Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Photoshopping Real Women Into Cover Models

So this is interesting to me as a feminist, where of course my first reaction is to praise the project for helping women realize how unattainable and unfair the beauty standards are for us. 

But then I thought about all the rhetoric about the "real," "authentic" you and I began to wonder.  In a postmodern landscape, what is the nature of the "true self?"  I know there is, as Naomi Wolf perfectly articulated, a beauty myth in operation in contemporary American society.  But I also wonder what the repercussions are of feminist discourses that privilege some bodies as "real" and "authentic" while disparaging others as corrupted by manipulation.  Plastic surgery violates the real you.  Photoshopping hides the true you.  Yeah, sure, I want to live in a world where we don't need makeup or nose jobs or Spanx.  But I wonder: are you only real when you're naked?  What would Judith Butler or Baudrillard say about that?  Can someone's World of Warcraft avatar be the "real" them in a way the real them can't be (you know what I mean?).  Can someone dress in drag, altering their physical body, and feel more like him/herself?  If so, what does it mean about "real" bodies.  I think there is some provocative work to be done in adapting Baudrillard's postmodern deconstruction of the "real" for a feminist landscape, and trying to address questions about beauty standards in a way that embraces pomo theory and also validates women's (and in different but related ways, men's and trans folks') experiences in a world that can be cruel and confining for us.

What do you think about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty? What makes beauty "real?"  And how is all of this related to the capitalist profit motive, anyway?  What are your thoughts on any of it?


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