The social construction of female beauty

This is fascinating. The image above is from the US.

What Happened When One Woman Had Her Picture Photoshopped In 25 Different Countries.

“Make me look beautiful.”

That’s what Esther Honig asked 40 photo editors to do — in over 25 countries. Using the service-sharing site Fiverr, Honig, a human interest reporter, sent a picture of herself to be photoshopped around the world to see just how much cultural values are applied to standards of beauty. The results throw the idea of “the perfect woman” into sharp relief.

Honig found that every country applied its own distinct perspective on beauty to her image. She was surprised by the degree to which each country’s cultural values showed up as aesthetic preferences. Specifically, an image she received back from Morocco was “a bit of a shock initially.” She told The Huffington Post via email, “[It] definitely highlighted my own lack of cultural awareness. Of course, someone from a country where the primary religion is Islam might elect to add a Hijab to my image as that aligns with their own cultural customs. For me it really added depth to my project by touching on the concept of religion and custom, not just aesthetics.”

Orig. and rest on HuffPo. Uploaded to feimineach/ pinterest.

Unpopular Opinion: I Don’t Like Jane Austen

And I do understand that she was writing using the cultural expectations of her own era, but she seems to glorify Georgian societal constraints, where her characters are either praised or punished for their respective willingness to comply. The talkative and awkward spinster Ms. Bates (Emma), the vivacious Lydia Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), and the lovesick Maria Bertram (Mansfield Park) are forced to live condemned existences for “breaking the rules,” while Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility), Harriet Smith (Emma), and Jane Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) live comfortably since they followed the more accepted path, never daring to buck the restrictions placed upon them. She is the 19th century’s version of Stephenie Meyer, condemning anything that does not uphold the traditional, sexist values she was taught. Both Emily and Charlotte Bronte also wrote about women facing the same issues that Jane Austen did – poverty, marriage, social standing, etc. – only they chose to criticize the society that jailed their characters. I can relate to the Charlotte’s Jane Eyre more than I can to Jane’s Lizzy Bennet, even though both are independent-minded and intelligent, because Bennet is still so blinded by her own culture that she doesn’t really seek to change anything about it (e.g. her own reactions after Lydia runs away with Wickham). Honestly, I would probably not done very well in the Regency Age and would have ended up very much like Ms. Bates, at best.

“Unpopular Opinion: I Don’t Like Jane Austen” on feminspire.

Written by Jennifer Trela (A Little More Juju, or you can follow her on Google+ and Twitter).

This is certainly an interesting take on Austen. And I see its point.

Can “Orange is the New Black” Change the Way Congress Thinks About Prisons?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’d disappeared. I didn’t. Well, I did, but only into a low-internet period. May and June are always manically busy times in academia. I’ve not been keeping up at all on the femosphere so there may be quite a number of posts over the next few days. Or not. It all depends.

I have, however, been finding time for the second season of Orange is the New Black. I have two episodes to go and as well as enjoying a bloody good show, as always, I’ve also been mindful of its ground-breaking, transformative messages on women in prison. Here’s another take:

Can “Orange is the New Black” Change the Way Congress Thinks About Prisons? (bitch magazine)

When it burst onto the small screen last summer, Orange is the New Black quickly catapulted women’s incarceration into pop culture consciousness, becoming most-watched of Netflix’s series of 2013. While media has been buzzing about the all-at-once release of season two this Friday—speculating on plot development and characters—the real-life Piper Kerman has also been busy. Kerman, who was incarcerated for 13 months in Connecticut before writing the memoir that inspired the Netflix series, could have just basked in the show’s popularity. Instead, she’s been using her fame and media interest to bring attention to real issues facing incarcerated women.

Even before Orange is the New Black debuted, Kerman joined the board of the Women’s Prison Association, a 100-year-old advocacy and service provider organization for women caught in the New York legal system. Since the show’s debut, Kerman has been speaking at college campuses, community centers, and social justice organizations around the country about women’s prison issues. Her fame has also put her in a position to bring women’s prison issues before policymakers.

On February 25, 2014, Kerman testified at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearings on solitary confinement in Washington, DC. Unlike her fictional character, Kerman was never placed in solitary confinement. But she testified about the many women incarcerated alongside her who had:

“While I was in prison, I saw many women sent to the SHU for minor infractions such as moving around a housing unit during a count, refusing an order from a correctional officer, and possession of low-level contraband like small amounts of cash (which is largely useless in prison) or having women’s underwear from the outside rather than prison-issued underwear. All of these infractions drew at least 30 days in solitary. Sometimes women are sent to the SHU immediately upon their arrival in prison because there aren’t any open beds.”

[...]

As her testimony makes clear, these are hard issues to talk about. Most politicians would rather ignore the reality of the problems with the prison system than address them head-on and risk being seen as “soft on crime.” Orange is the New Black—and Kerman’s determined attempt to link the peoples’ interest in the fictional story to real women’s suffering—has helped get Americans talking about prison in a way few pieces of pop culture have. It’s also a way to get people talking about women in the prison system rather than focusing the conversations around men. It’s also a sad truth that politicians and Americans in general are more likely to listen to a celebrity telling them about prison conditions than someone who didn’t become famous after being incarcerated. To her credit, Kerman (unlike some other celebrities who have experienced short stints behind bars) has been using her platform to advocate for change.

Rest: Bitch Media.

Ovaries before Brovaries: On Women’s Friendship

Do I talk about clothes and relationships and sex with my friends? Of course. But that doesn’t mean our friendship is somehow any more trivial than that between two men, that because we talk about these things we’re somehow less intelligent or our connection is in any way diminished. Moreover, why are those topics denigrated and perceived as insignificant? Purely because they are “feminine” and associated with women.

By dietofbrokenbiscuits (via aroomofourown)

As women, we’re often defined by our relationships with men. Even in discussions of rape or sexual violence, women are referred to as “someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister”, as if our personhood alone is not worthy of mention. And, while we should never be defined by our relationships with any other person, our friendships with other women may have the radical potential to help us escape this compartmentalisation.

Media depictions of women’s friendships are somewhat lacking. There are two choices: either you hate other women and view them as competition, or you have a facile, “girls night out” relationship with your friends, where all you talk about is shoes and cocktails. It’s a false dichotomy that fails to take into consideration the true depth and spirit that really exists between women.

Our conversation is often referred to as “bitching”, “gossiping” or “girl talk”, as if nothing of worth could possibly pass between two women. Sex and the City is often derisively evoked here; all we do is sit around drinking in expensive bars and laughing about our exes, right? For a bit of variety we might mention shopping, or some other girl who we hate, or maybe even our weight. They are the only topics women can possibly manage, such is the intellectual capacity of our weak and feeble brains. [Rest.]

“Take up more space as a woman. Take up more time.

Take up more space as a woman. Take up more time. Take your time. You are taught to hide, censor, move about without messing up decorum for a man’s comfort. Whether it’s said or not, you’re taught balance. Forget that. Displease. Disappoint. Destroy. Be loud, be righteous, be messy. Do not see yourself like glass. Like you could get dirty and clean. You are flesh. You are not constant. You change. Society teaches women to maintain balance and that robs us of our volatility. Our mercurial hearts. Calm and chaos. Love only when needed; preserve otherwise.

Mehreen Kasana, from A Woman of War (via fantasyparade, padaviya). Source: pbnpineapples.

See also:

 

Habiba Sarabi: ‘To be in Afghan politics as a woman is a risky task’

politics - old woman votes in Afghan election (democracy)

Picture from twitter: pajhwok

As the only woman on a credible ticket in Afghanistan’s presidential elections next month, Habiba Sarabi is courting the ire of the world’s most dangerous extremists. But she has become so used to death threats that she is almost blasé about her personal safety.

“Of course, to be in politics as a woman is a risky task,” she says, calmly. “But we have to take the risk, otherwise we cannot achieve our goal. We cannot expect that everything can be soft or everything can be clear on our way.”

The threats have become part of her existence since she was minister for women in Hamid Karzai’s government, and later as the country’s first female provincial governor. Standing as the second vice-president for Mr Karzai’s favoured candidate, Zalmai Rassoul, is hardly running for the top job. But her presence on one of the leading presidential campaigns is a source of anger to the Taliban, who have pledged to do everything in their power to disrupt the elections on 5 April. It is not just being a woman in politics that makes Dr Sarabi a target but the fact that she is Hazara – an ethnic group that has historically been downtrodden in Afghan society.

On The Independent.

Feminism is the new misogyny: On ‘Belle Knox feminism’ and the new backlash

This just in from the backlash: everything is feminism’s fault and we are the real woman-haters.

You knew that, didn’t you? That it was not men, but women — and not just women, but feminists — who were responsible for things like violence against women and sexual repression. It’s a pretty good trick, actually, because guess who gets off scot-free? Men. Also, oppressive systems of power. With women busy attacking other women for their own oppression, who has time to fight the real enemy?

As illogical as it sounds on paper, this phenomenon actually makes a lot of sense.

The most obvious explanation for feminist-hating among women (or even among feminists) is that we live in a culture that teaches us to hate women — that it’s acceptable to hate women, that it’s sexy to hate women, and that it’s funny to hate women. We see this normalized hatred of women manifested in a number of ways:

1) Cosmetic surgery

Here we have a “trend” that involves women hating their bodies so much that they quite literally cut the offending body parts off of their bodies and replace them with other, more “attractive,” more “perfect” parts.

Rest on Feminist Current.

Sex, rape and role models – how women in comedy perform

Yes, women are funny. No, we cannot have this conversation any more. The below is posted for the content of the shows and not that.

On theconversation:

The topic of “women in comedy” is endlessly controversial – as Adrienne Truscott seems to know. © MICF

Two performance artists in this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) – the UK’s Bryony Kimmings and American Adrienne Truscott – have a certain flavour of humour: it’s the knowing, self-deprecating humour of the culturally dispossessed, of survivors and victims. And yes, they’re both women.

Asking For It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! is Adrienne Truscott’s stand-up show about rape. In it, Truscott counters the stated prerogative of male comedians to tell rape jokes with a confronting routine in which she relentlessly does the same.

Her wit spares neither them, nor hip-hop artists rapping about date rape, nor Republican politicians expounding on “legitimate rape”, nor men in the audience.

Truscott also gets to explain why animal analogies are inadequate through progeny-eating gerbils. It is a bracing, uncomfortable, rewarding show. Is it funny, though? That depends on how you look at it. [Rest.]

"You’re such a nice girl, why aren’t you married?”

I’ve posted these before, but I get a kick out of them every time. On feministtimes:

Conceptual Photographer Suzanne Heintz explains her “Life Once Removed” project, after it went viral online.

What would drive you to pack a family of mannequins into your station wagon, and take them on a road trip? Enough pressure to conform will send anyone packing. Conform to what? Well, it was getting late. Seriously late for a woman my age not to have a ring on her finger. People said, “You’re such a nice girl, why aren’t you married?” No one actually used that out of date word, but, what they were driving at was that I was a “Spinster,” and I got tired of hearing about it. [Rest.]

See also:

“Innocence is not doing. Not running off to New York….

Innocence is not doing. Not running off to New York. Not drinking whiskey till 4 AM. Not fucking that boy or girl because they make your heart scream electric, then waking up unpunished the next day. Not hacking a system rigged against you. Innocence is a relic of a time when women had the same legal status as children. Innocence is beneficial to your owner. It benefits you not at all.

- On Turning 30 | VICE United States

Conservative “Marry Young” Dating Advice is Actually About Man-Hating

When Princeton alumna Susan Patton garnered national attention last week for her “straight talking advice” letter imploring the young women of her alma mater to spend their college years “finding the right man to marry,” many of us female Princeton students rolled our eyes.

While her original “Princeton Mom” letter published in The Daily Princetonian last year attracted some headlines, her updated Valentine’s Day advice in The Wall Street Journal went viral—it’s the year 2014 and her reactionary perspective is straight from the 1950s.

The letter is so ridiculous that people can be forgiven for assuming that the Wall Street Journal and Patton are just trolling us. But I believe she’s sincere; she’s gotten a book deal out of her dating advice, at least. I met Patton myself once at Princeton and she definitely had the air of a well-meaning but zany matriarch with no verbal filter. But at worst, she perpetuates the worst stereotypes of both women and men. While Susan Patton’s advice is horribly regressive for women, as a feminist Princeton student, I find it incredibly insulting to men.

Feminists are often accused of “man-hating,” but true misandry comes from the conservative view that men are fundamentally unchangeable losers and need to be manipulated into long-term partnerships. This fatalistic “boys will be boys” attitude projects a cynical view of men’s behavior, demonizes male sexuality, and manages to simultaneously objectify and dismiss men of all ages. [Rest.]

Breast cancer isn’t sexy. Nipnominate’s cleavage shots trivialise a devastating illness

[…]

But to me there’s something offensive about seeing pictures of healthy women in push-up bras posting cleavage shots to support breast cancer sufferers. Breast cancer is a devastating illness. It isn’t sexy. Attempting to “fight” it with amateur glamour shots is an exercise in narcissism, and trivialises a serious medical matter. The model Brandy Brewer was praised for lending her support to the campaign and introducing a considerable number of Twitter followers to the fundraising effort, but the lacy bra, lip gloss and open-mouthed expression on her selfie seems to say “Hello boys”, not “I’m here for the girls”.

Women who haven’t suffered from a debilitating illness, but claim that a sexy selfie is a good way to boost their body confidence, need to think hard about their motives. From where I’m standing it doesn’t look like a show of support, but an attempt to titillate. If I’d had a mastectomy, I wouldn’t feel comforted or supported if a group of attractive, healthy women tweeted pictures of their bouncing breasts to boost the profile of breast cancer care. I’d feel alienated and angry. We tacitly treat breasts as the ultimate feminine attribute, which makes it all the more traumatic and bewildering if you lose them. If we’re going to help breast cancer survivors, we need to challenge and criticise this way of thinking. Why are we celebrating breasts, when we should be celebrating women?

If we’re going to raise awareness of the issues surrounding breast cancer, we really don’t need to start by raising awareness of breasts. They’re everywhere. You can see them on TV in the afternoon, and in some of our national newspapers. The problem is that almost all the breasts on display are ornamental. They’re being offered up for someone else to look at. We still can’t make our minds up about whether or not it’s OK to breastfeed in public, but we’ve become used to constantly seeing breasts, or the suggestion of breasts, in a sexual context. The trouble with nipnominate is that it isn’t showing breasts and bodies in a revolutionary or new way. [Rest.]

Breast cancer isn’t sexy. Nipnominate’s cleavage shots trivialise a devastating illness

Woman Loses 100 Friends After Posting Beautiful Post-Surgery Photos On Facebook [NSFW]

On her 32nd birthday, Beth Whaanga was diagnosed with breast cancer; valiantly fighting back against the illness, she asked her friend, the photographer Nadia Masot, to take portraits of her nude body after a double mastectomy and hysterectomy as part of Under the Red Dress, a project designed to spread awareness about regular breast and pectoral examination. The beautiful series of images features Whaanga, a mother of four, gazing fixedly at the camera, acknowledging her scars, and proudly exposing her resilient body. [Rest.]

44 Stock Photos That Hope To Change The Way We Look At Women

Getty Images launched the “Lean In Collection” Monday in partnership withLeanIn.org which features more than 2,500 photos of female leadership in contemporary work and life.

The project began when Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images, commissioned a study that would track the changes in the representation of girls and women in the media. The study turned into a presentation which Grossman later shared with Sheryl Sandberg and the Lean In team at Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., last fall.

“This is such a big passion project for all of us, and cheesy as it sounds, by showing people powerful images of women we thought maybe we could actually change the world,” Grossman told BuzzFeed. [Link.]

“Under the ideology of austerity women are facing what is termed by the Fawcett society

Under the ideology of austerity women are facing what is termed by the Fawcett society as ‘Triple Jeopardy’. That is: cuts to vital frontline services, job cuts in the public sector where two-thirds of jobs are held by women and benefit cuts. Under the current government maternity and paternity pay, which of course is largely taken by women, will be frozen from 2015 for five years which means a huge cut in real terms.1 The gender pay gap, already 19.6% among all workers or £5000 a year on average, increased this year for the first time in five years. Additionally 62% of legal aid recipients are women and forthcoming cuts mean that 361,200 women will lose access to legal aid. Violence against Women services which include centres for the victims of sexual and domestic abuse were cut 31% between 2010 and 2012.4 The effect of these cuts are particularly pronounced where race intersects with gender. A report by academics at the University of Warwick estimates that unemployment amongst Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women has risen in Coventry by 74.4% compared to 30.5% among white women between 2009 and 2013. To anybody who believes these “savings” to be a necessity I would point out that George Osbourne still manages to find enough money in the budget to grant a £3 billion annual tax break to the oil and gas industry.

Austerity is a Feminist Issue (belle-jar)

2013 is supposed to have been an amazing year for feminism. The increasing coverage of feminist concerns in mainstream media and the activism of campaigns like Everyday Sexism, No More Page 3 and the furore around getting Jane Austen onto £10 notes has been a welcome reminder both of how much support the feminist movement enjoys and of how much more work there is to do. Yet so many of the campaigns and controversies debated this year relating to feminism have been obsessed with image, representation and appearance. Transfixed by its own reflection, the media and many feminists within it seem to believe that Page 3 and Miley Cyrus’ twerking represent the most pressing obstacles to equality for women.

Although the objectification of women in visual culture is worth fighting against, what these images show is merely a mirror of women’s unequal position within our society. Women do not occupy many positions of power, women are under-represented in parliament, and women are paid less than men for the same jobs. Undervalued economically, side-lined politically and belittled socially it is little wonder that many men can’t see what harm there is in having a semi-naked near-teen in a national newspaper. Society’s not giving the message women are good for much else.

Part of the complacency that seems to characterise feminist apathy towards campaigning on political and economic issues seems to be grounded in one of the most pernicious myths of neoliberalism, namely that society is always progressing and improving. This fallacious belief that the gender pay gap will close itself, that women will gradually be more and more represented in positions of power and that, as we become more tolerant and open, domestic and sexual violence will fade away is incredibly dangerous. Austerity, and here I mean the ideology of permanent austerity that David Cameron pontificated about from his gold throne poses the greatest threat to feminism of our generation. With £41 billion of cuts to public services and welfare planned in spite of growing GDP, it is clear now more than ever that austerity and the permanent reduction of the state is a political belief and not the necessity Cameron originally claimed. [Rest.]

No wonder women MPs are leaving the Tory benches

Ed Miliband certainly won prime minister’s questions today by focusing on the Tories’ ‘women problem’. It is the political equivalent of kicking the Tories in the crotch – much worse for men than for women.

David Cameron tried his old trick of reeling off statistics to refute the accusation, but he couldn’t escape the reality that was before him. As Miliband pointed out ‘a picture tells 1,000 words.’ And this time it did: the government front bench was stuffed with serried rows of suits with not a single woman to be seen.

‘I guess they didn’t let women into the Bullingdon Club,’ said Miliband with glee. And he had his own statistic – ‘In his cabinet there are as many men who went to Eton and Westminster as there are women.’

Women were remarkably absent on all the Tory benches today. One in 10 Tory women MPs are standing down at the next election – and as there are only 48 of them that’s quite a lot. Many of the others are fed up, so fed up indeed that the Tory whips couldn’t even rustle up one of them to speak and it was left to Jessica Lee, elected for Erewash in 2010 and who is standing down for personal reasons, to put a question to Cameron on apprenticeships. [Rest.]

No wonder women MPs are leaving the Tory benches

A Mighty Girl Water Wheel

A Mighty Girl Water Wheel. (Facebook)

When Cynthia Koenig, a young social entrepreneur from New York, learned that millions of girls and women around the world spend hours each day collecting water from distant sources, she decided to create a new way to help people in poor communities transport water and it’s called the WaterWheel. Koenig’s WaterWheel allows people to roll water in a 50-liter container versus carrying it in 5 gallon (19 liter) jugs. Koenig estimates that the WaterWheel can save women 35 hours per week in water transport time, as well as prevent the physical strain that comes from balancing 40 pounds of water on top of their heads for hours each day. [Rest.]