What do you see when you look in the mirror? What do you hear? Whose voice is that? Where does it come from?
Every morning, sometime in my sequence after coffee and before I walk my dog, I look in the mirror. There’s a functional conversation that happens there (is there toothpaste on my face?), but I’d be lying if I omitted the emotional monologue that usually follows. Sometimes the thoughts are softer, subtle - a quiet evaluation of my body shape, size, and structure. Sometimes those thoughts are a little louder - a direct critique of the state of my weight (and self-worth). I’m aware that this relationship - the one I have with my mirror, my self, my body - is broken. Toxic even by some standards. I share this secret because I know I’m not alone.
When we take a look at the state of the women’s state - the metaphorical union women have with their bodies - the results can be disheartening. They reveal a world many of us know personally, but are disappointed to discover may be more universal than we’d like to believe. When polling women about body image, NEDA found that 70% of women report they don’t like their bodies (1), and that 89% of women have dieted by age 17 (2). Our friends at Dove have made similar, saddening discoveries - that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (3). Permission to sigh audibly.
But there’s hope. A recent study done by Refinery 29 revealed that 56% of women reported that seeing body diversity in media makes them feel better about themselves (4). Sister heroes at Dove have also studied the potential for change - showing that 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful (5). But this isn’t just about a feel good shift in marketing messages - this is a critically important, game-changing conversation about the power of diversity and inclusivity. The power representation has to shift women’s self image. Because what we see out there in the world, shapes how we see ourselves. And at Oiselle, we’ve got literal and metaphorical skin in that game.
So we wanted to focus a product and project on showing more - more bodies, more perspectives, more versions of badass female athletes. The Rogas - our bestselling shorts, available in 6 sizes and 3 lengths, was an obvious choice. Just as we used the Roga to redesign the shorts game, we want to use this project to redesign the games we play with our mirrors.
Introducing the R18 project. 18 women from our community in our bestselling short, sharing their world view on progress, female representation, and body positivity.
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs more compassion. Encourage others to embrace who they are and grow as they are." - Britney Henry
"Running has helped me build confidence in my physical ability. I’ve always been driven by academic and work achievements, but they came easily. Now I know my body is capable of some pretty impressive things if I show up and put in the work." - Elizabeth Nordquest
"Running has helped me break the habit of staying within my comfort zone. The notion that runners are a certain size, shape and speed." - Shirley Fung
"Running has helped me break the idea that my body is not good enough. I have lost about 60 pounds over the last two years and running has been a big part of that weight loss. I have had to shift my thinking from not liking my body to embracing it for everything it can give me. When I started running I could not go very far without stopping to walk, but the longer I kept trying the further I could go. I started to realize that my body was good enough to try so it was good enough to run. Now it is really cool to look back at my journey over the last two years and see how I have gotten faster and stronger. I can see that my body was good enough two years ago to try and it is good enough now to keep going." - Jenn Wilson
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs less... trying to define what a 'real woman' is. We're all real women." - Jess Barnard
"When I run I want to feel free, strong, confident. When I run, it's for no one but me. I get to feel the air in my lungs and test the limits of my body and mind. The rest of my life is dictated by gymnastics and school and playdates and deadlines. I'm filled with crazy anxiety and self-doubt. But when I run, that can all fall away and I can be whoever I want to be. I feel all of that strength and confidence that so often likes to hide away. I can quiet that voice that tries to tell me I'm not enough. For that run, I'm fierce. I'm a badass. I can do anything." - Tori Fjeldstad
"When I run, I want to feel real, and in tune with myself, I want to feel challenged. I want those feelings because feeling real and honest is my first step in bettering myself not only with my running, but also with being a human. Being in tune with my body allows me to feel challenged and push the limits, to show what I am capable of, push those limits." - Cassidy Inden
"When I run, I want to feel strong and confident. Running is where I practice believing in myself." - Sara Duam
"I’ve discovered that if I exalt one part of myself and diminish another, I create a separation that becomes a war inside me, and that’s the antithesis of yoga. Yoga is union, integration, wholeness. Until I accepted all these experiences, I was unable to achieve wholeness." - Nikki Myers
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs more compassion. Placing so much emphasis on women's adherence to beauty standards steals time and emotional energy that we need to be using to help one another grow. Feeling that compassion for others and especially ourselves, deciding that we are more than enough, is a long journey." - Rachel Leftwich
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs more inclusion. All ages, ethnicities, and sizes." - Mary Wiegand
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs more acceptance." - Sejin Maddaloni
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs less… of the assumption that ‘if I just looked like X, I’d be happy' - that should probably just get thrown out with other garbage." - Emily Barcelona
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs less shame/guilt surrounding how we nourish, dress and move our bodies." - Katy Johansson
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs more space. Especially safe space. Let women have space to explore themselves, and to decide what is best for their bodies. Space for inner work that needs quiet, and active work that needs motion and music and sweat. Space to reach into to ask for help, and space for helpers to reach into to give that help when asked for." - Rebecca Nelson
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs less obsession. The world is plastered with how things should look for body image, yet we are also obsessed with celebrating diversity. This should apply to body image as well." - Carrie Treusch
"To me, being strong is more than just a feeling, but a mindset- it's the power to keep going when you want to quit, it's getting back up after a fall, it's the courage to take on a new challenge without the fear of failure. To me, being strong can be different for different people, but in general, it’s a mindset of believing in yourself." - Kami Beckendorf
"When it comes to women and body image, the world needs less focus on perfection." - Tiffany Wilcox
R18 is a start, but we’re far from finished. We have work to do in the fight for inclusivity. Better racial, size, and age diversity. Diversity of beliefs and behaviors. Diversity of ability and able-ness. Diversity that starts conversations about the myth of normal, and the danger of normative. This is a race with no finish line.
At Oiselle, those are our favorite kinds of races. The ones where to go far, we must go together.
Head Up, Wings Out.
1. 70% of women don’t like their bodies - National Eating Disorder Association, 2016
2. 89% of girls have dieted by age 17- National Eating Disorder Association, 2016
3. Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004) - Dove, The Real Truth About Beauty Revisited, 2017
4. 56% of women said seeing body diversity in media makes them feel better about themselves - Refinery 29 Body Image Survey, 2016
5. 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but do not see their own beauty - Dove, The Real Truth About Beauty Revisited, 2017