Monday, September 23, 2013

Media Moment: "Dare to whisper," ladies

That's right--dare to whisper, because whispering is such a difficult thing to do. In this society, it's so much easier for a woman to actually speak her mind. Right?

This is the Mabelline ad that I found in Nylon Magazine that I brought up during our last class. It think it is a perfect example of Kilbourne’s argument that the media enforce the idea that women should be silent. The words “dare to whisper” are literally written across the woman’s face. This instantly sent up red flags for me, both because of the message and because of the fact that her face is physically obscured by this message.

For women, silence is linked to seductiveness. In reality, however, what values and norms are perpetuated and reinforced by this idea?
It works to keep women subservient to the powers that be. It is not considered “normal” for a woman to be outspoken, loud, and provocative--these are largely considered to be “masculine” traits. An outspoken woman? This threatens the existing power structure, so such a trait has to be repressed. And the media do an adequate job of doing just that, through this advertisement and countless others, by linking docility to sexiness. Silence is frequently portrayed in the media as mysterious and therefore a seductive trait for a woman to possess.

Furthermore, the fact that this ad is marketing a product that is applied to the lips amplifies its effect in enforcing the idea of silence as a standard of femininity.

The copy on the right of the picture further enhances the emphasis on silence. Take note of the words/terms I’ve bolded. It reads:

“The secret? Pure sheer pigments in a smooth, light gel. No heavy waxes, no heavy oils. Just a soft kiss of color and shine.”

The idea is about making the woman feel “light” and “pure,” rather than “heavy” (and impure?) In other words, soft, docile, and ultimately unimposing to the will of the hegemonic power structures that work to keep us subjugated.
I think that this ad also hinges on this idea of the ways in which media links appearance to personality. Time and again it is suggested that only way for a woman to get ahead is to use her looks, not her brains. Although the media frequently bombard us with the idea that our appearance is the most important thing about us, this also endows us--all of us, not just women--with the ability to use our physical appearances as tools to challenge dominant norms, values, and power structures.

What are some ways in which one can take control of their physical appearance and use it to their advantage?

Is it possible to reclaim makeup and other “feminine” accessories in ways that assert, rather than undermine, our identities as powerful beings?

- amanda fox-rouch

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