Friday, January 8, 2010

The great untouched woman

I've been vaguely following the whole debacle over the Marie Claire naked 'unaltered' photographs of Jennifer Hawkins.

A few thoughts

A very small proportion of the population possess the attributes currently dictated by modern society to model mainstream fashion. Height, bone structure and facial features are in most respects genetically acquired, they are not due to some great merit of mental capacity, physical mobility, intelligence or good character. They can't be earned, learned or won. Sure, plastic surgery, diet and exercise can play a part but there must be a good underlying combination of socially appropriate genetically acquired attributes. Put simply, many women eat healthily and exercise but do not look like models. This is why I am rather aghast that Jennifer Hawkins is posited on the front page of Marie Claire as a poster child for positive body image. The experience may have been an empowering one for Jennifer Hawkins, in asserting her 'unaltered' self to the public, but for the rest of us, it's simply another example of viewing pics of the beautiful people and finding ourselves deficient yet again.

To me, the problem is not that Jennifer is thin, I would find it equally insulting for the model to be plus sized, considering that with the exception of Beth Ditto, plus size models used to represent 'real' women are usually tall and big breasted and no larger than a size 14, the smallest plus size designed. To me, the problem I have with such representations of 'real' women is that simply, they don't look like anyone I know! It's incredibly lonely to read a magazine and constantly see pictures that bear no resemblance to yourself of women wearing clothing which is designed only for a limited group of women. I don't need women to be perfect in magazines, I want to see how clothing looks on women with disproportionate bodies. I want to see how hairstyles work on women without mannequin type facial assymetry. None of this is about fat or thin, it's simply about the diversity of women's bodies.

Certainly Jennifer Hawkins and the other beautiful people are real women, but they come with a level of privilege, the rest of society is exempt from. Their physiques contribute to their earning capacities and opportunities for advancement in media and other enterprises in the public eye. Clearly, their physically atttributes mean that they have advantages those of us who do not fit the body ideal are excluded from.

I would like a society where all women have better things to do than focus on their appearance. There are always bigger priorities in the world that need attention like the environment, health and social justice. But even those of us with political leanings are not exempt from bad body image. We still have to clothe ourselves, and interact with a society where many people place celebrity and physical beauty over far more important parts of life.

I'd like to add, that I'm aware that Jennifer posed for the photos with good intentions to promote the good work of the Butterfly Foundation and the prevalence of eating disorders, but as someone who has struggled with disordered eating for over 20 years, including hospital units, medication, therapy, support groups and even hypnosis, I'm glad she has a good body image herself, but this does nothing to improve my realities.


Kellie Christie said...

Well said!!!I believe that you have managed to state what the majority of women who don't have a perfect body like Jen Hawkins were thinking. Although she did have great intentions with the photo and it was bold of her to do, I feel that she didn't really help the issue of positive body image. You are right about plus sized models being unbelievably gorgeous and not looking like anyone I know.

Charlie said...

I agree with your comments but unfortunately it would appear that advertisers and retailers believe that only skinny models sell clothing and merchandise. Whether we like it or not. Most women don't look like Jennifer but then again that is why she is a super model and the rest of us are not. I wear glasses and do you think you ever see any glamorous women in magazines with short hair and glasses ? Absolutely not. That's just the way our society is and has been for many years. I don't agree with it either but I have just given up the fight and enjoy just being who I am and the way I look no matter what people think.

Doily said...

Well written post. Personally Im suprised that such a ridiculous publicity stunt is getting so much attention... photoshop or nay... its still another boring shot of a beautiful woman... yawn!!!
I dont read magazines for this reason...I copuldn't work out why after reading mags I felt so restlessly unsatisfied with my life/self/home. Then I realised that their sole purpose is to make us feel this way so we buy the products that will 'magically' make our lives as amazing as they tell us it should be. Bah poo to that I say!!

m.e (Cathie) said...

definitely well said!
this whole subject can go on & on yet still these images of women are the same. and as Doily said, it's just a boring pic.

Shilo said...

I hate to sound cynical, but I have friends in fashion photography back in New York who are following this whole thing and their unanimous response is "No airbrushing? No problem, more makeup, more angles, more lighting. Anything can be done"

In other related news, the recent release of the photo spread from the upcoming issue of V Magazine is incredible and for those who haven't read it, the blog post about it on Jezebel is totally awesome:

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