So I made a bit of a mess of my original post on this last week. I would very much like to delete it because I wrote it in a hurry while on holidays and I didn’t properly articulate myself. AT ALL.
But this is the Interweb not a court of law so there’s no need to strike things from the record. I’m human. I sometimes have non-fully-formed thoughts. I sometimes change my mind. I’m happy to own that.
Anyway, this is not at all about me. The conversation has moved on since then and become a full-blown media story, clearly springboarded by the post and explosion of comments on Mamamia – your words are influential, people, remember that. When you make a noise and react strongly to something, mainstream media notice.
Like any issue that provokes a passionate response on a large scale, this has gone way beyond one woman and one magazine cover.
It’s tapped into some potent truths about how we feel about a bunch of things: magazines, Photoshop, aging, sexism and also our complex feelings about our own bodies.
That’s enough for a dozen posts right there and they are indeed issues we will continue to examine in a bunch of different ways in days and weeks and months to come. It’s what we do at Mamamia and the conversation is never finished.
Debate is good! Disagreeing is good! That, to me, is how feminism works. A bunch of smart people speaking their minds.
That word is important.
In all this discussion over the past week about AWW, I’ve been disappointed and upset that a very small minority of people think it’s ok to attack Deborah Hutton personally.
Not on. Not here. No way.
I believe we can debate things without being rude or abusive. If you don’t believe that, bugger off. Deborah is a real person who is online reading what is being written.
Remember that before you leave a comment – here or anywhere else.
OK, so here are some of the truths I’ve taken from the past week:
1. ATTRACTIVE WOMEN MAKE SOME WOMEN FEEL BAD ABOUT THEMSELVES
This is baffling to me. And sad. I’ve always liked looking at images of attractive women. Frankly, I find pictures of women (and actual women) more interesting to look at than men and I’m clearly not alone in this since women are generally on the cover of men’s AND women’s magazines.
If I feel bad about the way I look, is that Charlize Theron’s fault? That’s a pretty disturbing line of thought. If I feel bad about what I’ve achieved in my career, is that Mark Zuckerberg’s fault for achieving so much more?
Is the key to female self esteem REALLY surrounding yourself with people less attractive than you? And by whose measure? And is the key to having a positive body image only seeing images of bodies that are ‘worse’ than yours?
I don’t think so. I think the key is diversity. I think the key is feeling like there is a wide spectrum of what is considered attractive and thus knowing that you probably fit in there somewhere. Of course it’s also crucial that women be celebrated for what they can do as well as how they look. VERY CRUCIAL THAT.
2. IMAGES OF BULLSHIT MAKE SOME WOMEN FEEL BAD ABOUT THEMSELVES
This, I understand. Because me too. Yes, yes, I know some people will always insist ‘well duh, you shouldn’t compare yourself to other women’ but it’s not as simple as that.
The very purpose of magazines and advertising is to portray what is considered ‘desirable’ and I don’t just mean that in a sexual way.
Look, I can live with the fact that I am not Helena Christensen. But don’t you think it’s majorly messed up that even Helena Christensen (whenever she appears in print) is not Helena Christensen? That is what is making women angry. THAT is what we’ve had a gut full of.
3. MAGAZINE EDITORS BELIEVE HUMAN FEATURES WILL COST THEM SALES
This, I’ve always thought is rubbish. Still do. I mean, WTF. And yet it is the fundamental argument that underpins the entire issue of Photoshopping and fake images.
Editors talk about not being able to “risk” an unairbrushed image on a cover. They talk about the need to produce a “commercial product”.
This means they honestly believe we will all run shrieking in horror from the news stands at the sight of Deborah Hutton’s sun spots or Ricki Lee’s stretch marks (I have no idea if Ricki Lee does actually have stretch marks but we’d never know because they would ALWAYS be airbrushed out of a photo).
Come on, you either buy mags or you don’t (I mostly don’t for all the reasons detailed in this post). I get that there is glamour involved in magazines but surely having your hair and make-up professionally done, your clothes chosen for you and pinned so they’re just right, thousands of dollars worth of flattering lighting aimed in your direction and talented photographers who know how to capture your best angle is ENOUGH glamour?
Come on editors, give us some bloody credit. Either your readers want to buy your product or not. A few freckles or sunspots or stretch marks or lines or wrinkles or (gasp) a rounded tummy or thighs that TOUCH are not going to make people turn away from the newstands in horror.
In fact – are you listening? – what if they made us MORE likely to buy your magazine? What if a bit of reality along with the glamour is the KEY to increasing sales?
Well, there’s a revolutionary thought for 2012. Who’s going to be ‘brave’ enough to try it? Come on editors, sales are dire. What do you have to lose by swimming against the Photoshop tide?
4. WOMEN ARE JACK OF BEING LIED TO
Oh yes we are. We’re sick of looking at images of people who don’t exist. We’re sick of being told – by photographers and editors and advertisers – that even the most beautiful women in the world, women who are deemed attractive enough to sell millions of magazines and beauty products are themselves not good enough and in need of (often) drastic airbrushing.
Because the message is that if women like Deb Hutton and Miranda Kerr aren’t good enough? What does that directly imply about the rest of us?
And if no woman is good enough – if we ALL need ‘help’ from a computer, isn’t that pretty fucked up?
5. DECLARATION OF PHOTOSHOP IS BETTER THAN NOT
I’m sad to say that I don’t think Photoshop is going anywhere. I don’t mean to sound defeatist about it and I think we need to keep debating it and questioning it and criticising it and stamping our feet a lot. But no society has ever de-industrialised. Going backwards doesn’t happen. So what to do? You tell me. Voting with our wallets is one thing we can do. So is questioning ALL editors about how much retouching they do – on their covers and on the images inside. Every month. So is demanding that the declaration of Photoshop be mandatory (you can read about that here). Surely that’s a start?
6. SOME WOMEN BELIEVE PHOTOSHOP IS A PERSONAL CHOICE, JUST LIKE HAVING BOTOX OR GETTING A BOOB JOB.
This to me has been a really interesting thing to consider. I’m not going to write much about it today because I’m not yet quite sure what I think about it. As a feminist, I’m all about choice. And yet……there is of course a bigger picture at play. What impact do the individual choices of individual women – influential women – have on the rest of us?
I can refuse to have my own photos airbrushed but do I have the right to demand you don’t airbrush yours?
I’d be interested to hear what you think about all of this…..all of it.