I was recently observing some vintage ads and was appalled to see the commodification of women in them. I was sure that this is not the case anymore, but a quick browse through the Instagram page: “Headless Women of Hollywood” would tell you otherwise.
“Headless Women of Hollywood” is a page started by stand-up comedian, Marcia Belsky and in her own words she aims to “bring attention to the still standard practice of fragmenting, fetishizing and dehumanizing the images of women we see in film, TV, book covers, and advertisement.” Her page proves that women are often portrayed as an interchangeable set of limbs in advertisements and movies even today. Especially in light of the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movement it is imperative that we hold up a mirror to media and identify that the portrayal of women needs to change.
The problem here is two-fold. Firstly, young boys are exposed to the commodification of women at a young age and this could detrimentally shape the way they view women. It is essential that young boys recognize young girls as their equals. Therefore, the portrayal of women existing solely for the male gaze in mainstream media is problematic.
Furthermore, girls are at risk of buying into this idea that their looks are their most important attribute. Additionally, a majority of images of women and men too seen in mainstream media are doctored. Moreover, Jennifer Aniston herself wrote in an essay for the ‘Huffington Post’ that, “The message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine is something we’re all willingly buying into.”
This promotes an unattainable body image that is linked to eating disorder and self-esteem issues in teenagers. However, actresses such as Camila Mendes and Lili Reinhart who are especially influential among teenagers are speaking out. They called out Cosmopolitan Philippines for digitally altering their images to make them look slimmer. It is important for them to advocate for true representation of themselves in mainstream media as this encourages young girls to be confident in their own bodies.
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