Picture this: You walk up to a magazine rack at your favorite bookstore and you’re confronted with numerous self-improvement suggestions: “10 Easy Ways to Lose Weight” … “Exercises to Get a Bikini Body” … “Fashion Tips to Look More Like [Someone Else] … OK, you’ve been here before. You know exactly what this looks like.
Now imagine that instead of walking away frustrated, you reach into your Super Activist Bag and pull out a new, empowering cover — it rereads: “BEAUTIFUL just the way you are.”
You slip it in front of one of the make-over-you magazines and walk away, satisfied for having spread a new message.
This newly launched “art action” is more than a good story. It’s the brainchild of Massachusetts artist Lillian Hsu, who created the website www.bjtwya.com to protest the objectification of girls and women — and to do something about it.
Hsu encourages placing one of the BJTWYA posters “over every stack of magazines that uses the female body to sell something — to sell the magazine, or to sell an article, or to sell a product, or to sell a lifestyle, or to sell a promise, or to sell the idea that you need to match your body to the picture. You decide which covers qualify. You place a poster over them. Then you walk away. That’s it.”
All you need to participate is a supply of posters, which you can get by emailing “bjtwya AT yahoo DOT com” with your name, mailing address, contact information, and number of posters needed. The posters are printed on 8.5×11″ paper, heavy enough to stand up on a magazine rack.
If you have a color printer or can’t wait for delivery, print your own copies of the poster (PDF).
Either way, be sure to visit bjtwya.com to learn more about how Hsu came up with the art action. You’ll also find links to organizations and activists that address media and body image issues. And if you’re anywhere near Gloucester, Mass., an exhibition related to Beautiful Just The Way You Are is at the Jane Deering Gallery through Aug. 3. The opening reception is this Thursday, July 9, 6-8 p.m.
Here’s an excerpt from Hsu’s smartly worded and compelling statement:
The magazine rack is only one of many locations where we are taught the lessons of our culture, but it is one that is ubiquitous throughout our towns and cities and reaches every stratum of the population. At the magazine rack words and pictures work together seamlessly, like a good children’s book, to teach and tell a story of who we are. The covers shout their messages with surprising confidence that we will know these commands are for us. Before we are ten, and then without pause throughout our lives, we internalize the lesson that our bodies are how we will be first judged as individuals, and that there is a body type that we must attain to be judged worthy of attention. We learn that the female body can be used to sell anything — tangible or intangible — to women, men, and children. The use of a motorcycle, a deodorant, a vacation, a necktie, or a beverage implies ownership of the woman’s body pasted into the advertisement. Although all humans are born with beauty and power, our early unquestioned self is quickly corrupted. We adopt an anxiety in navigating a path towards a culturally dictated state of beauty and power.
BEAUTIFUL Just The Way You Are seeks to intervene in the space between all who stand before the magazine rack and the engine of advertising and mass culture. In that space of daily life it places an alternative.