In October 2008, Newsweek magazine put an unretouched photo of Sarah Palin (b. 1964) on its cover – which left quite a few people speechless, and the Republican camp outraged, since 99.99999 percent of photos in print media are airbrushed, to remove wrinkles, blemishes and other “imperfections” common to all human beings.
Brad Pitt (b. 1963, thus a year older than Ms. Palin), recently grazed the cover of W magazine – close up, unretouched. I didn’t see any people running for cover. Or claiming this was outrageous. To the contrary, there seems to be something valiant about Mr. Pitt’s “rebelling” against Photoshop.
Could it be that there is a gender double standard at play? When was the last time we saw an unretouched photo of a woman, close-up, on a mainstream magazine cover? I can’t possibly think of any examples…
Why should we be shocked/outraged/or downright embarrassed for a photo of a 44 year old woman with a naturally wrinkled face and not have the same reaction when it comes to a man?
(You ask me, Sarah Palin looks beautiful in that pic, and Brad Pitt looks like he belongs to a different – older – generation compared to her.)
The current issue of the Atlantic Monthly has a close-up picture of President Obama (I just love saying that) on its cover. It is unretouched – and thus shows all of his face’s fine lines. I didn’t read/hear about anyone objecting to it. Again, gender double standard at play here?
Madison Avenue is scrambling to adjust to a new era, when the most admired people in America are a black family. To reflect this reality, talent scouts are on the hunt for models who look like the Obama children, Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10.
Marlene Wallach, president of Wilhelmina Kids & Teens, says the First Daughters are tough subjects to match. “It’s a very specific age and a very specific ethnicity, so there aren’t that many girls that would necessarily fit the bill.”
On the one hand I’m deliriously happy to see that thanks to Barack Obama’s election racial minorities may get more visibility in the media – it’s about time!!! During my research for the docu “The Illusionists” I was positively surprised to see, in women’s magazines from the 1970s and the early 1980s (Vogue, Cosmo, Mademoiselle), lots and lots of black models in fashion/beauty photo shoots, advertisements, and on magazine covers. Why had they disapperared all of a sudden? The fashion industry had seemingly turned racist in the last 15-20 years. So: visibility of racial and ethnic minorities: awesomely positive.
On the other hand, though, I’m saddened that such a moving, historic milestone (the first ever black family in the White House) may get immediately mixed up with the usual base commercial interests – Sasha and Malia dolls with already developed breasts, photo shoots with Sasha and Malia lookalikes – to sell products. On top of that, the article above highlights a desire to see more Obama girls lookalikes – not more black children in fashion / advertising / mass media.
Toy company Mattel is revamping the online presence for its popular brands — including the iconic Barbie and, for boys, Hot Wheels — with expanded playable, customization and networking features on the new Mattel Digital Network.
And the upgrade will help Mattel keep pace with its competition online. Other brands such as Disney, LEGO and Hasbro have added features that aim to keep children connected with their sites — and products.
“There is a battle is for kids’ eyes on the computer,” says Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review (childrenssoftware.com). These days, companies need “a smart strategy behind their toys that does things like keep track of a child’s age and recommend or suggest (products), whether obviously or subliminally.”
Parents should know that such sites merge content and advertising, Buckleitner says. “I don’t think these things are necessarily bad, and a lot of learning can go on. But we have to be smart so we can tell the difference between manipulation and play.”
There’s an eager, youthful clientele on the Web. Three-fourths of children 2 to 14 use a computer, according to The NPD Group’s report Kids & Digital Content III, which found that computers are the most widely used consumer electronic device among children. Cellphones, MP3 players and game systems are next.
“The Swan.” “I Want a Famous Face.” “Dr. 90210.” “Extreme
Makeover.” “Nip/Tuck.” The list goes on. These are a few of the TV shows that have
examined, and promoted, the bene?ts of plastic surgery in recent years. University of Southern California professor Julie Albright believes the shows are driving women to go under the knife to conform to a heightened de?nition of beauty, one that is increasingly dif?cult to attain.
“Women are being taught to access power and status through their looks, “ Albright believes. “Before women might buy a Louis Vuitton purse to show off their ‘status.’ Now they might buy new breasts as a sign of their success.”
At the very least, these shows act as an advertisement for the plastic surgery industry, Albright says. At the most these shows impose unrealistic beauty standards that make people question their own bodies while giving them an instruction manual on how to change their appearance.
I’m currently re-reading Margo Maine’s excellent book “Body Wars” – to add useful information to my documentary script.
In the chapter “Barbie Dolls & Body Image” Ms. Maine writes about the group Barbie Liberation Organization:
One group, the Barbie Liberation Organization, formed by a graduate student from the University of California at San Diego, went so far as to swap the speech mechanisms of the Talking Barbies with those of G.I. Joes, causing havoc for the toy stores that received the tampered merchandise. The Talking Barbies were saying things like, “Vengeance is mine,” while the G.I. Joes were saying, “Let’s go shopping.” This political art expresses the distress many feel about the status of women in our society and the symbols that threaten the self-esteem of females.
(above : a screencapture of the application's demo from YouTube)
With a great deal of consternation, today I found out that Apple’s App store (for iPhone/iPod touch) is selling an application called “Wobble” – designed to pretty much animate photos of women’s breasts and buttocks making them jiggle as one shakes the iPhone.
As a devoted Apple customer I was really taken aback by this. I read about this affair on a popular feminist blog and the thing that depressed me even more was the reaction of readers. Many posted responses saying that they were outraged but they seemed to accept this as just one more degrading thing we have to deal with. Not me.
I am very well aware of the power of our voices. For instance, a couple of years ago the Campaign for Consumer Free Childhood (CCFC) encouraged people to write letters to the company Hasbro, which planned to introduce a toy version of the Pussycat Dolls aimed at 6-8 year olds. After only two days of protests from the CCFC, Hasbro announced it would cancel plans to produce the dolls. So, we can make a difference.
I sent a letter to Apple (email@example.com – according to Consumerist.com top customer service executives check this account)
After a personal introduction, I wrote,
The reason why I am writing to you today is that with great heartbreak, I feel I have been let down by you in a major major way for the first time. While reading the blog Feministing, I discovered that a software called “Wobble” was approved by someone in the Apple team and made its way to the App Store. An application which, according to its demo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWC_R3-qC3I) allows users to animate the photos of women’s breasts and buttocks, making them jiggle in every direction.
As a woman and feminist I cannot sit back and quietly accept this. To quote Howard Beale, from the film Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
Why? Because, especially over the past decade, the portrayal of women in our popular culture has steadily worsened. Every day, all around us on television screens, street billboards, in the pages of magazines, on the web, and in video games, our bodies are objectified, degraded and trivialized.
This has very serious consequences for both men and women: self-objectification being the most obvious, with women who are pushed to view their body as a sex object to be consumed by the male gaze – and men feeling entitled to consume women as objects.
We deserve much more than that. Dignity and respect are the least we can ask for. They are just about vital for our health and self-esteem.
The fact that a useless application like “Wobble” made its way to the Apple store sends a negative message: that trivializing women’s bodies, reducing them to wobbling parts, is acceptable. The risk is that over time we become desensitized to such behavior. What next? We already live in a world where the number two most popular doll (for 3-6 year olds) looks like a prostitute. Our cultural environment is already saturated with portrayals of women that are degrading. It would be nice if the Apple store could be an exception, setting an example. Removing the application from the App store would send out a loud, positive message – and would make me so much more proud of you!
I hold you under such high esteem and I hope you will decide to do the right thing.
Now, if any of you are also outraged by this application, it would be great if you could also write a quick email to Apple (firstname.lastname@example.org), simply asking them to remove the application. Just remember what the CCFC managed to do in 48 hours!
[update – Saturday Jan. 24th]
According to this MacBidouille article (in French), Apple recently rejected a dictionary application (that formatted the site Wordreference for the iPhone) on the grounds of obscenity – because, for instance, the Italian-English dictionary contained the translation for the F-word.
And yet an application like Wobble – incredibly sexist and degrading – was approved by Apple’s App Store. As a matter of fact, in the French iTunes store, Wobble is now the 9th most downloaded (paid) application.