Friday, March 5, 2010

Paper #1

1. According to Wolf, “The beauty myth is not about women at all. It is about men’s institutions and institutional power” (13). Wolf argues that it is the beauty myth that causes women to obsess “with physical perfection.” Wolf states that it is also the beauty myth, “that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fill society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.” There is a love-hate relationship between body image and women. Women love to obsess over every little imperfection of their bodies, but they hate the way the media portrays this unachievable body image. Why can’t advertisers use real women instead of Photoshopping every detail to death? The reason is simple: advertisers want to sell products, and if the model selling the product is unattractive in any way, consumers will not buy it. Sadly, this reasoning is true under some circumstances. Americans have been conditioned to make the association that models should be beautiful. In the Beauty Myth, there is an example that reiterates this view that models should be beautiful. Katie Betts revealed, “In the New York Times Style section, to having removed accomplished actress Renee Zellweger from the cover of Vogue because she was “too fat” after having gained some weight” (7). In reality, Renee Zellweger was not fat; she was actually much smaller than the size of an average woman, which is a size 14. Zellweger gained the weight to play a part in the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary. Zellweger commented on her weight gain for the movie when saying, “I had a lot of friends who said I should think about keeping some of the weight on. I have to say I agreed, because there were certain things about it I liked very much. But, of course, I'm a girl, and I thought, 'Ugh, no.' Like anybody, I want to look my best.” When celebrities have the mentality that they must look their best, it has a profound impact on average Americans, because we aspire to look like these celebrities, despite the fact that most celebrities have unrealistic bodies.
The television show The Girls Next Door unrealistically depicts the ideal "body image". This is a show about Playboy Playmates living in the Playboy mansion with Hugh Hefner. A typical television show usually consists of the playmates working out, getting a tan, having their hair and make-up done, or going to an extravagant Playboy party. Almost every playmate on the show admits to having breast implants, and each one has the ideal body image: tall, skinny, blonde, tan, and of course, big boobs. According to Wolf, "The average weight of Playboy Playmates dropped from 11 percent below the national average in 1970 to 17 percent below it in eight years" (185). I was curious to know what the current BMI of a playmate is, so after some research I found a shocking article. According to Gammon, "A clear trend emerged: While real American women have steadily eaten their way up the BMI slope — just like American men — Playmates have gone from a sylphlike 19.4 to an anime-ideal 17.6." When women are exposed to shows like Girls Next Door, and see these playmates prancing around in skimpy bikinis and "living the dream", average women will likely become envious of this lifestyle and strive to have this body image, so they too can be the envy of all women.

2. An offensive advertisement I found was for Dolce and Gabbana, pictured below.

This advertisement is for Dolce & Gabbana, which is an up-scale clothing store. I found it offensive because this women is clearly being portrayed as a sex object, and the man is using forceful behavior to hold her down so he can "have his way with her." Wolf illustrates images in the media that are described as "beauty pornography". "In these images, where the face is visible, it is expressionless in a rictus of ecstasy" (132-133). Also, many of the images show the woman's eyes closed, such as the model in this ad.

The model appears to be struggling, but in a posed way, so it still looks "glamorous". The fact that her pelvis is pressed upward toward the man is also suggestive, because she is being restrained and is struggling, but her body is in a state of arousal. The other men in the background watch intently, as if waiting to assist if needed. The advertisement as a whole portrays a "glamorous rape scene" (Wolf, 146). The problem with this advertisement is how it may appeal to men and women. According to Stock, as quoted by Wolf, "Exposure to rape imagery increased women's sexual arousal to rape and increased their rape fantasies" (141). When men are exposed to rape imagery, they perceive this behavior to be acceptable, and something that women desire. This normalizes violent behavior among men, and puts women at risk for being sexually assaulted.

3. An advertisement that i like is Nike's "My Butt" because it sends a positive message and empowers women.

This advertisement sends a positive message to women, and that is: love your body for what it is. This ad is a tribute to the model's butt with copy such as, "My butt is big and that's just fine, and those who might scorn it are invited to kiss it." It successfully combats the stereotype that models must be skinny in order to appear in an advertisement. This ad pushes the boundaries by using a normal sized butt, and poking fun at skinny women with copy like, "It's a border collie that herds skinny women away from the best deals at clothing sales." If there were more advertisements like this one that celebrate women's bodies, women wouldn't feel so pressured to conform to society's ideal body image. It is evident that the "butt" in this advertisement belongs to a woman of color, which also combats the stereotype of traditionally white models in print advertisements. According to Wolf, "Beauty is an economy in which women find the "value" of their faces and bodies impinging, in spite of themselves, on that of other women's" (284). Women constantly compare their bodies to those of models in the media. But if more models had bodies like the one in this advertisement, this could drastically change the ideal "body image" in the American eye. Even little steps, such as this advertisement, can be seen as significant progress in the fight to change the ideal body image in society.