Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's Wrong With the Way We Look?

No, that isn't the imperial plural. Nor is it an entreaty to flood me with mail about what's literally wrong with the way I look.

This caught my eye a couple days ago. It's a series of pictures of celebrities before and after Photoshop. Faces have been smoothed out until they look like plastic (Britany Murphy looks like a RealDoll (Google it if you're not sure - but be warned, it's really weird and very NSFW) in her after pic), breasts are made to look perfectly symmetrical and full (Penelope Cruz, Katherine Heigl), butts are slimmed (Kelly Clarkson) or plumped (Eva Longoria) and there is nary a hair out of place. The thing that really fries me is that every one of these people look anywhere from fine to amazing
before Photoshop. Oh, and there's only one dude pictured and all that was done to his picture was to smooth out some lines and erase a red mark on his forehead.

There are so many things going on in these photos, I'm not sure where to start. Interestingly (and rather sadly), it's a clear example of the disconnect between femininity and physical activity - women who are more than just a little toned are viewed as unfeminine. So, how can these celebrities work out like crazy (like most people would have to in order to maintain a red-carpet-ready physique) and not build muscles? The answer is that they do, it's just airbrushed away. It's very obvious in the Cameron Diaz picture. In the before picture she has ab cuts visible just above the waistband of her jeans. In the after picture, they're gone. Eva Longoria's arms were subjected to similar distortion.

Why? Are women really the weaker sex? If that were really the case, wouldn't those pioneer women have been incapable of the backbreaking physical labor required to raise children and maintain the home (often including working with Pa in the fields)? How would women be able to carry water across long distances (because when that particular chore needs doing, guess who does it?) if they were so weak?

It seems that women are perceived as weak when it's necessary for their appearance to be pleasing to someone. Female bodybuilders used to be criticized by judges for looking too "masculine," meaning their bodies became indistinguishable from male competitors and this somehow rendered them inferior female competitors.

What can we do about this disconnect between femininity and physical activity?