I recently came across this lecture from Jill Kilbourne and wanted to share it with you. In one of the classes I’ve been teaching we’ve been talking extensively about media’s role in women’s self esteem. I think it’s so very important to understand with Ms. Kilbourne has to say here. That we often find ourselves viewing magazines or television ads or billboards, and feeling inadequate because we don’t look like the women in the pictures. But, hello, even the women in the pictures don’t look like the women in the pictures. With Photoshop, no woman need ever have flaws. And I’ve heard through back channels that some actresses have right in their contract that their image on television must be slightly vertically stretched to make them appear taller and thinner.
Couple this with the fact that hardly anyone approaching average size appears on television or in advertising. The average American woman is a size 12 on the top and a 14 on the bottom. Most women on television or in advertising are a size 2, 0 or even 00. To give you a frame of reference, when Cameryn Manheim was on The Practice she was about a size 14 and quite tall. When I met her in person, I was struck by how average her size looked in real life. But on TV she seemed pretty large. Now some say that the camera adds 15 pounds, but I don’t really think that’s what’s at work here. What is at work here is that she was surrounded by a whole cast of people that were very, very significantly smaller than average. So by contrast, she seemed bigger.
I sometimes wish I could have a special Photoshop tool or television/video filter that would allow me to make everybody on TV and in ads look a little more average or a little more normal. I think it would help the rest of us gain some perspective on how other people look. But when I get really down, I go do a little “field work”. I go to a mall, or a gym or a public pool, I sit on a bench or in a chair and I just look at people. I regain my sense of how real people look. People all looking SO different from one another. People with tattoos and scars and stretch marks. People of all different shapes and sizes and colors. All different kinds of hair in all different places. Smiles shining out of faces not lit for the cameras, but rather lit from within, from lives well lived. I regain my perspective. It really feels great. Maybe you’d like to try it and report back? I’d love to hear how it went!
The Fat Chick