April 17, 2009

Oh, no…Kegels, trimming and rejuvenation…and?

Yes, it is true! There is a spa for your vag!  As reported in the New York Times, this spa is dedicated to the woman that seeks to “get in shape from the inside out.” “Pelvic fitness” was an idea inspired by teeth whitening. Uh, yeah.

First came the “medical spa,” or medi spa, offering dermatology services in a retail setting. The medi spa begat the dental spa, bringing tooth bleaching to storefronts nationwide. The dental spa begat the podiatry spa.

And now comes the first medi spa in Manhattan wholly dedicated to strengthening and grooming a woman’s genital area. Phit — short for pelvic health integrated techniques — is to open this month on East 58th Street.

Dr. Lauri Romanzi, a gynecologist who performs pelvic reconstruction surgery, said she came up with the idea for the spa one day while walking by an outlet of BriteSmile, the tooth-whitening chain. She liked that the stores cater to people with healthy teeth.

This makes vaginal plastic surgery seem tame. There’s just nothing off limits from the hands of the beauty industry.  They’ll make you feel insecure about anything and everything to make money.

With the ubiquity of pornography, the pelvis had already become a marketable area for modification, ranging from the Brazilian bikini wax to genital surgery referred to as vaginal “rejuvenation.” Doctors have even coined a term for such genital “beautification”: cosmetogynecology or cosmogynecology.

The advent of the pelvic spa, however, takes body fixation to a new level, furthering the idea that there is no female body part that cannot be tightened, plumped, trimmed or pruned.

“Whether the marketing is pushing the women or women are pushing the marketing, I don’t think anybody knows,” Dr. Berenson said.

I say, “Leave my pussy alone!” They are not suppossed to look the same, smell the same or feel the same, damn it. With the vag spa, or PHIT (Pelvic Health Integrated Services), the aim is clearly NOT about pelvic “health” when you consider their web address: perfectphit.com. Perfect fit, huh? It’s about making all our vags the same and, I ask, who determines this sameness?

There are no medical standards for determining what constitutes normal “fitness” or how to evaluate it, said Dr. Abbey B. Berenson, a gynecologist who directs the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

“If this is being recommended to women who have no symptoms, then there are no medical organizations or literature that support that that is necessary,” Dr. Berenson said.

It’s time to reclaim our bodies for ourselves and resisting imposed beauty standards that make our heads spin, our self-esteem shrink and our pussys look like they were manufactured on an assembly line.

April 15, 2009

Taking a real look…

This is awesome! Thanks for posting this link on Facebook, Lani. There’s no doubt that the proliferation of endless streams of images that show highly polished and edited women that appear younger, thinner and more flawless than they actually are has altered our view of reality and created a perverse critique of ourselves.  If only there were more regular images of women, we’d be less likely to beat ourselves up daily, over exercise, diet, fast, cleanse, endure regular colon hydrotherapy and see ourselves as the exception rather than the truth.

Here’s an excerpt:

The April issue of French Elle features eight female European celebrities–including Eva Herzigova, Monica Bellucci, Sophie Marceau, and Charlotte Rampling–all without makeup and, perhaps even more revealing, all entirely without Photoshopping or retouching of any kind. The mag’s headline “Stars Sans Fards” translates to “without rouge/makeup,” but it’s a French saying that also suggests a sense of  “openness.”

Judging from the images that have been leaked so far (the entire issue hits newsstands later this week), this title could not be more apt. Model Herzigova, 36, and actresses Marceau, 42, and Bellucci, 44, all look refreshingly natural, relaxed, and vulnerable in a way  American stars are seldom seen.

In fact, what might be most striking about French Elle’s pictorial is how it actually appears to embrace and celebrate the organic beauty of these famous faces (even if the lighting is super, super flattering and the women are all unbelievably gorgeous to begin with). In the U.S., when you come across a “stars without makeup” story, there’s always a GOTCHA! element, a message that says “Our gift to you: Derive pleasure from how ugly this person looks without cover-up for her zits!”

If you think about it, even our celebration of “natural beauty” is often far from natural. Consider the air-brushing scandal that surrounded last year’s Dove ads, or the countless “normal” celebs who are heralded for their curves but then, when they’re featured in a magazine, are digitally whittled down so they appear several sizes slimmer. We’re a curvy country that can’t handle looking at curvy people. It’s all kind of sad.

March 31, 2009

Don't stop believing…advertisement's beauty claims through the century

Seth sent this article on a century of manufacturers making outrageous claims to the masses that they can deliver the unrealistic image of beauty coveted in that particular time period. So far, I have yet to see a product or service truly deliver on their promise.  But, we continue to buy these products and services at a fantastic rate.

As the article points out, most people know that the product will not deliver but continue to believe it might. Healthy eating habits, exercise, hydration and geneticsplay the most important role in how we look.  So, why do we continue to believe the hype?

Well, we live in a culture that relies on instant gratification and faith.  Together, instant gratification and faith, mixed with a mediated culture that churns out advertisements containing airbrushed and photoshopped images at a dizzying rate with a remarkable increase year to year and it’s no surprise that people continue to consume these promises despite the overall failure tyo deliver.

We’re trained to be consumers from the time we are toddlers and we are assaulted with glossy images at every turn.  Take a look around and make note of how many spaces and how many times a day you are NOT prone to an advertisement. As this article depicts, this is not necessarily something new.  What has changed, though, is the degree to which we are subject to the messages from advertisers, the value of physical beauty above all else and the unrealistic and unattainable definition of beauty that is being sold.

December 8, 2008

Alba is airbrushed

Filed under: Body Image,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 7:46 am

As reported in The Mail Online, here’s yet another reminder that the current cultural image of beauty is truly unattainable because it isn’t real.

October 12, 2008

40 years after the Miss America Protest and the creation of the "bra burning" myth

An ode to my foremothers!

As more and more women, from all social locations (age, race, class), pursue unrealistic and dangerous standards of beauty and a cultural era that reinforces the rewards of achieving this beauty ideal  throughout the cultural landscape, I give a proud nod to the women of the New York Radical Women that publicly challenged the prevailing beauty norms.

As more and more young women are seized by the collective amnesia of their generation, it becomes imperative to promote the learning of women’s history.  In the words and actions of the women that form the continuous lineage we are part of, we find sources of inspiration, empowerment, and examples we can utilize in our current challenges and issues.

While the stereotype of feminist “bra-burning” is a myth, there is no doubt that this event and its protest left an indelible impression, for better or worse (depending on who you ask), on the nation.

NPR interviews: Miss America 1968, Debra Barnes Snodgrass, Alix Kates Schulman, Carol Hanisch and Kathie Sarachild. Listen here.

As a small group of feminists prepared to launch their emerging women’s liberation movement onto the national stage by protesting the 1968 Miss America pageant, they had no idea that the media was about to give them a new moniker: “bra burners.”

In reality, no bras were actually burned on the boardwalk in front of the Atlantic City convention hall that hosted the Miss America pageant, says Carol Hanisch, one of the organizers of the protest.

“We had intended to burn it, but the police department, since we were on the boardwalk, wouldn’t let us do the burning,” says Hanisch. A New York Post story on the protest included a reference to bra burning as a way to link the movement to war protesters burning draft cards.

Women threw bras, mops, girdles, pots and pans, and Playboy magazines — items they called “instruments of female torture” — into a big garbage can.

“The media picked up on the bra part,” Hanisch says. “I often say that if they had called us ‘girdle burners,’ every woman in America would have run to join us.”

Read the full story here.

October 8, 2008

More sexy girls…ugh!

On September 11 and September 24, I wrote about the gender socialization of young boys and girls, specifically the construction of sexuality.

One of my students turned this advertisement for House of Dereon’s (Beyonce and Solange Knowles’ clothing company) children’s line.  This is the first I had heard of it.  Apparently, it made a debut back in May and there are numerous responses to be found online that echo the same sentiment: disgust.

I can’t help but think of the obscene childhood photos of JonBenet Ramsey and the infamous spoof in, “Little Miss Sunshine.”

October 7, 2008

Highlights at Feministing on Palin's attract factor

In keeping with my recent posts on Sarah Palin’s looks (Palin porn, Palin sexy action figures, Maxim’s nomination of Palin and Hefner’s offer for Palin to appear in Playboy), I thought these posts at Feministing were relevant and thought-provoking:

Palin as a ploy to attract male voters: read here.

However a lot of men, especially older men see her as hot. She’s a fantasy come to life. She’s the naughty librarian ‘MILF’ who they’d love to get with. This manifest itself in the form of male talk show hosts giving her a pass. Many actually spend valuable time talking about her looks and small time stuff and not her scary politics. It manifest itself in people actually giving John McCain props for picking such a nice ‘looking babe’ versus’s focusing on his shortcomings. It sort of like him having a trophy wife. Except this one will have serious impact on US policy. It manifest itself in male producers who are behind the scenes spending time editing film and audio tape giving her a favorable look as she is a welcome break from the daily onslaught of old wrinkly white males who they are usually editing.

Journalistic focus on how attractive Palin is: read here.

Reporting that includes inappropriate observations about the attractiveness of candidates, threatens to turn political campaigns involving female candidates into beauty contests.  We must remain vigilant to sexist language in political reporting, and we must protest every infraction.

September 24, 2008

Virgin waxing and botox babies: the cash keeps flowing

Filed under: Body Image,Media — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 11:50 am

The New York Times reported on the newly emerging phenomenon of young women seeking preventative measures for the inevitable impact of the aging process in 2005.

“Did you hear about the 19-year-old girl who had botox injections to stop the crinkling around the eyes when she smiled? Or the 26-year-old beauty editor with a porcelain complexion who went for laser treatments to prevent sagging skin and sun spots from appearing in the future? Or the woman in her 20’s who, alarmed at the incipient folds forming at the sides of her mouth, made the rounds of top Manhattan plastic surgeons until she found someone willing to give her a face-lift?

Welcome to the Freeze-Face generation. Its members may grow up, but they won’t grow old. These cryonic enthusiasts aim to put themselves on ice while they are still smooth, not when they are as creased as Walt Disney. Many of these cryon babies have boomer moms who sunned and smoked with abandon, who, if they thought at all about living past 30, imagined themselves looking gorgeously weather-beaten like Georgia O’Keeffe. For their daughters’ obsession, you can credit or blame those same boomer moms who ran screaming to the plastic surgeon when their faces turned out more Keith Richards than O’Keeffe.

You can also credit, or blame, the face doctors who lure women in with an ever-changing menu of sexy rejuvenating treatments. But whatever the reason, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, last year people from ages 19 to 34 had 427,368 botox procedures; 100,793 laser resurfacing treatments; 128,779 injections of hyaluronic acid (Restylane or Hylaform); 29,160 eyelid surgeries; and 1,094 face-lifts.”

Recently, Viktoria, turned my attention to the recent article in Marie Claire entitled, “Beginners Botox.”

“On the eve of my 29th birthday, I got Botox. Let’s just call it a present to myself ($250 is a lot cheaper than the latest Louboutins anyway), a sanity-saving panacea for the panic of seeing a new decade so close on the horizon. Wanting to stop time, I found myself on a recent morning sitting on the edge of a paper-covered examination chair (the business-class version of what you’d find at the dentist’s office), with dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco scrutinizing my forehead while she asked me questions about my job and family and told jokes to make me laugh – all so she could watch how my face naturally moved. Then, four quick pricks later, I was done…

“If you ask a 13-year-old when people get old, they’ll say 30,” says Pennsylvania psychologist and dermatologist Dr. Richard Fried. “We’re bombarded with unbelievably unattainable images of airbrushed models and celebrities, so we all look into a circus fun-house mirror whenever we see ourselves. The human tendency is to accentuate the negative and minimize the positive. We’ve been sold a very destructive philosophy that somehow when you’re past 30, you start deteriorating. Any thrill, passion, or excitement has fizzled, and you’re just biding time until you croak. Doing something as simple as Botox can be enormously liberating and help fight the negative messages.”

It’s no surprise I’m not alone in my quest for eternal youth. In 2007 almost 400,000 Botox procedures were done on patients ages 19 to 34, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Chapas estimates that 15 percent of her Botox patients are in their mid- to-late 20s. And Liz alone has convinced at least four other 20-somethings (not counting me) to submit to the needle.”

The author clearly acknowledges the impact of our cultural environment that designates 30 as “old” and cherishes youth at all costs.  So much so that younger and younger women decide to inject, pluck, pull and go under the knife earlier and earlier to avoid aging all together.

This trend of targeting younger and younger women and “educating” and training them to abide by the unrealistic and increasingly difficult measures outlined by the beauty ideal is evident in the trend of “virgin” waxing and other professional beauty services for prepubescent girls.

Jezebel reports:

“1. An eight-year-old receives a bikini wax.
2. A ten-year-old gets microdermabrasion.
3. Numerous children under ten get highlights.
Funny you should ask! This is not dystopian work of satirical science fiction. (Though there is a stylist who finds himself in a sort of Guy Montag type of role when a woman asks him to relax her 12-year-old’s “beautiful, wavy hair.”) (He now “hawks an all-natural product to moms who want to lighten their five-year-olds’ locks; applied daily, it brings out subtle highlights.”) No, this is a story in Philadelphia magazine, a place I used to work in a city I used to live, a city that always seemed disarmingly normal and unmaterialistic relative to my current place of business. So reading it was kind of personal for me, especially since I know its writer, Carrie Denny, and I have to say, it was weird reading sentiments of such earnest dismay as “Without the ugly years, when do you learn to accept yourself?” coming from her.”

To read more on “Pretty Babies,” click here.

Simply scan the internet and you will come across advertisements that provide services for pre-teens. Browse the themes for children’s birthday parties and you will come across numerous sites offering make-over and fashion parties.

Don’t get me wrong, I painted my nails and put on make-up as a young girl but the final product was much less serious.  I remember peeling the polish off the skin surrounding my nail bed.  It was role playing in good fun.  The stakes have dramatically increased and should not be taken lightly.

In the end, the only ones benefiting are the purveyors cashing in on the insecurities of younger and younger women.

September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin and Barbie

Suzi Parker at Alternet offered an explanation for the supposed increase in support among women for Sarah Palin.

“Sarah, as she’s called by her female fans, is a 21st century walking, talking, breathing brunette Barbie. Women long to be her friend and have her as a confidante — the very role Barbie played during childhood. Naturally, women won’t admit that Sarah is like Barbie because to do so seems unsupportively shallow and well, sexist, toward the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket.”

Read the full article here.

September 11, 2008

America the Beautiful

Darryl Roberts’ documentary, “America the Beautiful,” is out!  In the never ending and unhealthy pursuit for the elusive image of beauty, we purge, restrict calories, over exercise, smoke, drink coffee, nip/tuck, suck, pluck, wax, shave, exfoliate, peel and pull.  Roberts’ forces us to look in the mirror as a nation and confront our value system.  As women, we are primarily valued by the degree to which we conform to acceptable standards of beauty and our accomplishments as scholars, business women, artists, poets, mothers, activists and politicians fall by the wayside if we are not coiffed, polished and flawless.

At a historical moment in which Sarah Palin has a serious chance at taking the VP slot, we are forced to confront the role her culturally determined and accepted level of attractivesness plays.  Poor Hillary!  That woman could barely get dressed in the morning without getting ripped apart.  Donatella Versace offered her fashion advice and in a political debate she was not evaluated on her policies, she was evaluated on the basis of her looks.  Hillary Clinton was touted as an ugly duckling, a woman too unattractive to have been married to Bill.  Among the other variables that have thrown Sarah Palin in our faces, we shouldn’t downplay the role of the beauty norm which takes on a religious fervor in this country.  For many women, the pursuit of an unrealistic beauty ideal becomes a crusade.

Elizabeth Wellington, a fashion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, devoted an entire article attesting to Palin’s feminine wiles and her ability to harness and use her femininity. While fashion and pursuits of beauty that are destined to ultimately fail are seen on many counts as frivolous, vapid and superficial pursuits, we can’t underestimate the rewards and positive sanctions bestowed on those that adhere, however painfully, to these definitions. Sarah Palin is proof that a woman’s figure and the way she clothes that figure, will help catapult her into the limelight and project talents and gifts she may not actually possess.  Despite the rewards, let’s not get confused.  This is not a form of empowerment when we become slaves to a culturally defined and imposed male standard of beauty.  It is not empowerment when we loathe the body’s we inhabit.  It is not empowerment when we use our physical assets to manipulate a system for recognition that would be lost otherwise.

« Newer Posts