Tag Archives: Beauty

What is Fairness?

Dark and Lovely For some odd reason, when black women decide to wear their hair naturally, this decision is construed as a social commentary. When I came home for the first time, my grandfather asked me was I a social activist now because I had not straightened my hair.  Contrarily, a white woman leaving the house without styling her hair is inconsequential. Without sounding like a toddler, this system is incredibly unfair. In a fair society, people would be able to make similar chooses with similar consequences. Instead, we face a system in which even our understanding of hair is subject to bias.

In the Dark and Lovely Ad, there is  language entrenched in civil rights, including “You have a right to unstoppable curls” and “never shrink from who you are.” While our hair can be used to raise consciousness, this certainly should not be the assumption.  Spade fights “for a world in which diverse gender expressions and identities occur, but none are punished and membership in these categories is used less and less to distribute rights and privileges” (29-30). His statement certainly can be applied to the world of beauty and hair care to create a fair environment for everyone.

Sources: http://cnysextremecouponing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/image.jpg

Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal(n.d.):15-37. Print.

The Success of “Camera Shy”

Dove’s True Beauty campaign has resulted in several viral videos all with the central goal of proving to every woman that she is innately beautiful (…and also selling soap). While I can’t deny that the intentions of these ads is a refreshing and positive change, often the way they have been executed has remained problematic. Several have casts that are almost entirely white, young and conventionally attractive so that while the text at the end reads “You are more beautiful than you think,” the viewer can clearly hear, “but you’d be most beautiful if you looked like these women.” The question also doesn’t address an equally significant problem, linked inextricably with body image, which is the sexualization and objectification of women’s bodies in our society which makes women believe being beautiful is so essential to their identity.

The same is not true of Dove’s recent work, Camera Shy. Opening with a montage of women each avoiding the camera, the commercial tagline asks “When did you stop thinking you’re beautiful?” as it shows a contrasting montage of little girls mugging for the camera. The cast of this ad is diverse in age, body type and race and the message is not so much addressing the individual woman and trying to assure that she’s beautiful. Instead the ad raises the point that as children we are not crushed by a constant fear of what we look like, it’s a fear that was impressed upon us socially and is not innate to womanhood.

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

Ad Critique: I’m Beautiful the Way I Am


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.

You Go, Girl!

Jennifer Lawrence on Body Image

In the video linked above, Jennifer Lawrence speaks out against society’s impossible beauty standards in answer to a question from a young girl about how to deal with the pressures from peers and the media to achieve perfection. I found her answer not only refreshing but inspiring. If society shared her views, more women would love their bodies. Women face the nearly impossibly task of feeling confident in about their own bodies while ignoring the harmful (and wrong) messages society sends about what is healthy or beautiful. A new attitude toward appearance – when “fat” and “skinny” are no longer relevant terms, when every woman’s body shape is accepted for its inherent beauty, and when women are no longer compared to and pitted against one another – is the ideal that society as a whole must strive for. Because as Lawrence says of how it is now, “that shouldn’t be the real world.” Amen, Jennifer!

Beauty – Is there such thing as free choice?

“We provide the ultimate solution for Asian women who seek to become the ideal beauty”

These Uniface Masks promise to give women “a lifetime’s worth of confidence…to satisfy today’s beauty standards”. It may sound ridiculous but this funny concept is not far from the normal standards of beauty that encourage women to disapprove of themselves.  “Giant anime eyes, long lashes, a high nose bridge, and narrow chin and cheeks are all in one product.” Although the product is a joke, these are often the features women aim to attain when altering their appearance with products and plastic surgery in order to fit into perceptions of beauty. Mainstream media’s beauty standards constantly encourage women to alter their appearance in some shape or form. “The ultimate solution” indicates that there is something wrong with the appearance of women and their appearance must be fixed. Women so often do not have the free choice of being themselves and feeling comfortable with their natural aesthetics because standards do not allow women to be satisfied with their looks. Do we have a free choice in our aesthetics if they are only acceptable when followed by the mainstream standards of beauty? Especially if such standards are not aligned with what women actually look like? This also reminded me of a video I viewed on YouTube that displays a woman posing during a photo-shoot and the after effects of the image once altered in Photoshop. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17j5QzF3kqE While viewing the video one can see the huge amount of editing involved in order to change the woman’s features to fit the ideal. In the beginning she looks like a normal person but the subject changes drastically to reflect the perfect body and face. There are no free choices available for beauty if only certain looks are normalized. The UniFace Mask also reveals how industries love to profit off of women’s insecurities. As mentioned by Kilbourne, the media sells only one option of what is beautiful and it is often profitable for business when we feel bad about ourselves (Kilbourne 55). If industries are profiting on women’s insecurities then ours choices of expressions are narrowed because women will only want to conform to the ideal.

Take a look at Uniface Mask: http://www.unifacemask.com/#!Home

Book source: “Buy This 24 Year Old and Get All His Friends Absolutely Free” by Jean Kilbourne

You Know What They Say About Good Intentions

MelissaThis month, Melissa McCarthy is featured on the cover of Elle in celebration of women in Hollywood.  However, many expressed outrage at the covering of her face and body by her hair and large coat.  They believed that Elle placed McCarthy in a context in which she could not be considered sexy like other cover models. Melissa McCarthy laughs, “I kind of wanted to look like the walk of shame. To guys that’s just got out of bed look, which is very sexy.” For me, the public’s response brought up questions of “To what must you react?” There is no doubt that the advertising industry constructs this idea of what beautiful is, and it typically has excluded full sized women. However, McCarthy specifically chose this look because it was sexy to her, and the public quickly cried “anti-fat” (Wann xii). In this case, it inadvertently reinforced norms by telling McCarthy that her ensemble was not attractive. While we must always react to exclusion and marginalization, we must also acknowledge the power of images of  “very chic, urban, unmarried, 18-34-year olds with huge disposable incomes” (Kilbourne 35). This predisposition never completely disappears, and in our reactions to injustice, we must constantly remind ourselves to shed preconceived notions of beauty.

Marilyn Wann, “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution” (2009)

Jean Kilborne, “Buy this 24-year old and get all his friends absolutely free” (1999)