By MEL EVANS
MISS Universe 2004 is the Elephant Woman. Flawed with a dimple, creases and hips which accentuated her as a real woman.
Over 400, 000 readers feasted upon the February issue of Marie Claire ready to be entertained by another tantalising article about the successful Jennifer Hawkins. It appeared they were let down dismally. On first glance eyes were greeted by the model juxtaposed alongside words such as ‘revolutionary’ and ‘daring’ Fumble through the lustrous pages of the thick magazine, however, and the reader is soon transported to another dimension. A dimension where this glamazon beauty is not leading the cause for a body happy image but objectifying her own ‘defects’ and blemishes, much to the anger of those 485, 000 who buy Marie Claire on a monthly basis.
Social commentators reported passionately about the sheer tenacity of the ex-Newcastle Knights cheerleader to pose in such a context and illustrate her “flaws”. Marie Claire readers suggested the shoot contradicted the very foundation of promoting a healthy body image to those who were suffering their own image issues.
After all, Jennifer Hawkins has made her millions for looking good.
The backfire from this shoot was illustrious, prompting the magazine industry to swiftly defend its position as a healthy, body happy advocate for women across the nation. Very angry women, that upon scanning through the glossy pages of the monthly, were now turned off the idea of buying the March issue.
Women’s rights advocate Melinda Tankard Reist was one of these readers who upon sight of a naked Hawkins was deeply offended. Marie Claire’s attempt at capturing the figure, attitude and vitality of the real woman was lost on Reist, who believes the media at the time was attempting to depict a healthy body image. However, its endeavours were empty mantras.
“There is a contradiction involved… [they were] giving the appearance of social responsibility while not actually doing anything,” Reist said.
The sheer mention of the word “real” affects women. You can feel the shudder of disgust and the verbatim sigh that resonates deeply upon sight of the article shot in response to a nation-wide survey. The results of those 5500 surveyed illustrated that only 12 per cent were happy with their appearance. However instead of prompting women to feel inspired and engaged with the content, they were left isolated and angry.
Since the January debacle, many glossies have boldly followed in editor of Marie Claire’s footsteps. The Australian’s Women’s Weekly plastered a make-up free Sarah Murdoch front and centre and Madison magazine positioned naked radio personality Bianca Dye and pop star Tiffani Wood among their pages. Australian women did not react so malevolently this time round, instead embracing the bravado of these ladies who were truly classes as “real women”.
From what evidence do these editors know the formula of the ‘real woman’?
Professor Marikka Tiggemann from Flinders University’s School of Psychology is uncomfortable when presented with the ‘real woman’ as she attempted to illustrate her strong opinion of the media, with the slightest of trepidation. Tiggemann believes there is a culture of unrealistically portraying the female body. However, as many women and men will contradict wholeheartedly, this negative affect on body image is not just the media’s fault, but society’s.
“The models present unrealistic ideals, but people need to buy into them,” Tiggeman said. “It’s [the fault of] the articles in the magazines and those surrounding the magazines.”
It has been long suggested that the magazine industry plays a pivotal role in the issue of unhealthy body image, illuminating the tense atmosphere created through Hawkins’ naked pose, sandwiched between ads for mascara and girly cars.
With confidence the deputy editor of Dolly magazine Harriet Farkash, believes the blame should be placed on the advertisers.
“While we choose to put girls of all different sizes into our editorial pages we don’t have control over the ads that go in,” Farkash said.
Remorse is lost in the voice of this professional and successful magazine journalist, who over her years of working in the fabled glossy world has come across many a ‘real girl’ slogan.
“It’s an obvious issue when advertisers are trying to sell an aspirational image but choosing these ‘perfect’ models,” she said while imitating speech marks with her fingers.
It is blatantly obvious to readers of Marie Claire that Jennifer Hawkins embodies this exact notion of ‘perfect’ and the very mention of her a ‘real woman’ is offensive and depressive.
On the other hand, perhaps we are all ‘real women’.