Open any glossy magazine aimed towards young women and, within a few pages, you will be able to detect a recurrent theme. ‘Are you good enough? Are you? Are you really?’ It screams the message from pages plastered with images so digitally enhanced and altered that the female models almost seem to be a specially evolved minority of the human race – A collection of humans who have adapted so radically that pores are non-existent and skin all over is taut as a drum.
It isn’t even just the images; there are far more obvious connotations within the text. One article I came across recently was entitled – ‘9 ways confident women are better at relationships than you.’ Excuse me? Does this imply that I’m not confident? Does this suggest that there is a breed of superior women out there who are dripping with so much confidence that I could not possibly be considered in the same league as them? The article does seem to suggest that, as a ‘normal’ 21 year old magazine reader, I could not possibly have the confidence to conduct a successful relationship (Unless I follow their 9 tips, of course. Then I might be in with a chance.) The list of confidence-related relationship rules seem to be intended to boost ego and improve self-worth, consequently making the reader more likely to pursue a healthy and secure relationship. I couldn’t help but feel, though, that this was just masking the underlying snipe – That you couldn’t possibly be deemed a confident woman unless you adhered to these rules. Because ‘confident women’ (we are not included in this category) are apparently better at relationships than us. The very fact that the said article assumed potential readers could not be graced with the title ‘confident’ suggests that they are very aware of the effects of their own content.
I, like many young women my age, am a consumer. I consume the media, whether consciously or subconsciously, and only stop to question its impact once it has already affected me. We lap it up like a luscious cocktail – It tastes so good, it feels like it makes us sparky, more interesting, more knowledgeable. It makes us sick. Too much of it and the intoxicating flavor of fashion, of beauty, of are you really good enough, poisons us. We continue to drink though, because the fountain of pretty things is far too delicious to give up and, lets face it, even if we wanted to it would be difficult to get the taste out of our mouths…The media is everywhere to the point that we are force-fed it from birth to death. Maybe cocktail is too kind an analogy. A drip is more accurate – Steadily seeping into our veins as we naively become more and more susceptible to its influences.
The thing with the media, their portrayal of women especially is often shown at extreme ends of the scale. The images presented either radiate otherworldly (Photoshopped) beauty, or highlight imperfections and relentlessly zoom in to faults. Harsh red rings circle absolutely unacceptable human features like cellulite on the legs, despite the scientific fact that around 90% of women will have cellulite somewhere on their body at some point in their lives. 90%. We are directed towards bikini photos of celebrities and asked to take note of a part of them which is almost as common as having eyes, or a mouth, or a nose. Whilst many forms of media do this under the guise of persuading us to ‘See, the celebs are normal, they have cellulite just like ‘normal’ women do,’ I believe that this undermines our intellectual capabilities. By pointing out the obvious, that the celebrities they either choose to target or airbrush can have cellulite too, there is an implication that cellulite is entirely not normal, because if it were there certainly wouldn’t be any need to place a thick red identifying ring around it. It’s almost as condescending as circling all celebrity faces and stating ‘they have facial features too, they’re just like the rest of you, see?’ Perhaps they are trying to persuade the 10% of women who don’t have cellulite – In that case, they are targeting a rather niche market.
Despite my complaints, which would seem to suggest I am a media-hating activist who burns glossy magazines on sight and refuses to turn on the TV because god forbid I should have to watch one more woman swish her luxurious shiny locks while screaming an orgasmic ‘YES!’, I digest the media like everybody else. I study the intricate masterpieces of faces which have been digitally enhanced and wonder how I myself can achieve such perfection. I buy into miracle products and expensive makeup and so on, because it was stated somewhere that it is an A Lister’s staple beauty product, or advertised alongside the seductive images of a beautiful woman, and I want a piece of it. Just a small shred of that unachievable , glamorous glossiness, promised to us time and time again. We flock like pigeons to the breadcrumbs they throw us, anything to devour a little of what makes the swans feathers gleam so well.
I question my choices now. Would I look the way I look if I hadn’t grown up readily consuming any media image flashed at me from a bus, from the front of a CD album? Would I have made the same choices as I have to date – To have long blonde hair which is frankly quite unmanageable and time-consuming, but looks nice curled. To have invested hundreds of pounds on fake tan because my natural skin color looks nothing like how any of the skins look when printed on the sheen of a magazines front cover. To care about leaving the house looking less-than-put-together, because if the celebrities are ridiculed for walking their dogs with unwashed hair, surely it can’t be considered the norm?
It was one said that ‘Even the girl in the magazine doesn’t look like the girl in the magazine.’ This is one of the truest statements said of the media that I have ever heard. Question everything. I did not realize how big of an impact the media has had on some of my choices until I really considered and picked apart each one of them. Question why they are presenting to us the images they do, and how we react to them. The media persistently dispenses the same question towards the audience – Are you really good enough? If they can ask us this time and time again then surely we are worthy of asking some questions of our own.