Dressing to Impress at the Golden Globes

Jennifer Lopez at the Golden Globes So, this past Sunday was the Golden Globes and so there was, of course, the required hours of red carpet footage. No doubt there were hours of red carpet preparation as well done by many celebrities. What they wear is often the source of entertainment news fodder. This year, Time has graciously (eye roll) created a post-event slide show highlighting “Five Stars Who Look Looked Fat and Five to Who Looked Fit.” Gee, thanks Time. What would we do without your critical and enlightening gaze?

Actually, more like just critical. This Sociological Images post does a great job of talking about how the article assumes that fashion is used merely to hide the “flaws” that separate your body from that of the ideal we’re supposed to live up to. Thighs are too big to fit the super-skinny mould? If your dress doesn’t hide your shape, then – according to the piece – you’ve failed. And they plan to publicly shame you. Hurrah.

Fashion as body camouflage? Fashion as the tool for creating a generic body? I think we can find a better use for the creativity and beauty that is potentially possible in the things we wear. Many girls (and boys) see their clothing choices as reflecting who they are and showing the world a little piece of themselves, not hiding what makes them special. Celebrity articles show the extreme version of what happens often when people try on clothes at home or in dressing rooms and compare themselves to how they “should” look. Time is holding up the body image standard here to see how the celebrities compare, and even they – who are often only celebrated for being closest in society to this ridiculous ideal – cannot live up to this measure. Anyone calling J Lo fat in this picture needs to get their eyes checked, and re-checked.

I’m no fan of the Golden Globes. I’m no fan of celebrities. However, I’m even less of a fan of this beauty standard that requires our every effort be devoted to conforming and contorting our bodies to fit the ideal. Can’t we just wear pretty dresses?

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Cosmo Features the Same Faces, Over and Over

Women’s magazines always look the same to me, no matter whether it’s the issue from this year or last year, or the one before. Darren from DarrenBarefoot.com put together a video of 36 Cosmo magazine covers and you will notice that they all look pretty much the same.

It’s not surprising, considering that they all feature the same ideals of beauty and femininity. They are creating the “ideal” Cosmo reader in every issue as they talk about what to wear, see, buy, use, desire, or do in bed. This reader is eerily similar to the “ideal” woman in society, and there’s a debate to be had about why Cosmo is so popular. Is it because women want to become like the image they see in Cosmo and buy the magazine, or do they want to be like those figures because of what they’re reading? Or a little of both? None of the above?

We need to talk about how the media effects everyone and how they see their world and their bodies. What does having a popular magazine with, essentially, the same cover every issue tell us about our options as far as body type? What does the lack of women of colour (often referred to as “minority” women) on these front covers tell us about race and beauty?

From where I stand, it doesn’t tell us very good things. It’s showing the distinct lack of options that the beauty ideal of mainstream society gives us, which ignores how many, many ways there are to be beautiful. Why are we looking around and seeing the same faces, same bodies everywhere in the media when you look at reality and see SO many different variations? We’re missing out on a lot of beauty.

Times Change

One of the most positive things about body image and the beauty standard is that they are culturally defined, so societies can – and do – change their minds about what beauty means in their culture. This has happened over a long course of time in the West and it gives me hope that – in the long term – the current obsession with a narrow version of beauty can be altered to find a healthier picture.

Sociological Images again provides a good example of this change. They recently posted about vintage ads for products that helped women to gain weight, which was seen as a positive at the time. This is so antithetical to ads in current magazines that it’s pretty funny read and it highlights the current overwhelming pressure to lose weight nowadays.

If we can go from one extreme to another, I hope that someday we will all manage to be a little more moderate about beauty standards, relaxing that choke hold to allow women room for beauty in all sorts of bodys. Check out the original post on Sociological Images here.

THIS is The Problem

Actually, this is a youtube video that was recently posted to Sociological Images talking about the dangerous tactics women are willing to use to fit the current standard of beauty, and what it takes to stop them (here’s the post). Unfortunately, it’s not the health risks that have been proven to dissuade those women from following specific beauty practices – it’s ugliness. Check out the video below.

So, skin cancer isn’t as scary as wrinkles or sun spots, apparently. The second speaker is saying many things that I include in my book and my presentations, and it was such a relief to hear someone else acknowledge the intensely important problem that we have in our beauty standards. Women are expected to – and too often do – uphold these standards at the risk or cost of their well being. This is a problem. It’s like makes sure the orange peel is intact, while you juice the fruit.

Women are told to use ourselves up trying to conform to practices and appearances that our body wasn’t designed to fit to. Beauty and self-image is not just about getting girls to feel good about themselves at this point – although that’s a really important goal. It’s an issue about quality of life and what living well means. It’s about how we define health. Is health tied to blood pressure, or peer pressure? The beauty problem is more than skin deep, because the things we do to ourselves in its name have the potential to outlast any superficial beauty we thought we were gaining.

Sociological Images, a site I’ve linked to several times, just brought attention to an upcoming article in Shape Magazine. Here’s the teaser image:

Not skinny?If that’s the image of “curvy,” if that’s not skinny or seen as typically ideal, then I think I’m clearly confused. Kim Kardashian is no spokesperson for those who are fighting against the unrealistic body images. This is a photoshopping picture glorifying the current beauty standard, while the text tries to be empowering women to love their bodies at whatever size. This conflicting message is commonly seen in women’s magazines, and I think it’s important to remember the old adage at this point that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Yes, it is. Kimmy? Update: You are one of those skinny girls, with or without photoshop. She may not be a bone rack, but just because she doesn’t look emaciated doesn’t mean she’s not a thin girl.

Check out the article at Sociological Images here.

Take-Action Figures

Here is a cute youtube video about Bronte sister dolls, whose skills include kicking butt and getting their voices heard. The Bronte sisters all faced sexist publishers who refused to believe that women could write and publish books. As an author myself, I give a solemn nod to those who came before me. Thanks for the perseverance! The commercial for the dolls is hilarious. Check it out.

I found this link in several places, but Sociological Images also has a write up on it here.

Commodifying the Women’s Movement

Sociological Images is a great blog that takes apart advertising and tells viewers what we’re really seeing – and what they’re really saying. It deals with every type of oppression and I’m constantly impressed by the insightful commentary. Plus, they definitely have a sense of humour.

Commodifying the Women’s Movement will lead you to post talking about the commodification of the women’s movement – otherwise known as selling feminism in order to sell products. These products can range from bras to shoes to cars. The appropriation of feminism by mainstream commercial culture devalues the struggle undertaken by feminists and turns it into a selling tool. While this happens with almost all social movements, it’s very frustrating to see the women’s movement into something it’s not.

Sexualizing and Gendering Food is another interesting one and it’s got dozens of examples of how foods are created or advertised in overtly sexual ways, or that give the food a specific gender. One of the more horrifying ones outlined a woman’s body as different cuts of meat and while this is no new trick, I can still never get over the division of women into pieces for sale. It happens all the time, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! A lot of these are very shocking and several are surprisingly sexual. You have been warned.

Anyway, check out the links and explore Sociological Images!