Are You “Beautiful?”

New York City PSA for girls aged 10 to 12. Source: rehabs.com.

New York City PSA for girls aged 10 to 12. Source: rehabs.com.

I’ve grown up in the United States, but my family is German. While German and American beauty standards for women are relatively similar, I’ve definitely noticed some differences by spending time in both countries.

American female beauty standards have evolved greatly since the early 20th century. Between 1900 and 1910, the “Gibson Girl” was considered most beautiful. She was slender and tall, but had a full bust and hips. In the 1920s, the flapper look was all the rage. Flappers were thin and boyish. This ideal led American women to diet. Between 1930 and 1950, strong shoulders were popular, and the skinny flapper look was abandoned. In the 1950s, the voluptuous hourglass figure was in style as well as flawless skin. In the 1960s, the thin and androgynous woman was back in style. This trend continued into the 1970s, and diet pills became popular. Long hair and minimal makeup were on trend. In the 1980s, fit, tall supermodel-types were ideal. In the 1990s, both the heroin chic and Baywatch looks were in style. It was trendy to be thin, and this still rings true today.

Less information is available about the evolution of German beauty standards. On Cosmopolitan magazine’s German website, a Buzzfeed article about American beauty standards throughout time is cited to describe Germany’s standards as well. This leads me to think the same body types were popular in both countries.

So what about today? Here are some similarities and differences between the US and Germany that I, as well as other bloggers, have noticed.

Similarities:

  • Both countries are starting to shy away from the super-skinny unhealthy look, but ultra-thin models still rule the runway.
  • The evolution of the ideal look seems to have been similar in both countries.

Differences:

  • Very minimal makeup is considered beautiful in Germany.
  • Plastic surgery is less common in Germany.
  • I have personally noticed that being tall is valued more in Germany than the US.

Rates of anorexia and bulimia are increasing globally. One study found that 81% of 10-year-old girls fear being fat, and 50 to 70% of girls who are of normal weight perceive themselves as being overweight. This is being fought in both Germany and the US. One of the most prevalent German magazines, Brigitte, made the switch to featuring everyday women instead of models in 2010. Teachers, students and saleswomen grace the magazine’s pages. In the US, Dove embarked on their Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004. They feature everyday women in their campaigns, not models. New York City has done its part by creating a series of PSAs for girls aged 7 to 12, captioned “I’m Beautiful As I Am.” The National Eating Disorder Association now orchestrates national Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It definitely looks like both the US and Germany are headed in the right direction.

Studying Journalism in the US vs in Germany

Visiting the MDR TV station Source: Maria Koehler

Visiting the MDR TV station Source: Maria Koehler

The path to a journalism degree seems obvious: choose a college, declare journalism as your major, graduate, accept a job in the field. Simple. I always figured this process was consistent around world. When I studied abroad in Leipzig, Germany last summer, I learned that this is definitely not the case.

In Germany, journalism is usually studied in graduate school – at least as of last summer. We visited with students and professors at the University of Leipzig’s journalism school, and learned that a prime potential German journalism student spends her undergraduate years specializing in a different topic. In other words, a journalism degree is more like the icing on the cake, as opposed to the cake itself like at the Missouri School of Journalism. Obviously, it’s possible to study journalism exclusively in graduate school in the US as well, but it’s not necessarily the most common path.

We spent some time discussing the two different approaches, and I think there are several pros and cons to each.

The American System

Pros:

  • If a journalism major decides to go to graduate school for journalism as well, they have quite a few years of studying journalism under their belt.
  • It’s possible and common to be a journalist without having to go to graduate school.

Cons:

  • Students aren’t as likely to be an expert in another topic as well, unless they double major or study something different at graduate school.

The German System

Pros:

  • Students are an expert in the topic they have their bachelor’s degree in, so they are prime candidates for certain jobs or stories that involve these.
  • The masters program is three years long, unlike the one additional year it takes MU students to get their masters in journalism, so students are (arguably) more mature once they enter the workplace.

Cons:

  • If they end up in a career where they report about a wide range of topics, their undergraduate degree has (arguably) gone to waste.

Learning about journalism in Germany definitely opened my eyes to a different approach. The Missouri School of Journalism is known for throwing students right in to the newsroom and watching them either sink or swim. This is effective, but could also go horribly wrong. From what I understand, the German approach is almost opposite – less risky, but could also be discouraging for students who are set on being in a newsroom straight out of high school.

 

The Fat Acceptance Movement: Empowering or Harmful?

Source: Lars Aronsson

Source: Lars Aronsson

Group post by: Carolin Lehmann, Lauren Imbierowicz, Olivia Peterkin and Sarah Bechtold

The Fat Acceptance movement, is a social movement that addresses anti-fat bias and promotes body positivity at all sizes. The pillars of this movement are acceptance, self-love, and the embracing of all body types. In the past few years there have been conflicting views on this movement, largely because, while some see it as a progressive, emotionally and mentally healthy movement, others see it as a sort of support system for the unhealthy that promotes positive feedback for poor eating habits and a lack of exercise.

On April 22,2014, Carolyn Hall, a writer for the online blog forum Thought Catalog, posted an article titled “6 Things That I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement.” In the article, she brings up six key faults she finds in the trend and goes into detail as to why they are bad. For example, she addresses her views on body positivity for obese toddlers and children: “There is reason that people get so upset at seeing obese children, and it’s because it’s condemning them to a life of health problems that they are not choosing themselves.” Hall’s piece set the blogosphere aflame with articles in response to hers. Having taken the stance of opposition toward the increasingly popular movement, Hall emphasizes the need for a reevaluation of the movement by saying, “being positive about the way you look is not enough, you also have to be positive (and proactive) about your health and well-being… there is nothing more negative than treating your body with disregard.”

Staff Writer Abigail Fisher, of The Maneater, wrote a response to Carolyn Hall’s 6 Things I don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement.  In her column, The importance of accepting fat acceptance, she revisits Hall’s six points and explains why she thinks Hall has a complete misunderstanding of the Fat Acceptance Movement.  Hall’s article brings up keys points of the movement to start conversations to gain a better understanding of the movement.  Fisher does not state in her response what exactly the importance of the Fat Acceptance Movement is. She also does not present any data or credible evidence in her responses to Hall’s list.  She twists around Hall’s lack of understanding and makes the claim that Hall is shaming people just to fit her personal idea of the Fat Acceptance Movement.

The Fat Acceptance Movement is a topic of much debate on the international stage as well. In A big fat fight: the case for fat activism by Jennifer Lee, of Victoria University, she discusses stereotypes and misconceptions in a constructive manner that’s aimed to educate the public about fat acceptance and fat activism. Lee supports the Fat Acceptance Movement by shedding light on several of the common issues that are a part of the movement. The common issues that are emphasized by the movement are the influence of the media, medical conditions, fitness, and differing standards of beauty. Lee references the book Health at Every Size throughout the article, which “proposes size acceptance as opposed to weight loss.”  She uses the book’s research, which shows that people who learn to value their bodies first will make better choices in living a healthier lifestyle and increase their ability to take of themselves. Lee’s article encourages people to think about how weight and fitness play a part in what it really means to be “healthy.”

Jane Pratt gives an opposing response to Carolyn Hall’s original blog post over disagreeing with factors involved in the fat acceptance movement in her piece, I’ve Only Got 1 Thing to Say to Folks Who Don’t Understand Fat Acceptance. Because Pratt believes that Hall’s post comes off as uneducated and uninvolved in the understanding of the fat acceptance movement, Pratt seeks to point out each of the ways she disagrees with some of the information listed in Hall’s post. While Hall’s post simply addresses key issues involved with the fat acceptance movement, Pratt twists this scenario into Hall attacking “fat” people. While information on the movement exists that Hall seems to not be familiar with, there may also be health related issues that Pratt could become a bit more aware of, or at least address in her post.

In addition to Hall’s controversial post that has provoked others to respond, Jes Baker joins the conversation with her post on 6 Things I Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement. Unlike Pratt’s post, Baker sets out to answer and in some cases disprove Hall’s 6 misunderstandings with factual information concerning factors such as discrimination, fat shaming and stigmatization, health related issues, food addiction, and diet culture. Baker goes on to explain how bodies can be healthy or unhealthy at different sizes, and can also do so at the same body sizes, and that the movement is to help bring recognition to that fact. Baker just about hammers her point home when she says, “what humans do with their life and body rests solely on their decisions and our culture needs to stop assuming that we are entitled to commentary.”

After sparking debate with several other writers, Hall defends her original post in the response post 8 Things I Learned From Writing An Article Critical of Fat Acceptance. In response to opposing articles and posts, Hall not only reiterates some of her original arguments, but also continues on to argue some of the points brought up by those opposing posts. Some of her arguments included the lack of anorexic acceptance, as well as personal, social, and emotional issues seemingly circling around obesity. Even with Hall’s lack of cited facts and inclusion of some possible misinformation, Hall admits that she is proud of the heated discussion that sparked amongst her readers.

While it is clear that not everyone will agree on the topic of the Fat Acceptance Movement, a valuable conversation has begun – even on an international level. The discussion came full circle when Hall addressed the lessons she learned in 8 Things I Learned From Writing An Article Critical of Fat Acceptance. Bloggers continue to hold the important role of conversation starters, and Hall’s original post is a prime example of this.

 

Hofbräuhaus: Food for Thought

My German study abroad experience ended with a bang at the Hofbräuhaus restaurant in Berlin. Six of us had made the journey from Columbia, Missouri to Germany, and after six action-packed weeks of learning and exploring, we wanted some traditional German food and beer for our final night together. The Hofbräuhaus, a brewery chain stemming from Munich, seemed like the perfect place to have one last dinner with the professor who had accompanied us on the trip. Little did I know, our experience could have been replicated back home in the U.S.

The Mizzou Crew at the Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Credit: Rachel Wittel

The Mizzou Crew at the Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Credit: Rachel Wittel

Our joy-filled final night at the Hofbräuhaus began with a delicious traditional meal. We all ordered the “Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel” (pork knuckle and potato dumplings) and a “Maβ” (liter of beer). We were served by women wearing “Dirndl” (a traditional German dress) and sat at long wooden tables.

Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel

Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel

Imagine my surprise when I see the Hofbräuhaus while walking down the street in New York City last week. Yes, there are Hofbräuhaus restaurants in the U.S. as well. Yes, our supposedly “special” last night in Germany wasn’t that special after all.

Hofbräuhaus NYC

Hofbräuhaus NYC

In 1589, the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V.’s, household decided that the beer brewed in Munich just wasn’t good enough. He recruited a master brewer to come up with a new formula and the Hofbräuhaus was eventually born. Yes, you read that right. The chain restaurant we enjoyed a Maβ at stems back to the 1500s.

Today there are Hofbräuhaus restaurants around the world, from Shanghai to Las Vegas. Where did the fascination begin? The atmosphere the restaurant provides doesn’t reflect modern Germany. It doesn’t even reflect modern Bavaria. It’s a journey back in time, specifically to southern Germany. It’s interesting that such a specific time and place in history continues to be romanticized, and not just in Germany, but around the world.

The German chain restaurant that has made it big around the world doesn’t simply offer German food – it offers the German “experience.” Dirndls, traditional music, the works. Anyone can go out and buy a piece of pizza without being slapped in the face with Italian history. Why isn’t it the same for German food? I may not have the answer, but it’s definitely food for thought.