Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Haute Hump Day - Goofing Off in Cream at the Yellow Building

One of the best parts of doing weekly outfit portraits and self-portraits has been the adventure of location scouting.  I'm so irreparably in love with my own neighborhood (the "Dogpatch), that I can't seem to get away from it.  Todays pictures were taken at the historic "Yellow Building," a 170-year-old former horse stable, which now houses one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Piccino, along with a Blue Bottle Coffee Cafe, DIG wine bar, and clothing boutique, Modern Appealing Clothing.  As for the outfit, I'm back to my dark jeans, heels, and upgraded "t-shirt".  I have a major writing deadline this Friday, so comfort is key!  

Layered cream shirt, Anthropologie clearance rack - similar-ish
Dark Wash, Mid-Rise "Hidden Hills - Stream" Bootcut jeans, Paige (via TJMaxx)
Necklace, one-of-a-kind creation by Linda Thelin 
Shoes, Coach (via TJMaxx) - similar
**Photo Credits: Lisa & Geoff @ The Goodness Photography & Design**

Hrmmm.... should I have brought a sweater??
Peekaboo!
Favorite necklace.  Thanks Hanna!
I can't decide whether this outfit needs a pop of color (if so, what, where, and how?!), or if I should just own the soft neutrals look.  Either way, I wish I'd brought a sweater... its was cold!!

Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making Over My Makeup MakeUnder

I love the way I look in this portrait, but I've also decided to "face" the facts: 
I'm wearing too much makeup.
How much is too much?  It's a personal thing, but for me, too much is 
foundation, concealer, powder, blush, bronzer, highlighter, eyeliner, 
eye shadow, false eyelashes (!), brow powder, lipstain & lip gloss)
Photo credit: The Goodness Photography & Design
It’s been just over 2 months since my year without mirrors ended and I must say... I’ve been thinking a lot about makeup lately.  You may remember that my decision to shun mirrors for 365 days was accompanied by a parallel decision to cut back on the number of cosmetics I was using.  This was both necessary (because it’s really difficult to apply concealer when you don’t know what you’re concealing... or eyeliner when you can’t see what you’re lining... or highlighter when you can’t see what you’re highlighting), and also something I very much wanted to do because I felt that my beauty habits were taking too much of my time, and costing too much of my money.  As much as I've long enjoyed applying makeup and all the creativity and self-expression that can come with beauty routines, I’d reached a point of diminishing returns and needed to make a swift retreat.
And so I strategically cut back to only the necessities (at least, according to me): tinted moisturizer w/ SPF, sheer powder blush, a neutral cream eye shadow, and waterproof mascara.  
Ke$ha's popular "makeunder" via Glamour Magazine.
But which one is "her"?  That's what matters to me.
Of course, one woman’s makeunder is another women’s makeover, and I received a lot of flak from some folks who felt that I should have given up makeup entirely during my project.  All I could say then - and all I can say now - is that every woman deserves to develop her own sense of personal style, and makeup can be a meaningful means to that end.   Makeup helps me feel more feminine, polished, and professional than when I go without.  My sister, on the other hand, rarely wears makeup and I love this about her; it's part of her unique look, and her identity... but not mine.  Some bloggers have argued that cosmetics are a symptom and reproducer of patriarchy (and that women who wear them have been duped by the system), but I believe that this is too simplistic an account, ignoring both women's creativity and their agency.
Anyway, with the exception of my wedding day, a commitment to "Makeup Free Mondays," and a sprinkling of mostly-failed eyeliner attempts, I wore the four products mentioned above without variation every single day for an entire year.  I saved time and money, but - most importantly - I discovered that wearing less makeup didn't cramp my style or cause me to be taken less seriously by my friends, colleagues, or husband.  Dare I say that nobody even seemed to notice!?  In other words, my less-makeup-experiment-within-a-no-mirrors-experiment was an utter success!
So then why have I been thinking so much about makeup recently?  Well... I've experienced a bit of a relapse.  In the weeks following my return to mirrors, I went from makeunder back to makeover. I added eyeliner back to my daily look, and tried different colors on different days.  I traipsed to Sephora and bought an expensive new "organic" foundation with an accompanying expensive new "organic" concealer.  I attempted "contouring" on my cheeks, and tried lining the inner-rims of my eyes with liquid liner.  (Okay, admittedly I didn't do all of this at the same time, but you get the gist!) My morning routine went from under 5 minutes to a whopping 25 minutes, which is more time than I'd spent applying makeup before my no-mirrors project!  Speaking of mirrors, I started using a magnifying mirror (a "happy end of your no-mirrors project" gift from my mother-in-law, Sherry) to double check my pores, ahem, work.  
For a few weeks this was fun.  I'd earned it, right?  Didn't I deserve to indulge a bit?  Didn't my formerly-repressed cosmetic creativity need to be set free once more?
But after a while I didn't feel so free, nor particularly creative, for that matter.  A few times I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and thought - geez, that's a lot of makeup!  Then my credit card bill came in with a balance that was a bit higher than desired.  Oh, and I've developed a teeny-yet-painful stye on my left eyelid.  (eew.)  This is likely due to eyeliner overuse (or misuse. I don't really know what I'm doing!).  It finally went away two weeks ago but then showed up again last night.  :(
These things have helped me realize that all of the extra makeup, and all of the "what look am I going for today?!" stuff doesn't actually feel like me anymore.  So, I returned the expensive organic stuff to Sephora, and retired my magnifying mirror indefinitely (it's been repurposed as a cool lamp in our entryway!).  I've actually started to time myself in the morning, to make sure I stay under 7 minutes.  Sure, I'll still happily go a bit more glam on truly special occasions, but, for now, I'm back to the basics and it feels right.  I'll try to post images of my bare faced vs. minimal makeup vs. maximal makeup looks soon.  In the meantime, here's the scoop on my new-ish regime:
Step 1: Contemplate Michelle Williams' fresh-faced glow for minimalist-makeup inspiration!
It makes me happy to see Williams' pale skin, rosy round cheeks,
blonde hair, and brown eyes.  Why?  Oh, because I have pale skin, 
rosy round cheeks, blonde hair and brown eyes.  Duh.
Step 2: Apply Biore Skin Preservation moisturizer w/ SPF30 sunscreen. 
This has been my "Holy Grail" daytime moisturizer for years,
but is now discontinued.  :(  I've hoarded a few bottles, but
will be seeking a replacement soon. Any suggestions?

Step 3: Mix Covergirl TrueBlend Liquid Foundation(s) and apply like face lotion, using hands.
I'm between two shades so I mix them!  Only $7!!!

Step 4: Fluff on some Lorac Blush for Cheeks in "Peach"
Honestly, I have at least a half-dozen pinky/peachy blushes that work just the same.
Note to self: I will NOT buy new blush until I have used up what I already own,
OR until I turn 40; whichever comes first!

An oldie but goodie.  I can't find anything better!

Step 6: Warily consider eyeliner and eye shadow... To be continued... 
My poor little left eye is still a bit tender, so I'm in no rush to glob on product.

I'll close here with a few questions for you:
1) Makeover vs. Makeunder: have you gone through either of these?  Was it your idea or somebody else's? What was your experience?  What did you learn?
2) Any suggestions for a fantastic SPF30+ moisturizer (or tinted moisturizer or "beauty balm") that works well for sensitive skin?
3) What beauty products (if any!) help you feel like "you"?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fun Fact Friday: Deborah Rhode's The Beauty Bias, Chapter 2

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Stanford University Law Professor Deborah Rhode speak at a screening of the film, MissRepresentation.  (BTW, if you have not yet seen this film, get thee to your Netflix queue, ASAP!  I've done the work for you, just click here!) Anyway, as I would have expected from her fantastic book, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance In Life and Law, in person, Deborah Rhode was both articulate and sharp as a tack.

Chapter 2 of The Beauty Bias  ("The Importance of Appearance and the Costs of Conformity") is the first course reading assigned for my seminar on Gender, Appearance, and Inequality.  Last week we discussed one of Rhode's arguments regarding the double standard women face when they are told both that their looks are of crucial importance, and also that vanity is shameful.  (Hence, the irony of "effortless beauty"!)

For today's "Fun Fact" post, I've selected a few more thought-provoking quotes and facts from Chapter 2.  Each week I have my seminar students write reading responses that explore their thoughts about what they've read.  I've chosen some of the passages that they found most interesting.  I hope you enjoy them!  I've also thrown in a few discussion questions for your consideration.
"Much of the effort and concern that individuals now invest in their appearance could be better spent on relationships with family and friends, and on paid or volunteer work that leads to personal growth or makes a meaningful social contribution." (page 30)
Question: Do you think this is true?  Where would you draw the line on giving up some of your beauty rituals?  How would you use the extra time (and money!)?  
(BTW, I kind of put this concept to the test during my year without mirrors and found it to be mostly true for me!)
"Many weight reduction techniques, whether or not associated with eating disorders, [..] raise concerns.  A recent New Yorker cartoon parodies the extent to which dieters are often prepared to go: an oarsman on a galley ship boasts to another: 'I dropped twelve pounds the first week and kept it off!'  For some women, smoking is the functional equivalent.  Fear of weight gain is a major deterrent to quitting.  Three-quarters of surveyed female smokers are unwilling to put on more than five pounds as a result of stopping; nearly half will not tolerate any increase." (page 40)
Holy smokes!  (pun intended) Not giving up cigarettes due to fears of gaining 5 pounds?  People!  Don't you realize how DEADLY cigarettes are compared to mild weight gain?!  I've read similar statistics, for example, that most teenaged girls would rather be run over by a truck than be fat.  These statistics illustrate that fear of fat has a whole lot more to do with stigma than health, no?

Question: What are your feelings about this?  Is gaining weight your greatest fear?  (BTW, it used to be mine, but I realized being unhappy and unhealthy was far worse than being a bit chubby.  Sometimes I still have body-image crises, but I do my best to stay strong!)
"Many of the mental health difficulties associated with appearance are the product of widespread social stigma and discrimination.  Beginning at early ages, children develop an aversion to individuals who are overweight or unattractive, and those individuals are teased, ridiculed, and ostracized.  By age nine, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of girls want to lose weight.  [...]  Obesity carries as much stigma as AIDS, drug addition, and criminal behavior."  (page 41)
Question: Was your body image at age 9 better or worse than it is today? Why?

Alright, that's all I've got for now!  I'm headed to bed with only a few hours to sleep before Michael and I head to the airport for a weekend in Louisville, KY with friends and family.  Happy (early) Memorial Day everyone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Haute Hump Day - A Professional Look and R.I.P. Beloved Blue Shirt

Today's "look" was carefully crafted.  Why, you ask?  I had an important professional meeting at the Gap Inc. offices yesterday (Tuesday), for which I planned and re-planned my outfit for days ahead of time (note the dozens of shirts hanging in the background of the photos below... more on this below!).  I wanted to look professional but also chic, though - of course - not overdone.  As we discussed last Friday, looking effortlessly fashionable can take a lot of work!  

After putting too much thought into one little outfit worn for only one 30-minute meeting, I figured I ought to wear it again today, when I headed to the About-Face offices.  Nobody would know, right?!  (Shhhhhh.....)  Alas, tragedy stepped in.  The good news is that my meeting at Gap went well - I met some lovely people and enjoyed talking about my research.  The bad news is that I managed to completely destroy my lovely blue shirt just a few hours later....  
Blue Sleeveless Shirt by Dimri (via my mom's closet) - Similar-ish
Patterned Cardigan by Sparrow (via Anthropologie Clearance Rack) - Similar
Light Olive Classic Fit Slacks, Rafaella (via Ross) - Similar
Structured Bag by Dooney & Burke (via TJ Maxx) - Similar
Mulberry Pumps by Dr. Martens - Similar

I prefer the look with the cardigan, but I wanted to give my beloved blue shirt
a minute in the spotlight before saying goodbye..... 
Dr. Marten pumps in "mulberry" color, purchased on a whim for
*FULL PRICE*
(a big deal for me) while backpacking in Europe w/ my siblings in 2007.
This bag comes out whenever I need to cultivate "I'm a grown up"
And now for the tragedy... Once I arrived home from my meeting I learned that I had to bring my puppy, Noelle, to her veterinarian for an unplanned visit (she's got an upset tummy... again).  The vet's office is a few blocks from where my sister works, so I called her to see if she wanted to grab a bite to eat after Noelle's delightful appointment in which I talked a lot about poop and farts.  I had a groupon deal for this tasty spot in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. With $50 to spend (after paying only $25 for the groupon!) I splurged with the $27 Organic Fried Rabbit entree (yes, Fried Rabbit).  


It was delicious: like the most amazing cornbread-fried chicken but... rabbit.  A few minutes into my meal, Hanna asked "Hey, what's on your shirt?!"  Huh?  Shit. Without realizing it, I'd splashed fried rabbit juice all over myself while eating.  It was not very cute.  It was also not very launder-able, thanks to all that yummy grease.  Oh well.  At least I was with my sister instead of during my meeting!  

Organic Fried Rabbit Juice.  Bummer dude!
P.S. - When I started planning this week's Haute Hump Day outfit, I felt like I couldn't see my clothes because they seemed too crowded in my pitiably small closet (I share a regular -  i.e., NOT-walk-in - closet with Michael).  I decided to pull everything out, and hang it all spaced out along the railing of our loft bedroom.  Michael wants to know when I plan to put it back, but I'm in no hurry.  I think it looks kind of cool!  My plan is to only put an item back into my closet once I've actually worn it.  I'm also not allowing myself to wearing anything twice until I've either worn everything, or gotten rid of the shirts I don't feel like wearing.  
Lined up with sleeveless first, then short-sleeved.  I think it's pretty!
Questions for you:
1) How do you like my outfit (sans fried rabbit juice)?  Too much?  Not enough?  Just right?
2) Any suggestions for how I might get fried rabbit juice out of a thin polyester top?
3) Do you have a great system for purging your closet?  What is it? 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fun Fact Friday: Welcome to "Gender, Appearance, and Social Inequality," Week 1


As promised, today is the first of many FFF's dedicated to giving you a taste of my favorite UCLA seminar, "Gender, Appearance, and Social Inequality: From Evolutionary Psychology to Feminist Theory."  As I always do on the first day of an "in person" class, today's post will overview the goals of the course, review the syllabus (posted verbatim here), and squeeze in a bit of learnin' at the end.  Here goes!

Overview of course goals:
"Gender, Appearance, and Inequality" will draw on evolutionary psychology, feminist theory, and sociology, to examine “beauty bias” – the idea that physically attractive individuals are rewarded socially (through better treatment) as well as biologically (through “good genes”). This course will take an “intersectional” approach, examining how physical appearance overlaps with other, better-known, forms of inequality such as those that result from sexism, racism, ageism, and homophobia. We will discuss different attributes of appearance that seem particularly significant in the modern American context, including skin color, facial features, hair, body shape/size, and personal presentation (i.e., fashion, make-up, etc.), examining how appearance impacts people’s lives in a number of settings, including in education, in romance, in employment, and in medical treatment. Finally, will also work to critically distinguish evolutionary drives from social forces, asking how these distinct theories explaining beauty bias complement each other.

Review of Syllabus:
In my typical seminar, I organize the course around weekly themes, as follows:

Week 1. Evolutionary Psychological Perspectives on Beauty Bias
Week 2. Sociological/Feminist Perspectives + About-Face Media Literacy Workshop
Week 3. Beauty Bias in Childhood and in Education
Week 4. Beauty Bias in Romantic Relationships  
Week 5. Beauty Bias in Employment
Week 6. Beauty Bias in Medicine
Week 7. Intersectional Perspectives on Appearance and “Eating Problems”
Week 8. Fashion, Makeup, and “Style”        
Week 9. Men’s experiences 
Week 10. Activism 

You can see the details of each week's readings and lessons on the actual syllabus, here.  On Fridays, I will cover the course material in the same order, but much more slowly!  Right now the plan is to tackle the fascinating highlights of ONE course reading or book chapter each week.  Thus, my 10-week course will be stretched out across several months.

Whenever possible I'll provide links to the actual reading.  If I'm unable to do this for technical or legal reasons, I'll do my best to illustrate the gist of it.

Good news for all: Since I'm presenting material via "Fun Fact Friday," there will be ZERO quizzes, tests, or papers!  Whoopeee!!  Attendance is optional, but enthusiasm required.  :)

My lesson posts will end with a discussion question for the "class" to tackle in comments. (Please participate!)

Bit of Learnin':


I'll spend more time exploring Chapter 2 of Stanford Professor Deborah Rhode's book The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law next week, but I wanted to kick things off with a quote:
 "... appearance discrimination ['''] compounds gender inequality by reinforcing the double standard and double bind for women.  They face greater pressure to be attractive and greater penalties for falling short.  [...]  As a consequence, women's self-worth is more dependent that men's on physical attractiveness.  Yet, even as the culture expects women to conform, it mocks the narcissism of their efforts." (Rhode, p. 44)
This passage made me instantly think of the "effortless beauty" many of us strive for.  We carefully apply makeup to look as though we aren't wearing any.  Or, when complimented on a carefully chosen outfit, we say things like "Oh, this old thing?  I just threw it on!" So here is my discussion question for you, building from this passage: 

Have you ever felt pressured to downplay the time, money, and work that you put into your appearance? How does this shape your behaviors or beauty routines?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Very First "Haute Hump Day" - Baby Steps in Bright Green

Here begins my first Haute Hump Day, with an outfit I see as a gentle "baby step" up, from my usual basic t-shirt & jeans + cardigan.   How did I get here?  Well, I upgraded each piece of my "fashion slump" uniform.  Walk before you run, right?

Thus, my typical basic t-shirt was replaced with a drapey, raw-edged, ruched number; my everyday bootcut jeans were swapped for a dressier pair hemmed long enough to be worn with a favorite pair of white patent-leather wedge heels (instead of my typical plain leather Birkenstocks or boat shoes).   Admittedly, I couldn't help but top it all off with one of my (many) drapey cardigans, which is no upgrade from the fashion slump, but sure felt comfortable and - I think - looked cute!  Ingrained habits are hard to break, but I'll try to push myself further next week.  I adore the green + blue combo!  Thoughts?
Green ruched t-shirt, Anthropologie clearance rack - similar-ish
Dark Wash, Mid-Rise "Hidden Hills - Stream" Bootcut jeans, Paige (via TJMaxx)
Necklace, one-of-a-kind creation by Linda Thelin 
Shoes, Coach (via TJMaxx) - similar
Blue Cardigan (below), Splendid (via Nordstrom Rack) - similar
**Photo Credits: Lisa & Geoff @ The Goodness Photography & Design**


Gotta love the bright-and-shiney siding of my neighborhood bio-diesel station, Dogpatch Biofuels...
A gift from my sister, Hanna.  Crafted by our family friend, Linda Thelin.
Oops!  I forgot to take a picture of my shoes.  
These are not my feet, but these are identical to my shoes!

And finally, my go-to navy cardigan showed up for another turn around the dance floor.
So there we are, folks!  I'd love to know your thoughts.  In particular - any suggestions for how I might "upgrade my upgrade" next week?  :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing Begets Writing; Yes, You Can ALL Audit My Course via FFFridays; Announcing "Haute Hump Days"

This is a picture of my (3-year-old) soul flying through my nimble fingertips.
Writing is a frequent passion but sometimes burden of mine.  When inspired, my soul flies through my nimble fingertips and I feel somewhere in between witty and immortal.  When uninspired, I'd rather be shopping.  If I could write only when I felt like it, and indulge in my other passions (I do have a few more than shopping) the rest of the time, I'd feel quite fulfilled but would be entirely unemployable.  I'd also miss out on the unexpected joy and satisfaction that results from writing something inspiring, when uninspired.  This happens frequently enough to convince me that it's worthwhile to write habitually, even when I'm "not in the mood."  

So, writing habitually is exactly what I've been doing recently, but not so much for this blog.  Instead, pushing my book manuscript forward has dominated my time, focus, and energy.  After writing (or attempting to write) for hours at the office, coming home to lofty blogging goals has felt impossible and unfair to my brain.  (I am suddenly reminded of a punchline on Friends about the presumably lousy sex lives of heterosexual male gynecologists!)  

But I have good news to share.  While the book manuscript still looms, I've missed the easier idea flow of blog-writing.  I've missed the creativity, and the directness of expressing an emotion I'm currently experiencing rather than figuring out how a previously-experienced emotion might fit into a larger story arc.  I've missed the attainable-on-a-daily-basis sense of accomplishment that comes with clicking "post".

Over the past few weeks I've caught myself daydreaming about blog posts when I "should have been" plotting my plot structure or editing my edits.  I've actually told myself NOT to blog, even when feeling inspired.  I told myself that I needed to "save" my writing for the book.  This was well-intentioned, but dumb and unnecessary.  Writing begets writing.  Inspiration begets inspiration.  My different writing outlets ought not be compartmentalized.  So today I'm rebelling and it feels great.  I didn't write a word of "book" and I'm staying up past my bedtime to blog.  I'll figure out the rest tomorrow, but in the meantime, I want to share two of my blog daydreams.  You'll be seeing the fruits of these plans in the coming days and weeks.  Here goes:

1) Several weeks ago I described the course I'm teaching at UCLA, on the topic of "Gender, Appearance, and Inequality: From Evolutionary Psychology to Feminist Theory".  I'm in the midst of teaching the class right now and it's a whole-heck-of-a-lot-of-fun.  I can't get enough of the topic, and I'm inspired by how my students interpret the material and share their own experiences.  Several of you enthusiastically inquired if it would be possible to take the class online, or to audit the material.  I can't actually give an online course right now, but I can offer smidgebits of the material and themes through this blog.  Therefore, for the foreseeable future, "Fun Fact Fridays" will be structured around my course syllabus.  I'll share the syllabus itself, and as many readings as I can manage to, within copyright laws.  Knowledge is power, and should thus be shared! :)


This is my favorite image from our engagement
photo session.  I've worn this exact outfit in slightly
 different color combinations about 150 times since.

2)  I've been in a fashion slump.  I have always (okay, since the last few years) been a jeans & t-shirt + flowing cardigan kind of gal (see image on the left).  When I have a long day of writing planned, I aim to dress comfortably.  The aforementioned outfit fits the bill too a "t"(shirt), but I've basically been wearing different color combinations of the same outfit, on autopilot.  I'm not ashamed to be dressing for comfort and convenience, and I'm actually proud of my efficiency (sooo much better than obsessing!).  Yet I've missed the creativity and pride that accompanies more mindful and expressive dressing.  I truly believe that fashion can be body-positive brain-food when it captures your senses with color, texture, and pattern. To reconnect with these lost elements, I'm committing myself to "Haute Hump Days".  On Wednesdays, beginning this week, I'm going to spend a little extra time putting together an outfit that makes me happy.  I'll (gasp) share a photo of myself in said outfit, and write about it.  After a year of not looking at myself in the mirror or in photographs, it will be interesting to share up-to-date pictures of myself so publicly.  I'm not particularly interested in inviting snarky comments about my body or fashion sense, but I trust you all to keep it fun and fabulous.  Sally at www.alreadypretty.com is my inspiration here.  

Okay, that's all I've got for now.  Sleep awaits.

Have YOU ever found yourself in a fashion slump?  Did you care?  If yes, what did you do to push past the slump?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Best Positive Body Image Group Activity Ever!

This is my drawing of me.  Yeah, I know I've got talent!
This Monday I had the students in my "Gender, Appearance, and Inequality" seminar participate in the BEST POSITIVE BODY IMAGE GROUP ACTIVITY EVER!!  I've done this activity each year since I started teaching this course, and it never fails to inspire me.  I think I've mentioned the activity once before, but I feel like it deserves it's own post.

Here is the activity, and how/why it is so amazing.  Note: unlike a lot of Positive Body Image activities, this one works best when done with a group!

1) Everyone in the group is given paper and a pen or pencil.  If you're feeling fancy, colored pencils, markers, and/or crayons are fun too!

2) Each person in the group draws a picture of her body on the piece of paper.    It doesn't matter how realistic or artistically appealing the picture is.  This is a time to NOT be a perfectionist.  (See my beautiful drawing, above, if you're worried that you aren't adequately artistic for the task!)

3) After drawing the picture, each person makes a list of all the things she likes/loves/appreciates about her body.  This "things I like" list can be infinitely long, and MUST contain at least FIVE things.  Each person can also list ONE (but not more than one) thing she doesn't like about her body.

4) After 10-15 minutes of artistry and list-making, each person shows the group her picture, and explains her lists.  It's important that each thing on the "like" list is explained, instead of just stated. (i.e., "I like my eyes because they are the same color as my mom's eyes...")

5. After everyone has shared, the activity is over.  Participants are encouraged to keep their picture + list, and to remember what the activity felt like.

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking.... this is way too simple to be AMAZING AND LIFE-CHANGING.  But, guess what: it is!  Here's why:

As women, we're trained from childhood to believe that it's socially inappropriate to love our bodies, or at least, to admit that we love them. We're taught, instead, to bond with each other over our hatred of our bodies, and various different parts of our bodies.  If a friend starts complaining about "feeling fat," we know the rules: tell her she isn't fat, and then find some part of your own body to complain about.  Similarly, when we're complimented on our looks, we're taught to "be modest" and say lame phrases like "Oh, this old thing?!" or "Oh, thanks, but I really wish I had your butt/boobs/face/hair/feet/hands/etc." 

Sometimes we even talk badly about women who seem "full of themselves," and we're definitely scared of being talked badly about for being "full of ourselves."  We may admit that we like one - maybe two - things about our looks, but the list of things we claim to hate is usually super-long.

This means that, as women, we spend a lot of time hanging out with other women while we all pick apart our bodies, piece by piece.  We may compliment each other, but we don't compliment ourselves, and we talk a lot about feeling jealous of other women because we wish we had "her thighs/boobs/butt/stomach/hair/etc."  We almost NEVER spend time with other women while we all talk about things we like about our bodies.  (FYI, The only cases in which women have told me they've talked positively about their bodies in a group setting, was if they were participating in a classroom activity, or an eating disorder recovery therapy.  In other words, positive body talk doesn't seem to happen "naturally.")

Anyway, this Positive Body Image Group Activity creates an instant community of women talking positively about their bodies.  Even more amazing - it's always a room full of women with different looks, different backgrounds, and different ideas about their own "beauty." Even though we all have a pretty good idea of what beautiful is "supposed" to look like (i.e., tall, thin, white, blonde, big boobies, etc.), every woman has a unique list of "liked" features that typically vary from the "ideal".  What I mean by this, is that instead of only hearing girls say things like "I like being tall, thin, white, blonde, with big boobies" (or only liking the things about themselves that are on this list) women talk about loving features that make them unique and special.  Here are some examples from Monday:

Curly hair, 
straight hair, 
strong broad shoulders, 
freckles, 
my mom's eyes,
big eyes,
single-lidded eyes
interracial features, 
tiny hands, 
little boobs, 
nice boobs, 
being tall, 
being short, 
being perfectly average height, 
full lips, 
naturally pink lips, 
flexible toes, 
light skin, 
dark skin, 
clear skin, 
"innie" belly-buttons, 
strong legs, 
butt dimples, 
crooked pointer-fingers, 
curvy hips,
and more....

I've read about (and tried) body positive activities in which I've made a list of things I like about my body.  That's all good fun, but it's the open sharing of these lists that makes this particular activity so ... radical.  It may feel a bit awkward to read your own list out loud, but it feels so incredibly good and right to hear other women reading theirs.  I even found myself adding features to my own list that I hadn't thought of (i.e., butt dimples!), after hearing them described by my students.  As for hearing women talk about one they they don't like so much.... more than anything this seems to help the participants feel more comfortable sharing all the stuff they like.   The activity would feel a little fake and forced if we were only allowed to talk about the good stuff.  Also, for the record, I think it's okay and healthy, to have mixed feelings about our bodies... it's just awesome to imagine that the mix could be mostly positive instead of mostly negative!

What would YOUR list look like?

PS - In my wildest change-the-world dreams, I'd love for this post to show up in online searches for "positive body image activity."  I really believe in it that much.  So... if there's ever a time to cross-post, link, or track-back, please do it for this post!