In today’s culture, there is no hiding from the idea that women need to look a certain way, in order to fit into the status quo that feminism puts into place. Whether the idea of what a perfect bride must look like, or what one must do in order to grab the attention of a man, there is a clear struggle to find a balance between feminist and post feminist ideas. Shockingly, looking at the ideals that a postfeminist culture constitutes, one must wonder if anything has truly changed, when analyzing the “empowerment” supposedly given to women to make their own decisions.
In the past, women were thought to have dressed and looked a certain way in order to please the male. In this post feministic culture, the big thing that has “changed” is that women are now empowered, but according to Gill, the idea that women maintain a pristine image just for their own self-satisfaction can be questioned. “…this pendulum shift to the notion that women just ‘please themselves’ will not do as substitute. It presents women as entirely free agents and cannot explain why—if women are just pleasing themselves and following their own autonomously generated desires—the resulting valued ‘look’ is so similar—hairless body, slim waist, firm buttocks, etc” (Gill 154). If women have so much power in this post feministic culture, then why are they going to such extremes mimic the male approved image?
In shows such as Bridalplasty, women compete in challenges for the chance to win plastic surgery that they feel they ‘need’ in order to become the perfect bride. The women feel that if they get the surgeries, then all of their problems will be solved. But, “As Helen Wood and Beverly Skeggs (2004) have argued, the ubiquity of such shows produce ‘new ethical selves’ in which particular forms of modernized and upgraded selfhood are presented as solutions to the dilemmas of contemporary life” (Gill 156). This idea goes along with the makeover paradigm, which “requires people (predominantly women) to believe, first, that they or their life is lacking or flawed in someway” (Gill 156). If we are in a post feministic culture, which supposedly gives women empowerment over their own bodies, then why are women going to such extremes to change the almost unnoticeable flaws that prohibit them from becoming that idea of perfect? Also, do the women forget to take into account that looks are not something that can define happiness. These women don’t realize that they are just playing into the idea of what a perfect bride must look like. Instead of gaining power by going against the status quo, they are in fact strengthening the idea that women must be ‘perfect’ in order to find love. As much as the women in the show explain that the reason they decided to go on the show was to make their own selves happy, there is a clear underlying reason for doing so.
What these women don’t realize is that there is more that goes into being an empowered female. Their work and accomplishments shape who they are just as much, if not more, than what they look like. Instead of women worrying about what they look like, they should be more worried about how they are being portrayed not only in life, but in media. According to Douglas, “media have been giving us, then, are little more than fantasies of power” (Douglas 5). Media makes women think that we have been gaining power in the workforce, along with a more serious image… but are we?
In the image above, 2012 Vice President Elect Sarah Palin, is being shown in a more sexual light. Although some people would feel that it is a big deal for a woman to be chosen to hold the place of Vice President, the way she is being portrayed is taking away from the seriousness of holding office. She is being photographed in a more sexual way, with her legs showing while she is casually leaning against the American Flag. Although this image was used in Newsweek, it is clear that she is not being taken seriously. Maybe this image could be a promo for a new television serious about a beautiful woman who takes power by using her good looks, but not in the presidential election. You would never see a man who is running for such a high position, wearing casual workout clothes and showing off his bare, tanned legs. This image feeds into the unequal distribution of power for women in jobs that is male dominated. She is playing into the idea that in order for women to get somewhere in life, they must first objectify and sexualize themselves.
Feminism is no where close to being over. We live in a culture that puts too much emphasis on the female body, rather than the female mind. We think of our self worth as nothing more than how we look, or how much we weigh. Postfeminism is all about women empowerment. We need to take control of our own futures and make our own decisions. Woman have some power to take back, and its time to “hit like a girl!’
“Bridalplasty – Nose Pains.” YouTube. YouTube, 09 Dec. 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUsOOmAtGRk>.
Gill, R. “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 10. (2007): 147-66. Print.
Shores, Nadine. “Extreme Beauty Measures.” – Body Image. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2013 <http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art26717.asp>.
“Tennessee Guerilla Women.” : The Men That Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton Have in Common (Video). N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. <http://guerillawomentn.blogspot.com/2009/11/men-that-sarah-palin-and-hillary.html>.
Douglas, Susan J. Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work Is Done. New York: Times, 2010. Print.