Entries from October 2011 ↓

Body Image — Watch Your Language

Angelina, "the most beautiful woman in the world" with her daughters

The Internet is inundated with criticism about media’s responsibility for girls and women’s body image these days. With the proposed Self Esteem Act, which demands responsibility of both government and media, and well-meaning, do-gooding, activist, pro-girl and pro-woman websites and non-profit organizations sprouting up like spring flowers all over the web.

I have to say I don’t like the tone of the general conversation. I also have to cop to having participated quite extensively in the things that I now see as a major misperception in the conversation. So, first I’ll say there is a place in the conversation for many perspectives and my former perspective came from a pure place of helping and it was how I genuinely felt at the time. I know it is coming from a pure place in the other pro-female, girl empowerment, positive body image websites as well. Many, many of these women and organizations do great work and help a great many people on their path to a positive body image.

Still, I have an issue with the direction in which the conversation is going. Let me explain my perspective.

It is disempowering to hand over so much power to media, advertising, marketing and corporations. Corporations and Photoshopped advertising do not have the power to decide or influence how I feel about my body. Because I have not handed my power over to them. I do not look at pretty photos of other skinny girls and women and think, “I am ugly because I don’t look like her.” That does not serve me. I’m perfectly happy with what I’ve got to work with. I have a positive body image. Because I choose to.

Definition: Body Image is how you feel about your body. 

Thus, it follows that body image is in only YOUR control. You’re the only one who has any power whatsoever to change it or influence it or focus on it or feel good about it or trash it in front of the mirror. These are choices you are making.

I’m reading statements that are ultimately disempowering to women and girls because they set women and girls up for inevitable failure. I’ll keep the statements anonymous because my intention is not to call out any one particular group.

 “Marie Claire asks its readers: “what will it take for you to love yourbody?” Uhhhh I don’t want to be a downer, Marie Claire, but it will probably involve magazines like yours getting rid of super-photoshopped models/ads and “GET YR BODY BIKINI READY” and “FREEZE YOUR FAT OFF” headlines, just sayin’. Does this seem disingenuous to anyone else?” 

The reason this is disempowering is that it ultimately sets girls and women up for successfully feeling good about themselves only if “magazines like yours get rid of super-photoshopped models/ads and various body-negative headlines.” Which is a fine and dandy dream but — IT IS NEVER EVER GOING TO HAPPEN. This is the United States of America and Marie Claire makes money off these body-negative headlines and images and they have a Constitutional right to do it. Congress is not going to change this. The President is not going to change this. We believe in Freedom of Speech and advertising and media is a form of that First Amendment.  They will continue to use negative body talk and edited Photography until it stops making them money, so indefinitely. Screaming into the Universe about the unfairness and wrongness of this may feel good, but it is essentially futile. Let’s say Marie Claire suddenly decides it can make more by going body positive — fine, then there’s still Cosmo, Cosmo Girl, People, tabloids, Glamour and on and on.

Fundamentally, women are responsible for the existence of these magazines and this type of advertising. Men don’t choose to buy these magazines or the products that have been sexualize, but targeted to women and girls. Women do. One has to wonder, if it makes them feel so damn bad about themselves, why they keep buying these rags? But the tragic fact remains that they do and that’s the sole reason that these magazines continue with this strategy. If women stop buying, they will change and not a minute before.

Because the drastic altering of American capitalism that women and girl advocates are demanding and dreaming of is never going to happen, and you’ve just declared that you can’t feel good about your body — and girls in general can’t feel good about their bodies — without this condition being met by entities entirely out of our control, you’ve just handed your power over the feelings about your own body to corporate America. “Here you go, you can control how I feel about me indefinitely and I’ll just keep screaming about how unfair it is,” is the true message. It’s powerless. It’s destructive. Handing over responsibility for one’s feelings or believing you have control over another’s feelings is a false believe and it sets girls and women up for all sorts of relationship disfunction, abuse, coercion, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, poor self esteem, negative body image and bad choices. This is one of the core issues I deal with in Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories.

“Standards of beauty have always existed. Beauty will continue to exist. It’s not beauty that’s the problem. It’s our commercialized culture’s obsession with peddling a narrow, one-dimensional and unrealistic image beauty that is used as the sole measure of a woman’s worth that torments and teases girls + women into reducing their aspirations + goals to a dress size or numbers on a scale.” 

This is another comment that disempowers women and girls because it hands our own personal power, a completely integral power innate to each individual, to “commercialized culture’s obsession with peddling a narrow, one-dimensional and unrealistic image beauty that is used as the sole measure of a woman’s worth that torments and . . . yada yada yada”

Really? In your everyday life are you looking at magazines and advertising and deciding that your worth is about one-dimensional beauty? Does looking at magazines, Internet and television really torment you and change the way you feel about your body and make you decide that you can’t be a lawyer, doctor or scientist? Really? Goodness, perhaps you should tune in to Oprah’s Lifeclass and figure out how to resolve these issues. I find the whole idea that media has this kind of power over our individual feelings about ourselves extremely disempowering and very minimizing to the authentic and powerful tenacity of girls and women.

Tracee & Ainsley, the two most beautiful women in our world

I also find it extremely removed from my reality and my daughter’s reality. Extremely removed from the reality of every woman I’ve ever met, truly. My daughter doesn’t feel one-dimensional because Hannah Montana and Demi Lovato are pretty and Photoshopped in magazines. Nor does has she decided she’ll just be a shop clerk because she saw too many minimizing Photoshopped photos of pretty, thin girls. These things don’t torment and tease her. They don’t torment and tease me.

Why? Because we aren’t defining ourselves from the outside. We are defining ourselves from the inside. If a person defines themselves from the outside they are screwed, tossed around by every person’s opinion, every fad or trend, every marketing ploy. That is something women and girls, humans in general, need to work on. Self image an inside job. It’s difficult work, fraught with confronting the ego, but no one else can do it for you.

My daughter and I are filtering craptastic media out of our lives so they have little influence, that’s huge. (Girl and women advocates are saturating themselves in the worst of it and it’s skewing their perception of the issue.) My daughter and I are deciding that it feels better to accept a compliment as truth instead of refusing one out of false modesty. We are choosing to accept our bodies and choosing to treat them kindly. We are not handing our individual power to feel great about who we are and what we look like to anyone else, especially not the soulless media.

To do such a thing is well, quite simply, stupid. Don’t you want to keep the power over how you feel about your body and who you are for yourself? As your personal domain? Because, guess what? You have complete and total dominion over your own self esteem and body image and it’s not that complicated, it’s not rocket science. Most of it, almost all of it, is just habit. You either build self esteem-building habits or self esteem-destroying habits. You choose. Because its yours. It doesn’t belong to the media and it never will. You Choose.

To be clear, women and girls have every right and obligation to stand up to advertising that diminishes and sexualizes women and girls, reducing them to objects. It is intentional and it’s not fair and it is wrong. But, I’m a big believer in language. God created the entire Universe with words. They are enormously powerful. There is a world of difference between saying “I don’t like your advertising and I’m not going to buy your product and I’m going to flex my considerable muscles to influence as many people as I can to join me in not buying your product until your advertising improves,” than saying “I can’t feel good, and girls in general can’t feel good, unless you change your advertising.” The first statement is powerful and it will make a difference with enough powerful women’s and girl’s positive energy behind it. The second statement is so disempowering it can only increase poor body image.

Lastly, on a Spiritual note: that which you focus on expands. It’s a Universal Spiritual Law. Maybe its time to reevaluate what you really want to expand in this great Universe of ours.

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Is College Becoming a Money-Sucking Debt Trap?

Time Magazine has an article about the money sucking, drastically bad investment that many college degrees are becoming in this country and it’s making me rethink my attitude about my kids getting a college education.

Our parental attitude is this: GET A COLLEGE DEGREE!!!!!

Debt Burden

My student loans are our biggest debt burden. I owe about $60,000, having originally borrowed $15,000. I made a crucial mistake — having fielded repeated, harassing calls from solicitors insisting I consolidate my student loans, I accidentally consolidated one measly $1,000 unsubsidized loan with my subsidized loans, causing them ALL to be unsubsidized at a 9.5 percent interest rate, until they finally put a cap on interest at eight percent (after the scoundrels had already racked up a good $30,000 off me) — which has cost me about $40,000 in interest over the last 15 years. It’s the single, most crucial, dumbest financial mistake of my entire life. Once again, I have to thank College Algebra for being utterly useless and wonder why they don’t require Practical Life Math in universities.

Yet, Time’s article I Owe U made me feel like a lucky freakin’ genius!

Students will take out $1 trillion in debt this year. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS! And many of these college graduates can’t get jobs. Or they are resorting to jobs in the service and hospitality industry that they could have gotten without a college degree.

The article, which obviously cited extreme cases that make for good stories, but still, real stories, mentions liberal arts majors graduating with debts of $125,000. It talks about kids who were awarded full-ride scholarships to state schools and turning them down because they got into Ivy League brand name schools, even though they were out $55,000 a year that they didn’t have and then majoring in philosophy or poetry — it reminds me of high school kids who work at McDonalds buying Gucci purses and Fendi Sunglasses. It sites one dude who got a masters degree in multi-media design for a whopping $120,000 (by the way a friend of mine has his own multi-media design shop, makes a decent living of $60,000 a year and doesn’t even have a degree, thus no college debt at all). It sites bullsh!t degrees like “specialized studies” (try selling that on a resume) for $67,000, history degrees for $50,000, and a “global studies candidate” who is about to spend $112,000 for that degree (don’t do it dude — myself, husband and brother essentially all got this degree 15 years ago and we’re all making under $70,000 after 15 years of hard work and we’re scraping by with no where near this debt burden.)

Predatory Lending & Another Bubble

What possesses a bank to loan a POETRY MAJOR $125,000? 

The same thing that possessed that same bank to loan a dental assistant and a computer technician $500,000 on a home worth $200,000.

They knew they would make more money on the penalties and interest than they ever would on a good loan that could be paid back by a solid candidate. They got greedy. They lost their moral compass. They got predatory. They capitalized on the Mythology of College being the Golden Ticket to the American Dream.

And many economists are predicting another bubble blowing up on our already struggling, shaky economy — how can it not? We have an entire generation of Liberal Arts Majors with what amounts to massive mortgages without homes they can live in or sell. Nor, because of bank lobbies and legislation, can a person ever get out from under a student loan. They are not allowed to be written off in a bankruptcy, unlike a home, which you can walk away from and cut your losses. And this is what they have to bring into their adult lives — into marriages and families, into first jobs with starting salaries. If they are lucky enough to score one, that is.

This is one major issue of the Occupy WallStreet Movement. It’s a legitimate question. It’s a legitimate issue. It’s a protest-worthy complaint.

Mythology of College being the Golden Ticket to American Dream

Maybe it’s time to reexamine the Mythology of a College Degree being the Golden Ticket to the American Dream. It used to be that college was the Golden Ticket and if you got good grades, got into a decent, reputable school and worked hard you were essentially guaranteed a good job and a career path in an upwardly mobile direction. Or at least we believed this to be true.

But, even in my generation this hasn’t turned out to be particularly true. As I’ve approached 40 and looked around, I’ve noticed that my peers without college degrees that are in sales, insurance and for a long time real estate and construction are doing far better than I with my gig as a journalist in a profession struggling to hang onto itself in the face of the digital revolution. My friends who have two-year trade degrees in medical fields are making far more money, with far more job security than I am. My friends who work in industrial fields, electricians, auto mechanics, specialized laborers, tend to get laid off more frequently (which they treat as extended vacations on workman’s compensation), but when they work they make quite a bit more money.

Then we have the reality that President Obama is challenging America to produce more college graduates. But, we don’t have enough jobs, as the Time article points out, for the college graduates we currently have. The article then states that what we’re really flooded with is a bunch of unemployable Liberal Arts majors and we’re sorely lacking in Science, Technology, Information and Medical graduates and we’re forced to hire immigrants or outsource these jobs. We’re not being competitive in the right fields.

The question then becomes, why is the US Government continuing to back Liberal Arts Degrees? Evidently, having a college degree itself is a meaningless debt burden. Having a practical degree with an actual career plan and a real job available at graduation is what’s going to make a student a reasonable candidate to pay back student loans. Why is the Federal Government backing loans it can’t reasonably expect students to be able to pay back?

Reduction in Interest Rates Could Help

The Federal Housing Finance Agency  recently announced that it will allow underwater homeowners to refinance their homes, allowing them to reduce their interest rates from over 6 percent to around 4.1 percent. This could put up to $200 a month back in their pockets, which one hopes will stimulate the economy. (There is a fair bit of skepticism about this, though the idea is a good one and I intend to apply.)

The Obama Administration recently signed a student loan reform bill as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which is supposed to help students of the future avoid some of the problems current and former students are making. But it’s not retroactive and won’t help students who have already taken out a loan, are already in repayment or are delinquent on their loans. This does nothing to help the millions of students who are now walking into their lives burdened with enormous debt, caused in part, by the government giving cart blanche access to students and subsidizing banks while they issue predatory loans to naive teenagers and young adults with no real world experience to enable them to fend of or resist these loan sharks.

The U.S government should seriously consider enacting an interest rate reduction for current loan holders, as they are in the mortgage situation. Student loans are under much stricter regulation than mortgages and can never be written off in a bankruptcy. An entire generation of college graduates are burdened by enormous debt, the likes of which this country has never seen. I can’t see how they’ll ever be able to pay it off and become upwardly mobile. And if student loans really are another economic bubble that’s about to burst, well, one has to wonder just now much our stumbling economy can bare at the moment.

A reduction in interest is the least we can do for perpetuating the myth that college was a sure thing that would ensure their futures. A dream that is quickly turning into a pretty fairytale or an ugly farce.

Tracee Sioux is a freelance writer, the creator of The Girl Revolution and author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Love letters from editors and clients can be found on her Linked In page, like her on on Facebook and follow her onTwitter

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Strong Female Reading List

With Ainsley testing above her grade level, I’ve been encouraging (insisting and pressuring) her to read above her grade, so that she continues to improve and doesn’t get lazy.

So, I printed a sixth-grade Accelerated Reading list and we took it to the library. Dracula by Bram Stoker was on the list. I was surprised, because it was required reading when I was in College English, but I loved the book so we checked it out. But, on the way home, I started remembering that there was a sexually-violent undertone to the book that I don’t think is appropriate for a 10-year-old.

I asked around on Facebook . . . How do you encourage your kids to read above their grade level without risking them reading above their maturity level? It’s a conundrum that a lot of families face, it turns out.

Lori Day, an Educational Consultant in Massachusetts, and one of my Facebook Friends wrote back and reported that her Mother-Daughter Book Club had faced the same problem and they had come up with a brilliant list of books that were age appropriate for third- through eight-Grade girls with strong female protagonists. She was kind enough to share her list and the story of her Mother-Daughter Book Club.

Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Enrich Reading and Relationships

Thanks Lori! This is the list Ainsley and I will be taking to the library until we’ve exhausted it.

Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com.  She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at traceesioux@gmail.com.

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Dear TGR: I Hate Being a Ginger! Dear Ginger: Go Blond

Dear TGR,

I’m a red head. I hate my hair — now here’s why.

Kids are cruel. They make fun of the littlest things — like the color of your hair. And you act like you don’t care — but when you get to highschool you really start to care again. It’s not fun when you can blind people because your hair is so shiny — there’s not much fun about being a red head actually …  And then there’s the pale skin that usually comes along with it — and all the freckles. You grow up thinking you’re not pretty. That you’re a freak. And personally I wish that when I have kids — they don’t have my “curse” as I call it. I don’t want them to be “gingers” or “fire crotches.” It’s not fun. I can understand why other girls wouldn’t want to be red. Sometimes I wish that people would notice me for more than just my hair — especially when that’s my least favorite thing about myself. But that’s all people notice. It’s annoying. And guys do like it — but that just means they’re looking at your physical body and not your heart.
I don’t want to be a “Ginger” anymore. In fact I NEVER wanted to be a “ginger”

Rather Be Marianne

 

Dear Rather Be Marianne, 

I’m going to give it to you straight. This is a problem you have the power to solve through chemicals.

You have a few choices here. You could go Blond or Auburn. Blond will likely be more expensive and require diligent maintenance, Auburn you can achieve by popping into your local drugstore or Walmart and choosing the color that screams your name for under $10. Google images of Nicole Kidman and see all the variations of Strawberry and Blonde and Auburn she’s done and figure out what you’d like to try first, you are free to change your mind at any time.

If you choose Auburn, follow the instructions closely and do the strand test (seriously, I know people who have had their hair fry off, including myself). With Auburn your red roots will grow out nicely and you won’t have to touch them up as often. You can do touchups yourself at home and it will be pretty affordable to maintain with hair color from the drug store. Auburn has a red undertone so, it will compliment your natural skin tones nicely. 

If you choose to go blond, it will be more expensive to have done and require more maintenance because your roots will be more noticeable. Go to a medium-pricey salon. (Do not trust Walmart or Cost Cutters or you will likely beg for your lovely Ginger Mane back.) Tell them you, like Nicole Kidman who was also a natural redhead, now prefer to be a blond. Don’t go Barbie Platinum Blond, ease into it subtly to avoid more teasing. Think about starting with a light Strawberry Blond and remember you can always go lighter or darker after a few weeks if you don’t like the results. Take photos with you to the salon. Try a new cut with your color (the cut is free with a color so you might as well).

Be prepared, for this will be about maintaining blond hair every six to eight weeks — so you’ll need to get a job if you’re parents can’t afford it or aren’t willing to make the sacrifice. A good hair color will run around $60 -$100. Don’t do this yourself the first time. (Maybe after you’ve had great success several times and you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of it you can try touchups yourself.) But, if you hate being a Ginger as much as you say you do — well, I bet you’ll think the cost is worth it.

As to your alabaster skin, try a self-tanner. I recommend TGR Body’s Sun-Kissed Body and Sun-Kissed Face for a natural, organic tan all year long. 

Good Luck to you Rather Be Marianne! Let me know how it goes. 

Tracee, The Girl Revolution


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Release

Author, Tracee Sioux Photo Credit, Ainsley

If you’re a regular here, you know I spent the summer battling depression and anxiety. Beating down old demons and wrestling dragons from my past that would creep up on me in unexpected ways. And learning to let go. It was excruciating. Here’s that post if you’re interested.

When I was done with that — and properly medicated — I felt like I was staring at a blank page. Just sort of waiting for what was next. Not in pain anymore, and greatly relieved about that. Just waiting for my next wave of inspiration, in anticipation. Here is that post.

Well, the day after Ainsley’s 10th birthday party I woke up in an inexplicable frenzy. I went down to the basement to the “storage room.” and began to clean. In this room is everything no one in the house wants to deal with. Boxes we have not unpacked since we moved from New York in 2002. Shamefully, I found boxes I packed upon leaving Morro Bay, Cal. in 1999. We were “box hoarders” keeping every shoe box, every box from items we purchased from last Christmas and since, every Amazon box – why?

I won’t bore you with everything in that room. Crap we don’t need. Crap that’s not in my house anymore. And I haven’t stopped. Everyday I’ve just been seeing piles of stuff, clutter, magazine racks, book shelves with books I’ve already read, boxes in the garage full of stuff we don’t want, shoes that don’t fit anyone. OUT!

It feels so good and it has set my Creative Energy FREE!

My creative energy is sky rocketing as a result. I’m taking risks where I wouldn’t have before. I have a freelance marketing gig from this stuffy baby boomer CPA who hadn’t updated his marketing material in 20 years. I wrote this hilarious, hip and edgy marketing piece and it was brilliant! I mean it really was brilliant! I threw caution to the wind and sent it to them. They LOVED it. It wasn’t at all what they were expecting and they loved it!

I’m redecorating everything. Picking edgy paint colors that make my heart sing! Peacock for my bedroom and bathroom, and I’m going to mix in fine grained silver mica so it shimmers! I’ve made two art pieces for the basement and made bright orange curtains with Ikea graphic prints and I’m painting the room candy apple green! My living room kitchen area has been reorganized and the walls are going to be butternut squash. I think I’m going to graffiti the walls on the stairs with words like Love, Dream, Joy or I’ll scribble inspiring phrases or whatever else I feel like painting!

In my Anasara yoga class this morning my teacher said the New Year is coming and she suggested we pick a word to hang onto for the year, and mine is RELEASE!

Just the idea of releasing makes me feel so free. The more I think about it the more liberated I feel. Not only is cleaning out all the extraneous stuff in my life symbolic of releasing all the stuff I don’t need or want, but it’s freeing me to be more creative.

The more I think about releasing the things that frustrate me the more it frees me — wanting to weigh 125 pounds, wanting to write a best-selling book, smoking (I released it last week), drinking beer (I released it last week), having specific financial goals, making specific goals in general and then striving constantly to achieve them, having expectations, stories about my past, judgments about what other people are doing and should be doing, having specific ideas about what will make me happy and what will make me unhappy — the idea of making it my spiritual practice to just release these things into the wind, and letting God handle it, is exhilarating and liberating.

I’m releasing.

 

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