than we, part of us yearns to know what it feels like to be in that spotlight. And so, with Facebook, you can. Through Facebook, we each get our own reality TV show. On my page, I am the star. I get to filter whatever messages I want and hide the ones I prefer my viewers not to see. I get to post only photos of myself where I look exquisite, especially the ones I've edited to look all artsy. Then I get lots of likes and comments, which makes me feel like I'm Anne Hathaway without all the haters. I get all the adoration of a star without the intense scrutiny. Or at least, no one leaves any mean comments, although I would venture to say we all silently judge what we see on Facebook.

If you want to take your fame a step farther, you can become a blogger. Through having a blog, you can build your own brand. You can become a star with followers, and if you become big enough, you even get the trolls. The haters who come in and leave you mean comments or write mean things about you in forums. That's when you're truly famous like the Hollywood stars.

I'm 30. That means there was no internet when I was little. I told that to a boy I was babysitting and he told me that was crazy. I told another girl I was babysitting that I was born before 2000, and she asked if there were horses and buggies in the olden days. Do you know what that means? There is a whole generation of kids growing up who have never known life without the internet. They have never known life without Facebook, and they have never known life without idealized images of what we should look like.

I remember when people looked semi-normal on TV and in the movies. I was watching Crocodile Dundee recently and I was shocked to see the scene where the actress is wearing a bathing suit and you can actually see cellulite! Now, if you've seen Crocodile Dundee, you know that Linda Kozlowski, the main actress, is a gorgeous woman and in that scene, Mick Dundee is watching very appreciatively. But if that movie were made today, her cellulite would be edited out. It's unnecessary because she looked hot. But that's just how things are now. Reality is only okay when the actual reality is edited away.

With Facebook and blogs, we are the producers, directors and editors. These are our own reality TV stations. This is where we create what the world sees. Every day, we watch media that makes us feel inadequate. Our stretch marks, wrinkles, curves and bumps don't exist in media land, and so the fact that we have them makes us feel like there's something wrong with us. So what do we do?

We edit ourselves for our own reality shows.

We only post photos on Facebook where we like how we look. Or we do our own photo shoots, edit the photos, then post them. We put the pretty photos on our blogs.

We participate in the media brainwashing of men, women, and children, and we do it without meaning to.

The businesses that make money off of us know exactly what they're doing. They photoshop women so we'll feel unattractive in comparison and then buy their products to look better. More and more, they're doing the same to men.

But what about us?

When I delete the photos in my camera that show that I have a tummy or look like I have a double chin; when I instead post the photos that make me look oh-so-pretty, I am doing it for one reason and one reason only. So that no one knows that I am real. So that I can feel, just for a moment, that I am as beautiful as the women I watch on TV. So that I can present the same facade that they do.

But does it serve you? Does it serve my readers who are working hard to become healthier? When we see bloggers in their 20s posting pictures of themselves in bikinis next to their food photos, does that help the 18 year old college freshman who's struggling with an eating disorder? Does it help the 15 year old girl who's trying desperately to have a six-pack when that is not what her body wants? The same goes for men too. We talk a lot about women and the media, but men have their own pressures, and eating disorders are rising in boys and men faster than is ever acknowledged.

What I want to say is that maybe we should take the editing down a notch. There are some bloggers who put it all out there: the good, the bad and the ugly normal. There are many more that edit away anything that doesn't look like perfection. And I have to say that this goes for everything in life. Not just photos, but the whole reality of our lives. I am 30, and I knew life before the internet was a daily part of it. Despite that, I still get suckered by the reality shows of bloggers or friends on Facebook. I still look at them and compare my life and find it wanting. If I do that, knowing that it's all a facade, what about the girls and boys who are growing up never knowing life without the mask of perfection?

Do I want to be a part of the media that makes us all feel inadequate? Do I want to inadvertently advertise a reality that is only part of the picture?

Sometimes, I look like this:

























And sometimes I look like this:


















And I can play around with iPhoto to make myself look like this:





















These photos were all taken by my boyfriend on the same day, in different lighting, at different angles. When I look at those photos, I see the first one, and think, "Ugh, I look awful. I need to lose weight." When I look at the second one, I think, "Yay, I'm so beautiful. Go me!" When I look at the third one, I think, "I could be a Hollywood star too."

Same me. Different perception of myself.

Here's what I think my boyfriend sees when he looks at the first photo: That's the woman I love and she's smiling. I'm happy when she's happy.

The second photo: That's the woman I love and she looks a little unhappy. I hope I didn't do something wrong.

The third: Uh. It's artsy, I guess.

I was the same person in all of those photos, equally worthy, equally smart, equally valuable, yet by only posting the ones where I fit an image of what is beautiful, I am contributing to a media brainwashing that I don't support or want to be a part of.

The best way, I'm realizing, that I can take a stand against this is to take a stand for myself. Yes, I can choose not to buy from companies that promote an idealized, distorted image of beauty. But more than that, I can choose not to promote that myself.

It's easier for my ego to only post certain photos. And I have a big ego. It doesn't want me to put up any pictures that might make me feel vulnerable.

But I'm going to. For you. For the kids growing up now. For myself. Because it's time I realized that I am equally valuable when I look like this:

























And when I look like this:

























And right now, as I take this photo from my couch where I'm sitting in my pajamas writing.

























As a blogger, as a woman, and as a human being, it might make my ego happier to present a facade of perfection. But I'm not here to feed my ego; I'm here to feed my soul.

And my soul says:

19 comments:

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Iris - I love you. This is a great post. These are all realities that I wish I could communicate effectively with my 14 YO stepdaughter. You and I are old enough to know media is a fa├žade, but she? She's growing up as a teen girl in the middle of all that is Facebook and social media and such. Being a teen girl is hard enough! I love and applaud your honesty and your willingness to bare all - you are beautiful in ALL of those photos, by the way!

Carrie said...

thank you for this iris! I needed to hear it today! :-)

Unknown said...

Great post today and yesterday, Iris! I heard myself saying to someone the other day,"I don't care if you're not perfect, but I want to be perfect!"

Ugh...such a trap...

Metta

Ricki said...

Well, I was born before there were home computers, cell phones or YouTube. . . not sure what that makes me! I see your point and I agree that media presents us with totally unrealistic visions of what people (well, let's be honest, it's really just women) look like. And I, too, am sick of seeing bloggers who post endless photos of themselves with the unspoken caption, "Look at me, look how pretty I am."

But I also think that blogging has become our businesses in many cases. And people who own a business tend to want to put their best image forward into the world. My friend's husband who owns a multi-million dollar business never goes to lunch meetings in his pyjamas. ;-) He wears a suit and tie, even though, when I see him on weekends, he's in sweat pants and he hasn't washed his hair that day. So I do think some of it has to do with one's professional persona and what we put out into the world. That said, we don't need to photoshop out our wrinkles in order to sell something on our blogs.

And we are definitley our own worst critics, each of us. Iris, you look adorable/gorgeous in ALL of those photos!! :D

Betty said...

Beautiful post and, pictures.

Thank you for being real. :)

Deanna said...

Great post and great photos.

I hear what Ricki is saying, too.

It's a tough line, being real without being too revealing.

One of the joys of growing older is that you learn that it really doesn't matter nearly so much as you once thought whether or not you're "pretty." Being beautiful have very little to do with being "pretty."

-Deanna
p.s. You ARE beautiful. :)

Carole said...

Love, love, love that you are REAL (and courageous and wise and much more.)You inspire me.

Nancy B. said...

OK, here's a perspective from someone in their 60s: You look beautiful and vibrant in all of the above photos. You couldn't make yourself not look beautiful. Youth isn't wasted on the young, but young people really shouldn't spend time worrying about their prettiness! I read a crosscultural study that asked people from very diverse backgrounds and cultures what made someone attractive. Youth was number one across the board. Energy was number two (sometimes a problem with illness...) But my point is that the media have made female (especially) beauty into a specific formula that doesn't even represent general perception. A lot of the food bloggers do tend to look more like the media norm. But I follow blogs because they either have information I need and/or they're very entertaining (yours is both). Be young, be yourself, and enjoy the way you are in the world. (Being older brings its own joys and sorrows. Some of the joys have to do with being more comfortable in your self and relatively unconcerned with how other people view you. )

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the post, in part because of the issue of bloggers and perfection. But, the bigger reason is that it reminded me of how hard we are all on ourselves. I looked at all those pictures of you and, honestly, didn't see any huge difference in how "pretty" you looked. I was reminded that we are all our own worse critics, and I need to lighten up on myself.

Megan Goes Vegan said...

Love this! Well spoken and actually makes me have an "ah ha" moment! Beautiful and inspiring! Thank you!

Elizabeth A. said...

I have always known that you are extraordinary, inside and out! I love this post. I am a woman who grew up before FB, and before computers, and I still have all of the self doubt and difficulties with body image, (which I passed on to my daughters...sorry!). It is hard, but each time we say, "I love and accept myself exactly the way I am in this moment", it is a victory for all of us.

Mr. Mirek said...

Thank you for sharing your insights. You hit the nail on the head...we all are of worth in many different ways no matter our perfections/imperfections. Wonderfully stated & written...

Adrienne @ Whole New Mom said...

I really had to read this. I personally think this extends waaaay beyond blogging. I get tired of all the photos on Facebook of ladies and then all the comments saying "Pretty". "So Pretty"..."you are gorgeous" and on and on.

Anyhow, all 3 of those above photos are gorgeous....but I like you regardless :). And I look pretty hideous while I am writing usually.

Cheryl Harris said...

you are a beauty, no matter what!

I love this post. We like to build up people to idolize, and a lot of that is on looks. I've never been comfortable with that. I also rarely post pictures of myself on my blog, and who knows, maybe that's why.

Definitely an important discussion!

Kate {Eat, Recycle, Repeat} said...

This is one of the best posts ever! It's hard to be brave and post pictures where you don't feel like you look your best, but we have such a harsh perception of ourselves. I think it is so important to stop editing and just accept our real selves because it is the only way to live happily. Great post!!

Walden said...

Love this! And yes, dancing barefoot in the grass is always worth it!

Elizabeth said...

Iris, you're awesome! And beautiful. Yes, I have those moments too-the glasses/no makeup shots that I wouldn't mind deleting. Come to find out, my husband likes me in glasses.

Also, a fiasco with our wedding photos meant we ended up with no professional ones, just whatever shots friends/family were able to get. It was a hot July day. I wanted photos that were perfectly posed, with no sweaty faces, so that I could hang them on the wall. Isn't that a silly way to remember a celebration of love?


Zainab Mansaray said...

Iris, I love you and I love this post. I am so happy you were the first blogger I met when I started this journey and if it wasn't for you I would not have been able to keep on going. Thank you for that!!

Sarah said...

I have to admit, before I saw your commentary on each picture, I thought the first picture was going to be your beautiful picture.... then I saw the next one... then the next one... and I couldn't figure it out! But my fav is the last one. I can relate to that one. :)

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