Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Body

So the latest news making the rounds in the media (and, no, you no longer have to be addicted to tabloids to get these kinds of news items) is the "cat-fight" between Elle McPherson and Heidi Klum. For those of us, who don't know these women (pictures used without permission from a website called modelsblog - sorry fellas, we be little fish, don't sue us!), they are part of a relatively new breed of creatures called Supermodels. They make tons of money and are considered the epitome of beauty and sexiness.

Well, it turns out that Elle- who is now in her 4th decade on this planet- was once (1986) referred to as The Body by Time magazine. But then as she got older, she stopped modelling as much and now isn't seen as widely. Turn page. Victoria's Secret decides to run some ads in 2006 with Heidi Klum- who is now in her 3rd decade- presenting her as The Body.

Hmm... This story and the brewing dynamics are strange and weirdly off-putting on so many levels that I don't know where to begin. So I'll begin where I left off which was talking about the caricaturizing of femininity and the female ideal.

Firstly, that the female ideal in terms of physical appearance is very narrowly defined. So, the feminine ideal should be a supermodel who is between 5 feet 9 and a half to 6 feet tall, have dimensions ranging between 34-24-34 to 36-25-35 (yes, yes, with a woman those three numbers seem to say it all), should be white (so the fairer you are the better), blondish (depending on the shade in favour at the moment), should have long tresses, should have long limbs, be thin all over except in the chest (thick thighs and a hips are a NO-NO) and just be overall gorgeous and glamorous. That is The Body.

And if you ain't got it, you can try- there's growth hormone therapies to push on "shorties," there's trips to cosmetic surgeons, there's skin lighteners (for those of us not born to minimally pigmented parents), there's dieting and not to mention extreme makeover! What more can a modern woman want- we live in an age that is helpful enough to really lay it all out for us.

Secondly, here are two women in the public eye, battling over the "privilege" of representing the whole of the female human body-type. It might even be a "pseudo" fight in that it does not make much of a difference to Elle or Heidi personally whether they are the holders of the title- but a fight has nevertheless been announced to titillate people and make sure this item gets as much coverage as possible. The fallout of this is that many women, impressionable or not, will be bombarded by these seemingly irrelevant stories about two women vying for something as inane as the title of The Body. But it ain't irrelevant- it is setting standards for THE BODY! This is the benchmark, broadly broadcast, that will help you measure your sexiness at a glance. Hmm...why thanks guys!

Not to mention the fact that it is demeaning to the two women in question (Heidi and Elle) to be battling over a dubious distiinction. And demeaning to all women that we allow society to objectify women to this extent- the emphasis is solely on appearance and nothing else! It is a sorry state we have come to. Do you notice that the female ideal has nothing to do with a woman's ability, intelligence, interests or anything else?

Frank says that to him The Body would always be the original. Jesse Ventura. :P


Saybrook said...

WOW!! do you actually believe the stuff your posting or is it the shock value your looking for? most models are tall but are not real robust in the breast dept. and I believe most people me included are under the impression that super models are drug using food puking insecure women who have choosen a life style that is known to have many pitfalls but to blame men, society, and the world seems extreme. I think the real issue here is educate your children to understand just like superheroes supermodels live in a comic book type world that we can laugh at but never really want to be there...

Radhika said...

Hey Sayb,

I am reading some hostility in your post. I am a bit puzzled because most of the things you say are things I agree with- do I only blame men and society? Read back to this and the previous post more carefully and I think you will find that I am not happy with the way women are allowing themselves to be pigeonholed in terms of beauty. I did say I was not interested in the "supply-side" of who is to blame as that discussion has raged on ad-nauseum. I am saying I am more interested in the demand side- in women sitting up and realizing we don't have to be pigeon-holed.

Second- umm Heidi is one of the most popular supermodels and she does have a bust- if 36 C or D won't cut it as busty - hey I don't know what will! (By the way, so do Adriana, Gisele and Tyra...Yep, I know my models :)

Further the point about them being superheroes who live in comic book type worlds- nope, I don't buy that one. Not when the stakes are this high- I mean The Body. Come on, how many people are seeing this play out and reading into it a judgment of who wins the title is more beautiful overall. I'll tell you- TONS. And guess what, this does affect our perception of a beautiful body and face- you know this and I know this.

And as for educating children AND their moms- well,, that is the whole point here. Totally with you in that we need to separate truth from reality. What we want need not be determined by what is presented by the media constantly.

Would love to engage more in this discussion. I think this is how we can learn from each other.