Woman, Not the Sum of Flawed Parts

anistonpubis[1]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 November 21, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I have never been one to pick up magazines, especially ones like this, mostly because they are not environmentally friendly, but also because of stories like these. Why would I want to read about this sort of thing, when I can hear about at school or at work or anywhere really? So why would I pay money for this, when I can get it for free anywhere else? I think it is funny that society thinks they have the audacity to write these sorts of things about women, but I can’t even find something remotely similar about men. Where is the talk about men’s buttocks, breasts, fingers, or toes? If you are giving yourself the authority to judge others, to judge other women, then where is the authority to judge all people? Why is it only women? Why the discrimination here?

  2. This was an interesting read, and it reminded me about a time in high school when one of my good friends asked me to be part of her photography project. I don’t remember exactly what the whole idea of her project was about, but I do know that it had to do with people’s insecurities. She asked me one day during lunch to write down an insecurity of mine on a piece of paper and to place it in front of me, so she could take a photo. I remember the insecurity that I wrote down was my height. The reason behind this is because I am 4’11” and far from the height standards of the modeling world, which I have come to think as the standards for beauty. Because of my small stature, it made me think that my height was a flaw. Since I have been exposed to very thin and tall models in magazines, television, and the internet, I couldn’t help but feel inadequate. As I have come to embrace myself and individuality, it made me realize that not everyone is the same. People have different body shapes and sizes. What we see in the media is not a realistic representation of what is really out there in the world and what people actually look like.

  3. I didn’t start caring about my looks until my Sophomore year in high school, the people I was around made me start questioning about my looks. I also remember reading magazines that were talking about how every girl should be and the problems they deal with. Not all girls can look like a model and it’s sad how this society compares us to models because it is not our profession. Some models are probably more flawed than a average women. I always tell my friends that they should just accept who they are whenever they talk about changing themselves physically. In the long run, mentality is all that matters I feel.

  4. I can remember every since 7th grade I have been aware of my body and how I am suppose to look. Only for 12 years was I able to enjoy the body I was in without looking to magazines on how to fix it. It saddens me that girls are seen as flawed when they don’t fit the perfect model body. Finally at 20 I have started to realize I will never be a stick I have hips and a big butt and I can thank my Italian and Spanish heritage for that! All girls need to accept their bodies for what they are. I wish I could say I have accepted mine completely but I haven’t– I am working on it though.

  5. i thinks its ridiculous how society today only give cruel and sarcastic remarks to women and if you noticed gay men. Then you pick up another magazine that glamorizes 186 most sexiest men. which personally i found had more flaws then most women. how sad. what is it that makes it so easy for people to tear down women theses days.

    • Hurt people hurt people.

      You probably have a lot of insecure people out there putting others down hoping to lift themselves up.

      That won’t create any real self-esteem though, so the behavior continues.

  6. Hey Broad (not as in lady – broad! as in Blogs – Broad – which has made the short-hand a F* waste of time, right!?)
    You’ve read my guff, so I don’t need to tell you I’m with you on this.
    What I would say is that while it’s not as bad, men are also trapped in bulls*. Mens Health mags, billboards, any movie ever, showing sculpted men with six-packs and perfect teeth. Then there’s the suited, in control guy with plenty of cash, successful, confident (Bast*!)
    I’m not comparing, being forced into a cultural stereotype of ‘in charge’ surely beats the crap out of the cultural stereotype of ‘tits, ass and shut the f* up’.
    But what I am saying is, please god can we improve the lot of women, not just make the lot of men equally as bad?
    As for the why – it’s money. It’s always money. If you thought you looked perfect (which I bet you do, mmmm, Panda is nasty!) you wouldn’t waste money on products to perfect yourself. It is no coincidence that models are predominantly freaks who in no way represent ‘normal’ body shapes or types. They are displayed in order to make you think your body is wrong so you’ll buy sh* you don’t need, when in fact it’s the models who are freaks.
    Good post. 🙂

  7. I just came back from my annual (read: naked) dermatologists appointment. Even though I love my (female) derm, the idea of standing naked to have every inch inspected is never a prospect I look forward to. This year though, her assistant was a (really) young man, and I asked that he didn’t do the inspection with her. Once the door was closed I confessed that my OBGYN is male and I have no prob getting even more naked with him. She agreed, saying her OB is a male too, and it doesn’t bother her, stating ‘He’s a doctor.”
    Confusing. It led me to realize, on my way home, it was the idea of his “gaze” that I couldn’t compartmentalize from “man” to “medical professional”. Perhaps it was his age, or I was reading him in a deeply biased way, perhaps it is my own internalized “flaws” I was shielding. But all I could think was: “My bikini line is a mess and I didn’t moisturize today.” How unforgivable.
    Anyway, as the female nurse entered the room without knocking she opened the door onto the hallway and the male assistant, all the receptionists and possibly half the waiting room all got to see me naked.

  8. Wow, this is so powerful. Why do we do this?

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