So L’Oreal has been taken to task by the Advertising Standards Authority (and MP Jo Swinson) for airbrushing Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington to the point where they no longer look human, let alone naturally beautiful, 40-something women.
I’ve argued in a previous post that fat is still a feminist issue. But I think what I’m realising is that the more size-zero obsessed the fashion world gets, and the more airbrushing the beauty industry does, the less I care.
I use the Eraser foundation, the one that Roberts and Turlington were advertising. But I bought it because I needed a foundation at about the time of the half-price introductory offer Boots ran, and not in any real expectation that I would emerge from its use looking like a super model. After all, cosmetic industry advertising is not based in reality, even with the warning “filmed using lash inserts” now appearing during mascara promotions.
Really, I know what I need in beauty products.
I need them to make me look less red skinned, less tired, with bigger feline eyes, redder lips. I don’t expect to look like a rubber doll with shiny skin, nor for my skin to flake. I’m not worried about wrinkles particularly because of my excess fat! See, there is an advantage to being overweight.
I don’t have much time in the mornings – I want a haircut that can more or less shower and go, and moisturiser that either goes on in the shower or can be squirted on in a kind of dry oil form but without leaving the bathroom floor like an ice rink. Leaving my make up until I get to work frees up a few precious moments in the pre-commute morning to help my son into his uniform. Minimal hassle to me is key… but the proliferation of products like “bottom lash mascara” show that this is not the beauty industry driver.
The point is, by trying to get me to strive for something I know to be unrealistic, my reaction is to think, you know what? Sod it.
The case is made more clearly with fashion.
Just look what a men’s magazine – yes, aimed at men who tend to like a curve, rather than women who apparently don’t – did to Kate Winslet back in 2003. When you look at how slim show was in the first place, why does this sort of thing make any woman go I should try to look like that?
Surely the more natural reaction is to look, blink to reassure yourself you really are seeing that, laugh and go and eat a doughnut if you feel like having one?
The reality is I’m never going to be a size zero, I’m never going to look good in clothes designed for people that shape. Even when I’m slim, I’m curvy. It came as a shock when looking at some family pictures of myself aged 17, to realise that even then my skinny size 12 body would’ve been counted as plus-size in fashion world. At more than three inches above average height for UK women, I’d also have been too short…
Magazines focused on fashion are a bit of a waste of time for me. It’s not just that many of the items in the magazine shoots in Marie Claire and Elle etc. are designer items costing several hundred pounds, it is almost certain that they don’t come in a size bigger than a 14 at best. Why should I care what an item of clothing that won’t fit me looks like on a woman half the size of me? It’s not even sselling me a dream, it’s selling me a fiction.
So used am I to reading up on what looks good on curvy women, I’m never going to buy drainpipe trousers which squeeze the fat or, equally, tent tops which look like they are hiding more fat than may actually be there. I know my own body well enough to know which style of trousers would cause camel toe, that any dress or top that has a fitted section over my bust will be enormous around my body if I buy it to fit on top.
That’s why I shop for dresses and tops at Pepperberry, despite my recent concerns – and for trousers, well, that takes a it more effort. I have been known to buy them in Evans.
Take jeans, for example. Even Evans isn’t too much help here because generally, if I get ones that fit at the hip, they hang off my waist.
I guess I have the American obesity epidemic and population size to thank that AG jeans and DKNY have a curvier fit so I can buy jeans there. But we don’t go even every other year. I’m intrigued by Little in the middle and PZI jeans too – jeans designed to recognise that many of us have smaller waists but bigger hips and bums. Great that they are available online to the UK, but there’s probably import tax to pay and what if they don’t fit?
In fact, the more divorced from reality the fashion industry makes its images, the less I feel like it is trying to talk to me. I don’t feel like dieting, or sticking my fingers down my throat, I just feel meh. If they want my disposable income, they should realise I have it and selling me something that won’t make me look or feel good is a bit pointless. And telling the potential customer that they’re wrong is doubly bad business.
And yet so many women fall for it.
I know I’m not perfect. I’m not happy with myself either. I look in the mirror and see a woman that’s fatter than I convince myself that I am, and that’s a sort of body dysmorphia.
We have anorexia, increased plastic surgery, teen self-harm on one hand, and junk food, comfort shorts, and super-sized ambulances to carry the cardiac arrest sufferers literally eating themselves to death on the other.
And if that weren’t bad enough, as Natasha Walter put it in “Living Dolls”, there’s a whole computer savvy generation coming for whom their point of reference for what is normal is pornography. Fake boobs on scrawny body, talon nails and iron blond tresses.
Airbrushing? Sometimes it’d be good to think we could just airbrush ourselves, but… it’s not worth it. It’s just selling stuff. Until we learn to accept ourselves, no matter what our flaws are, we’re vulnerable.