Monday, October 3, 2011

How do we live in a contradictory world?

While flipping through the recent issue of Marie Claire with Reese Witherspoon on the cover, I was faced with a dilemma. Marie Claire has launched a "What I Love About Me" campaign where women around the country submit entries about the unique flaws and features they love about themselves. The goal is to make women feel confident inside and out. I think this would be a great campaign if the page wasn't situated next to an image of Jessica Alba, advertising for the newest makeup product that will "blow you away." It is also problematic that the best submissions are featured in the magazine. Who determines the flaws that are better than others?

If inner beauty matters so much, then why am I also reading an article in the magazine titled, "Ankles Away. When Samantha Marshall learned that a cosmetic procedure could vanquish her 'cankles,' she stepped right up, dreaming of dainty new ankles in kitten heels. But could it really be that easy?" This article describes a woman's insecurities about her "cankles" and subsequent plastic surgery procedure. This $4,000 to $6,000 procedure gives Marshall "elegant ankles" and her ankles are no longer a source of ridicule from her boyfriend. The cover image for this article is an image of a woman's legs. As I discussed in my previous post, this image has been overdone and makes women into objects.

For a final project last semester, I posed the question: How do we live in a contradictory world? The question came out of my frustration at the mixed messages my favorite magazines promote. Should I love my body or try to "transform" it with makeup, plastic surgery, and a new exercise routine? 

These conflicting messages are present in commercials, such as Sofia Vergara's Pepsi Zero campaign and her Kmart campaign. Check out Vergara's first commercial for Pepsi where she strips off her clothes before reaching the drink stand and the behind the scenes clip for Diet Pepsi's "Skinny" campaign. These commercials are selling the product as well as Vergara's figure. Yet, Vergara's Kmart campaign shares a different message. She advertises for her new line with Kmart by showing her clothes in many body types. She transforms into these women, suggesting that her clothing line is accessible to more women than the usual size two to four population brands like Abercrombie target. Vergara tells her audience to be sexy and proud of who he or she is. Take a look at the commercial and an article discussing the campaign.

The messages in popular magazines and commercials are not all positive or all negative. A woman can wear makeup to enhance her performance while feeling empowered and confident in herself. Women live in this contradictory world by taking what works for them and challenging the messages that don't. I don't want to try the toughest workout in America (No thanks, Marie Claire!), but I do want to check out the magazine's tips for skin care that is safer and more effective.

Sofia Vergara at the 2011 Golden Globes.

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