Woman, Not the Sum of Flawed Parts

By Linda Bakke

Star Magazine. Full of faces covered by question marks, bodies sliced up. Women diminished to the details of their flaws, circled in bold. A dissection of celebrities’ body parts.

I was working as a receptionist at a hair salon when I discovered Star. I picked it up and paged through. It was awful. I could not put it down.

One article divulged a star’s “hairy secret,” detailing the frequency of her waxing regimen and suggesting her pubic area was overly hairy. A two page spread highlighted shameful “sausage fingers.” Another asked who had the worst toes.

It all oddly evoked the serial killers who keep articles – or worse, dismembered body parts – as trophies.

And what is the triumph here? A sensed superiority over the goddess’ faults as we lie in judgment?

And who can blame us? Their supposedly error-free bodies stress us out! Destroying them and their presumed perfection just might lift our spirits.

But maybe scrutinizing them only returns scrutiny to us, as the judgments tell us we must correct our own “blemishes,” whether buttocks, breasts, fingers or toes.

The message: women’s imperfections cannot be tolerated.

As we eat it up, we fail to see how we become victims, too, unconsciously nodding agreement that this treatment of women is acceptable.

While the pictures and text underline our preoccupation with facade over character, men’s bodily foibles are untouched by these tabloids. Who can imagine placing a man in such light?

Hopefully one day we will take on realistic and healthy expectations so that women will no longer be seen as the sum of flawed parts.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 5, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think this whole judgment era plays into how competitive women feel. We end up authoring our own tabloid article in our head when we see women we feel “threatened” by. Not just the women we feel threatened by, actually, but all women. I’ve been around groups of women that even tear down the shy girl who is not dressed outlandishly and keeps to herself. It seems that all women are fair game to be dissected by other women. Apparently it makes us “feel better about ourselves”, at least that’s what I’ve heard. These magazine articles are at the core of this way of thinking. When you begin picking at a woman’s “flaws”, especially celebrity women who are supposed to be the ideal, you end up judging everyone you see including yourself. And the flaws these magazines talk about are so arbitrary and ridiculous. We need to look and read everything with a skeptic lens.

  2. This article is so true, women’s flaws cannot be tolerated! We look at these stars as perfect but at the same time we pick at them until we find such things we call “flaws”. I think a reason that this is done is to show that your not perfect (no one is) leading you to be judged and picked at only to lower your self esteem. Which pushes women even more to seek the perfection that we should have, creating more eating disorders and such. Nothing positive comes from these magazines. It just makes us women feel worse about ourselves when we see these stars being judged in which we thought were the closest to perfect, making us even more unhappy with our selves because if these stars aren’t good enough then we are no where near close to the idolistic women that will never exist. Stars is a waiste of paper to be honest because all it does is talk about things that just shouldn’t matter, like who’s boobs are sagging and who hasn’t waxed and their problem. We get nothing positive from these magazines yet we still seek to buy them leading me to my second theory of why these magazines are created. Maybe they are a way to help us women see that even these gorgeous stars have flaws too and it reminds us that we are all human and maybe makes us feel more like them. For say we think of it as ” oh I knew she wasn’t perfect I do that and such”. I guess over all stars magazine can be either a positive or a negative one, but in my opinion it is just a waiste!

  3. It really surprises me how normal women buying these magazines seem to not understand how messed up it is that 1) this dissection of women happens, and 2) that they’re willingly supporting it! It seems like in the face of authority (whomever is choosing to publish those articles) and the status quo (the fact that reading this rubbish is considered normal), stereotypically “empathetic” females seem to completely forget what it is to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. On top of this, I feel that women engaging in this behavior encourages men to think that it’s acceptable for them to criticize women as well. I’ll never forget how my sister told me one time about a scene she’d witnessed in downtown San Jose on a weekend night… A woman said to a man, “I’m top-notch; I’m a 10!” The man replied, “No, you’re not – your lips ain’t bangin’ and your eyelashes ain’t long enough.” It was a sad day as I realized that the magic of a woman’s beauty has been disempowered by the cold and scrutinizing eyes of competition and ego.

  4. I find it disgusting how magazines are allowed to publish such scrutiny of celebrities, especially women. Unfortunately, this is not old news to society. According to module 3, “The Construction of the Body,” women’s appearance and the standards of beauty have been controlled by society even back since the 1960’s. During that time, there was a famous myth that women “publicly threw their bras into a trashcan” to protest against societies callous ideals of true beauty. I agree with this author’s statement, “… we fail to see how we become victims, too, unconsciously nodding agreement that this treatment of women is acceptable.” When women and even young teenage girls who are constantly being told how to look and dress, sooner or later we give in to these ideas and make them as our own beauty standards. Similar to Bordo’s argument mentioned in module 3, “… seeking to live up to those ideals, women impose those external pressures onto their own bodies to the point of torturing their bodies in hope of achieving beauty, desirability, and happiness.” The messages that our media, such as Star magazine, gives to women and how our identity and self-worth is linked to our beauty causes an unbalanced and unhealthy mentality. This is why women constantly feel the need to change themselves so they can fit the standard “beautiful” or “sexy” woman. In order to meet those standards, women in society go through such extents such as bot-ox, liposuction, and bulimia- just to make themselves feel “happy” and attractive enough for society and men to accept them. Every women should feel beautiful and attractive, no matter their weight or size. Social media outlets such as Star magazines should be banned from society because the only people benefiting from their work are their own profits they make- no one else.

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