Nars and the Real Girls

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Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.

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31 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Thanks. I was trying to put my finger on why I was unimpressed when I heard it on the radio, and this was a marvelous explanation.

    Dudette, you should post on the FP more.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

      Thanks! But almost without fail, everything I post on the FP is crickets. But if I toss off something poorly thought out on Blinded Trials, everyone’s interested!Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        You need to keep the philosophy on BT, and the circumcision and vaccination posts on the front page.

        Actually, write a post about how terrible Dr. Oz is. That would do it.Report

        • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

          Wait, you mean parenting and health are of more general interest than the ontological status of numbers? Who knew?Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Great piece, Rose. I work out pretty avidly. I can’t begin to explain the frustration that takes over when you see those infomercials or magazine advertisements for a new workout routine or diet supplement that have those absurd before-and-after photos. Apparently, not only will 30 minutes of jazzercise a day make you look like Mr. Universe, it will also get you tan, turn your eyes blue, and style your hair in a fresh new way.

    Of course, there are a few that avoid such blatant manipulation… they simply cutoff the heads of the folks so you have no idea if it is even the same person.

    I’m not the biggest fan of curbs on free speech. But I do think that false labeling and false advertising ought to be actionable, either via the civil courts or the criminal courts. Telling me that an obviously professional body builder has rippling nose muscles because he uses a BowFlex for 30 minutes is obviously BS. Insisting that the newest face cream is the best when you know it’s not but you got paid to say so is also BS. I don’t know if the crafty way in which these are often posited would push them beyond the high threshold I’d have for banning such ads (they often don’t say that the model exclusively used the BowFlex; they often do insist that they “love” the cream while making no actual claim as to its efficacy), but they certainly violate the spirit of folks making informed decisions.Report

  3. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    This is the kind of post that makes you wish there were more female posters and commenters. If none of the other menfolk want to be the first to say something stupid, I shall go ahead.

    I live in Japan, where guys are typically built like whippets, without even the continental shelf that demarcates the border between the T-shirt and underwear region. These guys make me look like crap. My wife says it’s not fair to compare myself to younger, healthier dudes with their whole lives ahead of them – she assures me that I’d look like crap even if I were the only guy on the island. Additionally, I hang out with a lot of gay men. We went to the beach last year, and I felt like Charlotte Rae in a very special episode of “The Facts of Life.”

    But yet, I have it easy. Men just don’t have to climb very far up Mt. Lookin’ Good to get credit, while women have to plant a flag at the summit every season.Report

    • Avatar Rose says:

      I’m glad you said that! At first I was hesitant to put it up on the main page, knowing that there’s a largely male readership. And then I thought – that’s exactly why I should put it.

      >We went to the beach last year, and I felt like Charlotte Rae in a very special episode of “The Facts of Life.”

      This cracked me right up!Report

  4. Avatar dhex says:

    “There is a clear reason for a ban on Photoshopped cosmetic ads, and it’s good that there’s a move toward a self-regulated ban.”

    i do deeply disagree with you on this (even if i agree with most of your post), but beyond all that, who is going to decide the line between acceptable retouching and illicit “photoshopping”? and how? i generally agree that the hyperstylized synthetic look is gross and (obviously) misleading, but if these efforts actually get anywhere (and i don’t think they will), someone’s going to have to create some kind of metric to measure the “unreality” of an image, which as you point out already starts with great lighting, equipment, photographers, makeup, etc.Report

    • Avatar Rose says:

      I noticed I used the phrase “should be forced” and was second-guessing myself a bit. But I think that Photoshop is absolutely, inarguably, indubitably deceptive, whereas arguments could be made against the deception due to lighting, etc. With Photoshop, one cannot look the way one is presented.

      I also think the product matters. Retouching to remove a zit is not such a big deal in a mascara ad, a much bigger deal in a face cream or foundation ad.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        i guess my issue is that every photo you’ve seen reproduced in the last 10 years has been edited in some way using photoshop. now i realize part of this is that photoshop got kleenexed, as it were, and became a verb along the way, so “to photoshop” means “to manipulate beyond the boundaries of what i consider reasonable” rather than “to use photoshop”. having used it for a long time, i find the line between it and the other deceptive/creative ends that go into commercial photography a lot harder to draw.

        “I also think the product matters. Retouching to remove a zit is not such a big deal in a mascara ad, a much bigger deal in a face cream or foundation ad.”

        why? because there’s (generally) more face on display in the face cream ad than the mascara ad, which (i presume) is more focused on eyes?Report

        • Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

          Never answered this! Because mascara is supposed to enhance eyelashes. If the eyelashes in the ad are artificially enhanced, then you have a distorted impression of what the mascara is capable to. Foundation is supposed to cover skin blemishes. If you airbrush the blemishes, then it seems as if the foundation is capable of more than it is.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Excellent post, Rose. I’d probably be less attuned to these things if I didn’t have 3 daughters, two of whom are at the age to pay attention to this stuff. Fortunately they don’t seem to pay too much attention (at least yet). Perhaps more fortunately, they’re all naturally skinny, so they don’t face the kind of pressure some other girls do. But my wife and I do work hard to give them opportunities to build real self-esteem through actual accomplishments, and establish themselves as independent kids. It’s not easy in an era when kids at younger and younger ages are trying to look like models (“prostitots,” as a friend of ours said), too often with the complicity and outright encouragement of their moms.Report

  6. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I think a lot of what happens in magazines is driven by the ads, which is why so many magazines are basically like the advertising text in catalogs now. The sad thing is that the truly great magazines are all struggling and, after they die, we’ll be left with the crap they sell in supermarkets.

    Having said that, Bust Magazine, which has been struggling recently, is currently on a push to get new subscribers. You might want to check it out- it’s different from Seventeen and I can check, but I don’t think they airbrush their models. [Full disclosure: I’ve written a few things for them and my good friend is an assistant editor there.]Report

  7. Avatar Rtod says:

    Not that you need topic suggestions, but here’s one I’d be curious to have your take on, Rose.

    How do we collectively, and also women specifically, square the desire to have women be portrayed more realisticly in tthe media, at the same time we see the applause for male eye candy on the rise?

    I’ve noticed that a lot of the bloggers I know that write really well about the harmful effects of female body image issues and the media are raving about the social implications of Magic Mike, for example. Is this a tit for tat thing? An evening of the playing field? An acknowledgement that men ogling women is ok? Cognitive dissonence? Something else?

    I feel like there’s a really good post there, but that it should not be written by someone with a Y chromosome.Report

    • Avatar Rose says:

      Are you kidding? I would always love topic suggestions. And that’s a good one. I will definitely write on that later this week.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I wrote on this a long time ago, long advocating more normal looking people on television. I touched on it here. The problem is most drastic with women, though it’s not a non-issue for men, either*.

      The implications to women of hyper-attractiveness of women on television get a fair amount of attention (though it usually seems to be limited to airbrushing and abnormal physiques), though I think it should be said that this causes problems for men, too. Which is to say that I think television and movies have the capacity to warp young male perceptions and expectations. To picture something that’s not normal as being normal (and thus, if you are a normal male, “within reach”) and nudging men to view actual normal-looking women (or women whose position on the attractiveness hierarchy matches their own) as background furniture. When this gets attention, it is often laid out like men are dumb or superficial, rather than that they are responding to their environment.

      The movie “Beautiful Girls” explored some of these issues and did a fantastic job with it. The fact that most people are going to have to look it up on IMDB to see which movie I am talking about is a shame (if I hadn’t run across it, I would, too).

      * – Women seem to fall into two categories, either drop-dead attractive (even if made up to look otherwise) or fat (and that’s a part of their character). Men can fall into those two categories or a couple more, funny-looking or tough-looking, though in both cases there has to be a reason to be anything but really attractive. To be fair, the rules for tangential male characters also tend to be a little more lax.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        (I want to add that please, don’t take my comment as suggesting that Rose’s take on the issue wouldn’t be great. I realized after I wrote it that my comment could be interpreted as “we talk about women and this subject all the time, let’s talk about men instead!” The great thing about Rose is that not only does she provide a female voice for an outlet that lacks them, but she provides a more balanced and complete perspective than so many other writers – male or females.)Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        Women fall into multiple categories:
        Hollywood Gorgeous
        Hollywood Ugly (that’s me!)
        Normal/Plain
        Something _wrong_Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          How would you define Hollywood Ugly and normal/plain? Any actresses come to mind?Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            Hollywood Ugly is the woman who can pull off the librarian look, and still draw all the eyes in the room. It’s the ungainly girl with freckles, who’s still prettier than all the rest — even though hollywood pretends she’s not. It’s the plus-size woman who pulls it off and looks glam while doing it.

            In short, it’s not one image — it’s a girl with enough charisma to pull off looking gorgeous from sheer confidence, not pure looks.

            And doesn’t look precisely like what “hollywood pretty” is (i’d find the tv tropes cite for this, it’s remarkably interesting — right down to the facial features necessary).

            Gwen Christie’s rocking Brienne, who’s most certainly not pretty — and the actress isn’t conventionally pretty.

            Madeline Albright, Hillary Clinton

            — it’s the equivalent of a guy who can rock an eyepatch. pulling it off despite being a little different.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            Normal/Plain doesn’t exist in actress land, as a general rule.

            Look at Sebelius, and maybe Pelosi (haven’t seen as much of her… I might be wrong).

            McCain’s wife and Hutchinson fall into “harpy women”– there is something wrong with them.Report