Censorship, Playboy and Women’s Bodies in the Media

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Many of you may have noticed (and/or read) a post I wrote earlier this week about our daughters’ discovery of one of D’s Playboy magazines. The girls later snuck off with Daddy’s phone and took photos of themselves (both nude and clothed) imitating the Playboy models’ poses. Disturbing, to say the least.

Even more upsetting perhaps,was my husband asking me to delete the post and take it down. Which I did, because he felt strongly about it and there were a few sentences that embarrassed him. I apologized to him and am doing so publicly in this post because some of what I wrote was easily misinterpreted and I regret that. Regardless, I resented the censorship because I’m a writer. It’s what I do (yes I am saying it here and now so shutup and listen to me!). My life and things that happen to me at home and out in the world are what fuel me. While I’ll try to be more careful in the future, please understand that writers write from life experiences and this topic—is HUGELY important. More important than my husband, many men, and perhaps even other women realize. Even women themselves have become immune to it. It’s so common now we don’t even blink.

The bottom line(s):

  1. I don’t care that my husband gets Playboy magazine except that it makes me feel like shit about my own body (i.e. watch video below).
  2. The post I took down was NOT about my husband; it was about my daughters and how concerned I am about their premature awareness about these kinds of things—women’s bodies, what we’re supposed to do, look like, act like, smell like, etc.
  3. The post was about OUR DAUGHTERS. YOUR DAUGHTERS. YOUR NIECES. YOUR GRANDDAUGHTERS. YOUR COUSINS. YOUR GIRLFRIENDS AND THEIR DAUGHTERS. WOMEN AND GIRLS EVERYWHERE.
  4. My new twitter friend, Julia Munroe Martin (@Wordsxo), is the one who told me about this video series, Killing Us Softly, which I watched yesterday for the very first time. And I cried. For me, my daughters, and for women all over the world. Because this video is exactly what I’m worried about, the point I was trying to make in my previous post. And if you don’t watch it you’ll miss the whole thing and go on about your life completely clueless. So sit your ass down for 20 minutes (yes, it is 20 minutes long, but worth every damn second) and WATCH IT. Really listen and pay attention. I promise you will come away from this with a lot of feelings and I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
  5. Censorship sucks. I will be more careful from now on and warn my husband before something is published, but this is my blog, my space, and my writing. It’s mine. No one can take it away from me. I will never again take down or delete a post.

Now go watch this.

 

Video on YouTube by Jean Kilbourne. **There are several videos in the series, but this is the only one I’ve had time to watch so far, thanks to a Twitter friend, @Wordsxo.** Please go onto YouTube and search “Killing Us Softly” and you’ll find the other videos in the series. You can find Jean Kilbourne on Facebook HERE.

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  • Julia Munroe Martin

    You are my new hero. As a writer, as a woman, as a mom. Very inspirational. 

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Julia,

      No, YOU are mine for introducing me to this! Thank you so much.

  • Frelle

    thank you for writing and publishing this. for what you pour out onto the page, and for owning it proudly. 

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Frelle,

      Thank you for taking the time to read, to respond, and to constantly be so supportive of me. And you were a wonderful Blissdom roommate. I hope I didn’t bug the shit out of you. ps sorry this reply is so late. As you know, life + Blissdom got in the way.

      pps I WILL CALL U TODAY!

  • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com LeeBlock

    I haven’t watched yet, but I will.  But, I remember when my husband asked me to remove posts about him and I did and I was so pissed off. Censoring my own space by him. It bred resentment, especially when it was the truth and it was once again about how it reflected on him and not on the bigger picture, on how it could impact other peoples lives by sharing.  What is wrong with them? I loved that post.  Now I am going to watch. Oh, and I love you.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Lee,

      I love you too. And I remember that w/ G. Did you watch? for real? if so, wanna know what you think.

      • http://www.postdivorcechronicles.com LeeBlock

         I watched and thought it was amazing and interesting and oh so true!

  • http://www.fromtracie.com From Tracie

    I was a little confused yesterday when you mentioned taking down a post on facebook, but now it is all making sense. This is a super important conversation to have, so I’m glad you are still addressing it even after taking down the previous post.

    This video spoke to me (and I watched the second part – another 20 minutes, but well worth the time). When you just occasionally see one of these ads, you don’t realize the full import, but when you look at twenty and thirty of them in a row, it becomes very clear. 

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Tracie,

      Thank you SO MUCH for reading, commenting, and sharing this. It means a great deal to me. It’s still on my mind 2+ weeks later (so sorry for the late reply, life + Blissdom got in the way)….I have lots brewing to follow up on this….

  • Megan

    Blunt and powerful. I feel so lucky to have the gift of high self esteem and confidence and pray that I can pass that on to my daughter. I came to a screeching halt one morning when she stopped me from walking out the door and told me I didn’t look pretty yet. I asked her what she meant and she said I needed some lipstick and make-up. She is 3. Yikes. My husband tells me often how beautiful my body is. I’m a size 10 with lots of curves. I do fondly think back to the days I was a 4 or 6 (pre-kids) but don’t strive to attain that. Thanks Erin for your frankness and opening this dialogue!

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Megan,

      My daughters are the opposite, sort of. Most days I’m in sweats/t-shirts w/ spit up/etc. and so when we actually go OUT to do something (i.e. date night), I put on real clothes, brush my hair, and put on a tad of makeup + accessories. Then my girls start ooooohing and aaaaahhhhing over me, how “pretty” I look. Which is nice in a way, but I’d like to think being at home and being a mom, even in all my spit up glory, can still be a kind of beauty all its own.

  • http://twitter.com/dutchbeingme Julie

    The comment that she makes in the middle of the video – “Ads sell more than products, they sell values, they sell images, they sell concepts of love and sexuality, of success, and perhaps most important, of normalcy.” – really strikes me as absolutely true. 

    It is what I have looked at for decades seeing that my life isn’t normal because I don’t have a guy in my life. My life isn’t right because I’m not dressing the right way. My life isn’t what it’s supposed to be because of what I see on television and magazine ads. 

    We don’t think about it much, but the fact that your daughters took the pictures may have been the result of seeing the PlayBoy magazines a couple of times – but the images they see in countless other magazines, television, movies and just around them as they live their lives have probably formed over their entire lives so far. 

    This video is amazing – and I hope that many more can see it – and bring to light how awful women are portrayed… and maybe somehow, slowly but surely, bring a new “normal” into our lives. 

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Julie,

      You are spot on—it’s not just the Playboy they have seen. Countless other ads/commercials/magazines lying around here….so it’s my fault, too. I’m buying into it as well every time I buy myself a People magazine as a reward in the grocery checkout line. What the HELL kind of reward is that, anyway?!?!

  • Polly (aka The 5th Sister)

    Sweetie…you know I love you to pieces. It took guts and honesty to write this and the prior post. With that said I feel the pain in your words “I don’t care that my husband gets Playboy magazine except that it makes me feel like shit about my own body”. I strongly encourage D. to watch the video as well if he thinks subscribing to Playboy is harmless. That video was powerful indeed. I think I shall have my daughter watch it. Take care dear friend and hugs to you.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Polly,

      I don’t know if he ever watched the video, but I really really want him to. I am going to ask him tonight. Thank you. I think it will make him see. Maybe. Just a little bit, even, would help.

  • http://www.misselaineouslife.com Elaine A.

    I’m kinda sorry he made you take it down but then I also understand, you know? 

    I’ve seen that video before. It is both extremely disturbing and powerful.  We humans sure are an effed up bunch aren’t we.  I SO WISH some big company would start a “real beauty” campaign.  And when I say “real” I mean FRIGGIN’ REAL!!! 

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Elaine,

      Maybe it’s up to us? The “FRIGGIN’ REAL” part, I mean. Hmmmm. you now have me dreaming about a new blog series.

  • http://www.literalmom.com/ Missy | Literal Mom

    This video kind of reminds me of the Miss Representation video.  Well written, Erin.  

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Thank you, Missy! I’m afraid to admit that I am clueless about this video you speak of, so I shall Google it. Thanks for your email and I can’t wait for your guest post! ;-)
      Hope your Monday is off to a great start!

  • Kimberly All Work No Play

    I think that you did what was right for your family. We definitely shouldn’t censor ourselves but at the same time we have to remember who we are writing about. We can write for the masses…and you do it so well. I refuse to censor myself but it’s a fine line sometimes.
    That video is disgusting.
    I have had body images issues all of my life…striving to be perfect…and perfect is a computer.ugh. What is wrong with society.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Kimberly,

      I, too, have battled body image issues my entire life. Which is why this video STILL hasn’t left my mind. In fact, I think I’m going to watch it again today because I have a follow up post brewing in my head.

  • Anonymous

    UGH ok see now I am ticked that hubby was upset by it. I get it but at the same time IF he feels bad because HE gets Playboy that is ON HIM. My question is if he has guilt about it already why get it?? I agree totally with the video  and it is powerful. I am so glad that yeah my boys do the drooling over the fake women in ads but when push comes to shove the 2 oldest ones prefer REAL with curves women. 

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Angel,

      Yes, dear. My sentiments exactly. I am so relieved to hear about your older sons! We need to drive this home with the younger generation!

  • http://twitter.com/DaddyRunsALot Some call me John

    I’m making a note to take a look at the video series . . . as a guy, and as the father or a girl, I’m really, really hoping that I can get across “good body image.”

    I know there have been moments where I wasn’t exactly seen as flattering in a picture of me online . . . usually, it’s when the kids are doing something especially cute, and I’m there with my flabby belly all about.  Somehow, I’ve gotten over that, but I know there was hurt when I asked my wife to take down a picture because of something.

    About porn, though (we can try to call Playboy something other than porn, but that’s, basically, what it is) . . . the fact that I look at it is, perhaps, the worst kept secret online . . . but, then again, it’s not something that I hide.  That his looking at it makes you have poor body image, though, isn’t something healthy, though . . . of course, I don’t have any real advice here, except to try to turn this whole ordeal into a teaching moment for everyone in your house . . . but that’s easy for me to say from a digital roadmap away.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      John,

      Please let me know what you thought of the video if you had a chance to watch. How old is your daughter? I’m so happy that you stopped by to read and leave me your thoughts, especially as a guy. Thank you!

  • Juliecgardner

    I watched this entire clip and now I want to see the rest…

    One of the parts that most resonated with me (due to its implications) is the truth about women’s sizes being 0 and 00…while men strive to be bigger, taller, stronger.

    I will also say that I was saddened by a moment on American Idol during the auditions process (yes, I’m a wannabe singer and watch the show). One young woman (probably 18?) came on with a baby-doll dress and behavior to match; she bounced and giggled and practically sucked her thumb to be adorable before she sang. She was like human bubble gum, no lie.

    I thought something along the lines of “Wow. Good voice, but this girl is playing the part of someone who is weak and stupid and silly.” She was fluff.

    That’s when Jennifer Lopez (not the men, J-Lo) said something along the lines of, “I love it. I love your look, your attitude, the whole package. You’ve got it all.”

    Doh.

    For real? The girl was acting like cotton candy.
    And that’s what the FEMALE judge wanted to embrace.

    The message is clear. Insidious. And being spread by women, too…

    Thanks for this, Erin.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Julie,

      Yes, yes, and more YES.
      We are the perpetrators as well.
      But it angers me how men are encouraged to be bigger, taller, stronger, more. And who cares if they are balding or have beer bellies, etc? No one. because everyone is so focused on THESE images in this video clip. Le sigh.

      Love you. Thank you for reading/watching/supporting.
      xoxo

  • Anonymous

    I just read your guest post over on “things I can’t say” and decided to check you out and read some of your other posts and here I am. 
    Thank you! I have a (almost) 13 year old daughter who I am trying so hard to get to understand what a “real” woman looks like. I have always had a problem with my “body image” even when I was a size 4. Now, 40 something and 4 kids later I am really struggling with it. I am trying very hard not to show my “true” feelings about myself when my daughter is around and when she makes comments about her body I am right on it reinforcing positive things so hopefully she can have high self-esteem. I am planning on watching this video with her tomorrow.
    Thank you again for talking about this, it is not spoke of enough. 

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Shaneylou,

      I have 3 daughters and none of them is close to 13 yet, which is why I wrote this and why I’m so nervous about those upcoming years. I struggle a great deal with my own body image and while I am working on it, I don’t know how to make sure I teach them how to feel good about their own bodies. It’s a constant inner battle of mine. I hope you have watched the video by now, I apologize for my delayed response but I was out of town at the Blissdom Conference. If you did watch with her, I’d love to know what both of you thought?

  • Nancy Herman

    Your husband should apologize to you and your daughters, not the other way around. What do the two of you expect your daughters to think and do when they see that their father enjoys these pictures and that their mother “feels like shit” but shrugs her shoulders? If you are concerned that magazines such as these are degrading to women and girls, why on earth are you allowing them in your home? Just put your foot down.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Nancy,

      You are right. About this and so many other things. I need to practice being more assertive. If you don’t know me very well, you don’t know that this is a huge step for me—not only to have written about this, but to admit how the magazines make me feel. So at least it’s forward movement in the right direction. I get stuck trying to choose my battles. Part of me says it’s just a magazine (and since this writing, the magazines have been hidden from the children) and freedom of speech, yadda yadda….and there are other things he does that I don’t like and feel even MORE strongly about (like car racing). So where do I draw the line? At a magazine he likes to get, or a hobby where he’s putting his life in danger? Oy.

  • http://www.randomshelly.com/blog/ Shelly

    There are quite a few posts that I should probably take down… but I won’t.  I went through this same fight with my husband and I just agreed to not use their names in posts…  and since my mother in law reads my blog – I try not to touch certain topics – but if I feel like writing something I do… they will just have to live with it…  so I’m glad you are taking the stand…  I read your original post (since it was in the reader or email) – I don’t think it was bad at all – just saying! :)

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Shelly,

      There was only a teensy part in the original post he was upset about. Still, I’m glad you had a chance to read it. I do not use husband’s name, he is just “D,” and perhaps I should also shorten my kids’ names…but clearly there are lots of other topics I can’t touch, either. Which can be really frustrating at times. But yes—sometimes, as you say, “They will just have to live with it.” AMEN!

  • Cecilia (Only You)

    I’d been away from blogs/blogging for a long time, and finally found my way to your blog (we’re fellow twitter followers and I think we ‘met’ through Alexandra). Wow – I wish I’d found you sooner. Your writing is so powerful. I too am sorry that you had to take down the post about the Playboy incident, and can understand/feel the conflict you have over it. I’m hoping this starts a conversation with your husband about what role he will play in developing the self esteem of your daughters, and in maintaining yours. I feel bad that those magazines make you feel bad about your body. I wonder if you would bring anything into the house that would make any of your family feel bad? Anyway, I know this is complicated.

    Thank you for writing about this topic. Can’t believe that at 40-something I still needed to see that video. Wish it was around when I was 11, as a skinny and short Asian girl who just did not see ANYONE like me in any kind of media whatsoever. I grew up not only wishing I was beautiful but wishing I was white.

    I read through a couple of your other posts below and can’t wait to read the rest when I get a chance.

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Cecilia,

      I am so grateful that you found your way here. Isn’t Alexandra/Empress @GDRPempress:disqus 
       wonderful?!!?
       I am still processing a lot of this and there are many more conversations to be had at our house. I am in the middle place, trying to figure out where to go next.
      I want to do a follow up to this—I started tearing out tons of pics from magazines I had lying around…but just haven’t done anything yet with/about them.
      Thank you again for reading and letting me know you were here!

  • http://twitter.com/CompilationTape Meghan

    I show this video in my Sociology class in my unit on Gender, and my students are always appalled.  I am so glad to have met you and found your blog – can’t wait to continue reading along!

    • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

      Meghan,

      Thank you for stopping by to comment. I’m thrilled to hear this video is making the rounds all over the place. It’s so important.

  • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

    Elizabeth,

    Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I am following you on Twitter now and am anxious to learn more about this A to Z challenge?

    I’d also love to hear what your family thought of this video if you’ve yet had the time to share it with them…..

    Thanks again!

  • http://6512andgrowing.wordpress.com/ Rachel

    Grrrrr. That’s my response to this video. I have a daughter. I want more than anything for her to grow up loving herself, loving her body. It’s an uphill fight, I know that. 
    We don’t have TV and the only magazines we get are literary. Hoping that helps. Thanks for sharing and raising this topic.

  • http://thedudedean.com/ TheDudeDean

    Erin, make sure that your hubby watches this video from Chris Rock:

  • The Vision

    I strongly encourage you to loudly and stridently express as much anger and disgust as possible TO YOUR DAUGHTERS about taking nude photographs. When they become teenagers, they will then know precisely how to rebel against you, by doing what makes you angriest.