Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY
Feb 2011 23

Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY

Posted In Beauty,Blog,Entertainment,Fashion,Favorites,Food & Drink,Interviews,Love,Movies,Relationships,Sex,Society,Vanity

by Darrah de jour

“Can I just vent for a fucking moment?

I was not allowed to leave my recovery program until I was a “healthy” 120 lbs.

Tonight, the “Biggest Loser” was awarded $250,000 for being 117 lbs.

What the FUCK is wrong with this picture????”
(Anonymous blogger)

With the hypocritical and oppressive ‘beauty machine’ of America in full-swing, girls are getting “thinspiration” off food blogs and Pro-Ana sites; detouring off the deep end instead of finding their way into recovery. Even Portia de Rossi’s memoir Unbearable Lightness and the stick figures of Black Swan can serve as a “how to” for low self esteem. And this begs the question. Women – aren’t we just too dang valuable to level our self-worth by countable ribs?

America The Beautiful

A smart, candid documentary America the Beautiful has hit Amazon and Netflix with a profound message. It features 12 year old model Gerren Taylor and the adventures of her high fashion modeling career, against the backdrop of “normal” kids her age – and the advertisers targeting them.

Playwright Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues mastermind (whose work to end violence against women in Congo is admirable, to say the least) appears in ATB, with some powerful words. “Stop fixing your body. It was never broken.” She’s right. We, as Americans, as women, are absolutely obsessed with fixing shit that was never broken. Our “flabby” arms, our “cottage cheese” thighs, our “thin” or (depending on your ethnicity) “puffy” lips, our “sheet white” or (depending on what Cosmo says) “leathery” skin, or our “poochy” stomachs (we hold babies in there for Chrissakes!). If we so choose.

If we so choose, we can run governments, give breath and life, stop traffic, and start wars and end wars. Make men come and make men breathless, make women beg, make children laugh, make poems leap. We weaken the smug with a disarming smile and turn the defeated into victors. We are great mediators and yet our diplomacy fails us when we need it most. In the face of the “ideal woman” in our head, we stand before the bathroom mirror, and feel ugly and torn. And yes, those freckles are cute. Not ugly.

Manifesto aside. Seriously ladies, if we don’t stop badmouthing ourselves, our daughters, nieces and girls everywhere who emulate us, will do the same and then we’ll all have to suffer from the endless reign of the prevailing truths behind those Dove campaigns. (I’m a Caress gal myself.)

Pretty Thin

In 1920 American women were gifted the right to stand inside a 36″ x 12″ voting booth, slide closed a curtain and choose the next president. Eerily, one year later, the primero beauty pageant Inter-City Beauty Contest (now Miss America) was founded. Taking women’s minds conveniently off the politics of… well… politics and onto the politics of the supreme bathing suit contest. Go figure. Skip to 1963′s feminist classic The Feminine Mystique and Betty Friedan will tell ya, the staggering amount of at-home moms mixing highballs and Valium – with their psychiatrist’s go-ahead, was nearing 50%. Fifty-percent. Whoa. That’s a lot of hammered hysterical housewives crying over their Easy-Bake Ovens.

As American women, we may no longer be confined to mind-numbing housework and bouts of daytime isolation, but has the 1950s-style “desperate housewife” mentality only morphed? “By adjusting to this ‘comfortable concentration camp,’” Friedan wrote, a woman “stunts her intelligence to become childlike, turns away from individual identity to become an anonymous biological robot in a docile mass. She becomes less than human, preyed upon by outside pressures.” Sound familiar?

Fast forward to vivacious Gerren Taylor, the star of this striking documentary, who at 12 thought – along with Marc Jacobs – that she was the next Naomi Campbell. By film’s end; a mere three years and endless rejections later, at 15, unequipped to handle the cocktail of shitty modeling industry standards and nature’s universal curveball puberty, she loses her confidence in a final proclamation: “I’m ugly. Period.”

Mad Women Detour ->

Mad Men television star, firecracker Christina Hendricks was recently named Esquire’s “Sexiest Woman Alive.” Despite this, she stated that she couldn’t get a designer to make a dress for her 5’8″ size 14 bombshell of a body. “I’m still struggling for someone to give me a darn dress,” she said before the 2010 Emmys. “I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, ‘Oh, I look like a woman.’ And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it.”

Another power player is 22-year old Florida native Whitney Thompson, who took a hand-held hammer to television’s glass ceiling when she won season 10 of America’s Next Top Model – the first (barf -pun intended – I hate this term) “plus-sized” model to win. She is now a cover girl for “Love Your Body Day” and a spokesperson for the National Eating Disorder Association.

Thompson admits, “People don’t realize that we have a billion-dollar diet industry working against our self-esteem. There is always a new product out selling us happiness if we ‘finally’ shed those pounds,” she says on her blog.

Last, 24-year old model Crystal Renn beat anorexia and is now trying to beat the modeling system – from the inside. She says, “I have made it my life to speak about feeling completely beautiful no matter what size you are.” From her book Hungry:

My self-acceptance led to a return of the intellectual curiosity I’d had as a child, before I got on the weight-loss express. It led to a better career. It led to romance. I’m proof that life doesn’t have to wait until you’re skinny.

(Hungry maps Renn’s appetite and those who tried to squander it.) Sing it sister.

->Back on Track

I caught up with America The Beautiful filmmaker Darryl Roberts. He had some cool enlightening stuff to say about Revlon and their pesky phthalates and the sometimes death-defying tricks chicks use to stay youthful, beautiful and thin.

Darrah de jour: You’ve created a marvelous film and won many awards for your social commentary. Congratulations! What were your initial goals when you began and what did you set out to capture?

Darryl Roberts: I initially set out to make a film that was therapeutic and examine why we’re so obsessed with beauty, but I ended up tackling a much larger social issue.

Ddj: What inspired your work?

DR: I was in a 4 year relationship with a woman that was awesome and very good to me. When it came time to commit to her, I passed, thinking I could find someone just as wonderful but more attractive. One day I was sitting in a McDonald’s thinking about this unfortunate tale when I thought it would be great to do a documentary exploring why we’re so obsessed with beauty.

Ddj: What was most striking to you about women’s relationships to their bodies, and how do they differ from what most men find attractive about women?

DR: I had no idea that the vast, vast majority of women wished they had a “better” body. Advertisers have pulled the wool over women’s eyes regarding what’s beautiful in the female form. This differs greatly from what I’ve found that men like in a woman’s body. Most men don’t like the stick thin women that advertisers believe is beautiful. One day I polled 100 men and 74% said they preferred women of an average size as opposed to models in the magazines. I believe the attraction to models that men have has more to do with perceived status than an actual beauty preference.

Ddj: The meat-heads you interviewed had me laughing (and crying) with pity. Do you find Chris Keefe to be a product of society or simply somebody who chooses to under-value the smart, beautiful women around him? What type of women do you think are attracted to arrogant men?

DR: I think that Chris Keefe undervalues smart, beautiful women because he is a product of this society. When you think about it, if advertisers have women thinking that they have to look a certain way to be beautiful and then they have men believing that the women that they date should look a certain way the both are victims. Just different sides of the coin. From what I’ve noticed mainly women with low-self esteem are attracted to really arrogant men.

Ddj: Have you found love again?

DR: Well not yet, though I will say I have been dating some awesome women over the last 3 years. And it’s only a matter of time before I meet the right woman and walk down the aisle. I can feel it.

Ddj: What do you think advertisers and magazine editors can do to help women, as opposed to target them? Aren’t they just doing their job?

DR: I believe magazine editors can stand up to advertisers and convince them that women want to see a wider range of body types and standards of beauty. Imagine if a magazine put an average size woman on the cover with articles featuring average sized women then went back to the advertisers and told them how much positive feedback they’d gotten. The editors are on the front lines with the consumer. They stand the best chance of getting advertisers to realize that they’re alienating a large percentage of women by promoting a monolithic standard of beauty. Yes, I suppose they’re just doing their jobs, but I believe social responsibility should be infused with the requirements of capitalism.

Ddj: What was the strangest thing you found women did to “improve” their bodies?

DR: While making the film, I saw a woman go into a plastic surgeon’s office and ask him to make her vagina look like a woman in Playboy. That was the strangest thing I saw. BY FAR!

Ddj: You tackled parts of a big, consumeristic, hedonistic, capitalistic issue of retail products that kill women slowly. Have any companies stopped using phthalates since ATB came out?

DR: I believe two companies have stopped using phthalates since the film came out. The rest of the companies keep harmful ingredients in their products because we haven’t voiced a loud enough concern about it. Remember – the entire economy of the beauty industry is driven by our dollars.

Ddj: First impressions: How did you find Gerren Taylor and what was most notable to you about her upon meeting? What were the positive and negative aspects of her involvement in the modeling industry, starting so young, at 12 years old?

DR: I met Gerren at a fashion show in Los Angeles. I think the negative aspect is developing one’s self esteem from something so transient. Just the concept that an industry could tell you that you’re hot and beautiful then change the standard is scary. That’s what happened to Gerren. When the industry decided that she was no longer what they craved, it was all downhill from there. And I don’t see anything positive about someone modeling in runway shows half-naked at 12. I’m sorry.

Ddj: Did you find Gerren’s relationship with her mother to be healthy?

DR: Well it depends on how you define healthy. I’m sorry I can’t answer this question, it’s way too controversial.

Ddj: Technical Question: How long did the documentary take to film, start to finish and what kind of camera did you use?

DR: The documentary took a total of 5 years from start to finish. I used the Panasonic DVX-100a camera.

Ddj: Did you find the red carpet – backstage fashion show – E! Entertainment world you crashed, with questions about social consciousness, to be intimidating?

DR: I’ve done two feature films and I’ve been to several of those kind of functions. And at the end of the day, Paris Hilton brushes her teeth just like I do. Just with a more expensive toothbrush.

Ddj: I loved the moment when you talked with Anthony Kiedis. He’s a hero of mine. What did you take away from that?

DR: Anthony Kiedis got me to realize that every one living has something unique and beautiful about them.

Ddj: What are your future projects and please tell our readers – both women and men, anything else you’d like to share about life, liberty and the pursuit of the perfect nose:

DR: My next project is a documentary dealing with health that shatters the whole BMI myth. The film is called America the Beautiful: Health for Sale. As far as life, liberty and the pursuit of the perfect nose, don’t do it. The nose that you have is just fine!

To learn more about America The Beautiful doc, visit: AmericaTheBeautifulDoc.com/.

If you or somebody you like a lot suffers from disordered eating contact: National Eating Disorder Association or Monte Nido Treatment Center.

***

Darrah de jour is a freelance journalist who lives in LA with her dog Oscar Wilde. Her writing has appeared in Marie Claire, Esquire and W. In her Red, White and Femme: Strapped With A Brain – And A Vagina columns for SuicideGirls, Darrah will be taking a fresh look at females in America.

5 comments
maria
maria

I want to see this! thank you for this piece -- I had not heard about the documentary before it!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Alright, enough is e-goddam-nough.  Everyone wants to be admired and desired.  But, to the point of self-mutilation?  Come on!

Zach Fisher
Zach Fisher

Your questions are spot on. Obviously image is everything in this country and you have explored the subject with great insight and solution based thinking. Very enjoyable and inspiring. Thanks! 

Jann Hoffman
Jann Hoffman

I see young women in my business who "would die to be thin and they do..." It is heartbreaking - Your work is amazing and right on..

Matthew
Matthew

Great peice Darrah.  I gotta say that I persoanlly, along with many other men out there love women in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  In my opinion, the advertising and modeling industries are completely to blame.  Who are these sick freaks that are telling women that they have to be sickly thin when that's not even what most men like. The solution to this problem starts with exactly what is happening here.  The more people like you, Darryll, Eve Ensler and the rest shed light on the destruction that is being caused and name names of those perpetrating these offenses we can make progress.

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  1. [...] Posts: Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex [...]

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  8. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

  9. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

  10. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

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  12. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

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  14. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

  15. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

  16. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

  17. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]

  18. [...] Part II Red, White and Femme: Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Polyamory Part I – With Annie Sprinkle Red, White and Femme: America is FUGLY Red, White and Femme: Trusting The Ring of Purity – Faith vs Sex Education Red, White and [...]