We all know media and advertising can be detrimental to how women feel about themselves. These advertisements tell what a woman’s body should look like. Because ads are everywhere, they begin to not only create a sense of normalcy, but also subconsciously stick with us even if we think we do not pay much attention to ads (Killing Us Softly 4 at 3:20). What struck me most about watching Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 was that the policing of bodies is taken much further into the effects the ads have on sexual relations.
Although Killing Us Softly 4 was released only five years ago, many may think that advertisements have come a long way in such a short about of time by including more diverse models, but in reality photos are retouched just as much as they were then and the “diverse” selection of models still only includes light-skinned people of color and flat-tummied plus size models. Even more interesting is that sex in advertisements and entertainment is still white, skinny, and heterosexual.
For example CAKE is a feminist group who sets out to promote female sexual liberation and self-expression. Their website does not have many photos, but the few they have only show white skinny women. According to the website they only host parties in New York, San Francisco, and London. All three cities are really expensive cities to party in; so in addition to CAKE only having promotional pictures of white women, their parties also exclude lower class people who want to explore their sexuality. Their website offers a variation sex toys and lingerie through the “Cake Boutique,” but what the website does not offer is information on consent forms and information about rape within the adult industry. CAKE sells themselves by promoting liberation and celebrating feminism, but they only do so in a very narrow fashion. Cake aims to raise activism, but bodies that participate in CAKE parties are still docile because the men who participate still have more power, which is why CAKE has been criticized of being just a regular stripping corporation.
During our first lecture, we discussed the “Male Graze” and the way things are filmed and posed in way to adhere to men and make women feel like they have something more to achieve. The sex scenes in films and TV shows mostly show the silhouette of the female and hardly ever objectify the male body. These sex scenes also mainly show heterosexual relations and even more so, the people in these scene are mostly always skinny. If a fat woman does have a sex scene, she is either not taken seriously or scrutinized for showing her body. Comedic actresses like Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, and Lena Dunham all set out to “change Hollywood,” but they are often classified as outspoken comedians before grouped as sophisticated actresses. In the HBO show Girls, creator and leading actress Lena Dunham has several scenes in with her bare body on screen, and because of her naked body she has been praised for being brave enough to deal with all the scrutiny.
The use of thin, light-skinned models and actresses become problematic in the same manner of Judith Butler’s Bodies that Matter theory. By implying there are bodies that matter, she is also implying there are some bodies that matter less or potential bodies that do not matter at all. In media culture, it is evident that a particular body type matters more than people with other body types. Butler says ‘”to matter” means at once “to materialize” and “to mean”’ (32). These white, thin models’ bodies are materialized through advertisements and they have a significant meaning because of the way they affect female process of thinking.