Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Glamour and the Famine Mystique

I have seen monumental suffering housed in women's bodies. I have seen teenage girls watch their mothers starve, deny and hate themselves, call their distorted ideas about food "will power." I have seen these mothers teach this language to their daughters, usually unintentionally. I have seen vomit in toilets across America. . . I have seen the smartest college students in the world spend the majority of their days thinking about calories. I have seen shame, loads and loads of it, piled so high that women climb on top and reign there.

-Courtney E. Martin, The Famine Mystique

GlamourGlamour plays a pretentious role in the famine mystique. At first glance, the website displays perpetuations of the mystique by including the most important features in the navigation links: fashion; beauty; sex, love & life; weddings; health & fitness; body by Glamour. None of these words actually signify the quest for true depth and meaning in womanhood. The title of the publication, Glamour, stands next to words like allurement, animal magnetism, beauty, and attraction.

Innately, humans strive for betterment. As Martin noted, media have defined “betterment” in such unrealistic terms that “you feel bad.”  Glamour is no exception. Some of the headlines read “Model Beauty Tricks We All Should Know” and “50 Most Glamorous Women of 2010.” These headlines might support a woman’s notion that she isn’t up to speed on her image if she doesn’t know some beauty tricks and stars. Furthermore, blog headlines like “For $2,000, These Jeans Better Lose Five Pounds For Me” only relate the fact that thinness should be highly important as it seems to be the main purpose for spending $2,000 on a pair of jeans.

But how does Glamour actually make one feel bad? And, is feeling bad necessarily a bad thing? Scripture passages can definitely make one feel bad, especially if one isn’t living up to the standard. Quoting “love one another” after being cut-off by a crazy driver doesn’t always calm the nerves. Motivational books can also make people feel bad if they aren’t following the positive principles contained therein.

However, feeling bad is necessary for one to change. That’s why your conscience is so good at it—as well as media and advertising. If you feel bad about your image, you might try a new diet pill or go to the gym. You also might pick up a copy of Glamour, hoping to find the latest tips to make yourself become more attractive. Advertisers love to make people feel bad in hopes of increased sales.

But if feeling bad is a natural motive for change, why does Martin condemn magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan? Perhaps, it is the end result rather than the means that scares her. Martin claims, as do many social scientists, that Bulimia and Anorexia Nervosa stem from media’s portrayal of beauty and attractiveness. The unrealistic expectations that women set out to achieve become unattainable and consequently, women begin to hate themselves even more. Self-hatred and subsequent eating disorders of more than 7 million women are not the most lovely outcomes of image-loving media. Unfortunately, Glamour editors and board members don’t think about the larger consequences of the material they publish. Rather, they hope to garner larger readership and increased advertising revenue.

I don’t mean to intentionally put a plug for Christianity, but I’m grateful to believe that perfection isn’t acquired by our personal efforts. A God who motivates change but never really offers the attainment of perfection is no God of mine. As life will teach us, we cannot achieve perfection in any form whether that’s personal righteousness or outward beauty. America’s top model, won’t be at the top next year and Angelina Jolie will eventually grow old and wrinkly. But, fortunately, the Christ who said, “Be ye therefore perfect,” also said, “Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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