Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Unrealistic Editorial

source: LundLund, Photographer: Aorta, Stylist Kari Hirvonen for SCHÖN magazine

I like a Tinkerbell with bride of Frankenstein hair and shiny thigh-high black boots. This editorial is a lot of fun and it does what it's supposed to do; take you to another place. That is what fashion editorials are supposed to do. 

The reason that's significant is because it is really annoying to hear/read anything about how fashion is depicting "unrealistic" body images, which lead to disorders stemming from body image problems and general unhappiness of women. We are all familiar with this argument. Women see something in a magazine, it's implied that that's the expectation and the woman, fool that she is, sacrifices her high calorie sods, self immolating as she is, so that she can please the world around her. Therefore, STOP depicting unrealistic women or else these idiots will all starve themselves because when it comes to women "monkey see, monkey do". Women cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy because women can't handle logic. Well, you probably haven't heard the argument phrased quite like I put it. 

There is a fair amount of good will on the part of the people who want more realistic women in ads. Their heart is in the right place, I will give them that much, but somehow they didn't think this through. So, we live in a patriarchal society, and women get the short end of the stick in so many ways. Part of the reason I feel this thing really caught on is because it implicitly confirms all the negative stereotypes women have been fighting. The more you examine some of the stuff people say on this topic, the more disturbing it becomes. The underlying premise is that women need to be protected from themselves, a dangerous argument that has been used to control women for a long time and everyone is just falling for it again. 

The controversy surrounding makeup is similar. Natural is best, makeup is bad, makeup is fake, men don't like makeup etc. Ultimately, though the problem is not with makeup but with people (men and women) feeling like the have some kind of a right/duty to boss women around about their appearance. They are no better than the marketers who are claiming that you need makeup to have self esteem, the only difference is that they are claiming the opposite*. The underlying assumption is still there though: "women need to be told what to do" and more specifically, "women need to be told the right thing to do". Everyone has got an opinion about whether women should wear makeup or not. It really isn't any one's business if someone (woman or man) wants to wear makeup. Yet, there is some creepy desire to dictate what women should be doing with their faces that I keep detecting in random places. 

I just wish we could focus on some of the more important things than how the woman above looks "unrealistic". She is next to unrealistically large broken dishes, and wearing an unrealistic bouquet hat. There is a very large teapot next to her too. We should start a campaign for the realistic depiction of teapots! People looking at ads such as these might come away with the expectation that teapots are actually this large and feel insecure, unhappy and generally dissatisfied with their own puny teapots. 

I am not defending the status quo. I would like to see a lot more diversity in ads, myself, but not because it would be "more realistic", but because it would be more creative and interesting and I would simply enjoy seeing it. Complaining that a world of make believe is unrealistic, is idiotic. I don't defend the particular choices editors have made, but it is extremely important that they maintain their "free speech". Yes, I went there. I can go further but I won't (here). Freedom of expression is essential, and the pressure to make "realistic" images only, undermines it. Right now it's pressure, but let's hope that pressure won't turn into laws and regulations. I don't sincerely worry that it might, but laws about how you can and cannot depict women have a distinctly distopic ring. I only worry that thoughts like I'm having are far from the minds of people who want to regulate all our problems away. (Yes, I know some counties have taken various measures but I don't really want to get into that).

There is more good news than bad news. According to womenshealth.gov for 2007 (love how they keep these things updated) 60 percent of women are overweight and a third of those are obese according to their BMI (I know, not the best indicator but it's the one they use). On the surface, this is not so good. On a deeper level though, this is ironically, fantastic. It means that women are already making the decision to be themselves, eat as much as they want and do whatever they want. Is it healthy, it's not. What is more important though, to be healthy or to live your life the way you want to live it? Those things don't have to come into conflict, but they can. Women have been bombarded with these "unrealistic" images for decades, yet so many of them seem to be impervious to the message that they need to be thin, (not to say that thin women are dumb sheep). Sure, many women dream of slimmer legs, or a flat tummy, or no cellulite or a smaller nose, or bigger/smaller lips. In practice, most women have higher priorities, have better things to do with their time, know what they really want, are busy and are actually intelligent, thinking beings. They don't need to be "protected" from "the wrong" message. Do I encourage an "unhealthy lifestyle" (not to suggest that unhealthy=overweight and vice versa)? Yes, if that is what you want to do with your life, because FREEDOM!

*I did mean to write that.

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