In an age where women’s perception and rights are being stripped away, I am of a generation of women who are reclaiming stereotypes, exposing media hypocrisy and reexamining the media portrayal of women. I do not believe that women have access to their own image or perception in the media, because like so many of our institutions, the media is male-dominated and change is often impossible within the context of such giant institutions. Yet the women of today are standing up to oppression, and like many in the youth movements of today, see the opportunity in online media to network and create social and political change.
A recent example of this is 14-year old Julia Bluhm of Waterville, Maine, who started an online petition on Change.org to insist that Seventeen Magazine stop Photoshop manipulation of models in their magazines. After over 84,000 signatures, Seventeen magazine’s top editor Ann Shoket pledged to leave body shapes alone, reserving Photoshop for minor details. It takes brave young girls like Julia Bluhm to question media portrayals of women and to actively pursue alternatives.
The images of the exaggerated and anorexic women in fashion magazines and advertisements affected me as an adolescent girl. I knew that I could never be as thin as images of the women portrayed in glamour and media. There is no argument that excessively thin portrayals of beauty degrade the female form and are not reflective of healthy or realistic human structure. Manipulated images contribute to eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem. Furthermore, most fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women. I am not saying that thin women aren’t beautiful, but the exclusion of all other the body forms in magazines and other media is unacceptable. Women must take back the portrayal of their own bodies.
I believe that I am opening up a new artistic perception of the female body through my portrayal in photography and dance. For the past three years I have performed as a burlesque dancer in Portland at local venues and have become interested in classic “Pin Up” photography because I want to reinvent images of modern women. As a commercial and artistic model, I have vowed not to let images of myself to be distorted by Photoshop. Photographs of women who are manipulated with Photoshop set an impossibly high standard for the girls who look at them – and give young women an unrealistic idea of what they should compare themselves to.
Girls and women are often naturally self-conscious and I believe that the media warps this awareness into anxiety about unattainable and exaggerated body-types and stereotypes. Rather for girls and women being self conscious, as in loathsome of their bodies or abilities in life, I desire for young women to be “self-conscious” in their actions in public and community life.
I am running for the Portland School Board District #2 seat because I believe that the image of women in media and politics needs to be reexamined, and I would love the opportunity to be more directly involved in Portland civic life. Far more must be done to promote positive body image and a more attainable standard of health and beauty in magazines and other media. I wish to do my little part to encourage a positive self image and to improve the perception of what is feminine in art and public life. If the women of today are willing to expose the hypocrisy of the media and the perception of the feminine, naturally all of this will easily intercept with the political. The desire for equality and the influence of art reflecting politics is essential to all positive change.