Stop whipping out your phone to instagram things

I’m developing an aversion to Instagram. I still love the photos, I still occasionally post and I still double tap like the ship’s going down. But being around people who use Instagram are driving me crazy.

It feels like every conversation, every meal and every outing is getting interrupted by selecting filters and later, goofily smiling at a screen with one’s head hunched over. It happens automatically, mid sentence, the transformation from friend to photographer. Just take the damn picture already so I can eat these scrambled eggs.

Don’t get me started on the lull in conversation created by the launch of Instagram videos.

It’s getting easier and easier to make our present – well – less present. We want to do cool things now because we’ll get to show people we are doing cool things. We’re trying to capture our experiences and share them with others so that people know we’re happy or sad or hungry or funny. I’ve already had to make allowances for people who have to tweet something right away or respond to a text right away or check their email right away (the result of a boyfriend who works in the media). But isn’t it getting out of hand? We have developed so much etiquette about what to post and how to do it correctly. Will we ever have etiquette about when to do it (ie. not in the middle of a conversation?).  I’m 27 – the looks I get asking people to put away their phones during overdue dinners or intimate brunches makes me feel about 80. It’s uncomfortable and also totally understandable.

I’m not even above this habit. I’ve had the dreaded millennial thought pass through my mind more than once: Does this matter as much if no one knows I’m doing this? I have to post this. Right. Now. Brewery tours, days at the beach, rainy days at home – Sometimes it isn’t enough to just do those things. I want people to see it and react to it – like it or not, it tends to add to my experience of doing those things. I’m cringing just writing that out, but there we are.

So why is it suddenly making my skin crawl?

I struggle with a lot of anxiety – which at its root is about losing the ability to be present because you’re frantic about all the possibilities of events in the future. And I’ve come to realize that managing my anxiety is about trying to stay present, and allowing myself to feel all the feelings as they are happening. Fretting about the future strips away my ability to enjoy all the things that are happening right now. I end up missing a lot of things because I’m worrying about the next thing. Trying to move away from that means enjoying what’s happening now – sans worry, sans documentation, sans social gratification.

People Instagram for a lot of different reasons and I’m sure most of them aren’t all about inherent narcissism. But it won’t stop me from thinking twice about our habit of interrupting the present in order to document our memories –  not for ourselves, but for other people.


When Brits Called the Midwife Instead of the Doctor

Originally posted at Ms. Magazine blog.

A new six-part BBC TV series that aired in the UK beginning in January, Call the Midwife, will start airing in the U.S. on PBS this Sunday. Written and directed by women (Heidi Thomas and Philipa Lowthorpe), it’s based on the memoir of Jennifer Worth, a British nurse who served as a midwife in East London in the 1950s, during the aftermath of World War II.

In the pilot, we’re introduced to bright-eyed Jenny Lee (played by Jessica Raine), who joins Nonnatus House, where a group of older nuns and younger women serve as midwives in their poverty stricken neighborhood. Jenny and her peers are a new class of women, who have postponed or perhaps sidestepped lives as wives and mothers, opting for a career instead.

Through the course of the episode , we see the conditions of being pregnant at that time and in that place: There are a lot of sanitation issues and there’s no birth control–just child after child. We see the contrast between the inexperienced midwife and her clients, who are old pros at delivering children. And the technology is limited–the scene in which Jenny reviews her medical kit, complete with glass rectal tube, left me grateful for the plastic stirrups in my gyno’s office that don’t make my feet cold.

The central patient in the pilot is Conchita Warren, a woman from Spain who speaks no English and is married to a Spanish Civil War vet from Britain who speaks no Spanish. Spoilers start here! They’re completely in love, and she’s pregnant with her 25th child. When Conchita suffers a mild concussion as a result of a fall, forcing her into early labor, Jenny rushes to her home to deliver the baby. She needs a doctor, Jenny says. It’s the first reference we hear–and, later, see–of the medical industry, hospitals and men in white coats. And while those coats show up, urging the mother to take her and her baby to a hospital, they seem out of place. Perhaps it’s because the doctors are all men, or perhaps because, until this point in the episode, it’s the mothers who seem to know what’s best for themselves. But British culture is changing, even in this moment, as the doctors and Jenny urge Conchita to go to the hospital, because that’s where premature babies and mothers with concussions have a chance of surviving. Conchita nonetheless clutches her child and asserts herself: The child stays with me, she tells them.

Jenny is instructed to visit Conchita three times a day until the baby reaches a healthy weight, which sounds completely normal in the show and completely shocking to a modern audience. For many of us today, the idea of having so much personalized care would be reserved for the few who could afford it. Here, in 1950s East London, that kind of care is assumed and accessible to all.

The show drives home the intimate and personalized nature of midwifery and the reality that such care was replaced by advancements of medical technology and a male-dominated industry. We’re able to see how different the culture of childbearing was–one with women caregivers, home visits and so much more trust in, and compassion for, pregnant women and their bodies. The midwives aren’t the heroines, Jenny tells a woman who suffers a miscarriage, the mothers are. It’s a bit overly sentimental, but it’s true, and it’s a message I suspect will carry through the rest of the series.

If you enjoy it, there will be more: A second season of the series has already been commissioned.

5 things I learned from Fling Chocolate Ads

If you haven’t been exposed to the Fling Chocolate campaign, and are perhaps hearing about this product for the first time, let me give you a quick run-down. It’s an 85 calorie finger of chocolate release by the Mars Company that is currently sold only in California and online. Its television commercial has started airing and it looks like this:

After checking out the website and advertising, I feel like I’ve learned some important things about myself, as a woman. I’ve saved you all time and angst and have listed the top 5 lessons below – beware, I’m fraught with sarcasm.

1. Sex and Chocolate are like the same thing! Women go crazy for chocolate and they go even more crazy for “healthier” versions of chocolate. We love it so much that it’s pretty much a substitution for sex – does it seem like we’re having a sexual escapade with a guy in a dressing room? No! We’re eating chocolate. I think Sarah Haskins has made this point far better than I ever could so I’ve posted her chocolate segment below.

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more about “Sarah Haskins in Target Women: Chocol…“, posted with vodpod

2. Eating regular chocolate should make us feel like we had an affair! When you end up “in bed” with chocolate, you risk gaining weight or getting fat. That should make you feel like you cheated on your partner which means you should be feeling guilty and horrible about it. That’s why a fling is great! It’s less guilt than a typical affair and we can relate to that because we’re flippant and looking for ways to give into our desire without compromising our morals/bodies. After all, we should be naughty but not too naughty. Good thing fling chocolate can help us keep our diet – and values – in check.

3. The only time we can refer to our sexuality openly is when we’re actually talking about something else. Using coded language that is usually considered taboo with regards to women’s sexuality is perfectly acceptable when you’re describing chocolate. That’s how we can feel like we’re going outside of our puritan values without actually disrupting or challenging those values.


4. We love shiny pink things. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I see a shiny pink wrapper, I’m sold! It’s still in small discreet packaging, just like tampons and “womanly products” are supposed to be, so it won’t embarrass you to *gasp* eat it in public!

5. We aren’t able to talk about our health and alternatives to high calorie snacks unless they’re delivered through sexual innuendos. With sexual innuendos available to tell me how to live, what could I possibly want safe, honest and accurate information for? I’d rather have my nutritonal information and health conscious alternatives wrapped in a shimmery cloak of (sorta) guilt-free sexiness.

5 Reasons to “Unthink” Oprah’s KFC Coupons

KFC has a new marketing plan and it’s called Unthink KFC. Gone are the days when fast food giants can continue to advertise and sell only fried trans-fat foods. To help promote their grilled chicken option, a new lower-calorie alternative to their Original Recipe, KFC teamed up with Oprah to offer a limited time coupon that offers a free two piece meal with sides and biscuits to its customers. It may seem like a sweet deal but here’s five reasons why Oprah’s coupons trouble me.

1. Healthier Options but Still Hypocritical: KFC may be offering free grilled chicken that has less calories and fat than its fried alternative, but is it really a healthier alternative? I’m not sure how Oprah is able to reconcile her message of healthier and greener options with her giving away free fast-food meals to the public. I suppose the argument is that if many people still go to fast food restaurants for meals, it’s important to promote the healthiest options at those restaurants. But that doesn’t seem to be enough reasoning for me. Given Oprah’s influence, I think her name could be put to better use elsewhere in the struggle to provide everyone with fair nutritional access and education.

2. KFC’s Corporate Component: Yum! Brands is the parent company for KFC and has over the years been linked to irresponsible food practices around the world. Although Oprah herself once exposed the treatment of chickens and advocated for conscious choices amidst brands that support concentrated animal feeding operations, she is putting her money behind an institution that buys its meat from Tyson, the largest chicken processor in the United States. Paula Crossfield writes about this in more detail over at The Huffington Post.

3. Unsustainable: KFC is a far cry from the sustainable alternatives that Oprah should be supporting, alternatives that would seem to be more in line with “living your best life.”

4. Risks Reinforcing Stereotypes: There’s something troubling about an “unthinking” campaign in which a black woman is the spokesperson for providing hundreds of people with grilled chicken. This collaboration has simply given media the opportunity to reinforce racist stereotypes, which has already happened enough if you caught the footage of protesters during Popeye’s free chicken offer. The deal opens up more space for racist joking – do we really need more of that?

5. Distracts from Imperative Issues: Oprah’s name tends to distract the media and the public from the actual issues that are still affecting communities everyday. I understand the notion of giving the people what they want during a difficult time. But I’m not sure if the consequences of that notion are worthwhile. People are protesting and rallying against stores that aren’t accepting KFC coupons. Surely Oprah knows she can spark this kind of upheaval. Shouldn’t she avoid putting her influence towards issues like this and continue focusing on larger social justice and grassroots movements?

What kinds of projects do you think Oprah should back?

Are Magazines Ruining Your Health?

(Originally posted at EmpowHer)

This week’s French Elle magazine had me thinking about the long debated issue of retouching photos and how it might affect women’s health.

The magazine features Monica Bellucci and several other female celebrities photographed without any makeup or retouching work. Last month, French public health officials, in an effort to prevent normalizing eating disorders, proposed that magazines state the extent to which their photos are retouched. An op-ed video by Jesse Epstein in the NY Times argued why this may be valuable: retouching and piecing together images of models negatively changes our standards of beauty and perceptions of health. A quick glance at retouching examples on the internet shows how standards of beauty or perfection are manipulated by photographers and artists in order to sell a particular message.

The studies that show the prevalence of body image issues among young women are plentiful. A 1997 Garner survey found that 89% of female respondents wanted to lose weight. A 1980 survey found that young girls are more influenced and affected by cultural standards of body images than boys. And a 1999 study found that 70% of the 550 young working class women surveyed believed that images in magazines influenced their notion of the ideal body shape. Unhealthy body image could lead to unhealthy dieting, overeating and other eating disorders, which could lead to larger mental and physical health issues. Women who are not comfortable in their own skin may be unsatisfied in their romantic, personal and sexual relationships.

Like nutritional information on the side of food packages, I think there could be value in letting readers know to what extent pictures have been reconfigured. Readers would be constantly reminded of the work that goes into creating particular images for marketing and advertising purposes. Perhaps it would be a step towards being open about the relationship between women’s health, body image and media representation.

Still, there is much more work to be done in providing proper education about beauty and health standards for women, especially among young adolescents. Access to healthcare, proper health education, maintaining a healthy diet and focusing on one’s well being will be bigger steps to reinforcing positive body image for all women.

I leave you with a clip of Susie Orbach, who was interviewed on The Colbert Report about her new book, “Bodies.”

Everyone needs to watch men act like "real men," right?

Then watch “real Brawny men“. I know what you’re thinking – how could she stoop to watching this. Well, after you’ve seen the commercial 10 million times you do become a bit curious. And I have to say…it’s….well…its not riveting but definitely interesting.
Oh yea and the Brawny guy is HYSTERICAL. Apparently he’s supposed to be like, the ideal man or whatever – “good looking sensitive” straight white man who lives in the woods and is one hatchet away from being out of a grocery store romance novel.