(Before I get going, I would like to offer Huff Post Live a shout-out for having mutliple on-screen women who are not thin.. I’m frankly stunned. I’m assuming that their HPL folks actually get paid for their work, unlike many/most of the content providers for Huff Post–but that’s another discussion about the ethics of the net, labor, and content creation in the digital age.)
It seems like pretty much every day there’s a piece on Facebook–usually either from Huff Post or Upworthy–about how the beauty industry is not merely preaching the doctrine of THINTHINTHINNER as the standard for beauty and female worth. There’ve been posts of one or another of Dove’s rather interesting ad series that at least makes pretty clear and intelligent arguments against a single standard for female worth (I’m always a little weirded out by Big Corporate going ethical, but willing to take whatever we can get by way of positive messaging for girls and women), or some interesting bit about how a more or less normal woman can be photoshopped into Barbie-hood. And today a Huff Post story about how magazines are now routinely photoshopping models and actresses to cover up the hollow eyes and protruding bones that the industry itself has declared necessary. Weirder and weirder.
Aside from the fact this leaves an increasingly tiny proportion of women who can, without the plasticization/fantasticization of photoshop, meet the industry’s standards for marketable beauty (got to be well below 1%), there is the massive irony involved in watching an industry tie itself in such knots to simultaneously create culture and then cover that culture’s effects over. But then, that sort of behavior is pretty high on the list of Stupid Human Tricks–the creation of false scarcities in order to both force profit margins high and create a sense of massive discontent/inadequacy in the majority of the populace. Diamonds are one glaring example. At least they’re genuinely pretty…though I can’t say that I have ever felt the lack of them in my life.
But it is interesting that there is all this social-media blowback. The fatosphere has apparently begun to make headway. Even there, there’s been evolution–it used to be fine to be mean there about thin people, but the etiquette has shifted and the current discourse seems to be leaning toward “don’t hate anyone,” which is awfully nice,
Of course, plus-size models are, according to something I read recently, getting smaller and smaller. Not surprising, if depressing–I have always wondered where they were finding all those size 20 women with flat stomachs anyway, so I’ve never been sure that even the plus-size women I was seeing in catalogs were completely real. There are worse things to do with your life than have a tummy tuck so you can make a living as a model, or maybe they actually are some sort of miracle of genetics and luck.
So, as usual with Culture, it’s all contradiction, tangled and sometimes brutal irony, steps forward, steps backward, and the corrosive Tabasco sauce of Capitalism. I will, just for the moment, opt for hanging onto Martin Luther King’s belief that the arc of history bends toward justice (or decency, or morality, or The Good), even if there are a great many battered hearts and bodies along that arc. So I’m going to be cheered by the fact that I keep seeing social media call the beauty industry out on its crap.
That’s instead of being depressed by the fact I recently found out that Nicola Tesla had a phobia about, or profound loathing of, overweight people. He also sent his secretaries home if he didn’t like their dresses and claimed that the great love of his life was a white pigeon…