Exploring being female (for that's what we are) in a world of media myths, publishing incompetence, and marketing madness -- as well as the female submission and subscription to those messages.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Doubt The Canucks Have It Any Worse Than Us

From e! Science News, Women's magazines downplay emotional health risks of cosmetic surgery: UBC study, a report on how magazines portray cosmetic surgery to Canadians -- but I doubt it's any better for us in the US:

While the emotional health implications of cosmetic surgery are still up for scientific debate, articles in women's magazines such as The Oprah Magazine and Cosmopolitan portray cosmetic surgery as a physically risky, but overall worthwhile option for enhancing physical appearance and emotional health, a UBC study has found. The study, published in Women's Health Issues journal, is the first to examine how women's magazines portray cosmetic surgery to Canadians. It also finds that male opinions on female attractiveness are routinely used to justify cosmetic surgery and that a disproportionate amount of articles are devoted to breast implants and cosmetic surgery among women aged 19-34.

"Alongside beauty, clothing and diet advice, women's magazines present cosmetic surgery as a normal practice for enhancing or maintaining beauty, becoming more attractive to men and improving emotional health," says Andrea Polonijo, who conducted the research at UBC as an undergraduate honours thesis in the Dept. of Sociology.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Correlation Between Watching The Drivel & Believing The BS

In Which Came First? The Chick-Flick Or The Egg On Your Face?, Alessia discusses her thoughts on participating in the continuing Media, Personality and Well-Being Study (which so far has found that romantic comedies can ruin relationships). After responding to the first set of questions, Alessia wrote:

It's pretty clear when I looked at my responses on the television shows and films I watch, by genre, that I don't watch a lot of chick-flick-shit. So maybe I'm totally not who they want participating. But the interesting thing is that I also don't believe that the stuff shown on the screen has anything to do with real relationships, let alone any expectations for my own. That alone would seem to indicate a strong correlation between watching the drivel and believing the BS. But does the watching cause the believing? Or is it that those who live in a fantasy world seek out fantasy entertainment?
When just reading about the original survey results, I immediately thought similar things; for while we are told that viewing films is an escapist activity (if passively watching a movie can be called an 'activity'), there certainly seems to be a natural drawing of like to like based upon one's own values. How can it not?

I mean if watching films were all about the escapism from one's own life, wouldn't I watch something completely unlike my own life -- like body count films which blow up shit? That certainly would be unlike my life in terms of violence. And in terms of control (if one presumes that I see 'me' as the one pulling the trigger or detonating the bombs). But I can't stand those films because they utterly eschew the sanctity of human life, one of my core values. And so I am unable to enjoy the 'escape' of the movie because my value of human life is literally blown apart, my values obscured by blood and body parts.

This would indicate, anecdotally anyway, that one's values and perceptions matter even in your escapism.

So, if, as the original study indicates, a person not only believes that another can read their mind but also expects that of their partner, then it makes sense that, obviously disappointed in their real-world-relationship, they would seek to escape in a film which has its basis in such fantasy happenings. It delivers what they seek.

Therefore, it is at least possible that the unrealistic expectations for relationships feed the films, not the other way around.

In Case You Didn't Think Being Female & Living Up To Expectations Was Exhausting...

After a few months of trying to live a 50's life, Marzipan has had to change her plans:

As you readers know, Ward has never been that keen on having a 50's housewife for a spouse. While initially he might have envisioned this woman who oozed perfection, made nightly meals, kept things spic and span, and generally mothered him to a calm sense of security, he soon found that instead he had married a woman who was more concerned over the cleanliness of the kitchen floor than who might be elected to office, who knew little about the economic crisis of her country, and who had to be fed newsbites from a wary husband.

...It seems incredible that after only 100 days of prescribing to a certain set of rules and lifestyle one could become so smothered that one actually suffers memory loss relating to one's own personality. Only I knew something wasn't right because I kept getting so depressed and angry at the littlest things. It's true, caring for a home, making that the integral part of your existence, is not for me. It may be for others and more power to them, but alas, it is seriously damaging my psyche. And I don't want Ward to feel like he's the only one in the house living in the real world while I try to lure him into discussions of WW2 rationing and the difference between a girdle and a waist-cincher. He thought it was funny at first, sure. But when that's all your wife talks about it gets a little stale fast.
She's not giving up, per se, but modifying the project and will now focus on several decades, each for 100 days (with the 80's only getting 65 days).

You can keep track of what she's doing -- and how she's faring -- at her blog. I for one wish her well; but think she'll just find a different hell.

Listening To Some Nut We've Never Even Met

In her Problems With Pantyhose post, Slip of a Girl quotes from a retro men's magazine on the horrors of pantyhose.



The most excellent part is when the author shames women for putting up with a fashion directive which not only (as shown by earlier parts in the text) is icky for women but unwanted by the men who adore them:

But the women weren't listening to the men -- they were listening to the fashion writers, the profit-hungry stocking manufacturers, and the queers of the European fashion houses, who can't stand to see a woman turn-on a real he-man by showing him how marvelous she looks in sheer nylons, a black satin garter belt and tight silk panties. So up went the miniskirt, and on went the pantyhose. It's pathetic, really, the way women will ditch something that has males gasping for breath in favor of a fashion that brings only a "ho-hum." It's crazy that women will ignore the endless assurances of men that they look ravishingly beautiful in garters and regulation-length sheer hose, and deliberately cover their legs in opaque colored stockings because some nut they've never even met tells them that their bare thighs are uglier than Frankenstein's monster.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today's Thought On Women's Magazines

I don't want aliens coming here or future anthropologists looking at today's women's magazines and thinking that's who we are.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Attention = Vulgar

Because Pop Tart collects vintage etiquette books, I'm surprised she missed this post by Marzipan on The New Book of Etiquette by Lillian Eichler:

This section called "On Being 'Different'" caught my attention quite rapidly.

"Of course, if you are "different" you will attract attention to yourself. But to attract attention is not desirable. It borders too close upon vulgarity.

Many people actually glory in being called eccentric, believing that this separates them from "the crowd." But eccentric means away from the center. What these people are doing, really, is separating themselves from the center, the heart, of humanity. The world will glance over its shoulder at them, may even be interested or fascinated for a moment, but will not throw wide its arms in welcome.

We will lionize such persons for a season, talk about them and write about them in our newspapers--but we will not love them as we love our simple, kindly, lovable next-door neighbor who is always sane and sensible."
That renders me nearly speechless. Nearly speechless.

While I'll confess to reading the passage from the book to a perhaps extreme point, that we should all be sheep, I'm not alone in my reaction.

Marzipan says, "She doesn't bother questioning who makes the rules, who outlines these norms, and why these norms exist in the first place. She also hints that those who are different wish to be away from the soul of humanity thus, the norm contains that soul."

This is the total opposite of what we have with today's celeb-centered worship where people gobble up rancid celeb blogs and pay for lurid publications both based on attention whore -- arguably vulgar. But, the vulgarity isn't so much about being 'different' as actually being the same. Be a Brittany or Hilton clone!

What's worse is that those who plunk down money or give their attentions to such celeb fandom seem to believe the celebs are the very soul of humanity.

While I certainly do not believe Eichler's philosophy, I don't believe this flip-side either.

PS Marzipan also included this photo of Dare Wright, who I have a huge crush on.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How To Be A More Interesting Woman, 1965


Read about this gem in my article Old Etiquette Books: How To Be A More Interesting Woman.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More (Magazine) Or Less, The Irony

In December's issue of More magazine, Meredith Vieira said why she refused to interview Paris Hilton after Hilton was released from prison:

I did not feel good about doing the interview. I just said, 'I don’t think this is right, this is all about ratings.' There was this whole thing about whether we were going to give her a special, and all this minutiae and craziness.
Kudos to Vieira -- not just for refusing the interview with the troubled blonde icon of bad taste, but for saying so publicly.

However, we can't help but grimace & sigh at the irony of More's name-dropping -- using "Paris Hilton" for her keyword popularity; but that's not as bad as Hilton actually having any sort of popularity at all.

Can Media Professionals & Those In Fashion & Beauty Biz Really Be So Ignorant?

I just wanted to comment on Alessia's post about the biology of beauty, youth & fertility, and WHR (body shapes), but then realized that it was too long just for a post *wink*

First, some related reading material on the web:

Dimensions In The Female Form In Art: statistics on the female shape in art works from 1890, 1930 and 1970.

Fantasy Females: Skinnier Every Year Since 1953: a 2002 study looking at the thinning measurements of women in Playboy since since Marilyn Monroe first stretched across its pages in 1953.

Now my questions...

If there is a biological drive for male DNA to spread itself which causes him (however unconsciously) to evaluate those hips to deem them spread-worthy, why are folks in the media ignorant to this?

If they aren't ignorant to the science...

Then why on earth are men's mags selling men a product (too-thin women) they don't really want? Wouldn't it be easier and more profitable to sell them a product which satisfies their desires?

Women's mags make their money off the fashion & beauty industry -- which turns a profit from praying on insecurities and unfulfilled dreams. So their blind-eye to science makes (sad) sense. But again, wouldn't it be easier and more profitable for the folks in the fashion and beauty industries to address reality? Then the consumers, women, would find success in their products, fostering loyalty? This could still be done to create the seasonal turns in merch (profit), but would be a satisfying experience for all.

Thoughts?

The Biology Of Beauty Beguiles; Or, Reasons For Our Youth Obsessed Culture

"Fashion" & "the beauty industry," as if they were entities or machines unto themselves and not made up of human beings, are often blamed for imposing false beauty ideals on weak female victims.

Women are mocked for believing and following -- at best accused of falling for the insipid ploys of powerful patriarchal males, at worst accused of pandering to them. And women are also mocked for neither believing nor following beauty standards -- for not following societal norms.

(Additionally silly when you realize much of the fashion & beauty industry is run by gay males; but that's for another time.)

But behind much of what we humans call "beauty" is a biology to which men not only are the unconscious victims, but the ones manipulated by women.

Female "beauty" and "attractiveness" are directly linked to cues of youth -- or, more honestly, to fertility. At a very basic, primal level the male is always assessing women for their fertility. Because this is unconscious, he is not always aware of it and therefore cannot control it.

This is not to say that such a drive mandates males thinking only (or primarily) with their dick; but to say that the impulses are deeply rooted there. And that we women use those impulses and drives.

We are a youth obsessed society not only because the male seed is always looking to deliver its DNA but because we women use & manipulate the male sex drive.

Even the gay and those not looking to breed use "beauty" to our advantage. We know, for example, that more attractive people tend to be more liked, get more opportunities, better pay etc. -- and we use that. We all are factors in the equation -- not (just) victims of the (fashion) expression.

But staying on topic of women's magazines and the industries they support (fashion and beauty), I'm specifically going to address them in context of heterosexual male/female relations in these mainstream publications.

Here's a brief list of some of the things we call "beautiful" which are linked directly to biology as far as it pertains to attracting heterosexual males and, when males get lucky, the perpetuation of the species. All of which can now be manipulated by women to fool the male -- or his tool.

Hair:

Healthy hair is literally a sign of overall health; hair that is not grey is a sign of youth & therefore fertility; long hair, the hair of the maiden, is usually seen as signs of both health (several healthy years to grow it) and youth; blond or lighter hair color in general signifies youth since most hair darkens with age (up to and even while greying); all fertility cues putting the penis on alert.

We can buy products to make hair gleam, be longer, and we can color it (both lighten and cover grey).

Skin:

Even, symmetrical female faces -- right down to the smallest millimeter -- are the signs of strong estrogen. Yes, science points to your shifting face, girl; with your face being the most even & symmetrical when you are ovulating (most fertile). So you can imagine what even slight imperfections such as acne can do to a man 'reading' or evaluating (however unconsciously) a woman's visage.

Powders & creams enhance -- not only the complexion but can help disguise unevenness in features. Such are the skin care and cosmetic trickery which attract men into believing a female is more fertile. Thus the vials on the vanity really are to lure him on over & fill him with desire.

Body:

There are studies which indicate an (at least Western) male preferred waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) for females of 7/10ths (or 0.7). ** This ratio gives at least the bottom curvy hip of the hourglass figure of Marilyn Monroe as opposed to the stick-straight shape you find on the average runway model (the likes of which clothing is draped upon, but whose names remain unknown because we do not celebrate their beauty as individuals). The 0.7 is a also magical ratio known in the United States to be an indication of an extremely healthy and fertile woman. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Women can diet & exercise -- a natural way to provide (perhaps) more desirable ratios and better health and (perhaps) fertility. But we can also use shapewear, belts, and other fashions to shrink waists &/or plump hips and behinds; giving the illusion of a lower waist-to-hip ratio. And we can suck, insert & others sculpt our bodies via surgery to get that lower WHR.

Once you see this...

It seems to me we all would be better served if there was more honesty in the discussion of "beauty". Instead of having magazines trot out the traditional and tired beauty tips, instead of having feminists rail at the conformist nature of the beauty and fashion industry and victimization of women, instead of discussing what is 'hot' and 'how to be hot', we should all be looking at why 'hot' matters -- as well as when it should and shouldn't matter (or be used).

If we women want to "look beautiful" to please ourselves, we should be able to do so without being accused of playing into men's hands. But we should also be aware of what (and who) we trigger, for when we tamper with nature we trifle with male tools. And blaming men for thinking with the small head while we indirectly stroke it is self-defeating at best and inappropriate at worst.

More to come.

** The waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 is under heavy discussion in several arenas.

Scientifically, the debate centers around questions of the method of the study (line drawings used) and the study group (location & culture; Western v. non-Western males). For example, some studies indicate men from poor rural backgrounds in other parts of the world prefer women with a ratio of 8/10th. (This 0.8 indicates a little thicker waist, but still an hourglass shape.) Others studies indicate that in less wealthy countries where hunger is a larger issue body mass index (BMI) is the first cue; WHR the second. The non-universality of WHR prompts the discussion that if such standards of appreciation and desire are not cross-culturally in practice, and we are all the same animal, it cannot be biological.

While nature v. nurture is always a question, the science of low female WHR and male attraction seems to be holding up -- and far better than the other arguments from feminists regarding waist-to-hip ratios and the biological laws of attraction.

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