What is Beauty? Part 3: Barbs for Barbie or Me?


This blog post is part of a three part series on the topic “What is Beauty?”. This series started in Part 1 where I was invited to speak to a 5th grade class on the topic of beauty. In Part 2 I reflect on the experience of working with this class, and the reactions the children had to my experiences in wearing my fat suit. Finally, in Part 3 I will discuss my trip to a national talk show on television under cover as a larger bodied person.

As a child of the sixties, one of my favorite pastimes was playing with Barbie dolls. I have a vivid memory of the excitement that I felt on my ninth birthday when I received the majestic blue velvet Lady Guinevere gown, spectacularly laced with gold trim. It cost an exorbitant $5.00, surpassing the cost of most of my own dresses. Immediately, it became one of my most prized possessions. If you had asked me then how I would feel about meeting a real life Barbie, my enthusiasm would have been boundless. However, years later, as a psychologist and activist for people in larger bodies, my sentiments toward Barbie changed. I came to see her as a representation of a body image so unrealistic that the likelihood of attaining her dimensions was akin to being born with high-heeled feet. Continue reading “What is Beauty? Part 3: Barbs for Barbie or Me?”


What is Beauty? Part 2: Reflections From Fifth Graders

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about my presentation to a fifth grade class in West Hartford, Connecticut who were assigned the task of exploring the topic, “What is Beauty?” The project stemmed from the International Baccalaureate Organization, established in 2013, to develop internationally minded people who will help to create a better and more peaceful world. To this end, children are taught multiple attributes that include critical thinking, inquiry based on research, appreciation for the perspective, values and traditions of others, cultivation of empathy, compassion and respect, social justice, integrity and honesty. Continue reading “What is Beauty? Part 2: Reflections From Fifth Graders”


What Is Beauty? Part 1: Challenging “Fattitudes”

As a clinical psychologist who has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders and body image issues for many years, I was happy to hear that the Miss America pageant recently made the decision to drop the swimsuit competition. The “party line” was that the judges; change of heart was because they deemed it more important to judge contestants on “what make you you” rather than on appearance. However, the real trigger was an email scandal last December in which officials demeaned winners’ appearance, intelligence and sex lives.

So when I was asked recently to speak to a fifth grade class in West Hartford, Connecticut on the topic, “What is beauty?”, I jumped at the chance. The students composed a list of questions that their teacher sent me beforehand and I was impressed with their thoughtfulness. Continue reading “What Is Beauty? Part 1: Challenging “Fattitudes””