A feminist victory…on “America’s Next Top Model”?

26 Sep
My latest offering just published on The Sisterhood Blog, on the Jewish Daily Forward website:
September 26, 2010, 5:31pm

A Feminist Victory … on ‘America’s Next Top Model’

By Rebecca S

A shameful admission from a proud feminist: I’ve been watching the latest season of the reality show competition “America’s Next Top Model.” I know, I know, I ought to be ashamed of myself, but there’s something about this show that is so far removed from day-to-day life that I just can’t help myself.

Of course I try to assuage my guilty conscience by providing a running feminist commentary as I’m watching, but I can’t deny the blatantly obvious: I’m still one of the consumers who’s caught up in this warped perception of feminine beauty.

And yet, there is a small feminist victory in all this — and it has nothing to do with the inclusion this season of a Modern Orthodox contestant.

In last week’s episode, host, and former supermodel Tyra Banks, and her panel of judges, actually scored a big thumbs-up from me for choosing to eliminate the contestant Anamaria, for the explicit reason that she looked emaciated. As Banks put it: “We are concerned about the message that your body type might send to young girls.”

(Just to describe this young girl to any non-ANTM viewers out there: This is someone whose ribs stuck out further than her breasts, who almost disappeared in her sideways-on photo-shoot, who said she likes looking in the mirror and seeing her “abs.”)

Now obviously you can argue that this is mere lip service/hypocrisy on the part of Banks and her fashionista cohorts — seeing as they are part of the whole fashion machine that perpetuates this unrealistic, stick-like body image for women in the first place. And we should not forget that they accepted Anamaria to appear in the show in the first place.

But, I would argue that Banks is clearly taking seriously her responsibility to all the impressionable young women who watch the show by explicitly criticizing this contestant for her unhealthy body image. As she tells Anamaria:

You might be the healthiest girl in the world, but it might not hurt to eat some avocado and a little bit of bread with some butter on it, so that you can book jobs and project an image that doesn’t feel as if you’re hurting your body.

Go Tyra! Not just bread, but bread with butter? Who would have thought that deliciously forbidden word “butter” would ever even be uttered on a show like ANTM?

In fact, Banks herself projects the exact image she’s encouraging this misguided young woman to build. Granted, she’s tall and thin, but she looks thin and healthy — a far cry from the waif-like, skeletal body shape she is criticizing.

It is a small feminist triumph, from an unlikely source.

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/131602/

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6 Responses to “A feminist victory…on “America’s Next Top Model”?”

  1. Elle February 25, 2011 at 09:43 #

    I am not sure: TB seems to be a shapely woman -with a mind for biz- so she actually follows what she preaches.

    However, my question would be how comes that such an emaciated girl made it onto the show in the first place and does that mean that the judging panel only bowed under pressure to remove her once the show aired? -If I understood. [Said the first part of the second paragraph before finishing reading your article, which in your excellent and witty style you’ve already mentioned!-of course.]

    Seriously, where are you?

    • Elle February 26, 2011 at 06:45 #

      Since we came to the same conclusion -why was she there in the first place?, maybe they are in fact clever and it is a way to put off young girls (and boys apparently) from not eating.
      Like most of things in life, genetics is nothing to do with justice, just luck (or maybe not…modelling world of drugs and alcohol?).

      Okay then instead of talking to myself, I am going to prepare for rugby E – F this afternoon. Thanks for it…

      • Elle February 26, 2011 at 07:08 #

        PS: My guilty pleasure is: ‘Murder, she wrote’! -except I still don’t have a TV. It has this discreet and outdated charm that modern fictions rarely have (gruesome and bloody CSI and others I cannot watch, berk -is this a word?) and good guest appearances such as Hutch (would have personally perferred Starsky but never mind) or Lois Lane…etc.
        I think it stemmed from my readings of Agatha Christie’s books as a child.

      • rebeccainspace February 26, 2011 at 19:15 #

        you’re not talking to yourself, I read all the comments!

  2. rebeccainspace February 26, 2011 at 19:15 #

    Yeah, in spite of me blogging about TV shows, we actually don’t have a TV either. I also can’t quite bring myself to buy a TV, but I watch some stuff like Top Chef via the Internet on catch-up. (At least that way, I choose what I watch, rather than turning on the TV and mindlessly zapping.)

    • Elle February 27, 2011 at 06:06 #

      I don’t but Samson has…

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