Do you ever get fed up of the same messages from trashy magazines? Tired old aspirations that belong in another era, for example?
Or thinly disguised warnings that we can’t have it all?
I had a bit of fun with Company’s female fashion tribes a while back, but the lazy pigeonholing doesn’t stop there. May I introduce you to three of the biggest women clichés… The Delighted. The Destroyed. And the Downright Dangerous.
So who are they?
Key words: radiant, glowing, ecstatic, fulfilled
Most likely to be photographed… smiling happily at the camera, nuzzling lover in some street-side cafe
Of the three this is probably the tamest, but the most passive…and as a result, just as insulting to us ladies. Who gets to be delighted? In general, anyone who has been ‘given’ a baby by their fella, anyone who has been proposed to (and by extension saved from the bleak future of spinsterhood). Kate Middleton is one of the more recently delighted, of course, and her high-street shopping is celebrated as some kind of move against the highly traditional institution that she’s entered into.
Key words: crushed, humiliated, distressed, devastated, gutted
Most likely to be photographed… looking thinner, looking down or in huge ‘hide the eyes’ sunglasses
Oof. No-one wants to be in this one…unless it works for PR purposes. This includes personal tragedies, like Kylie’s battle with cancer or Lily Allen’s miscarriage, but the media becomes a real circus when someone’s partner is unfaithful. This may well have all started with Jennifer Aniston, who can still barely escape from the ‘Brangelina’ shadow years later. Will she ever be considered in any other way than the dumped woman who can’t find love? I hope so. The classic example is Cheryl Cole – Mr Cole’s sordid exploits generated incredible media sympathy, and led to endless discussions on her weight loss and appearance. Everything she’s achieved since has been viewed as ‘one in the eye’ for Ashley. What else could a girl do? If she’d crumpled, put on 3 stone and gone grey overnight, that would’ve been it. You can’t deny it. I saw this post the other day:
She may have been screwed over by the man she loves, but at least she’s still wearing a fabulous lipstick!! Phew!
Key words: seductive, provocative, enticing, inviting
Most likely to be photographed… in very few clothes
Uh oh. Enter: Imogen Thomas et al. These ‘homewreckers’ are demons of the first degree, apparently. Women without morals who eat men for breakfast, they are that end of the madonna-whore spectrum. Most women foolish enough to have flings with married footballers are lumped into this category, a category which entitles the media to speculate about the variety of one’s sexual partners, often conveniently forgetting that it takes two to tango…
See? Sexual liberation has a lot to answer for. It’s also insulting to men, suggesting that some women’s sexual magnetism is so great it unzips their trousers for them. And gay women get a look in – later the article suggests RL has had flings with women too, as proof of her ‘depravity’.
NB: Angelina Jolie has managed to dodge this particular bullet; the fact she ‘broke up’ Hollywood’s golden couple has been neutralised with her charity work and love of adoption. Plus, you know: she gave Brad children, so job done.
The Passive Sense
I know you don’t need me to lay it on any thicker than that, so I’ll put the trowel down. I’m sure you’re also aware that male stereotypes exist (which certain Premiership footballers seem determined to perpetuate): the laddish moneybags, the ageing and sleazy lotharios, the ‘date em and dump em’ Hollywood bad boys. What I can’t stand is the passivity of the female clichés. Look at the vocab: fulfilled, crushed, gutted – these are things that are done to a person. The Dangerous Dames, who actively lure men away from wives and families, are an exception, and their very activeness is used more as an excuse for male infidelity.
And, as usual, sexuality and power are conflated, and either either stifled or over-blown.
How do you feel about images of women in the media?
And what other stereotypes do we need to get rid of?
This post is one of a series of monthly posts by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers.
Read the other ‘Women in the Media and Popular Culture’ posts here.
Join the discussion in the Google group here.