Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Body Outlaw

An Interview with Author & Body Activist, Ophira Edut --By Editor, Xina Sy

"I believe in radical self-acceptance... accepting what IS & what ISN'T about your body & self in the moment."

She is one in a set of identical twins, but she seems to have carved out a unique identity for herself as author, speaker, body-activist, astrologist, & creative-free-spirit. Ophira Edut, author of several bestselling books including, Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image, & Adios Barbie: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity, is a leading expert & radical change agent when it comes to women's issues & challenging mainstream concepts about women & beauty. Speaking around the world & sharing her views with millions of women, Ophira has become widely known as a voice that women can trust & identify with in a real way, as her message is genuinely personal & making an impact on the way women view & define themselves. Here are some of the thoughts she shared with The BBB--->

XS: You have done a lot in the field of body image...what has been the project that has really stood out & meant a lot to you personally?
OE: I love speaking at universities, because the students are so engaged in questioning everything, and open to becoming activists (if they aren't already). Their passion is so inspiring. The website I co-founded,, also has a special place. We started it in 1999, and it's still going strong. My co-editor Pia Guerrero and our new editor Sharon Haywood have been awesome with updating the site and tweeting daily, so we're really able to spread the message in a fun way. What I love is that we're one of the few sites to address body image from a multicultural and multi-identity perspective. We're interested in how body image "intersects" with all the other facets of peoples's lives, be it their race, sexual orientation, economic class, ability, age, and so on. That can sound very serious--and it is--but we also try to inject humor and irreverence into the tone and design. 
XS: Body Outlaws? Why? What did it mean to create that particular project? Was it rebellion against mainstream media?
OE: I came up with the idea when I decided to wear a bikini at size 14/16. I knew I would feel self-conscious, so I decided to do it for a greater cause of changing the world (in that very small way) by example. I realized that I had to walk my talk--I couldn't preach self-acceptance unless I was willing to sit in the hotseat myself. Baring my cellulite and stomach for the first time was scary, but I also felt empowered by the notion that maybe people would see a woman walking proudly in her swimsuit (fake it 'til you make it) and think, "If she can do it, maybe I can, too."

In the old West, outlaws were willing to break society's rules in order to change the culture and set people free. They were sometimes harassed, ridiculed and misunderstood, but they did it for a higher purpose. The average person sees 400-600 ads a day (and that's an older statistic -- it's probably more now). So, the world needs a few brave souls to take that chance. I love Glee for that reason; I feel like it's packed with body outlaws, but done in a very funny and palatable way.
XS: What does loving & accepting your whole self REALLY mean to YOU?
OE: I believe in "radical self-acceptance." In other words, accepting what IS and what ISN'T about your body and self in that moment. For example, when I gain weight and my clothes feel tight, I might try to squeeze into the uncomfortable ones or wear the baggy "schmattes," as my mom calls them. After all, why buy something new if it's not going to fit, right? Wrong. Radical self-acceptance means I get to look and feel great at the high, low and middle size of my range, because all there is is right now. It's about living in the present, settling INTO my skin. Not easy or automatic, but it's do-able. Even if I want to change something about myself, it has to come from a place of loving what is, rather than hating or rejecting it. That way, change stems from a self-affirming place.
Identical Twins, Tali & Ophira Edut
XS:  You are an identical twin? How do you define your OWN self image?
OE: Oh man, my sister and I have been compared our whole lives. It's normal to want to distinguish between twins, but we've both gone through phases where people have actually identified one of us as "the bigger twin." It used to trigger body image stuff a lot more for us, and when we were younger, we'd police each other's diet and exercise habits. What if--gasp--someone thought I had HER flaws?
XS: And, what of your Jewish culture? How does that affect your self image?
OE: To me, being Jewish has always been aligned with women’s empowerment and multiculturalism. As the daughter of an Israeli landscaper (dad) and an American rabbi (mom), I grew up believing that cultures could coexist, and women could be whatever we wanted. 

XS: How Does your work as an astrologist play into identity & self image?
OE:'ve pondered that for years. I think it all comes down to my commitment that people know and accept themselves, "flaws" and all. Understanding your chart and your sign can actually give you tools to work with, information that helps you play to your strengths. I definitely put empowering advice into my horoscopes (please check 'em out at

XS: What tips do you have for women learning to truly love themselves? Some simple steps?

OE: Catch yourself. Catch your mind when it's about to spiral into the depressing, self-hating tunnel to nowhere. All we can do is cultivate that consciousness, learn what sets us off, catch it and affirm our worth before we tumble down that rabbit hole. Is it a TV show? A fashion spread? The way a relative looks disapprovingly at you or comments on your body? We can't necessarily change those outside influences. But we CAN change how we respond to them.
XS: How do you define real beauty for your SELF?
OE: Being of service and knowing that I've made a difference for someone is what makes me feel completely beautiful. Our light comes from what we have to contribute to others, not from getting the perfect face to stare back in the mirror. Make your life meaningful. What are you here for? How can you serve the world? Connect to life, and the feeling of beauty flows from a divine source.

XS: What's in the future for you?
OE: More media projects that empower women. I'm working on an e-book series for my astrology biz, and we plan to create some cool materials for Adios Barbie, too. I just became a mom in October 2010, so I'm inspired by my daughter Cybele even more to create a world where little girls aren't sexualized and taught that their appearance is what's most important about them. 
XS: Side note? What does your name, Ophira, mean?
OE: My name means "goldmine," which I kind of love. In the Bible, it was a goldmine belonging to the wise Queen of Sheba. (Thanks for picking that one out, Israeli Dad!)

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In 1992, Ophira co-founded HUES, a national, multicultural women’s magazine, which was published until 1999. Ophira is also the editor of Body Outlaws (Seal Press, 2000), and its "outlawed" first edition, Adios, Barbie. Her website has been a resource for women since 1998. She has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Ms., the New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly. Ophira also lectures at colleges and conferences nationwide about body image and the media. For More info on Ophira & her work, visit: Ophira Dot Com and on twitter @adiosbarbie.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome article! I'm glad Ophira and you, Xina, are helping ladies love themselves. It's virtually impossible to connect with your own place in this world when you don't like who/what you are. Thanks, ladies!!!