November 21, 2008

Two standards of “sexy”

Posted in beauty culture, Celebritocracy, double standards, gender, hot lists, objectification, representation, sexual politics, sexy at 9:10 pm by LB

From the world of “top lists”:

via Yahoo!’s OMG! department, that gives me pop culture news when I’m trying to access my e-mail via the Yahoo! homepage that I’d really rather not know about, comes 2 male “hot lists” that I find rather interesting.  First, People magazine name Hugh Jackman the sexiest man alive.  Nothing new here: People’s “sexiest man” regularly is permitted to be and look much older than “sexiest women” are (the last 3 were Damon @ 37, Clooney @ 45, and McConaughey @ 36; Maxim’s ’08 “Hot 100” #1 is 30, and the last 3 were 21, 31, and 30).  

No, what I found interesting was the accompanying pictorial on the sexiest fathers in Hollywood.  

  1. The photos used were shots of the fathers in action, playing with their kids.  So lovely and sweet, but not quite the MILF-esque treatment given to editorials about “sexy moms.”  Sidenote: I do think that “sexy parent” editorials are horrible:  I’d rather read about good parents period, sexy or not.  To me, that makes as much logical sense as having a pictorial about the best brunette parents–hair color has about as much to do with being a parent as being sexy does.  But if they’re going to have the them at all, they should focus both kinds of editorials on their parenting creds (since all it takes is a personal trainer, a stylist, and a decent photographer to be sexy in Hollywood).  But even still, if they’re going to take the MILF angle (ugh, I shudder each time I even type that), can we at least evaluate the dads and the moms in the same sexified manner?  FILFs, anyone?  
  2. It seems that what counts as being a sexy mother is having the expendable time, money, and energy to put the work into getting your body back to a pre-pregnancy state, tasks that become so much easier with hired help–nannies, personal trainers, stylists, makeup artists, post-pregnancy photo shoots with favorable lighting, etc.  But what counts for being a sexy dad is in spending time with your kids, which I suppose is either an expected given for mothers or is irrelevant to their sexiness.  Hmmm…women judged on how they look, men judged on what they do…where have I heard that before??

 So the second thing I saw was again from OMG! breaking news about the 25 Hottest Hunks in Hollywood.  Again, we see the age discrepancy here, with is nothing new to celebrity men’s and women’s hot and sexy status.  Looking at the photos, I just want to know: why do they have so much clothes on?  How can we call them “hot” when men’s clothing gives us little indication of what’s underneath?  There seems to not be enough information to evaluate these men by…. yes, I’m joking but also not.  I’d say, if we saw a Hot list of women with so much clothing on, I think there’d be rioting in the streets.

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July 22, 2008

I write more imaginary letters

Posted in beauty culture, gender, hot lists, letters, representation, sexy at 12:00 pm by LB

Dear Maxim, Playboy, FHM, Stuff, any other female-objectifying, list-making website or mag, that either masquerades as “entertainment news” or [hetero, natch] “men’s interest”:

This is what a “hot 100” [sic] list looks like. As a ‘women we love’ list. And ‘in no particular order.’ And in relevant and humanizing apparel.

This is what it looks like to appreciate smart, talented, beautiful, and sexy women for real.

Sincerely,

Women

July 3, 2008

AT & T and gender: commercial critique part 1

Posted in advertising, beauty culture, Commercial Critique, gender roles, gender stereotypes, kyriarchy, representation, television at 11:09 pm by LB

Is anyone besides me really annoyed by the latest AT & T Wireless commercial campaign? They sure say a lot about gender expectations and values vis-a-vis gender and behavior.

The “alter ego” commercials (or so they are dubbed on youTube) have one version of the commercial’s subject talking to the camera and one acting out a scene in the background. The person talking to the camera is saying how someone doesn’t have AT &T, therefore they have no reception, therefore something awful is happening to them, represented by the storyline being acted out in the background.

“Kelly’s Dad” was the first one I saw that I really didn’t like. Like most other annoying representation of stereotyped assumptions, I rolled my eyes and said “great.” But after several more commercials from AT & T that feed unhealthy gender assumptions and values, a pattern has emerged. Read the rest of this entry »

June 17, 2008

The recession hits Beverly Hills: brilliant Daily Show clip

Posted in beauty culture, television at 10:11 pm by LB

Just…brilliant.

Click here to view video. (apologies for technical difficulties).

June 3, 2008

More than the sum of her parts: AfterEllen’s ‘Hot 100’ list

Posted in beauty culture, Celebritocracy, lesbian, mass media, queer, representation, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, sexy at 6:55 pm by LB

I hate ‘Hot Lists.’ I hate the idea of them. Someday I will rant on them. Not today.

AfterEllen.com, a website about lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment, publishes an annual Hot List. When I first started reading their site, I had noticed they had one. I checked it out, hoping that it would not just be a replication of the uni-dimensional hot-at-the-moment-until-they’re-prego-or-passe’ of most Hot Lists. It was not. I was pleased.

So let me qualify my first sentence:

I hate (most) Hot Lists, especially the one’s put out by lad-mags and their ilk. I hate the idea of them, which not only sees ‘hot’ in the narrowest of senses, but also they’re ‘hot’ because these women are overwhelmingly (with token exceptions) the flavor of the moment, and it also seems to favor women who participate in the culture of ‘posing.’

(Not for nothing, but the exposure-no pun intended-that women with little professional accomplishment are able to garner in the media by simply being young and pretty and thin is incredible! They are paraded around for having a nice face and/or body-and being willing to display it-but having little talent. This happens in a way completely unlike men who are in the same position-those small time accomplishments or poor acting ability but are incredibly good looking. Men definitely have it harder in this way. But women pay for our quick and easy value as eye candy with appallingly few strong female roles, and with the near-impossible task of being a successful actress or performer without participating in posing culture. I couldn’t even make a men’s parallel list to Maxim‘s 100 even if I tried!)

So AfterEllen just released their Hot 100 of 2008.

A few non-surprises? The woman who made Maxim’s 100th spot, Tila Tequila, wasn’t even close to making our list, and their number-one choice, swimsuit model Marisa Miller, barely received any votes from AfterEllen.com readers. In fact, just like last year, only two of Maxim’s top 10 showed up anywhere on our list.
[…]
Other stats about this year’s list? There are 18 women of color — a definite improvement over last year — and 21 openly gay/bi women on the list (seven of whom are AfterEllen.com vloggers), which is more than double the number on last year’s list.
[…]
Our list includes women from all over the world — from countries as diverse as Canada, England, France, India, Mexico, Norway, and Spain — and women who vary in age from 18 to 57 years old. Although the vast majority of women on the list are actors or TV personalities, there are some musicians this year, as well as a few writers, a chef, and an athlete.

Diversity is valued, age isn’t a barrier, and when you look at the kind of women that queer women find hot, you’ll quickly understand why there are few cross-overs with the lad-mags. Queer women clearly value flat, physical beauty (although their idea of beauty is not the narrow version purported by most lad-mags). But they also value talent, wit, humor, intelligence, success, not as separate from but as part of what makes women hot. It’s a little different from another counter-hot list: the excellent non-celebrity The Real Hot 100, where smart=hot and physical beauty has nothing to do with it. AfterEllen’s list seems to embrace physical beauty, alongside and equal to other aspects of women’s personhood. Beauty is part of being human, but unlike other Hot Lists, AfterEllen readers seem less apt to value women who are only beautiful but as people seem less-than-interesting. And I find this really fascinating.

I also love the photos they use to illustrate their list-no lingerie here!

And I love this part:

The following pages provide photos for all 100 women in ascending order according to your votes, with some further details provided about the first 25. We’ve also linked each woman’s name to other articles about her on AfterEllen.com, in case you want to do some more reading about them, and we’ve listed each woman’s rank on the 2007 list below her name.

Imagine that?! ‘Hot’ women aren’t just for looking at-their ‘hotness’ isn’t simply based on their measurements, so they’re actually people you would want to read up on!

The thing is, I think beauty is wonderful. But a hell of a lot of women are beautiful, celebrities and peers alike. Honestly, I don’t think beauty alone is all that ‘special.’ Put most of the women I know on the cover of a magazine with the kind of lights, makeup, and photoshopping that goes into a celeb or model photo shoot (and especially add in personal training and wealth needed for complicated beauty regiments), and they’re just as ‘hot’ as the women on there each month. Hot lists that are only about physical hotness are pointless and are more about selling magazines by reiterating the importance of the people (well, really women)-of-the moment.

AfterEllen’s list? There’s more going on here and I’m liking their idea of ‘hot’ and the context they view it in.

May 16, 2008

Women and men ‘covered’ differently in Entertainment Weekly

Posted in beauty culture, gender, mass media, photoshop, recommended reading at 12:42 am by LB

Unconventional Beauty has an excellent and telling analysis of the past few years of Entertainment Weekly covers, and the difference in how women and men are permitted to be represented.  I particularly like how her analysis is reasonably “apples-to-apples”. Read it!

May 11, 2008

Recent sports articles remind us that female athletes are (sexual and maternal) women first

Posted in beauty culture, body politics, exnomination, feminism, gender, gender stereotypes, mass media, objectification, representation, sexual politics, sports at 1:00 pm by LB

First, from Feministing:

The Chicago Tribune online story with this headline:

“WNBA offers advice to rookies: Trying to expand fan base by marketing its players, the WNBA for the first time offers rookies lessons in fashion and makeup”

Yes, you read that right. According to the story, one-third of the WNBA rookie orientation offered makeup and fashion tips. Other seminars included “financial advice, media training and fitness and nutrition”.

“I think it’s very important,” said Candace Parker, the Naperville product who was the league’s No. 1 draft pick out of Tennessee. “I’m the type who likes to put on basketball shorts and a white T, but I love to dress up and wear makeup. But as time goes on, I think [looks] will be less and less important.”

[…]

NBA rookies go through a similar orientation, although their off-court conduct is stressed far more than their wardrobe or physical appearance.

What’s unfortunate is it’s true. Female athletes are not only judged as athletes but are also judged for their adherence to conventional “femininity” (as I’ve written about elsewhere). Some of this happens in the way women’s sports is reported and discussed, and some of it is brought on by the ad campaigns female athletes participate in. While part of their participation in objectifying ads is likely for the income opportunity, I think part of it too is as a way for female athletes to “prove” (via social validation) that despite their physical strength and athletic bodies, they are still “sexy” and “feminine”. Since, of course, being sexually desirable according to socially prescribed standards is the ultimate standard of a woman’s worth.

From the Tribune:

Susan Ziegler, a Cleveland State professor of sports psychology, said disparity in wages and media coverage between male and female athletes, along with a battle against perceived negative stereotypes, are factors in marketing female sports figures for their physicality rather than their athletic assets.

Need examples? Read the rest of this entry »

April 21, 2008

On ‘Beautiful’ Women Looking ‘Unhuman’

Posted in beauty culture, body politics, Celebritocracy, mass media, photoshop at 10:31 am by LB

(This post is kind of a smattering of several sites I’ve seen recently about photoshopping the life-literally-out of women in mags and some of my semi-random thoughts on the topic.)

Shakesville has a great analysis of Vanessa Williams’ photos in Ebony vs. what she looks like in real life (to the extent that any image can reflect “real life”). And this photo comparison in a terrific commentary on the beauty of ‘real life’ and the tyranny of photoshop from AfterEllen is quite pointed:

(actually, check out that whole AfterEllen Article with pics–it freakin’ pisses me off that 60 year old women can’t just be beautiful 60 year old women–I absolutely adore that photo there of Helen Mirren!)

It also reminded me of Jezebel’s analysis of Faith Hill (who is 39 and great looking) on the cover of Redbook over the summer, which was equally disturbing.

This professional photo retouching site has some examples of celebrity retouching. Click “portfolio” then choose a thumbnail. Move your cursor on and off the photo to see the photo vs. the retouch. It’s amazing! The untouched photos look like beautiful women still, but they’re beautiful like the “regular” women in our lives are–our friends, lovers-sisters. They’re beautiful, but they have wrinkles, freckles, bags around their eyes, complexions that look–real. Seriously…look at the “before” and “after” of several of those images and after just a few the retouches start to look really creepy and alien. And just think…those are what we’re accustomed to seeing in the mags and internet. Those are what “beautiful people” look like! Freakin’ aliens!

But regarding wrinkles especially, my question is simple: why do insist on an “ideal” female appearance that makes it look like you’ve lived a boring life? Is “correcting” the flaws that come from actually doing things in life via actual cosmetic surgery or the virtual Photoshop “quick fix” in fact more a testament to wealth than to so-called “neutral” and “natural” aesthetics? As in, a reflection that one has the money to surgically or chemically erase the wear and tear of real life off their physical body, or that one has the money to not put the strain of physical labor on one’s body in the first place (which would minimize some but not nearly all of the wear on the physical body–the rest could be “fixed” cosmetically). Not to mention, of course, the economic and time resources required to have the personal trainers, dieticians, fashion consultants, hair and makeup designers, nannies, gardeners…that permit the physical fashioning that goes into being a (predominately female) celebrity.

But since your everyday woman has a job, responsibilities, a limited budget and expendable time, and you know, a life, I s’pose we gotta pay somebody to offer us “the ideal” in the form of oddly bland and, ultimately, boring physical features.

QUICK UPDATE: Feministing had a great post about the need to photoshop curves into magazine images of skinny women. This quote hits it right on the head:

the message is that you should be super, super skinny, borderline skeletal, but without any of the things that come with the territory, like jutting hipbones or small boobs. So even the skinniest celebrities STILL require Photoshopping to meet this standard. You can be less than a size zero and still lose this game.

And this great comment on that thread:

Just because I was bored I copied and pasted these images in photoshop and overlayed them to see what the differences are. Much to my horror (not suprise) she was actually made narrower thru the ribcage and waist in the ‘photoshop’ picture. READ- she was made skinnier! Her muscles were removed, and her arms were made thinner. So in reality- she wasn’t made plumper, she was made curvier and overall narrower. Her hips were also narrowed and made less curvy. Amazing. We all think she looks plumper in the second image, when in reality she is actually narrower, lighter, and slimmer thru the hips.

“Normal” and “heavy” women are photoshopped to remove “excessive” bulk or to at least smooth out their curves–no chunky tummies or rolls allowed (example: this Dove ad). “Thin” women are photoshopped to look not-so emaciated–no bones or thin breasts allowed. To be honest, I’m a pretty thin gal, but I have both a visible breastbone and some bulk around the tummy. That’s just the way bodies are. In the end, we are never seeing what actual “thick” or “thin” women look like, only a oddly perfected version of each.

April 18, 2008

Mother-daughter bonding over waxing? At age 8 ?!?!

Posted in beauty culture, body politics, gender, objectification, sexualizing youth at 10:04 am by LB

First, a really good article at blogher by Mir Kamin about the new trend of mothers taking their 8 year-old daughters to spas…to get bikini waxes. Seriously.

She quotes the fuck shaving livejournal community, where one person commented:

It’s sad that all these moms can’t think of anything else to do to bond with their daughters but go to the spa. What about taking a walk every evening to talk about their day, or cook together, or take up art classes or fucking something else.

[…]

Also, do any other these daughters have fathers? Do any of these women have husbands?
Don’t they have some influence in their lives telling them that they’re beautiful no matter what?

I thought these were great points. Daughters need their fathers and brothers reiterate their personal value beyond their physical appearance. Even more, fathers need to not be hypocrites when it comes to valuing women, having a complex and meaningful ideal of beauty and sexuality, and assigning a health place in life for appearances. Children pick up on non-verbal and implicit cues more than we think. Mothers need to bond with their daughters in ways that don’t feed the patriarchal capitalist beauty machine. Girls should not be sex-objects-in training, despite what synonyms thesaurus.com gives for “girl.”

Philadelphia Magazine had a nauseating article about the spa happenings of the pre-teen rich and famous, enabled by the moms and the almighty dollar-greedy beauty industry.

Melanie Engle was trying to just pluck the stray hairs here and there. She was trying to deliver an age-appropriate eyebrow wax to her client. It was hard, though, because there was a foot tapping next to her, and a voice shouting in her ear: “No! Not like that — like a supermodel’s. I want them arched.”

“It’s like, ‘Okay, you’re becoming a woman now, here are the things you’ll need to do as a woman.’”

Except, of course, they’re not women. This new, unstoppable desire of mothers to pluck and paint their daughters has created an unexpected conundrum for spa owners and aestheticians, who can’t afford to lose the moms’ lucrative business — but who also don’t want to be partners in crime.

The world has changed since my ’tweendom. Look at the media, and its obsession with fame, beauty, youth, celebrities, debutantes, celebutantes. It’s in our faces all the time. It’s in our kids’ faces, too. “It’s like this keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thing has stretched to our kids,” says Dasha Klein, a Main Line mom of an 11-year-old girl at Baldwin. She knows multiple teenagers who’ve gotten boob jobs for Sweet Sixteen presents, and a 20-year-old who gets Botox. “Except they’re trying to keep up with Hollywood — and Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and Miley Cyrus and whoever else they’re looking at. Well, guess what? You’re in Philadelphia. And you’re a kid. You’re not Angelina Jolie.”

Indeed. And I found this particular part to be especially interesting:

When I was in my teenybopper heyday, there were no pop chicks who I aspired to be. There were boys I aspired to marry. The media world surrounding us made us boy-crazy — maybe not a fabulous thing for a 10-year-old, but at least it didn’t lead my friends and me to inject botulism into our foreheads before we could legally drink. It was innocent: We giggled, swooned, hung posters of Joey Lawrence and Luke Perry, giggled some more. And our moms were … uninvolved. They didn’t drop us at the playground with instructions to bring home the boy who looked the most like Kirk Cameron. They rolled their eyes, bemusedly shaking their heads as they passed by our rooms: Oh, you silly girls. End of story.

Not anymore. Today’s girls aren’t looking at posters; they’re looking in the mirror. They have a new obsession — a self-obsession — and it’s being aided and abetted by their mothers. “It’s like this focus on their outer life is trickling down to their daughters,” says Rescue’s Albert. These women have to look a certain way, so inevitably, their young daughters, still under their control, do, too.

When I read this, I thought: that’s it! Recently especially I have been struggling to recall what my 10-16 years were like. All I can seem to come up with is that they are nothing like the pornification of girlhood right now. But the author’s point really resonated with me, and from her boy-crush examples, she is probably around my age. When I was younger, reading Teen and Seventeen, there was a much greater emphasis on the “cute boys” in your fave sitcoms. And the Preferred Stock model, Joel somebody-or-other. As the writer says, that isn’t necessarily something to glorify, but it is quite distinct from what’s happening now: there was indeed more a focus on girls’ (teen) desire, fantasy, and imagination. The focus was less on making yourself the perfect porn-star object of desire. Now, the focus seems to be more who to look like, not whom to look at. It’s a matter of passivity vs. activity, objectification vs. agency, self-scrutiny vs. desire. It’s what feminism has tried so hard to steer against. And somehow more opportunities for girls self-development has been co-opted and become the freedom…to get bikini waxes at age 12. And pleasure has become derived from being pleasing rather than being pleased. At this is where is begins.

This should be a wake-up call for us. Unfortunately, it has all just become part of the game.

Oh, and this I just read about, and I don’t know what to do with it…via Jezebel, “a plunging padded bra for 7-to-8 year olds.” Seriously. And to connect this back to my growing-up years too, as adolescents, we were embarrassed about our bodies, and I don’t think that was a good thing. At all. But it’s interesting how attitudes have swung to the opposite end of the spectrum, yet still has not yielded a more substantial notion of sexual independence and autonomy. It’s a “yes, but…” kind of situation, where yes, we do (have more ‘autonomy’), but in our (still sexist) society, women’s sexual independence still gets defined by (self) objectification and her value for-another. Are we (as women) able to have sex more freely than we used to? Yes. Does this mean society has achieved “sexual liberation”? Nope. Sexual “liberation” through a culture obsessed with visual sexuality (or being visually sexual) has been bought with socio-cultural (although not legal) sexual regulation. That’s all I’m going to say on this now…but more to come on this topic.

further reading: History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault, Female Chauvenist Pigs by Ariel Levy. (both in my Amazon picks)

April 15, 2008

Badu’s Advice for Female Music Artist-Hopefuls is Great Social Commentary

Posted in beauty culture, body politics, Celebritocracy, gender, music, sexual exploitation at 8:15 pm by LB

Terrific tongue-in-cheek ‘advice’ from a wonderful, respectable, talented, independent, kick-ass female music artist. Her words speak loads. via 5 Resolutions