Let’s Talk About Body Positivity

What Is Perfection?

A number of years ago Dove, the soap people, put out an ad that highlighted the use of airbrushing and Photoshop in modelling and advertising. Using time-lapse photography, they showed a model getting ready and made up for a shoot, and then all the things that happened digitally after the shoot to “improve” her looks including her neck being elongated, her eyes widened, her skin smoothed… Basically the whole kit and caboodle until you saw the ad placed on a billboard with this gorgeously perfect looking woman who actually looked nothing like she really did in real life. The ad was designed to highlight the “lies advertising sells us” and to make us feel better about the fact that we’re not perfect, because those perfect people selling those perfect items to us are not actually perfect themselves.

The concept was well executed and the final result definitely led to more conversations about “real beauty” and the nature of advertising, but overall very little actually happened.

I mean, the thing is, we (humans I mean) are mostly not idiots. We’re aware that this happens in almost every aspect of our consumerist lives. We know the fast food we eat doesn’t look like it does in the ads, we are aware that the whiz-bang cooking gadget the shouty man tells us to buy will probably break within a month, and there are entire websites dedicated to the disappointment of buying your prom dress from a cheapo knock off site. We know.

But, as aware of it as we all are, we’re still buying these things, and looking at the shiny and the pretty, and getting shitty when it doesn’t quite match up, and this goes double or more for the way we look at how bodies are portrayed in the media world and how we look at, and compare them to, ourselves.

Sex, Lies, and Photoshop

In women’s magazines the models are all smooth and cellulite free. They laugh at salad, their perky, yet soft cleavage is void of any stretch-marks, and nary a grey hair or a wrinkle is to be seen.

In men’s magazine they are rugged and rippled. And while men are “allowed” to be older in these magazines (who doesn’t love a silver fox, amiright, ladies?) they still all have to look like George Clooney riding a golden unicorn steed, lest they come off feeble and weak.

Again, we know this is bullshit. Deep down in our heart of hearts we get it… But on the surface? In the front bit of our head that is the loudest? That’s where we forget. That’s where we get down on ourselves and compare our realistic, flabby, stretch-marked, and not-so-much-rippled-as-wobbled bodies to those on the pages and screens in front of us and feel bad, different, ugly… And also start to project it on to other people.

While we “know” all bodies are different and varied, while we “know” wobbles, and wrinkles, and stretch-marks exist, we still have this odd notion that they are ugly, disgusting, or even able to be “fixed” with miracle creams and magic exercise equipment – newsflash – they mostly aren’t and they shouldn’t have to be anyway!

One foray into the contents page of a women’s magazine will show you the hypocrisy of this entire practice. I mean page one will have an editorial on how wonderful it is to be a woman, how we are strong, beautiful, capable! Page three has a photo section of celebrities on the beach with large red circles pointing out their imperfections. Page five has a recipe for an indulgent chocolate cake, “You deserve it, ladies!”. A photographer on page ten has followed a skinny celebrity after she ate lunch and now questions if she’s pregnant cos she has a “bump”, and page fifteen has a heart-wrenching piece on the devastation of eating disorders full of “what can we do!” hand-wringing. 

The messages we receive are mixed and confusing and dangerous to our self esteem and self worth, and yet we still gobble them up while tut-tutting about the blatant hypocrisy of it all. Just a glimpse at the comments section of a photograph of someone looking larger or older or not-airbrushed-within-an-inch-of-their-reality shows how brain-washed we have become about beauty and bodies and what they should look like. 

The two extremes are usually things like “oh she is so brave and progressive” or “omg she’s a fat cow promoting unhealthy lifestyles and obesity” very rarely is it just the acknowledgement that this is a human with a body who is feeling good enough about themselves to pose for whatever type of photo they are posing for.

Perfect Porn

When it comes to pornography the messages are even more mixed. On one side we have the Puritanical hatred of sex for anything other than making babies throwing shame and disgust on anyone who even dares glimpse at a sexy naked pic, and on the other extreme we have the staged and unrealistic look of perfect bodies smooshed against other bodies for show. Both of these are in direct conflict to the way actual real people think and live, and yet we lap it up if only to throw judgement onto others and swallow it up and bottle it up inside ourselves to make our brains hate us. 

This goes for both men and women. For men, most mainstream porn shows them that the “ideal sexy male” is buff and perfect with a ridiculously large penis, and women have tiny waists, large perky boobs and teeny tiny neat little vulvas with not a labia or inner lip to be seen. In fact, up until very recently, there was actual legislation in Australia that, when photographed for unrestricted magazines such as People or Picture, vulvas had to be (and this was the actual wording) “healed to a single crease”. Just think about that for a second. Firstly the word “healed”. That infers that something is broken or unwell and feeds into the idea of “perfection” where there is none to begin with. Secondly, just like every other altered and airbrushed picture we see, it gives us an unrealistic version of reality to compare ourselves to. And thirdly, when it comes to vulvas, it’s pretty much all women have to go on. Unlike men women don’t often see other vaginas. While yes, women may get naked in front of other women, their bits are all sort of tucked under and not swinging in the breeze like penises do. To get a good, close look at what other vaginas look at we literally have to get very up close and personal, and so often the only way we can do that is by looking at porn.

We Know, But We Don’t

Yes, as stated above, humans are not idiots and we know that advertising etc sells us fake images, but for almost all of those things we also have a point of reference. We’ve seen real burgers on our plates. We see other legs with cellulite. We know bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and while yes, deep down, we know those pornographic images are also altered, it’s harder to find a point of reference and that niggling little voice that tells us we’re not skinny enough, not tall enough, not pretty enough, not whatever enough points and screams even louder at our genitals.

Now while that particular legislation has been removed, it has been replaced by a guideline that still basically says the same thing using slightly softer language. It now uses terms like “discreet genital detail”, and making sure that there is no “genital emphasis”, which still boils down to this weird notion that adult vulvas are somehow rude or overt or “indiscreet” purely for being naturally themselves.

Labia Love

As we’ve seen in the last few years vulva and labia love and appreciation is being noticed and highlighted by many different forums. The Labia Project, Vulva Gallery, the Great Wall of Vagina, the awesome coffee table book, Vagina 101, and plenty of other educational and art-based projects have made waves with their open, honest and realistic portrayals of vulvas and labia etc, but, according to figures from Medicare Australia, there is still a long way to go with the numbers of young women (some as young as 15) seeking labiaplasty or vulvoplasty rising almost 140% the past few years! That’s an insane number of young people!

While there are certainly benefits both cosmetic and medical from plastic surgery, there is no reason whatsoever that so many young women are wanting to cut bits off themselves other than the sad and sorry bullshit they’ve been fed about perfection and how to achieve it.

It is time to stop it. To do better. And to be better role models for our young people (and our not so young who still buy into it all). In September of 2018 Australian feminist, sex educator, and dominatrix, Anne O Nomis, started and submitted a petition to the Australian Government to change not only these archaic guidelines that police what adults can and can’t see, but also to implore them to create more informative, inclusive, and up to date sex education for young people. It’s an important step but it doesn’t stop there. 

We Are The Change

It is in our hands, us, the adults and parents and guides to the young. It is up to us to teach them about their bodies and what they do. What they look like. What they are capable of. It is up to us to point out the ridiculous and the unrealistic. It is our job to instil confidence both of the mind and the body in our kids, and to make them strive for excellence in their compassion and education and personal achievements, not in the way they outwardly look and can’t do much about without knives and medical procedures.

We want a world full of healthy, happy, comfortable within themselves humans, not plastic superficial bullshit that means nothing and gets us nowhere.

Change the way we look at ourselves, and I believe the world will be a far happier and far more peaceful place to live in. And far more interesting too with all of us different sorts all mingled together in the mix.

While researching and writing this piece I spoke to a few people who are directly effected by airbrushing and censoring in magazines etc and we thought you might like to hear what they had to say on the matter.

Lucie Bee - Porn Star/Model: I’ve had photographers offer to make my boobs look bigger… Purely because they think I want that… I wish it was always down to censorship, but it’s also just that they think I couldn’t possibly be content in this industry with my body… But what frustrates me the most [about censorship] is that Men’s Magazines and Porn cop the blame for what is effectively the governments bullshit. If they don’t comply they don’t get published.

Jazz – Glamour Model: I’ve had my vulva airbrushed a few times and it makes me look like a Barbie… Just this weird cut-off dead end of no genital form. No-one looks like that. It’s bloody ridiculous.

Katie – Former “retoucher” for Picture and People Magazine (Australia): If I didn’t have to alter women’s genitals to meet censor standards I wouldn’t have. I do not understand what is so offensive about labia. All vulvas are different, and I think that not showing what they really look like is creating unrealistic standards. Thank God [for] the internet. I can only imagine the kind of complex a teenage girl could give herself [with only] magazines to rely on.

Shane – Former Editor People Magazine (Australia): [We had to] second guess what the OFLC would accept… Which made us err on the side of caution. [With] so much graphic nudity online I couldn’t see our mag as having much of an impact on young people’s perception or self perception… Mainly I just thought it looked dumb turning everyone into a paper cut.

18 Comments

  • Planet46 Photo
    Planet46
    More than two weeks ago

    Can't exactly sympothize on this topic, it's simple to me... If your not with the one that appreciates what you "do" have, then your hangin' with the wrong folk!

    • strechticles
      5 days ago

      Pretty much agree, I can't say anyone honestly uses how I think of myself as a factor when deciding "hot enough or not enough". Except for the 1 women who actually asked me anything about that before turning me down, with a respectful reason.

  • MandyM73
    More than two weeks ago

    Younger women are doing ridiculous things to themselves and it’s just plain sad. Thanks to the likes of the ‘ horrid ‘ Kardasians and others just like them women are plumping their lips, boobs, butts, anything that stands still :( extreme dieting etc. Have a little faith in yourselves honestly, it astounds me that they think looking like a ‘ plastic ‘ barbie doll is attractive :( it just blows my mind.

    • oakentree Photo
      oakentree
      More than two weeks ago

      i agree even we men all have different tastes n a lady but why should self proclaimed reality Hollywood fakes, dictate and put ideas into ladies old and young a vulva or outer labia should look like it came from a mold like a barby doll they have managed to stamp out female circumcision and yet promote desecrating, yes strong word,a woman's most beautiful, sexy part off they're vagina. as ladies need a mirror to see and a man its so amazing to look at during sex and to have in a mouth seriously we will all end slaves to brainless fashionistas whims, caveat sometimes due to serious medical issues yes operate but not to keep up with the silly brats in magazines putting down ladies and girls self worth, sorry long winded, just is wrong wrong!

  • friskypuz
    More than two weeks ago

    Thankfully none of us are the same, the body parts may have the same name, but we are each unique.
    Learn to love your body as it is, and others will love it just as much..

    • oakentree Photo
      oakentree
      More than a week ago

      men should appreciate all a woman is inside and out labia and vulva are not the only part that needs attention being a man means being kind not a to big or i like small lips they well some see big labia and think vulva is big or say i am not licking that its not neat or pretty
      silly buggers they're lose men who know all good

  • Austphil
    More than two weeks ago

    Check out the login page pictures here. Then see if anyone here that looks like that would meet you. This site uses unrealistic pictures to promote the site. Then posts articles like this. Any way the AMM censors will block this.

    • Jinx1965 Photo
      Jinx1965
      More than two weeks ago

      Agreed ..... AMM itself is contributing themselves .Its very hipocrital of the editors .

  • triXXXi66 Photo
    triXXXi66
    More than two weeks ago

    Great article. Young girls having labiaplasty is a crime.. just like FGM. Mostly it is not necessary and conforming to whos standard is the question.
    The parts of me I love out weigh the parts that aren’t and never will be perfect.
    Rock on labia.. My man loves my long pierced inner lips and they are “so beautiful to look at and lick and suck”.

    • DeerPool1978 Photo
      DeerPool1978
      More than two weeks ago

      Drive past a ‘clinic’ at Parramatta who promote this on their shop front- saddens and infuriates in equal measure.

  • Essie2020 Photo
    Essie2020
    More than two weeks ago

    It took me a long time to love myself exactly as I am. Worried about every morsel of food I put in my mouth. I still catch myself being negative but tell myself it’s just a thought it’s not true. I’m perfectly imperfect.

    • funguyatbyron Photo
      funguyatbyron
      More than two weeks ago

      Essie you look pretty hot to me on your profile wish i was younger & closer you go get them girl i agree you are perfectly imperfect cheers from the east side

  • Seekingfunsex71 Photo
    Seekingfunsex71
    More than two weeks ago

    Great article! We are who we are,
    and should not be ashamed. Personally I love labia, the larger the sexier.

    • Pleaseme77 Photo
      Pleaseme77
      More than two weeks ago

      Nice comment, its why i always say how hot i am in chat lol ( i dont have tickets on myself im not perfect in any stretch of the imagination but who is ) and text bitch slap the girls putting themselves down, No ones going to love you if you dont learn to love yourself first.

    • THORGODOFTHUNDE Photo
      THORGODOFTHUNDE
      More than two weeks ago

      Oh I love the mortadella, bigger the better xxx

  • oakentree Photo
    oakentree
    More than two weeks ago

    i have yet to see an ugly labia ever and why would any one desecrate such a magnificent part of a lady, i only have one word for all yummy

    • IVAONE60 Photo
      IVAONE60
      More than two weeks ago

      I agree Labias are yummy if only others knew how yummy they were.

    • DeerPool1978 Photo
      DeerPool1978
      More than two weeks ago

      If some has invited me, consented, then it is gorgeous and if I am not it is still gorgeous, as are cocks.

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