Tuesday, June 10, 2008

But seriously, folks

My previous post about the social impact of photo editing was obviously tongue-in-cheek. Granted, I do think that the epidemic of photo editing contributes to the propegation of unrealistic beauty standards for women. This is closely linked to the arguments against rail thin models, both of which have been accused of fueling the increase of eating disorders among young women.

Still, even if these things are true, I would argue that focusing on issues like photo editing and skinny women in fashion shows as being harmful to women is essentially seeing the forest for the trees. What consistently gets losts in these endless debates is the fact that skinny models, botox and photoshop dependency are all somehow symptoms of the fact that society values beauty in women over any other trait.

Please understand that I am not attacking the desire to be beautiful. I do not think there is anything wrong with wanting to be attractive. We would all like to be! Still, there would be nothing inherently wrong with 'unrealistic standards of beauty' were it not for the fact that we live in a culture that demands it. You know what? Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, Chanel Iman and their ilk do promote unrealistic expectations of beauty. Most of the planet will never be as visually appealing as any of them.

Furthermore, women like Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Silverman, and Tina Fey promote unrealistic standards of humor! I'll never be as funny as any of them.

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...and other women engineer unrealistic standards of intelligence! No matter how much I may try and agonize over my schoolwork, I will never be as smart as Linda Buck, Winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Drew Gilpin Faust, current President of Harvard University, or acclaimed Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison.

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Still other women propegate impossible standards of power! It is highly unlikely that I will ever yield the international influence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US Senator and former Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, or Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

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...so why the obsession with 'beauty standards?' Of course, I have yet to read about a single women who had to spend her prom in a psychological treatment facility because she felt inadequate over her inability to snare a Nobel Prize. It comes down to sexism - it is considered absolutely imperative that we be beautiful, and a mere bonus (or, at times, even a detriment) if we are smart, funny or accomplished.

As of 2005, only eight of the Fortune 500 Companies had been spearheaded by a female CEO. Only 34 of 777 Nobel Prize Laureates have been women. Of the 192 participating states in the UN, only 19 are currently headed by a woman. In the entertainment industry, women consistently lament the lack of meaty female roles or opportunities for female comics.

So do plummeting BMIs on the catwalks or erasing lines on a womans face really matter? Or is it the factors that instigate them?

I'm no psychologist or scholar on eating disorders or female self esteem issues. But I am certain that giving more social credence and opportunities to women would advance women's identity issues more than anything else ever could. Piling five, even ten pounds onto the whittled frames of every model in the galaxy would do less to eradicate eating disorders than would a movement to insert more women into positions of power, influence and prestige.

Electing female Presidents and Prime Ministers, canonizing women's literature and hiring women for top positions in business would help girls a lot more than making Kate Moss fat. If women had their share of the pie, their value would not be dependent on beauty standards. Inevitable human insecurities aside, people would just stop giving a damn.

18 comments:

Fia said...

Well said!

Hannah Bee said...

EEK! Ellen and Tina are my loves.
I loved this post.

WendyB said...

Brilliant post!

Amelia said...

Wow, that's a good point. I guess the difference is that people can seriously hurt themselves physically in trying to be skinny, which they can't so much in trying to be funny or smart. However, we do seem to have an obsession with beauty and, more importantly, an obsession with our obsession with beauty. Nice post.

estrella said...

I think you are completely right!

nomadin said...

As if fashion blogs were superficial! ;-) Great Post!

Svenske Floyd said...

Excellent! You promote an unrealistic standard of brilliant blogging!

Times of Glory said...

Such a beautiful post with indepth thoughts xx

Casey said...

amen!

and Tina Fey is my hero.

The Clothes Horse said...

I think one of the problems is too that we have an unrealistic strive for one kind of beauty--we all get airbrushed to look the same (tall, thin, perfect skin, etc), but in reality beauty isn't about looking the same! It's when we set this one, unrealistic standard that we're really in trouble. If I buy into that I will never be beautiful because I will always be short!

Isabel said...

Can everybody just read the Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf? That tome is my bible.

Pretty Pirate said...

Nicely said and wow is that ukanian prime minister beautiful and powerful.

Anonymous said...

I think it goes back to when women had very little opportunities, marriage was what women were suppose to strived for and nothing else. The way to get this was to attract a man based on your beauty and if you werent beautiful you better hope that you had a nice fat dowry.

I think that the problem isnt only with photo editing, it also lies with the lack of diversity presented in what is beautiful. Every country has its own ideal of beauty.

Naomi said...

Nice post! This made me remember that stupid Rush Limbaud comment about Hillary, that no one would want to see a woman president aging (because men look 'distinguished' and women just look like old hags, apparently). As if the way she looks has *anything* to do with her ability to run a country.

fash said...

i love your blog for the insight into your style, but also because of indepth posts like this that get everyone thinking and inspire a need to share opinions.
here here, svenske floyd!

miss hautttefashion said...

wow i love your blog, so insightful

Emily said...

I absolutely agree. This post basically crystalizes the thoughts I have been having for months about the screwed up standards our world upholds. I'm definetly bookmarking this blog...it's rare that one finds a fashion blogger who is so articulate.

Chocolate and Cognac said...

Great post, it's nice that this kind of thinking isn't dying (which it sometimes appears to be)
Following now :)