Archive for the ‘Media influence’ Category

Let me see that….

April 28, 2012

The other night I found myself frantically searching my underwear drawer for my lone pair of thong underwear. Why the emergency you ask? Well, I had thankfully double-checked my appearance from all angles before leaving the house and realized the bikini briefs I was wearing were not only causing some unsightly PLs (that’s panty lines for those of you not down with the lingo) but they were also cutting into my tush giving the appearance of a double bum. Now, I may not have buns of steel here, but I have been doing my Brazilian Butt Lift workout religiously and feel my butt is well on it’s way from flat to FAB as promised. So assuming I did not in fact sprout a second rear end, I needed to fix this asap. The only possible solutions I could think of were 1)Ditch the panties. This was not an option. I’m over 30. Also more frightening than the idea of going out with twin tushies was going out with camel toe. 2)Wear a thong. No more underwear cutting into butt as underwear will have no backside, only a strip riding up between my butt cheeks giving the sensation of a perpetual wedgie. Number 2 won. So there I was ripping my drawer apart.

Source:xpshou.com

After this episode I started thinking about underwear and the role it plays in women’s lives. Clearly underwear serves a practical function for women. It holds things up and holds things in, it acts to smooth things under clothing, it serves as a barrier between intimate parts and clothing. It can change or accentuate a woman’s shape. In many cases it can also change the way a woman feels, whether it makes her feel more comfortable, sexier, more youthful or more mature. I have underwear for different moods. I have my nice ‘going out underwear’ and my laze around the house ‘boy shorts’ underwear. I have my comfortable slightly more relaxed fit ‘pms bikini brief underwear’ and my older almost ready to throw out ‘period underwear’. I have my seamless underwear for under tight pants and dresses and even a couple of pairs of gigantic high-waisted granny panties which I have learned are actually great for tight dresses as they don’t leave unsightly lines and seams across the front of the dress. And I have that one pair of emergency thong underwear. Why am I so averse? I once worked a job at a restaurant which will not be named where the orange shorts of the uniform were so short that the only possible underwear which could be worn underneath without peeking out of the bottom was a thong. For two years I donned this get-up while in university for my pharmacist degree. I grew to despise the thong. When I finally quit I threw out the shorts AND all my offending underwear and relished in wearing panties that covered my entire bottom. I haven’t gone back.

NOT ME!! Source:flickriver.com

It is believed that women have been wearing some form of undergarment since 3000 BC. Throughout history there has been a lot of controversy surrounding women’s customs with respect to underwear. Often women of higher classes wore very elaborate and constricting undergarments in order to shape their bodies to a form considered appealing in their time. One of the more controversial pieces which is still in existence today is the corset. The first corset appeared in medieval times and has persevered throughout the rest of history. During the French Revolution, women revolted by adopting the un-corset instead. This was a prototype which lacked the rigid boning of the corset making it much more comfortable and less constricting. However by Victorian times the corset was back again. Many have said the corset oppressed women throughout history, and also was the cause of unnecessary health problems. It has even been said that the lacing of the corset is a metaphor for sexual intercourse. The second controversial piece of underwear is worn by most North American women every day. It is the bra. Originally called the brassiere, it originated in the early 1900s, banding the breasts down so women could more easily do athletic activities. In 1935 cup sizes were introduced. In the 1960s and 1970s many feminists pronounced bras repressive to women, and bra burning took place all over the US and Canada. Today, there is a bra for every woman, from lined to unlined, underwire, push-up, push WAY up, backless, strapless etc.

1880s corset Source:corsetsandcrinolines.com

While at this point of my life I have to admit that my own underwear drawer is pretty G-rated, not all my undergarments are purchased for practical purposes. As I said before, sometimes women buy underwear that makes them feel sexy. Other times, they purchase undergarments to look attractive to someone of the opposite sex. Usually in these cases, we call the articles in question ‘lingerie’ and charge a lot more money for them. Lingerie is the fancy stuff, made out of lace or silk or satin. Or if you’re really kinky and in a seedy area of town it might be make of vinyl or pleather or PVC. The question is, why are we buying this stuff? Certainly society and class does not dictate the undergarments we must wear the way that it once did. That is not to say we have nothing to influence our decisions. Almost every day I see ads of beautiful models in sexy lingerie, often beside gorgeous men who are looking at them longingly. In movies and on TV, when an actress undresses, you never see her wearing ratty cotton panties and an old mismatched bra. No, you always catch her on a good day when she’s got on a matching set and she just happened to (thank goodness) throw on her best garter belt. And their relationships always end in happily ever after with perfect men who adore them. Then there’s those Victoria’s Secret Supermodels. Need I say more?? Women are constantly bombarded with messages that tell them what they need to wear under their clothes to be attractive. Not to mention how we should look in these get-ups. It’s just another impossible standard for women to live up to.

This past Valentines day, armed with romantic thoughts and courage, I visited a local lingerie shop. The first thing I noticed is that all lingerie seems to be made with men in mind. When I asked the salesgirl if she had something with a “whole bottom” she looked at me with a confused look. Apparently most women do not go there with modesty in mind. The second thing I found was that they did not appear to have bras in my size. 34A. The only A cup they had was 32A. But the girl assured me my “sister size” was a 34B and this would fit ‘perfectly’. In fact what it did was squeeze may back so hard skin poured out on either side of the band and I did not nearly fill the cup. Hmm. Thirdly, every bra seemed to be filled with either gel or water and weighed about 10 pounds. I think my significant other would know something was awry if my breasts were suddenly 2 cup sizes larger, pushed up to my chin, and sounded like the ocean. No, this was not the place for me. I eventually found what I was looking for somewhere else, something that I felt comfortable and sexy in. Did he like it? I didn’t ask.

I think as women we worry too much about what other people think about how we look. We worry about our appearance at work. Will we be taken seriously? Do we look professional? We worry about how we look when we go out. Do we look sexy? Pretty? Cute? Awake? What impression will I give? The answers we give ourselves are heavily influenced by what the media and society tells us. If we want this to change, maybe we can start with our most intimate attire. Wear what makes YOU feel good whether it’s white cotton or red satin. And sometimes practical can even be sexy to some people. I’m going to invest in another practical thong this week, you never know when you’ll need to pull it out.

Calling all Feminists: Subscribe to Playboy!

April 6, 2012

Source:freevectorlogo.blogspot.com

I am a loyal subscriber and fan of Playboy magazine.

Before you write off me and this blog entirely, just hear me out. I know many would argue this magazine is a media vehicle which idealizes and exploits women in the same way I speak out against in this very blog. That the message it sends to men and women about what a real woman should look like and how she wants to be viewed is contradictory to the actual diverse population of women in society. This is probably true to an extent. But let me explain how it came to be that I decided Playboy magazine is perhaps one of the best representations of “real” women around when it comes to media publications.

I have always looked at Playboy as a somewhat trashy men’s magazine and paid it no mind. Having the privilege of seeing a naked female body every day (my own), I saw no need to ever purchase or look at said magazine. Then, a few months ago, a silly disagreement and my stubbornness lead me to purchase my first copy of Playboy. The media was in a frenzy over the Lindsay Lohan issue, apparently a top seller. My fiancée and I happened to spot this issue in an airport newspaper stand, covered up, only the title showing. Making an offhand comment about the fuss being made about seeing a celebrity naked spiraled into a great debate:

Fiancee: “Well she wouldn’t be fully naked”

Me: “Of course she would, it’s Playboy magazine.”

Fiancee: “Not every woman is completely naked in Playboy. It’s not pornography”

Me: “Give me a break”.

It continued on for some time. I should have known better than to argue with a man about a magazine he has likely been hiding under his bed since childhood, but my obstinacy would not let me back down. The only solution was to buy the magazine to prove him wrong. He was right. (She was topless, not nude for those that actually care.)

By this time I had spent $8.99 on the magazine, and I had a whole flight ahead of me. I was going to read the thing cover to cover, regardless of the content. I was going to pull out every photo spread and look at every playmate, read about her likes and dislikes, bust, waist and hip size, perfect date spot, ambitions, turn-ons and turn-offs. But when I started reading the magazine, an unexpected thing happened. I really enjoyed it. The thing about many men’s magazines is that the content is often a lot more intelligent and less disparaging than the fashion magazines I subscribe to. While I enjoy fashion and clothing, I always feel conflicted when reading women’s magazines every month. I dislike the message the use of unrealistic tall, skinny, white models sends to women and girls. And I often hate the articles in the magazines. ‘How to please your man’; ‘How to lose 10 pounds in 10 days’; ‘5 moves to tone your tummy’; ’Where to find Mr.Right’. These magazines insult women’s intelligence and independence, and make us feel like life is all about being thin, beautiful, and in a relationship. I have to subscribe to a lot of magazines just to get a mix of fashion, book reviews, music reviews, politics, and health information: Fashion, Flare, Elle Canada, Nylon, the Economist, Harper’s, the Walrus. I have found Playboy offers a good mix of everything (minus women’s fashion-the women generally aren’t wearing much). I know, I know, it’s the classic men’s excuse: “I read Playboy for the articles”. But ladies, hear them out. The articles are really good. Notable ones: An investigation into whether there is a genetic predisposition to your political inclination, an interview with Nobel Prize winner David Cross, and a story on war tourism in Vietnam.

Of course there is no denying the naked women in the magazine. Are they exploited women of low self-esteem who have grown up in a society in which beauty is idolized and people are nonchalant towards sex? Or are they empowered women who are taking their own sexuality into their own hands? One could argue either way and I can’t answer that question. They certainly are being used as sex symbols, but they are doing so of their own volition. Women all over the world send in their pictures in the hopes of becoming the next Playmate of the month. There is no coercion here. These are not children.

But as noted before, I feel that Playboy represents women better than any other magazine I have seen before, and better than any women’s fashion magazine out there. For one, there is a lot of racial diversity in Playboy. In one issue, among the major spreads, there was 1 black, 2 white, and several Latin American models (part of a Carnival article). This is representative of most issues I have seen. In fashion magazines, racial diversity, while increasing, is rarer. When they are utilized in fashion, the non-white models often are pressured to fit into the cookie-cutter mold of the rail-thin white model, and thus may not accurately represent their race or culture. For example, culturally black and Latin embrace curvier figures. Which leads me to the second reason Playboy represents women quite well: The women look like women. Well, at least more like women than in fashion magazines. I had expected all of the models to have gigantic breasts and tiny waists, with perfectly toned stomachs, but I was happy to see that they weren’t all photoshopped to perfection. A lot of the women had meat on their bones, curves and butts, and not all of them looked like they had spent thousands of dollars on cosmetic alterations. Jaque Faria, the black brazillian model used in the March 2012 issue was beautifully curvy, with a bottom that would give Kim Kardashian a run for her money. The other Latin American models were also very voluptuous. While admittedly none of the models used were the size of the ‘average’ American woman (5’4’’, 140 pounds), but neither were they the size of the average model either, (5’11’, 117 pounds). And the women certainly look confident in their skin (and not much else). These women are imperfect but beautiful, exposed, yet proud and completely confident. So say whatever you want about any other message the magazine sends, but this resonates well with me. So I continue to subscribe.

It’s all on you, Baby!!

April 3, 2012

Happiness. It’s something that most people strive for, yet often cannot define for themselves when asked to. Happiness means different things to different people, and frequently our own notion of what yields happiness changes throughout our lives as we grow and change. Some seek happiness through their relationships, some through career or financial successes, others through physical fitness or outward beauty. Happiness is subjective. Your interpretation of happiness will determine if you will achieve it in your lifetime, and you may be happy at certain times of your life and unhappy at others.

The nature of happiness means that you need to identify what will make you happy. No one else can unearth your criteria for happiness. Following this, it is your responsibility to actively pursue happiness. One thing I have noticed about women, myself included, is that we very often look to others to make us happy. In a lot of ways, this is not our fault. We have been told since we were little girls playing with dolls that one day our prince would come and sweep us off our feet. The message from many Hollywood movies and TV shows is that we need to find a man to take care of us and ‘make us happy’. The media tells us that if we alter ourselves to be skinnier and more beautiful we will be happier, so we enlist the help of hairdressers and personal trainers and makeup artists and sometimes even cosmetic surgeons who are supposed to transform us and make us happily perfect. We want our careers to fulfill us, and often failing that we aim for nuclear families and children to make us feel complete and content. We buy and read books about happiness, hoping that the authors will be able to finally unlock the secret for us. I saw 3 people reading ‘The Happiness Project’ just last week. All of them were women.

Certainly our relationships with others, careers, health, even shallow things such as physical appearance and money can contribute to happiness and satisfaction. But arguably these things don’t make you happy. Being truly happy requires self-acceptance and a good self-image. A woman has to be sure of herself and confident in who she is in order to be truly happy. When a woman is reliant on others for her happiness, it shows that she lacks self-confidence. It is nice to have the man you love tell you that you are beautiful, but you shouldn’t need this validation to feel attractive. Getting praise from a boss for a job well done feels good, but you should be confident enough in your skills and abilities that you already know your value in your field. It is probably one of the hardest challenges for women, to accept themselves for who they are. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, and continue to struggle with. But trust me, it’s worth a try. You’ll be happier for it.

The Skinny on Fat-Talk

March 31, 2012

“Ugh. I look so fat in this”

“Look at this roll”

“I have a spare tire in these jeans!”

“I think I gained 10 pounds over Christmas!”

“I look like a stuffed sausage in this dress!!”

“Look at my thunder thighs, I can’t leave the house in this skirt!”

Sound familiar? If not, you’re probably in the minority. Research shows that most women at one time or another have engaged in this type of self-deprecating banter, which has been coined “fat-talk” by Dr. Mimi Nichter, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and author of ‘Fat Talk:What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting’ . Why do we do it? According to Nichter, it is most likely to gain a sense of solidarity with our peers. She also says that it can be a way of expressing frustration about a bad event or bad day. “Saying, ‘I’m so fat,’ is not just about your weight, it’s really a statement about your sense of self at that moment.” It has been well documented that s woman’s emotional state of mind can greatly impact her self image, and that this can change even within a single day.

A study in the March 2011 issue of Psychology Women’s Quarterly showed that 93% of college women engaged in fat-talk with their peers with most believing it made them feel better about themselves. The results of the study showed the opposite. Rachel Falk, the study’s lead author said that “several participants remarked that they want their friends to tell them they’re not fat, but they don’t really believe it when they hear it”. Say something out loud enough times and you’ll start to believe it. This behavior is almost exclusive to women of normal weight or below, most likely because women who are overweight do not necessarily want to call attention to it. So why would “fat-talk” have negative consequences on thin women? Because according to Falk it “results in more body monitoring, which women are already spending too much time doing.”

A more recent study published March 2012 by study researcher Analisa Arroyo of the University of Arizona showed that “the ritualistic conversations about one’s own body or others’ bodies “predicts lower satisfaction with ones’ body and higher levels of depression”. So while the intention may be to seek approval from ones’ group of girlfriends to feel validated, constantly dwelling on perceived or even fictitious flaws may have the opposite effect of convincing oneself of their existence. As a matter of fact, we would all be better off to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Research shows that faking a smile makes you feel happier. Maybe forcing ourselves to reflect on our assets and give ourselves positive affirmation instead of criticism will finally allow us women to feel comfortable in our own skin and believe in our own brand of beauty, even if different from what we’re taught to aspire to. We have better things to talk about with our friends, like who Ryan Gosling is dating now 🙂

CAN YOU SPOT THE DIFFERENCE??

March 29, 2012

I had intended to blog about something entirely different today, but while researching the topic I came across something that disturbed me so much I had to rant about it. Take a close look at the picture above. What strikes you about it? You might notice that all the girls look similar. You may notice that they are similar in shape and that their poses are very alike. But look very, very closely.  You will realize that in fact their bodies are all EXACTLY same. This is an H&M ad campaign. Each of these girl’s faces has been pasted onto an identical body. This alone would be disturbing. But there is more. This is not just the usual photoshopping that is commonplace today in advertising. The body that you see does not belong to a real woman. It is a computer generated image.  According to a Swedish press spokesman for the company, photographers “take pictures of the clothes on a doll that stands in the shop, and then create the human appearance with a program on a computer.”  The company feels that by doing this, the focus is kept on the clothes and not on the models.  H&M’s US spokesperson Nicole Christie said “This technique can be found in use throughout the industry. This is not to be seen as conveying a specific ideal or body type, but merely a technique to show our garments. It is regrettable if we have led anyone to believe that the virtual mannequins should be real bodies. This is incorrect and has never been our intention.” These images are shown throughout their website and print ads. It is unclear how customers would be expected to believe they are anything but real women, except for the fact that they are absolutely flawless and their bodies are essentially humanly unattainable.

The controversy surrounding the altering of digital images in advertising is old news. Whether to sell clothes, to sell magazines, to promote music or to further an image it seems that beauty is essential and that the reality is never as good as the fantasy that can be generated with a few strokes of the keyboard. The computer can do as little as fix a blemish or a shadow or completely change a woman’s body. In 2009 Ralph Lauren released an ad featuring model Philippa Hamilton which was altered to the extent that her waist was smaller than her head. She looked so out of proportion that it drew outrage and mockery from several media outlets and blogs. In fact, the real model was a healthy and normal looking young woman. She was subsequently fired from the brand, she claims for being too “fat”. Below is this example as well as other notable examples of digital alterations.

Phillippa Hamilton photoshopped (left) and natural (right)

Katie Couric

Jessica Alba

There does seem to be some hope on the horizon, as people seem to be speaking out about this type of media deception. As discussed in my last entry, certain countries are establishing or trying to establish guidelines which would require advertisers to disclose when images have been photoshopped or altered.  It seems magazines may be listening too. Glamour magazine recently polled its readers and found that 60 percent don’t want ads to mislead them, and that  78 percent were opposed to slimming a body to look even five pounds lighter. As a result , the magazine has decided to limit it’s retouching. It has vowed “A pimple or wrinkle may be removed, but making a celebrity impossibly thin or otherwise altering the face or physique of its models will no longer be tolerated at Glamour, even if the celebrity asks for it.” Bravo. Now maybe if magazines start hiring models that are the size of normal women, we might get somewhere.

 

 

 

THE ISRAELIS ARE WINNING

March 28, 2012

Ad banned in the UK for "highly visible ribs"

 

On Monday, Israel put into effect a law regulating the use of extremely thin models within the Israeli fashion industry. The law bans fashion houses and advertisers from using models with a BMI less than the World Health Organization standard of normal (18.5). Models must provide a medical report no less than 3 months old at every shoot or fashion show stating she is not malnourished. The law also forces advertisers to put a disclaimer on any image that has been edited or altered in way which makes a model appear thinner so that young girls and women will know the image is not realistic. This rule does not apply to foreign publications imported into the country. The legislation comes as a response to the relatively high incidence of eating disorders in the country, where approximately 2% of girls age 14-18 have anorexia or bulimia. This is similar to rates in other developed countries. While Israel isn’t exactly a mecca of high fashion, this ban has created a buzz all over the world, and we can only hope other markets will follow suit. It shows that someone is paying attention to the effect the fashion industry has on its consumers, and how the fashion industry responds will show how much accountability they feel to the people who perpetuate and escalate its growth, both the models who sell the clothing and the women who buy them.

This is not the first we’ve heard of a country or city putting restrictions on models used in shows. In 2006, in Madrid, the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers was the first body to put a ban on overly thin models. While not a law, there was a guideline put in place that models have a BMI of at least 18. At that time, Cathy Gould of New York’s Elite modeling agency accused the agency of using the fashion agency as a scapegoat for anorexia and bulimia. The ban in fact originated after backlash following the death of a 22 year-old anorexic Uruguayan model of heart failure after starving herself for a show, and shortly thereafter the death of a Brazilian model of complications of anorexia. Following fashion week in Madrid, Milan followed suit that same year. In Milan models were required to produce a medical certificate declaring them healthy with no eating disorder, and stating a BMI of at least 18.5. The models also needed to be at least 16 years of age. This was also not an outright ban, but a guideline requiring “self-regulation by the fashion houses”. Even Mario Boselli, the head of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber did not seem to take it very seriously, stating that only “maybe one girl in a hundred’ in the shows was too skinny. In fact, the average model is 5’11’’ and 117 pounds. This gives her a BMI of 16.3. She would have to weigh 133 pounds to achieve a “normal” BMI of 18.5. The average US woman is 5’4’’ and weighs 140 pounds and has a BMI of 24.  Designers had mixed opinions about the ban. Many supported it, such as Emanuel Ungaro designer Giles Deacon who said  ”At a certain period in time, the fashion industry was portraying this image of a totally unrealistic woman, women who are not allowed to be themselves. It’s just all a bit wrong.” Many did not approve of the change. Outspoken Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld said that fashion is about “dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women.” Oh, Mr. Lagerfeld. There are no words.

There are many arguments that have been made against regulating the fashion industry. Some may say BMI is not a great indicator of health status or nutritional status as it is unreliable. It is true that BMI calculations can be unreliable in some cases, for example in children or the elderly, people who are very muscular, or women for example with very large breasts, or even amputees. I can’t think of a fashion model who meets any of these criteria. Some argue that there are women who are just naturally very thin and we shouldn’t punish them for this. I agree that there are those women who are naturally tall and skinny. We all have those girlfriends who for as long as we’ve known them have been twigs, eating twice as much as anyone you know and never being able to gain a pound. That girl everyone tells “You should be a model” even when she’s in her awkward ugly duckling stage because girls that tall and skinny are always models. But these girls are few and far between, and even these girls are very often not as bony as the girls we see on the runway. Should a girl like this be excluded because her BMI is 18.3 instead of 18.5? Maybe not. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere. And as for Mr. Lagerfeld’s  statement that women like to look at “illusions” on the runway? I think that most women would rather see clothing on a real woman. When a woman looks at a size zero model wearing an outfit and she is a size 10, she has no “allusions” that outfit will look the same on her. (Hahaha)

Fast forward to now and we have actual government legislation in place in a country protecting models in an industry that up to now has promoted an unhealthy body image, as well as helping shield impressionable young girls and teenagers from images of unachievable ideals. There is some rumbling of similar legislation being discussed in France and in the US. An ad was recently banned in the UK for portraying a model with “highly visible ribs”. Australia has come up with a new code of conduct for the fashion industry. If key recommendations are met, such as not using female models that are excessively thin or male models that are excessively muscular, not using cosmetic surgery or rapid weight loss ads in magazines, putting disclosures on altered photos, not using models under 16 and stores stocking a wide variety of sizes then the fashion labels, modeling agencies, and magazines which comply will be awarded with the youth minister’s stamp of approval. We are not anywhere close to being there yet, but people are recognizing there is a problem and talking about it, and that is a good step in the right direction.

Will you buy what the kids are selling?

March 27, 2012

Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs Lola perfume

 

There has been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the use of very young actresses as the faces of campaigns for everything from makeup to perfume to high end designer clothing. Dakota Fanning was the cover girl for a Marc Jacobs campaign at the age of 12, and now at the age of 17 she is the face of his Lola perfume ads. Her younger sister Elle (13) is showcasing his Marc by Marc Jacobs line. 14 year-old Hailee Steinfeld, best known for her Oscar nominated role in True Grit was the face of the 2011 Miu Miu campaign. 15 year-old Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) has just been named the MaxMara 2012 face of the future and is doing an advertising campaign for them. 19 year-old Emma Watson has been doing campaigns for Burberry since 2009. Using young celebrities in advertising isn’t a new concept. In 1980, a 14 year-old Brooke Shields was the young centerfold in Calvin Klein jean ads, alongside the very suggestive logo “Nothing gets between me and my Calvins”. However the number of underage girls in the media seems to be increasing, and their age decreasing. Also, with the technology of today, media reaches a much broader demographic of people. It is hard to believe there is any race, culture, economic class, religion or age of person who is not affected by advertising today.

Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu

 

It is true that a lot of models are ‘discovered’ at a very young age, sometimes as young as 13 or 14. They can be doing runway shows and booking fashion shoots while still going through puberty. But let’s face it. When you see a stream of models walking down a runway, one angular, expressionless girl after another, you can’t really distinguish a teenager from a 25 year-old.  No one has any of the features that distinguish them as women, such as breasts or hips. These girls and women are alike in their androgeny. Case in point: one of the biggest models in the runway world right now is Andrej Pejic, a gorgeous Serbian who has walked numerous high-end women’s runway shows this last season. He is a man. Looking at him in the stream of other models, one would never guess he was any different from any of the female models on the runway. It is bizarre that designers believe their clothing looks best on women who look nothing like women at all, but instead like prepubescent children.

So why is hiring very young celebrities for designer ad campaigns any different? First, my soapbox: In general, I think that the modeling world is very hard on young girls, and when a teenager is put in a position where her success is based solely on how she looks, it can set her up for a lot of disappointment, rejection, and self-esteem issues. It can also send the wrong message to girls regarding what is really important. But if a parent wants to allow her daughter to model at a young age, I think it is important to look at the appropriateness of each job with respect to what that girl is selling and how she is selling it. It’s appropriate for a teenager to model a teen clothing line. If a teenager is modeling for an adult line and she is made up to look like an adult as many teens can, it may be appropriate as long as she is not placed in inappropriately adult or sexualized poses. When it comes to celebrities, these girls are household names. People are aware that they are young, underage girls, so automatically people are going to question the appropriateness of hiring them for adult clothing lines, even if they are made up to look older. The reality is that for a lot of these campaigns these girls are purposely painted and posed in order to highlight their youth and innocence. They are put in pretty dresses, or in silly, childish poses. In some of the more sinister photos, such as the Lola perfume ads featuring Dakota Fanning, there is a juxtaposition of Dakota’s youthfulness with her ‘sexuality’ where she is sitting in a cute frilly dress looking innocently at the camera, holding the bottle of perfume with a large flower top in between her legs. There are other ads that use a similar juxtaposition showing extremely youthful celebrities wearing very adult clothing and posed in a very adult manner. The Lola perfume ad was banned in the UK for sexualizing a child. The company that makes the perfume, Coty, responded that it did not feel the perfume was inappropriately sexualized because Fanning is over the age of consent (16), and also because no body parts and no sexual activity is shown. To them, the ad is “provoking, but not indecent”. Hmm. A Miu Miu ad featuring Hailee Stenfeld was also banned in the UK because it showed her wearing a very short skirt and sitting on a train track. It was banned not for the skirt, but because it showed the child in a hazardous or dangerous situation. They are referring to the railway track and not the fact she is 14 and already a sex object.

Casting a celebrity for an ad campaign is very different from hiring a beautiful yet unidentifiable model. When hiring a model, the designer is only looking for the person whom they feel will best showcase the brand. Is she beautiful? Will the clothes look great on her? When hiring a celebrity, that person will be recognizable to the general public. Celebrities have predetermined reputations to take into account, and designers have to additionally think about whether the person will affect the integrity or image of the brand. Often that is why celebrities are used, to reach their vast number of fans and help to expand the brand’s consumer base. One has to wonder what a designer is thinking when he decides to hire a child for a women’s clothing campaign. What message is it designed to send, and what message are women receiving? I can only speak for myself, and when I see a 14 year-old in a dress on a billboard, it doesn’t make me want to go out and buy that dress. It might make me say “Awwwwwww…”, but I don’t know any 30 year-old women who want to show up at a party in the same dress as their 15 year-old niece. Are these designers then trying to reach out to a younger client base? Are they trying to expand to the preteen/teen crowd? This could be a risky move. While these starlets will likely attract the attention of girls in this age range, I don’t know that a lot of them will have the allowance to purchase the digs from Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, or  Burberry. The demographic most likely to buy these brands would relate much better to actresses that have been in movies that do not begin with Twi and end in light. Many women who covet these labels may not even know who these younger stars are, and therefore would not be swayed by their use in ads. It has been suggested that a reason for using such young stars in ads is because our culture is obsessed with youth. There may be some truth to that. But I certainly have no desire to relive my teenage years. Looking at a girl in an ad campaign who is 13-17 years of age doesn’t make me think: “Oh, to be young again”. It makes me think: “That poor girl, she doesn’t know what’s going to hit her”. (I mean emotionally, as in those hard teenage years, not literally, as in that train that is apparently going to hit Ms. Steinfeld on the railway track). Show me a 20 year-old in an ad with gorgeous, wrinkle-free, flawless skin, hair that shines, and a radiant, youthful glow, and yes, I’ll buy what she’s selling. I may even get the urge to run to the next Botox clinic. But when I see a kid gyrating against a bottle of perfume in a magazine? I just want to call her mother.

Chloe Moretz for Max Mara

 

HONEST KATE

March 24, 2012

Supermodel Kate Moss graces the cover of W magazine this month. The most famous among those who started the trend towards exceptionally thin models in the 90’s and inspired the terms “waif” and “heroin chic”, she is also likely the most controversial. Her figure, drug use, choice of men and parenting skills have all been called into question. Yet she is revered for her beauty, flair for fashion and longevity in an industry that tends to chew people up and spit them out.  She is a woman we love to hate. This is a woman who in a 2009 Woman’s Wear Daily interview stated her life’s motto to be: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. On one hand, I completely agree with the many outraged parents who worried what kind of message this statement sends to the children and teens who look up to Ms. Moss. Unfortunately this statement has been adopted as the mission statement for many “pro anorexia” websites all over the internet. As a woman who understands all too well the mentality such a statement arises from, it makes me sad to think that there are girls and women who will hear, internalize, believe and repeat this statement. But that is the topic of a whole other post.

Today, I am focusing on the fact that although there is one part of me that is completely disgusted reading this quote, there is another part of me that respects her honesty. It’s refreshing to hear a supermodel basically admit that you have to starve to be skinny. Maybe that sounds insane. But I feel like some people will read her quote and say “Hmm. Maybe it is better to be skinny than to eat.” I feel that a whole other (and I would like to think larger) group of people will say “Well, if I can’t look like Kate Moss and still eat, then I guess I won’t look like Kate Moss. Pity.” (The pity is said in an English accent because Kate Moss lives in London). Sometimes it’s nice to know that these creatures we see in magazines and on TV are actually human. I want to know that they don’t wake up in the morning looking like goddesses, and that their bodies are not genetically predisposed to repel fat. It is why although we try to look away, we are magnetically drawn to the “Guess which celebrities cellulite this is?” and “Who has the worst beach body?” tabloid issues at the grocery store. We don’t want to wish anyone ill will, but my god does it feel good to know that Giselle Bundchen has cellulite on her ass. She has millions of dollars, Tom Brady, a body to kill for, amazing hair and she is one of the most beautiful women in the world. But she has cellulite!!!!! That knocks her down to my level. She’s just like me! I’m just like her! We’re equals!!

I am so sick of celebrities who claim they do nothing to look amazing. Oh, I can eat whatever I want. I never diet. See. I’ll even let you take a picture of me holding this cupcake. Do you have the shot?? I don’t need to exercise. I’m naturally athletic. I’m outdoorsy. I’m 65 and I have no wrinkles and my eyebrows are at my hairline, but I have NEVER had a face lift. My breasts are real, they naturally punch me in the chin. I didn’t have a nose job, half of my nose just magically disappeared. (Ashley Simpson-did you really think we wouldn’t notice??) I gave birth 20 seconds ago and now I’m 5 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight, but I didn’t diet or exercise. I lost weight because of breast feeding. BREAST FEEDING? Give me a break. I know you burn a few extra calories but you just had a BABY! Your stomach stretches out the size of a basketball. It’s not normal to have a flat stomach 2 weeks later. I love you Heidi Klum, but you are a freak of nature. I ran into a friend I went to University with and could have sworn she was pregnant. Good thing I didn’t ask, because she had given birth 2 AND A HALF MONTHS AGO!! Celebrities don’t owe the public an explanation about anything, but if you agree to do an interview there is some expectation of disclosure. At least don’t insult our intelligence by lying.

Here are some celebrities who are refreshingly honest:

Elizabeth Hurley losing weight after giving birth to her son- “I’m on a good old-fashioned low calorie diet-I’m going to bed hungry.”

Gwen Stefani-“It’s a daily struggle. I work out five days a week, I can’t imagine not doing it. I’d like to have no rules and eat what I want, but I’ve learned over the years that I’m so disappointed when I can’t wear the clothes I want to wear..”

Julianne Moore-“I still battle with my deeply boring diet of essentially yogurt and breakfast cereal and granola bars. I hate dieting. I hate having to do it to be the ‘right size’. I’m hungry all the time.”

Kristen Bauer-“The other day I realized that as long as I’m in this business I’m going to be hungry.”

Samantha Janus (soap star)-“I spend most of my days thinking about food and I’m hungry all the time…When I finish working as an actress there is a size 22 woman desperate to get out and just sit and munch.”

Portia de Rossi (recovered anorexic and television star)- “I don’t remember if I was hungry all the time. I’m sure I was hungry some of the time, or even most of the time, but I do think that after a while I didn’t even recognize that I was hungry. I felt very empty and I felt very anxious. It was worse than hunger. I felt like my brain wasn’t functioning”

There are many other celebrities who are open about the work it takes to be camera ready. I feel this is important, because it helps people to realize that media images of models and celebrities are not readily achievable, nor are these people always happy and healthy. The media drives what the “ideal” is, and people will tend to strive towards this. When these revered idealized people become more real to us and we understand the struggles and demands they themselves face, perhaps women will stop being so hard on themselves for not meeting ridiculous standards.

Leave the Children Out of It!!

March 22, 2012

Almost at my goal weight!

The other day I was at Whole Foods buying some overpriced organic groceries when I overheard a mother telling her elementary school-aged daughter to put the  Snickerdoodles  she had picked up back because they were too “fattening”.  Now I understand that in this day and age gluten and refined sugar are the body’s enemy, clogging up your system wherever they go, but as far as I know no child has ever porked up from a single Snickerdoodle. It is far from my place on my childless pedestal to judge, but it hit a nerve to hear this woman force her food issues onto her young child. While I agree that parents should be concerned with their children’s nutrition, and certainly there should not be a free-for –all mentality when it comes to junk food. But what message does it send to young girls when their mothers tell them they should fear certain foods? Do these children have the skills to think critically and understand that their parents don’t want them to become obese and unhealthy, or will they start to think that they must be as skinny as models in magazines or the thinnest girl in their class in order to please?

I came across some pretty startling statistics:

Among children in grades 1-3, 42% want to be thinner

Among 8-10 years old, 50% are dissatisfied with their body size

Among 10 year olds, 81% are afraid of becoming fat

Among 9-11 year olds, 46% are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

82% of these 9-11 year olds families are on diets “sometimes” or “very often”

Among 13 year olds, 80% have tried to lose weight

Among 9-15 year old girls, 50% exercise to lose weight, 50% restrict their calories, and 5% steal laxatives or diet pills from their parents

35% of people on a diet develop some sort of pathology around food

Of this 35%, 20-25% develop a full-blown eating disorder

Why do our kids have such low self-esteem and body-image? Similar to the rest of us women, they are exposed to the endless stream of media images depicting unrealistic depictions of women. Children are likely even more susceptible to these images because they are less likely to be able to appreciate the discrepancy between the women in the media and real women. Young children may not realize the extent of the retouching, plastic surgery, makeup, dieting, personal training etc. that goes into making the models look like they do. Children and teens are also highly influenced by their peer group. Often groups of kids will engage in fat-talk which only feeds into their low self-esteem. They may feel pressured into dieting along with groups of friends, or forced to “compete” with smaller friends.

Parents cannot control the media or peer pressure. However, the influence of parents and home environment on children’s behavior and attitude towards food cannot be overlooked. It is well established that how parents, especially mothers, feel about themselves and their approach to weight issues will influence their daughter’s self-image and tendency towards disordered eating. Statistically, young girls who report they have dieted or are dieting are more likely to report that members of their families are also dieting or have dieted.  A study in the European Journal of Child Adolescent Psychiatry in 2009 called Influence of Parent’s Eating Attitudes on Eating Disorders In School Adolescents examined 258 boys and girls with a mean age of 11.37 being either at risk of an eating disorder or a control. The study looked at disordered eating attitudes, body dissatisfaction, BMI and eating disorder diagnoses in the children at beginning and 2 years later. The parents were also examined for disordered eating attitudes. The results showed that mother’s drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, and father’s drive for thinness and perfectionism were related to long-term eating disorders. Predictors were being female, mothers drive for thinness, social insecurity and adolescent body dissatisfaction, and father’s perfectionism. BMI was not a predictor.

So ladies, remember when you were a teenager and you screamed at your mother that you were going to be a better parent than her? I know at the time you meant you were going to let your daughter stay out late and date all the boys she wanted and have her own phone in her room, but now you have the chance to do something better. You can shut up about how fat you feel today or how many calories were in the grande chocolate macchiato extra whip you just drank and how disgusting you feel, or how you need to go on a diet. It’s no good for you, and it’s toxic for your daughters. Both of you deserve better.

For $1000 it better be better than a face lift!

March 21, 2012

Is it worth $1000?

Estee Lauder has just launched their luxury skincare line ‘Re-Nutriv Re-Creation’. The face cream and night serum will set you back a hefty $1000 while the eye balm and night serum for eyes is about half that amount. The active ingredient in all products is ‘Glacial BioExtract’, a concentrated essence which is purported to boost the skin’s collagen network, restore skin’s strength and resilience, improve skin’s clarity and inner radiance, optimize hydration, reduce lines and fade discolorations. In short, they seem to be promising a miracle. According to the April issue of Flare magazine, the Glacial BioExtract is actually a glycoprotein that “switches on dermal fibroblasts, which are cells that crank out the proteins needed to keep skin youthful.” It was first discovered in the Antarctic in bacteria which were able to withstand the treacherous conditions as a result of this protective glycoprotein. It is now produced in a lab, and the process is very costly. The cream also contains other high end ingredients: ancient algae, micro-minerals, colloidal gold, South Sea pearls. Much thought and money was also invested in the aesthetic appeal of the product. The packaging is streamlined and elegant, but not gaudy or showy. The bottles are grey and gold, and come on ‘pedestals’ for display.  It is lightly scented with water lotus, hyacinth and orchid, and feels silky to the touch. It is designed to make you covet it. But the question is-who will buy a $1000 face cream?

 

Estee Lauder is certainly not alone in the luxury skin care market, although this new skincare line is one of the pricier ones, especially from one of the more recognized department store brands. Other exorbitantly priced products include Revive Peau Magnifique ($1500 for a 4 week supply), Revive Intensite Volumizing Serum ($600), N.V. Perricone M.D. Neuropeptide Facial Conformer ($570), Kanebo Sensai Ex La Crème ($500), and Cle de Peau Beaute La Crème ($475) just to name a small handful. If sales of these and other luxury brands are any indication, it seems there are a lot of people willing to fork over a thousand dollars for a face cream. According to CNN, in 2010 prestige skincare sales in US department stores was 2.7 billion, an 8% increase from 2009. So if people are buying, these creams must be delivering on all of their promises, right?

 

This is a hard question to answer. It seems that every cream claims to be able to turn back the hands of time, offering ‘clinical evidence’ of anti-aging and damage reversing effects. In addition to being physically appealing, the most costly creams also contain the most lavish and valuable ingredients. These include things like caviar, crushed pearls, gold, and extracts from plants found only in exotic locales. Other ingredients which drive up the price are proteins and other cellular components that are involved in cell renewal and other processes which make them useful against aging skin cells. The problem is research and development as well as production can be very expensive. Is all of this money well spent?  Forbes.com states that “In the cosmetic industry, the term “clinically proven” is often more marketing than science. Typically, the phrase means that at least one component of the cosmetic product has been shown, in one study or another, to have had some biological action, such as helping wounds heal faster by stimulating cell division. That the product has been demonstrated by a well-controlled, independent clinical study to have significant effects in skin, however, is not necessarily true”. Unlike drugs, cosmetic products do not have to undergo rigorous, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies to prove their efficacy. Claims made are often subjective rather than measurable. “80% of women saw a reduction in wrinkles”. Even when outcomes are measurable, they are rarely measured against outcomes from similar products. Tools called corneometers can measure skin’s hydration level before and after application of a face cream to prove it is increased by said cream. So while all of the ingredients in a $500 cream sound luxurious and are ‘clinically proven’, how do we know a $10 face cream would not increase skin’s hydration just as well? The drug store brand creams, while costing significantly less, make similar claims of efficacy to the much more expensive department store creams.

Being 31, I’ve started to look at products that use words like ‘reduce’ and ‘minimize’ rather than ‘prevent’ when referring to lines and wrinkles. I have noticed a line on my forehead that seems to be there even when I’m not furrowing my brow in thought. There are a couple of ‘laugh lines’ under my eyes which I would like to prevent from becoming ‘crow’s feet’  although I’m not sure of the distinction other than I prefer the sound of the former. I’m not alone. Women spend billions of dollars annually on skin care in order to reverse the signs of aging and reclaim their youth. I recently had to buy a new eye cream. I was at a “beauty mart” where several brands were displayed side by side. I felt overwhelmed by the seemingly endless choices in front of me. I was not looking at couture brands, but mid-priced department store brands ranging from $20-$50. All made essentially the same claims, to reduce wrinkles, firm skin, reduce circles etc. I must admit, I felt more drawn to the more expensive creams. Part of it was that the packaging of the more expensive lines was more appealing. However, I think the main reason is that on some subconscious level I believe that the more expensive something is, the better it must be. I have heard similar comments from others, and not just about skincare products. If there are 2 brands of olive oil, the more expensive one is better quality, brand name must be better than generic, the most expensive car is the best.  I ended up buying a $46 cream. I still have wrinkles under my eyes, but I’m certain I will be one of the 80% who will notice an improvement in 4-6 weeks. Another reason women may be shelling out cash for youth in a bottle is to increase their happiness. A study on PsychCentral led by Cornell University researchers showed that people were more likely to make more expensive purchases when they were feeling low, and they were most likely to pay with their credit card, perhaps to offset some of the guilt about the purchase. It seems that purchasing a luxury item, like an overpriced face cream, can temporarily lift a woman’s mood.

Many women swear to the effectiveness of these very expensive luxury creams, to the extent that some of them even have a cult-like following. Crème de la Mer is revered by so many Hollywood celebrities you would think it was Botox in a bottle. So, if you have $1000 to burn, go ahead and try Estee Lauder’s Re-Nutriv Re-Creation Collection. Just don’t expect a miracle. Me, I think I’ll just work on embracing my wrinkles. (While continuing to use my antiwrinkle serum, day cream, night cream, dark circle minimizer, eye cream and blemish fighter).