Who sets the beauty standard for women? And is that standard evolving to include more diverse examples of the female form and appearance?
An exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles (via CNN.com) hopes to initiate a more complex conversation about what constitutes beauty. Beauty Culture features 175 photographs from an international roster of top photographers, including David LaChapelle and Terry Richardson, explores how ideals of attractiveness are both shaped and subverted by advertising and the media.
While diversity in advertising is increasing—Queen Latifah and Ellen DeGeneres are pushing cosmetics successfully in a market that used to rely solely on corn-fed Christie Brinkley types or symmetrical wonders such as Christy Turlington to seal the deal—the question remains whether the message they’re selling is really diversity or whether it’s still all about presenting that “flawless” face to the world.
The woman who eschews all the fuss and declares she doesn’t wear that much makeup—which in my experience represents about three quarters of the living breathing female population—and couldn’t give a toss about what she’s wearing (if it smells clean, it’s a winner, folks!) has yet to make the grade culturally. In fact, she’s the one who gets a blanket thrown over her head and is summarily shipped off to What Not to Wear. Once she’s been plucked, dyed, bobbed by Nick Arojo (I’d rather let my cat cut my hair), Carmindy-ized and dressed to suit her shape (angry pear?) she’s once again released back into the wild.
Our only natural woman representative thus far: 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon (a.k.a Tina Fey). Not surprisingly most women cling to her like she’s the last Klondike bar at Mac’s Milk during a summer heat wave.
Rather than look to advertising or pop culture for validation, it might be better if women looked to one another if only to collectively roll their eyes every time someone mentioned another diet, another celeb baby weight miracle or anti-aging cream. If and when women set the standard for female beauty there might finally be a few changes in the house of style (elastic waistbands will be mandatory, of course). In the spirit of future harmony between reality and illusion, I move to make astigmatisms hot for 2012.