Tag Archives: Lena Dunham

Why are we shaming women for being human?

Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. That’s the take-home message of the latest photo leak after fansite The Beyoncé World published photos purportedly from Beyonce’s 2013 L’Oréal campaign. The internet subsequently exploded, and a flurry of social media activity focussed on the fashion and beauty industry’s use of Photoshop, and its role in disseminating unrealistic beauty standards. These discussions are important, and we should continue to question the false ideals propounded by such images. However, the comments did not stop there. A barrage of negative and downright nasty comments about the singer’s appearance ensued in what can only be described as an exploitation of the image for nefarious purposes.

The Beyoncé World removed the photograph as a result of the denigration, and released a statement condemning the attack: “Some of the things we have seen posted were just horrible, and we don’t want any part of it. We were just posting the photos to share the fact that our queen is naturally beautiful, at the same time she is just a regular woman.” The photo raised important questions about the endemic Photoshop culture at the heart of the fashion and beauty industry, yet this positive conversation evolved into an excuse to vilify a woman for committing the crime of being a regular human being. This behaviour, rather than lifting the veil on the major culprits in this culture, perpetuates the cycle of unattainable beauty standards, and defeats the very object of any discussion thereof. These scathing and abusive comments when publicly expressed via social media are a pervasive and destructive tool in the reinforcement of disgust for women in their natural state. Instead of condemning the industry’s use of Photoshop, we underpin the necessity for its existence and render women increasingly reluctant to show their real selves.

This is not the first time, however, that a case of Photoshop shaming has crossed the line into unhealthy territories and transformed into an excuse to attack women for being human. Last year, Jezebel offered a $10,000 bounty for un-retouched imaged of Lena Dunham’s Vogue cover. Juno writer Diablo Cody tweeted: “This is total mean-girl sh-t masquerading as feminism. I’m disgusted.” The decision to offer such a handsome reward was a flagrant attempt to dethrone Lena Dunham as an ambassador for women’s rights. I, too, am disgusted that the act of calling out the industries responsible for disseminating unrealistic beauty standards has mutated into the abhorrent and indefensible act of shaming an individual whose image has been retouched. However, in this digital age of social media, selfies and smartphones, how realistic is it to expect to see a true and un-retouched representation of natural female beauty?

Yes, we should embrace the need for realistic reflections of natural female beauty that do not set unattainable beauty standards and place further pressure on women to achieve perfection. But where do we draw the line? If I filter the sh-t out of my selfies on Instagram, am I misrepresenting female beauty? Why stop there? Should we ban makeup, spanx, push-up bras and false eyelashes too, while we’re at it? There comes a point where we should question whether the harm caused by Photoshop shaming doesn’t equate to the same damage caused by the industries setting these beauty standards.

The recent leak of an un-retouched photo of Cindy Crawford elicited a mixed response on social media. Broadcaster Charlene White tweeted the image to “encourage a bit of a Friday feeling amongst [her] female followers”. The photo provoked a Twitter storm, and many praised the supermodel for her bravery, despite the fact that the image was published without her consent. In an article for the Guardian, Charlene White described the response to the photo:

Some commenters who have tweeted me have talked of Cindy being proud of her “flaws”. Flaws? Seriously? How did not having a six-pack suddenly become a flaw? And why are we okay with that?

In the same week, the Daily Mail defended their front-page story on the Duchess of Cambridge’s grey hair, stating: “There can’t be a single woman who, after seeing the pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge’s grey hairs yesterday, felt anything but sympathy for her.” Well, as a woman, I can categorically say that I feel no sympathy whatsoever for her; she is a beautiful and intelligent woman. Surely everyone’s hair goes grey at some point; or is grey hair also a big no-no for women?

The message we can glean from the cumulative reactions to these photos is that a woman’s natural human body is disgusting, whether it’s the middle-aged body of a former supermodel after she’s had a couple of kids, the un-dyed roots of a pregnant woman, or a few blemishes on the face of a pop star.

Our obsession with the before/after diptych only serves to show the un-retouched ‘before’ in an unflattering light, highlighting the so-called flaws that the ‘after’ shot has removed. At no point should our distaste for airbrushed and retouched images translate into disrespect for a human being, and disgust for human features. When we cross the line into “mean-girl territory” we lose sight of the original objective to defend womankind from additional pressures. What’s the incentive to stop Photoshopping women, when it’s made patently clear that our un-retouched bodies are not good enough?

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Watch a preview of “Girls” Season 4

Gone are the days of terrible job interviews, awkward sex and bad decisions, “Girls” will soon be gracing our TV screens with its eagerly-anticipated fourth season. So, what’s in store? Well, last Friday at her Southbank Centre appearance in London, Lena let slip that she’d been watching “Call The Midwife” in order to research a graphic birth scene. Is Jessa going to take on motherhood? Or will Hannah and Adam take their relationship to the next level? Maybe Marnie will bear Desi’s secret love child?

In this behind-the-scenes preview, Lena states: “This season of “Girls” is….the girls making smarter choices and realising that life is still hard.” So how will they cope?

Check out the preview below to see what’s in store for Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna!

The price of fame? Violation and humiliation of a sexual nature

What price fame when personal privacy is violated? This is the question at the forefront of the collective imagination after images of Jennifer Lawrence posing naked were stolen from her phone and published online on image sharing forum 4chan. More than 100 celebrities are said to have been targeted, including Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Kate Upton, Kate Bosworth, as the hacker threatens to post more images for the world to see.

Why has this happened? As Audrey Hepburn once said, “if I blow my nose, it gets written all over the world.” The thirst for the details of celebrities’ innermost private lives is as insatiable as ever, but this is no longer limited to paparazzi stalking one’s every move. This is the digital age, and with it comes new ways for privacy to be breached and lives to be ruined.

These women have been targeted because they are famous, because they have worked hard and their success has thrust them into the public eye. Does this mean they are asking for it? That the public has a claim on the intimate details of their lives? No it does not. This encroachment of one’s human right to privacy is a violation. These were images taken by consenting adults who trusted one another, and in the case of actor Mary Elizabeth Winstead, by a husband and wife: “To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves.”

The ways in which we choose to share our bodies is exactly that: OUR CHOICE. That these private moments have been turned public for entertainment is extremely disquieting and paints a bleak picture of humanity.

Today, Ricky Gervais tweetedMAIN-Ricky-Gervais-and-Jennifer-Lawrence a warning against storing nude images of yourselves. This victim-blaming thread of discussion has reared its ugly head several times today, and it strikes me as utterly hypocritical. In a world where Snapchat and smartphones exist, sexting has gone from prevalent to de rigeur. Are celebrities now expected to abstain from such pastimes for fear of being hacked?

This “don’t take naked pics” argument is no longer a valid statement in this day and age, and as Lena Dunham brilliantly points out, it is on a par with the ‘she was wearing a short skirt’ rape justification. There is no justification.

What is deeply worrying is that this is just one of many incidents which set about to humiliate women for being sexual. Revenge porn is now a very real and worrying threat for anyone who chooses to share their body in this way. Young women have committed suicide after being victims of revenge porn, but how much more must we endure before something is done to protect people?

As Dawn O’Porter reminds us, this is precisely why we need feminism. It is our choice how we express ourselves sexually, we own the right to privacy, and by viewing these images we endorse criminal contraventions of these rights.

The rise and rise of the personal essay

Everywhere I turn, books of personal essays abound. Whether it’s Mindy Kaling’s latest literary offering, or Lena Dunham’s forthcoming book of essays Not That Kind of Girl, this is by no means a bad thing. Despite being the trending literary form of the moment, personal essays have been around for some time. Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) and Nora Ephron’s Wallflower at the Orgy (1970) are both seminal works which captured the essence of the Zeitgeist. And it is precisely this ability to perfectly encapsulate the Zeitgeist that makes the personal essay such a unique genre. The two aforementioned titles are worthy models to inform any young essay writers; indeed Man Repeller Leandra Medine cites Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem as her earliest inspiration to become a writer.

There is of course another appeal to the genre, and it is related to our dwindling 21st-century attention spans. In an age where thoughts have to be expressed in 140 characters or less, and content is increasingly delivered in list form to aid our wandering minds, are we hungry for tighter, more concise literature? Nobel-winning economist Herbert Simon asserted in 1977 that  “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”; a portentous statement that has certainly proved itself right. Attention spans are a victim of our information-rich digital age, but I can’t help but feel that in challenging traditional genres — both in literature and journalism — we will adapt to the changes brought about by digital advances.

The rise of personal essays is symptomatic of our digital age, but also reflects the no-holds-barred nature of sharing, a consequence of social media — in which users share thoughts, embarrassing moments, relationship details, and snapshots of their lives in a public arena. Surely literature too is a public arena? Why not carry forward the same no-filter level of sharing, lay all your cards on the table, and turn those Facebook likes and Twitter favourites into literary prizes?

Whatever the case may be, the rise of the personal essay is a very good thing. By sharing, and indeed oversharing, with the world, we express the thoughts and fears of our generation and define the Zeitgeist. Put simply, it is a voice, and we are no longer afraid to speak.

 

Make it rain!

Call me ridiculous, but I once vowed to never wear a raincoat unless I found the perfect pink mac. That mac, in my mind, would be transparent, high-shine PVC in bright pink, similar to one I’d spotted on a friend. This ideal raincoat proved somewhat tricky to get hold of — mostly due to the abundance of fetish wear available on the internet (who knew?). Needless to say, I had nigh-on given up hope of ever finding my dream coat — thus resulting in many a sodden sartorial moment — until a few weeks ago. I was drinking coffee and reading a copy of Grazia magazine, when I stumbled upon my dream come true! A bright pink, transparent, high-shine PVC raincoat! Needless to say, I headed straight for ASOS and bought it immediately. Since then, I’ve been praying for inclement weather, just so I can don my new coat. Who knew that true love could be found in the perfect raincoat?

ASOS Clear rain mac
ASOS Clear rain mac