Image and Identity




#thecumulativeeffectThe World According to Google

7 comments | April 9th, 2012


With nothing else to do on a quiet Easter morning, we were thinking about this story submitted by one of you a year ago, and started randomly putting words into Google's Image Search to see how the world looks through the eyes of the Great Google in the sky.  We'll admit that our analysis is not a thorough one, but a quick look atthe first images that come up seem to reinforce a lot of gender stereotypes, and interestinly - by and large - women are shot from the nipples up while men from the shoulders.  Hmm.

Take a look and let us know what you think about what you see (and don't) in the comments.  Also, add your words to the library below and let's see what your world looks like through the eyes of search. 






White Men:

White Women:

African American Women:

African American Men:








#bodiesWhat Is Prettiness (and Why’s It Matter)?

9 comments | April 2nd, 2012

cloudy talk burst

(story originally submitted as a comment to Distortion, by Mir)

What is it about prettiness that makes us care so much (me included)?

We fight “you’re not pretty” messages with “yes you are, everyone’s pretty!” messages. We don’t feel a need to tell everyone that they’re athletic, or agile, or a story-teller, or musical, or scientific-minded, or a great linguist. We accept that there are degrees of talent or luck and if you’re at the low end of these, that’s fine. Go be great at the things you’re great at.

Kind-of drives home how much prettiness matters, which is just weird.  {end story}  

Why do we care so much about "prettiness"?  Do you care about prettiness?  What do you think pretty is?


12 comments | March 29th, 2012

Get Busy Living

(story by 'A Mountain Momma', a Chestist; originally 4.25.11)

I have things I need to do. Supposed to do. Have to do. They are not done. I think about them constantly, but I do not do them. And I feel guilty about it. All. The. Time

I thought if perhaps I unloaded here and made a list it might prompt me into doing these things, these chores, these monkeys on my back.

I am going to print out this list and put it on my fridge and check them off as I do them. Let's hope it works and this list does not instead start mocking me instead of helping me.

Here goes:

1. I need to change my name. It has been 2.5 years, really get on it Girl!

2. I need to change my oldest daughter's name. **See above.

3. I have to call the cable company and bitch at them about our bill. I just need 3 hours to set aside to be on hold is all.

4. I have a laundry basket, dryer, and washing machine upstairs full of laundry in various stages. Calling my name.

5. I need to ...

#bodiesWhere’s the Outrage?

8 comments | March 23rd, 2012

dude, wtf

So Kim Kardashian get hit with a flour-bomb last night at the launch of her new perfume?  Does Katy really have a new guy? 

Doesn't it sometimes seem like popular culture is focusing on things that maybe just don't matter all that much (and, we like gossip as much as anyone) and on those things that affect one or two of us but not that many of us?  Does it ever seem that maybe we should spend more time talking about things like this...


- 50% of children 8-10 years old report being "unhappy" with their bodies?

- More than 81% of 10-year-olds said they are terrified of "getting fat."

- 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad?

We could go on - and on.  We won't though.  But we will invite you to keep joining us - and so many others fighting this fight day to day - to try and make a difference.  We'll ask you to use your voice to ask "WTF" is going on and question how we begin to change it ...

#lifestagesI Struggle Everyday

8 comments | March 20th, 2012


(story submitted anonymously, by a 20 yo Chestist)

Sometimes we're held back by things within our individual control, and sometimes by things outside our control.  And then sometimes the things that might hold us back actually push us forward.  Here's her story: My disability feels like a lead weight around my ankle.

Thanks to my ADD, it takes me so much longer to do anything than it does my friends. It takes more effort to pay attention to everything, even just a conversation. I'm in college, at a public university with classes commonly as large as 500 students. I want to go to vet school, one of the hardest professional programs to get into. I struggle every day. I never get a break. And sometimes? I feel like I'm just lazy. Or that I don't work hard enough. That I'm using it as a crutch. It doesn't help when people say that it isn't a real disability or even anything other than looking for an excuse to fail.

But the thing is, as much as it breaks me down, beats at my confidence, makes me completely ...

#thecumulativeeffectGiving Away Our Self Esteem

11 comments | March 7th, 2012

Chestist typewriter 2

(story submitted by Sueann, a Chestist)

Do advertising and the images you see in popular culture affect how you feel about how you look?  Sueanne worries you might.  Here's her story:

I just saw a segment on a morning show about the new Levis ad campaign "women come in all shapes and sizes".

I constantly hear psychologists, doctors, sociologists, etc commenting on how the media affects our self esteem and how we start as young girls to look at advertising images as how we should be.  I want to remind EVERYONE that it is an industry that cares about making money NOT shaping your developing mind!!!!  Don't look to the pages of a fashion magazine for role models!  Look instead at the people in your world who love and care about you. 

Look to our teachers, health care providers, social workers, and the all the people in your lives who make a difference.  The change can start right now with each one of us.  Don't comment on someone's acne, weight gain, or wrinkles. Have an open mind and an open heart to the kindness and wisdom that ...

Pen to Paper

35 comments | March 7th, 2012


(story by Mir, from

I have vivid memories of passing out other kids' papers at school (nerd that I was), studying their handwriting. My own handwriting was never quite right. Ideas tumbled out of my brain and down to my fingers faster than I could capture them, so no matter how I tried to slow down, the resultant scribbles were always hasty and never as pretty as I hoped. My printing was sloppy, my cursive too small and too slanted.

One popular girl whom I secretly admired had textbook-perfect cursive, but usually eschewed it in favor of her round and beautiful printing. She dotted her "i"s with circles, rather than just dots. She formed her lower-case "e"s as lower-case "c"s which were then cut on a jaunty angle by a perfect slash. Her lower case "a"s, when the rest of us just slapped a line on a circle, were formed with a loop over the top, then the semi-circle belly, and a finishing tail flourish at the end. Her "s"s were impossibly round and feminine, somehow.

I didn't care, except that I did. Deeply. I would ...

#lifestagesNot Everyone With Depression Is a Quiet Kid

4 comments | March 1st, 2012

black explosion chestist

(story submitted anonymously, by a Chestist)

No matter how open-minded and conscious we may be, we can all fall back to judging books by their covers and people by what we see sometimes.  But, we're reminded by this story that never know anyone's real story until they share it. She shares hers here:

When you can convince people you are shallow, no one bothers jumping in.

When the surface is shiny, no one looks beyond.

Sometimes it's the ditzy sugar-coated valley girls who are deeply unhappy. Not everyone with depression is a quiet kid who wears all black. Sometimes the best way to go unnoticed is to wear hot pink and contrary to popular belief, guys look at you less if you show some cleavage (no one's ever gonna look you in the eyes if you're givin em a free show). I hide behind popularity. I am not who I present myself to be. I'm not confident. I'm not vapid. I'm not stupid. I'm not happy. I'm not even a real blonde. I'm just a girl who's had way too much practice lying. I had to hide the bruises ...


30 comments | February 28th, 2012

do you see me

(story by Mir, from Woulda Coulda Shoulda)

After years of being a female teenager, myself, and now having spent a couple of years parenting a female teenager, I've come to an inescapable conclusion: Surging estrogen has a negative impact on the brain. Argue with me if you must, but I think it must be true. I look at pictures of my teenage self, now, and wonder at how I could've been so myopic about my own looks. True, my hair was rather unfortunate (hey, everyone's was) most of the time, but I recall being convinced that I was plain, at best. On a good day, I believe I was plain. On a bad day, I just knew I was horribly, terribly ugly. My measurements, as a teen? 34-22-34. And I have a very clear memory of that first discovery of cellulite on my thighs, and trust me, it wasn't in my teens. When I was a teen, I was pretty. Not just that, but I had a killer figure. And I had absolutely no idea. Instead, I wore ...

#bodiesWhy We Self-Harm

7 comments | February 22nd, 2012

Chestist grunge

Commenting on this amazing story, 1 Chestist wondered why some of us self-harm.  The answer she got from one of you (anonymously) is worth its own space.  Here's her answer to why we self-harm:

Sometimes, specific physical pain provides a way to refocus the mind, away from other pains. Sometimes, it cuts through an emotional fog and deadness, and it’s the only way to feel alive. Sometimes, when everything in the world is completely out of control, it’s the one single thing under control. Sometimes, it’s not even really pain, it’s sheer intensity. Sometimes, it’s not even really the pain, it’s the meaning in the blood or the bruise or the burn. Sometimes, the emotions are so strong and feel so uncontrollable that lashing out is the only possible thing to do, and then it’s just about who or what is the target.

Punching walls, throwing things, screaming; those are externalized techniques for letting out stress. Cutting or burning (or sometimes overexertion) are internalized techniques.

Most of the time, these techniques are not healthy coping mechanisms. But they’re not incomprehensible if you can get a sense of the desperation and ...

#bodiesI Am

6 comments | February 20th, 2012

black explosion chestist

(story submitted anonymously by a 16 yo Chestist)

We got this from one of you:

I have EDNOS. I am anorexic. I am bulimic. I am neither. I am both. My body hates me and I hate my body. {end story}

What happens to some of us that we can wind up so sad so early?  Your thoughts?  

#thecumulativeeffectPainted Lady

43 comments | February 14th, 2012


(story by Mir, from We've already established that I hardly ever wear makeup. I could insist that this is due to my rejection of the patriarchal ideals of feminine beauty -- and you might even believe me, if I was earnest enough -- but the reality is that, mostly, I'm just lazy. Yep. I'm a feminist, sure, but I'm also not a morning person. Or even really a people person. And I don't like the way makeup feels on my face. What's more, I very rarely like the way makeup looks on people. Women who wear a full face of makeup every single day, to do things like run to the grocery store or---(my personal mind-boggling favorite) work out at the gym or go for a run---make me suspicious. I'm not unaware of the irony of not wanting to be judged for going bare-faced and then turning around and passing judgment on those who keep cosmetic companies in business, but I'm more or less okay with it. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who paints ...


6 comments | February 11th, 2012


(story submitted by Leah, a 17 yo Chestist)

While Leah's story is about cutting and self-harm, her bigger point - that the more we talk about what's considered taboo the less taboo it will be considered* - is an important one, and one that's always been at the heart of Off Our Chests.  Here's what Leah has to get off her chest:

I believe if we talked about self-harm as much as we made did and have teen drinking or even suicide, people might think differently about it and the people around them. The fact that it's considered taboo to discuss topics in public such as self-harm is absurd to me. I'm 17, and have been dealing with cutting for a few months now. I finally realized how much stereotyping goes into what people think about it and what other people do, such as self harm. I've realized that even the people closest  to me finding out was a source of embarrassment. I believe this is because no one will speak up and unveil the mysteries that surround self-harm.  {end story}

We agree with Leah...the more we all talk about ...

#bodiesGet Naked, More Often

4 comments | February 7th, 2012

plus sized

(OOC via

We came across this piece at one of our new favorite sites,  The author's premise is that to escape our own body dysmorphia and dissatisfactions - we should be naked more often.  But as he makes clear, not necessarily in front of other people (unless you and they choose to).

The reason this struck a chord with us here is that we watch our 5 and 6 yo kids run around naked all the time...totally carefree and free of inhibition, insecurity, judgment, and self-consciousness.  And as we watch them, we wonder when this will change; why it will change; if it has to change...

What do you think?  Can being naked help you embrace you as you are and maybe help diminish body image issues?  And, tangentially, how often and where are you naked?  Is it just the shower and bed?  Are you a nudist or ever thought about doing the nudist thing.  Come on, let's speak our naked truths and see if we can feel more better.

(for more of the amazing mindbodygreen go here)

#bodiesS, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL

6 comments | February 6th, 2012

double standard

(by Seth and Eva @OOC)

We shot the look-book for our women's StoryTee Collection the other day.

For those who don't know, a look-book is (as defined by Wiki)  "a collection of photographs compiled to show off a model, a photographer, a style, or a clothing line."  For Off Our Chests, it's the's showing retail buyers our new women's StoryTees, and how the shirts can be dressed up or down.  It's about giving the clothing a little attitude and context, and the retailer a little spark.

Here's the thing and the reason we bring it up at all.  We had 2 models.  They were both thin, really thin.  One was African-American and the other was white, size-wise they were "small", and we can't help but wonder if we should have had more body shape diversity, and so we feel the need to explain why a brand and platform like Off Our Chests that opens its arms and mind to the full diversity of women and their experiences as we do, did not reflect the same in our look-book.  Here's why.

Simply, we pretty much capitulated.  We gave in ...