I personally do not find it empowering to women, because not all women look like that. Sure, everyone wants to feel beautiful, but beautiful takes on a lot of different meanings. To some, it could mean grace, poise, and self confidence; to others, it could mean strong, independant and dangerous, and yet still, to another it could mean intelligence, power and skill. Then, you have the whole side of physical beauty.
It is, in some ways, an unrealistic view of a male fantasy. In a study from TIME Magazine (a 2003 issue, I don't remember which one), 76% of men surveyed in North America (mainly Canada and the U.S) admit fantasizing about their perfect female partner, which was described as "magazine worthy" or "media worthy". But, most people don't look like these women, and in many magazines and ads, the models are airbrushed to cover "imperfections" in their bodies.
I have always detested the media's portrayal of women, in many degrees. Lately I have seen more and more ads, with female models, and NONE of them were of what we would call "average". They all looked delicate, tanned, thin, and cosmetically enhanced. And it bothers me that some people will see that and think "Wow, she's beautiful", but when in reality nobody looks like that.
I do have a hard time swallowing the idea that men aren't held up to the same ideals of "beauty" as women. Take a look at the popular view of gay culture and the metrosexual movement. If anything, more pressure is being placed on men's apperance by society than ever before.
The important question is whether or not you buy into this pressure and objectification. Magazines don't have to be bought, and the TV does have an off button. I can see both lines of the divide by the sheer chance of being attracted to both men and women. The "standard" is beautiful woman are stylish waifs with zero imperfections and "good-looking" or "beautiful" men are Abercrombie & Fitch clones with damned-near impossible to acheive perfect abs and completely sclupted bodies.
What I personally find attractive physically in others doesn't always tend t fall inside the idea of the mainstream, as I'm sure a great many others can relate to. I don't immediately find someone who doesn't fit into the mold physically unattractive, and I don't discount any one who does fall into the mold, either.
The thing is, the media keeps putting out those images because they sell. It's hard to blame the media for continually going with a form that works, because some of the fault for the objectification falls back into the hands of consumers, who keep tuning in and buying the magazines and product.
I also think that some of the allure that has kept this whole cycle going is the idea of lusting after the "unattainable." A lot of philsophers believe that desire is one of the ultimate moving forces behind human nature, and once we gain something we want, the desire is gone and therefore, a sizeable chunk of the pleasure we gleaned from that object. The beauty-standards stay in place because we tend to want what we think we can't have, and often physically can't acheive in a manner that is healthy (dangerously excessive dieting, plastic surgery, etc.), so we can subconsciously keep desiring that object.
Ultimately, there's a lot to chew on in this topic, and more tangents than you can count to go off on, but where all of it really lies is whether or not you're willing to continually buy into what you see. If it offends you, turn it off, throw it out, or distance yourself from it. If enough people do that, then eventually the current norm will morph and move into something else.
Those are my $.02 anyway.
------------------ Tim, as in "Donate" Scarleteen Advocate
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