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Category: Beauty Industry

Dying to be beautiful

“Would madam prefer to have blood drawn from her veins and then smeared across her face, or to have her brow scraped with a razor-sharp scalpel blade?”

Welcome to beauty treatments 2017 style — where the aptly named Vampire Facial and Dermaplaning are de rigueur.

Enduring pain for the sake of beauty is of course nothing new. During the 1600s in Europe, fashionable beauties would paint their faces with a white lead powder in order to appear paler.

(It caused their skin to rot.) In the 19th century, Englishwomen consumed the poison arsenic as it gave the skin an interesting glow. (It also, eventually, killed them.)

The recent death of a beauty salon owner who police allege had anaesthetic and breast filler injected into her last week by an unqualified practitioner, is a reminder, however, that we can still fall into the trap of being complacent and unquestioningly compliant.

A radical new treatment known as the Vampire Facelift or Vampire Facial is growing in popularity. (Pic: News Corp)

Despite the euphemistic language often used by the beauty industry (“rejuvenation” and “refresh” are favourites — one would think our body parts were all off on a vacation rather than being poked, prodded and pricked) there are serious risks associated with most treatments (ranging from infection through to severe allergic reactions).

So accustomed have we become to gritting our teeth and enduring in the hope we shall be made more attractive, that it’s become difficult to know when to question therapists.

Television’s no-nonsense Judge Judy once spoke for the uninitiated when she questioned a plaintiff who had received burns to her scalp and significant hair loss due to her hairdresser leaving bleach on her head for too long; “Didn’t you think to point out it was hurting you?”

Oh Your Honour, I thought while watching, you’ve obviously never had a Brazilian wax. Pain-for-pretty is a trade off many women are now conditioned to make.

Brazilian waxes are no longer favoured predominately by women working in the pornography industry; they have become so mainstream that research indicates almost half of undergraduate university students remove all their pubic hair.

We’ve become so accustomed to enduring pain in the pursuit for beauty that it’s difficult to know when to question therapists. (Pic: iStock)

Botox injections aren’t just the secret weapon of Hollywood starlets prepared to paralyse their facial muscles in order to look less lined. Rather, they are the modern-day alternative to a Tupperware party: groups of women gather at a friend’s house and indulge in cheese, crackers, chardonnay — and a cheeky neurotoxin.

Breakfast TV hosts recently scoffed at reports teen girls at a Victorian high school had protested at being told they were to take time out their studies to learn how to walk in stilettos as part of a deportment course. But those killer heels “lengthen the legs” insisted Samantha Armytage.

Sometimes, the risk may instead be to the hip pocket. Since July 1, 2016, a NSW Department of Fair Trading spokesperson reports they have received 77 complaints about beauty services including laser hair removal, eyebrow tattooing (feathering), skin and nail treatments, and cosmetic injectables (fillers): “Complaints generally relate to unsatisfactory performance of the service, dissatisfaction with the results of the treatment, and products and services not matching their description, advertising, or express guarantees.”

And sometimes those who really suffer are those who serve us. In an audit conducted this year by Fair Work inspectors of 1600 hair and beauty salons in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, more than half failed to comply with workplace laws and were found to be underpaying staff (young people and migrant workers were identified as being most at risk).
While it can be fun to flirt with the beauty industry (a date with a bouncy blow-dry is one of my favourite treats) perhaps it’s time to turn our lash-extended critical gaze on to our relationship with it.

No-one needs a lover that makes false promises, is overly time-consuming, drains our finances, or indeed physically harms. It’s ultimately just not a good look.

This post was originally published by The Daily Telegraph, 9/9/17. 

Finally, Girl Power being used for the right reason

In the early 1990s, prominent feminists argued there was a media-driven backlash against the women’s movement, and it risked losing some of the momentum gained in the 1970s.

Then along came the Spice Girls to make “Girl Power” fun, and palatable, again.

“If you want my future, forget my past,” sang Posh, Baby, Scary, Ginger and Sporty.

It turns out it wasn’t just their predominantly teen-girl fan base who thought the way forward was through exclaiming “You go girl!”, it was marketers looking for a fresh take on how to sell the same old stuff, with a new pro-female spin.

So addicted have advertisers become to using the rhetoric of empowerment that it is now used to sell everything from cleaning products (“Get the power — the power to clean anything”) super-elastic, stomach-sucking knickers (“Spanx — Power Panties”, insert pictures of svelte women posing with arms on hips), cosmetics (Bobbie Brown’s “Pretty Powerful” range) and even workshops for teen girls that claim to want to empower teens via fashion makeovers.

Because nothing says equality quite like learning what colours best suit your skin-tone, or how to dress to maximise those socially acceptable curves, and to minimise the male gaze’s exposure to others.

Yet when marketers tackle sexism convincingly, their campaigns become viral sensations.

The Dove “Real Beauty” campaign has been running for more than a decade and is considered the industry leader in this genre; their 2013 “Real Beauty Sketches” commercial remains the most watched video ad of all time.

Feminine hygiene company Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign exposed the destructive impact messages we give to tweens about what being a young woman means can have on self-esteem; it has had more than 63 million views on YouTube.

Although many find it hard to believe Dove’s parent company Unilever is genuine in their commitment to fostering positive body image (they also sell slimming products, skin whitening creams, and run the notoriously sexist Lynx advertisement campaigns for boys), and some question how Always pushing panty liners is compatible with moving beyond limiting stereotypes about girls, for many of us it seems it is at least easy to get behind messages that build women up, rather than tearing them down.

The new “I’d like to see that” advertisement for the AFL women’s competition harks back to the popular 1994 AFL men’s campaign of the same name, but the female creatives behind this version have ensured it kicks a goal not just for one of the fastest growing sports (the recent television broadcast of an women’s AFL exhibition match reached more than one million viewers), but for team feminism.

The ad features female AFL players in action alongside prominent Australian sporting figures such as Turia Pitt and Cathy Freeman. They tell us they would like to see “girls who never give up” and “more women making Australian sporting history”.

It is incredibly inspiring (only the most hardened misogynist could fail to be moved by the shot of Melbourne captain Nathan Jones holding his giggling little girl in his arms and declaring: “Our daughters wearing our numbers one day? I’d like to see that”).

But what makes it unique is that it isn’t selling pop music, lotions or sanitary pads. It’s selling female participation in sport and their right to be taken seriously.

In the week since the ad was launched it has racked up more than 300,000 views online. Last weekend the millions who participated globally in the women’s marches proved the push towards equality has well and truly regained momentum.

Feminism is alive, hitting the streets and demanding more. What more would I like to see the women’s movement do? For a kick off, I’d like to see us move beyond messages of faux empowerment.

This post was first published in The Daily Telegraph newspaper 27/1/17 and online at RendezView.

“Sprouting” a new internet safety concern you need to consider

I was pleased to have had the opportunity to provide a context for why young girls might chose to send their images to online Instagram pages that invite others to rate their desirability, termed “sprouter” sites as they promise to highlight those who will sprout into dateable adults, on channel 10’s The Project.

Seeking the approval of others as a way of assessing one’s own value is, as I say during this interview, nothing new. A colleague made the point that when she first started High School, the older boys at her school would refer to the “hot” new girls as being on “lay-by”; to be labelled in this way was considered a status symbol by her peers. What is new, however, is the technology being used to facilitate this phenomena.

Why might girls be complicit in this process? I’d argue they are groomed from a very young age by society to see their looks as their currency. Think child beauty pageants, magazines aimed at tweens that ask readers to rate particular looks, or consider who is “hot” who is “not”, beauty products and services marketed directly at children, the language we use with young girls in comparison to young boys (“pretty” versus “powerful”) etc etc.

So rather than panic, let’s aim to empower young people to know their real value, and educate them so that they make safe choices online. It’s important that we do not shame, nor seek to simply ban. There is a wide body of research that shows the number one reason young people do not tell trusted adults about things that happen in cyber space that concern them is that they fear their access will be removed and that they will be judged. The digital world is their playground and an important source of social connection.

Let’s keep in mind too that most young people do make great choices when on-line and can see platforms like this as both potentially dangerous and as sexist nonsense ( it’s interesting to note that despite this being a major news story, if you look at the visual shown in the segment of the actual sprouter site, there were only actually 85 followers of this page).

Thoughts on beauty


Physical beauty is a mathematical equation. Symmetry. Proportion. Scale. When we look at a traditionally beautiful person and admire his or her face, we are really admiring a perfection equation; what is known as the Golden Ratio.

We tend to value that which is rare. And as this ratio is rare, we have highly valued those that conform to it. But thanks to the normalisation of cosmetic surgery and cosmetic procedures such as injectibles, today many are able to conform to this.

It is no longer rare…

Will we now begin to value the quirky? The imperfect? Those who refuse to equate?

Your thoughts?

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Debate around skinny models at Fashion Week rages – again

I had the opportunity to discuss this issue on ABC Radio, Gold Coast, with Nicole Dyer. The following is from the ABC web site. The audio may be listened to below too. Love to read your thoughts!

Designer Alex Perry has apologised after sending 21 year old model, Cassi Van Den Dungen, down the runway at Australian Fashion Week, looking extremely thin. But it has renewed debate about the health of models in the industry, and the example being set for young women. Nicole spoke to Dannielle Miller, an educator, and an author of books like ‘The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo: A girl’s guide to claiming her power’, and also to former model, now author and mum, Chloe Maxwell.

Audio: 

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The Loveability Myth

‘Selfie’ was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013 for a reason. Celebrities take them, politicians take them – but the biggest fans of the self-portrait are teenage girls. Today, girls not only have messages from the media influencing their definition of beauty, they also have Facebook Friends and Instagram followers to deal with.

We are all constantly being told what we should look like – and the ideal being pushed is pretty, thin, perfect and hot.

Ten years after the launch of Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign*, the company has released a video about selfies. The idea that everyone is beautiful in their own way is a powerful one, but the video sends mixed signals by having mothers and daughters learning to embrace their looks through receiving compliments on their photographs. Take a look at see what you think:

The association girls place on the link between their attractiveness and their ability to have a successful relationship is something I dubbed the “The Loveability Myth” in my next book on teens and relationships. Loveability – An Empowered Girl’s Guide to Dating and Relationships was co-written with Nina Funnell. Nina discussed why she saw the Dove campaign as problematic with me: “The paradox is that by continuing to focus on the girls’ exterior appearances, you end up reinforcing the message that what a girl looks like is still the most important thing about her. This myth has become so pervasive that many girls now believe that in order to attract love or experience a healthy relationship, they must first satisfy a ‘hotness’ pre-requisite.”

This message is particularly damaging when it comes to teen romance for many girls think if they do not work towards obtaining a particular look, they will not be loved. But girls who don’t fit conventional notions of beauty and girls who do are equally likely to have successful relationships. We mustn’t let our girls fall into the trap of trying to measure their loveability via the mirror or a set of scales.

To help debunk this myth, in our book I examined research on what teen boys viewed as desirable in a partner and found that boys were interested in far more than just looks. Girls have found these insights incredibly helpful and reassuring.

We all need to remember that  women are not just bodies, they are somebodies.

Loveability Shareable 5

“Loveability: An Empowered Girl’s Guide To Dating and Relationships” is being published by Harper Collins and will be on shelf February 1st. You may read the first chapter for free, and buy a copy, at the following link: www.loveability.com.au

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Nina and I will also be presenting some of our ideas at a book launch especially for educators being hosted at Harper Collins, Sydney on February 26th. Teacher’s resources will also be distributed at this event. To attend, contact Jacqui Barton, HC Education Manager, directly: Jacqui.Barton@harpercollins.com.au

Enlighten Education will also be launching a special 1 hour  stand-alone “Loveability” workshop for girls in 2014 which will be based on my work on this book. To book contact Enlighten’s Head office – 1300 735 997.  

 

* This is  not the first time Nina and I have been critical of a “Dove” campaign. You may read our Sydney Morning Herald post here:  Sexism dovetails with hypocrisy.

 

 

Raising Girls – My recent work in the Illawarra region

The Illawarra Women’s Health Centre was the the charity recipient for this year’s Illawarra International Women’s Day committee event for their project “Empowering Young Women of the Illawarra.” The Project enabled the Centre to offer our Enlighten Education workshops to over 500 Year 8 students from the area, and to also offer parents and Educators sessions that aim to help ensure sustainability of the work.

I had the opportunity to speak to the local press about why this work matters:

…we want to create – a generation of young women who actually think it’s fantastic and exciting to be a woman, that don’t see themselves as being victims or as being at the mercy of marketers and media.We want them to feel that they can actually talk back and re-shape their world to better suit them, and they can.

The many emails I received afterwards from the young women I worked with on the day highlight just how vital this work is. The following are shared with permission from the girls who sent these to me; both wanted others to also know just how challenging it can be to be a girl in a culture that is not always very kind:

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WIN 9 News featured our work in their News bulletin that evening. I am very proud of the girls’ honest and heart-felt responses. I love too that the vision captured some of the incredible energy from the day. As event organiser Samantha Karmel commented, “…they had a ball – tears of sadness and of joy.”

With some of the amazing teen girls from the Illawarra region

Yes. If we capture girls’ hearts, their minds will follow.

Let’s empower and inform our girls so that they can then turn their critical gaze away from their own bodies and the bodies of their peers, and instead direct it outwards towards the media and our broader culture. As Naomi Wolf declared in her book The Beauty Myth back in 1991, “We don’t need to change our bodies, we need to change the rules.”

Amen!

The Power Of Image – The Truth About Modelling As Revealed By An “Angel”

Successful model Cameron Russell recently gave an incredibly powerful TED Talk on why looks aren’t everything, and on how in reality, she is merely the lucky recipient of a genetic lottery. This is a must-watch, if only to see the contrast between the images of Cameron taking during professional photo shoots, and what she actually looked like at this same period when performing more everyday tasks.

In a very similar vein, you may also wish to encourage your girls to read the three part series previously posted here on the realities of the modelling industry. Parts one and two were written by Enlighten’s own Nikki Davis, our incredibly talented Senior Presenter and our Program Director for Western Australia. Anyone who has had Nikki work with the girls at their school will know young women simply adore her, and find her stories incredibly powerful.

Modelling – Part 1: Body Image 

Modelling – Part 2: Career Reality Check 

Could I Be A Model? – Part 3

Nikki (right) with Australia’s Human Rights and Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, at the 2012 Australian Human Rights Awards (Enlighten was a Finalist).

Reshaping all things female

When I was a toddler I was burnt; I have a very noticeable third degree burn scar on my right arm.

Although as a self–conscious teen I would have given anything to rid myself of this, now as a woman I realise our differences, our quirks and our physical scars are what make us unique. I have embraced my burn as part of my story and wear the tight, twisted flesh with a sense of pride. It is a visible reminder of my strength and endurance.

Yet increasingly I have noticed that the media and popular culture do not embrace diversity; our differences are presented as problems that can be best solved through medical intervention.

Many celebrities seem to now have the one generic, geometrically perfect face; they feature the same bee-stung lips, chiselled cheekbones, wide eyes and wrinkle-free brow. Plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures are now also no longer solely the domain of celebrities or accident victims; they are very much mainstream. And why wouldn’t they be? Buzz words that sell cosmetic surgery make it sound like a choice no more serious than choosing a location to holiday in; they include terms which declare the procedure will leave one ‘refreshed’ and ‘rejuvenated’. In fact, you can even go on holidays to have your surgery. There is a huge growth in what is known as “surgery tourism”, this allows patients to enjoy cut-price procedures in exotic overseas destinations.

But the reason why we are finding it easier to spot someone who has had “work” is not simply by virtue of the increase in those who may make this decision. Facial Cosmetic Surgeon Dr William Mooney explained that the biggest change he has noticed in his practice over recent years is the expectation from clients that they want their surgery to be identifiable, “There is an increased idealisation of the surgery itself and requests to look ‘done’ rather than for me to create a more natural look. Colleagues tell me that the move away from wanting a naturally achievable look is particularly the case in breast enhancements. In Australia there has been an increase of between 10-15% in the size of the implants being used over the course of the past 5 years.”

And it seems that it is no longer enough to have a facelift or a boob job, or to have some collagen injected in the lips. Vaginal ‘rejuvenation’ procedures are now popular too. Everything female needs to be reshaped.

According to figures from Medicare, there has been an increase in the number of women undergoing vulvoplasty or labiaplasty in Australia of 140 per cent. However, Dr Meredith Jones, a media and cultural studies scholar, believes the actual increase may be as high as 400 per cent due to the fact that many procedures are not necessarily claimed on Medicare, nor carried out locally: “There have been no fewer than four major international conferences for doctors and surgeons who want to learn how to perform these procedures in the past few years; it is seen as a growing and lucrative industry.”

Why the desire for a designer vagina? Researcher Karen Roberts McNamara notes that ‘in years past, women rarely had the opportunity to see other women’s vaginas and thus had no sense of how a typical vagina might look. Yet with the mainstreaming of the adult entertainment industry, the situation has changed dramatically. Now, a beauty standard has emerged, one established primarily through porn actresses, nude models and strippers.’

She argues that women are going under the scalpel to have their vaginal openings tightened and their labias made smaller because they have been convinced this will ‘normalise’ them and give them confidence. The plastic surgery industry’s ‘sanitized ideal of the clean, delicate, discreet vaginal slit’ casts the bodies of women who have not undergone these procedures ‘as necessarily dirty and unsightly’.

Sadly, it’s not just grown women who are being told they should doubt their own genitals. Gynaecologists report girls as young as 12 are requesting cosmetic genital surgery. Meanwhile, beauticians have noted a huge increase in the number of young women wanting ‘intimate’ grooming treatments. Girls as young as 14 are asking for Brazilian waxes.

With all the pressure to wax and ‘rejuvenate’, we seem to have lost sight of what ‘normal’ might look like. In an episode of the UK Sex Education Show, when teens of both sexes were shown images of women with pubic hair, they gasped in what seemed to be shock or disgust. The producers had set out to show that in reality ‘we all come in all different shapes and sizes. From penises to pubes, bums to boobs whatever you’ve got it’s all perfectly normal.’

Whilst I respect the individual’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, I also can’t help but think we need to work to end this body-hating madness. We are more than just our faces, breasts, and vaginas– just as I am so much more than my arm.

When we see ourselves and other girls and women as just bodies, we forget that we are all actually somebodies.

I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful

I first read the following post on US site Off Beat Mama. I was not alone in being stunned by its powerful message and the exquisite writing; within days the post attracted over 102,000 Facebook shares. I contacted the author, Amanda King, and she was gracious enough to grant me permission to repost it here. Enjoy. 


I’ve started telling my girls that I think I’m beautiful. It’s been so easy to tell them how beautiful THEY are, because it’s obvious. They are the thing beauty is made of. They are the reason we started worshipping beauty. They sparkle and dance. When they’re sleeping, they turn into soft cloud babies, little perfect tufts of white on the moonlight.

There are a lot of people like me. Women who know things. Women who have seen things. Women with diseases in their livers. There are a lot of women with scars on their arms and words that carry themselves like sparrows. There are women who were too big for this town, who had their backs bent carrying things like religion and a history that originated somewhere in the crook of a branch that extended over a stream. A place where a patch of the sky was visible through the leaves, where a little girl let her bare leg dangle too far down.

There are a lot of people like me, because we’re all the same. We’re all blood and electricity. We’re lonely under the gaze of god. We’re all wet with dew and swallowing hard against DO THIS, CONSUME, SHUT UP and BE AFRAID to die.

All of you women with lines on your brow, with cracks between your fingers… it’s been a long winter. All of you, you are beautiful and so am I.

The thing is, my children are perfect. I am the grown up, so I’m supposed to show them everything about life. When they wake up in the morning, though, I stare at them and they’re new. They teach me everything. They are babies and they teach me what it means to be a person. It’s easy to see that they’re beautiful.

I am slow and I am tired. I am round and sagging. I am harried. I am sexless. I am getting older.

I am beautiful. How can this be? How can any of this be true?

I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.

“Look at me, girls!” I say to them. “Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.”

Amanda King

I see it behind their eyes, the calculating and impression. I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful. They love me. To them, I am love and guidance and warm, soft blankets and early mornings. They have never doubted how wonderful I am. They have never doubted my beauty. How confusing it must have been for them to see me furrowing my brow in the mirror and sucking in my stomach and sighing.

How confusing it must have been to have me say to them, “You think I am beautiful, but you are wrong. You are small and you love me, so you’re not smart enough to know how unattractive I am. I know I am ugly because I see myself with mean eyes. You are my child and I love you, but I will not allow myself to be pretty, for you. No matter how shining you are when you watch me brushing my hair and pulling my dress over my head. No matter how much you want to be just like me, I can’t be beautiful for you and I don’t know why.”

It’s working, a little bit. I’ve even stopped hating myself, a little bit.

I’ll be what they see. They see me through eyes of love. I’d do anything for them, even this.

I am beautiful.

 

Amanda King is a Pittsburgh mommy of two Super Girls.  She is married to the world’s sexiest accountant and they are all sure to live happily ever after.  When not writing stories and seeking a literary agent, she can be found pouring her heart out at http://www.lastmomonearth.com
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