Take Up Space

Billboard for a Madison WI chocolatier.

My friend sent me this photo, snapped at a busy Madison, Wisconsin intersection.

What horseshit.
I’d like to have a little coversation with this local business and call out their craptastic advertising.
I’d tell them that women do not need permission to be fat, get fat, unfat, or fatty fat fat.
I’d tell them that a woman’s worth is not based on her size, but rather on the content of her character.
I’d tell them that sizeist and belittling advertising slogans are disrespectful to the women they intend to demean and intimidate.
I’d tell them that women do not need permission to take up space in this world.
And then I’d tell them their billboard is horseshit.
It ran over Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day, it is custom for men to give women chocolate. This billbaord is aimed at women, telling them that when their man gifts them expensive chocolate, she has permission to eat the chocolate. She has permission to gain weight from the chocolate because her man will still love her, so all will be right in her world. Were she to become fat, she would not lose her man’s love and therefore maintain her worthiness. As if.
I don’t ask my husband’s permission to eat food. Then again, I didn’t ask his permission to fly to Africa or start a business, either.
Why is it, that women are so brow beaten by advertisers? And why do so so so many of us buy into all of the asshattery? As Tracee Sioux asks, why is it so hard to like our bodies?

We’re the beautiful half of the species. For God’s sake, our male counterparts are bald or balding, grow hair in their ears, out their noses, on their shoulders, asses, bellies and backs, they’re smelly, beer bellied and have sweaty, stinky balls hanging off their ape-like bodies. And they feel F*$%@^& GREAT about themselves. That just doesn’t add up.  -Tracee Sioux

Ladies — Come. On.

We give our power away when we allow others to tell us how to feel about our bodies. OUR bodies. Our freaking amazing, sexy, curvy, soft, creative, nice smelling, intelligent, nurturing, life giving bodies.

You have got to be kidding me that so many women feel crappy about themselves because they don’t look like starved models or computer altered humans that have been Photoshopped out the wazoo.

Do you know what this mess is doing to our daughters?? We lead the world in Eating Disorders, disordered eating, and low self-esteem because of body image.

If we have billboards for women that dissect their weight, why is there NOT a billboard for condoms with the slogan “I’ll always love you, even though your penis is meh.” Why are we always focused on women’s bodies, and guys get a free pass to look like whatever they want? Why do we care so much and guys care so little?

WHY do women allow themselves to be put down upon and controlled and manipulated into thinking our gorgeous bodies aren’t the most amazing things on earth?

I don’t care whether or not the chocolate or the man or society will still love me….


I love me. I love that my body has traveled all over the world. I’ve used my body in great adventures like bungee jumping and scuba diving and hiking the waterfalls of Hawaii. My body created two perfect human beings from scratch, and then birthed them. The second time around was a no bullshitter. But my body did it.

Listen – I get the longing to be pretty and feel attractive and desired and so on. BUT – who says you aren’t? Who says? You say? Sister, start singing yourself another tune.

Who do you allow to define and determine your beauty?

Your beauty is not your worth.

Shut up about being fat. Being skinny. Losing weight. Gaining weight.

Seriously shut up about tummy tucks, especially in front of the kids.

Get smart that 99.9% of photos you see in the media have been retouched and perfected by some guy and a computer.

Really? You’ve got stretch marks or gray hair or heavy thighs? Are you kidding me? That is your body, your house for life. Embrace it.

Honey, I love you, but get bigger things to think about in life. I do 136 things every day before I have time to think about what I look like. Step away from the mirror, put your hand on your belly, your center, close your eyes, and allow yourself to feel beautiful.

I define my beauty. I know my worth. I stand fully in my body because I love it. And I don’t look twice at magazine photos or models. That fake crap doesn’t come close to being as gorgeous as me.

Photoshop can suck it. Sizeist messages that promote the thin ideal can get lost. Women can start to be kinder to each other and offer each other more grace.

C’mon Ladies. Let’s face it. We’re the beautiful ones. We make the rules.



  1. I LOVE this. No, I mean…….I’m “printing-this-off-and-carrying-it-around-with-me” love this. The Killing me Softy series all I can say is the first time I watched it for a class I thought “Oh sweet validation, where have you been all my life?”

    • Aw, Erin, thanks. Your comment cracked me up – but I think it is SO telling, too. Women need that validation that what we are seeing in the media is a magic show. And your validation comment sparked an idea for me, so in a few weeks time when you see my “Legacy of Beauty” project, know that your words were the catalyst.

  2. If I didn’t tell you I loved you before, here it is again: I LOVE YOU, MELISSA WARDY! This is my favorite post to date! I love the part about the penis being “meh”. You’re all kinds of awesome!

  3. Lovin’ this post! You have a way with words and saying it like it is, sister! Thanks for doing what you do. I’m inspired 🙂

    Incidentally, I just posted a blog at Smart Girls Know about the movie Gnomeo and Juliet, which I took my son to see yesterday. They had a chance to get it right, what with their audience full of young children, but with one little obnoxious “fat joke” for all little ears to hear, got it very wrong! Here’s the link if you wanna read it: http://www.smartgirlsknow.com/?p=2458

  4. The female race. In today’s society has lost touch with reality. We have totally forgotten to embrace our individuality.I am teaching my kids its cool to be you , love the body God gave you & never be afraid to be different and most IMPORTANTLY Never ever change because society or men says you should!

  5. LOVE–LOVE your blog! You are right on! I just used the Killing Me Softly series in my blog, so it’s great to see the other one here. I’m trying to figure out why women fall for it also — and why I haven’t. My life and childhood were far from normal and wasting time on my looks was not on my list of priorities — so maybe this is why. But, Melissa, so many women don’t see this — they can’t see past the veneer of these ads — they don’t see how harmful they are and how when we verbalize our shortcomings with breasts and fat and clothing aloud — it affects our kids. And the reason there are no ads for penis “meh” is because men head these ads and men head the businesses that need the ads. If women controlled more venues, the content would be more civilized.

  6. You’re right. I wrote about fat shaming today, or at least I posted about it. I’m having a really hard time with this right now. I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I know it is wrong. But it is so hard to fight these feelings of inadequacy or failure when you are inundated with the “ideal” every single day. But it definitely helps when more and more people speak out and bring these ugly lies out into the open.

    • Honey, it is ALL lies. I focus on the health of my body. I have no idea what my weight is. I just go by how my body feels, how my clothes fit (I’ve been a size 12 since ever), and if I am eating healthy food.

      Just whittle those thoughts away day by day. One at a time. Believe that you are beautiful, because you are.

  7. Sue Carney says:

    Great post, though I read the ad a little differently. I took it to mean that the CANDY would still love you even if you were fat. Which basically encourages a relationship with food over relationships with other people. Food will never leave you or let you down! Depend on food, not on humans! Uggh! Thanks for such an affirming messge. 🙂

    • Sue –
      Right, excellent points. My friend who took the pic and I discussed that option, but because of the board’s placement during Valentine’s day when men traditionally gift women chocolate, we decided it was more a mock take on the phrase men would say to women. Either way, the board could have both meanings, and both are equally craptastic.

  8. Melissa–Let me just add my voice to the chorus of women letting you hear that you are AMAZING!!! I know that you know this, but everyone should hear it too. Thank you for this wonderful post. I’m sharing it six ways to Sunday.

  9. Fabulous, funny, bitingly true. I was thinking earlier today how different the world would be if men had to experience PMS, difficult periods, and pregnancy. Healthcare would be more comprehensive and either free or incredibly affordable. Men would struggle with body issues, realize it sucks, and stop creating artificial standards for women. We’d see regular size, unretouched models in catalogs and magazines, and (in my dream, anyway) men would become deferential to women as they realized what amazing, strong, powerful creatures we are. No man could handle menstrual cramps+migraines for 2-3 days/month, 12 times a year, year after year! We need to remind ourselves and our girls how amazing we/they are! Thank you for this great piece!!!!

  10. How maddening! And I’m so glad you posted it along with the video.

    I worked with a group of high school girls who took on a project against the unrealistic advertising of female bodies. The billboard and video reminded me of the video. I’d love to find the video and post it – by teen girls for teen girls. Let’s fight back!

  11. Thank you for this incredible insight. This picture ad is just insulting, and I took it as candy will love you even if you’re fat too. It also doesn’t take into consideration that just because someone is of a ‘healthy weight’ doesn’t mean that they don’t have self-esteem issues or food issues. Thank you for sharing this, I hope it spreads across the world.

  12. Your blog is great, but since you denounce sizeist ideas, please don’t fall into that trap yourself by criticizing thinness so much. I agree that some images of extremely thin models are very detrimental to women’s body image, however, some women like myself are naturally thin. And that should be acceptable, too. You have no idea how often I get (in my face or behind my back) ridiculous comments about how I’m probably anorexic because I’m so thin. BUT I AM NOT! I’m just naturally this way, and I eat whatever I want! I’m lucky that what I want most of the time is healthy food, but not always. Whatever. All body types should be accepted. Not only the curvy ones, or not only the thin ones. There is NO WRONG WAY TO HAVE A BODY! Check out this amazing piece on the subject: http://www.hanneblank.com/blog/2011/06/23/real-women/

    • Hi Goldie –
      I am not criticizing thinness. I am criticizing photoshopping images to inhuman proportions and women starving themselves to fit a false beauty ideal. Neither of those things are the same as being naturally thin, as you describe yourself. Naturally thin is one thing, skeletal or digitally disproportionate is another. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

  13. Awesome! Just read this today while going way back on your blog. Loved it so much!!!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Girl Revolution, The Girl Revolution, Melissa Wardy, Erin McNeill, Melissa Wardy and others. Melissa Wardy said: New Post: "Take Up Space" Ladies – You don't need permission. Allow yourself to FEEL beautiful http://bit.ly/gSMaJn #bodyimage #women #girls […]

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