Friday, 30 December 2011

Selfish And The City

This week, out of a mix of boredom and curiosity, I watched Sex and The City 2 (2010).

My sister was given the DVD last Christmas, not that she asked for it, and it has been lurking on her shelf ever since. Sex and The City has been about since 1998 and with my interest in female/feminist issues, my thoughts were that this would be interesting research into modern female icons.  The television series ran for 94 episodes, with 4 million viewers in the UK tuning in to watch the season finale in 2004.
So I watched the whole film. Within minutes I had grabbed a pen and paper and started making notes. This film gives women a bad name on so many levels it is insulting. I remember seeing the first film with my three female flat mates and I was the only one who was bored and disgusted by it.

I shall run through the issues that cropped up with SATC2; a few of them female stereotypes, others ridiculous plot lines:
1-Carrie walks out of a building with her sunglasses already on, takes them off, smiles and return them to her face. Dick.

2- You never randomly meet a friend in the street, let alone your three best friends.

3- Women do not squeal when they meet each other. This is ridiculous and pathetic behaviour.

4-Not all women have gay best friends.
5- We don’t all lead stupidly glamourous rich lifestyles that revolved around branded clothes.
6- Unlike SJP and gang, women CAN be funny. The jokes in the film that are made by the quartet stretch as far as someone having a camel toe and a poor Jewish based joke with Jude Law as the punch line. Thank god Kirsten Wigg is a rising star in film to show that women are funny. Bridesmaids put to shame the constant Adam Sandler and Hangover dribble
7- The jokes are so bad I am making a point of it by mentioning it twice. The start of the film revolves around a gay wedding, and the girls are firing out camp jokes faster than they can raise their botoxed eyebrows.
8- Someone needs to tell SJP crimping hair isn’t cool, let alone on a 40-something women.
9- Liza Minnelli? Singing Beyonce’s Single Ladies... WHY? Minnelli is very much a camp icon, so I can see why she would appear at a gay wedding. But the performance is so over the top, making her sing and dance to Beyonce with two dancers just made me cringe. She is like an aging family relative that is intent to embarrass you.

10- A mother of two exclaiming ‘ewwww’. Act your age.
11- If people don’t want children, they don’t have to. The world is over populated enough anyway. A discussion between two couples whilst at the wedding, one of which looked down on Carrie as they have decided not to have children. The moment was fairly tense as the women pulled a face. This is the 21st century, and many women are choosing careers over children. How could Carrie possibly afford it with all those  and dresses?
12- The women are obsessed with slowing down aging. Sex-obsessed Samantha reels off products and pills that help her try to hold onto her youth. We all know you are in your 50’s, stop fighting it. Stop pressuring women to feel like they need to spend silly amounts of money to attempt to look as perfect as you do. What normal women fail to realise, is that the make-up artists on films know lots of tricks to hide unwanted wrinkles and blemishes and really make the stars shine.
13- No film, under any circumstances, requires a bra-less women running towards the camera.

14- Hiring a nanny when living in New York shows wealth. The film shows a mother, in this case Charlotte, doing nothing whilst her hired nanny works on raising her children shows poor mothering. You never see Charlotte working or too busy to raise her own children. To make things worse, motherhood and children are dismissed in the film by Samantha as she doesn’t want them having breakfast with the quartet. Why is it acceptable to show such a negative idea about motherhood and show no real interaction with Charlotte and her children. The only interactions you see between Charlotte and her offspring, show the children in a a very negative way - one child not being able to sleep and screaming her head off whilst the other scene shows the older child putting red hand prints on Charlottes favourite vintage skirt. This concludes with Charlotte crying in a cupboard; Man the shit up woman. No one wears their favourite outfits whilst in the kitchen! This wouldn’t have happened if she was a better mother and gave them some of her attention. And if this woman has the money for a nanny, she has the money for dry cleaning or at least a new skirt.
 To be fair, there is some positive light on the relationship between a mother and child. Lawyer Miranda quits her depressing job to spend time with her family and makes it to see her child win a first prize at school. A small victory for motherhood.

15- SJP is a selfish bitch. She is ungrateful to her husband for a thoughtful gift. She whines and moans about her perfectly normal relationship. She is a complete cow to her husband and I am not surprised to tried to leave her for a couple of days a week.
16- This film totally glamourizes the rich lifestyle; the ability to lunch with your friends, decorate your apartment whilst also having another one lying empty and unused. This adds to magazines and TV shows that expect you to be able to afford the best of everything, to make you feel like you should always look your best. Brand labels that are featured in the film merely show off where the ladies stand in the money hierarchy. Never does the film address the issue of whether they can afford these luxuries of second homes in New York or the price of their outfits.


17- How many dress changes does a woman need? Carrie changed outfit getting on and off a plane! These women only seem to care about themselves and what they are wearing! I change my clothes less in a year than those women did in 148 minutes!
I could rant on, but I feel that this is enough to safely say that Sex and the City represents the smallest minority of women, glamourizing a lifestyle of no worries about money. These women show barely any love for their partners or children, you see Carrie and Miranda briefly working before meeting up for lunch with the girls. No one lives this lifestyle. The money is run on money and unless you are Tamara Ecclestone, us real women have to work hard for our lifestyles, to have the chance to even pay off our debts and mortgages.

Maybe I am wrong and Sex and the City is all about escapism for the real everyday woman and is fun. Or maybe I am right, along with all the film critics and it just mocks the real issues-raising children, paying bills, working to make ends meet..etc- women face.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Bodies

This month I have picked up a few books to read, including Bodies by Susie Orbach. I fascinating read about the pyschology behind the body and how we percieve ourselves, the mother and baby relationship and the effects of dieting.

The most influential chapter for myself, Bodies Real and Not So Real, talks about the effects of dieting on the body, obesity and artist Orlan.

'So emphatically is this the case that girls growing up today who that that constant dieting and being frightened of food are natural states. They’ve seen their mothers diet and they have been initiated into that what of approaching food. Thinking one is doing a good thing for oneself, one goes on a diet. '
Bodies, Susie Orbach, pg 96.
I highly recommend this chapter as a read to anyone in this modern era of manic body self-conscious. We are increasingly forced to think about our bodies and the status it presents to others. From the survey that I sent out in a previous blog , I found that there was a high number of self-conscious young people, thinking about dieting on a regular basis. I find it shocking that we bring up the next generation that is pushed by the media and health products and our vanity to fit in and show ourselves off to those around us.

'The numerous industries – diet, food, cosmetic surgery, pharmaceutical and media- that represent bodies as being about performance, fabrication and display make us think that our bodies are sites for (re)construction and improvement. Collectively, they leave us with a sense that our bodies capacities are limited only by our purse and determination. '
Bodies, Susie Orbach, pg 104

Orbach mentions French artist Orbach, who has been working since the 1970's and most explicityly in the early 1990's using her own body as a canvas. Whilst studying graphics, I was very aware of Stefan Sagmeister, highly regarded graphic designer, who also used his own body as a canvas. With the help of an assistant, Sagmeister carved into his body to create the result below as a poster format.

 The difference between these two artists was the message. Sagmeister wanted to visualise the pain that most of the designers have to go through while working on a project, whereas Orlan was commenting of society and the pain of cosmetic surgery. Orlan subjected herself to cosmetic surgery, to show the horrors 'with the impossibility of having a body that one can find acceptable.' Orbach, pg110. The five minute video is hard to watch, I squirmed quite a bit. Surgery is nothing I would consider unless for medical purposes, and the video highlights what women are encourage to do to their own bodies.

The increase of men and women glorifying the use of surgery is increasing, with more people parading wrinkle-free, botox filled faces.The recent news of french breast implant producer PIP having possible having health risks shows that vanity and cosmetic surgery comes at a high risk.

Links
 Bodies by Susie Orbach on Amazon
Orlan online
Stefan Sagmeister online
PIP Breast Implants on the BBC

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Ladies in the East End

The representation of women in television and film has changed somewhat over the last 50 years, developing strong female leads such as Sigorney Weaver in Alien, the romantic lead of Amelie and the psychotic Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Brilliantly strong characters that fight the traditional and aging housewife image, who capture the screen for their portrayals of women fighting through life and what is thrown at them.

Despite these characters, there are films and shows that just don't justify the representation of women,. tar Wars for example only has one female lead character out of a cast of many men. Even now, there are very few female directors too, accounting for 8% of the top 250 grossing films of all time.

However, I am disgressing slightly, what I really wanted to make a point of was an article about the representation of women in the Christmas day Eastenders episode. Lisa Northover, reported as Bournemouths most followed individual on Twitter, has written an article about the representation of women in the ..ahem.. festive episode, where you see the constant degrading and belittling of women against the dominating male characters. What century are we in? This is the 21st when I last checked, and the world is full of strong headed women living and fighting for themselves. Read the article here, which covers various roles in the show including that of domestic violence and motherhood.

Merry Christmas from Albert Square

I am not a follower of Eastenders but I know that they frequently use domestic violence as a key storyline, most significantly Mo Slater who murdered her violent husband with an iron a fair few festive seasons ago. In my experience of Christmas, it is never like the dreary and dramatic soap. I think we all can appreciate the producers raising awareness of the issues of domestic violence among other key issues, however they fail to raise it's significance for the rest of the year. Glancing at the BBCs Eastenders website, they slightly fail to really campaign about the issues raised. There is only a small box at the bottom that links to a long list of groups and charities that support causes. The BBC need to make this a key feature on their website so it is easily accessable to all, whether to support or inform viewers and not made to be such an insignificant feature.


LinksWomen and Film by the BFI
Lisa Northover on Twitter
Women in Film Stats from Women Make Movies
Eastenders at the BBC

Monday, 26 December 2011

Childs Play

If you are a frequent blog reader, you might remember last months post about Desperate Scousewives. I ranted about the delights of the new breed of 'reality' television in the form of cameras following of group of tan glowing and self centred people which is entirely set up by the producers to bring more interesting[debable] storylines.

Today, I came across the delights of a fellow ranter Charlie Skeoch. I have followed Charlie on twitter for a while, as a blogger of film reviews [check out her brilliant War Horse review] but this week she has posted about reality show following The Only Way is Essex... erh 'star'.... Amy Childs. A wonderfully witty review of her recent program where cameras followed her around whilst she lived her inspiring life-style. A very witty blogger. 
Check it out here.

Links
Must It Be All About Amy By Charlie Skeoch
Charlie Skeoch on Twitter

Saturday, 24 December 2011

May Contain Vaginas

At the moment I am reading Bodies by Susie Orbach, discussing many body issues from babies bonding with their mother to the psychology of wanting to look a certain way. It has been an interesting read, incluing a studying into a man who wanted to become an amputee and have his legs surgically removed. The relationship between our mind and body seems to be so distant in an age where we are bombarded with photoshopped images of the perfect body and constant advertising of products and processes that we need to age gracefully and to fit into society.

 Embroidered Vagina

After taking part in the Embroidered Campaign to support Female Genitalia Mutilation [blog] I kept meaning to look up an artist that I remembered seeing The Perfect Vagina shown on Channel 4 in August 2008. Jamie McCartney, who runs Brighton Body Casting, was working on a 5 year project taking plaster casts of women's vaginas.This is 'art with a social conscience', to show that this is naturally what women look like!

 Panel 1 with 40 vagina casts.

'400 casts arranged in this manner is in no way pornographic, as it might have been if photographs had been used.' Jamie McCartney


The First Official Photo Shoot

"Why did I do it and what's it all about?" I hear you ask. Well, it became clear to me whilst working on a not dissimilar piece for a sex museum that many women have anxiety about their genital appearance. It appalled me that our society has created yet one more way to make women feel bad about themselves. I decided that I was uniquely placed to do something about it." - Jamie McCartney on BrightonBodycasting.com


The project is delicate as it is loud. It strikes as a project to get participants to understand themselves more by comparing their vaginas with other women and realize that we are all different. It also makes suggestion to the popular rise in the 'designer vagina' as well as the fore mentioned female genitalia mutilation.

If you are at all self conscious about your body,especially vagina, watch this complete clip from The Perfect Vagina shown on Channel 4 in 2008.

McCartney took women as young as 18 to women in their 70's, as well as casting female to male and male to female transsexuals. It is a great project, that will unfortunately offend the light-hearted and closed minded people, but inspire women who suffer with body anxieties. Women need to be more open with each other about their anxieties and support each other to love themselves without injecting botox, implanting silicon or insisting on photoshopping photographs.


LINKS
@GreatWallVagina on Twitter

Ho Ho Ho

Merry Christmas!
Many thanks to those who have supported me with my work with ideas, contributions and by simply reading this blog. Please keep looking back, as there will be lots to come in the new year, and spread word to all!

And here is some Christmas joy for you, from the guys @theartofdancing





Friday, 9 December 2011

Advertising Bodies

Earlier this week,I read an interesting article talking about the representation of the female body in advertising. The government are currently during up a voluntary pledge for brands to conquor body confidence, especially for young women. This pledge comes at a time when airbrushing is acceptable in advertisement, including film posters such as the American poster version of King Arthur, where Knightly recieved a free digital boob-job.
Left: UK poster, Right: American Version.

The pledge comes with backing from MP Jo Swinson, who complained again L'Oréal's posters which featured actress Julia Roberts who looked overly airbrushed. 'Swinson complained that images of both celebrities had been digitally manipulated and were "not representative of the results the product could achieve"." Guardian, 27th July 2011. Good for Swinson, I mean look at the image. It glows with computer manipulation.


 
The Advertising Standards Agency[ASA] refused the advert, mainly down to L'Oréal not being able to provide the original pre-production images. When a company does not want to release pictures to proove their innocence, it reaks of guilt.

Also this week, H&M have been critisized for thier new digitilized models on their sites. The clothes are shot on mannequins which are then digitally manipulated to look more human. They have also used another technique where 'shot real models for the campaign, but only to superimpose their heads on the standard body form,' Msmagazine.com. How sodding ridiculous. That is a new step bridging a gap between the customer and the brands images that they use on their site. It also mocks models for what they do, as well as also pressuring women to look a certain way. The digital figures are dainty, nowhere near the natural average of 14/16. A company spokesperson 'insists that they only settled on a single “default” body because they wanted a standard base on which to display the clothing.' AT LEAST USE SOMEONE WE CAN RELATE TO. They might have well as used a blow up doll or AN ACTUAL MANNEQUIN! If a company uses a model, natural figure or even celebrity, at least they would be endorsing themselves as a company who can relate to womens bodies and their needs.



 All the photos I have seen so far,including this one above,entirely digitilized, looks horrifically unnatural and uncomfortable. It makes me think the poor woman has a crooked limbs thanks to the strange shadowing on her left arm.

Women have enough on their plate dealing with children, work, men[big children] amongst everything else to have to worry about looking perfect for everyone else. The fact that there are so many beauty adverts thrusted in magazines so that women are peer pressured to look unnaturally younger. And do these products actually work? Of course they do... if you eat well,excersize regulary, do not smoke, do not drink alcohol and live a stress free life with the perfect sleeping patterns. And that is given that you have a natural perfect skin condition anyway. These products are bull, and women are a fool for buying them. You are better off mixing your own concoction of of oats, honey and natural yogurt or whatever people suggest on blogs and messageboards. Those, at least, are natural products and you know what they are. No one really knows what those long worded ingredients are that go into skin creams.

What L'Oréal and H&M have failed to do is to relate to their audience. All we want, like we do from men, is honesty, and for them to actually understand what we want. Perhaps a cream that helps us age slightly more gracefully but show us an un-airbrushed Julia Roberts, or even show us the clothes how they look on a petite, but real human being. Don't give us your bullshit. We are in the 21st Century, women can think for themselves and we think this is insane.


Links
Government Targets Beauty Brands via Marketing Magazine.co.uk
H&M New Models Via Ms.blog.com
Banning L'oreal Via Guardian
MP Jo Swinson On Twitter

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Nineteen Years

Yesterday whilst at the cinema, I saw this advert which I thought was brilliant. I am not a smoker, but it scared the bejesus out of me and I certainly never plan to start smoking. The black and white advert, directed by Steve Hudson, shows a young woman smoking, inhaling and exhaling slowly. As she exhales on each puff, the woman slowly ages more, as smoking reduced the elasticity in your skin resulting in increased wrinkles. A very effective piece.

Links
Anti Smoking on Vimeo

Monday, 5 December 2011

How to Be a Woman

'You know, when it comes to sex, you really do have to remember men are blessedly forgiving creatures. They don't care what kind of knickers you're wearing. By the time you've taken your skirt off, you could be wearing a Gregg's paper bag with leg holes torn in to it, and it wouldn't put them off. THERE ARE MEN OUT THERE HAVING SEX WITH BICYCLES. Men don't remotely care if you're wearing sexy pants or not.'

I couldn't help but chuckle at these words. Caitlin Moran has expressed in words something that I have believed, and probably many others, for a long time.

Whilst in London at Fem11, a few people I got chatting to recommended How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. I will admit now, I had never heard of it before, despite glowing reviews from Jonathan Ross, Nigella Lawson and Lauren Laverne. However, 100 pages in, and it has had amused me all evening. The book is far from patronizing and stuck up, which I always fear from feminists. However this is a mix of memoirs and rants; tales of periods, pants and muffs [so far..].

Other key quotes from the book which I think strike very amusing points.

'So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.'

'Why on earth have I, because I'm a woman, got to be nice to everyone? And why have women - on top of everything else- got to be particularly careful to be 'lovely' and 'supportive' to each other at all times?'

On the subject of underwear that we love wearing: 'Oh, if only the world knew how amazing we look under all these clothes.' Because I know personally that I feel so much better about myself wearing beautiful and comfortable under wear. After a recent discussion with a male friend, I find the idea of men buying me underwear bizarre and unnecessary. For one, I know what I like, and I am like hell to please. Secondly, I am wearing underwear to make myself feel good, not to look good for anyone else.

 A highly recommended read to all men and women.