Two girls walk into a jungle: Sexism, airbrushing and the loss of make-up
This year has seen significant press attention placed on gender equality. Following the cyber attack on Sony in May, releasing details of pay for both male and female actors, stars from Amanda Seyfried and Sandra Bullock to George Clooney have spoken out about the need to address the imbalance.
Behind the scenes in the media, this situation is perhaps even more pronounced. In 2014, The Guardian wrote about the visible lack of women in senior creative positions, and as we speak the BBC is in the midst of a new 100 Women season, which highlights the lives of females around the world in an attempt to show how much they contribute to industries, society and The Way Things Work.
In terms of marketing, press, advertising and entertainment, one of the most common criticisms stems from objectification. The Daily Mail recently ran a slideshow on the most sexist commercials from the 1950s and 60s. But has anything changed in the first years of our supposedly new age?
Despite several steps that have been taken to stop women being idealised as purely sexual beings- a widely agreed cause of everything from depression to eating disorders- this still clearly happens. When Geordie Shore’s Vicky Pattison and Ferne McCann of TOWIE fame stepped into the jungle for I’m A Celebrity, both were quick to de-robe for a bikini-clad swim.
The Valleys’ Natalee Harris immediately seized on the opportunity. Tweeting some pretty offensive remarks that I can’t repeat in this post, she also juxtaposed airbrushed images of the pair from magazines alongside stills from the reality show Down Under; an attempt to show how different their ‘real’ bodies are from those imagined by glossy editors and their art departments. But what does this achieve, other than embarrassment?
Fundamentally, it only serves to emphasise that McCann and Pattison trade on looks and body image- cornerstones of their personal brands. I’m A Celebrity offers no make up experts, and there’s no false sheen applied to its episodes. So by stripping to their swimwear, were the pair in question being brave, and revealing to the world their true appearances, or was this simply an excuse to secure media coverage for themselves whilst reaffirming the media’s obsession with females as objects- in this instance posing in swimwear? Would they have slapped on the foundation and mascara, if the option were there?
Perhaps. But then maybe I’m asking the wrong questions. When all’s said and done, this appearance-led media culture, and the perception of women as the subject of a man’s gaze, rather than his equal, will only change when the entire conversation becomes null and void- when we no longer judge a famous face, sans make up, as ‘brave’, or extraordinary. Until then this problem, which we are all in some way party to as consumers if not producers, will prevail, along with its devastating effects.