29 July 2012 Edition
Beauty and the media beast
Geordie Shore, Jersey Shore, teen moms and the magazine rack
If you don’t have a bikini bod (meaning you are a size 2 and disappear when you turn to the side), then you will be ridiculed by the media and readers will write in to the magazine’s editor, saying things like ‘I was very sad to see that [female celeb] has piled on the pounds since [eternally hot male celeb] dumped her’
SOMETIMES, being a woman is hard. There are so many inequalities between men and women in today’s society that if I were to talk about each and every one of them, this article would be so long that I could probably copy and paste it to a word document, print it, send it to a publisher and make a hugely riveting and success novel out of it called ‘Why Bitches Be Crazy . . . At Gender Inequality And The Downfalls Of The Modern Day Gender Binary’. It might not be as successful as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ but not every book can be about bondage and sexually aggressive men, okay? (You perverts!)
Anyway, I could talk about inequality in the commercial workplace (in terms of salaries, the treatment of women in a working environment or what is considered jobs for women) or I could talk about inequality in religion (no female priests, burkas, polygamy for men) but no, instead I’m going to talk about inequality in the Establishment media and its powerful role in society.
Not only is it a primary source of political, social and financial information for citizens, it also perpetuates many female stereotypes through its coverage of celebrities.
Last week, while sitting in a beauty salon waiting to get my legs smeared with hot wax and have the hairs pulled from their follicles so that I could resemble a ‘media approved’ woman and not a wild Yeti, I had the pleasure of reading some magazines from the large array they provided. Among the titles were Woman’s Weekly, OK, Heat, Hello, Cosmopolitan and How to look sexy for your man by losing 4 stone in 2 days after giving birth to twins. I’m not sure if the last one was a magazine title or just the title of every article in every one of those magazines but, regardless, it was certainly an experience.
I learnt a lot of things in that half an hour before I subjected myself to the humiliation of exposing my bear-like legs to a stranger in a salon.
I learnt that Jordan still misses Peter André; that Snooki from Jersey Shore likes to drink and have sex; that David Beckham is still a total hottie; that Myleene Klass was left devastated after her hubby left her in the middle of the night; and, most importantly, that having a bikini bod is the most important goal to ever have in life.
If you don’t have a bikini bod (meaning you are a size 2 and disappear when you turn to the side), then you will be ridiculed by the media and readers will write in to the magazine’s editor, saying things like ‘I was very sad to see that [female celeb] has piled on the pounds since [eternally hot male celeb] dumped her.’ Well, dear reader, I am sad that you are sad that a random female celebrity has gained some weight and now looks as fat as my sweeping brush.
Red carpet pictures of women are then lined up beside each other and other women judge them by saying things like ‘Oh, Michelle Williams looks so frumpy in this dress, she should have went with a darker colour and her shoes are horrendous!’ rather than things like ‘Here is Michelle Williams at the Oscars after being nominated for her role in My Week with Marilyn because SHE IS A SUCCESSFUL WORKING SINGLE MOTHER’!
This type of media pits women against other women while constantly obsessing about how hot and attractive successful famous men are.
Then there’s the men’s magazines that are basically half-naked women draped over cars with big breasts because women can’t be successful in a man’s world: they have to be objects of desire.
Or the portrayal of women in MTV shows such as Teen Mom (more the portrayal of kids than women), where the teen mom is often unstable and angry and it’s almost a bonus if the father stays around and helps out with the raring of the baby. MTV are like ‘Oh girl, you got preggers and now you’re all alone and you’re a drug addict AND YOU’VE NO MONEY AND YOUR BABY DADDY IS OUT DRINKING . . . now let us film it and make trashy television out of it’.’
Or Geordie Shore, where apparent slutty women rip each other’s hair extensions out for the chance to have sex with a dim-witted, fake-tanned man who is shown to be a total ‘playah’ because he sleeps with lots of women.
Or films where the plot line is like ‘Oh, I’m a single successful woman, I’m so happy dating men and enjoying the perks of my job . . . oh, here’s a man who’s so nice to me and now I realise that I was never actually happy and I WANT TO MARRY THIS MAN AND HAVE HIS BABIES.’
I’m not into burning bras because they serve a perfectly reasonable and at times necessary function, but I don’t think that women should be forced into fulfilling an unrealistic perception of beauty. Beauty really can’t be decided by the media but by women themselves. We know when we feel beautiful and we don’t feel beautiful when we’re half-starved, covered in orange tan, suffering from an itchy head caused by hair extensions with our eyes closed due to the weight of fake eyelashes.
We feel beautiful when we’re comfortable with ourselves and happy with who we are and we can’t allow the media to define who we should be. The media is a male-dominated industry (aren’t they all?) that regurgitates the views of the most powerful in our society in terms of politics, finance and, as the case may be, women — and that’s an industry that I happily boycott by refusing to buy any of those so-called women’s magazines that fill the bottom rows of the shelves in the shops.