The Beheld 101

Greetings! If you’re here after seeing me on the Today show (U.S.) or Sunrise (Australia): Thank you for visiting The Beheld! More information about my mirror fasting can be found here; you should also check out Mirror Mirror Off the Wall by Kjerstin Gruys, who went an entire year without looking in the mirror and is currently writing a book about the experience.

The public focus on mirror fasting has zeroed in on how the exercise changes our perspective on appearance. And, of course, that’s part of what my mirror fast did for me. But for me, something that was more important than either trying to feel better about my appearance—or to mute vanity—was to sever the observation loop.

As art critic John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing, “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object—and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.” I wanted to know what would happen if I stunted my ability to turn myself into “a sight”; if, instead of the chronically heightened awareness of the way I appear, I could tap into … well, I wasn’t entirely sure what I would wind up tapping into. That is why I did the mirror fast. Altering the way I thought about myself was part of it, yes, but all roads here lead to the complexities of self-observation.

While you’re here, please check out some of my other projects and writings from this blog. The Beheld is on Twitter and Facebook, and is also syndicated at The New Inquiry, which hosts a full roster of top-notch bloggers.

Interviews: Long-form interviews from women with unique perspectives on beauty, ranging from cosmetologists and photographers and artists to nuns and bodybuilders and morticians.

Thoughts on a Word: What do we mean when we say a woman is cute as opposed to attractive? Gorgeous instead of a bombshell? Sexy instead of glamorous? By examining etymology, history, and usage, I consider words commonly used to describe women’s appearance.

Beauty Blogosphere: My Friday roundups feature what I consider "beauty news." Instead of focusing on products, I curate links that span the worlds of business, academia, international news, health, women's media, social activism—and, as ever, the blogosphere itself.

Personal essays
     • For Helen Gurley Brown
     • For Elizabeth Taylor
     • For Janis Joplin
     • For Anne Frank