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  • Welcome!

    Love it
    11 posts, 10 voices, 847 views, started Jul 20, 2009

    Posted on Monday, July 20, 2009


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      For The Female Lens:

      Welcome to The Female Lens! The purpose of this group is to inspire and support women who want to break away from cultural stereotypes that present women as objects to be viewed. We want to promote the development of healthy, positive female psyches. Society makes women feel as though we always have to be ready to be viewed and scrutinized, as though we are always in front of the camera. This group will explore what it’s like to be the one on the other side of the lens, because it is the ones who do the viewing who have the power.  

      The idea for this group came out of an exchange of PMs between Bozz (Liz) and me.  I’ve identified the text with our Fabulously 40 user names. Our real first names are Liz and Marie (Bernadette is my middle name.) The following are excerpts from that exchange and used with permission, of course!

      It is great that women can be seen as sexy when they are over the stereotyped 18-35 (or should I rephrase that 12-35) age bracket. It's just that I want to feel good about myself WITHOUT reference to 'sexiness' as well. It's not the only thing I am. Why can't we have power that's not related to sexual allure, physical beauty? When I think of that I just end up at the same outcome: that we are still governed more by subconscious (or otherwise) male-lens expectations than by our own.

      I think sexy power for women is great but not the be-all-and-end-all. I'm just at breaking point with the messages everywhere that all women should be thinking about and putting all their hard earned money and valuable time into is trying to look young and sexy (and worse still – that we love it that way). All those shots of women in that thread were just that – yes they were images of 'older women' but they were older women who have successfully managed to look young and sexy. So they are powerful at being that. They are not images of women who are powerful for being who they are inside and powerful for what they can do WITHOUT needing to be sexy.

      The aspiration of the whole world towards a definition of 'woman' that is constantly sexy, constantly beautiful and visually perfect just adds fuel to any arguments that 'women can't do humour' or 'women can't excel at physical, traditionally male activities' - of course they can't if the definition of 'woman' is a sex goddess or vacant supermodel. It's impossible to excel at anything non-sex related if you're preoccupied with needing to look and act sexy and beautiful while you do it. That is crippling. If I forget about looking beautiful and acting sexy my abilities are endless. Yet if I make it the most important thing - I can't move, I'm trapped in an restricting image.

      Arrrghhh sorry to go on.

      If we want to get creative and make ourselves up all sexy and alluring, great but I don't want to do it because the world tells me I will only have power if I look sexy. I'm over hating and being ashamed of the me underneath, especially when I see blemished, overweight, balding and ugly men who feel great about themselves.

      I say Champion feminine grey hair. Champion feminine wrinkles. Champion feminine blemishes. Champion the feminine rounded curvy body in all shapes. Champion NORMAL feminine skin, hair and lips. Champion non sexy behaviour. Champion REAL un-enhanced women over 40.

      Well said! . . .

      But your post, and your words above, expressed what I wanted to say, better than I could myself.

      I always want to feel sexy, but as you say, I want to be perceived that way as I am without starving myself or having surgery. This culture doesn't give women any power unless a woman acts sexy no matter what she's doing, but this culture also doesn't allow unadulterated, over 40 women to be sexy, either. This culture doesn't value the Crone.  

      I also hate to see fat, balding men who think they‘re all that while some beautiful older woman is told she's past it. Not fair! Fat, bald men are never sexy.

      I think part of this attitude is because women are the ones who are looked at while men are the ones who get to do the looking. I really hate that. So many women are self-conscious because they live their lives feeling that they are always being observed; they have to be "camera ready" at all times. While men, on the other hand, always get to do the looking, so they aren't scrutinized for how they look.

      We won't have truly made progress as a society until women stop feeling like they have to be observed all the time and until women feel comfortable doing the observing. I think a lot of women want to look at handsome men, but they are discouraged from doing so, because they are pushed into being observed all the time. I hate how women's magazines are full of pictures of half-naked women just like men's magazines are! WTF? It's because, even in our magazines we are objects to be looked at even by each other. Well, I refuse. I don't want to look at other women that way and so I don't buy women's magazines.  

      I think it's ridiculous that women are told that we get more turned on looking at other women that at men. Society wants that to be the case because then society can continue to present women as the object to be observed. The truth is, I love looking at handsome men. Now I don't go around doing it out of respect for my husband (he doesn't overtly look at other women around me, either) but one big reason I married Lord Blond is because I thought him very handsome and pleasing to look at! In my art, I mostly like to draw and create images of handsome men. I do the looking; they are the objects of observation!

      One reason I love doing martial arts is that no one cares what I look like. My instructors and fellow students only care about my skills and my actions. Having a positive, respectful attitude, helping others in the class, showing that I have practiced hard and am trying my best: those are the only things that matter in my karate class. Martial arts can be hard sometimes; it's physically challenging and difficult to remember everything, but it's such a wonderful feeling to be valued for more than how I look!

      "I think part of this attitude is because women are the ones who are looked at while men are the ones who get to do the looking....and so I don't buy women's magazines."

      I ABSOLUTELY agree with you on everything you wrote in those paragraphs. I have grown up thinking of myself only through how I think other people see me, but I've come to realise, it's not "other people", it's MEN. We are indoctrinated to see ourselves how men see us (ie only the sexy ones get seen). But nobody told us that that was what was happening.

      It's so subtle, (and I guess it's not surprising since we are still only a few decades into women having any say in anything and having many different types of career – so men have been the ones who have set the definitions, represented the world through the pen or the camera, been the photographers, camera operators, writers). Like sports crowd scenes just for ONE example. I grew up thinking that sports crowds consisted of men of all shapes, sizes, degrees of ugliness and stupid behaviour, with only extremely hot, tanned young women. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE CAMERA ZOOMS IN ON. Lots of crowds scenes are like that, that's what I define as the 'male lens' or the male gaze'. Men look at other men doing all sorts of things that they think are interesting, but only notice the hot women. But nobody told us that its always been a MAN behind the camera. We've ALL been accustomed to thinking it is how things are. In other words we all believe that the definition of "man" is a human being in all sorts of different types, ages, degrees of ugliness; while the definition of "woman" is a hot, sexy, young creature. No ordinary women exist in the world. So, I look at myself and am grossed out. I don't see normal women portrayed anywhere STILL. At the very least they've always got makeup on, trying to live up to this image.

      I can tell you from the heart that I've absolutely crippled myself with it. I'm still fighting that stuff now and it's really hard. When I suddenly realised that was what was happening, it ALL fell into place and I got angrier and angrier (tho I hold it all inside me and never speak it). ARRRRHGGGH I'm getting so angry even writing so I better stop!!!!

      I SO agree that we need to be the WATCHERS for a change – god, imagine the outcry if the world was portrayed through the 'female lens' and that was marketed as 'the norm' ??!!! ie. the world seen as made up of women of all shapes, sizes and ages, not attractive but INTERESTING, doing all sorts of things that interest US, while the only men seen were the hot, handsome ones. Men just wouldn't put up with it. So WHY DO WE?

      :o) Liz

      PS. I don't buy "women's" magazines either. Do you think men would buy 'mens' magazines if they were covered in hot guys that made them feel inadequate? Why do women do it to themselves??

      Wow! I feel we are on the same page here. I rarely meet anyone else who "gets it." I wish we didn't live half a world apart! I peeked at your profile and see that you're in New Zealand. I'm in the U.S., in Michigan.

      This exchange has inspired an idea. What about starting a group here, based on what we've been discussing? I'm not sure what to call it but I like your phrase and idea about looking through the "female lens", so maybe we could call it the Female Lens. . . .

      I hate seeing the world through the male lens! I fight against it whenever I can. One reason I'm interested in photography is so I can be behind the lens instead of being the object viewed. Men never think of themselves as on display, but the idea that women are on display is so ingrained that we even think that way ourselves. . . .

      Yes I'd be up for creating a group. It'd actually be good experience for me as I'm terrified of speaking what I feel so to have people challenge me on my opinions (which no doubt some people will) would be good practice for getting stronger.

      I was watching TV with my partner last night and we were watching Mythbusters, a show the advertisers obviously thought was 'man orientated'(tho plenty of women watch it I'm sure so that pissed me off). Many of the ads in the breaks were aimed at men - beer ads, which, over here are more often than not feature idiotic, overweight and unattractive men throwing themselves around and surrounded by tall, half naked, long haired, big boobed, tanned chicks, and also, f&*$ing fast food ads with the exact same formula. Great, men are encouraged to eat fast food while we are meant to be 'watching our weight' and men get to feel absolutely ok about themselves while enjoying a visual feast of idealised women. What makes me angry is not really the fact that they have those ads, but that men never have to then watch the equivalent aimed at us ie. a while bunch of idiotic unattractive women surrounded by Adonises pandering to their every desire. The ads aimed at women (like you said about 'womens' magazines), still have gorgeous women that are supposed to be US in them.

      I now hate almost all ads on TV, even the ones that are supposed to be unisex or aimed at women have a bloody beautiful woman holding the product, lying in the bed that's for sale, promoting the diet, whatever. . . .”

      Now that you’ve read our thoughts, please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions and experiences. Don’t be shy!

      Love it


        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Owlmaria wrote Jul 20, 2009
        • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
          Finally someone who understands the struggle to be yourself & not have to worry about whether you‘re pretty enough, smart enough or be compared to others who in the past have fit only the “Barbie Doll” mold!

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Tuliplady wrote Jul 20, 2009
        • Oh my goodness, you gals have put into words some of the very things that have been on my mind lately.

          I am so sick of television commercials that imply I am not skinny enough, have too many wrinkles, the wrong color hair, the wrong clothes, and teeth that aren’t white enough to be sexy.  It’s ridiculous!

          Thank you for saying all this SO well.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Vikki Hall wrote Jul 20, 2009
        • Very well said and I feel priveldged to be invited.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Tok08 wrote Jul 20, 2009
        • Hi Ladies
          Great news!
          Funnily enough here is an article I wrote today. You won’t recognise the names because they are all English women, but you may appreciate the sentiment...

          Put out to pasture in your forties

          The last six months has seen a slew of 'older' women replaced by younger, fresher faced ones.

          Nicky Hambleton-Jones was the first of a recent 'out with the old and in with the new' campaign. Last November she was replaced by younger model, Myleene Klass; and more importantly one who does not have the same level of experience within the fashion and beauty industry, except as the face of several advertising campaigns. As Nicky herself has stated "It does seem to me like a classic case of replacing any woman over 35, regardless of how suitable she is for the role, with a younger face."

          Latest 'victims' include Jo Whiley and Edith Bowman at Radio 1.The decision to replace Whiley and Bowman was met with disappointment by fans today. A listener on Digital Spy, ElecrobixGreen, posted: ‘I’m gutted about Jo Whiley being marginalised. I’m going to miss her show. She may be older, but I don’t see why that means she can’t be relevant to a younger audience. Are they going to stop playing Madonna because she’s too old?’

          Other older women - Arlene Phillips and Fern Britton have also been replaced by Alesha Dixon and Holly Willoughby respectively.  No disrespect to either of the youngsters – good on them. But it is such a shame that such experienced and respected women are being pushed aside in order to meet the requirements of what the media deems as their target audience (20-35 year olds).

          It's nothing new though – remember Selina Scott and Anna Ford? Selina successfully sued Channel 5 for age discrimination.

          If all the women on television are young and beautiful, does this send a message to viewers that looks are everything, and older women are basically obsolete?

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Denise Richardson wrote Jul 20, 2009
        • happyThank you for the invite glad to be a part. Women unite for R.E.S.P.E.C.T and stance on who we are.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Lazylola wrote Jul 20, 2009
        • I feel honored to have received the invite and look forward to contributing my thoughts in the future.

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Bozz wrote Jul 20, 2009
        • What an awesome response already :o) great to hear that others feels the same way as we do.

          Champion what’s inside you as a person not an image
          Champion what your body can DO not what it LOOKS like -isn’t it TRUELY AMAZING what it can do?
          Champion your gifts and skills
          Champion your character
          Champion your sense of humour
          Champion your lines - they represent your amazing experiences and wisdom and without them you are empty

          Above all feel your worth within. To focus solely on your appearance is buying in to the brain washing that tells us that the only women that matter are young, sexually attractive ones. Plenty of non-attractive guys out there who are accepted by the mass media and the world so it’s OUR time for a bit of that self and societal acceptance.

          BIG supporting vibes out to you all :o))

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        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Wittymom wrote Jul 23, 2009
        • Thanks for the invite. Statements very well put on how the world views women and vice versa. Looking forward to lots of discussion.

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    The purpose of this group is to inspire, empower, and support women who want to break away from objectifying stereotypes.