Pretty Woman or Pretty Tricky?

I'm going to take August off of blogging and (if I can control myself) all electronic media. But before I go I wanted to direct you to someone else's blog--that of the excellent organization About Face, which "...equips women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect their self-esteem and body image. We do this through our three programs: Education Into Action media-literacy workshops; Take Action, which enables girls and women to develop and execute their own actions; and, our web site." What's not to love?

In her latest blog post, inspired by the banning in Britain of two adds by L'Oreal for an anti-aging foundation which depicted heavily airbrushed portraits of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington, Jennifer Berger, the Exec Director of About-Face, discusses how "we — everyday women and girls — can help ourselves out of this body-hatred spiral without totally disconnecting from culture altogether."

Among her suggestions:

"Pass the  Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 2513). H.R. 2513 would authorize grants to promote media literacy and youth empowerment programs, to authorize research on the role and impact of depictions of girls and women in the media, to provide for the establishment of a National Task Force on Girls and Women in the Media. Shall we all get behind this legislation? Yes, let’s do it!"

"Educate ourselves with some solid media-literacy skills instead of just 'turning off the TV' and closing the magazines, and never using the Web. The media coverage of this issue makes women sound like naive victims who can’t think for themselves. So, we need to work hard to make these images less powerful in our own psyches by understanding the insidious nature of photo-retouching and how it affects the way we look at our own, sometimes-bumpy, skin. And we need to reject what we see."

"Person-by-person resistance: Celebrities! Help your sisters out! We need actresses’, celebrities’, and models’ help as our allies. They need to understand that a) we’re not against them and b) more women than they know would see their movies/buy their stuff even more if they seemed to be on our side. Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Portia de Rossi, and Cindy Crawford have done a great job of criticizing insane photo retouching, and we need more celebrities to demand minimal retouching instead of full Photoshop makeovers so as not to mislead young women." [Note: as a post-40 woman, I'd like to give a big shout-out to Jamie Lee Curtis on this one, too!!!]

And finally:

"What really bugs the crap out of me — and what girl advocates should watch for — is the response from L’Oreal. Their PR machine is calling the Julia Roberts image an “aspirational picture”. This just speaks volumes about how ad agencies and advertisers talk about and think about images of women.

'Aspirational.' Meaning that we should keep aspiring (and aspiring, and aspiring, while buying more L’Oreal products) to skin that is literally as perfect-looking as a Photoshopped image. And we wonder why microdermabrasion and facelifts, and Botox injections are so popular. We are Photoshopping our own flesh.

In short: Watch the words used by the beauty industry carefully. They can make “fear of being ugly” sound like “hope of being beautiful!” pretty easily.

So let’s put our blame in the two places it belongs: corporate interests that need squashing, and our own, sub-par critical-thinking skills that we should improve.

Aspirational, incidentally, is what Disney says about Princesses....Never too early to tell girls they aren't good enough as they are, is it?

I don't know how I feel about an outright ban on airbrushed ads--haven't mulled it enough to comment. What about you guys? What would it look like if air-brushing was no longer allowed in advertisements? Or if, at the very least, there were warnings on cosmetic ads that "the results achieved aren't typical"--something akin to what's on weight loss products? We do have truth in advertising regulations, don't we?

Just so you know what we're talking about: here's Julia Roberts in real life and in the ad, for instance:

And Christy Turlington


Go Jennifer. Go About-Face. Go read more about them!

And now...have a great month. See you in September!