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Sorry, Jen, but when I look at this I want to starve myself

jennifer-hawkins-nude-unairbrushed-cover-1-480x610If Marie Claire and eating disorder experts believe an untouched photo of a former Miss Universe is prompting positive body images they are seriously deluding themselves. A body like Jennifer Hawkins’s only exists with regimented diet and exercise and is hardly realistic. This photo depresses me. This photo makes me want to lay on the beach and tan. I don’t care what kind of articles they have in this Marie Claire issue supporting positive body images. A picture tells a thousand words and what this picture tells me is stop eating.

The eating disorder charity Jennifer is supposedly supporting – the Butterfly Foundation – issued this statement: “Unfortunately, the wider purchasing and viewing public don’t buy magazines that have ordinary people on them,” Julie Parker, general manger, says. “Someone like Jennifer has great power to raise awareness of this issue.” I, for one, don’t buy these magazines because of photos like this that degrade woman. I would be more inclined to buy a magazine with an inspiring woman on it instead of a nude celebrity that offers nothing but a flawless body. If these magazines and charities want to help, they should steer the focus away from the body and start focusing on the mind and achievements of woman. Then I’d buy a copy.

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Koraly is a widely published Cypriot-Australian writer and performer. She is the author of the controversial Love and F**k Poems. Koraly received an Australia Council ArtStart grant. She presents on 3CR radio and has a residency at Brunswick Street Bookstore. Her 2013 La Mama show is Exonerating The Body. She is mentored by Christos Tsiolkas.

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  1. It almost seems that the position of a woman (as enforced by womens magazines) is even more mysogenistic than anything men could ever dish out.
    That may be generalising somewhat but it is the impression I get based on the comparison between the most mysogenistic men that I know and these stupid frakin’ womens magazines.

  2. “I, for one, don’t buy these magazines because of photos like this that degrade woman.”

    does this photo degrade women? i mean, really? i’d like to see more nude bodies that are not hyper-sexualised. this picture is pretty wholesome, and i think [to quote my friend's op ed piece yesterday] resenting jennifer hawkins for her body is like resenting a high court judge for knowing more about the law than you do. she’s a working model! and as models go, she actually looks pretty healthy to me ie. strong, athletic, vital.

    i honestly think that women devoting mental energy to criticising other womens’ bodies is such a waste of feminist effort. all women are real women. jennifer hawkins’s body is “real” – it’s really hers! and she is open about how much effort it takes to keep it that way. if you want one like that, do it. if you don’t, forget about it. honestly, i couldn’t care less about whose body is more “real”. i could just be sick for how much women allow so much scrutiny of their own and other womens’ bodies.

    the women i find beautiful or sexy have no body shape or feature in common [as with the men] and it’s often their eyes or intellect or confidence or laugh or hair [shallow, yes] that triggers my desire.

    why are all drawn into this every time?

  3. Yes, I do think theses photos degrade women because they reduce us[women] to no more than our appearance. I grew up with these images and magazines and they had a detrimental effect on my self esteem. And it’s not just me, it’s all the women around me that are so self conscious of their hips, and their stomachs – nobody praises the slightly larger woman. When you open these magazines you will read about clothes and lipstick and eyeshadow and how to make your man happy – geeze, is there nothing more to women? When I see the next generation parading around in skirts to their butt cheeks and glossy lipsticks at thirteen, I have to wonder that something is just not right.

    I don’t resent Jennifer for her body. The picture does look wholesome because it hasn’t been airbrushed but this is not the point. She is trying to promote ‘positive body images for women’. She is supporting an eating disorder charity. This image will invoke different responses with different women but for me, it is not that much different to any other naked woman on the front of a glossy magazine and the thinner they are, the more conscious I am of my own body shape.

    “and she is open about how much effort it takes to keep it that way. if you want one like that, do it”
    I do not for a second believe that every woman can look like this, no matter how much they exercise and diet. And saying that all you have to do it get up and do it contributes to the problem. I eat a healthy diet and exercise and will NEVER look like that. I’d like to – because that’s what society has conditioned me to want – but why should i kill myself trying? Why is there all this pressure on women to look like this? Why?

  4. Sigh. I just find these arguments and disputes so circular and redundant. Yes, most of us don’t look like Jennifer Hawkins. Most of us will never look like Jennifer Hawkins. But I don’t feel like I need to see a woman who looks ‘just like me’ on the cover of a magazine in order to feel good about myself.

    As a thinking woman and a feminist, I really resent the implication that women who have been physically blessed more than others (in a socially acceptable manner blah blah blah) have to apologise for their attributes or somehow play them down. What does it say about our own power and self determination and indeed support for other women if we argue that the only way for a cover like this to be legitimate and beautiful is for it to feature a woman who has, dare I say it, more rolls and flaws than a former Miss Universe?

    This real women business is total nonsense and, in my experience, has only ever served to pit us further against each other to wage a female driven campaign of body fascism more potent than any media stunt could ever do.

    It’s boring.

  5. I think it’s unwise to label this argument as \boring\ or \redundant\. I mean obviously this debate hasn’t been resolved for many women and by dismissing it as ‘boring’ doesn’t give people the opportunity to discuss and resolve. Sure the \real woman\ stuff is bs, but I think in general it comes from a strong push to see change in popular media not just either/or.
    For example look at where Brigitte is heading:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,669996,00.html

    Personally I don’t think this shot of Jen is degrading, but what I’m taking from Koraly’s article is that she feels (for whatever her body shape/type etc) unrepresented in popular culture. And I don’t think that anyone could argue that pop women’s magazines feature diverse bodies, as anything more than a \Body Image Special\ which generally just fetishizes anyone who is not the norm. For some people who have suffered with eating disorders, connecting a nude shot of Jen (who is relatively flawless according to the standard) to this particular charity almost needs a trigger warning. I’m not saying Jen and people in her professional field don’t have a role to play in promoting healthy body awareness but perhaps there could have been a better way to use Jen’s pull.

    • Das, I couldn’t agree more. It’s good to see Brigitte mag taking steps in the right direction by featuring ‘real women’ from different employment backgrounds, but, as the article discusses, they are still predominately thinner women. Yes, my body shape is unrepresented in pop women’s mags. All I see are stick figures. Jen is gorgeous but in my opinion she was the wrong choice to promote this cause. When I see women as thin as her I think ‘possibly eating disorder’. Having Jen raise awareness of eating disorders is like having an obese person promoting a healthy diet while stuffing potato chips in their mouth. Unfortunately, this is one thing she just can’t do and yes, it is because of her perfect figure and yes I would have preferred a larger, successful woman on the front cover. Having an article inside the mag saying that Jen works so hard to maintain her weight just adds insult to injury.

  6. well, now i’m pretty reluctant to participate in a discussion that has come very close to invoking godwin’s law. the issue of whether jennifer hawkins is too white, too thin, too anything to be on the cover of a magazine promoting healthy body image is a different one than i was advancing. i was asking why women participate in the criticism of each others’ bodies when they are interpellated to do so. i refuse to.

  7. Sorry if I offended you Karen. It’s just that the cover offends me so much in many more ways than because the model happens to be thin. I make no criticism at all of any women: only of the social circumstances which produce a cover like the one above, and the women’s vanity-porn industry (which I once worked in) in general.

  8. oh, no apology necessary. i think we actually come at this from similar positions. i get what you’re saying about this model [and her popularity] being representative of massive structural problems in our society that negatively affect more than just women. my argument is that magazines can draw feminists into debates about whose body is more ‘real’ and that infuriates me. is there no end to their power over us? can we reject these debates outright and talk about paid maternity leave, domestic violence, equal pay and other issues that affect “real women” ie all women instead?

    women’s vanity-porn industry is a keeper, by the way.

  9. I find it endlessly frustrating that we are drawn into arguments over what constitutes ‘real women’ and that the identifiers are always to do with the physical. On the other hand, cultural tropes over what constitutes a ‘real man’ are related to his emotional and intellectual abilities. Both are highly problematic in the way that they force men and women into one dimensional roles. But by continuing to discuss and critique what is ‘real’ or not when it comes to what’s appropriate for women to be exposed to, we are just reinforcing the idea that what we are is defined by how we look.

    Of course there are problems with using Jennifer Hawkins on a cover of a body image issue, but they’re not insurmountable. And no one here has stopped to consider that J.Haw may have deep seated issues of her own. Sure, she’s gorgeous and ‘perfect’ in the way that women are ‘supposed’ to be – but she’s also expected to stay exactly that way or run the risk of failing and becoming less of a woman somehow. I find it interesting that so many intelligent women across the argument would fall for the simplistic defence that she can’t possibly know what it’s like to experience negative body image because she is, for all intents and purposes, the ideal woman.

    Besides which, I agree with Karen – why do we find it okay to criticise other women’s bodies just because we place it under the banner of academic investigation?

    And Das, I understand that Koraly may feel her body type is underrepresented. But that’s hardly Jennifer Hawkins’ fault, and effectively telling her that an image of her body makes Koraly want to starve herself and therefore Jennifer has a responsibility not to display it is both naive and unfair.

  10. But why does Jennifer Hawkins ‘have’ to stay thin? Why does our society raise women to ‘want’ this? It’s not about being healthy, it’s about this need to be thin and gorgeous, which can lead to eating disorders. Beauty is what’s inside and if they want to raise awareness of eating disorders that should stop slapping nude celebrities on the cover of magazines and focus of women as individuals rather than how they look.

  11. I understand your frustration with the choice to use Jennifer Hawkins in the context of body image, I really do. But I don’t think the answer is writing things like ‘A body like Jennifer Hawkins’s only exists with regimented diet and exercise and is hardly realistic.’

    It is realistic. It’s a real body. It’s Jennifer Hawkins’ real body and she should not be the target of anyone’s beef with the industry or the media just because she happens to fit in with what THEY want.

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