I didn't start this to be a rant, but the more I've been thinking and writing, the more of a rant this has become.
That's not so much an apology as it is a warning of sorts.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I see so many half naked bodies on the beach every day. And, most of them - mine included - look nothing like anyone you can find on the pages of magazines or newspapers, or on television.
No movie stars or super models at Rehoboth Beach.
You know. Just like real life.
Admittedly, I never read Glamour Magazine, even when copies lie around the coffee table of my doctor or dentist's offices, but I'm having a hard time getting my head wrapped around all the fuss over Lizzie Miller's picture in the September issue.
Miller is a 20 year old plus size model standing 5'11", weighing in at 180 pounds, and wearing a size 12-14. Miller is (evidently) on page 194 of the latest issue of Glamour magazine and her semi-nude photos have caused a stir recently with the exhibition of her belly and stretch-marked hips.
The photo to the left has caused even more of a stir because it features Miller in profile with a full view of her belly.
Perhaps we're so shocked because this woman's body is closer to what we know to be. . . wait for it . . . "normal".
So is every woman who is the size she is - no matter what size.
Newsflash: Most women do not look like the supermodels who are on the 'cat walk' during Fashion Week every year in Bryant Park in New York City.
Although lots of women - myself included - love our 'Victoria Secrets', nobody I know looks like a Victoria Secret model.
The average American woman wears a size 12-14, not a size 6. Some of the most beautiful women I know wear larger sizes than that.
Just last week I bought a dress on sale at a well known chain with a store at one of the discount malls here in Rehoboth Beach. It was lovely summer dress made out of a light, gauzy material - sleeveless with a V-neck - perfect for the hot days of July and August.
It was a size large.
LARGE! I wear a size 10-12. When did that become LARGE? What kind of message does that send to women? That a size 10-12 is LARGE?
Some women dress for men. Other women dress for other women. Most of us dress to impress someone or something. We know not to wear certain articles of clothing in certain places. We understand 'dress codes' - in fact, some of us create and maintain them. We know especially the expectation of dress at work.
I choose to wear my collar every day at work, not because I like it, particularly, but because I am keenly aware that, in my very Roman Catholic town, it sends a message every time I walk down the street or into a hospital.
As my old friend, the Large and Lovely Beula Lamont - drag queen extraordinaire - used to say, "Honey, we're all born naked. Everything after that is just drag."
Of course, there are women who are obese. Some are morbidly obese. That is a health issue. So is bulimia. And, anorexia.
And all of them - obesity, bulimia, anorexia, along with the destructive cycle of binge eating and purging - are feminist issues.
They are feminist issues because they speak directly to issues of low self esteem which arise from not having direct control and self determination over their own bodies.
They are feminist issues because ever since the fig leaf, men have defined beauty for women, and as long as men control that definition along with the power and authority to enforce the definition, women will not be in control of their own lives and bodies.
Scientific research and medical anecdotal compilation has shown, time and time again, that the reason women starve themselves or overeat themselves into morbid obesity, the underlying issue is a sense of lack of control, leading to various manifestations of depression.
Food - lack or abundance thereof - becomes a way to self-medicate.
As the old, trite saying goes, "It's not what you're eating, it's what's eating you."
In the 70s, Susie Orbach wrote a book "Fat is a Feminist Issue" in which she exposed the eating disorders of young women in England.
A 1977 US study revealed that one generation earlier, the average female model weighed 8% less than the average US woman. By 1977, she weighed 23% less.
An entire 'weight loss industry' has emerged, making HUGE profits by playing into anxieties provoked by the fashion industry in magazines that promote images of 'perfect' women who wear a 'perfect' size six. Or, four. Or zero.
Young girls and women are deeply affected by this - literally making themselves sick in order to fit into someone else's image of perfection.
Although the problem is world-wide, in the US alone,
* Approximately 7 million girls and women struggle with eating disorders;
* Approximately 1 million boys and men struggle with eating disorders.
* Up to 19% of college aged women in America are bulimic.
It starts early. Of those reported cases of anorexia and bulimia,
* 10% report onset at 10 years or younger;
* 33% report onset between ages of 11-15;
* 43% report onset between ages of 16-20;
* 86% report onset of illness by the age of 20.
With treatment about 60% of people with eating disorders recover completely, maintaining a healthy weight.
Without treatment, up to twenty percent (20%) of people with serious eating disorders die.
Here's the thing: We are women, not objects.
We have thighs and legs, not 'gams'.
We have bellies, not "six packs".
We are soft and round, not hard and stick-like.
We are human beings, not objects to be analyzed and dissected into "perfect" body parts.
We are most amazing creatures. Our bodies can contain and nourish life - before and after birth. We can bleed for days once a month and not die.
Most of us just want to feel healthy and look good in our clothes.
And, most of us do.
It's time to celebrate what we look like beneath our clothes.
God Bless Lizzie Millier and "plus size" super model Emme, and women like Mary J Blige, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and Queen Latifah - women with hips and thighs, bellies and stretch marks.
God Bless the folks at Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which shows real women in their advertisements for beautiful women - even if their primary goal is to sell their products.
And, God bless Meryl Streep (60), Stockard Channing (64), Glenn Close (62), and Helen Mirren (64) who are also not afraid to age gracefully - gray hair, wrinkles, crows feet and all.
We need more of these images of the real beauty of real women.
No matter their age.
If you have a chance in these last days of summer, rent the HBO movie based on Josefina Lopez's play, "Real Women Have Curves" with America Ferrera and Lupe Ontiveros. It is a very powerful portrayal of the damaging effects of sexism, misogyny and internalized oppression.
If you can, take the next minute and 19 seconds to watch this video which is part of the Dove Campaign to address the media impact of the definition of beauty on young girls.
This is not a commercial for Dove Products and I'm not asking anyone to take part in this Ad Campaign.
I am hoping that we will have more conversations about taking back the definition of beauty for women - with our spouses, mothers and grandmothers, our daughters, sisters and nieces, our cousins, godchildren and neighbors, as well as our husbands, fathers and grandfathers, our sons and and brothers, our cousins, nephews, godsons and neighbors.
Because the billion dollar fashion and weight loss industry have already given them an ear full - along with belly full of lies about what really makes a real woman really beautiful.