*If you read my column in the Sun-Herald or Sunday Age and hot-footed it over here just to see the photo of Cindy Crawford naked in the shower? Click here.
Cindy Crawford is happy to get naked for both men and women. She’s generous like that. Having stripped for the boys via Playboy in 1988 and again in 1998, Cindy decided to mark this decade by getting her gear off for the ladies in US beauty magazine Allure.
To celebrate looking hot, Cindy has been photographed wearing a full face of make-up and some strategically placed shaving cream. I am untroubled by this. The former supermodel looks exactly as you’d expect. Stunning. Sudsy. What troubles me – deeply – is the headline next to naked Cindy.
“THIS IS WHAT 43 LOOKS LIKE” it declares. Like hell it is. The caption underneath reads:
This would be fine had Cindy herself not admitted in 2006 that she first saw a cosmetic surgeon aged 29 and that “…creams work on the texture of your skin but to restore elasticity, I count on Botox, collagen and vitamin injections. I drink a lot of water, watch what I eat, and exercise. But I owe the quality of my skin to my cosmetic surgeon.”
Honesty points to Cindy. Such disclosure is rare. And an artfully extended middle finger to Allure magazine for failing to mention the cosmetic surgery, airbrushing the shot to oblivion and then pretending the result was achieved with a sprinkling of antioxidants.
When I posted the Cindy photo and an accompanying rant on my website, comments exploded. Women were exasperated at yet another example of media hypocrisy. Men were exasperated too. By the women. They couldn’t understand why we were kicking up a stink. Typical of this sentiment was a guy who wrote:
“What is it with women and rubbishing other women who are better looking than them? Yeah, no shit Cindy Crawford looks good at 43, she’s a supermodel. Allure is obviously trying to sell products, not report the news. Derr! Who cares if she’s had stuff done?”
I’ve heard this argument many times from men and while I understand their frustration, they’re missing our point. We’re not rubbishing women who are better looking than us. We don’t resent them for it, in fact, we can appreciate and celebrate female beauty as enthusiastically as men. This is not about jealousy. It’s not even about cosmetic surgery. That’s a personal decision between a woman and her mirror.
This is about deception. When celebrities and magazines claim the secret to flawless beauty and a hot body is confidence and some sunscreen, we know it’s poppycock. And that’s even before the image is heavily photo shopped, transforming it into something that appears human, but isn’t. “Why do you care?” exclaim men. “Why do you compare? JUST. STOP.” Excellent suggestion. If only it was so simple.
Let’s play pretend for a moment.
Pretend the world was full of pictures of naked men. On billboards and the sides of buses, in magazines and ads for beer, cars and deodorant. Imagine there were penises everywhere you turned and you couldn’t escape seeing them every day.
And ALL the images of nude men? They were fake. Every guy had had penile enlargement surgery and afterwards, his penis had been photo shopped to make it look even bigger. So now, all the penises you saw in the media daily were knee-length.
One day, next to a magazine article about a celebrity with a foot-long penis, you read the headline:
“This is what a 43 year-old penis looks like.” The caption underneath read: “Asked for the secret to his long shlong, former male model Marcus Schenkenberg insists he was just born that way. “I wear cotton boxer shorts and have daily showers” he shrugs. “That’s all I do.”
After reading a hundred stories like that and being bombarded by 10,000 images of men with surgically altered and digitally enhanced penises, do you think you might look down at your natural, un-photoshopped trouser snake and feel a little…. deflated?
Because that’s exactly what it’s like to be a woman in today’s media landscape. You don’t have to be fashion victim or a magazine junkie to be bombarded by images of women who have been surgically enhanced and drastically photoshopped. You can’t escape the pop culture wallpaper of it unless you hide under the bed with your eyes shut, which tends to be a little impractical.
I don’t know why so many of us compare ourselves with other women although I agree it’s entirely unhelpful. Particularly when we’re comparing apples with lies and airbrushing.
“So stop buying magazines,” goes the next argument. Well, we don’t want to. There are some wonderful things about magazines – features and interviews and stuff to make and do and buy. Sure, we can steer clear of the mags that make us feel bad and try to limit our exposure to fake female imagery elsewhere but it’s virtually impossible if you want to consume media and pop culture, which I, for one, absolutely do.
What’s the answer? Is it for celebrities to start being more honest when asked about their looks? For everyone to Photoshop a bit less or at least declare it when they do? If you know, please tell me because I’m stumped.