Tag Archives: Berger

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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Big Question: The Inequity of the Shrinking Woman

http://www.upworthy.com/watch-a-student-totally-nail-something-about-women-that-ive-been-trying-to-articulate-for-37-years-6

“Shrinking Women,” a spoken word poem by Lily Myers, articulates the relationship between women, food, space, and voice. Myers compares her upbringing with her brother’s, and explains that while men are encouraged to speak out and raise their voices, women are told to become less than and belittle themselves. As Myers speaks, “I have been taught accommodation. My brother never thinks before he speaks; I have been taught to filter […] You [her brother] have been taught to grow out, I have been taught to grow in.”

The inequity Myers discusses is cultural, and we’ve all experienced or seen the phenomenon of the “shrinking women.” Susan Bordo discusses the issue of “the slender body;” culturally, women are told to view and value themselves only in terms of their physical appearance, and can only be deemed valuable if they fit the image of beauty societally upheld: skinny. Men aren’t upheld to a similar definition of beauty, however, and, as Myers highlighted in her poem, are taught completely different standards of behavior. As John Berger wrote in “Ways of Seeing,” “men act and women appear.” It is very obvious that a large inequality exists between men and women in our society. This inequity can only be eliminated when women are no longer upheld to the skinny ideal and taught to shrink.

Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” Ed. Amelia Jones. The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.

Fitness and Physique

Image

Although it may not seem obvious, this photo featuring a scantily clad woman on a bed is actually an advertisement for Equinox Gym. The woman’s highly provocative pose and her revealing dress aim to draw attention to the overwhelmingly thin physique that the gym is trying to promote. This unusual ad aims to lure in women by drawing the connection between fitness and sex appeal. By showing a thin female body in an intimate setting with a film camera set up next to the bed, the ad is emphasizing the connection between the culturally desirable slender body and the intimate situations her physique would apparently provoke. The woman’s position in the photo with no sight of her face depicts her as an object at service to the man lounging casually in front of her fully dressed. Her hypersexual pose highlights that a woman’s presence defines what can and cannot be done to her (Berger 37). Conversely, the man’s presence suggests that he is capable of doing whatever he pleases to the woman posing in front of him. The ad would be effective in targeting women by playing upon female insecurity since “most women feel their bodies fail the beauty test, and the American health and beauty industry benefits enormously” (Hesse-Biber 63).

Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” Trans. Array The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

Nagy Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.”The Cult of Thinness. Second ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. 61-90. Print.