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Join date : 2009-05-16

PostSubject: Conversations   Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:45 pm

In the whole conversation of ideologies, what often gets lost is the voice of the woman herself: where she comes from, why she is there, where she hopes to go. She is just a body. The prostitute remains on the fringes of society because she sells sex. She uses her female-ness to make a living. The model does the same and is hailed as a hero. We all want to become like her – the model. Still, in the end, the prostitute or the model are both impersonal. Both are female bodies used to make money. And the line between the two becomes more blurred: prostitutes increasingly gain rights and fight for respect. Women's bodies in advertising become more exposed and crudely used.

If we as women (and men) say nothing to this progression, we support the idea of our value based only (or at least primarily) on physical attractiveness and sex appeal. This reality has been railed against by feminist writers and activists repeatedly in the 19th and 20th centuries. Progress has been made and ground lost. Women have more political rights and also more possibilities of seeing their bodies publicly and cheaply exposed. The conversation of exploitation is not new. What is new though is the degree to which the female body is exploited in advertising and how desensitized the viewer is to the images she sees. We easily absorb the messages of what we need to become. We forget to be outraged that they are there in the first place.


Thus the game continues. We have power if we are beautiful, young and sexy. We have less power (or none) if we are not. So we as women are still relegated to a position of worth based on cheapened sexuality. We might gain rights to vote or hold office, can land jobs in a male-dominated field or be able to own our own homes. Still though, what is constantly in our face – literally – is how we look. We see the ideal woman as young and beautiful. We see her all the time. And so more important than having political, economic or creative power, we are brainwashed to believe in our appearance. We must look a particular way, and if we do not, we can always improve with effort or money. We must buy the products sold by prostitute models to become prostitutes like them. There are no excuses.

No one much notices that you are sweating and exhausted in running this particular race. They just notice when you slow down or stop altogether. Then the eyebrows raise, the eyes roll and the comments start, casually and caustically. She's let herself go. What is she trying to prove? Feminist bitch. So you drag yourself back into the race and strap on full-gear: new diet, smoother legs, a better deodorant. You will run this, dammit, or you will die trying. And so you run. And run.

And tweeze and pluck and starve. You give your hair a new color. You buy bigger breasts and Botox. You curse UV rays, the mirror and the needle on the bathroom scale. You glance into reflective glass of store windows and cringe at the dressing room mirrors while trying on swimsuits. You dream of being wanted by men. Of having a body worthy to sell. Of smiling seductively from a billboard or shop window. You will run this, dammit, or die trying. Finally, you do. You will. Die (sooner or later). Trying until the end, to be younger, smoother, thinner, more beautiful, as we all have been taught.

The age-old profession, the age-old reality: the essence of woman in the value of her body. This “problem” has been with women for the history of humanity. We all know about it, and yet we continue to play the games. We no longer question images which thus become more and more brazen. We have learned to be “tolerant” and “open-minded.”


What I suggest is not some sort of puritanical censorship. I don't presume to have the answers to easily solve the gender problems of the world. What I try to do is to notice first and then to challenge the lines I am programmed to believe. Am I uglier today if I skip the mascara? Do I feel healthy instead of whether or not this pair of jeans makes me look fat? Will changing my hair color bring the life change I want? Will I really be happier if I have bigger breasts?

I ask questions. I struggle because the answers I know in my head often don't match what I feel or fear to be true. I crave glamorized images of beautiful people and quick fixes to attain their looks. And mostly I feel worse about myself afterward. As I wrote earlier, we know that women's bodies are used and exploited. We know we work hard to measure up. We know. But the problems still exist and grows. Gender equality still has a long way to go. Women continue to buy, to believe, and to struggle. And so, the conversations must be re-opened. We must talk about our experiences as women and as consumers. All women's bodies don't need to look a certain way. Women's breasts don't need to sell pizzas. We do not need to be worth only the products we buy and use. Advertisers work off consumers. We can influence what we see around us. We can believe in other possibilities.

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PostSubject: From an Anonymous Friend   Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:18 am

The manner in which you turn your philosophy, your point of view, your interpretation of female gender issues is so strong and assertive, even sensational. You have given me a lot to think about; and I feel a personal obligation to see women in opposition to the way society has acculturated me to see them (and myself.) I feel challenged to look out, in the future, for inappropriate biases and distortions in connection with stated and unstated assumptions about women. In particular, I'm interested in examining my own assumptions (I think you know I had a face and eye lift.)

Anyway, these are the first comments that have come gushing out of my mind after looking at your website. After reflection, I expect to find more revelations to come.
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PostSubject: Re: Conversations   Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:09 am

As I've been reading through this forum, I have been feeling more and more thankful for a mother who refused to buy me Barbies and encouraged me to gain weight in high school! My thoughts right now, though, are less about myself and more about my sons--how to help them become men who respect women when they will be seeing objectified women all around them? I think some of this starts way too early--even though they don't watch TV, my boys are already being bombarded with messages that certain toys will make them happy, certain foods will be delicious, etc. I certainly don't argue that those messages are the same as the commericialization of the female body, but as a parent I have already had to start helping them to discern why the manufacturers are sending x message--and question whether it's the truth. In the context of media images of women, how much more challenging it will be to help them to see the layers of exploitation: they are being exploited, as visually-stimulated males, and women are being cheapened, to others and to themselves.
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