We are constantly immersed in media and advertising; getting bombarded with messages even if we don’t want to. These messages often feature unrealistic beauty standards and try to convince us that we will not be happy unless we buy these products. This constant intake of messages and images has an effect on us and it is not for the better. These companies are just trying to make money and will do whatever it takes to do so. Below I have recreated popular ads that are often directed toward women to be more realistic.
John Berger in his famous television program Ways of Seeing said that, “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.” This quote summarizes the problem of the male gaze and how it has influenced our culture. The intersection between the male gaze and the beauty industry has created a systemic expectation that women need to be beautiful in order to be successful, to have love, to have sex, and to be happy. This pits women against other women, men, and themselves, dividing them and alienating them. This is not about being confident, radiant, and beautiful on your own terms. Instead, this is about a systemic problem that women need solidarity with each other to overcome and destroy this expectation of beauty.
This is just a small selection from the plethora of popular advertisements circulating throughout the current culture. At first sight you might wonder… Why does everyone have wet hair and look like they’re lathered in baby oil? But that’s just the uncomfortable humor coming out to cover the truth we’re all lying to ourselves about. Jean Kilbourne, ED. D. and specialist in women’s role in advertising, delves into images just like these in her examination of American advertising and its effects on women. She does this in order to confront the public with reality; the immensely influential impact images like these impose on both an individual and societal level. Kilbourne uncovers an undeniable and prominent presence of sexist and misogynistic messages through the presentation of frighteningly thin women in positions of passivity. There is an evident code of femininity being established through these images that works to restrict and undermine women in the real world. These images prompt (or at least should prompt) all of us to think critically about the images we are taking in, and their affect on all levels. Continue reading “Definition of beau·ti·ful”→