Tag Archives: appearance

Spark Post: The Selfie

Lately, the feminist blogosphere has grown consumed with the concept of the selfie. Theories abound for its impact on self-esteem, body image and celebrity culture, among other things. At the crux of the discussion lies the question of its merit: are selfies good or bad for women?

On the one hand, they allow girls to assert their existence, claiming their right to “speak” by generating media and proliferating their presence.

On the other hand, the basis of that assertion is their appearances: they’re channeling society’s gaze, reaffirming the idea, as discussed by John Berger, that women exist to be looked at. Yet there still seems to be some subversive agency in women’s ability to control their images through selfies.

Does women’s agency in taking selfies claim a new territory for women? Or does it represent another iteration of the male gaze, as women internalize the societal imperative to value, above all else, their being-looked-at-ness? Can we designate the as selfie definitively detrimental or progressive for women?

Cited: Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” From Jones, Amelia, “The Feminism & Visual Culture Reader,” New York: Routledge, 2003

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Ad Critique: I’m Beautiful the Way I Am

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I was impressed to learn of a new ad campaign that New York City is running directed at young girls. Meant to tackle issues of self-esteem and body image, the posters depict girls of many different races, ages and sizes, engaged in a variety of activities. They’re accompanied by variants on the slogan, “I’m a girl. I’m smart, a leader, adventurous, friendly, funny. I’m beautiful the way I am.”

The diversity of representation in the ads is clearly unusual; the depiction of . The girls are portrayed as dynamic, multivalent individuals. In contrast to many representations of little girls in advertisements, these girls aren’t hyperfeminized; they aren’t wearing tutus and playing house. These girls, in short, can grow up to be anything. The ads’ text refers to the girls’ many attributes. They aren’t exclusively valued for their appearances, an issue John Berger discusses in “Ways of Seeing:” women are typically regarded as exclusively ornamental, not instrumental. In this campaign, their intangible qualities and abilities are emphasized.

Or so it seems. In each ad, the dominant sentence–in a large font, below the rest of the slogan–is “I’m beautiful the way I am.” This is meant, of course, to refer both to “inner beauty” and to the affirmation of beauty across various body types and races. But should this be the takeaway? Is it enough to expand the definition of beauty, if only to continue insisting that women embody it? This campaign does well to broaden how “beauty” is construed, but it still shouldn’t be a determining factor in how we affirm girls’ worth. Girls should be affirmed as smart, as leaders, as adventurous, friendly and funny. They should be reminded that their worth doesn’t depend on how beautiful they are. They should be reminded that they don’t exist to be looked at.

Works Cited: Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” From Jones, Amelia, ed. “The Feminist & Visual Culture Reader.” New York, Routledge: 2003.

How Should We Respond to Media?

As consumers, we’re bombarded with media that dictates our perception of society and normalcy. And within this mass of messages, we find many paradoxes in regard to our appearance and weight. Companies selling weight loss products, like Alli, play up slender body norms (Even the box has a slender shape!), yet food distributors like McDonald’s offer consumers XL sodas (Remember supersizes?). Susan Bordo observes in Unbearable Weight, “’Correct’ management of desire in [this] culture, requiring as it does a contradictory double-bind construction of personality, inevitably produces an unstable bulimic personality-type as its norm” (Bordo 187). Apart from weight, women are also shown a double standard; ads are digitally altered. The women represented in ads aren’t even real, yet the media normalizes them, so we are given the message we need to be like them. The media spreads a false and impossible standard of “normalcy.” The best response to this could be education and awareness. Dove has taken steps toward awareness with their Real Beauty campaign; here’s one of their commercials:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

I think awareness of the truth and motives behind media is important. We need to remember that we live in a capitalist society, and that companies disregard our well-being at the chance to make money.

Work Cited

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of CA Press, 1993.

Women’s Self-Perception

I found this video by the Dove campaign so touching. It shows an artist blindly sketching women first as they describe themselves, and then as someone else describes them. It turns out that the latter are much more attractive depictions, showing women how harshly they judge their own appearance. From personal experience I find this to be a very true phenomenon – but the question is why? Women often hold themselves to extremely high, or impossible, standards as they compare themselves to images in the media, many of which are photoshopped. When they look in the mirror and see they stray from this unattainable ideal, they may see themselves not in terms of what they are but in terms of what they are not. My question though, is why do women judge themselves more harshly than other women? Broadly speaking, all women are held to these same standards shaped by the media – so why do we seem to view ourselves more negatively than others?