This month's blog post is a Q&A with author August McLaughlin, as part of a blog tour for her book, Embraceable. August McLaughlin is an award-winning, nationally recognized health and sexuality writer and host and creator of Girl Boner®. August is a public speaker, radio host, and journalist who uses her artistry to inspire other women to embrace their bodies and selves, making way for fuller, more authentic lives.
The new book, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True
Stories About Women’s Sexuality, is a celebration of women’s sensuality, and deals with body image, among other diverse topics. August and I hit it off right away, since I grew up with serious body image issues—my mom's constant fight with weight affected my own budding self image, then I went into acting and got dangerously "brainwashed" into body dysmorphia by the "industry" before becoming a happy, healthy, curvy writer-editor. By the way, Body dysmorphia means you can't stop thinking about a minor (or imagined)
flaw in your appearance.
I admire August's activism, enthusiasm, and passion, so I invited her to JennyRedbug to chat a bit. Here are my questions and her answers:
1. The contributors to your new book, "Embraceable" are all ages, and I'll bet that they are every size and shape, too. Why are we so eager to limit the "acceptable size" that women should be?
The pressure on women to appear a certain way is an age-old problem, fueled by the sexism that's engrained in our culture—women being perceived as subservient trophies, versus capable equals —and perpetuated by big business. The diet, fashion, and entertainment industries are some of the largest and most influential in the world. Sadly, too many companies profit from women's insecurities.
I’m really grateful for the body-positive movement that’s happening, but there’s a long way to go. We need to see more people of all ages, shapes, sizes and races in fashion and film, for example.
2. I know you have a history of dealing with body-image issues and body dysmorphia, in yourself and others...Do you still find yourself struggling with society's idea of what you should be/wear/look like?
I was very dysmorphic from very early on, around age five, well into my twenties. One major benefit of moving fully past a severe eating disorder, and all the hard work it required, is that I no longer place excess value on aesthetics—my own or others'. (Eating disorders typically aren’t about weight or looks, at their root, but they end up shifting your values in hugely damaging ways.) I wish more women reached the emotional place such recovery provides, without the hellishness of the illness.
While I'd say the body image struggles are behind me, I still have occasional moments of self-criticism. When they arise, I remind myself that accepting myself as I am—“flaws” and all—sends a positive message to others. The world needs every good example. I look to women I admire, who don’t prize looks, for inspiration. Then I intentionally focus elsewhere, on what matters.
3. You love the word "authenticity"...what does that word mean to you, as far as women and their bodies?
Authenticity from a body image perspective means not attempting to fulfill someone else’s idea of what you should look like. It means loving, respecting, and accepting your body as it is, rather than fighting it—even (or especially) when doing so is hard.
4. I struggled so long with learning to love my (curvy) body, as an actress and performer. I wish I'd known then how good it feels to live in a body you're not trying to change/hide/erase. What do you wish you could tell your teenage self about her body?
I’d tell her that she’s wrong about her body, more than her body, and that she's 100-percent lovable and embraceable—no changes required. And because I know she’d roll her eyes and tune me out (ha), I’d also tell her that the road ahead isn’t going to be easy, but she’s going to make it through. Oh, and diet pills? Not a good idea.
5. What have you heard from readers of "Embraceable" about the chapters where you describe your struggles with anorexia? I would think that young women would respond to reading about that.
I’m just beginning to hear from readers, which has been moving. Women who’ve written me about my struggles with anorexia have been of a range of ages. I think it’s a struggle many can relate to on some level. Anorexia encompasses near universal issues: feeling unworthy, fighting yourself and your body, feeling broken and alone, food and weight challenges, addiction.
6. What would you like to say to young people, who are learning from the media, their peers—and perhaps their parents—to judge others by how they look?
Don’t listen. Live with curiosity and passion and wonder. Seek and pursue ventures that bring you joy and a sense of purpose. Cultivate your talents and surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, not your jeans' size. Spend time in nature. Remind yourself that you’re an extraordinary being who can choose to put her energy into bettering herself and the world.
Read more about August's new book on her site; you may purchase a copy of Embraceable at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.com