Call for Focus Group Participants- Relationship Communication in the Digital Age

Are you currently involved in a romantic relationship, but not married?

Have you been involved in a romantic relationship in the last three years?

Do you self identify as an active member of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, etc?

If yes, then please think about participating in a research focus group designed to better understand how partners in romantic relationships make privacy decisions about social networking sites and text messaging.

For example, do you let your partner access your phone? Why or why not? Do you allow your partner to log on to your social networking sites? Do you ever talk about what is allowed or not allowed via Facebook or texting?

If you are interested in participating in a focus group at Queens University in Charlotte to discuss how communication in the digital age presents new challenges for romantic relationships, please contact me at

Food and refreshments will be provided- so come hungry!

Focus groups will be held in late January through mid February.

The Problem with Fitspiration

The mental and physical state of being inspired by media, pictures, etc., to form a fit body.
Sounds nice right? It's certainly better than "thinspiration," a hashtag that was actually banned on Instagram because it created a culture where both men and women were doing anything to lose weight and be thin.
So yes, fitspiration is a bit better. Or is it?
Photo from Pinterest

The model in the photo looks great by most standards, but what many don't realize is her particular lifestyle. She more than likely is a professional fitness model and probably doesn't spend her days working an 8 to 5 job. She spends her time at the gym, or in the kitchen doing meal prep.You won't find her at cocktail parties or happy hour, her gym schedule and healthy eating habits probably don't allow for that.
She looks great, yes, but at what cost does the price of looking great come?
Photo from Pinterest
Everyone should work out and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but objectifying women's bodies to try to inspire others is not working either. Unless you have the time to dedicate 2 to 3 hours in the gym each day and weigh your food proportionally, chances are you'll find it a bit difficult to achieve this look. Maintaining it is another story.
Photo from Pinterest
Photo from Pinterest
Slogans such as "She Squats Bro" showcase women scantily clad baring their "assets," and it is just another way of objectifying women as sexual objects. The message of these images come across loud and clear, you should strive to look like the women in the pictures, or at least aspire to. How is this any different than showing skinny fashion models on the cover of magazines? It's still promoting the fact that women, and people in general (I won't exclude men here) value physical perfection.
Instead of promoting images supporting any body type, people should be striving for overall health. Did you run 3 miles today? Awesome! Did you do a shoulder and back workout that you're feeling the effects of the next day? Great! Did you skip dessert last night? That's good too- but don't forget to indulge sometimes as well.
Comparing yourself or others to images circulating on social media sites is not actually "inspiring" you the way you may think. Instead, you're just comparing yourself to an illusion. You may never look like the women or fitness competitors in the pictures. If you do it more than likely will be hard to maintain- but that's ok.
Health is a journey- not a picture. Do what suites you and your body to get there- not a picture. 

50 Shades of Grey- A Response to the Epidemic

The 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy has taken a lot of the female population by storm. Many women rushed to get the books and fell in love with the mysterious Mr. Grey himself. Internet memes surfaced, making the point that while women may not like porn, they'll certainly read it.

I get it, I borrowed the book from a friend and I don't think I even finished it. I'm not the type to like fictional literature, and quite honestly the sex scenes made me squeamish. I'd rather read something of more value, but to each their own. These books seemed to finally be a way for women to pursue something sexual, and frankly men seemed to be a little uptight about it.

But it's just a book. There are no pictures of nudity. There are no video clips of a woman being degraded in modern internet pornography. Alas, it's a book. A sexual one, but still a book. With no pictures.

Recently the trailer for the movie was released, and all over social media women are posting how either hot they think the actor playing Christian Grey is, or how they are disappointed and a better actor should of been chosen.

I had the pleasure of reading a blog post by Haley Morgan Smith, The Problem with 50 Shades of Grey.

I loved her insight, and her opinions. She brought up strong points about how she would feel if her husband walked in the door, sexualized book in hand, talking of how hot the female actress is, and then later logging on to his Facebook account and posting non-stop about how excited he was to see this super sexy film with the fine actress. She wrote about how this would make her feel- that clearly she'd want to punch him in the throat. I agree with ya, girlfriend.

My point is- don't men do this everyday? Has our society become immune to the "average red-blooded American male" who is not only allowed, but can't help drooling over any attractive woman they see? That women sexualized on TV and the media are just a normal part of it and seeing semi-nude Maxim magazine covers, and even the fitness models now who pose almost naked in the gym. Please tell me, what is the difference?

Pornography is something we cannot escape these days. It's everywhere, and I guarantee 13-year-olds find access to the plethora of XXX websites available these days via the internet. How can these young boys possibly learn to respect women when they constantly see them as sexual objects? Much less, how can young girls respect themselves when they too want to be "wanted" by members of the opposite sex?

Haley's article is very well-written and I truly see her point, that it's wrong and hurtful to betray and objectify anyone else than your significant other. I get that- I just don't think it's fair at all to say that many men haven't been doing that for a long time. So much so, I think it's become natural for our society to accept that men have wondering eyes. After all, they wouldn't be "men" if that's what you call it, without acting that way.
With the internet has come the new way of objectifying women.

According to Caroline Heldman and Lisa Wade, authors of Sexualizing Sarah Palin, since the 1970's the popularity of pornography has led to a higher degree of objectifying women.

"Advances in communication technologies have enabled a new era of objectification, marked by an increasing presence and acceptance of sexual objectification in media, greater pornographic content in mainstream media, and greater acceptance of pornography in the U.S. more broadly" (Heldman, Wade, p. 3, 2011).

Personally, I don't think any person should make their significant other feel small, or unattractive. I would never drop hints or say anything to hurt the man in my life, but I think it's very unfair to say that 50 Shades of Grey has created a problem with women lusting after other men, when it's been happening to women for decades.

Really America, are we just that oblivious?
Heldman, C., & Wade, L. (2011). Sexualizing Sarah Palin. Sex Roles, 65(3/4), 156-164. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-9984-6.

My Advice to an 11-Year-Old About the Modeling World

I was recently asked what advice I would give if I were confronted by an 11-year-old girl and her mother on getting into the modeling industry. It was one of those moments where so many thoughts rushed through my head that I wasn't quite sure where to start, or how to even give a semi-understandable answer.

Flashback 21 years.

I'm five years old, wearing my first pageant dress, and I have to walk across the stage, smile perfectly, do my turns just as I had practiced, and hope the judges choose me to give the shiny crown to instead of the half dozen or so other shy five year olds with similar bouncing curls and hairdos.

I didn't get the crown, but I did get a pretty tall trophy, which meant the judges must have thought I smiled pretty and did my walk and turns right.

A few years later, around nine years old I enrolled in modeling and etiquette classes. I wanted to be a model when I grew up, and I just knew I was going to be famous. These modeling and etiquette classes gave me confidence walking on a runway and doing local fashion shows at the mall. I had dreams of being "discovered" and found by an agency. I remember an older girl, Tiffany, who was signed by some agency. She might as well have been a celebrity to me, I thought she was so glamorous. She was a model! A real one, and maybe I could be like her.

One night after a fashion show at the mall, Tiffany's mom pointed me out and came over to me. She goes, "That's her! You've got it, you can be just like Tiffany! You are beautiful." I was floored and excited all at once. In retrospect, Tiffany was just your average 14-year-old girl who had a local modeling agency take interest in her. I'm not sure of her whereabouts now, but I'm sure she is living just like the rest of us.

But at that time to me, Tiffany was a supermodel..and I wanted to be just like that.

At 10 years old I prepared for my first modeling convention and competition. I was competing against other hopefuls in swimsuit (yes, at 10 years old) runway, voiceover, commercial and talent. I don't believe I won more than honorary mention, but I was already looking and comparing myself to other girls, both my age and older. I wanted to be the pretty girl, the one everyone liked, the one who was going to be famous...And I knew I would, one day. I was already tall, at 10 years old and 5'2. I would look through the popular magazines and compare myself to what those older airbrushed, women looked like. My cheekbones were high, my lips looked like the girl on this issue of Cosmopolitan, and so on.

 Myself, age 10
 Myself, age 12
 And thus, the dangerous cycle began. I was always comparing myself to actresses, models, and even in my young pre-teen and teenage years I was already thinking of what I could do to change my looks. Everything from hair color, tanning, cute outfits, plastic surgery- It didn't matter. I saw my body as an imperfect canvas, and that in order to be happy I'd have to actually win contests and have that sex appeal that could guarantee that no guy would ever leave me, and that I had the world in the palm of my hand.

Myself, age 18

According to an article on HuffPost Healthy Living, the National Association of Anorexia and Nervosa and Associated Disorders, I wasn't the only young girl with thoughts like these, and I'm still not. Nearly 70% of girls in grades five through 12 said magazine images influence their ideals of a perfect body.

What those girls don't realize is that those pictures aren't the truth. They aren't reflections of the average woman's body.

When I got into college, I took the modeling competitions up a notch. I started participating in more photoshoots with anyone that I thought could take some real photos, and I primarily just used those pictures for my social media profiles. I thought a hot looking profile picture would mean more people would like me. I also thought the more swimsuit competitions I participated in and won, the happier I was going to be.

Myself, age 23, Swimsuit USA competition in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Swimsuit competitions started to become what I revolved around. I thought it spoke of me as a better person, someone that other girls were envious of. I thought the better I looked, the better I actually was. In reality, when I was winning these contests and regarded them as a hobby and a job, all I was doing was comparing myself to other women. If I didn't place in a contest, I thought maybe it was because I was too tall. Maybe I was too big- maybe I should have dieted more. Maybe I didn't do my hair right...or...maybe they ARE prettier than me. Maybe I should do something drastic about it.

You see, starting in the modeling industry gave me a sense of false confidence. It's false, because you're basing your self-worth and happiness on something so superficial. That's not happiness.

The older I got the more I realized that maybe these issues of constantly wanting to change my appearance were a little deeper than I thought. During an international competition in Las Vegas, NV one year, I realized that even dieting wasn't going to help my waist look any slimmer- the only choice I'd have at looking more petite is to have a rib removed, creating a smaller rib cage and waistline. Now of course, this was just a thought, but it signified something much bigger. I began to realize at this point I had fallen into body dysmorphia.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder take their perceived flaws to the extreme. They can't control their negative thoughts of their physical appearance, no matter what others may say. To the sufferer, the perceived flaw causes much emotional distress, and they may go to any length to correct the "problem," or even avoid social situations altogether.

Rachel Scherdin, registered dietitian, also knows first-hand what can happen when young girls pour their self-worth into the modeling industry.

"It's a destructive environment. It's a breeding ground for negative body image, as you are constantly comparing yourself to others and being compared to other models. What once used to be fun starts becoming an obsession."

Jessica Lundy, a successful promotional model and National Physique Committee fitness competitor says she personally didn't start modeling until she was old enough to understand the industry.

"I would never push it on my daughter, but if it was something she wanted to do I would just know to do my research with everything. I would also advise her to remain balanced and grounded, and to always know who you are and what you want."

Now, back to the 11-year-old wanting to break into the modeling industry.

My advice to you: know who you are and what makes you happy. Don't compare yourself to others, life isn't a competition based on looks. Focus on being happy and healthy, and don't worry about how you look. Looks are not going to bring happiness, I promise you. Focus on doing what you love, participate in sports, excel in school. Make your goals something you can obtain, not something where you depend upon the judgement of others.

Women have been objectified for decades as sexual objects. It's our job to help turn that around.

Kendall Jones Taking on the Wild...and Social Media

I absolutely love animals. Seriously, I can't kill an insect without feeling bad about it. While many people view snakes as awful creatures, I don't see the need to stab one to death just because you see it somewhere in your yard. I mean, if it's coming at you, that's a different story, but if Mr. Snake is just hanging out trying to survive, ya know..just like YOU are...let him be.

I will admit that I am a crazy cat lady, I adore my two cats children, and I have such respect for the larger members of their species...Although I am disgusted when I watch National Geographic and watch my beloved big cats go after that cute, harmless Gazelle...I digress, It's all apart of the food chain. But I hate seeing it.

My stance on hunting and not being a vegetarian is a sensitive subject, typically I don't bring it up because it is just that, an opinion. I do not think hunting is attractive, I do not think it's a sport, and the nicest way I can put it is I understand people have their "hobbies" if that's what you call it. I personally don't think hiding in a bush, camouflaging yourself and waiting for an unsuspecting animal to creek into your path is a sport, but do what you will. Nothing I say or do will stop that.

Do I eat meat? Yes, unfortunately. I limit what meats I eat and I disconnect myself from what the meat actually is and how it turned into the filet on my plate. I get it- we eat it, I just don't like the idea of the sport.

Which brings me to my point....Kendall Jones, the cheerleader chick all over social media posing with dead lions, leopards, rhinos and other animals from her "in the wild hunts."


I personally was horrified to look through the pictures, to see that someone would willingly take the the life of such great animals for a sport..and worse, smile by the dead bodies and take a picture. Honey, you wouldn't be smiling if they were chasing you and you were weaponless. Totally not fair.

According to an article on, Jones says her murdering hunting efforts are all a part of conservation, and the villages actually benefit from the thousands of dollars she pays to murder hunt these animals.

I'm not going to act oblivious- I know this happens. Since there isn't much I can do, I try to turn a blind eye. My problem with Miss Jones are the pictures she's posting on social media sites. I understand you want to fulfill this hobby of yours, but posting the graphic photos are a bit hard to stomach for me. 

On the contrary, many people signed pledges to have Jones' pictures removed from Facebook- they went all out. There was even a pledge to have her banned from the country she was hunting in. 

Here's Where I'm Divided

I hate the hunting part, as stated earlier...But there's a bigger picture that perplexes me. Facebook may remove the images, but that doesn't stop the act. Kendall will still be murdering hunting, and I'll still be sitting on my couch cringing everytime I turn on National Geographic and watch the beautiful Lioness eat the beautiful Zebra.

So while the pictures may not be on social media for all to see, I think we should all be aware that this is a real thing that happens, no matter how many pledges are signed or death threats she may recieve. She made the unpopular choice to get the quick gain to infamy by posting the pictures on Facebook...And as far as I know now, that's the only thing that has been removed. Just some pictures on Facebook..Until then, she will have a show airing in 2015...

And I, nor my cat Frank or Reese (not pictured) will be watching.

Why we Shouldn't #FreeTheNipple

I'll admit I do hold feminist views, but there are some things I do not agree with. Recently, exposed female nipples in public have been all over the media, from breast feeding in public to Rihanna's see-through tops. Now, some women have started the #FreeTheNipple campaign in hopes to bring about gender equality. 

According to an article on The Huffington Post, creator of the #FreeTheNipple campaign, filmmaker Lina Esco says the movement isn't about encouraging women to walk around naked, it's about bigger issues.

Just to be clear, they are looking for are the same rights as men to go without a shirt if they'd like, as well as get rid of the rape culture and slut shaming. I agree those are serious issues, but I'm not too sure on their tactic.

Scout Willis

I don't think a woman exposing her breasts is the way to go as far gender equality. I understand breasts are for breastfeeding, but I still abide by the rule that there is a time in a place for everything. Whether women want to agree with this or not, women's breast are very sexually objectified. 

I don't believe there should be any desire for women to want the right to go topless, because it's not sending the right message no matter how you angle it. A woman's body is different than a man's, there are areas that are more sensitive to others. Sure, there's a long way to go in order to  have gender equality, but walking around topless isn't the answer.

No matter what anyone says, a woman baring her breasts will always be looked at in a very sexual nature. I feel that many men would laugh and say that's okay with them- but the reality of it is that no "message" is being received other than checking out a topless chick.

For those who want to support the campaign but don't want to actually go bare-chested, there is a new bikini top you can buy.

The Tatatop

The Tatatop is a bikini top made of a flesh colored spandex with nipples, that makes the wearer appear to be topless. The Tatatop was created for women to support the #FreeTheNipple campaign, without actually going topless. A portion of the cost goes to the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation.

 What are your thoughts on the #FreeTheNipple campaign? Do you think it is a good way for women to achieve gender equality?

Miss Indiana and her "Normal" Body

With all of the buzz flooding around Miss Indiana's "curvier," "thicker" and "normal" body, I wanted to take a step back and look at what society is actually doing here.

Yes, I tuned into the Miss USA pageant last Sunday night. Growing up as a little girl I loved watching pageants on TV, but I'll be honest- I was debating watching this debacle. Not to completely bash pageants, but I do know what it's like competing in them and the idea it gives society, as well as the women in them. Not to mention, not all pageants are as sugary sweet as they seem to be.

So let's say you make it as big as the Miss USA pageant- a really big feat. How does the rest of society look at this? I know by the flooding on social media, everyone was rooting for the contestant that represented their home state, and, of course, who they thought was the best looking.

Because in beauty pageants, the best looking is the best choice.

In this type of atmosphere people are drawn to be supportive of whoever the most beautiful contestant is. It's all about the hair, the makeup, the slender body. Women being paraded around based on their beauty. I know, there is an educational and philanthropic aspect to it, but in beauty pageants, if you don't have the look, you don't have a chance.

From being a woman and knowing body sizes, I can easily tell most of the women in the Miss USA pageant are easily a size 0, maybe a 2. I can tell from the slender waist lines and bone structure even just from a TV. Miss Indiana 2014, Mekayla Diel displayed a shape much smaller than the average American woman, and has received more attention for having a "normal" size body than the winner of the pageant did for winning.

Okay for one, how is this shape "normal?" How can anyone's body be classified as "normal?" Also, it is widely known that Miss Indiana's shape is not the size the average American woman is.

Oh, but wait. This is a beauty pageant.

This is what society is lead to believe- that in order to be beautiful a woman must be very tiny, have a nice round butt (no cellulite please) a nice bosom (no breast implants, only natural, but they can't be too small) and 6 pack abs (not too manly though) with nothing extra.

And society loves this. Many women continually bash their "normal bodies" because their stomachs aren't completely flat. They aren't the same size they were several years ago, and they don't look like the hottest Hollywood actress.

I don't expect society to change, but what we can do is create awareness and teach ourselves, our daughters and our sons that true beauty is much more than skin deep. After all, who more do they look up to besides you?

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