Or so Calvin Klein opined on HBO’s documentary, “About Face: Supermodels, Then and Now.”
Supermodel, Pat Cleveland, agreed:
I have seen so many girls come and go because they had nothing going on inside.
Maybe that’s why they were supermodels.
Or maybe that’s why they survived being supermodels.
The cover girls had plenty to contend with: the temptation of ego-inflation amid fawning and primping and everyone saying they’re so great because they’re so beautiful. Or, fearing they could never live up to the hype. Anorexia, bulimia… Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll…
The supermodel’s life was full of highs and lows.
Jerry Hall expounded, “Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol. We met all these amazing people. It was about making this whole world that you would enter into.”
Pat Cleveland relished the memory:
I was a liberated woman in those days. I had the pill, I had the clothes, I had the place to go. We didn’t know who we were with. The girls with the boys and the boys with the boys. Just get with the best-looking thing you can find! And there were a lot of good-looking people in the modeling business.
Some people got lost in that….
Drugs, anorexia… AIDS. “AIDS was like a fire that went straight through the heart of the business,” Paulina Porizkova recalled. “Is my friend so thin because she’s smoking too much or partying too much, or is it AIDS?”
In Pat Cleveland’s eyes, “Everyone was dressing in black and they started disappearing and I knew it was the end of a time.”
I’m not sure why the supermodels who show up in “About Face” came out alive and mostly well. But I was struck by how many had created space between “who they are” and “what they projected” in those super images.
Isabella Rossellini remarked that, “I understood it was an image. It wasn’t me.” Paulina Porizkova, Pat Cleveland and China Machado echoed the theme. Kim Alexis came to see that beauty didn’t make her happy – family did. And Carol Alt remained grounded throughout:
At my first job the editor walked in and said, “Who cuts your hair? Your eyebrows look like shit. And you’re too big for our clothes.” But I knew who I was so it didn’t hurt me. After that it changed for me a little bit but I still knew who I was. I’m a fireman’s daughter from Long Island. And that’ll never change.
When Cheryl Tiegs finished college her agent told her that the key to beauty was “always educating yourself. Always learning something new, always doing something new, having something to talk about. And I think that’s how one ages beautifully.”
Pat Cleveland talked of making people appreciate what you’re wearing by being alive in it:
On the runway it’s as though I’m lifting off the ground. I want to hear drums playing and express all that rhythmy feeling in your soul. It’s almost orgasmic.
Dayle Haddon thought other models were more beautiful than she was, so she brought more than what she looked like.
Through a picture I felt like I could communicate. That’s where beauty lies. How do you translate your experiences – good or bad – into something that is meaningful to yourself and to others?
It was hard work, especially in the South. We were in this Greyhound bus and stopped to go to the bathroom and they said, “You black girls can’t go in there,” except for me because I was only 1/8 black so I didn’t look black, but everyone else did. And then these angry guys came toward the bus with sticks and the bus driver says, “We’ve got to get out of here!” but he couldn’t get the bus started to get away, and the men started banging on the bus and tried to turn it over, and it was very frightening.
Others developed an attitude to protect themselves. China Machado exhibited the unique walk she used to look empowered and intimidating: commanding, with arched back, wide gestures, and head held high – in an effort to avoid sexual harassment.
Most interestingly, some could see their beauty only after living, surviving, and gaining self-assurance. Despite Paulina Porizkova’s ravishing youthful looks she only came to see herself as beautiful a couple of years ago. She now says, “The most beautiful thing is confidence.”
Ah, lessons from supermodels. Who knew?
Check out the Diet Coke ad above.
Do you react like these women?
- Aaaah, awesome
- I was like :O when i saw this commercial
- ooh la la! like like like, all I need, no sugar, no calories!
And Coke’s personal favorite:
- Hot damn I need a Coke.
Or like these men?
- Bad commercial, kinda degrading for women…
- kinda sexist, no? Imagine a group of guys rolling the coke can to a hot girl, that then gets splattered with coke on her top and takes it off while they stare… yeah … id wanna see that commercial!
- I feel very violated as a man to be viewed as a slave laboring, sex toy meant for the amusement of females. It’s almost to hard to bear watching this demonstrable evidence of female oppression in our society. I don’t think women would be laughing if this video was the contrary. Women are nothing but misandristic swines. We have to unite my brothers and break this new established misandry system. Wahh
Oh no, do I have to start competing with guys who look like THAT?! (We ladies can relate having had to compete with Brooklyn Decker-types for years.)
I don’t like how he’s demeaned before he’s ogled. (On being demeaned — or being demeaned and ogled — the ladies can relate and commiserate.)
An alternative translation:
Women aren’t the only ones who are objectified! And women like to objectify, too, so quit yer whining!
If so, these guys think this ad is equivalent to what women are pelted with every day. It’s not.
First, sexiness is a part of the human experience. So if either men or women are portrayed as sexy some of the time, no big deal. Our sexuality is a part of our humanity.
The problem comes, in part, from bombardment by an impossible beauty ideal, leaving plenty of women feeling bad about themselves. Guys increasingly face this problem, but not at nearly the same level.
Also, women are almost ALWAYS the sexy ones, and that is the PRIMARY way they are portrayed. The imbalance communicates that women exist to sexually please men. That’s their main purpose, and without reciprocation.
And then women are hurt by men who learn — however unconsciously – to think of women as sexual-pleasure objects. So women may be treated as things and not people. Some men will use and abuse them. Their lovers may only care about their own pleasure and not make emotional connection. Their lovers may treat them like interchangeable objects. They may rudely ogle others while ignoring their partner. Taken to extreme, some men kidnap women for sex slavery, or go to prostitutes who have been kidnapped and enslaved.
Because if women are just objects, no feelings to worry over.
If women and men were BOTH portrayed in multidimensional ways, with one part being “sexy” — and outside of impossible body ideals (variety is the spice of life!) then “sexy” images needn’t be a problem for either gender.
I don’t know one guy who would cut off his cock in the name of cancer-prevention. I wouldn’t!
That’s the DJ blather I had the misfortune of hearing on my morning commute the day Angelina Jolie announced her double mastectomy to prevent cancer.
It made me wonder.
Why would these guys choose their cocks over life?
And boobs are a cock-equivalent?
The male member makes babies and gives pleasure (not necessarily in that order), and eliminates waste. Breasts do just one of the three — and they are not the only route to pleasure. In fact, the clit works better.
And while men love looking at Angie’s boobs, women are less enamored of the male package, or gazing at it, anyway.
And of course, some guys think a bigger cock means a bigger man. (Not true.)
I’m not sure that women see their breasts in quite the same way. Sure, they’re seen as a sign of femininity and some women want bigger ones to feel more womanly. Yet others are secure in their femininity, regardless of size: Keira Knightley, Mila Kunis, Paris Hilton, Kate Middleton and her sister, Pipa, for instance.
And as Angelina now says,
On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.
So what about a man choosing his cock over his life? A male student of mine wrote a piece I will be posting called, “Doing dumb stuff to prove manhood.” Maybe this is an example?
But of course, breasts have been a defining trait of Angelina Jolie – take those away and there’s nothing left if you happen to be a boob-obsessed guy? A kind of death, as far as they are concerned?
Or, if a woman is defined by her boobs and her man-appeal, maybe some dudes are just pissed that a woman would think that her body and her life are for herself and not for them?
Are others just disconcerted? Angie’s hot — even without natural C-cups. How could that be?
Boobs are a big thing, but in one stroke they’ve lost a chunk of cultural power, says Alexandra Bradner at Salon,
She absolutely robbed them of their cultural, symbolic power. And what’s so completely thrilling about this, is that she did it on her own, one single woman — one single decision — against the machine.
Imagine, valuing women for themselves and not for their breasts. For some, that is plenty disconcerting. No wonder there’s a bit of a backlash on the man-o-sphere.
What is virginity? Might seem obvious, but there in no clear answer.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary says sex is “an act performed with another for sexual gratification.” Sounds pretty broad, yet a lot of us think it’s penis-to-vagina penetration that ends virginity.
What about gays and lesbians? What about young women and men who take virginity oaths but do oral and anal? What if a woman’s one and only lover were a man with E.D.? (That can happen!)
I spent about a week (at Harvard’s medical school library) looking through everything I could – medical dictionaries, encyclopedias, anatomies – trying to find some sort of diagnostic standard for virginity… I am not finding anything close to a medical definition for virginity.
Feminist author and blogger, Jessica Valenti, points all this out in her book, The Virginity Myth. And when she asked people to define “sex” she got no consistent answer. Indeed, America once had a great debate over whether Bill Clinton “had sex” with “that woman, Monica Lewinsky.” He said oral didn’t count. Others said it did.
Odd that there’s no clear meaning when we’ve talked of virgins since ancient times, when so many keep promoting it, and when virginity becomes a synonym for girls who are “good,” as in, “She’s a good girl.”
Even if she is both mean and virginal, she’s a good girl, Valenti points out.
But if she’s kind and non-virginal, she may be punished for her supposed badness — even when she has no control.
In some parts of the world girls and women are murdered in honor killings because they were raped or because they did not bleed on the marriage bed — and hymens may be broken from things that don’t even resemble sex, like exercise.
Even when girls aren’t being killed they may feel shamed for their lost virginity. Elizabeth Smart has explained that she “felt so dirty and so filthy” when her captor raped her that she understands why someone wouldn’t run away “because of that alone.”
As a young girl one of Elizabeth’s teachers had compared sex to chewing gum:
I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.” And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value… Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.
And then there are sexually naive but slut-shamed 11-year-olds who have no idea what “ate me out” means even as they’re accused of having been thusly eaten.
So women are shamed and killed and feel so dirty that there’s no point in escaping a ruthless captor – all because of virginity, or the lack thereof — even when “virginity” is unclear!
Virginity: a myth that can kill and cripple, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
One of my students wrote this and gave permission to post.
Miss Universe can pose for Playboy, but she’d better not have sex with an actual playboy.
Sexual girls may be “sluts” and “ho’s” but all girls are bombarded by sexy-women images — that tell them what they’re supposed to look like. Combined with a high school hierarchy based on looks, the message gets thru that a woman’s worth rests largely upon her ability to attract.
Some seek confirmation that they are, indeed sexy, and therefore, “worthy” by drawing the male gaze.
Walking down the street a young woman meets male approval. Or, she may try sexting. All for his pleasure and her self-esteem.
Some have sex with men, hoping to feel beautiful. But a young woman who tries that is back to being a bad girl because now she’s sexual. Except that she’s not. She’s being sexy for someone else’s pleasure — a sex object who doesn’t enjoy sex – even as she enjoys looking good.
Kerry Cohen, psychotherapist and author of Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity says,
The problem is not necessarily that girls are victims of predatory males. It’s that they are victims of very narrow definitions of sexual desirability. And in the course of confirming their desirability – and hence their worthiness – they end up completely removed from their own sexuality and experience of sexual desire.
So how can young women get in touch with their sexuality on their own terms? Dr. Cohen has some suggestions:
1. Talk about Desire. When girls ask parents how they will know they are ready to have sex, desire rarely comes up:
We tell them that sex will get in the way of their happiness and growth. We tell them they must be in love. We tell them that good sex happens only when you are in love… (We must acknowledge) that girls have sexual desire, and everything can change.
2. Talk about Outercourse. Think second and third base, she says, or phone sex, so that young women can explore and test intimacy and communicate with their partners. Plus, women get more orgasms through outercourse than intercourse, anyway.
3. Talk about Masturbation. Women need to get in touch with their own bodily pleasure. It’s hard to know what you like, or communicate what you like, unless you get know your body and how it responds.
4. Talk about Emotions. Sex and sexual feelings are too often removed from emotions in our society, says Cohen, even though they are entwined. Young people need to think about various types of sexual acts and whether they are interested in them, or even prepared for them.
It’s about time more women enjoyed sexual pleasure instead of just being sexy for someone else’s.
“There’s a huge amount of online activity devoted to cultivating horrific impulses toward women,” says former sex-crimes prosecutor, Jane Manning.
For instance, while Facebook prohibits content that is hateful, threatening or incites violence, rape didn’t count until recently. It took a massive campaign to stop pages with titles like “You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alleyway.”
Or, an upskirt picture of a woman lying face down on the floor was recently posted on Facebook. It got comments like these:
- Id wake her up the HARD WAY and later say it wasn’t me
- She also would have woke up feeling sticky and used!
- Whuts da ho’ doin on da flo’ ?
- An found a used codom in side of her
- any man worth his salt would fuk it now
On Facebook it was easy to see who had viciously mocked the victim. Among them:
- Men who like science, yoga, Buddhism, classical music and the local church
- A supporter of a charity that campaigns against violence
- A husband who works with a Christian Ministry
- Fathers who seek support for special needs kids, campaign against animal cruelty, are proud of their daughters, and who want to be there for their children
Or, there’s Gilberto Valle, a New York cop who favored sites filled with men chatting about raping and torturing women, and even roasting and eating them. His wife, who knows him best, called the cops and flew to Nevada to escape him. She was one of his prospective victims.
Defenders say, “lighten up!”
What happens when we do?
It may well train women to accept both their diminishment and their submission. And it seems to make men more callous to women’s abuse. Others like Officer Valle, who had a plan to kidnap, torture and eat young women, are incited to violence. Around one in five American women have been victims of rape or battering.
Should we lighten up?
At age eleven Emily Lindin was declared a slut and “harassed incessantly at school, after school, and online,” she says.
A diary entry:
Aaron said he had heard that Zach “ate me out.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I said it wasn’t true, just to be on the safe side.
Fifteen years later she recalls:
I have a very painful memory of watching an instant message window pop up from an account called DieEmilyLindin and reading the message: “Why haven’t you killed yourself yet, you stupid slut?”
I’ve been thinking about this amidst an onslaught of tragedies like these:
- Fifteen-year-old Felicia Garcia of Stanton Island had sex with four football players, which was recorded and shared around her school. Two players began tormenting her and others joined in. Felicia jumped in front of a Staten Island train.
- Four boys assaulted seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia, labeled her a “slut” and shared a photo online. Then, the whole school started harassing her. Rehtaeh hung herself.
- Fourteen-year-old Samantha Kelly also hung herself, unable to withstand the taunting and harassment that followed a police report of her rape.
I’ve often wished that an “It Gets Better” project could help girls like them make it through and go on to live fulfilling lives.
Others’ opinions can have a big impact on how we see ourselves. Our personal identities can seem merely “subjective,” but when many others agree that we are “X” — for good or for ill — it can seem “objective.”
Still, each of us has more knowledge about ourselves than anyone else. And we can consider the motives behind the labeling. Kids who bully are trying to raise themselves up by putting others down. If they really thought they were so great, they wouldn’t have to make so much effort.
Luckily, it does get better because people grow up, mature and become more secure.
And, the ex-bullied may become stronger, more empathetic and deepened.
In the meantime, maybe Emily’s blog will help others to know that they’ve got support… and that it gets better.
As you drive to work you see billboards with scantily clad men drawing your attention to products that they gracefully caress. Other men bend over in ways that make you want sex with them. In some ads women lord it over submissive men.
You arrive at your ad agency, and as Creative Director you take a look at new ideas your copywriters have brought:
2) The silhouette of a man with a beer body and a foam head appears. Copy reads, “You never forget your first guy.”
3) Two women surgeons sit near a male patient who is sprawled over an operating table, dressed in just a thong. A scalpel “knife’s” his body in an ad for a TV show called “Nip Tuck.”
4) A man didn’t make coffee right so his wife spanks him.
In this world women are the dominant sex consumers who expect men to “turn them on,” passively open to them, and submit to them — sexually and otherwise. And if they don’t behave, the men will be punished.
Here’s a video on how such a world would look:
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- Julian Adair
That’s from Julian Adair, dancer, choreographer and photographer.
Her words remind me of Professor Joseph Campbell’s call to “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” I first heard this when I was newly graduated from business management and looking ahead to a life that wasn’t “me.” Armed with a practical degree, I took a U-turn, earning a Ph.D. in sociology. That leap into bliss has brought me both joy and achievement. Bliss-following has also worked for Ms. Adair and the many artists highligted in a new book called Les Femmes Folles.
Artists like Laura Burhenn, front-woman of the Mynabirds, Jamie Pressnall of Tilly & The Wall, ground-breaking poet and author, Marilyn Coffey, the multi-published author, Kathleen Rooney, the award winning playwright Robin Rice Lichtig, award winning filmmaker Kat Candler, fashion designer, Kate Walz and contemporary artist Alexandra Grant reflect on how feminism impacts their art and their lives.
Brooke Hudson is an event/fashion show producer who won’t let stereotypes, or anything else, block her way:
I embrace feminism as an ideology that all women should have the choice and freedom to pursue their best life… whether that be a doctor, lawyer, pageant contestant, fire fighter, accountant, entrepreneur, stay-at-home mom…
I’m keenly aware that being petite and blonde with a high-pitched voice working in fashion, with a pageant or two on my record, doesn’t necessarily add up to the image of someone who would be taken seriously in business. I could have let that notion turn into a fear that would hold me back from facing an opportunity that I’m well-suited for.
I realized that fear represented the very stereotypes the feminist movement had worked so very hard to dispel… the most important thing I’ve learned in that experience is that to be respected by others, we must first respect ourselves.
Artist, Jacqueline Bequette also knows that there is strength and support in numbers and that feminism can move us beyond the insecurities and resulting isolation and back-biting that breaks people apart and weakens them:
I want to do away with the competition model of relationships among women. We isolate each other when we see each other as a threat via attractiveness, status, having it all, etc. Comparison kills community.
And in fact, Les Femmes Folles emerged as a Nebraska community of women artists helped to buttress each other.
Les Femmes Folles is a beautifully illustrated introduction to feminist artists who are creating community, breaking through limitations and following their bliss.
You just got out of a messy, abusive relationship with a guy who doesn't understand you, never took the time to service your needs, and was emotionally unavailable. You are working your way back into the dating world and you may not know it, but you may be in a very dangerous scenario.
You are prey. I am a predator. I know you are hurting and vulnerable.