When I was downtown the other day, I saw three teenagers posing in a shopping centre, throwing gang signs—probably learned from a music video—while taking a group selfie. My first reaction was pity. How on earth could a trip to a seedy mall be considered a significant event worth recording? Then I realized my mistake. The resulting photograph was not the point. It was the act of performing for and taking the picture that was important to the teens, enabling them to transform a mundane occurrence into something meaningful. By taking a selfie the truants had both insisted that their lives held value and documented their solidarity. In addition to shaping their own identities, they had refused the dominant narrative of the mall by producing an image instead of consuming one. Maybe. Perhaps my analysis is a little naive? Discuss amongst yourselves.
The other day I received the following comment on a post called “Love of Labour Lost,” which I published on December 25, 2013. In the original post, I nastily rant against unfit people who are afraid of becoming “too muscular” by accident: Dear FFG, I really enjoy your blog and find your posts very satisfying to read, so first off, thank you! However, on the issue of bodybuilding, I must say that there seems to be a great deal of intolerance on the part of the athletes towards anyone who doesn’t agree with the aesthetic. I fully agree that the comments by the gym-goers who fear bulking up are ignorant and uninformed (and in very poor taste), but one’s body shape is a matter of personal preference. It is possible to achieve various healthy alternatives. I understand your point that there is a lack of appreciation for the hard work and time investment in achieving a muscular physique, but I find the lack of regard for someone else’s aesthetic quite jarring. Continue reading
It is the beginning of 2014, spurring many people to plan for a better future and transform themselves from dung beetles into magical butterflies. I wish them well. As for me, I am perfect already so no changes will be necessary. This is not just my opinion; I read it online, Continue reading
Type “Am I Pretty or Ugly?” into any search engine and you will find hundreds of thousands of videos made by pre-teen girls. These youngsters—some of them seem about eight years old—shyly pose before a camera before hesitantly admitting that they have a question to ask. They simply do not know if they are attractive or not. Some kids at school say that they are cute, but others judge them more harshly. What is the truth of the matter? All of the girls in the videos I saw were wearing make-up and had their hair done. None of them was hideous, but all were vulnerable, asking for help in a way that made me want to cry, despairing at a world that could be so cruel to children.
I then tried to consider the videos in a more positive light. Continue reading
This month has witnessed a sustained hullabaloo regarding images of “fit” women. First there was the storm of controversy surrounding the photographs of Lea-Ann Ellison, a CrossFit aficionado shown lifting weights while 8 months pregnant, discussed in my previous post. Then things really got heated when Maria Kang, a 32-year-old fitness instructor, produced a poster of her scantily clad self towering above her three young children while challenging the viewer with the taunt: “What’s Your Excuse?” Attracting millions of hits and thousands of comments, many people felt bullied by this picture of a beautiful, young, and clearly fertile woman with washboard abs. Others admired Kang’s chutzpah, declaring that those who criticized her were likely lazy, fat “haters.” Surpassing the media frenzy inspired by Ellison, Kang received international attention, even appearing on major television talk shows. Despite the sheer quantity of dialogue, for the most part it was limited to asking audiences to take sides either for or against Kang. This lack of thoughtful engagement is par for the course in today’s world of unsophisticated journalism. Yet it was also predetermined by the dominant message encoded in Kang’s self-promotional poster. Her aggressive question “calls out” a particular kind of spectator, namely someone who does not work out and therefore looks nothing like Kang. Continue reading