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Swift and Brutal —

September 12, 2014

Weight LossDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Violent imagery regarding cosmetic manipulation.

Possibly NSFW: It’s a video using an illustration of a naked woman. The screencap used below shows boobage. Scroll at your own risk.

Guys, my work is trying to kill me.

I’ve got a great job and I really can’t complain considering I don’t have a college degree, but I’ve gotten so good at my job (#HumbleBrag) that I’ve got customers coming at me from all sides wanting my magic touch. So while I have several intriguing blog projects in utero, I haven’t had the time to gestate them to fruition.

But the other day I saw something on reddit that I wanted to quickly share.

Aaaaaaaaaah reddit, where I’ve been banished to the shadows for daring to expose the hypocrisy of photo-thieving doucheclowns. I’m now forced to lurk in silence on a forum I’ve grown to love over the past few years.

While it’s true that you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, that’s just one part of the fascinating ecosystem of reddit. If you’re able to filter out the cornucopia of hatred that reddit mods turn a blind eye to, there’s some really cool stuff that shows up on the front page and some really cool communities like /r/BodyAcceptance that can be valuable for your journey to self-acceptance.

For instance, the other day on the front page I found this short film on the grotesque lengths to which our social obsession with beauty ideals has gone. It’s called “Supervenus” and it was created by Autour de Minuit  and won Best Short Movie at the “17th Brussels Short Film Festival.” To my surprise, it was not posted to /r/BodyAcceptance. (Warning: Although this is “just a cartoon,” some may find the surgical representations disturbing. Watch at your own risk)

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQdOZ_wiUck%5D

[Note: watch it while you can, as it’s getting culled from YouTube quickly… you can find another version here or on Tumblr]

Were you as floored as me? The message is pretty clear: our culture has taken the natural female form (and it’s pretty much exclusively directed at women) and artificially manipulated the bodies women are born with into a Frankensteinian project that has ultimately destroyed its creation, both psychologically and, in some cases, physically.

By promoting an ideal that is only attainable for most women through dissection, injection, implantation, extraction and, most importantly, exploitation, the media has truly created a monster which a sizable portion of our population believes is an objective, inherent hierarchy of desirability. We’ve been sold this idea that the only attractive woman is a thin, hourglass blonde woman who never ages or wrinkles or tires or talks back. In fact, you can find this ideal’s most enthusiastic consumers (men and women) in those dank, musty subreddits I’ve written about.

And this whole thing has reminded me of something.

A while back, Bronwen wrote a great piece called “Unicorns are Unicorns, Rhinos are Not” in which she reflected on this great cartoon about thinspiration:

Bronwen wrote:

Even assuming that a unicorn was real, there is no way to transform a rhinoceros into a unicorn (or taking the images we see of unicorns, there is no way to transform a rhinoceros into a sleek, petite, Arabian horse). It’s impossible. We aren’t talking about mechanical aliens that  just happen to transform into this planet’s vehicles. We are talking about real bodies in real life.

Bronwen is absolutely right and she’s absolutely wrong. She’s right that rhinos can’t simply or easily transform themselves into that ideal unicorn myth. But she’s dead wrong that unicorns aren’t real.

For those who don’t know, I’m a bit of a theology geek. I went through 12 years of Catholic school and was quite the apologist in my time, delving into deep religious traditions that inform current moral teachings and dogma. I’ve lapsed from the Vatican since then for many reasons (including the reprehensible moral stances the Church has taken on predatory priests, birth control, abortion, homosexuality and more), but I still cling to the underlying theological arguments that are the true backbone of my theism.

It was while tinkering around with some thought or another that I came across the quirky scriptural fact that in the King James Version of the Bible, there are quite a few references to unicorns. For example, in Numbers 24:8, we learn about the power of unicorns:

God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.

And among the many sarcastic/rhetorical questions posed in order to shred Job’s (justifiable) doubt, God asks, “Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?”

So, yeah, God made some unicorns and as we all know, if it’s in the Bible, then it’s 100% Grade A Certified Truth™.

Of course, when God’s talking about unicorns, They aren’t talking about sparkly, happy, shimmering, horny horses that nourish the dark souls of Voldemort and Lisa Frank.

Lisa Frank Unicorn

They’re talking about real unicorns — living, breathing, snorting, stamping unicorns — in the way intended by God:

Elasmotherium

This is an Elasmotherium, an extinct giant rhinoceros that roamed Eurasia up to 50,000 years ago. One of the three species of Elasmotherium was even as large as the mammoth. Unlike it’s evolutionarily-attuned cousins that occupy our zoos today, the Elasmotherium had long legs that allowed it to gallop like a horse. Although there’s no known footage of the Elasmotherium in action, I like to imagine it looked a little something like the horse in “What’s Opera, Doc?”

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esEuBNd_sfY%5D

Majestic, isn’t it?

You can read more about the Biblical origins of the majestic unicorn here, but for our purposes, it’s enough to note how far apart the fantasy and reality of unicorns have become.

If we were to revisit Bronwen’s post, we would have to rename it “Rhinos are Unicorns and Unicorns are Not.” And much like the public image makeover the unicorn has received over the centuries, the past century has seen a gradual revision of what a “real” woman looks like.

Let me be clear: in flesh and blood terms, there’s no such thing as a not “real woman.” All women are born real, regardless of the body she inherited. Even women who have modifications made to their bodies are real. They may not come with the factory parts, but that doesn’t make them unreal.

The only not real woman in existence are the ones we have been sold in the Photoshop Age, where hips and waists and wrinkles and rolls are smoothed and slightened and shifted around like Gumby. I mean, look at how many female celebrities have decried the use of Photoshop to alter their bodies. Hell, even Victoria’s Secret model Lily Aldridge said, “I honestly don’t like Photoshop. I think when people Photoshop things, all of a sudden you’re like, ‘That’s not even me anymore.’ It takes away the natural beauty of a person.”

Think about that for a minute: a woman born with the genetic endowment nearest the media’s ideal female body and who gets paid to maintain and share her body with the public (essentially reinforcing that ideal as real and achievable) is saying that even she doesn’t recognize her own body when they finish Photoshopping her.

This is the metaphorical unicorn being told she isn’t perfect enough for the ideal unicorn image. So how is this reality supposed to make actual grey-skinned, three-toed, beak-nosed unicorns feel? No doubt it sends many of them to run the treadmill while gazing longingly at the ideal unicorn they know they can be if they just work a little harder.

And if working harder doesn’t get you that ideal unicorn body, then there’s always surgery, right? What could go wrong under the steady hand of the dedicated cosmetic surgeon whose noble profession seeks to mold those hideous, unsightly unicorn wannabes into Rarity.

That's right, I'm droppin' My Little Pony references.

That’s right, I’m droppin’ My Little Pony references. (Note: Not a brony, I just have two daughters)

It’s both sad and amazing when you realize just how far people are willing to go to make reality match the ideal they have concocted out of whole cloth. But when you realize that the ideals to which we are taught to strive are nothing more than an elaborate fiction, it may help you realize just how beautiful that ordinary, grey reality really is.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2014 2:05 pm

    First of all, don’t die. It’s just a job. 😉

    Second of all, please reconsider having the Supervenus link embedded on the page. Nothing against images of nude women, but some of us do read at work, and it’s not exactly a work-safe image. Will YouTube allow just a plain old hyperlink with no picture actually displayed?

    Thanks. 🙂

    • September 17, 2014 9:57 pm

      ms_xeno,
      Sorry about that. Didn’t realize what the screencap was. I put an NSFW warning at the top. It won’t be long before they pull it for copyright anyway. 🙂

      Peace,
      Shannon

  2. September 12, 2014 2:29 pm

    I think it’s funny that the rhino image gets read as thinspiration…I have a shirt with that image and (to me) it represents the ridiculousness of abusing yourself to be something that you aren’t 🙂 I have seen it wandering the interwebz with “don’t give up” or somesuch attached to it….but I always raise an eyebrow when I come across that. I wonder what the artist intended to say with the image.

    • Happy Spider permalink
      September 12, 2014 11:27 pm

      Yeah, clearly the rhino will never look like the unicorn no matter how long she uses the treadmill, so why is the unicorn thinspiration for the rhinoceros? I like your idea that it is mockery of thinspiration.
      Maybe the thinspiration people think using the treadmill will cause the rhinoceros to molt and a unicorn will step out of the shredded sin of the rhinoceros. It’s the “Fantasy of Being Thin” run even more amok than usual. Not only will being thin make you desirable, rich, successful at your job, and solve all your personal issues, but it will sleeken your pelt, magicify your horn, and let you fart rainbows.

  3. Sophie permalink
    September 12, 2014 6:57 pm

    Hey thanks Atchka

    Thought provoking blog. The super venous film is confronting and powerful.

  4. Dizzyd permalink
    September 14, 2014 7:20 pm

    Let’s not forget oh so true. Honestly, there’s a term for this sad soul that’s been disassembled then reassembled in ways that would make IKEA blush. Ever heard of the ‘Stepford Wives’? I read the book (didn’t have a chance to see the movie – either version, although the original looked way creepier from what images I saw on Wikipedia). Anyways, the implication was that the real woman was killed off to make room for the fake idealized version: ‘one who never ages or wrinkles or tires or talks back’. Sad thing is that it’s not just men fighting to throw women in this cage, but women themselves who seem willing to walk right in and viciously force other women into the trap. Then again, at the end of the story, it wasn’t the men who finally caught the main character, it was her best friend…

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