Thursday, 30 January 2014

All Walks Beyond the Catwalk

by Phoebe Warren

(source: Independent)

Media engulfs our everyday lives. Every hour of every day we are being swamped with advertising of an idealistic lifestyle. All the while, our subconscious swallows this information whole, adapting our way of understanding ourselves and the world to fit that of unachievable possibility. 

I’m talking about self-esteem and image in relation to the normalisation of sexual exploitation. This is a place the media has created where gender stereotyping and a casual-rape culture mixes readily with fashion and music on a regular basis. Yet “as it’s so immaculately styled, it slips under the radar” according to Caryn Franklin. After all, haven’t we learnt to accept that women being portrayed to be sexually victimised is a positive thing as in the likes of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke? Moreover, isn’t it a good thing Miley shows young girls the latest trend to look as if you are  starved to the point of ghostly death in her Spring 2014 ad campaign for Marc Jacobs? So not only is the media saying it is a good thing for women to be sexually abused, they have graduated to the message they should be starved, raped, then left for dead. 

Despite Miley being the obvious choice for this negative representation of women, there are plenty of others to blame for the ever increasing negative influences in the likes of female role models. For example, until recently, I was very much a fan and regular shopper at American Apparel. It promotes sweatshop-free (admittedly over-priced) alternative clothing. So, at first glance a positive label. However, upon typing the company’s name into Google Images, we see a very different side of the story. Each result that hits you provides an on-slaught of shocking, borderline-pornographic images of women being sexually objectified, barely presenting any of the company’s clothing (if any at all). Every model is pin-sized, lacking in thighs with a measurable gap between her legs- clearly suffering from starvation. Just to add to the scene, in a lot of cases, apparently the model needs to be propped up by a bulky man by her side to stop her from collapsing. As a woman, do you honestly want to buy into this label which represents this near porn/rape culture with only size 0 models? 
The influence of such media has been shown statistically as well. “Researchers spoke to girls in England and Wales, between the ages of 15 and 22. They found 56 per cent were abused verbally, physically or online because of their weight, height or hair colour...About 40 per cent said they missed meals to get thinner, and 17 per cent said they had been on a diet since the age of 12 or younger.” Moreover, “10% of the girls said they had either taken laxative pills or made themselves sick to keep their weight down.”

Furthermore, a Girl Guide survey found two-fifths of girls surveyed expected in the future to be in a relationship with male dominance and violence/abuse. This research simply highlights just how much the media’s representation of women affect the thoughts and behaviour of girls.

You may be thinking, at this point, that this feminist approach comes from lesbians who hate men, but of course this misinterpretation is also as a result of the media. The media has put a bad light on feminism, making you believe that gender inequality is no longer an issue, where, in fact, it very much still is. Feminism isn’t about women taking over men, it is about balance. The media has increasingly begun to attack men’s self-esteem in relation to body image, but still has a long way to catch up with the pressures of being female. If we could allow ourselves to take a step back and refrain from engrossing ourselves with endless deluded ideals of who we would like to become, perhaps we would be a lot happier with our own self image and lifestyle.

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