Monday, November 26, 2007

Effects of fashion industry on women in film "Gia"

The fashion industry undoubtedly affects women’s understanding of themselves and other women. The causes were significantly illustrated through the supermodel, Gia, and her interactions with those around her, particularly her agent and her mother. Our definition of beauty, as a society, is one that can always be made better and continuously changing, and this ideal is displayed constantly throughout the movie “Gia.”

Although she became a legend, Gia initially knew that she was an outcast in the modeling industry because she did not fit what she thought people found to be beauty, just as many women find themselves to be outcasts in society because they do not feel as though they fit the mold for what beauty should be. Gia’s attitude towards herself corresponds to the way women in society view themselves; she believed that “a woman is not a woman unless she is a blonde.” She also began to understand her role, proclaiming, “I’m a model. I’m not supposed to talk. I’m supposed to look beautiful.” These same feelings prevail in women who are not models and do not depend on their looks for a career, illustrating how the fashion industry affects women’s understanding of themselves. Because the models are the women who the public admires and lusts for, women in society feel as though they should be beautiful looking above all else. “Media images of women are always directed at men, and women are encouraged to look at themselves and other women the way men do.” (Crane, 314) Just as Gia realized, “It is not about you”, but rather it is about what you look like to others.

Gia was represented by her agent, Wilhelmina Cooper, and they developed a strong friendship as their career began. However, when they first met, Wilhelmina based her judgments on Gia’s appearance and only cared about her image, just as when she went on all her auditions and go-sees. What Gia thought or had to say did not interest the modeling industry and her agent told her “What comes out of your mouth is totally irrelevant.” One lady in need of a model even referred to Gia as meat and did not have any interest in anything other than the way Gia looked. Gia’s interactions with modeling agents and people in need of a model shared the same theme that they only cared about what she looked like, whether she was beautiful, and if she had the same ‘image’ they were looking for. The modeling industry makes women feel as though their body and beauty is all they are judged by and that everyone’s first impression of you is based on your appearance. “A researcher found that the more frequently girls read magazines, the more likely they were to diet and to feel that magazines influence their ideal body shape.” (Kilbourne, 260) You never see a great personality being advertised about a model on a front cover of a magazine. It is all about the ‘image’ in our society and it causes women to feel as though they need to meet certain requirements of beauty or else they cannot succeed in life.

Gia’s desire to be beautiful developed through her perfectionist qualities engrained in her from her mother. The movie begins with the two gazing in the mirror admiring how pretty they are and ends with her mother wanting Gia to look beautiful when she died so that people remember how pretty she was. Because the fashion industry is so demanding, Gia’s mother also encourages her to lose weight, stand up straight, have smooth skin, and look good. Gia was also told not to work at a clothing store because it was not attractive. The pressures of meeting standards set by the modeling industry and family members and friends are very challenging for many young women and it is caused by a desire to be perfect. Beauty and the perfect image are set by the models in the fashion industry and then women in our society desperately aspire to look the same way. These ideas cause women to believe that other women are better than them and that they are inferior to those who fit the image of beauty.

“Rather than the clothes, the focus of attention in fashion magazines for most women is the model.” (Crane, 325) The fashion industry creates dream bodies and unattainable beauty for many women in society and causes them to have an entirely different understanding of themselves and other women because they are always comparing themselves to someone else or an image in a magazine.


Crane, Diana. "Gender and hegemony in fashion magazines." Gender, Race, and Class in Media (1999): 314-332.

Kilbourne, Jean. “The more you subtract, the more you add.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media (1999): 258-267.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ways Advertisers View Me: The Ideal Male Consumer

Clothes, style, male hygiene products, high tech devices, toughness, wanting women, wanting to have a good time, athletic, etc.

Sex Sells

“Sex sells” has been a common theme in our society for some time now and it is illustrated throughout all of advertising. Models or people designated to represent products are chosen very purposefully and carefully. The purpose of the certain type of look the product’s advertisement is exemplifying is to show how the product should be perceived, such as sexy, masculine, feminine, or aiding in acquiring someone of the opposite sex. As best seen in magazine advertisements, women are used in male products to lure them into buying them for the reason of getting a girl who looks like the model in the advertisements and women are also used in female products to lure the women into buying them as a way to look like the model in the advertisement. Men are used in the same way to apply to the male and female consumer market. “Teen magazines make millions off of girls by assuming that girls need improving,” and this is the same principle used in advertisements. (Higginbotham 94) Women buy magazines in search of ways to improve themselves and they attempt to look like the models by using the products they advertise. Men on the other hand read magazines about such things as how to get women and therefore there are advertisements using men they would like to look like and women they would like to be with such as in the popular magazine Esquire which “has taken it as a given that the magazine would prominently feature erotically coded representations of women.” (Breazeale 235) Beauty, image, and body features are used in a myriad amount of advertisements and even the products that have nothing to do with sex are advertised with such things as sexy models. These products sell and continue to sell because the image of sex draws the attention of almost all consumers and gives them a reason to buy, proving that sex sells.
Breazeale, Kenon. "In Spite of Women." Gender, Race, and Class in Media Second Edition: 230-243
Higginbotham, Anastasia. "Teen Mags: How to Get a Guy, Drop 20 Pounds, and Lose Your Self-Esteem." Learning Gender: 93-96

Monday, October 1, 2007

Online Toy Shopping Field Work: Gendered Consumers/Engendering Consumerism

Before going shopping for what would be a good present for Joanna, a nine year old girl from North West New Jersey, my expectations were for my searches to lead me towards the obvious dolls such as Barbie but also towards some other popular games that could be intended for both boys and girls। I was surprised by how my searches, the product’s advertisements, the color of products, and my own personal judgments narrowed down my choices as a result of gender expectations.

Through the expected views of advertisers, messages are being sent to children about what toys they are supposed to be playing with and how those toys should shape their lives। ToysRus।com and both have search settings to shop for toys for boys or shop for toys for girls; the girl toys were filled with dolls, including every single Barbie product, make-up and dress sets, and everything else that were pink or purple and boy toys were filled with machines, action figures, and sport related games. What distinguishes a girl’s doll from an action figure or a boy’s doll is the qualities that it should bring out in the child playing with it. When I separated the dolls for both boys and girls from the dolls intended just for girls on the website, I found a common theme of girl’s dolls needing more nurturing and consisting of all the dolls that had certain images about them such as Barbie and Bratz brands which have perfect bodies, faces, and fashion, whereas the both category (for boys and girls) of dolls consisted of simply stuffed animals and limited female dolls in which some even had a picture of a girl playing with that doll. Dolls intended for girls send messages to girls that they should be nurturing because of the amount of baby dolls on the market for them and they also give girls the false belief of perfect women through the “perfect” and desirable qualities of Barbie and Bratz. Dolls intended for boys send messages that they should be powerful, ruthless, and a leader because of the amount of hero action figures, machines, and animals on the market for them.

Along with the advertising, the consumers are just as guilty for allowing toys to represent powerful methods of information dissemination to children। Hall would argue that our society’s ideologies, “which help us represent, interpret, and understand some aspects of our social lives” cause us to choose the toys we buy, give as presents, and play with (89). Even when I was shopping for the nine year old, Joanna, I realized that I was allowing my own ideas and judgments to narrow down what toys should be for girls and boys. Just as many other people in my society, I thought to myself that certain toys would not be appropriate to give to a specific gender such as Barbie to a boy or a transformer to a girl. I am hesitant to buy Joanna a transformer or a G.I. Joe because of the normative gender roles and stereotypes in childhood. These stereotypes characterize boys and girls in our society because of the persuasive power toys have upon children in giving them life long characteristics. The belief that giving a G.I. Joe to a girl will make her too masculine in the future or that a Barbie could make a boy feminine or even gay holds strong in our society and toys are not being seen as the innocent products that they may be. Ijeoma A. claims that “everything in her childhood substantiated the need for women to submit” and this truth can be seen in the way toys are marketed and used in our society because they force women to be a certain way and have certain desires which differ from men (217)

Barbie and Bratz are among the top brands seen when searching for a toy for a young girl and these toys range from ages three and up। As Gilman has argued, these dolls pressure many little girls and even adults to meet the standards of what they represent such as their beauty, height, eye and hair color, and nationality, and “if you don’t look like Barbie, you don’t fit in” (73). Three years old is very young for a little girl to begin feeling pressured to meet society’s needs and with these values being instilled upon children at such a young age, they undoubtedly effect aspects of their adulthood exemplifying how dolls shape the character of women as well as other toys shaping the character of many men.

Although there are some gender-neutral games on the market such as some video game systems, learning games, and board games, most toys contain many messages about gender roles because of our own stereotypes of childhood. Should I give in to these gendered toys and buy Joanna a toy specifically marketed towards girls? The normative toys develop the normative child into the normative adult seems to be the ideology of our society allowing toys to have a tremendous impact in gender roles.

A., Ijeoma. “Because You’re a Girl.” ColonizeThis! Young women of color on today’s feminism. Ed. Hernandez, D. & Rehman, B. Seal Press, 2002. 215-229

Gilman, Susan J. “Klaus Barbie, and Other Dolls I’d like to see” Learning Gender. 72-75

Hall, Stuart. “The Whites of Their Eyes.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Ed. Dines, G. & Humez, J. Sage Publications, 2003. 89-94. and