April 28, 2010

Glee tackles body image

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 6:15 pm

Season 1, episode 16: Home: Mercedes is confronted with the cheerleading coach’s demand that she lose weight and wear the signature Cheerios short skirts. Despite initial protest, Mercedes attempts to fit the mold by starving herself and ends up fainting in the cafeteria.

Her struggles with self-doubt and a negative body image are not only revealing and honest but offer moments of insight. I appreciated the scene between a crying Mercedes and a pregnant Quinn. Quinn encourages her to be herself, a strong, confident and beautiful young woman. Quinn also poses a question to the viewers: why is it that her own pregnancy has prompted her to treat herself better by eating right and nourishing her body when she was not willing to do it for herself?

Many of the torturous diet and exercise rituals we are willing to endure and often pursue with much gusto in the name of thinness are nothing short of dysfunctional and abusive. Those rituals are accompanied by a tremendous amount of negative self-talk.

You know that self-talk. Disparaging comments you make about yourself as you look in the mirror or grab parts of your body that society thinks could be thinner or more toned (or more ____ , or less____; the list is endless).

One of the powerful and empowering moments of this episode comes not only from Mercedes’ ultimate rejection of the beauty myth and the cult of thinness when she sings Beautiful in front of the whole school but Quinn’s lingering question that urges us to ask ourselves why we don’t treat ourselves better.

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.

January 22, 2009

Elizabeth Hasselbeck on Michelle Obama

January 21, 2009

Top 10 of the 99 versus Michelle Obama

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 8:45 pm

To expand on the previous post, I have included the photo gallery of AskMen.com’s top 10 out of their ranked top 99.  The lack of diversity is evident when these images are side by side.  Additionally, the uniformity of each woman’s look compared to Michelle Obama becomes even more lucid.

Sizing up Michelle

Not surprisingly, there was a tremendous amount of scrutiny paid to Michelle Obama’s inaugural wardrobe choices and the “message” each outfit was sending.

In addition to the fashion police riding up her train, Internet discussions tackled the question of whether or not Michelle Obama is “hot” or not.  Case in point, the website AskMen.com. The website has a series of “top” lists from that rank women.  There’s the “Top 99 Women: 2009 edition,” “Top 10: 2009 Top 99 Rejects” and “Top 10: 2010’s top 99,” to name a few.  But, you get the picture.

In each of these lists, there is very little variation and/or diversity.  Essentially, all the chosen women resemble one another and the women of color that appear conform to Eurocentric beauty norms.

Compare AskMen.com’s #1 pick, Eva Mendes, and Michelle Obama and the usual measurement of beauty and Michelle Obama’s departure and transcendence become clear.

Some of the comments to the questions AskMen.com posed, include:

Oi yiddo, you moron! She ugly as hell

OMG like a cow :-S

She kind of looks like a female version of James Brown. Anyone agree?

Baby got back, her hips are wider than my 60′ high def. She’s not even in the same ball park as Palin. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is only skin deep, ugly is to the bone

Michelle Obama, as the new First Lady, is a female role model unlike most that we’ve seen before.  It’ll be interesting what the cultural conversation and cultural response will be time goes by.

Will we see cultural changes?  Will she inspire young women to move beyond the confined boundaries of femininity that have been constructed?  Will the conversation tackle the unequal definitions and expectations that have historically existed and continue to persist in terms of which kind of women are considered feminine and what that acts and looks like?