Sunday, November 23, 2014

Women and Body Image - loving ourselves now, not 5 pounds from now

Even before going to see the movie, “Muffin Top – A Love Story”, the issues of feminism, body image, sexuality, and a woman's right to decide what to do with her body had been on my mind a lot lately. I suspect it has something to do with having a 21-year-old daughter.

“Muffin Top” talks about what it means to be a feminist. Yes, you can still enjoy wearing make-up, coloring your hair, and even getting cosmetic surgery, if this is what you want to do. No, you don't have to buy into the fashion model ideal - which is stupid and impossible. It encourages women to love themselves now, not five pounds from now. I'll add to this, five pounds in either direction. My daughter rounds UP her weight when asked.

It would be nice to say these issues are dated, but they aren't. A few glances to the side bars while cruising the internet includes headlines such as:

“The Sexiest Celebrity Butts” (Guess what? Yep. They're all female)
“Controversial Skinny Pill Hits Nation” (Yep. There's a photo of a woman)
“Ten Women who Aged Horribly” (Really? Says who?)

There are also all those fashion magazines with the impossible models, photoshopped to look like Barbie dolls. The movie, based loosely on Cathryn Michon's book, “The Grrl Genius Guide to Sex (with other people)”, starts off with Cathryn's character, Suzanne, talking to her students in a university class on feminism. Soon after, Suzanne's husband leaves her for a younger, thinner woman and Suzanne is trying to figure out the whole dating scene again.

“Muffin Top” is a low budget film, made by Cathryn and her husband, author Bruce Cameron. Cathryn got her friends involved, women and men who read the script and liked the message. These include actors David Arquette, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Melissa Peterson, Retta, Dot Marie Jones, and delightfully, the late Marcia Wallace, playing herself. Bruce and Cathryn's dog, Tucker, also has a role. It is a fun and very funny movie, only occasionally going a little over the top (okay, it is called Muffin Top so it's appropriate) with scenes such as the ones with the weight loss guru, and becoming downright silly.

For the most part, I think they got their message across. Suzanne's lectures were particularly helpful in this. It did leave me with one thought. I understand the idea of cosmetic surgery being okay... and this is a movie set in Hollywood. However, for most women, cosmetic surgery will never be a choice. It's expensive and insurance doesn't cover it. Most of us need to learn to love our bodies without that option. There are also a lot of us who are feminists who choose not to wear make-up, high heels, or dyed hair. That's okay, too. 

The best part was seeing a feminist film with wonderful funny women, who come in all shapes and sizes, in lead roles, something rare in movies, and hearing a woman tell her story without feeling the need to constantly bash men. The male characters, except for few caricatures, are nice. They don't care about physical appearance nearly as much as the women do. Are we our own worst enemy?

All in all it was a fun romp and definitely worth seeing. It is available through instant download (go to the movie website: and, if you're lucky, you might be able to catch one of the Red Carpet Premiere showings, as we did.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who is this Aunt Maribelle?

I had a child in my kindergarten class who was having a wonderful time at nap, dancing around the kindergarten, making noises and generally being such a distraction that no one could rest.  I wasn’t in the classroom during nap time but I would often come down and see this little girl sitting in the front office with our secretary, next door to the kindergarten, because she had been so mischievous.  Somehow, I had to find a way to turn this around.  She was learning very well how to be mischievous but nothing at all about how to rest.  So, the next time I came down and saw her in the office, I picked her up and put her on my lap and told her this story:
When I was growing up, we used to visit our cousin on the farm and the first thing we did when we arrived on the farm was look for the cats.  We knew that there would be at least one cat that had kittens.  My cousin always knew just where the kittens would be found and soon we would each be happily cradling a kitten on our laps.  Then we would wrap them up in our sweaters (and here I wrapped my sweater around the child) and carry them quietly into the house and play with them in my cousins bedroom.  And we had to keep them very quiet because Aunt Maribelle didn’t allow kittens in the house at all and if she caught us, she would be angry with us and she might even make us scrub the kitchen floor.  So we would put the kittens on our laps and pet their tummies till they fell asleep.  Most of the time they would fall asleep but sometimes a kitten wouldn’t want to sleep and it would meow very loudly!  Then Aunt Maribelle would come and we would have to take the kittens outside again.  And then we’d have to scrub the kitchen floor.”
I then cradled the little girl and carried her back into the classroom and put her on her nap mat.  I whispered quietly in her ear, “Now, be a quiet little kitty so Aunt Maribelle doesn’t hear you.  I don’t want to scrub floors today.”
Two weeks later, the girl’s mother came to me and said, “WHO IS THIS AUNT MARIBELLE??!!”  Every day for two weeks, her daughter would come home and say to her mom, “I was a quiet kitty at nap today and Aunt Maribelle didn’t even know I was there!”
My Aunt Maribelle enjoyed the story, too.