Refuse to be Homogenized—Beauty, Bullying and Media "Mean Girls"
Last week I wrote two posts Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks—What Are Writers to Do? and Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?. The first post was my own story of enduring hoards of Mean Girls and bullies in school (I switched schools 18 times).
Many people in the comments seemed perplexed as to WHY bullies acted the way they did and how to handle them. Thus, the second post offered even more tips and my Armchair Neuroscientist explanation as to what FEEDS bullies what they CRAVE (and tips to shut bullies down).
A Culture of Control
Since these two posts, I’ve received hundreds of comments and loads of messages and links shared on Facebook. This prompted me to speak a bit more on this topic. My opinion? I feel we live in a culture of bullies. We see it everywhere.
Yes, Steve Jobs was a genius, yeah, yeah, yeah. But, he was also a legendary nightmare boss and a foaming-at-the-mouth-bully…who will be remembered for all time for being awesome. Marissa Mayer (the current CEO of Yahoo) is well-known for being ruthless and even cruel to the employees, yet she’s rewarded.
The corporate world is rife with bullying (which is often encouraged) and mob mentality rules…and we won’t go there. Not enough room on today’s soap box. And, yes I am speaking out on this issue because things need to change. Look at any major cultural revolution and writers probably started it.
I think that’s probably why coups and dictators shoot us first.
Media Mean Girls
In advertising, I feel we see a subtler form of bullying. As a white female, I am unattractive if I’m not a size 0-2 with flawless 20-year-old skin and giant Angelina Jolie poofy lips. I’ve always been muscular. Right now, I am 158 pounds and a size 6-8 (and buy my jeans at Cabela’s because only gals with guns apparently have curves).
I have 42-inch shoulders and an hourglass shape. I have hips and THIGHS. Yet, try to shop anywhere other than an ethnic store or a hunting store and what I find are rows and rows of Skinny Jeans, Matchstick Jeans, and Toothpick Jeans.
The attractive Size 6-12 woman is the New Media Sasquatch.
The image above is Australian model Robyn Lawley (who is a Size 16, 180 pounds…and 6′ 2″, btw) and the photo is from the Huffington Article Robyn Lawley Is The New Face Of Plus-Size Lingerie Line Boux Avenue (PHOTOS).
I’ve given up on women’s magazines. I tried buying a handful of copies of More? *rolls eyes* This was supposed to be a magazine that catered to women 30 and over. The issues I purchased mostly had pictures of food. Recipes. Diets. Craft projects. Face-scrubbers.
Have a hot 45-year-old in a sexy lingerie ad? Are you nuts?
When women’s magazines have an article about how to do our makeup as we age, do they have a 40-something model? NO. A twenty-something (ok, we can throw in a Hollywood starlet “repaired” with plastic surgery).
I also bought a copy of Women’s Health. As an athletic/curvy woman, I have a hard time finding clothes. I can be 100 pounds and still have a butt and thighs and wide shoulders and big arms (um, look at my wedding picture). So, in this past October’s issue, WH had this feature of dress clothes for the athletic woman. Did they use any of the gorgeous muscular women from their workout routines or ads? Nope. They used six-foot tall toothpicks.
Oh, and they were all super-young because we all know any woman over thirty is a fat slob who lives in sweatpants and wolfs down donuts daily. DUH.
Have We as Consumers Unwittingly Encouraged This?
We’ve allowed Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the fashion industry to tell us that anorexia is healthy and aging women should be hidden. They are at least classy enough not to recommend a burkha. Our culture treats aging like ebola. With all the creams, surgeries, injections and procedures, one might think growing older was a disease. We’ve shamed women about their bodies and faces so they’ll line-up and hand out cash for creams, diets, magazines and surgery.
I’m not quite sure, but I think smile lines might be captured in a tube at the CDC somewhere deep in the belly of the Earth, cached away with smallpox and Spanish Flu.
What this “bullying” has created is a generation of older women who either give up or go to extremes and even plastic surgery addiction (um, Jenna Lee?). Young girls are lining up for breast implants even though their bodies have yet to fully develop. Truly athletic women live in yoga pants because one can’t have muscles and wear Matchstick Jeans.
Oh, but even yoga pants are no longer safe. Lululemon’s CEO blamed the “piling” of their overpriced yoga pants on women’s thighs and bodies (not the quality or lack thereof regarding the product). I’ve been 11% body fat before and my thighs still touched.
*GASP* THE SHAME!
And if we don’t fit the “Hollywood Image”? Angels with plastic surgery skills will step in and help the hideous. Maybe I’m missing something, but when one of my Facebook friends posted this article in Today Health, I wanted to cry: Tormented over their looks? Bullied teens seek free plastic surgery from a NYC nonprofit.
This young teen, first of all, had yet to fully grow into her looks. I was actually kinda goofy-looking when I was her age. When I was her age, I’d also suffered my front teeth knocked out when I was 8 and my nose broken at 10 (so I had a crooked nose and gapped teeth for a time). I never had braces or surgery on my nose. Time allowed me to “grow into my face” so to speak.
This girl was beautiful, but the surgeons benevolently made her “more acceptable.” Boy, I bet the bullies cheered when they could cower someone into slicing up their face for “approval.”
She didn’t have a cleft palate or an extra ear. She had a unique nose.
Why are we allowing this homogenization?
A Jewish nose or Armenian nose or an African nose is just as lovely and far more interesting than a fake Hollywood nose. Sarah Jessica Parker is an actress I respect and admire. She has embraced her lovely and distinctive features and continues to have a great career. On the other hand, Jennifer Grey (from the original Dirty Dancing) gave into the pressure of bullying and traded being a stunning Jewish woman to be a “cute white girl”…and hasn’t really worked since.
Embrace gaps in teeth, different noses, freckles, curves and wild, curly hair. Embrace the naturally super thin gal as well as the gal with curves. There are all different kinds of beauty and we are missing that as a culture.
Refuse to Give in to Bullies
Write to the editors. Stop buying magazines who don’t represent you. Complain to store managers. Refuse to allow cultural bullies to make you a drone. We should not permit bullies to create the agenda or affect our behavior.
And I’m not saying I don’t highlight my hair, use creams to take care of my skin or exercise so I can age well. I stay out of the sun, take loads of vitamins and kale and my Vitamix are my best friends. But where I see the problem is instead of being shown how to look great and age well we’re brainwashed into believing we shouldn’t age at all. I have NO CLUE if I look good for my age. Everyone is Photoshopped or Botoxed. What does a healthy weight even look like?
Granted, I’ve used tools on Pic Monkey to brighten the light, enhance the color of the image, erase smeared mascara/eyeliner, cover a blemish or crop a good picture taken from a bad angle that makes my arm look like it’s the size of a small oak, but I leave my smile lines. I earned them.
I’m not opposed to plastic surgery, creams, botox, etc. so long as our decisions are for healthy reasons. For instance, if I ever start looking like an issue of National Geographic? Breast augmentation might be a consideration :D. But my desire is to be the best darn looking 50 or 60 year-old I can be, not to try and look like I’m 20 (and only end up looking bizarre).
When It Comes to Blogging/Writing
Blog. Write what you want. Wear what you want. Laugh a lot and make some smile lines. Be you. There is only ONE, you know ;). You are precious, unique and one-of-a-kind. There will never in human history be another YOU.
And THAT is super cool.
If you blog, don’t shut down your comments because of fear. Then you are allowing bullies to deprive you of the joy of a wonderful, loving, supportive community. THEY WIN. When their behavior makes us alter our lives, or harms our self-esteems? They score bully-points. Whether they can get us to change our habits (hiding in a library, avoiding the coffee break room), our on-line activity (shutting down comments or taking down a site or profile) or even harass us into needless surgery, THEY WIN.
Regular bullies profit from shaming others because of the high it gives them. Bullies in the form of corporations, advertising, the fashion industry, magazines and surgeons profit from shame with…um, money.
We can be the change we seek.
So many of you make me SO PROUD when you dare to write stories with characters who are different, older, ethnic, overweight, clumsy, etc. You show the light beyond the surface so keep doing it!
What are your thoughts? Have you given up buying clothes? Given up on “women’s” magazines? Do you feel our culture is driven by bullying because it creates insecurity which equals profit? Do you have children and what are you doing to help them feel good about who they are and resist the Drone Deception? Are you tired of all actresses and models looking like they fell off an assembly line? Do you have a hard time finding clothes? Do you write (or enjoy) characters who are different? I, personally, LOVE writing love stories with seniors (two have won awards).
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!