I want perfection/From my reflection

It would certainly be true to say that the majority of women suffer from some form of low self confidence when it comes to physical appearance. Women constantly put down their own looks to friends and yet consistently see the positive in others. Many contemporary figures, most notably Gok Wan, have latched onto this problem and used it in popular culture, does this pressure women further and is low body image used as a marketing tool, or is low body image an instigating problem in today’s society?

Women seem to be judged solely on how attractive they are, recently the Arlene Philips vs. Alesha Dixon debate has demonstrated how women seem to have a much shorter window of beauty than men. Alesha now sits on a panel with two middle aged men and one pensioner, while Strictly Come Dancing is presented by youthful Tess Daly and “doddery” Bruce Forsyth. It could be argued that Forsyth has charisma and personality, but we must then ask why women aren’t judged on these criteria.

When Hillary Clinton ran for president in the 2008 American presidential elections she was most frequently critised for her hair style, dress sense and attention to grooming than for her politics. Indeed she famously said “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle,” in England  Jacqui Smith was berated for showing too much clevage . Where was politics in this?

From birth women and men are treated differently, girls are stereotypically dressed in pink and told “isn’t she pretty?” and boys are dressed in blue and qualities such as strength, intelligence and maturity are highlighted. If we look at recent advertising, the media definitely picks up on body consciousness, does this make people feel inadequate to pressure them into spending money fixing non existent problems? Or are they latching onto real issues? The ‘Dove Campaign for Real Beauty’ is studied in Media courses throughout the UK, this was supposedly the first advertising campaign that used ‘real’ women and attempted to show different body shapes and sizes . What a lot of people now know is that the photos were still edited and what very few people know, is that this Dove campaign was produced by the company Unilever who also produced the infamous Lynx adverts, some of which were banned .

Society has always differed in expectations of beauty, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Spencer have been replaced throughout the nineties and noughties with sexualised images of women. Page Three and the Daily Star along with ‘Lads Mags’ and increasingly provocative TV shows and films have contributed to the mainstreaming of pornography.

If a pin up photo from the fifties was compared to a modern version, the pin up would have a beautiful body and face, but still have natural faults and imperfections. All of these elements perhaps contribute to a heightening of female self expectation.

Interestingly, the Oriental counties have been stated as the only countries where the ideal form of beauty reflects the natural body shape of women. Slim and boyish has stereotypically been the ideal and oriental women are famously slim and boyish. Although in recent years there seems to have been a push for larger breasts and the demand for longer legs cannot be ignored. The process in leg lengthening is a protracted and extremely painful process.
Back to the UK, a thin body is considered a beautiful one, although large breasts are continually coveted. A man’s opinion (when questioned in relation to this piece) was that curvy figures are preferred. This flimsily suggests, when all context is taken into account, that women’s low body image is perhaps not necessarily to do with trying to be attractive to men. And we must consider that this man was probably questioned under duress.
The fact remains that women perpetually undermine themselves through devaluating comments and negative remarks, while men interestingly appear to do the reverse. The role of the media, pushy advertising and lack of female role models, not judged purely on their appearance, are factors that could all contribute to women’s self depreciation. Cockiness and arrogance are not valued qualities in society, but a little bit of confidence would go a long way.

Very few women would expect Mr. Universe in their bedroom and perhaps it’s not too optimistic to suggest that men might be just as realistic. Gok Wan continually tries to show women that confidence is key to looking good, and it would be true to say that the friends we consider the most beautiful are the smiley, happy and friendly ones.

Do you agree? Are women too harsh on themselves? Let us know your thoughts :)

Meeting the lovely Lucy, our very first guest blogger :D

  • So, first of all the basics :D Age, place of study, course. Age 20, studying at QUB (Queen's University Belfast) Ancient History with Anthropology.
  • Do you have any plans for the future? Plans for the future continually changing, going to see where the wind takes me.
  • Who is/are your role model/sStyle wise I love Dita Von Teese and some of the less outrageous Katy Perry outfits! I also really like Rose McGowan. But an all time role model is Angelina Jolie.
  • Have you ever thought about blogging before? I wouldn't consider myself a 'blogger' but an old fashioned diary writer, as  I have written a diary since i was 9.
  • Describe your personal style in a sentence. Retro and classy, very feminine and hopefully glamorous.
  • Pepsi or Coke? Neither, I'd go for good old fashioned lemonade.
  • What's your favourite season and why? Definitely summer, I love the sunshine and warmth, and can't standing living in the cold and grey UK!
  • Stripes or Spots? Polka dots all the way.
  • And finally, if you could blog about anything, what would it be? Probably sex, or current affairs. But to be honest, I think we all know which would be more fun and interesting.

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Fear and self loathing in Coventry...

Today I am excited to announce our very first outfit posts! I was strangely nervous about having my photo taken, even more than usual. When I stopped to think about why I realised that I was most nervous about "How awful  will I look?"  and "What will people think about me?" I have no reason to suppose that people will think I look awful or to worry about what I look like... surely what I think I look like is what matters? However, my self image and self confidence are based solely on feedback from my peers and as is human nature, I have stored all the negative comments ever mentioned and now when I look in the mirror, I just see something hideous staring back. Surely this can't be normal?

Surely, all these gorgeous people I am proud to call my frends can't feel the same as me? However, based on a poll of my friends, they do. Why do people, especially girls, judge themselves and others so harshly? Surely we can embrace each other's differences?

In the same way as Maria, I find I am always negatively judgemental of myself, whilst always being able to find perfection in others. From conversations with friends, I'm inclined to think that most people find themselves in a similar situation, and so we're going to carry out a little experiment...

Having taken photos of ourselves for the outfit post, we're going to comment on the photos of ourselves, and of each other. Hopefully by comparing our comments, we'll be able to illustrate just how accurate or inaccurate our perceptions of body image are, and will achieve a better sense of self-acceptance, no matter how small that change is!

To me, these photos exemplify quite WHY I hate having my photo taken. I am wearing NO make up and in my eyes I look AWFUL :( I don't think my pose helps but I look round, red and fat. Now you might say "That's ridiculous!" I am the average dress size (14) and the average height for a woman at 5'4" but in  my eyes I look round.  I have a 'moonface' and I feel like anyone and everyone who looks at me is thinking "What the hell is she doing eating that?! Get on a treadmill love!" or wondering why I am wearing what I am wearing. I am lucky that I have loving and supportive friends and family but it is still very easy to get demoralised and self conscious, especially on a 'bad day'.
With the help of my boyfriend, friends and family, I am coming to grow into myself, to realise that I will never be a 6ft tall blonde glamazon but yet these people all love me for who I am. It is also important to note that everyone wants what they can't have. I think I would KILL for Danni's long model legs whereas she seems to hate them so I guess no-one is as "lucky" as people seem to assume! Hopefully now Danni will be able to put a nice positive spin on my photos and convince me to leave them on here! :) P.S. I *LOVE* these shoes, I got them for about £3 in a charity shop and they are so cute and very comfy...they look really cute with bows on as well! :D

Yet when I look at these pictures, I see someone with amazing style and a figure that I am deeply envious of. I honestly cannot see the 'round' image that Maria obviously perceives, and I’m desperate to convince her that she does not have a ‘moonface’. To me these pictures show off Maria’s perfect legs, and I’m incredibly jealous of the fact that she can carry off such beautiful dresses and skirts! I love all of Maria’s clothes, but this dress in particular is just adorable and perfect for emphasizing her waist; proving that she is fortunate enough to have the gorgeous hourglass figure that most women (and men) prefer. It’s no secret that me and Maria have had our fair share of bad outfits [sadly we have photographic evidence!] but I think Maria’s style in particular has developed into something really unique and inspiring. I know for a fact that she has received really positive comments on her fashion choices, and I hope that she can use these to boost her self esteem because she really is a beautiful person with an amazing style and figure to boot!

And now for my photos. Oh dear. I have to be honest, I am dreading posting these photos - I feel awkward enough in any social situation, but having that moment captured and posted on a blog? AAAARGH. Well here goes...

I hate having my photo taken, and this is the reason why! I have an image of what I look like in my head, and yet when the photo turns out I always have this weird expression on my face. I also hate my skinny legs, and that’s why I’m wearing jeans under this dress. I would give anything to have Maria’s legs so that I could wear all the beautiful skirts and dresses I so often want to buy. My ideal outfit would be an oversized cardigan, tights and heels – simple. And simply impossible for me. 
Another thing I notice when I look at this is how uncomfortable I look, and I think this comes from a deep-seated self-consciousness about my height and figure. From an early age I’ve been head and shoulders above my friends, and have gotten used to the fact that comments like “Gosh you’re tall” are usual when meeting someone new. But this doesn’t make me any less conscious of my height, and the attention it brings. 

I think perhaps if I were an outgoing person, I would be far less affected by being tall, but as a shy girl from the outset I have always found it difficult to face the looks and comments that come with being almost 6ft. I realise that this could sound extremely vain – ''does she honestly think everyone’s looking at her?'' But there is a sense of height-induced paranoia that I know both I and my mum (also nearly six foot) feel when in social situations. I don’t resent my height, and I have always gone by the mantra of making the best of what you have. I think what I dislike the most is the idea that it’s the first thing people notice when they see me, and it’s the immediate description that I’m given : the tall one. I guess what I’m trying to point out is that people are people, not heights, weights or shapes, and as difficult as it is not to judge someone on their appearance (I know I’m guilty of it too) I think we’d have a lot less problems with body image if it weren’t such a fundamental part of our perception.

I think this photo of Danni really shows off her sense of style. Although I would LOVE her to wear dresses without jeans, I know that this is difficult for her...Even colouring her nose in with highlighter couldn't persuade her to do this for me! You would think that Danni, of model-esque proportions, would feel empowered rather than cowed by the constant barrage of "model proportions" that women especially are exposed to yet it makes her more uneasy with herself. I hope in our next post we can try to examine why...I think the saddest part of this is how self conscious this has made my gorgeous and intelligent friend. I wish that she could see that's what people see rather than her height. This insanely stylish girl is an inspiration to me and makes me a MUCH better person. I think anyone who knows Danni will attest to the fact that she always looks gorgeous and unique (I am reclaiming this word to describe something positive rather than the weirdy beardies it seems to be synonymous with!) as well as being the nicest person they know and hopefully this article will be a step, however small, to help her realise that :)

Are you confident in your body? Do you judge other people? What's the nicest thing about you?


Acceptable in the 80's...

There are three things and three things alone which were indeed acceptable in the 80's...

1) Maria Fallon                  
2) Sequin adorned clothing
3) Calvin Harris                   

1) Birthday!
On Tuesday 27th October, it was my 20th birthday. First of all, I can't believe that I am *20* ! I think it's really strange that I am no longer a teenager and now I can only be described as "a woman in her twenties" :O Despite my reservations, I had a really lovely day- being the huge child that I am I was up at 7 o'clock and had a bath before checking my phone and Facebook :) Thank you to everyone who sent me such lovely messages, calls, cards and presents...It was really nice of you all to remember me :D Thank you too to everyone who came out last night to my meal and then out for drinks- you really made it a birthday to remember. :D I had some really lovely cards so thank you again :) and as for my presents!

My friends and family know me so well: I got given jewellery, sweets and money :D I was given some really beautiful things and I am really really grateful so thank you everybody! I will be sending out thank you cards very soon so I will probably be emailing all of you to make sure I have the right address for everyone :)

2) Sequins!

I have to say, Maria's birthday was the start to a lovely [extra extra long] weekend :). On Thursday I went home for the first time in a month, and it was so lovely to finally get the chance to relax, catch up and spend time with my family! As much as I love uni, and of course my gangsta housemates, there’s absolutely nothing better in the world than a big hug from mum, dad and sis. Me and mum went shopping [always a dangerous combination] and as part of the ‘Christmas outfit’ which has now become an annual tradition in our family, I managed to find this sequinned beauty in the Topshop “buy now or regret later” range...

Definitely an homage to everything 80’s, and the best part is that it was a tall version, as well as being reduced to £25. I was convinced there must be something wrong with it, but nope – all seems ok! Well, apart from the fact that I can’t technically wear it until Christmas :(  In fact I’ve left it at home to prevent any temptation!

3) Calvin Harris.

Finally, onto possibly the best part of the weekend (yes... even better than the sequins) – Calvin Harris AND Mr. Hudson performing at one gig. I think me and my sister must have died and gone to musical heaven. So on Thursday, rather than travelling home, I went straight to Birmingham to meet Beth (and pass on my luggage to the parents- thank-you!) and head up to the 02 academy. Despite the big queues, we had an amazing night and I have to say that the Mr. H’s were both phenomenal. I have to give a mention to the legendary afro man, who anyone at the gig will have certainly noticed, and of course to Sam who was the only one brave enough to feel the ‘fro. It was an incredible night, with an incredible atmosphere and I hope to relive it sometime soon!

I also want to say a big hello to the game losers, who I hope will read this and realise that I’m thinking of them lots – can’t wait for firework fun at the weekend... more updates to come soon!