Girl Talk: Dear Gemma Ward...

Dear Gemma,

I don't want to be a conduit for the type of discussion that speculates about a young woman's weight, so apologies for bringing up the subject, but as you're in the public eye right now, you make for a good point of reference for something that's been on my heart (gawd, that's such 'Christian speak', sorry) and mind for a while (yet another media hack using you to generate content – yay!).

Really, I'm just tired of ALL talk about weight and body image and the media, as you would be, too. Because the sad thing is that the more we talk about it, the less room there is in the media/public forum/online for talking about all the OTHER great things that women are doing... that don't include losing weight or putting it on.

It is so frustrating being a female media consumer right now: what feminism gave us in the way of equal rights, we're sabotaging by giving unequal attention to stuff that really doesn't matter (nobody ever got to their death bed and wished they were skinnier). We are absolutely developmentally stifled – on a creative, intellectual, emotional, relational and spiritual level – by the superficial discussion that focuses on our bodies.

I have put on 6-8 kilos in six months (let's celebrate that for a second – whee!). One of my biggest frustrations in this process of recovery and weight-putting-on, as my mind has gained back clarity relative to each extra kilo, has been the media's celebration of weight loss, but I've also been disenchanted by the way discussion about diets/body shape/exercise permeates almost every conversation I have with another woman/women. What the frig?

My sister has battled her own body demons, but has also been one of my saving graces. She put on a little weight (she's still on the small side, like my mum) as I kept losing and losing and losing it, defiantly loving her new body shape and giving away her little-girl clothes after being a super-skinny mini during her teens and young adult life. She finally relaxed and her body naturally took the shape it was meant to be, still exercising (not madly) and eating well, but not punishing or denying herself in the process.

And, you know what? She has become the most vibrantly exciting person to spend time with – her conversation alive with witty observations; her lust for the new insatiable; her creativity unstoppable; her beauty glowing from within. Her glorious personality has come into full fruition. She is more caring. She cooks my dad lovely meals. She has more to give because she is feeding and nourishing herself on every level.

One of the things I love about picking up my copies of Good Weekend or The Age's A2 section, flicking through an interiors mag, reading a new work of fiction or non-fiction (or returning to an old one I love), visiting a beautiful crafty blog, playing at the markets, trying a new recipe, seeing a film with a friend, dancing around with my nieces or hearing a church sermon on a Sunday is that they are devoid of all the toxic drivel that stifles my spirit and recovery. In fact, I often find I spend my weekends fuelling up on these things, only to feel depleted of all inner resources by the week's end. Big BOO to that.

Really, I should be allocating time every day to fuelling up on the good stuff of life. Some people do that naturally; some of us have to learn to do life properly, while operating within the economic/cultural forces that dominate society and say you're only as good as the work hours you've put in or the pay cheque you've earned or the number of blog posts you've written or the number on the scales.

So, Gemma, don't worry for a second about your weight. Developing your character and interests and relationships are a far worthier pursuit. Defiantly ignore the crap and, as with my sister, everything will come into a lovely alignment as you start to become the beautiful, three-dimensional Aussie girl you were designed to be – the post-Vogue Gemma is sure to be just as lovely.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

P.S. I'm thinking about having a 'no body talk' month on GWAS. What think you? Is it even possible given the blog's context? For further inspiration, let's revisit India Arie's wonderful "Video".

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Erica,
I could not agree more with this entry. I have also been in recovery for almost a year. At first I was too afraid to find out how much weight I was gaining, but now NOT knowing has been one of the most liberating aspects of the recovery process. Not stepping on that scale every morning, not letting it determine the quality of my day, is a wonderful thing. I gave my ultra skinny clothes to charity, bought clothes that flatter by body shape and finally learned how to stop obsessing. Life has so many fascinating facets and weight is NOT one of them. I can't believe how much time I used to waste counting calories, planning meals, stressing, over-exercising, finding ways to avoid family dinners, avoiding socialising - missing out on life (almost destroying my life, in fact). I also agree that one needs a spiritual dimension to one's existence (I'm a Buddhist, but I believe that all religions - at the esoteric level - point to one Ultimate Truth). Anyway, when I saw the photos of Gemma Ward I thought 'She must have decided that she was simply sick of it all' and I knew just how she must have felt. I admire her immensely, because learning to be ok with a healthy weight was exteremely difficult for me and I don't know how I could have coped with media attention scrutinising every kilo lost or gained. Male celebrities lose and gain weight all the time - look at the pics - but their weight is rarely commented on by the media. It is not fair to reduce a human being to a number of kilos - as though they were a bag of flour, or a slab of meat. Sorry for the long comment, but I feel very passionately about this subject. As for the month-long black out on body image talk, I understand where you're coming from and at first I was all for it, but now I'm beginning to think that posts like this really help to keep me focused on what's important. Your body image posts are always so level-headed and inspirational - they are like the antitode to the poison which we are fed by the mainstream media. Thank you for everything. Bless!

*this daisy said...

Thanks for being so brave, Erica, and your sister, too. Posting about our own body insecurities or anything of the sort is very difficult most of the time. But a hearty congrats on your journey to recovery! Keep going strong, Erica. You're absolutely beautiful! I mean that sincerely.

And a month without Body Talk would be refreshing. There's so much more to life than how much we weigh. Every time I read an article that involves celebrating skinny girls or more voluptuous girls, it leaves me feeling exhausted because really, everyone's body is different. We should just exercise to keep healthy and not worry about such superficial things. I won't pretend I haven't fallen victim to being unhappy with my weight, but these days I've changed my attitude and try not to think about that. Heck, Marilyn Monroe was uber voluptuous and was the epitome of beauty back in those days! I guess it doesn't matter if we're thin or fleshy, we should just love the skin we're in. Good on you Erica, for always promoting body love! Getting off my high horse now... (:

xx

Nany Dada said...

amen to that gemma! and amen to that girlwithasatchel!
ps: i saw you in the strangers and i KNEW IT WAS YOU haha. youre fierce.

Camilla Peffer said...

Please do, I agree that it's an important topic, but it gets a tad redundant.

Melissa Blake said...

I LOVE this post. Every young girl needs to read it!

I'm sending you an email about possibly guest blogging for me. Hope you'll say yes!

xoxo

Audrey said...

Ok, I just came to your site thru Death wears Diamond Jewellery, and let me say as soon as I saw your side note on being a Christian, I immediately listed you on my blog for favorite sites. I am happy to see Christ working with a passion for style,fashion and beauty. So congratulations to you, and I'll be back often! :)

www.aplombofaudrey.blogspot.com

Julie Parker said...

Can I sign the letter to Gemma too Erica? Wonderful.

Anonymous said...

no body talk would be so hard given the content of your blog. Perhaps instead you can have more varied body shapes in pretty girl on the street...all the tall and slim girls look great in clothes but perhaps find some short or curvy girls (as well) who look hot

Anonymous said...

No body talk month definitely possible. Give it a go, Erica!

Anonymous said...

Great post Erica. So understand how you feel as I have struggled with my weight for years. You get sick of counting the calories and thinking how much exercise you need to do burn off that doughnut you just ate. Now I just eat things in moderation & exercise because it makes me feel good. I feel so much better. The only problem I have now is buying fashion that fits & suits my body shape. When I was skinny (8-10) I found it easy to find fashion to suit me. But now I am a size 12-14I find it much harder. Yes I buy the size 12 not the 10 but my now ample bosom doesn't suit the skinny straps or narrow neckline (When I was skinny I looked stylish in these fashions but now I just look like a hooker). I just wish fashion houses would put a little more fabric in places (for modesty). However I do find Witchery is great for my body shape. I love it there but I do find it hard everywhere else. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Yes, PLEASE, no body talk for a month! It is so, so boring. I get why you have to do it here, but why not ignore all the magazines' weight loss/weight gain/beach bikini body stories for a month and let's see how much more head space, time, energy and enthusiasm we all have for other topics. -Kate

katiecrackernuts said...

Ha (a thoughtful, a-ha, rather than a laugh). I think the point is that women still have this thing, this body issue thing. And man, let me tell you, I'm a size 8, yeah. I wasn't always. I was a size 16, ballooning toward a size 18 - and that was two years ago. I worked hard, moved more, ate less, was better at choosing smaller portions and better food. But I still eat caramel popcorn and coffee and breads and cheeses (my fav). I am hanging for Christmas and shortbread. Bring It. But, this body issue thing is still about and as a Girl Guide leader working with girls 10-14 it f'ing freaks me out. The girls I had in front of me 10 years ago couldn't give two hoots about what they looked like and now it's all midriff and bikinis and short shorts. I blame Target. Well, not actually Target but whoever is making this shite for kids. I have a nine year old who can't go out the door without full face makeup. Who makes friggin' face makeup for kids? (I should find that out and expose them). Anyhoot. It's not just images on pages, it's what's hangin' on racks for kids ... and so on and so on. Power Up? Did you get my email? I do want to touch on this subject, think you can stomach it?

Nicola said...

YES! Why not do a month with no body talk. Lets force ourselves to examine the AMAZING number of topics that we women (and men of course) can contribute to. In doing so, perhaps this will encourage the forming of a habit in which we look to other interesting discussion topics in the 'women's arena' before reverting automatically to body shape.

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Very, very good post. I wasn't aware of your struggle with this issue, but I suppose it is a rare woman that doesn't have body image issues going on somewhere deep inside.
I particularly love the photo of Gemma backstage. It makes the point aptly, that life is not about weight, but about relationships and finding joy.

How about instead of "No Body Talk" month, we devote a month to women in all their glorious, diverse forms of beauty. Young, old, slimmer, bigger - Just Happy!

SaucyGlossie said...

Great post Erica. Thanks for being truthful and insightful on this topic. It is extremely frustrating to see this. Right now the Glamour Women of the Year awards are being held in NY and people are tweeting off the hook about Tyra Banks "finally losing all the weight" and being a size 2 again.. it is outrageous that we praise that instead of some of the other good deeds that lead her to the award...
Gemma is beautiful and inspiring and I can't wait to keep following her successful career

xx
Saucy Glossie.com

georgina. said...

I strongly agree with you about women and weight issues in the media. It's EVERYWHERE! There is no need to be obsessing and fussing over weight, there are so many parts of life that are much more important than trying to be an IDEA of "perfection" (which isn't even perfect! We're perfect the way we were meant to be!). No body talk month HERE WE COME!

wewontgothere.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I think no body image talk for quite some time: as appropriately as it is discussed here, I think it can be a bit self-fulfilling: if it's not mentioned then perhaps readers won't think about it. And why give oxygen to toxics like Perez?

Anonymous said...

I meant to say self-perpetuating, not self-fulfilling! Totally different messages.

Audrey said...

is there anyway we could really go with this? I mean like make an html badge to post on blogs from the month of december something with a cool slogan that says we're not talking about weight/body issues this month like "Weight Your Turn! No body issue discussion month"? Whats does everybody think?

Anonymous said...

Erica,
I just wanted to say that I was really moved by this post. I suffer from an eating disorder (I know that you'll know how hard it is to type those words). I think I am in recovery, but the thing that's holding me back is the very thing you identify in your post. If women are not being applauded for losing weight, then we are being urged to celebrate our 'curves'. Each ideal, I think, is as damaging as the other.

I think that a body-talk free month would be hard, but a great thing to aim for. Perhaps you could focus on all the contributions women make to society, particularly the ideas that they contribute to public debate. Just a thought really, but I'd love to see more content which doesn't attempt to celebrate or endorse loving a particular body shape, whether it be a natural one or an artificial one. For me, the ultimate recovery goal is to get to a point where issues about food and my shape and size can just fade into the background and be neither here nor there.

Thank you for your blog, because I love the perspective that you bring as a young Christian woman on these issues. Please keep it up, because your blog helps me and I am sure it helps many others too.

Joni said...

Dear Erica

I really think this is a fantastic idea. During the last few months I've been really surprised - and a mite disappointed - by the fact that despite the many protests against the push towards being of an unhealthy body weight, magazines are still publishing weight loss regimes, stories, plans. Can they not hear what the public is saying? We (it seems - almost the whole Australian female population) are trying to allow ourselves to be confident in our own inner and natural beauty - Media: please support us in this. Don't make it harder.