Archive for the ‘Portrait of a Lady’ Category

Looks. Not so skin deep after all?

In Portrait of a Lady on October 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm

A little makeup can go along way, at least that’s what women are often told, and according to a recent study, women who wear makeup are perceived as being more competent and trustworthy.

It’s true that when cosmetics are applied correctly they enhance a woman’s beauty, and people in general are more apt to like someone who is attractive, yet to think they’re more honest and intelligent? Seems like a stretch.

Looks are still immensely important in the majority of cultures and societies, and though what’s considered to be attractive varies, it plays a role in how ‘successful’ a person may be, especially if that person is female.

However, what makes me a little hesitant to truly believe this article is 1. It seems to be the first of its kind, and 2. Beauty is enormously subjective. Add perception on top of that and my skepticism increases.

Judging looks for how much someone may be liked is one thing, but for how capable they’ll be or knowledgeable…well, it depends on the kind of attractiveness we’re discussing.  And perhaps this article just didn’t explain their point very well.  It might not be attractiveness they were measuring but appearance, which are two very different things.  Someone can be absolutely stunning and still be unkempt.  It could have been a matter of how well groomed and neat they looked when wearing makeup, and someone who appears neat and tidy is most likely more competent than someone who looks like they’re a bum on the street…

Of course it all comes down to societal perceptions and prejudices.  When making friends I hope we’ve all learned to not judge too hastily, but in a job it’s always best to put one’s ‘best foot forward’ and though once hired you have time to prove your worth, it’s always easier to start off on a good foot, however unfortunate people’s perceptions may be, than be looked down upon or not trusted to excel.



From a woman to another

In Portrait of a Lady on July 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Well it seems everyone is lashing out at Casey Anthony and I suppose I’m jumping on the bandwagon, not because I want to spout off reasons why I hate this woman or hope she’s gets it in the end, but because I think she’s portrays women in a negative light. 

As far as our justice system goes it’s best that she didn’t get convicted for murder because there honestly wasn’t enough evidence to so show that she killed her daughter, but 4 years in prison and a $4,000 fine is quite lenient, especially since she’s going to get out on July 13th, as she already served her jail time during the trial. 

She might not have murdered her daughter, but she definitely was not a good mother, or even a good person for that matter.  She neglected her daughter abhorrently and that is not ok.  Motherhood, though not for everyone and not in any way the ‘duty’ of women, is still sacred – nurturing another life, caring for it.  I don’t think that every woman is meant to have children, or should, but if that role does happen to be given to you, then you better damn well do it to the best of your abilities – and this isn’t just for women. Anyone who is given the responsibility of another life, as difficult as it is, needs to strive to treat that life with love and respect.  Using chloroform to put your daughter to sleep, sending out a missing person’s report a month after she’s gone missing…pretty repugnant and could be considered child abuse, but the jury declared her ‘Not Guilty’ on that charge as well.

Women’s History Month

In Portrait of a Lady on March 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Yesterday, March 1 was the commencement of Women’s History Month!  I will hopefully be posting something soon, about how awesome women are and such, or just about issues pertaining to women. 

If you’ve been watching the news you’ll know about the concerns/potential improvements in women’s rights occuring in Middle Eastern countries because of all the protests/revolutions that are happening. 

I’ll try and post something soon, but for now, below are some links for you to check out 🙂



Team Disney

In Portrait of a Lady on December 5, 2010 at 4:43 am

Then we have Team Disney with princesses like Jasmine (from Aladdin), Ariel (Little Mermaid), and Belle (Beauty and the Beast).  These girls (they’re pretty young) are more feisty.  They argue, go against their dads, make decisions for themselves…yet, they’re not the answer to women’s image as power wielders because they’re still just ‘Gibson Girls’ (revamped to fit modern times)

  1. They’re exceptionally beautiful – look at that hair, those eyes, their tiny, tiny waists and clothing





 2. They’re still just silly girls who don’t want responsibility

Ariel is out with her friend Flounder collecting objects (she dreams of being human and care free) when she’s supposed to be at a concert her Dad is holding for the kingdom. 

Jasmin doesn’t want to marry and accept the responsibilities of being a princess and so she runs away

Belle dreams of a more exciting life

Overall, girls clearly are not content with their lives, they’re missing something and that something (according to Disney) is a man.

3. They give up everything for the guy, falling back into the patriarchal system (in the name of ‘love’)

Ariel, who’s 16 by the way, becomes human for Eric (She changes species for a guy she saved and doesn’t know and gives up her voice and her family and everything she’s ever known!)

Belle falls in love with a beast – ok it’s wonderful that she was able to look beyond is monstrous looks/personality but really? A beast! And when he transforms she kisses him 2 seconds later.  Is no one else asking – ‘what the hell!?’ You’d think it’d take a little more of an explanation than ‘Belle, it’s me!’ while he looks at her with sparking blue eyes for her to be like ‘Ya, ok awesome.’

Jasmine falls for Aladdin – I actually have no problem with that.  I love this movie and Aladdin is adorable and they have excellent musical chemistry:

But she’s still at the mercy of his manly ability to save her from Jafar. 

4. Then we look at the villains (Jafar is a male – see I love this movie!) and in Beauty and the Beast they’re fighting more against their personal demons…but otherwise it’s woman against woman.

In the Little Mermaid we have Ursula – it seems like all the villains are ugly or not pretty by society’s standards. Maybe this is why they’re evil, perhaps they just want to be accepted (haha let’s pyscho analyze Disney villains – what happened during their childhood…)

Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty is not invited to the baby Aurora’s coronation or whatever it was, and so gets angry

Ursula is ostracized by the other merfolk because she’s different – she’s like some octomaid or squidmaid (she wants power too, which is not allowed for women.  She also wants love – she tried to marry Eric and when Ariel gets Eric to almost kiss her, what does she call her? ‘That little tramp!’…so typical of a jealous female)

5. All these villains are destroyed by men: The evil stepmother is silenced by the Grand Duke, Ursula is stabbed by a  ship captained by Eric, Maleficent is killed by Prince Phillip…

It’s the same story all over again.

Someday my Prince will come

In Portrait of a Lady on December 5, 2010 at 4:20 am

In my popular culture class we’ve discussed the portrayal of women in the media, Disney princesses being a popular topic.  The Early Disney princesses started with Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  These original (Walt Disney) princesses portrayed the way women were supposed to be at that time: quiet, dreamy looking (as in they often had a far away look in their eyes) and obedient (despite their circumstances).

Snow White let her stepmother turned her into a scullery maid even though she was a princess, and she happily went along – dreaming of a prince to save her. 

Start it at 1:53

Cinderella is a servant in her own home but kind despite everything (She’s even friends with mice) because she dreams of a better future.   

Sleeping beauty had to hide out from an evil fairy in the woods, spending her time berry picking and singing songs about someone finding her. 

Luckily for them they’re saved at the end of the film from their lives of drudgery by a prince who they met once and end up falling in love with and marrying.  And the evil older women, who are bitter about something (circumstances, not being beautiful, rejected by society…)  are destroyed.  Who knew that meeting someone once and kissing them constituted love – what kind of message is this anyways? How dangerous is it for girls to think they should fall for the 1st handsome rich guy who kisses them?  Not a very good message if you ask me. 

All these princesses have thick hair and soft thin bodies – they’re the stereotypical Gibson Girl (created by Charles Gibson through artwork to represent the perfect American Girl in the late 1800s).  This woman possessed an hour-glass figure, a dreamy (half awake stare that they often achieved through opium), perfectly coiffed hair, and a flowing gown.

Before the ball Cinderella has a dress made for her by the mice, but her evil step sisters rip this up.  She is then transformed by her fairy Godmother, wearing a diaphanous billowing gown and pulled up hair.  I guess she isn’t able to help herself, she needs the help of magic. 



Gibson Girl

There she is – Miss America/There she is – Our ideal

In Portrait of a Lady on December 5, 2010 at 12:23 am

What is beauty? The definition of this word is quite contested because it’s never the same.  This word holds a lot of power for me and should never be used lightly because it refers to more than outward attractiveness. Beauty is NOT skin deep and I personally think, for the most part, everyone has a quality that makes them beautiful in varying degrees to someone else.  It’s like when you first meet someone, you might think they’re ugly but when you get to know them, somehow they become more attractive – they’re features soften out; their flaws are ignored because they have qualities that distract from that.  In the words of Rita Freedom in Beauty Bound, beauty is “many things – an external radiance, an inner tranquility, a sexual allure, a fact of social exchange.”  Or to Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth, beauty is “biological, sexual, and evolutionary”, “women must want to embody it and men must want to possess women who embody it.”

The pursuit of beauty is the one thing that connects all women, of different classes, regions and ethnic groups (Lois W. Banner). Yet, beauty seems like an unattainable attribute, like happiness or perfection.  Because no one knows the true definition.  They’re all contradictory.  Depending on where you live, your ethnic background, the people who spend time with, what religion you practice…the idea of beauty changes. 

In this paper titled, “The Miss American Pageant: Pluralism, Feminity, and the Cinderella all in one,” Elwood Watson, and Darcy Martin critique the Miss American Pageant from start to now, for its portrayal of feminity.  According to these authors, the pageant is a microcosm of change in the America culture, representing our values and beliefs.  It’s about judging women on their bodies, legitimizing the Cinderella mythology – looks are all you need, and counteracts feminism (the first pageant was held the same year women were allowed to vote in 1920).  In 1968 200 feminists came to the pageant Convention Hall and protested.  They were accused of burning bras, among other antics, which is not true, though they did throw items into a trashcan that they thought suppressed women, including bras. 

There have been a number of changes to the pageant since it’s inception in the 1920s, but it’s basis is basically the same – young, attractive women parade themselves about in the name of…I’m actually not sure: patriotism? Winning a scholarship? Helping others? I don’t know what pageant winners achieve or do afterwards, but they all seem to have the same mannerisms and are experts at applying makeup (when the pageant first started, the contestants weren’t allowed to wear makeup). 

2009 Miss America crowning.  I wonder what her reaction is going to be? Most likely crying and screaming and smiling and waving…let’s take a look

I like how before the contestants come out the commentator says that the bikini show case is about health, fitness and confidence – sure it is.  If it was really about that they could have them go for a run and track what they eat.  We all know it’s about what the audience wants to see and the fact that a woman is a failure unless she’s attractive. 

I like big butts – that’s a lie

In Portrait of a Lady on December 4, 2010 at 10:13 pm

When I first saw this commercial I thought to myself: “Really? A shoe commercial all about butts? Is that what advertising has come to?” And it only features women’s butts of course because we need ‘special shoes’ to make it ‘easier’ for us to have nice asses.  Goodness gracious.  And not one woman’s face is shown throughout the entire thing because they’re faces aren’t important, only their butts and maybe their legs are.  Let’s forget the fact that for the majority of women they will never have legs and butts that look like that because it’s not possible for them.  People have different body types, and yeah, if we work at it – eat healthy and exercise (more than just walking around in expensive shoes), we can be fit but we’re not all going to look the same.  Some of us have fat knees or curvy hips, maybe bigger ankles and chunky thighs…that’s just the way it is.

Go Fresh

In Portrait of a Lady on December 4, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Continuing on with the advertisement theme I thought I’d talk a little bit about body wash and shampoo commercials, probably the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of women in advertisements.  Since I don’t watch TV while at university the latest commercial that I can remember is the Dove go fresh body wash ones, oh, and the Reebok commercials, but I’ll talk about that after this.  Now, considering that body wash is about washing the body, and the majority of products are catered to women (which ties into ideas about beauty and personal care to be discussed later), it seems logical that the commercials would have a woman in them, with her and the wash somehow interacting together.  Here’s an example:

Showering is an intimate personal experience, but with this commercial, we get to watch a public simulation of it, and it makes washing one’s body appear quite enjoyable.  Now I love being clean, it’s a wonderful feeling, but I’m not sure if I shower in the fashion that this commercial portrays.  Watching it I almost want to go out and buy myself some dove body wash – I mean who doesn’t like water and lathered soap and tropical plants all combined to make breathy noises.  And then when I’m done washing I can make a kissing sound and giggle to proclaim my satisfaction with the wash.  I can be both woman and girl, the perfect mix of sexuality and fun. 

Now, each person may have a slightly different perception of these commercials, but for me they present the idea of good clean fun sensuality because there a sense of natural beauty being expressed here.  And since natural is all the rage now, women want to appear natural but beautiful at the same time, though of course the concept of beauty is difficult to determine.  This is portrayed through the camera shots of different sections of the woman’s body and her apparent lack of makeup – getting out of the shower is probably when we’re in our most natural states.  The fleeting shots of the woman’s smiling face and body parts has a sort of teasing affect, while giving me the impression that women can be viewed and analyzed based on their body parts.  And in our culture women often are broken down into parts: butt, boobs, face, legs, stomach, shoulders…you name it, we can deconstruct every aspect of a woman’s body and critique it.  It’s a favorite pastime and women are the most guilty of it.  It is important to have healthy skin and keep it clean and moisturized but females have an obsession with it and these Dove Go Fresh commercials cater to that obsession.  If we don’t have perfect skin, the gender we’ll probably get the most crap is from other females because the society has been able to infiltrate our minds and we now ingurgitate the ideas of beauty we are supposed to possess.  I’m not saying every woman does, or that men aren’t increasingly being objectified and viewed piece by piece, but for women it’s proportionately more.  Ever ask a guy for lotion or chap stick? Well, I have and they get offended by it.  “What, psh, no, why would I have that, I’m not a girl.  You’re the one who should be carry that stuff”, is how they usually respond.  Ok, yes, if I’m in need of something I should carry it myself, but how much of a nuisance would it be to carry lotion around all the time? And there’s no need to get offended.  Jeesh.  What, does winter not give guys chafing hands and chapped lips as well? Or wait; is it manly to have peeling skin and cracked lips?

Some of the other commercials:

Like a cool drink of water

In Portrait of a Lady on November 24, 2010 at 7:05 am

After seeing a Perrier commercial this summer I’ve been wanting to discuss the issue of women in advertising.  Perrier is a French sparkling (carbonated) water company.  I know that all commercials and ads are selling us an idea or an identity and the product is somehow supposed to emulate or bring this about, so it’s hardly ever about what the product actually does.  The Perrier commercial shows a woman, who looks like she’s from the 1950s; wealthy and beautiful, and she takes the Perrier and pours it on her body.  I remember this commercial so distinctly because, well first she was wearing this really pretty dark green corset-type body thing, and whenever I see something like this in movies I wonder if women actually wear such things.  Surely not on a regular basis, because, what in the world would you wear it under? And they seem sort of uncomfortable, but women’s clothing and comfort is another debate entirely.  The second thing is that I couldn’t help but think: ‘What in the world is she doing? How does drinking water have anything to do with seductively pouring it all over your chest you stupid woman!?’  I mean, you’re getting yourself wet and it’s getting all over your carpet, not to mention Perrier is expensive, but hey, you seem to have money so knock you self out.  Of course I know it’s the idea behind the commercial and not the act that matters, but I still can’t help being somewhat bemused by society.  

Therefore, this commercial is telling us that drinking Perrier will allow women to achieve an old Hollywood glamour, becoming enticing and seductive, not to mention rich – and what kind of heterosexual man can resist a drink that portrays that idea?  The setting of her dark bedroom and little furniture gives one the impression that something that maybe shouldn’t be happening is occurring – increasing its appeal because people do have a tendency to enjoy forbidden things – adrenaline, living on the edge, etc.  So drink up men, and pour on women. 

I couldn’t find the actual commercial, but I found this compilation that was made for Perrier, and it’s absolutely bizarre.  It uses the same woman and has the same idea as the short commercial, except this tells more of a story and is that much longer and ridiculous.  Enjoy I guess…and if you get hot, be sure to cool down with a nice glass of Perrier. 

You better watch what you…wear?

In Portrait of a Lady on November 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I finished sort of abruptly with my blog from yesterday because I want to continue along the same theme.  Except today I’m going to delve into the sports that women are allowed to excel in – due to the femininity of them.  Things like figure skating and gymnastics, arguably my two favorite Olympic events to watch (I like track, swimming and beach volleyball as well).  I enjoy watching figure skating and gymnastics because of the immense amount of skill and technique that goes into it.  It’s not just about perseverance and talent, but about aesthetics as well – it’s an artistic sport, like dance, which is probably why they incorporate music and choreography into the mix.  I prefer watching women to men in these two sports because it’s prettier – more aesthetically pleasing to the eye (and being a girl or just someone who enjoys beautiful things that matters to me).  And I’m sure my upbringing has something to do with it, since girls are supposed to like such things, while for men it’s too girly…In gymnastics men don’t do the uneven bars or the balance beam, which are my favorite events to watch, and with them, for both gymnastics and figure skating, I feel as though it has become more about power instead of finesse.  I realize they have a tremendous amount of dexterity but this gets downplayed by the necessity for them hide their so called ‘feminine’ qualities of gracefulness or elegance.  Though there can be beauty in power as well. 

Besides the idea that ‘beautiful’ sports are feminine, what the athletes wear also plays into it.  In beach volleyball, figure skating and gymnastics, the men get to be fully clothed while the women wear some variation of swimwear (for the most part).   In volleyball they have to (it’s a rule) wear a bikini, while guys get to wear tank tops and shorts.  Maybe they’re trying to create a more beach atmosphere but then guys should take off their tops too.  Does clothing on women somehow get in the way? That’s very bizarre. 

This comes back to the idea that women have to be ‘feminine’ or sexual (however you want to look at it) in what they do, and in order to do this they wear less clothing and are more provocative. 

Brazilian women's team

This was the first picture that popped up when I did an image search of beach volleyball, and yes, I’m sure every woman loves having her butt hang out of her swimsuit while she plays, so that the camera can zoom in on her body and the world can see what she looks like.  In reality they probably don’t like it, or maybe they don’t care because they’re more focused on playing the game, but looking at all the images that showed up in the search, society, or the media, seems more preoccupied with their bodies and/or teammate interaction. 

Men's Brazilian Team

Men's Brazilian Team

Here’s the first guy’s picture that came up.  I think there was one other picture of male players out of 3 pages of images, while the majority of the photos consisted of female players (sometimes playing the game, but often not) and cheerleaders.  And look, these guys are fully clothed and playing the game – not hugging, or down in the sand, or handshaking, or showing off their assets…

Gymnastics: Here we have the balance beam – we get to see an amazing routine (that won gold), and then just for fun, they throw in some butt pops and legs lifts. 

For the men, we have the pommel horse.  Just pure strength and agility – and take note of the difference in outfits if you please.

Figure skating: Yu na Kim won the 2010 Olympic gold medal in figure skating – arguably the best one out there for skill, choreography and grace. 

Evan Lysacek won the gold for the U.S. in men’s figure skating, and he’s actually much more graceful than I thought he’d be, but I guess that’s why men who figure skate get a bad rap from other men.  Especially considering his choice in music.  But, he is completely covered in a suit, while Kim was wearing more of a leotard.