Before I dive into the Visual Diet study, I just want to say thanks again (and again and again and again!) for your support and patience while I handle Cake’s last big hurdle- shipping logistics. I can scarcely believe the difficulties that cropped up in the past week, but I’m working through them as efficiently as possible.
I haven’t been blogging because I have been digging deep personally to handle these logistics problems- constant email streams, compiling files, creating new shipping labels for Snow White the Distributor, staying up late and getting up early so I can talk to the United States on the phone- all while attempting to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The laundry still needs folding. That is not a metaphor, it is all over the kitchen bench.
The lesson here is that no amount of research can protect a project from “issues.” For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, your pre-order patterns will arrive at your house next week! Woohoo! For the rest of us, well, the patterns should arrive next week, too! Each pre-sale order will receive a shipping notice once your pattern leaves our (mine or Snow White’s) possession. Once all pre-orders ship, I will make the digital download and paper version of Tiramisu available for purchase. Whew! Nearly there!
Don’t you love it when a study comes out that quantifies and verifies an idea you already believed? I certainly do. On November 7th, Plos One (an open-access journal) published the findings of a team of British and Dutch evolutionary psychologists and neuroscientists titled “Visual Diet versus Associative Learning as Mechanisms of Change in Body Size Preferences.” Basically, they discovered that exposure to various images of bodies influences the brain’s perception of a body’s attractiveness. It’s not a long paper, very interesting, please take a look if you’re interested in media and body image.
The researchers used images divided into two groups: Aspirational and Non-Aspirational. Aspirational images included women from a range of body sizes from underweight to plus sized, but all well-dressed and well-presented. Non-aspirational images were women in gray leotards without heads, of a similar range of body sizes and shapes. They exposed groups of women to various collections of images and recorded the results.
Then they discovered something interesting:
I am not surprised. The images we ingest through our eyes affect our mind as much as food ingested affects the body. I was raised in a very Christian household. A strong emphasis was placed on guarding our eyes (and also our ears) against things that weren’t positive or useful in some way:
I’m not trying to be preachy, and I apologize if it comes across this way. These verses and several others were etched on my soul early in life, there’s no removing them. They surface in my mind every time I look at a screen or a magazine (though it’s been a while since I looked at one of those). Besides, I don’t want them removed, even if I haven’t always followed the excellent advice they express.
I don’t know about you, but I count anything that makes women (or men) feel like sh*t in order to sell them a product they probably could live without to be an evil thing- vile, worthless, dare I say wicked? Is that word too old-fashioned? I have less than zero sense of humor about it- it’s a predatory practice. It makes me mad. I wrote about this in kinder terms some time ago- advertising as mental pollution.
So what do we do about it? Well, friends, we make our own media. We take our own photos, with tripods and remotes or loved ones pressed into service. We define our own boundaries by exhibiting the rare beauty of strong and smart and nimble-fingered women and men who slowly stitch fashions in quiet, private moments. We celebrate their achievements. We share our experiences with others, and support those who share a piece of themselves with us. The online sewing community has been doing this gently for years, and I have very much enjoyed contributing.
And then came Pinterest. Y’all know I find Pinterest infinitely useful, but it’s also very interesting to peruse as an observer. When I find a new Pinterest friend, I take a quick look at their boards. At some point, I realized that checking out someone’s pinterest collection was somewhat akin to looking around the inside of their brain. The images represent a thought or idea the curator wanted to save. Pinterest feeds are much the same- it’s a visual snapshot of what a group of people decided was worth saving and remembering at a given point in time. I find the “popular” button particularly interesting.
I have a few “visual diet” pinboards. One is labelled “Females.” It’s too easy to get wrapped up in my own little world and begin to believe that I’m ordinary and most women are more or less like me. That’s not true, not even a little bit. Statistically speaking, brown-haired white women (me) are not the majority of women who tread this planet. There are as many ways to be female as there are women on the face of the earth, who am I to walk around believing I’m “typical”? As a mindfulness exercise, I keep an eye out for images to add to my Females board that wordlessly express to me qualities that are essentially female. It’s a work in progress.
Another work in progress is my “beauty” board. Too often, I think the word “beauty” conjures images in our minds that are very much influenced by the entrenched status quo. That is, I noticed at some point that my Pinterest feed and my boards were dominated by pretty pictures of young, slim white ladies with impeccable hair and makeup. There is nothing wrong with being any of those things, but it’s a very narrow representation of beauty. Is this 1955? No? I thought not. Are well-groomed, slim white women the only beautiful people in the world?
No, ma’am. I don’t have to accept that standard, and neither does anyone else. We have the power to change our perspectives.
These are just the thoughts in my head- my opinion. What’s yours?