Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dangerous Beauty... part one

I look around me and I see women putting themselves through absolute hell to reach and maintain a beauty ideal that isn't even remotely based on reality. We're a product of mass brain washing...
The media bombards us daily with images of what we're supposed to look like. They show us an ideal form that most of us can't even begin to hope to attain.

Actresses and models - our visual rolemodels have personal trainers, diets a pampered racehorse would find restrictive (usually prepared for them by a chef), a fleet of hair stylists, makeup artists, clothing designers, dressers, plastic surgeons, foundation garments that lift, seperate, grind together push pull tape and tug their bodies into the "perfect" most desireable configuratation. ....The images we see on our screens and in our magazines are polished within an inch of their lives before they make it to the screen, expertly lit and shot and then taken into computers and every flaw imagined and real is airbrushed out before we see them and then they're held up as "the norm" what a real woman should look like....

We see these images...they become our emotional holy grail.
Men want them (I'm writing this from a female heterocentric perspective I know men have their own visual demons)...women want to be them and both are doomed to disappointment because they're chasing illusions. They're questing for phantoms created on a computer screen...or on the operating table..or in the makeup chair.

How can the average woman/mother/teenager even begin to hope to live up to such a rarified ideal? We have only ourselves to rely support crews of groomers...usually limited budgets.. and photoshopping just isn't usefull when you're walking around on the street.

Normal people ....regular every day folks...have wrinkles...they have expressions...they have flaws..they have flab...gravity works.

And in each and every form there is some beauty..simply because that is the person as time made them.

I'd like to think that we're more than the sum of our parts.
I know that I'm more than just a collection of body parts - hell if it came down to just my body parts by todays standards I would be one of the most unlovable people on the planet - I'm morbidly obese, I have scars, no breasts to speak of (and what I have are proof positive that gravity works), my hair is an unruly mess of half curly half straight reddish mud brown. I wear glasses, I have uneven teeth, I'm plain as toast without butter and I'm short.

Housed in that less than cosmo perfect shell is a sharp mind a warped sense of humor a loyal heart, a smidge of talent and a collection of skills that I'm beginning to note are not commonplace.

Yes, I have image issues...mostly brought on by people treating me like a second class citizen. Some brought on because despite being a semi-rational human being I buy into the hype. It's hard to feel like a human being when people turn their noses up at you.

then part of me questions..what's wrong with simply being as god and time made you?


  1. What I have noticed is that in internet searches, that all the photoshop demos, rants, Dove commercials, and so forth ALL show only women as recipiants of photoshop enhancement. I am reasonably certain that male actors/models etc get the same treatment. But it is not shown, or talked about - because why? Is the lie that men don't need enhancement or photoshop, only women have imperfections that must be expunged? Is it not acceptable that just maybe some of these guys are fighting there own wrinkles, sunspots and so forth? Or heaven help us, maybe that bulging basket in the candid swimsuit photo isn't nearly as well packed as the general public thinks? After watching one photo reworking of a young woman who went and endowed, to freakishly over-abundant and scary in the breast department at the hands of a photoshop artist, I suddenly wondered what kind of stretching, and increasing of size and shape possibly goes on over at PlayGirl, or Blue Boy, etc...Women remain the focus of the scenario - even when something like the Dove comercial took it on to show how little truth there was in advertising, they used a woman for their model. Is the message that its ok to photoshop us because we need it and men don't?
    There is something dark at the bottom of this that has to do with women as a commodity for sale - even though men appear in ads and magazines and etc, they escape that stigma.
    And I have to say one thing - as an artist who sees the beauty of the human form in all it's glory, without photoshop and loved the infinite variety of the are quite beautiful as you are! And I have always thought so.

  2. is a thought...male nude photography. Aside from is it as long as we think it is, now arise the question of is it truly circusized or not? And did he REALLY get a tattoo THERE...or was there one and there isn't now.
    In fact, how many people have wornderful individualistic ink that is swept away by photoshop? We see some tattoos in candid shots...but the glamor cover shots? Argh..,Knowing what I now know, I almost could not look at the magazine rack the other day...

  3. Ok, my 2¢. I think you most of it right but are missing some of it. Some of it is wiring. Or maybe indoctrination, but I lean towards genetic wiring. My reasoning? It doesn't seem to effect me. Cameron will understand that viewpoint.

    So how are they wired differently in my opinion? To the reader if identifying as female, what is the first thing you notice in a prospective partner? Is it nose? Mouth? Legs? Breasts/Pecs? Rear? ... or how about none of the above? Women (generalization alert) tend to 'look' for the person inside. The voice, the sense of humor, the thoughtfulness. In many instances seeing a partner playing with kids is a decided plus. It means they are caring and nurturing. To most men, it's a turn off...they see age and responsibility.

    Wait....then if I'm saying that men are genetically wired differently, what are those differences. IMO/YMMV...Men are visual. A prospective partner wouldn't need to even be on the same planet to turn them on if they fit the definition of 'hot' (for some value of hot). Alternately, a not rated 'hot' woman in the same room with them will do nothing, no matter what they are like. The hot could have atrocious manners and be antisocial, and the guys will still hit on it. While the not hot could be a brilliant cook, lover, brain, dancer, conversationalist, socially graceful, and will still get the brush off.

    Yes, those are generalizations. But the old joke is still somewhat accurate..and can be applied to straights just as easily, because gender is the important part of it: What does a gay man (redundant?) bring on a third date? What third date? What does a lesbian bring on a third date? A u-haul. Not really accurate and a gross generalization, but that it exists points out that men are into what they see in front of them...women tend to look farther and deeper.

    Just food for thought.

    Be safe and well,

  4. Well written, Missbehavin’

    As a teacher in a girls’ school, I am constantly confronted with the potentially devastating effects on adolescent women of our culture of beauty.

    But I doubt that hard-wiring or brains or any other biologist explanation of gender ‘differences’ are the culprits here, as Alissia suggests (How does her version of hard-wiring explain the ‘Bad Boy Syndrome’ that causes such angst among straight women? If Alissia’s view of men as ‘visual’ and women as ’able to see the depths of a prospective partner’ is correct, why do women who are tempted to get involved with the ‘Bad Boys’ not see that they are arseholes and so avoid the world of hurt that the ‘Bad Boys’ cause?)

    Believing that there is a biological basis to the ‘different’ ways in which the genders behave and to the ways in which they relate, that something beyond humanity, be it Nature or a Deity, has mandated these patterns is comforting to many men (and some women). Firstly, some people just need a sense or ‘order,’ especially in times of uncertainty. But, more importantly, men like it because it tilts the playing field in their favour (funny, that!) and the women who like it are often caught in a type of infantilism, in which they are happy to be looked after by ‘Daddy.’

    One could turn such biologism on its head and argue that current patterns of gender relations are due to the fragile nature of maleness — men fear women and are especially terrified by the idea that women will ‘gang up on’ them. This, it could be argued, is why men create divisions among women, pitting one against another in competition for men’s ‘favour.’

    However there is a better way to see the matter and Cameron is nearer the mark, IMO.

    The cause of the immense suffering that women, young and old, undergo is *cultural*. Technology certainly plays its part, in the airbrushed and sculpted bodies, the prevalence of images in comparison to which most of us feel inadequate, and the current pressure on women to plaster their own pictures all over the public space of the Web. ‘The Media,’ too, bear responsibility, with their emphasis on celebrity — in the US, which is the ‘cultural leader of the Free World/the West’ public figures must, first and foremost, be physically attractive. Advertising, too, bears some responsibility, by creating feelings of inadequacy to sell products — “you can’t sell things to contented people,” as the saying goes. There are doubtless other factors too — the obsession with ‘beauty’ probably goes back beyond Homer (for whom physical beauty was a sign of noble birth, which ‘automatically’ made for nobility of character) and is notorious in folklore (where the ‘noble birth’ link was often skipped).

    But underlying all these elements is the commodification of the female body in class-based societies — women are bought and sold like any other commodity in such societies, with such factors as ‘looks’ and ‘purity’ increasing or decreasing the price that can be asked. That women in ‘the West’ usually sell themselves nowadays is hardly a step forward — it is more a case that they have internalized the system of valuation existing in the society to which they belong, i.e., the attempt to convince women that what they look like is their chief source of value has succeeded. This tendency has reached insane and obscene heights in the current era of turbo-capitalism (capitalism-on-steroids), where “greed is good” and “everything has its price.”

    Two favourite quotes — “If every woman slapped herself on the forehead and said, ‘I’m OK — I like myself just the way I am,’ whole economies would collapse.” and “Have you ever considered, Girls, that when you’ve reached Size Zero, you’ve actually ceased to exist?”

  5. For a good refutation of biologism, see Cordelia Fine, "Delusions of Gender," Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2010. (Published by Ww Norton & Co in the US and by Icon Books in the UK)