The Poser – Models vs. Real Women

In my previous post – Photoshop Beauty, Media and the Real Women,  I have talked about Photoshop and how it’s used. Today I’d like to talk more about the representation of women in fashion industry. They are stunning, they’re sexy but mostly quite different from what most other women look like. I recently stumbled upon the work of Yolanda Dominguez who criticises the fashion industry by videotaping real women trying on the often ridiculously looking poses. Which only amplifies how different is the world of fashion. Read more about it here. 

fashion poses

 Yolanda herself says: “…photographers and fashion editorials throw women on the floor, put them into ridiculous positions; submissive, dead, diseased … I do not identify with these women and almost no woman does identify with them. However, all strive to be like them because we have no other reference. This leads to many disorders and diseases. It seems that women cannot have a wrinkle, or cannot weigh more than 50 kilo, or cannot be older than 25 years. That is not healthy or sane. The men never go out in these poses and situations.”

This is definitely a valid argument more photographers should be trying to depict women as healthy and interesting, independent individuals. And it is mentioned that men are never shown in “derogatory” poses, and it’s also slightly disconcerting because it seems that they can’t show any sensitivity – only hot hard muscles (which is not necessarily a bad thing 😉 ) but try to switch from the norm and your image or subject will be labeled as “gay”. Therefore I think that there are stereotypes for both genders manifesting themselves in the media. But mostly we won’t even notice things like strange pose in a magazine because the stereotypes are so culturally ingrained.

who she is isn't enough

Recently and not so recently there have been attacks on the way women are represented (or misrepresented) by the Media. Skin and bones girls, unhealthily tanned H&M models and various Photoshop enhancement or blunders are just a few of the many criticisms. But nothing really changes. Yes, maybe a magazine or two will do a non-photoshop issue but that is just like all black/ethnic model issues which serve only as marketing campaign. Next month it will all be exactly the same as before.

So what needs to change? Everything, the customers need to figure out whether they really want to see people like themselves on the covers or they’re happy with the status quo. Complaining to your friend doesn’t help (unless she’s editor of the Italian Vogue or something). However my main problem isn’t with the images, as a feminist and a photographer I’m always striving to make the people I photograph look their best. The images in ads or media only represent how most of general public views women (we all know the stereotypes) and until this changes there is no reason for editors or ad executives to change their strategy.

I’m not really sure if this blog makes sense, but hope you’ve enjoyed it.

x

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Author: reverine

Writer & Photographer currently based in Edinburgh, UK. http://reverinephotography.com/

5 thoughts on “The Poser – Models vs. Real Women”

  1. Hey there, I enjoyed your last two articles on the media depictions of women and the concept of beauty, and I thought I could add the perspective of sociology and some anthropology on this topic. “Beauty” in itself is a fascinating human construct, which varies from culture to culture. Since globalization however, beauty depictions are getting more and more similar due to saturation in media content from areas of the world such as America, which is a huge importer of culture. This saturation tends to usurp and overshadow local concepts of beauty, and this tends to occur because smaller, less economically independent cultures who rely on other cultures for forms of support (this usually is not really a beneficial relationship tot he local culture) use the larger and more powerful culture as a form of social capital. Despite this, perspectives of female beauty still vary from society to society.

    A very interesting piece of sociology literature I read as an undergrad was a bit of research done by U.S. teen magazines and how the images (such as the photoshopped girls and women we have all come to know) come to be the dominant depiction of females in those magazines. The research found that the choice of the way the girls and women were depicted were far less about the readers and consumers and almost completely rested on the ideology of the art departments of the companies. In fact, they received tons of emails and snail mail with girls complaining about the way girls were depicted as perfect and flawless in the magazines. When the researcher asked the different departments why don’t they just change the way they do business and depict girls with more diversity, they seemed to panic and begin blaming everyone else, especially the magazine readers, despite this being completely incorrect. The researcher found that the reasoning for maintaining the type of female beauty ideology by the magazine producers was irrational; even the editors -who were all women themselves- couldn’t explain why the industry couldn’t change, just that it must be due to someone else. They all complained about the depictions themselves, as well.

    I wanted to share that to broaden the scope of your article, about who is to blame for the mainstream depiction of female beauty in the media. As far as we can tell in sociology, the depiction is generally influenced by a mix of things, one very important of those things is something we call structural patriarchy, or a male-centered and male-important perspective in our social structures (like media). Just as we see in Victoria’s Secret catalogs, the models who are presumably showing clothing and accessories for other women to decide to purchase are posed in provocative and sexual ways -even with the duck lips nonsense- that are clearly meant to titillate heterosexual (white) men. Why in the world would this be so for a catalog of women’s clothing? Because the emphasis in U.S. society is to promote and encourage white, heterosexual male desires and tendency, even when it doesn’t make complete sense. While this is a wonderful subject to discuss -and I encourage it actively- it is a very complex issue that I have come to believe cannot be answered by any single discipline.

    I really enjoyed your articles, I will be keeping up with you! Beautiful photography by the way, I wish I was better at that myself. 😉

    1. First of all, wow, just wow, so surprised that someone would actually take their time to write such a lengthy and interesting comment on my blog. I’m really happy about that as my main point was to provoke discussion. The research you mentioned is really fascinating, and at first it doesn’t make sense but it does. I guess they just refused to change their magazine because that’s what they’ve always been doing, like the influence of the male-centered perspective, as you mentioned, and change is something scary. Personally I can’t even imagine what it would look like, but new approaches and new voices have to be heard and get past the gatekeepers. I agree with you that it’s a very difficult topic, but a fascinating one.

  2. Thank you. I think the key point is, what do you mean by making the people you photograph look their best? Women do want to be sexually attractive. So, a lot of “looking our best” will be aimed at the male eye.

    Women’s magazines sell an impossible lifestyle for us to yearn for, we struggle to keep up, never even barely adequate- and we buy the magazines. Because I am always trying to improve myself, my look, my way of being. Even if I can accept my own beauty, however someone might name it as flawed, I still want to adorn myself to best advantage.

    1. I agree that a lot of “looking our best” is aimed at the male gaze, however not every woman (or man for that matter) wants necessarily to look sexually attractive, some people do it because all the girls in the office do, or just for themselves. This I think is the key – dressing up, wearing makeup to feel good. That’s what I’m trying to photograph – making peoples personality shine, even if they might be impersonating another character or idea. And by making them look their best I mean that I wouldn’t post a photo which would make anyone feel embarrassed about themselves.

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