When I saw the cover of the new issue of Us Weekly, my mouth dropped open. I consider myself kind of an expert of celebrity media and this headline was not what I was expecting at all.
Big news in the entertainment world happened this week when a New York judge denied Kesha’s injunction to record music without her alleged rapist Dr. Luke. After the ruling, musicians like Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga voiced support for Kesha. Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to support her financial leads. Us decided to sideline the event to a sidebar of its cover, reducing an important story about the intersection of misogyny and capitalism to the headline: ‘Demi vs Taylor Inside their angry feud.’
I realize Us Weekly is not a publication known for its history of Pulitzer prizes in journalism, but the story of Kesha vs Sony is made for the tabloids. It’s got celebrities, it’s got art– photos of Kesha crying in court like the one I used on my own blog. There are famous people to picture supporting the star. There is, actually, an angry fight to feature, though not between two women but Kesha vs Dr. Luke. All that intrigue is enough to sell a magazine making Us‘s choice to highlight a Taylor vs Demi narrative an act of breathtaking misogyny.
So let’s dive into this angry feud.
Inside the magazine, two pages are dedicated to Kesha’s story. Here you can see the photo of Kesha crying in court. About one third of the spread is dedicated to the details of Demi “blasting” Taylor. Apparently, Demi feels that $250,000 isn’t much to give away for a woman who made $80 million last year and that political action would make more of an impact. The first point is pretty much bullshit. Taylor’s donation shows she supports Kesha against Dr. Luke, a man who is hugely powerful in the music industry. To me, that public statement is the true value of her gift. But also, shouldn’t the usefulness of the amount be evaluated on how it can help Kesha? Furthermore, how do we know Taylor won’t give more later? And why, why, why am I even blogging about all this? Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve realized a major block to women moving forward in the world is how the powers that be control the conversation and set up the argument. I’m constantly pulled down a rabbit hole of trying to prove some minor point and missing the forest from the trees. That kind of mind fuck is one reason I’ve become very careful about who I engage with in a debate. I’m fascinated by how sides are set up and played against each other and how this happens to women all the time.
One more thing about Demi. Us reports Demi tweeted:
There’s no “rivalry” I just give more f—s than other people and would rather start a dialogue ABOUT WOMEN COMING FORWARD ABOUT BEING RAPED than throw money at one person.”
Agreed. Let’s start talking about rape and how to stop it. Meanwhile, let’s help women access the funds they need to get justice, because certainly, money and power are part of the conversation. And if Us Weekly really wants to highlight the Demi/ Taylor story on its cover, how about this headline? “Demi and Taylor start a dialogue Inside their debate on how to stop rape.”
If you haven’t heard, a New York judge has refused to issue a court injunction to allow Kesha get out of her contract to record music exclusively with Sony under the input of Dr. Luke, a producer who she says sexually abused her.
The New York judge says that letting Kesha out of her contract would hurt Sony financially. If Kesha is going to sing, she must sing for her rapist.
How more clearly can we see misogyny and capitalism come together? Take a moment to think about Chris Brown, who beat Rhianna, and his career flourishes, or R. Kelly who sexually abused underage girls or Woody Allen or Roman Polanski? Kesha’s career in being destroyed. Think about how scared she was to speak out. Think about the choices she had to make: tell the truth and be ostracized or stay quiet. Think about how many women who are raped and abused are staying quiet right now. Think about how, again and again, the legal system fails women.
I read about Kesha’s story in People Magazine at least a year ago. I didn’t understand why no one was picking it up. The good news is that women with power and money are responding to the injustice facing Kesha. First, Arianna Grande, Demi Lovato, and Lady Gaga publicly supported her. Now Taylow Swift is donating $250,000 towards Kesha’s legal bills.
Women telling the truth, even when people say their experiences didn’t happen or don’t matter, is the first step. Money and power behind those stories are two more ingredients women need to change the world.
This page does not post trigger warnings. If you are offended by media stories that deal with rape, sexual assault, or abuse, and expect a trigger warning, please don’t like this page. I also post about politics (I am a Democrat) and reproductive rights. The goal of my page is to imagine gender equality in the fantasy world so that we create equality in the real one. I hope you join me on this journey but if you expect to only read stories about female comic book characters here, this is not the page for you.
To recap: the gender of characters in the imaginary world is important to me because the gender of characters in the real world is important to me. Capiche?
If you believe that Bernie Sanders is a better feminist than Hillary Clinton, I respect that opinion and I understand your reasons for making that choice. I get it.
On my blog, a couple days ago, I posted this quote from Bernie Sanders from the AP:
“No one has ever heard me say, ‘Hey guys, let’s stand together, vote for a man.’ I would never do that, never have,” Sanders said. “I think in a presidential race, we look at what a candidate stands for and we vote for the candidate we think can best serve our country.”
Huh? Of course no one would say, “Hey guys, let’s stand together and vote for a man.” That’s just the assumption, a man is the default position. That Bernie would make that analogy shows me, once again, why I want a woman president.
That quote, as you can see if you go to the link, is not the headline, hasn’t been covered by any media that I know of, it’s simply embedded in the article, just like that point of view is embedded in a male candidate. To me, that quote says gender is not important and that men and women are the same and equal right now in America. That quote is just the latest one I came across as I was blogging that happened to show to me that Bernie doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a woman because he’s not one.
I want a female president. I wrote this in my blog:
Would I vote for Sarah Palin or Condoleezza Rice or Michelle Bachmann because they are women? No, of course not. I would vote for a woman who supports reproductive rights and women’s rights. Yes, I want a woman president. I don’t think women are better than men, more ethical than men, kinder, more emotional, or any of that bullshit. I still want there to be a woman who supports women’s rights to hold the highest office. I believe Hillary Clinton will make the world a better place for women and therefore men, as ultimately, we’re all connected and losing half the human race is missing out on a huge, untapped resource.
Is gender the only factor in why I’m voting for Hillary? No. Is it a strong factor? Yes.
So many people who are not supporting Hillary assure me that they’re all for a woman president, they just don’t want this woman. Elizabeth Warren, she’d be great! Jill Stein? Even better! I will tell you as I tell them: Neither of those women is in a position to be president, and that is not a coincidence. There could not be a female Bernie Sanders in Bernie Sanders’s position today– that angry, that vocal about a revolution. A woman like that would scare America right out of its pants. How do I know? Because she’s not in that position!
Here’s the good news. Since my post, I’ve actually gained fans on Reel Girl’s Facebook page. I have hope for us Democrats! Most of the comments I’m getting are much better and represent an improved and thoughtful dialogue, but I still feel like my point is being missed. Here’s one of those comments that inspired me to write this blog:
I have no problem with anyone supporting Hillary. I don’t agree with her and I find her extremely fake, but that’s my personal reaction and I understand that others react differently. I’ve never really had a problem with your stuff. I don’t agree 100% all the time, but that’s normal. I don’t know why we have to agree all the time or be huge ass enemies. What a waste of energy. The only thing I have to say about the representation of women in government is that, yes it would be amazing, but at the same time I don’t want to feel like I’m being shamed into voting for the vagina candidate. Know what I mean? But, well. The genitalia of a candidate has never really been my first concern. The issues are always more important for me. That being said, being told that WANTING a woman prez is sexist is an extreme. We want representation. That’s a normal part of being human.
Yes, we can disagree! The point I think is not to avoid conflict but to handle conflict ethically. When you write that you don’t want to vote with your vagina, that terminology feels kind of shaming to me. I respect that you don’t want to vote for a woman b/c she’s a woman, but when you write you don’t want to vote with your vagina, it makes me feel like you’re saying I’m doing something stupid or gross.
I swear if one more person tells me they’re not voting with their vagina or not to vote with my vagina….scrap that, because it’ll happen again hundreds if not thousands of times before this primary is over. I’ll take a deep breath. I’ll keep writing.
I post about gender and power on my Facebook page, and every time I put up a post about Hillary and gender, I lose fans. I’ve always supported open discussion on my site and on my blog. I get why people are voting for Bernie, but I’m blogging now about the shaming and vitriol aimed at me when I express my support for Hillary. This happens, by the way, not just on the internet but in the real world. Most people I know are voting for Bernie. I’m told, in multiple ways, that I’m not hip, I’m not cool, I’m too privileged to see the light.
Pfft. Not when she represents things that I’m completely against. I’m not just a woman, I’m a cis, queer, Latina born and raised from low SES. The women I’ve heard that support Hillary just because she’s a women are white women who have not faced an iota that trans women, woc, poor women, queer women, or disabled women have faced. At least vote because she’s going to make our life better. Privilage baiting Reel Girl
Reel Girl: I read this post, as I wrote in comments above, not about Bernie supporters but about not shaming Hillary supporters
When Bernie was asked about Killer Mike’s comment that a uterus doesn’t qualify someone to be president, he told the AP:
“No one has ever heard me say, ‘Hey guys, let’s stand together, vote for a man.’ I would never do that, never have,” Sanders said. “I think in a presidential race, we look at what a candidate stands for and we vote for the candidate we think can best serve our country.”
Huh? Of course no one would say, “Hey guys, let’s stand together and vote for a man.” That’s just the assumption, a man is the default position. That Bernie would make that analogy shows me, once again, why I want a woman president. Would I vote for Sarah Palin or Condoleezza Rice or Michelle Bachmann because they are women? No, of course not. I would vote for a woman who supports reproductive rights and women’s rights. Yes, I want a woman president. I don’t think women are better than men, more ethical than men, kinder, more emotional, or any of that bullshit. I still want there to be a woman who supports women’s rights to hold the highest office. I believe Hillary Clinton will make the world a better place for women and therefore men, as ultimately, we’re all connected and losing half the human race is missing out on a huge, untapped resource.
Rebecca Traister wrote a great post about Hillary and Bernie, saying that no one likes to hear a woman yelling about revolution. No one likes an angry woman either. Or disheveled. Women are supposed to be the hard workers in the background, not the ones upfront.
As I wrote on Reel Girl’s Facebook page, I will continue to post about Hillary and gender. I’ve never posted or written based on how many fans I’ll attract, and I’m not starting now. I post about what I believe in and what makes me, and hopefully you, think. I believe people can passionately disagree on issues, but though I have a blog and write about controversial topics, I’m not someone who argues for the sake of arguing. I don’t have the time or energy to debate for entertainment. I’m busy, like we all are so I’m kind of shocked and amazed by how people I know personally and people I don’t try to pick fights and shame me for voting for Hillary. If you’re a Bernie supporter or a Hillary supporter, I’d love you to stay, but If you prefer not to see posts about Hillary and gender, this is probably not the blog or the Facebook page for you.
This is an open letter from St. George’s alumna Jocelyn Davis to Bishop Nicholas Knisely, the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Rhode Island and Honorary Chair of the school’s Board of Directors. St. George’s is a prep school in Middletown, Rhode Island where sexual abuse was covered up by those in power for decades.
Davis emailed Knisely on February 16, and he has not responded to her yet.
If you would like to send your own letter to the Bishop, please feel free to cut and paste from this one if that’s helpful to you. The more voices he hears calling for change, the more likely he is to take action. The bishop’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re not familiar with the St. George’s sexual abuse and rapes, you can find all of Reel Girl’s posts about the school after the letter.
Here is Jocelyn Davis’s letter.
Dear Bishop Knisely,
I am an alumna of St George’s School (class of 1980). I understand the school is chartered by the Episcopal Church, Diocese of Rhode Island, and that you are Honorary Board Chair. You therefore have an extra measure of influence over the governance of the school, and that’s why I’m writing to you.
I have learned of the past abuses with a dismay I’m sure you share. A number of my classmates were affected. My dismay deepens, however, when I read about the actions of school leaders—leaders still in place today.
Dozens of children were raped or molested over decades. School leaders have condemned the abuse and funded an investigation; well and good. But what about those leaders who until a few months ago (and in some respects up until now):
– Failed to report the abuse to Rhode Island authorities, as required by law
– Failed to notify institutions where abusers were later employed, even after being specifically asked to do so by survivors
– Quibbled about the reporting laws as a way to excuse their inaction
– Placed gag orders on survivors, telling them what they can and cannot talk about
– Were dismissive of those survivors who mustered up the courage to demand meetings
– Denigrated survivors as malcontents, gold-diggers, or substandard students
– Reacted to the news not with heartfelt apologies, self-examination, and personal ownership, but with facile reassurances that “all that was in the past and everything is fine now”
– Have been dragged kicking and screaming by attorneys and the press, every step of the way—and then have had the gall to complain about “unfair” lawyers and media
I am aware of the ongoing independent investigation, and I can appreciate that it is impossible for you to take action until it is complete. Nevertheless, I urge you to reflect on the above points. I further urge you to use your influence, as soon as possible, to help bring about a wholesale change of leadership at St George’s, so a fresh start can be made.
For a specific plan to that effect, please see the website www.rebootsgs.com , created by my fellow alums Chris and Philip Williams.
One last thought: In my senior year at SGS, we read Dostoyevsky’s story of “The Grand Inquisitor.” I’m sure you know it well. In the fable, Christ returns to earth and is arrested. The Grand Inquisitor, pillar of the Church, visits him in his cell to tell him the Church no longer needs him; indeed, that the Church rejects his message of “individuals first” in favor of Satan’s message of “institution first.”
I can’t help but wonder whether Christ is knocking at the door of St George’s School right now. Forty-plus individuals, courageous survivors of abuse, are standing at his side, calling for justice. I hope you will open the door and stand with them.
Jocelyn Roberts Davis ‘80
Reel Girl’s posts about St. George’s are below. If you read them, you will see that as an alumna of the school, I started to write about the institutionalized sexism I witnessed at the school long before I learned about the rapes and cover-ups.
Isn’t this great, girls? Even if you aren’t skinny, you can pout doggy style in the surf! Yes, apparently, it’s true that even if you’re not a size zero, men will still want to fuck you. No worries, sweeties, you still have value in the world.
Maybe we can get a woman over 50 to pose in a bikini. Helen Mirren? Never mind that she’s a great actress, it’s her body we want to show off. What about a plus size woman of color? Now that would be a real leap towards equality.
Despite females’ increased participation in sport since the enactment of Title IX and calls for greater media coverage of female athletes, women appeared on just 4.9 percent of covers. The percentage of covers did not change significantly over the span and were comparable to levels reported for the 1980s by other researchers. Indeed, women were depicted on a higher percentage of covers from 1954–1965 than from 2000–2011.
Do you see we’re going backwards here? Putting a plus size woman on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue isn’t any kind of progress.
When Serena Williams made the cover of SI in 2015 as sportsperson of the year, she was pictured in stilettos and a black body suit, one bare leg slung over a chair.
Some defended Serena’s cover claiming it’s important to show that a woman can be powerful and sexy. But for men, it is their skill that makes them attractive. For women athletes, if they happen to be “attractive” it is in spite of their talent, not because of it. Men’s bodies are valued for what they can do while women’s bodies are valued for how they appear.
If you’re going to tell me this sexism is just innate, tritely quoting: “Women use sex to get power, men use power to get sex,” listen to me carefully: People who are not in power learn to survive and be successful by pleasing those who are in power. That need is the only thing innate about reducing talented, skilled, brilliant women to body parts. Men, as a group, not individually, are able to stay running the world as long as women, as a group, stay weak.
Here is what I blogged in 2014:
Memo to the world: objectifying fat women is objectifying women
Plus-size swimwear company Swimsuits for All set out to prove that “sexy curves go beyond a size four” by shooting its own swimwear calendar, including a picture reenacting this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Are you kidding me? Do you think I’d be any happier if my 3 daughters saw that picture in the Safeway checkout line instead of this one?
All right, maybe I’d be a smidgen happier that my kids wouldn’t have to see more starving women defined as beautiful, but my goals and expectations are so much higher than what this image from Swimsuits for All represents. I want to see images of women where they are not defined by their sexuality, by whether whomever is looking at them finds them sexy or not, where what they look like in bathing suits is not the be-all end-all, where who thinks they are attractive only matters in a very particular context, like when they are with someone who they love or want to have sex with.
Swimsuits for All is in the business of selling swimsuits. The company has got to sell its product, so posing women in the merchandise that it’s marketing makes sense. I’m not indicting the company, but pretending as if seeing this image all over the internet is liberating is ridiculous. Also, it might be nice to see the women swimming in their suits. What about playing volleyball on the beach? Building awesome sandcastles? Doing something? There could be a shot of a woman or two sunbathing, as long as the “aren’t I sexy” poses were not the dominant, ubiquitous ones.
I’ve written this for a long time, but “fat” women beauty contests don’t represent progress. Women no longer paraded as meat is progress.
Still confused or want to see more images to make this point? Please take a look atReel Girl’s recent post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. You’ll see this famous painting by Manet (look she’s got fat rolls and she’s naked, isn’t that cool?) along with contemporary images of dressed men paired with naked women.
The following headline came up on my Google feed from The Verge: “The latest Zootopia trailer takes on workplace sexism against bunnies.”
I don’t know if it’s the idea of “workplace bunnies” that made me nervous, or simply my lack of confidence in the idea of Disney taking on sexism, but my heart sunk as I proceeded to read the Verge post:
At this point, the Walt Disney Animation Studios deserves praise for producing work that can arguably sit comfortably next to some of Pixar’s own efforts. Zootopia, at first blush, takes that all-too-familiar anthropomorphic animals idea and builds a whole world around it. But, at least with this new trailer, it looks like the studio is trying to tackle gender and race in a cute but really effective way.
Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin stars as Officer Judy Hopps, a rabbit who joins the Zootopia police force. She quickly has to contend with stereotypes that women in the real world have long had to deal with — like being called emotional or unprepared for what’s out there — when the truth is she’s incredibly capable. And her skills will probably come in handy when she and Nick Wilde the fox (Jason Bateman) are forced to solve a crime together. Zootopia hits theaters on March 4th.
So can anyone tell me what the problem is here?
In a nutshell, “Zootopia” is a movie about talking bunnies. Lots of talking animals actually. There’s a fox, a buffalo, a lion, badger, elephant, moose, shrew, I could go on. Knowing Disney, all these animals probably sing and dance and hang out together even though in the real world, they’d eat each other. So why, why WHY if we can all stretch our imaginations to believe in loquacious animals, must we suddenly revert to reality when it comes to sexism? Instead of showing a lone female battle a majority of males, why not show a majority of females being heroic? Do you see what I’m going for here? In a fantasy world where anything is possible, why not create gender equality? Why not let kids experience females and males treated equally? If you can’t even imagine it (which apparently, we can’t) you cannot create it. Oh, is that the point, Disney?
You might say, there’s an important place for the narrative of a female struggling against sexism a la “Mulan” or “Brave.” While I agree this story has value, it can also become an excuse to continue to replicate sexism in the fantasy world, to always show a minority of females and majority of males because “that’s just the way it is in the real world.” After I saw “The Lion King” I asked: why did the lionesses have to wait around for Simba to come around and save them? Why did they have to get bossed around by weak, old Scar? Well, I’m such an idiot! Males lead a pride, of course. That’s just how it is in the real world. OK, so I’m just supposed to overlook that Simba is BFFs with a warthog and a Meerkat but when it comes to sexism, we’re all sticklers for reality?
In “Ratatouille” there is one female chef in the movie, Colette, who works in a kitchen with four male chefs. As far as I could tell, all the rats are male. Certainly, every rat who spoke is male. Colette delivers a speech about sexism, but wouldn’t it be so much more powerful to show kids a female running a kitchen of great female chefs, helped along by a female rat who can cook?
This strong, lone female is a pattern in contemporary children’s movies. While appearing on the surface to fight sexism, her role actually ensures that sexism will continue for another generation by keeping sexist stereotypes alive. While she appears to be battling sexism, she’s illustrating it. Her character repeats so often in children’s media, I’ve given her a name: Minority Feisty. She differs from the Smurfette Principle in that she is often a “strong female character” and sometimes there are a few strong females in the narrative but they always exist in the minority. Not much for a patriarchy to be threatened by, but we can still call her a feminist. Isn’t that convenient?
So I’m reading the new Us Weekly with Eva Longoria on the cover, and on page 32 I see a promotion for Disney’s upcoming movie “Zootopia.” The ad features a super-skinny gazelle girl, staring at me submissively, blonde curls flopping in her face. She wears super high pink heels, sparkly leg warmers to match a sparky dress with a hem so high I can almost see her privates.
Right across from the sexy gazelle, page 33 shows another promotion for the movie. This one features 4 male characters. All get to be fully clothed in T-shirts and pants. They are in action poses, doing yoga. In spite of their exercise, they also get to be chubby. I guess this is how males get “red carpet ready.”
Let’s hope the 4 to 1 ratio in these ads is not reflective of the gender ratio in the actual movie, but my hopes are low given that in most movies for kids, females are reduced to the Minority Feisty role.
My three daughters and I were excited to go to “Zootropia.” We saw the preview, it looked pretty funny, but this ad has me gagging. Even if kids don’t see the movie, this sexy gazelle will be unavoidable. She will be a toy, a halloween costume, an image in a T-shirt, a band-air, a sippy cup, or a diaper. Disney, please stop exposing children to gender stereotypes where females bodies are valued for how they appear while male bodies are valued for what they can do. Portraying females as sex objects while males get to be funny and have fun is so misogynistic. The problem isn’t that you rely on this trope once, or twice, or a even a few times, but that gender stereotypes are a repeated pattern in most of your movies. Don’t you want to be more creative?
Update: I turned the page! Look what’s on page 34, surprise, surprise. Another fully clothed male character.
If Judy Hopps, a police officer, is one of the main characters, why isn’t she in an ad? Why the sexy gazelle? Because, I imagine, the sexy gazelle is a sexy gazelle and that’s how Disney wants to sell the movie. Gross.
And this is what bothers me, this is the thing that has been itching at the back of my brain, about Sanders using this particular line of attack against Hillary Clinton. To continually assert that she is representative of “the establishment,” into the highest echelons of which women aren’t even allowed, is a neat way of obfuscating the fact that she is, in her very personhood, a challenge to the establishment.
Let me say that again, plainly: Sanders calls Clinton emblematic of an establishment that has never even allowed a woman to be seated at the head of the table.
In living rooms from Dallas to Chicago, I noticed that the Hillary Haters often turned out to be the women most like her: white, well educated, and married to or linked with powerful men. They were by no means all such women, but their numbers were still surprising. Also, they hadn’t objected to sons, brothers, and sons-in-law using family connections and political names to further careers – say, the Bushes or the Rockefellers or the Kennedys – yet they objected to Hillary doing the same. The more they talked, the more it was clear that their own husbands hadn’t shared power with them.
If Hillary had a husband who regarded her as an equal – who had always said this country got “two presidents for the price of one” – it only dramatised their own lack of power and respect. After one long night and a lot of wine, one woman told me that Hillary’s marriage made her aware of just how unequal hers was.
“Cosmetic surgeons say patients who once requested celeb features now come armed with their own ultra-filtered selfies. About 1 million self-portraits are taken daily, and more than a third of these are retouched…” —Women’s Health Magazine
There is so much that is disturbing in the preceding statement it would take volumes to unpack, so when I initially read it I focused on the part I’d never heard before: ultra-filtered, retouched selfies? Like most, I had abstractly pondered bits and pieces of the selfie phenomenon (why do so many women take them in the driver’s seat of their car?) but I had only occasionally wondered about the photos themselves: the round-faced FB acquaintance whose rotating stock of profile photos shows random cheekbone prominence, the celebrity we all know to be zaftig suddenly appearing waifish. I saw them, but I didn’t really THINK about them, sort of like we all know our parents had sex because, well, here we are, but we really don’t give it any credence: it must have been a lucky shot somehow…surely not intentional.
I had frankly just ignored the whole selfie phenomenon, hoping it was a passing fad like jeans belted below the butt. It has, of course, become abundantly clear that both unsightly crimes of overexposure – both so self-consciously “casual” yet so obviously calculated – are here to stay. And while the low-pants problem seems to hobble only those who sport the style, the retouched selfie has a deep and reverberating effect on all women.
With the help of new apps and filters today’s self-portraitists make no attempt at truth: they have become impressionists, not photo-realists. Standard filters in every social media platform let you create perfect skin, erase wrinkles and blemishes, adjust your coloring and add or subtract makeup effects. Dozens of other free, downloadable apps and filters can make you appear taller, skinnier, curvier, blonder, or tanner, not to mention redesigning your nose and jaw, making your eyes bigger, and perfecting your skin. With Perfect365 you can adjust the structure of your face, create a new jawline, and make your eyes bigger. ModiFace also lets you change your nose, the size of your lips and the angles and curves of your jaw. Spring and Facetune give you tools not only to change your face but your whole body: create or diminish curves and height with a simple pinch of your fingers. Want to be taller and thinner, with a narrower waist, bigger boobs, and curvy hips, but skinny thighs? Just squeeze, slide, and save. Modern selfies are reproducing their subjects about as accurately as Picasso reproduced Dora Maar.
Of course, for years before Instagram, Photoshopping celeb photos was the dirty secret of magazine wizards, slimming down and prettying up their cover subjects and advertisement models. There used to be regular protests and outcry against such gross distortion and misrepresentation; suddenly there are no more critiques. Celebrities regularly tweak nearly all their candids and selfies (whole websites and blog posts are devoted to pointing out the doctoring of famous faces and posteriors), and where the social-media aristocracy has gone the rest of us have followed.
Talk to any teenage girl and she will confess to at least “trying” the face- and body-altering apps. Already struggling to grow up in the overly sexual, image-saturated 21st century with anything remotely resembling a positive body image (or, more important, a positive self-image based on something other than her body), girls now feel compelled to make Bratz dolls out of their photos. And while it’s so easy to blame “society” for this mess – those dolls, those magazines, those tv stars and models – a quick flip through Facebook or OurTime reveals that we can’t just finger media sources and stars. Beyonce and Kim Kardashian are not the only ones presenting unreal images to the world; we need to look closer to home. Instagram and Facebook (with an overwhelmingly middle-aged, female base) overflow with profile photos in the ubiquitous fish-lip kissy pose (instant cheekbones! Wrinkles smoothed! Puffy lips!) and now with over-processing from filters and apps our middle-aged-mom photo collections are becoming a veritable Madame Tussauds guessing game: is it plastic surgery or filters or Facetune?
Yahoo Labs’ reported, after studying nearly 8 million selfies, that “doctored shots were more likely to be viewed and draw likes” than natural ones. Instead of using our wisdom and experience to denounce this sham contest of popularity-based-on-pretend, women of a certain age are lining up like baby birds, mouths agape (with lips artfully puffed by app or derm), and competing for attention. In our younger, pre-selfie world we shored up fragile egos by fishing for compliments in the locker room, moaning “I’m so fat!” and counting on a chorus of “you are NOT. I’M fat!” and “You are SO not fat. I wish I had YOUR legs!” to make us feel better. Now when we feel a little insecure we post a soft-focus, subtly slimmed, kiss-puckered selfie with an aren’t-I-just-playful title like “My goofy date night face!” Or we post a blown-out b&w photo so artistically grainy you can’t tell if our eyes are open or closed and we demur modestly by using Trump-speak third person “Just me – just Suzie…no makeup – no filter…” Then we sit back and wait for the pile of predictable, soothing views, likes, and comments to roll in: “wow! Beautiful!” “You are so gorgeous, girl!” “Beautiful inside and out!” Et voila – instant Selfie-worth! Selfie-esteem! Selfie-confidence!
The truth hurts, they say, and right now it’s staring middle-aged mothers in our over-filtered faces. We’re probably not fooling anyone with our fish kisses and filters, skinnied “Spring” selfies and sexy soft focus, but we are damaging our daughters without a doubt. We’re buying into a falsified reality – creating it ourselves, and using it to bolster our self-esteem…and we’re modeling it for our daughters in a very public forum. The real problem, obviously, is not the filters or fillers, the soft focus or Facetune. The problem is that we’re still getting our self-worth from our looks – and now they aren’t even our looks any more.
Read Melissa Duge Spiers previous posts for Reel Girl: