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Not Plus-Sized Enough, Apparently

7 May

“Curvy? Skinny? It’s All Good!” says Glamour magazine’s June cover, featuring Crystal Renn, Alessandra Ambrosio and Brooklyn Decker.

Over at Lemondrop, Liz Funk gets a little frustrated by this:  “It’s a little hard to tell which model is supposed to be plus-size.”

For me, this sort of misses the point. Crystal Renn is categorized as a plus size model not because she is fat, but simply because she is a larger size than the sample sizes that most fashi0n houses produce for runway shows, catalogues, etc. She is obviously bigger than the other two models, but they have their respective differences too – Crystal Renn is curvy, Alessandra Ambrosio is skinny, Brooklyn Decker has a large bust. Admittedly they are not representing a huge variety of body sizes but since when are they supposed to be carrying a flag for fat acceptance? I still think it is positive move – the focus is not on including a ‘plus-sized girl’ but on the fact that all three of the models have different shapes, and that there are fun and flattering swimsuits for people who might not fall into a very narrow height/weight/shape category. The different shapes of the three models seems to be a subtle foray into what could eventually be greater acceptance and representation of models of all sizes and shapes..  if people could be encouraging, rather than automatically slamming the magazine, perhaps the magazine editors would become more comfortable with taking this ‘risk’ and start actually pushing boundaries.

Some of the comments on the Lemondrop post didn’t seem to see it this way:

Women are supposed to be curvy, it’s kinda sick that society wants women to look like 12 yr. old boys.

All of you who claim to have difficulty seeing the difference, including the writer, are insane. You’ve got one beautiful well proportioned girl and two paper thin tarts.

.. as well as mentions of thin girls as “coathangers” and “skinny bitches”. This is not cool. This is just as unhelpful, hateful and ridiculous as bashing fat girls and calling them names. How can people be supportive of a greater variety of model shapes if they are so willing to spew vitriol at a particular group? The “real women have curves” chestnut has not helped things as much as it was intended to – models, skinny girls, short girls, tall girls, obese girls.. they are all real women too.

I completely understand and appreciate the discrimination and faux concern judgments that fat people encounter and have to deal with on a daily basis; I have friends and family members who fall into this group, and what they face is not nice. Artist and fat activist Natalie Perkins is currently experiencing some nasty and horrible trolling on her blog, just for daring to look fabulous in her skinny jeans. But body acceptance goes both ways. It is just as unacceptable to deride skinny women as coathangers, boyish, skeletons etc, or even bitches, tarts and sluts (which are judgments that don’t even have anything to do with weight).

I am thin and very short with a waist but not much in the way of boobs or butt (to my chagrin), my Mum is short and has an apple-shape but fabulous legs and dainty ankles, my little sister is tall and hippy but always has a flat stomach, my little-little sister is tall with broad shoulders but an enviable bust. Everybody has a different shape; ‘thin’ girls have issues finding clothes that fit them and make them feel beautiful too. It would be so nice to just wave a magic wand and say “let’s quit with the hatin’ and just accept that we are all different” but it’s not so easy. Glamour magazine wasn’t shouting “PLUS-SIZE SWIMSUIT ISSUE!” on their cover; I think they were simply trying to not pick three identically sized models, but choose models with differences. The way that the cover has been almost unanimously shot down is saddening and will possibly have the opposite to its intended effect – unfortunately, maybe Glamour will be more cautious next time they decide to deviate from a very narrow standard of shape/size.

Ultimately, it’s somewhat sad that a cover like this generates so much negativity and frustration that Crystal Renn isn’t plus-size en0ugh. It’s not her job to represent ALL bigger women; even if she were a bigger size, there would still be women bigger than her who she wouldn’t represent. The fact that Glamour decided to include a variety of shapes on their cover is a step in the right direction and if people can focus on the positivity of this, perhaps we’ll start seeing even more variety in magazines and fashion advertising.

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Catastrophe Magnet

23 Apr

What a trash
To annihilate each decade

–  from ‘Lady Lazarus’ by Sylvia Plath

At midnight, in the park near Croxton station, while it was raining and huge bats were gliding above our heads and screeching in the trees, Audrey and I hung out and talked for hours the way silly teenage girls do – mixing up everything into a sort of mutual confessional with a hope for some sort of validation or understanding. Boys, travels, school, friendships, regrets, love, hate, family, skeletons in the proverbial closet, people who untag themselves from photos on facebook out of spite, how not being racist in conversation can make you appear even more racially preoccupied than someone who is overtly racist, grandmas, mean teachers, people with no personality, and the fact that in Buenos Aires, you can have ice cream delivered.

It was nice. I think we both needed it tonight.

But after everything, I was left with a question that totally destroyed any attempt at sleep. The concept of ‘sorting things out’… what if there are some people who never get things sorted out? As much as they long for a calm, comfortable, contented feeling of “everything is okay”, will some people just never get it?

A lot of not so great things have happened recently. A lot of them are still happening. However, things were looking up. Dad called from London and said he and Linda would be back in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. Which means that Nath can come get me and all my stuff, and I can move back home. Which means things even basic sources of happiness like being able to sleep at night (Stuart and his quasi-girlfriend are practically nocturnal and have no understanding of ‘inside voices’ or the idea of not yelling at each other right outside someone’s bedroom door at 4am), eat properly (rather than living on iced tea, Le Snaks and nutella) and actually have a desk to study on. Getting to see my boyfriend and my puppy are perks too, definitely!

So, in that regard, two big things that have made me a bit miserable are finally being alleviated. I’m not quite sure then why the universe has decided to get me back for daring to feel optimistic about things.

  1. Nathan has been enlisted to stage manage an amateur musical, which is a relatively huge commitment. Which means that all this finally-actually-getting-to-see-each-other time I had been looking forward to is suddenly pushed forward a few weeks. He’s already a major grouch at the best of times (unless he’s on holidays), but the sudden extra lack of Nath-time and sleep is likely to make him pretty unpleasant for the hour or so I might get to see him on any given day. Minor annoyance/frustration/disappointment in the scheme of things, but it just stings a bit after being apart for long to realize that what we have looked forward to is still weeks away.
  2. But this one is the worst, and it’s not even happening to me. Something is majorly wrong with my Mum’s back. I have no idea what it is; neither does she yet, but it’s bad. The plan (my plan, rather) so far involves me going to her house, looking after her and my little brother and sister (who are actually not so little, but neither can cook, therefore are nutritionally helpless) so she can stop with the martyrdom, accept help and admit that she needs to rest and heal.

Once again it is proved – I am the catastrophe magnet. It’s probably not particularly rational to hold a hope that things will get ‘sorted’ or everything will one day feel alright; maybe my tolerance for disaster will just rise. Maybe. Right now, I just hope that all goes to plan for Dad and Linda and they arrive home on Saturday. I hope that production week runs smoothly enough so that Nathan gets out theatre at a halfway decent time. And I really, really hope that my Mum will be okay..

xx Bunny

PS: I spotted a pair of rainbow lorikeets eating fruit from a tree down the street today – lovely, unexpected and an incredibly welcome sight amongst all the doom and gloom going on.

PPS: Yes, it is 7am. Yes, I did stay up all night fretting and feeling miserable and powerless. Blergh. But I promise, next post, I will snap out of this malaise. Even though there are frustratingly time-consuming commitments and horribly painful back injuries, there are also rainbow lorikeets and fairy bread in the world..

The Light of Italy

19 Apr

We have looked at dozens of paintings in my art history class, but a few have stayed with me without having to revise and quiz myself on them. In the first few weeks, we were looking at the transition from medieval art to Renaissance art, with reference to the characteristics of Byzantine art – so basically, we were looking at the point when artists began trying to capture reality.

These two paintings are actually part of a diptych, which is double-sided, so there are four distinct scenes that are separate but have an obvious relationship. The man is Federico da Montefeltro (1422-1482), Duke of Urbino. As well as being a condottieri, or mercenary (sort of almost like a warlord), he known as ‘the light of Italy’ and made major contributions to the humanist movement through his rule, as well as his patronage and encouragement of artistic and scholarly enlightenment. The woman is Battista Sforza, Federico’s wife, who died before him and from all accounts was very much loved by her husband. These are the back panels:

In my class, there were many interpretations; including one of the paintings being a sort of ‘love tribute’ from the Duke to his wife. In the different panels, there are lots of opposite symbols that could be representative of earth and heaven – the Duke is almost tanned and wearing bright red, a colour of vitality, whereas Battista appears ethereal and alabaster in comparison, wearing pearls to demonstrate not only her wealth but an allusion to the attire usually signifying the ‘regina coeli’ (Queen of Heaven), a status usually saved for the Virgin Mary in art. On the back panels, the Duke and his wife are shown in separate carriages being drawn by white horses and unicorns; he is accompanied by the personifications of Glory, Justice, Wisdom, Valour and Moderation; Battista is chaperoned by Faith, Hope, Charity and Chastity.

I suppose the irony is how easily the symbols could reinvent the meaning of the painting, especially after Battista’s death. There is a dichotomy of earth and heaven, which can suddenly represent life and death. The carriages are shown approaching each other, borne by angels and cupids, yet they are still distant; he is approaching light in his gleaming armour, yet she is headed for the sunset clutching her prayer book. It is strange that the painting doesn’t commemorate any sort of occasion that would warrant a portrait – it’s not a marriage, for example. Nor are the couple shown standing together. The distance between them in the painting, and the opposites that define them, are fairly tragic and bittersweet – especially when you consider the fact that the Duke never remarried, and after Battista’s death he pretty much retired from life in general to just sit in his palace. At least with the portrait, it was hinged down the middle; when closed, their faces would look the same way and they would be side by side.

Seeing the painting, I just imagine the Duke sitting alone in his palace waiting for death; the only thing that could reunite him with the woman he loved.

…I can’t believe I am this much of a geek that I am actually getting all sad and romantic over a painting.

Kitchen Failures + Five Years Later

18 Apr

I attempted to make macaroons today. FAIL. They were bland and completely stuck to the baking paper – also, I put the last tray into the oven and forgot about it until 45 minutes later, by which time they were rechristened ‘cinder biscuits’. I did learn that we seriously need a new oven though – it turned itself off 4 times during cooking. Fun and games.

Spending the weekend here triggered a sort of mental revisiting of the mindset I was in October/November last year; the time and scene of my quarter-life crisis of sorts. It was fairly dramatic that time – I read a hell of a lot of feminist articles, I swung between “let’s get married and have fifty kids.. like, yesterday, because it’s my only hope for fulfillment as a woman!” and being militantly childfree and anti-weddings, I freaked out about what my ‘career’ was going to be, and I lamented the fact that being small and possessing a voice more aptly described as a squeak.. I will probably never be taken seriously.

I think I am considering things more calmly now – yes, I am 22 years old, but that is no reason to panic. Instead of trying to plan my life’s aims down to the tiniest detail, I’m restructuring – it’s not a timeline set in stone, it’s more like a list titled “things that would definitely make my life nice and full and rich and all that, and I hope they happen, and yes I will try my hardest for them, but my whole life is not over if they don’t happen”. There is not much guidance for anybody who wants to create, carve out and define their own life; there seems to be only convention and those who deliberately thwart convention. For anybody who wants to examine convention, reject what is junk, keep what is useful and make their life completely their own.. well, they are on their own.

Back in Year 9, we had to pick our VCE subjects on the basis of what we needed to study at university to qualify us for the career we wanted. I was 15 – I had a plum-coloured vinyl trench coat, a demeanor that bounced between giggly and surly with no warning, and my life’s ambition was to marry David Bowie. How exactly did they expect that I was qualified to decide my entire life? I remember forensic pathologists were very in vogue that year due to some stupid television show, yet none of those girls are studying anything even vaguely related now – they are doing degrees in communications, international studies, and mathematics, even. I said at the time that I wanted either to be an actor or a graphic designer/illustrator – yet I am studying art history, literature and philosophy.

It seems so presumptuous to plan what your life will be like; it rests on this huge assumption that it is all within your control. But it really, really isn’t.

In five years time, I would love to be happy. I hope I have finished my BA and have moved onto higher academic things. I hope I have published some writing; I don’t care if it is an entire novel, or even just a few poems in an anthology. I hope that the various creative projects I am currently working on eventually come to fruition. I hope that I manage to balance my time well enough to do some acting again. I hope Nath and I are ten times more awesome, I hope that we have found the perfect puppy to be friends with Posie. I hope I get this house to make the transition to ‘home’.

I guess I just hope that if, through the wonders of time travel, I magically bumped into 70 year old me in the street, she would say, “Don’t worry, everything turned out okay.”

xx B

Love-hate Labels

5 Apr

Nath has plenty to say about hipsters. Most of it is does not really make use of his otherwise extensive vocabulary,  nor is it really suitable for general audiences. Which is strange, considering how ridiculously pretentious I can appear. This post spurred some more thought on the subject – I am sick in bed, Nath is painting his little guys, so I am left with nothing better to do than ruminate for an audience!

After describing the music and literature that drives him, David says this: “I fully accept and admit my pretentiousness, because if I don’t, my bookshelf will pretty much scream it at you if you ever visit my house.”

I suppose I have to disagree, in a rather long and boring post.

At university, I am doing literary studies, philosophy and art history. I am a huge geek for classic literature, especially poetry (am currently working on a verse novella in sonnet form, don’t laugh). I’ve studied philosophy since I was 9. I can speak Chinese, am learning Norwegian and have plans for French and Spanish.
Some of my favourite music: My Dying Bride, Zulya and the Children of the Underground, Björk, Satyricon, Belle and Sebastian, Pink Floyd, Tori Amos, Shostakovich, Blonde Redhead, Julia Fisher’s take on the Four Seasons, Lama Gyurme and Jean-Philippe Rykiel.
Some of my favourite books: Orlando by Virginia Woolf, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, All My Pretty Ones by Anne Sexton, Philosophical Fragments by Søren Kierkegaard.
Some of my favourite films: Howl’s Moving Castle, Eat Drink Man Woman, The City of Lost Children, Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!, Amadeus, Marie Antoinette, Dancer in the Dark, My Life Without Me, A Clockwork Orange.

Pretentious, much? Apparently so. But does this change if I don’t give a damn? Add Spice World and Showgirls to my favourite films, Spice Girls and Lady Gaga to my music, Harry Potter and various Marilyn Monroe biographies to the books – does the picture change a bit?

To me, being pretentious happens when someone is intent on cultivating a particular image of being cultured/grim/fantastic/sparkly/intelligent/whatever to fit a particular label like hipster or goth or artistic, without actually being cultured/grim/fantastic/sparkly/intelligent/whatever. Intrinsic to trying to creating the illusion of being ‘fill-the-blank’ is another layer of illusion; the idea that you aren’t trying at all to fit into that particular cultural subtype, you just somehow fell into it (which obviously isn’t true at all).

I have given up subscribing to labels, or caring what people think about my interests. It just seems so counter-productive, and people that label themselves as something only end up losing credibility – if you say “I’m a hipster”, I automatically think, “Mmmm, okay, so what you are really saying is that you are suppressing everything ‘unpopular’ or unusual about you and projecting yourself through the socially-categorized lens of ‘hipster’ instead”. The whole notion of pretentiousness reminds me of this scene from another one of my favourite movies:

Nobody wants the same thing all the time. Nobody could honestly say that they liked every single characteristic of a social label and nothing else beyond. That’s like deciding your favourite 100 songs are the Triple J Hottest 100, and that you hate everything else.

Ultimately, invented personality is pretentious. Honest individuality is not. To the uninformed outsider, I probably appear very pretentious; I’ll wear that because I don’t really care. However, I think it’s revealing that Nath won’t lump me into the ‘hipster’ category with all the people he mercilessly pays out – ironically, it is ‘real’ people with honest interests that are often the ones that pretentious people are so eager to emulate.

Rambling. Flu. My brain feels like mashed potato. Bedtime.

A loldog as a prize for anybody who stayed until the end (looks just like baby Posie):

xx Bunny Florentine