NSFW: Chelsea Handler wants to show her nipples on social media; Instagram should let her

Chelsea Handler has waged war against Instagram over their discriminatory practice of barring females from showing their nipples but allowing men to do so, according to Buzzfeed. While social media bars female nipples from being shown because they are viewed as "sexual" in nature, she does have a point that it's not fair for men to be shirtless but not women.

Although I would more than likely never be brave enough to bare all, I do think that all people should be allowed to express themselves equally. If women can't show their nipples, then neither should men.

This is not the first time, Instagram's discriminatory guidelines have come under fire. As I wrote about in July, a young woman who posed in her underwear saw her photos removed, and she believed she was being targeted because she did not fit the traditional standards of beauty. Her argument did seem valid considering that the social media site allows raunchy photographs from celebrities such as Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Jen Selter but felt the need to censor hers. Instagram apologized and reinstated the young woman's account.

Maybe it's time that they review their gender bias as well.
Chelsea Handler points out the hypocrisy of allowing the photo on the right to be shown publicly but censoring her  topless photo on the left. (Photo courtesy of Handler's Instagram account)

Rape: It's Your Fault

When are we going to stop blaming the victim?

Superstar legal author John Grisham backpedals on his child pornography statements

Today John Grisham issued an apology on his Facebook for statements he made in regards to child pornography punishments. In case you missed it, Grisham said the following during an interview to promote his new book Gray Mountain:
"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," Grisham said to The Telegraph. "But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."
Um, I've been drunk numerous times in my life, but I have never "accidentally" just wandered on to a child pornography site. In fact, if someone wants to view that type of illegal material, they have to go on a perverted fishing expedition; one that doesn't just happen by pushing "the wrong buttons." In Grisham's The Telegraph interview, he then shares a story of a friend who was caught in a child porn sting to illustrate how absurdly excessive punishments are for people who watch child pornography:
"His [Grisham's friend's] drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that'. And it said '16-year-old girls'. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30. He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys. He didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people - sex offenders - and he went to prison for three years."
Uh…Does Grisham think it's okay that his drunk friend wanted to get with teenage hookers? How can he condone the behavior of this friend, and how can he sympathize with viewers of child pornography? Those viewers are the reasons that the industry that exploits and abuses children exists because if there was no audience, there would be no demand. Therefore, viewing child pornography is not a victimless crime; and Grisham thinking that just because his friend didn't "touch anything" meant he wasn't participating in an exploitive endeavor truly baffles and grosses me out. 

See Grisham's apology below. Although he appears to want to wash away his previous statements, I doubt anyone will ever forget them. I never will. 

Everybody should be allowed to show their butts, stomachs, and boobs on Instagram

On Instagram, Kim Kardashian can post numerous sexy pictures of her ass and of her side boob, and Jen Selter has become a superstar because of  the photographs of her plump and toned derriere. Although Instagram's rules bar any "adult" or "mature content," Instagram deems these photos as well as numerous other soft-core-style photos compliant with their rules and regulations. Yet when a woman who doesn't conform to Hollywood standards of beauty exposes her body, her photos get taken down. WTF?

Like Kardashian, Selter, and numerous other Instagram models, Samm Newman, an Ohio nineteen-year-old, posted photographs of herself in revealing attire. But unlike the other women, Instagram removed Newman's photos, and Newman fought back. She reasoned that if her photos violated Instagram's rules, then so should other women's photographs of themselves in bikinis and lingerie. According to Think Progress, she began to report those photographs and shortly after, she found that her account was deactivated. The other women's pictures remained.

Newman, a plus sized woman, felt discriminated against, and she took it to the media to explain her case. “All my life, I was told to suck it in, and I would see these commercials on TV every day of these Victoria Secret models who weighed just nothing,” Newman said. “As comfortable as I was with myself, I wasn’t comfortable with my body, and that was a really huge drawback.”

Newman's story went viral because of the hypocrisy of the situation, and the body-shaming by the social media platform made many people sick.  As of yesterday, Instagram formally apologized for censoring Newman. They restored all of her photographs.
A sample of Samm Newman's Instagram photo, courtesy of Fox News
I congratulate Newman for baring her body and fighting for the right to show others a body type that is not typically shared on Instagram. Censoring bodies and only showing models distorts impressionable minds to believe that those models are the norm when in fact these women exercise and diet rigorously, have had plastic surgery, are posed at certain angles, or are just photoshopped.  

I still remember when I was a teen and I would see album covers or photographs in magazines, and I always wondered why I couldn't look like that. I still remember thinking how fat my stomach was because when I looked at my body from a profile, my mid section was larger than my arm. NOTE: Having a mid-section larger than your arm is NORMAL. However, I was tricked to thinking I was fat because of images like the one below: 

As an adult, it's obvious to me that Nicole Scherzinger's mid-section is photoshopped and badly photoshopped at that, but when I was a kid and didn't know about smoke and mirrors, I really just felt lesser than seeing these images. To anyone who says that the media doesn't influence young people, I call bullshit, not only from personal experience but from numerous studies such as this one about the media and eating disorders from the Journal of Social Issues

Now that Newman has fought to not have her body censored, I hope that other people join her in her fight for body acceptance of all sizes. We as human beings need role models and images to aspire to, and the diversity of seeing young and old, toned and flabby, different skin shades, scars, whatever is beautiful and necessary to help people realize that whatever they look like is okay. It can be scary to expose one's body to the public, but the more people share, the less taboo the act becomes. However, if you don't personally want to show off your goods on Instagram, then at least don't judge when you see others do it. They may be a part of a movement that many people didn't realize was coming but was long overdue. 

Every person needs to watch South Korea's 200 Pounds Beauty, and here's why...

I recently watched South Korea's 2006 wildly successful romantic comedy, 200 Pounds Beauty, and for those who aren't familiar with this award-winning movie, this "lighthearted" flick is about an overweight woman who goes through extreme plastic surgery to win a guy and a career, a message that I found both disturbing and strangely honest. This film, which would never get made in the United States, is a prime example of the difference between South Korean and American culture. It is wildly known that South Korea  is a plastic surgery mecca and has the highest rate of plastic surgery amongst any other country. Americans obviously get plastic surgery too, but a pro-plastic surgery film would never be made in our sensitive culture where people such as Maria Kang aka Fit Mom are met with controversy for going against the American love-yourself-mentality. Because Americans would never make this type of film (at least not as a sincere feature film and but maybe as a satire or documentary), I think it is worth watching to create a dialogue about beauty standards and the hypocrisy of vilifying those who try to meet those standards. 
200 Pound Beauty gif courtesy of http://ifangirl.tumblr.com 
The movie introduces us to its lead, Han-na, who is an overweight singer who provides the voice to a sexy pop star, Ammy, a talentless bitch who uses Han-na and treats her badly. Ammy, Han-na's love interest, and various members of society ridicule Han-na for not being skinny and "pretty," and watching the beginning of this movie made me cringe. There were numerous cruel fat jokes or gags, and they were so ridiculous that I really wondered: Are overweight people not common in South Korea? Is it really that acceptable in that society to fat shame to the extent that this movie did? It would be one thing if the cruelty came from the adversarial characters, but it was the filmmakers who seemed the most cruel with their jokes. For instance, Han-na, who probably weighed in at 200 pounds like the title suggested, was backstage at Ammy's concert, and she stood on a platform. Because of Han-na's size, the platform collapsed, and as I watched this scene, I just couldn't suspend my disbelief with how stupid the gag was. Could two people not ever stand on that platform? I mean, seriously...

The closest example to an American film with 200s Pound Beauty's style of fat jokes would be 2001's Shallow Hal, and that movie ended with the lead character realizing that he loves his overweight girlfriend, just the way she is, a far cry from the message of 200 Pounds Beauty that people really don't see beyond the surface.

The movie turned for me when Hanna decided to change her life. She pled with a plastic surgeon to give her a full body makeover, and after some blackmailing, he obliged. With some exercise and the surgeon's knife, Han-na transformed from an overweight backstage artist to a skinny, beautiful leading lady. She changed her name to Jenny, and she reentered her old world with a new identity and became a pop star, outshining her nemesis Ammy. At this point, I started to understand what the film was trying to say. Han-na as the skinny, beautiful Jenny had a better life. People treated her better. She felt better about herself. Not only did she finally get to shine, but she finally got to live.

Then the movie started to get really interesting to me when people who discovered that Jenny was not a natural beauty began to judge her, spray painting her car with the word "Phony" and threatening to expose her "fraud" to her fans. All in all, the cutthroat world Han-na/Jenny inhabited was vicious. It  both shunned women for being not "pretty" and shunned women for the audacity to change themselves for "vain" reasons. At this point, no matter how much I hated those fat jokes from before, it made sense to me that the filmmakers put so many of them in the movie. For Hanna to live a fulfilling life, she had to become Jenny because living in a cruel world was never going to be easy but conforming to societal beauty standards, no matter what it took to do so, at least gave her a chance to fight for herself.
200 Pound Beauty gif courtesy of http://ifangirl.tumblr.com 
The climax of the film occurred at Jenny's largest concert where her secret identity was going to be revealed to all of her fans by her nemesis. Knowing that the ruse was over, she confessed to her fans a tearful admission that she underwent head to toe surgery because she was unhappy with herself and wanted a change. This scene actually made me tear up because I felt the desperation and sadness that went behind Han-na/Jenny's actions, and seeing her happy made her fans happy and they forgave her for the "sin" of wanting to be beautiful. The movie ended with her receiving her happily-ever-after, and the final scene was another "plain" woman begging the plastic surgeon to give her a total body makeover. If there was any doubt that this was a pro-plastic surgery or pro-traditional-beauty-standards film, then that final scene erased it from the audience's mind.

Hollywood has plenty of makeover films because yes, Americans also recognize that being attractive can open doors to a better life. However, Hollywood movies wimp out and include a love yourself message that seemingly wipes away the messaging that it originally conveyed; although beneath all the warm feelings, Hollywood movies also say that you should love yourself but first get attractive. Plus, Hollywood movies would never use plastic surgery as the catalyst for change. They'd advocate getting fit or putting on some makeup, but in real life, many starlets actually do get plastic surgery to achieve their movie star looks.  So although the message of 200 Pounds Beauty may seem off-putting on the surface, is it actually just guilty of being honest. It made me uncomfortable at first because it seemingly was a light rom-com (no pun intended) that was actually a mirror to various societies' own obsession with beauty. Although this was a South Korean movie, this was a movie for women of all cultures, and whether or not we like or agree with its message, it is definitely one that should be talked about.

Writing romance, an interview with Clara Grace Walker

I'm excited to speak today with self-published writer, Clara Grace Walker, who is this week's Self-Published Writer of the Week. She's the author of the romantic suspense series Desire Never Dies, and I had a lot of fun chatting with her about writing romance and self-publishing. 

TL: So Clara, tell me a little bit about your background and your writing. 
CGW: My love affair with books began as soon as I could read, and blossomed into a desire to write by the time I was 9. I began writing as a serious pursuit some years ago, and started my first novel, GRATIFICATION  while working in a law office. My “day jobs” consisted of office work, including work as a secretary, legal assistant and a risk manager. I never considered any of those jobs my “career,” however. In my heart, my true calling has always been writing. But, hey, those typing skills come in handy when you need to bring in a paycheck. In between the writing and the “day jobs,” I have also been busy raising a family, and now I find myself in the enviable position of being able to stay home all day and work on my books. I can truly say I am blessed and living out my dream!

TL: What made you want to write romance? 
CGW: I love writing about relationships and human nature. Romance, to me, is the embodiment of human relationships at their strongest. Love is such a compelling force, able to overcome so many obstacles, and yet terrifying, (for some), in the strength of its attraction. Because I also enjoy mystery and a sense of danger, I write mainstream romantic suspense.

TL: What made you self-publish? 
CGW: Back in 2012, my mother passed away, quite unexpectedly. And while I was always aware that life is fleeting and can end at anytime, being smacked with that reality made me realized if there were things I wanted to do with my life, such as writing and publishing my books, then I needed to simply do them and stop waiting around for someone to give me the green light. By that time there had been a huge growth in digital publishing and self-publishing. My overwhelming desire to write met with a lack of excuses, and roughly a year later, I published my first novel, GRATIFICATION.

TL: What’s the hardest part of being a self-published writer? What’s the best parts? 
CGW: I have several friends who are traditionally published, so I’ve had a chance to see, up-close-and-personal, the differences between the two publishing routes. My friends who are traditionally published get a lot of support from their editors and agents. This support comes in many forms, from advice and encouragement, to professional editing and marketing of their work. One friend of mine has her own publicist and marketing person. Her publisher bought ads in publications and provided opportunities for interviews and book reviews. Obviously, this is a huge advantage for a writer, and having to do all of this yourself is, for me, the hardest part of being self-published. In addition to creating my own book covers, I have no professional editing service, unless I find and pay for one. I have no promotional/marketing budget, other than what I can afford to pay for myself, and I don’t have anyone supplying me with my own publicist and marketing person. Although, I do have some very supportive family members, including one who is a skilled photographer who did my book cover photos at a price I could afford and another who has been great with creating promotional pieces for me to tweet and post on Facebook. As for the best parts of being self-published: for me, that’s freedom. While all of the responsibilities associated with publishing and selling my book are mine, so are all of the rights that go along with them. This includes, publishing under the name of my choosing, designing and using the book covers I want, choosing the titles of my books, and even word count. The finished product really is my own vision for my work. As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to each side of the coin.

TL: What makes a scene sexy versus cheesy? Great question! 
CGW: I have this little blog I barely write for, just some writing-related tidbits that occasionally occur to me. I have published exactly 5 posts to-date on this poor, neglected blog, and one of them was on this very subject. (You can find the post at www.claragracewalker.blogspot.com if you are interested). If I were to try and narrow the post down to its most important point, perhaps it would be this: sex scenes are not about sex, they are about emotion. If you stay firmly in your POV character’s head and really allow your reader to experience the intimacy through that character, you should go a long way in avoiding the cheesy.

TL: Who are some writers who’ve inspired you? 
CGW: I read a lot; many different authors from many different genres. My writing has been inspired in different ways by different authors. The most major influences would be: a) Ernest Hemingway – for his incredible prose and storytelling ability; b) Elmore Leonard – for his wonderful dialogue and unforgettable characters; c) James Patterson – for his riveting suspense and fast-paced storytelling; d) Jackie Collins – for her glitz, glamour & the sheer fun of reading her books; e) Sidney Sheldon – for his strong female characters and compelling stories; and f) JRR Tolkein – for his fantasy and adventure, and the way he is able to immerse the reader in another world.

TL: Thanks so much for the interview. Is there anything you’d like to add? CGW: I really, really appreciate my readers! It’s an investment of one’s time to spend reading a book, and I’m very grateful that they’ve honored me by taking the time to read my book(s). Also, I love hearing from my readers, and please feel free to contact me via my website: www.claragracewalker.com. There are links to all of my social media outlets, as well as to my books on my website.

Six realistic New Year resolutions for writers

1. Do strength training twice a week for one hour. 
Resolving to “get fit” isn’t realistic because there isn’t a clear way to achieve your goal. How will you get fit? Are you going to go to the gym five days a week? Are you going to revamp your diet and hire a personal trainer? Do you really have the time, energy, resources for that? Resolving to do two hour-long strength training sessions is a tangible goal, and it is an efficient way to get fit. Plus, you can strength train at home using your own body as resistance, so this resolution doesn’t have to be expensive either.

2. Drink at least 64 oz. of water.
Although I’m aware of the benefits of drinking lots of water, it was hard for me to get 8 cups a day. I realized that I actually drank more water if I drank from water bottles, which made it easy for me to track how much I was drinking, but I felt guilty buying them. Then I discovered Brita Soft Squeeze Water Filter Bottles,  which are reusable and have a filter built into the cap. With my Brita water bottles, I could drink water from any tap, any where, and having the bottle helped drink me track how much I was drinking.

3. Save at least ten percent of your paycheck.
I learned a great money-saving tip from Alan Corey’s book A Million Bucks by 30  To save money, hide it from yourself! Open a second checking account and have a small percentage of your paycheck automatically sent there, or set up a monthly transaction through your online banking. Then, never look at the second account unless you need to tap into it for an emergency.

4. Read at least one book a month and write a review of that book on Amazon.
Positive reviews greatly help sales for authors, so if you liked a book, why not help out its writer and write a review? If the author is an independent one, then he or she will be eternally grateful for your support, and you’ll feel good doing a good deed and enriching your mind by reading!

5. Join a group whose interest is not writing-related.
Having interests outside of writing will help you maintain your sanity, introduce you to new people, and give you new material to write about! To find activities or groups, try meetup.com or check out Yelp’s event pages.

6. Give yourself one hour a day to work on your craft.
If you want to advance your writing career, then you need to have quality content and you need to have as much as possible. That’s why you owe it to yourself to write, read, or brainstorm for at least one hour a day. (If you’re looking for tips on how to find the time, check out some of my previous interviews with writers.)

Fox tries to market The Mindy Project using Tinder, comes off as genius douches

As an artist and business woman, I get that marketing is important, but sometimes there's a fine line between being clever and being an annoying asshole. Although I haven't confirmed yet that this was officially done by Fox Marketing, it is a little too on-the-nose to not be someone affiliated with The Mindy Project.

So anyway, tonight I was on Tinder, when this little darling popped up on my screen.
Since the actress who plays Mindy is also named Mindy, could this be a real profile?!?! Uh, no.
I had read earlier on LAIST about Tinder matching people with The Mindy Project characters, so I wasn't completely taken aback. The obviousness of the marketing was glaring, even if I hadn't been previously aware. 
My responses on Tinder are either really boring or hilariously dirty.
I was torn about this marketing concept. Although it was clever and got a lot of people to talk about The Mindy Project, online dating apps still should be somewhat private, right? Injecting their marketing in a manner such as this is really intrusive. I mean, what if I wasn't familiar with the show? If I saw this handsome guy liked me, I would be stoked. Even with the plug for the tv show on the upper right hand corner of the photo, this is Los Angeles. What if he was just some actor, trying to get some??

I'd be stoked, that is, until I saw he was trying to get me to click on a link before he plugged his TV show. Now whoever is behind this ruse thinks they are being cute, but this is the same stuff that pornography bots and scammers do to unsuspecting single people to get them to sign up for merchandise or wire money.
My response only makes sense if you watch the show.
Overall, props to whoever is behind this for getting press, but I think that respectable institutions can come up with something better than what scammers do. That's just my two cents.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
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