It was only over the Christmas break that I was saying to Mum that I am not sure what type of mag Marie Claire wants to be. Part hard hitting articles about terrorism, abuse against women and female circumcision. Part unaffordable fashion. And part tabloid trash – what does your sex fantasy mean?, what’s it like to follow Gwynneth’s diet? And putting the winner of Miss Universe on its cover to make women feel good about themselves.
After the media ho-ha last week, I had mixed feelings about the pictures and intentions of Marie Claire and Jennifer Hawkins. Jen’s beautiful, and I admire her body a lot, but I’m not sure whether the intentions of Marie Claire were to genuinely raise body image awareness and money for the Butterfly Foundation, or simply to sell more magazines.
On the 7 PM Project, Jackie Frank, Marie Claire’s editor, said that she is unapologetic about wanting to sell more magazines. She also said that she’d never put a person with an unhealthy body on the cover of the magazine.
Debate has arisen about the merits of a ‘real woman’. Is she thin and athletic and beautiful like Jennifer Hawkins? Or is she more like the women you know? Why should this matter?
I don’t entirely agree with the media and public criticising Jennifer’s decision to strip off. She claims she was doing it to support charity, and is embarrassed by the way the media and public have taken off with it. I don’t think she should be persecuted for being beautiful and having a healthy body image. But I also think the magazine should have taken more responsibility in how they drew attention to healthy body image. Do we need a supermodel to promote this?
Clem Bastow said there are more important things to worry about than defining one’s self by our body shape. I agree, though I think it is important to instil positive body image and confidence in everyone from an early age. I am not sure of the best way to do this, but I don't think a picture of a supermodel will help someone who is suffering from an eating disorder recover.
Lisa Pryor from the Sydney Morning Herald also states that the intentions to make average women feel good about themselves through using a nude supermodel on the magazine’s cover failed. There is such an emphasis placed on body size and shape. But I don’t think there’s enough emphasis placed on body diversity. As in multiculturalism. Illness. Disability.
It saddens me when a role model is defined as a clothes model. I hope when I have a daughter, her role models are those who are truly making a difference in the world. Trisha Broadbridge. Moira Kelly. Dr Fiona Wood. Sophie Delizio. They are true role models.
Another issue raised by Marie Claire was that of the photos being ‘un-retouched’. Now, that term seems like a tautology to me. Could they have used ‘non airbrushed’?
I understand we are seeing Jen in her natural form, without the aid of computer generated enhancements. But we see hundreds of people on the street every day who haven’t been airbrushed. Heavily made up and some fake body parts, tans and hair, yes. But media and celebrities insist audiences see celebrities in their most perfect, unnatural form. As though it’s a crime to appear natural.
Is this where the fixation for perfect looking bodies comes from? For people to have fake tans, fake nails, fake teeth, fake hair? Because this is a physical way of being airbrushed? Because looking beautiful is more important than being a nice person?
It hardly seems like a great feat for Jennifer Hawkins, bikini and lingerie model, to strip down to nothing. She admits to having flaws, but these seem minimal – a crease on her stomach, some uneven skin tones and some cellulite on her thighs. Beautiful, nonetheless. I did notice a large dark mole on her back which made me hope she has that checked out by a dermatologist.
It would be a bigger feat for someone who’s not a model or not in the public eye to strip down to nothing.
But what does it prove?
To me it proves that image is important. That beauty is clear skin, a lean, toned body and flowing hair.
That we measure a person’s worth on their image. If they are good looking, they are worth a lot. If they are not good looking or don’t conform to a model’s physique, their worth declines.
Of course, I am an admirer of beautiful people. I can gaze at flawless skin for hours, admiring the glow and texture and smoothness. Not I’m not creepy, but maybe I admire flawless skin because mine’s not and will never be. I also look at good looking men. Perve, if that's a more appropriate word.
Like these two.
But I am a firm believer that one’s worth, and beauty, is more than their looks. It’s their intelligence. Wit. Compassion. Creativity.
It’s time we move on from placing beautiful looking people up on a pedestal.
I leave you with a link to this article from The Age by Jacqui Bunting (my name is mentioned in it!). It was from around the time when the Fox FM Real Beauty Search took place. The one I entered. It was a beauty competition for people with disabilities and body differences. It really showed that beauty wasn't just being an airbrushed supermodel. It asked the reader to 'reassess our shallow concept of beauty'.