Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the media and me: a reflection on beauty as perceived by a magazine-maniac

In my COM 101 class today we discussed the topic of Sex in Advertising and Mass Media. We learned some of the tools that the advertising industry uses to sell their products and the conscious, and more disturbingly, the unconscious effect it has on us, especially on women and young girls. This topic affects me, being both a female and one interested in entering this fascinating yet dangerous field, and I'm struggling with my view on it.

I'm not a feminist. Let's just put that out there. But I'm not a bimbo either. I like to look nice for myself most of the time but also for others occasionally. I don't wear low-cut tops but I do wear short shorts and skirts. I work with what I got but in the most tasteful way that I know possible.

For some time now I have been wanting to work in the fashion biz. I have an obsessive guilty-pleasure for fashion mags, particularly NYLON magazine, which to me epitomizes the well-rounded indie kid, if such a thing exists. I'd like to say it's the creativity one can use in designing and constructing the images and layouts that fascinates and enthralls me, but of course that is just one aspect that draws me in.

I believe I see fashion magazines, and therefore the fashion marketing and advertising business, for what they are. They are trying to sell you their product by selling you an image. I sound like a broken record but what's true is true. For example, I'm not going to buy a pair of jeans unless they make me look good. How am I persuaded of this? Through an ad with a model who shows off those jeans to their full potential. On paper it seems point-blank, we want to have the glittery, glamorous life and if it means we have to have that pair of jeans to get it, well that's just an easy route to cool.

I'm not saying I'm not affected by these images, I am quite deeply impacted by the media. Since I was around the age of twelve I have been very attuned to the way females were projected on TV, at the movies, and in my magazines. As a young girl I saw other women on a parallel level to my own sexual development, an alternate universe of a shared experience. This awareness of your own sexuality is a right of passage, it's inevitable and important in maturing and developing into an adult. And even though it can be exciting, it is a major adjustment that often extends the time of puberty even into early adulthood.

I never wanted to be the blond bimbo, but just because I didn't want to look exactly like my copious collection of Barbie dolls did not mean that I didn't want to somewhat resemble that unattainable image of beauty.

There are several physical standards that I believe every average American woman, at some point, aspires to obtain or maintain. Thin figure, symmetrical face, proportional body, clear complexion, white smile, lustrous hair, and last but not least sparkling eyes that seem to penetrate the soul with a single glance. Well-dressed and friendly, approachable and dynamic, accepted and desired. I wanted, and still want, to be beautiful, a vision of health and vitality.

I sometimes think of myself, in an oxymoronic way, as a deeply superficial person. I go into phases where shopping is like eating, and I obsess over every detail of my look or my appearance. This is when my self-esteem is at it's lowest, and there is an insecurity that occurs that can almost be described as paranoia. Of course this is not always the case, but I'm sure that every girl has felt this heightened anxiety attached purely to her physical appearance.

What I've learned through the years since adolescence is that those physical qualities, that is what I've come to define as "pretty". Beauty is something entirely different. There is an X factor in beauty that is hard to place and to label. Regardless of our level of attractiveness, I believe we all have that "ingredient" in us that makes us beautiful. Sort of like Emeril's "BAM!". Alot of the time it is hard to pinpoint this in yourself, sometimes it takes others to enlighten us on our own beauty. I believe my beauty is in my creativity, or my ability to be emotionally descriptive, whether it be through my talent with visual art or with words. Come to think of it, I've made it a hobby of investigating my family, my friends, and other people I've encountered to find out what their beauty is.

I believe this idea of beauty is what will sustain me through the years as I (yikes) begin to age. And believe me, in this culture so focused on youth I am freaked out. I dread the day that I wake up and find that first gray hair or that line that wasn't there the night before. The irony is that this stress about aging is probably aging me. So perhaps peace is best.

Peace. So simple in theory yet so complex when it comes to being truly comfortable with yourself. The fact of the matter is that I never will be truly and completely comfortable with myself. Some women, I believe, can achieve this. They understand themselves and their identity without the need of the external world's approval. I unfortunately am not one of them. I oscillate back and forth between the feeling of self-acceptance and the need to improve myself. The best I can do, and what any girl who feels the way I do, is to reinforce myself and remind myself of my ingredient, and hopefully remember the beauty beyond the "pretty" surface.

No comments:

Post a Comment