Friday, January 26, 2007

The M.A.C. Attack - The media-advertising agency-celebrity complex is up to its usual shenanigans. In a bid to reinforce its harsh standards of appearance for women, the tabloid division of the M.A.C. has seized upon recently-taken photographs of Tyra Banks while she was vacationing in Australia, and went on to christen her "Tyra Porkchop" and "America's Next Top Waddle." Banks, a former supermodel (who was also the first African American model to grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 1997) is currently hosting America's Next Top Model, as well as her own syndicated talk show, The Tyra Banks Show.

At 5'10" and 160lbs, Tyra is admittedly far from her weight when she was modeling, as she will freely attest. In this week's issue of People, Tyra commented,
"I still feel hot, but every day is different. It's when I put on the jeans that used to fit a year ago and don't fit now and give me the muffin top, that's when I say, 'Damn!' "
But she is hardly on the verge of morbid obesity, and from looking at some of her past and present photos, I concur with Heidi Klum's assessment that, "[Tyra] has a very womanly, gorgeous body."

In this and many other ways, the M.A.C. has shown itself to be sexist as well as racist, in as much as it reinforces the idea that a woman’s ultimate value is in her attractiveness and/or her ability to sexually titillate and gratify men. In a fashion resembling its treatment of minorities, the M.A.C. judges the worth of females by qualities other than their objectively observable talents. The media are not above sending forth their "best and brightest" women for the sole purpose of garnering male attention, particularly that of the coveted 18-35 male demographic.

It is this constant show of cloying solicitousness on the part of women in the media microcosm that shapes society’s opinions of women for the worse in the real world. And as it pertains to female sexual behavior, the M.A.C. cheers on women when they are willing to have sex at the drop of a hat (or a blouse.) Whether it is something out of Girls Gone Wild, or part of more mainstream offerings such as Maxim, FHM or The O.C., the media create the impression that a woman's body is to be regarded as little more than meat for the table, and that sex without commitment or consequences is to be preferred. And as is its fashion, this same system will cast aspersion on any woman who dares not yield to its ascetic standard.

In an age where anorexia and other eating disorders are rampant among young girls (and an increasing number of teen boys), we must begin to turn our attention to those societal influencers that create the impression that a person's value is directly correlated to appearance. As alluded to elsewhere, in that the M.A.C is the primary thought leader for millions of impressionable teenagers and young adults, it serves to perpetuate bigotry and bias in American society.
The tragedy is that, for all of its bluster, the second-wave feminist movement provides little protection to the young girls whose minds are warped by the M.A.C.'s psychological predations. Indeed (as noted elsewhere), second-wave feminism has left young women with only two choices in dealing with the culture: capitulation to an oppressive standard of appearance and behavior or withdrawal from the culture altogether.

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