One of my pet peeves, for far longer than I have identified as a feminist, and probably longer than I’ve even known the word “feminist”, is the creeping and insidious way that women are portrayed as perfect Barbie dolls in the media. When I learned that photos were often retouched, airbrushing away those parts that weren’t quite Barbie-like, that weren’t quite perfect, I felt an empathetic betrayal for every little girl who thought they weren’t good enough because they weren’t like those images. These girls were being taught that they weren’t good enough, because they weren’t like the images of women they see in the media — images of women who don’t actually exist.
Then Photoshop came along and made things so much easier to create women who don’t exist.
There’s an excellent post at Forever Healthy and Young that shows this image, along with sixty-odd more, proving that the women that people consider beautiful are still beautiful before being retouched. And they are the more beautiful for having saddle bags, wrinkles, imperfect curves, lumps, bumps, scars, shadows, freckles… hell, even elbows.
There’s another trend in the visual arts, e.g. comic book art or cartoons, where women aren’t portrayed remotely realistically. Women can’t contort the way some of these comic book characters do regularly.
Escher Girls chronicles not only Black Canary, but every instance of strange back-breaking, pin-up-posing, ass-and-boob-exposing, metal-wedgie-inducing art betraying the fact that some comic book artists value some very strange ideas of aesthetics over approximating reality.
Comics and media aren’t the only instances of ridiculous misapprehension of how the female body is supposed to work. Boobs, for instance, are not portals to an alternate dimension. Click to see the full animation.
And there’s no end to the other ways artists think boobs work, documented at Boobs don’t work that way.
You can’t even apply the label of parody on some of this stuff. A lot of it is legitimate misapprehension of how the human body — not just women, but humans in general — work. Artists are made to put priority on showing off T&A at the expense of logical or realistic physics, putting female characters into disturbing contortions out of a sense of fan service, giving them impossible body shapes that trend closer toward the societal ideal of a woman than any woman is actually capable. Making it so that women are told that the only acceptable body shapes for them are literally impossible to attain, is disturbing.
The only way to counter that meme is to show women what real women look like. Or, at the very least, point at and mock the impossibly wrong examples that the mass media shows us constantly.