Beauty through the eye of a camera

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

In April, Paris drafted a voluntary charter encouraging advertisers to promote a wider range of body types in an effort to curb the spread of eating disorders among teenagers. Soon, Quebec may be following suit. Although some countries have made weight ranges mandatory, such as Spain, this voluntary measure is a first step that does not preclude the possibility of legislation passing in the future. See the full story here.

Here in Canada we’ve already seen some advertisers looking to promote a wider range body types. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a conspicuous one that has received much attention. Largely, I think, this is due to the shock value that half-naked non-models on billboards will inevitably provide in a culture where images of bodies in public are edited beyond recognition. Continue reading

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Women and Botox

Botox has been a hot topic in the news for the last few years as one of a string of new less-invasive cosmetic surgery routines. For those unfamiliar with the procedure, it involves injecting a strain of botulin toxin (hence the name Bo-tox) into facial muscles in order to paralyze them, decreasing the user’s ability to wrinkle their face, but also their ability to make certain expressions, particularly the microgestures essential to meaning.

There is evidence that women are the main targets of the Botox revolution. Part of this may be a systemic preference for younger people. A recent Wallstreet Journal article details the pressure women feel to look physically younger for the advancement of their careers. Continue reading

Imaginary Beauty

Musician, dancer, and British TV personality Alesha Dixon has recently spoken out against the practice of creating unrealistic and homogenized images of women in the media. Alesha experiences these practices personally as someone who frequently appears on magazine covers. Her BBC3 documentary on the subject, Look But Don’t Touch, goes behind the scenes on this issue, following Alesha in her quest to get a magazine to put her on the cover without photoshopping.

[this video contains auditory language and no subtitles, sign interpretation, or other captioning]

Wii Fit: what videogames can teach us

Feminist Philosophers today features a post on Wii Fit, a game that incorporates weight loss goals in the family-friendly format of a Nintendo game. It uses a BMI to tell you how far away from normal you are, an then has you set goals to get back in to the normal range. This game is marketed to the whole family, including children. See, for example, the game demo website, where we see a man, woman, girl and boy who each demonstrate for us what different types of activities we can perform with Wii Fit. Note the correlation between the  exercise being modeled and the person used to model it. Mom does yoga, dad does strength training, boy does balance games, ten year old girl does aerobics. Yes, aerobics. Why does a little girl need to do aerobics? Click on her and she tells you (big smile on her face)  “If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is running a little high,  you may want to go for a session of Aerobics… to help tone your body.”  Of course, BMI’s don’t work on children, and although there’s a very faint disclaimer to this effect, the game producers clearly expect little girls to track and strive to change their BMI- this is, after all, the point of the game. Even better, the game lets you chart your progress against your friends and family, so it turns into a veritable weight loss competition!

<insert face-palm here>

Censoring Joy

the lesbian prototype?Celebrations last week for the legalization of same-sex marriage in California were joyous indeed. It was marked as a great triumph for couples like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who have been together since 1953, and who were first to be married in California under the new law. In any situation where the press meets sexuality, however, the question of choice arises: why Martin and Lyon? What does a ‘normal’ gay marriage look like, anyway? We might optimistically think that the choices surrounding the publication of images of potentially controversial material are not spelled out in such explicit terms, but in this case, at least, we might be surprised. Interestingly, it has been from proponents of gay marriage that the most blatant censorship has come. Presumably out of fear that images of “guys in gowns” might scare off even more liberally-minded Americans, yet unsure of what gay marriage might spell for the norms and values of the state, leaders of the California gay/ lesbian community have been underscoring the importance of self-censorship at same-sex marriages. Jack, from Feministe, explains why she isn’t celebrating:

That’s right, folks: no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either. And definitely no guys in gowns.

Why? Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community….. Continue reading