September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment
Once upon a time, I had a subscription to W. Magazine. As an artist, I love collaging, and W’s edgy, large-format fashion spreads provide great imagery for collage, and other mixed-media projects. But this article makes me really happy that I didn’t renew my subscription.
For starters, I have a problem with anyone describing different fashion styles in a “clique” mentality. “Clique” seems to imply a negative exclusivity, which a lot of people face in their lives, without reading W’s fluff fashion pieces. This also implies that women can only have one sartorial style code. I own dresses that flaunt my curves, flashy miniskirts, streamlined pieces, and flowy, bohemian dresses and scarves. According to W, I’d be considered to be a fashion schizophrenic.
But this piece went from “dumb” to “freaking inappropriate” in its way it described women’s body types. Jezebel pointed out W’s insensitivity to special dietary needs and eating disorders in the way that W called any woman who [ghasp!] isn’t a size two a “woman who eats her feelings”, and that is always talking about “gluten-free vegan cupcakes”. Here’s a nice little message for W: Women who may not fit within your acceptable skinniness range DOES NOT EQUAL a woman with a compulsive eating disorder. Also, Christina Hendricks, Beth Ditto, and Brigitte Bardot don’t have their amazing bodies (or, as W puts it, “full figured”) because they can’t stop eating. They have those bodies for a variety of reasons, mostly because they were born with bodies that were naturally curvy. Also, it would be nice if Christina could wear some Louis Vuitton or Prada to an event or awards show, but she has stated that designers won’t dress her because she’s bigger than a size two.
One of my friends from high school has food sensitivities that prevent her from eating many foods, including gluten and corn products. Another friend from Stephens is a vegan. Neither of them wear bohemian clothes, let alone Missoni or Edun. They wear jeans, t-shirts, and dancewear. Both of them have gotten frustrated about how their dietary limitations affect their everyday life. I understand that not everyone who follows a vegan/gluten-free/both diet is doing so for strictly medical reasons, but W needs to stop implying that a restrictive diet is just a great way to lose weight.
And finally, W Magazine, I’d like to think that someone thinks that I have depth because I, oh I dunno, actually have depth and speak with passion and knowledge about the things I care about. If I have to prove my supposed depth, intelligence, and “postfeminism” by wearing expensive designer clothes, then I don’t actually have any depth.
I like fashion. I like fashion magazines that produce creative photo shoots, creative and insightful articles, and that promote body diversity. I will be more than happy to put W out of business by spending money on a superior competitor.
August 24, 2010 § 1 Comment
Before I transferred to SCAD, I attended a small college in Missouri called Stephens College. A friend of mine (a student at the University of Missouri — the school next door to Stephens) sent me a link to a recent story, in which an anonymous alum has pledged to donate one million dollars, if school employees collectively lose 250 pounds or more.
I think that linking a charitable donation to an institute of learning with weight loss is a bad idea. Especially at a place like Stephens, which is a women’s college.
Because many women are bombarded with so many images in the media, telling us to do this/buy that in order to lose weight. There are many competition style shows, in which contestants try to win money by losing weight. Jillian Michaels has garnered a great deal of money and fame by being the head screamer on The Biggest Loser, and her own TV show whose name I cannot remember, but would be best titled Jillian Michaels Really Enjoys Screaming at Fat People.
During my time at Stephens (Fall ’07-Winter ’08), it seemed like many of my classmates were in a never-ending weight loss competition with each other. One girl complained that it was “unfair” that a girl who was larger than her was a better, more flexible dancer. Another girl tried out the “Master Cleanse” with her friends: They spent a weekend consuming only a drink made from lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. They did lose weight, but only because they spent their entire weekend in the bathroom, suffering from severe nausea/diarrhea. During my seven-week summer intensive, it seemed like I was the only person who wasnt freaking out about “getting fat” — we spent our mornings in an intense dance/aerobics class, followed by acting class, lunch, and time spent either in rehearsal or in the shop.
The most popular majors at Stephens (performing arts, dance, fashion) are majors that do place a great deal of value on traditional standards of beauty (thinness, conventional beauty, etc). Several professors in the performing arts department told some of my friends that they should lose weight, or otherwise alter their appearance (another was told that her muscles were too prominent). « Read the rest of this entry »
August 15, 2010 § 4 Comments
The last couple of posts have been about women in film (and the occaisonal woman who directs/shoots/produces films). If I am lucky, I will be one of those women in front of the camera. If I am even luckier, I’ll actually enjoy the project that I’m shooting.
That’s the challenge of being a woman in the performing arts field, who is also a feminist. So much of the available jobs in TV/film/commercials are total and complete crap. Because plays are so expensive to produce (a three-person play with one set will cost at least six figures to produce in New York), casts are shrinking, and so are, you guessed it, roles for women.
One of our first assignments in our Acting For The Camera class was to talk about our classmates’ “types”. My professor was straightforward about what we would be most likely to be cast as [Evidently, I’m a quirky “character” type, who would be good in Meg-Ryan type roles]. Frankly, I don’t always appreciate it when people tell me, as a 20-year-old student, what I’ll likely be doing, based on my looks, for the majority of my career. And this year, the projects I filmed included:
-A wheelchair bound wife, having difficulty handling her disability.
-A bobby-soxer in the Fifties.
-A vagabond, living with a collective of people out of the bed of a pickup truck.
-A German prostitute.
-A cancer patient who makes a suicide pact with another cancer patient
Ie, things not in my supposed “type”.
At my first college, I saw talk of “types” totally destroy my classmates, who were convinced that they would not be able to do anything other than what another classmate or professor suggested. There is nothing more tragic in my mind than a bunch of 18-year-old college students that have been convinced that they cannot do anything other than one specific “type”.
As I think about my post-graduate opportunities, I’m leaning more towards jobs not directly related to performing arts, but ones where I could use some of my strengths that I’ve learned as an actor. Why? Because I would have more freedom than having to go on audition after audition, only to be told that I’m “not right for the job” because I am short/have red hair/do not look like Megan Fox.
One of the best things that I learned at my previous college was to make my own work, rather than waiting for good work to come my way. That has to be the future for film, television, and theatre if we want to see things other than Two and a Half Men and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
I don’t want to be in the position to have to take the horribly sexist commercial/sitcom/film gig because that is the only work available for me. I’d rather break out, and set my own rules, than be stuck having to follow the rules of an industry that occasionally produces brilliant work, but is so stuck in a mentality of “if it doesn’t make money, it will fail” that they keep on doing the same thing, with the same shitty stereotypes, over and over again.
Plus, why would I want to work in the same industry that still employs Charlie Sheen?
August 8, 2010 § 7 Comments
Ick. Ack. EW.
I’ve seen this ad around New York City a few times this week, and it’s gross. (Copy for Pretzel Crisps ad reads: “You can never be too thin.”)
The beauty industry — which broadly includes fashion, makeup, skincare, exercise, dieting, and food products — is like a repulsive, amorphous, self-serving beast. Corporations teach women to hate ourselves so that we will buy their products to be improved, furiously stoking the fire of our self-loathing to fill their own pockets.
Here, Pretzel Crisps is using the meme that women shouldn’t eat or enjoy food…to sell food. It’s ridiculous, and it’s insulting on innumerable levels.
They are doing this to us, but we are complying. I often imagine what would happen if women stopped hating ourselves. If we all made a pact late one night, and the next morning, just refused to accept the ritual of femininity that we’ve all been brainwashed into performing. If I was never again tempted to pluck my eyebrows? Suck in my stomach? Mentally catalogue my meals? Spend even one second’s worth of brainpower thinking about panty lines? (Because what, really, is so scandalous about me wearing underwear??)
In some ways, nothing would happen. Contrary to the cultural narrative that stresses the divine importance of female “beauty,” the earth actually would not crumble if I quit this charade.
But in some ways, everything would change. We would finally appreciate our own inherent worth. Our confidence would shine, everlastingly radiant, bright enough to shatter the dark corners of isolation where we starve and hate ourselves. All I can do is try to remember that light, shine it on my insecurities and illuminate them for the false fears they are.
July 21, 2010 § 5 Comments
Eighteen-year-old Filipina singer Charice Pempengco underwent a Botox procedure to prepare for her upcoming role on Fox’s Glee.
If you are like me, you are wondering: WHY?!?! The AP reports on some diverging perspectives:
Pempengco’s publicist Liz Rosenberg said the procedure was “absolutely not cosmetic,” but rather to treat pain in the muscles of her jaw.
The “celebrity cosmetic surgeon” (oops! There’s that word, cosmetic, which this is “absolutely not”…) Vicki Belo, who performed the procedure, said that it was intended to make Charice’s “naturally round face,” um, less round (and less natural?). “You chew gum and it turns out to be a favorite super-exercise for these muscles, your chewing muscles. So we will show you, this muscle here it’s a bit protruding… It’s like a ball, so we are going to Botox that in order to get it flat so she will have a cuter face…we want to give you the apple cheek look because it’s cute, right?”
Charice herself says that the she got the procedure “to look fresh on camera.” Further, “all people will be anticipating how will Charice look? Is she good enough to pit against Rachel Berry? So of course there is tremendous pressure.”
So, to review: the procedure is “not cosmetic,” but serves to make Charice look “cute” and “fresh,” a look which she has received “tremendous pressure” to embody.
Um. Do we know what cosmetic means? (“Serving to beautify the body… serving to modify or improve the appearance of a physical feature… decorative rather than functional.” So, all of the above.)
Just for reference, here’s a photo of Charice before the procedure. (Not, of course, to imply that if she looked older or different, then a Botox procedure would be warranted, expected, or necessary — only to provide evidence that even someone who is praised for her beauty, and who has likely undergone a rigorous audition process based heavily on physical appearance, is simply never beautiful enough.)
In patriarchy, women are told that our lives will be gloriously happy if only we achieve physical, aesthetic perfection. What we’re not told is that such perfection is impossible. And the looming irony is that we’re inundated with messages that CONFIDENCE IS SEXY!, messages produced by a culture that makes it so damn difficult to be confident (and even demonizes women who are “too confident” by deriding them as sluts and bitches).
Let’s talk about me. Though I don’t wear makeup and I couldn’t be called busty, I benefit from almost every other kind of beauty privilege you can imagine. I’m white, I’m thin. I don’t use glasses, my hair isn’t too frizzy, I’m not acne-prone, I shave lots of places. But still! Still, even with all this privilege that lands me very, very close to my culture’s beauty ideal, and even with all the strength of my feminist backbone, still I have days and moments where I feel hideous and self-conscious and unworthy because I feel unbeautiful. It is staggering to imagine the hatred that women are expected to direct inward.
Charice’s case is not an anomaly. It’s indicative of the grossly disturbing prevalence of ever-unachievable beauty standards.
July 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
So I’m currently interning at the wonderful, feminist-friendly, bilingual Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, an organization located in Washington Heights, dedicated to the promotion of artists in Northern Manhattan. It’s a highly community oriented and welcoming environment that I’m already in love with. Its mission is to give voices to artists of various medias that may not typically be given opportunities to show their work.
One such artist is the fantastic Jessica Lagunas. I was lucky enough to see some of her work at an earlier show celebrating Latino artists this year and I was blown away. Born in Nicaragua in 1971, she’s dedicated to exploring themes–often of a heavy nature–such as body image, sexuality, ethnicity, and age, all from a distinctly female perspective.
I encourage you to go check out her stuff, particularly her videos, in which she does certain beauty rituals for up to two hours. They’re grotesque and fascinating and leave me with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. In a good way. I think. It’s certainly thought provoking.
And good news! Her work is being exhibited right now. If you’re in the New York area or Spain go check her out! I know I plan to.
Her bio can be found here.
July 15, 2010 § 3 Comments
I saw a commercial for CW’s new reality show, “Plain Jane,” last night. This morning I found this preview on the channel’s website.
The title “Plain Jane” alone should have been enough of a warning. I saw this preview and didn’t have the strength or emotional energy to continue looking into it. I think the most offensive part is at the end when the creepy announcer voice says, “Every dream will become real.” Thanks, CW! Thanks so much for realizing the only dreams young women have, to receive highlights, strappy heels and some lip gloss! How else can women become confident, self-loving individuals?!?
Actually, I changed my mind. The part where the “plain Jane” is strapped with a zapper and is LITERALLY ZAPPED by the hosts of the show when she “falls back into her plain Jane ways” is the most heinous. I don’t even know where to begin talking about how demeaning and dehumanizing that is. Thanks for the soulache, CW.