Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 10/28/2010
My Feminist Photo Shoot
By now, some of you may be aware that I (on behalf of this here ole’ webblog) was recently chosen as one of 12 “new” feminists by More Magazine. Obviously, this is an amazing honor, and the fact that I’m in the same article as some of my all time heros (Jessica Valenti is mentioned in the article and I was freakin in the same room as freakin Shelby Knox!) is kind of mind blowing. And Jane Lynch is on the cover. As a Gleek, and more importantly as a Christopher Guest mockumentary fan (that’s really where it’s at) and just general supporter of Jane Lynch’s mind blowing awesomeness, a better cover girl probably couldn’t have been chosen.
However, the concept of having a “feminist photo shoot” is definitely one worth talking about. Tracy Clark-Flory, staff writer for Salon.com and one of the feminists in the More article, wrote in her post over at Salon that “just as we rail against restrictive beauty standards…(we) then demonstrated just how subject we are to them when it came to doing our feminist photo shoot.” And sure, on a fundamental level there isn’t much that’s feminist about a photo shoot, no matter who it’s featuring. But at the same time, I feel like I should honestly share my experience.
This past August I was flown out to New York City with my Mom, and then a matter of hours later shipped off in a van with nine other awesome feminists – including Karin Agness, Lena Chen, Tracy Clark-Flory, Megan Evans, Allison Kasic, Shelby Knox, Jen McCreight, LaToya Peterson, Morgane Richardson – to a warehouse in Queens where the photo shoot was to take place.
I was excited about this photo shoot, sure, although I was still trying to master the concept of “literally around 1 million people will be reading this article and looking at this picture. holyshitohmygodwhatdoido?” Thus, the next few hours were kind of a blur, but here’s what I recall.
I was one of the first to get my makeup done. Here’s the thing: I’m not really a glam/glitz/loves looking gorgeous always kind of girl. And from looking around at the other feminists getting dolled up, I don’t think I was alone. To the makeup artist’s benefit, she did ask me (and I assume everybody else) how we normally wear our make up and then tried to replicate it. But when I looked in the mirror I almost keeled over at what a clown I looked like (and to think…that was what the make up artist called one of her most subdued looks). Truly a firsthand testament to what a normal or – god forbid – dramatic make up job must look like. I can now assure everybody on this blog from firsthand experience (though I’m sure you’ve heard it before): DON’T TRUST THE IMAGES YOU SEE IN MAGAZINES. Believe me, if we all had professional make up artists at our beck and call any one of us could be easily inserted into a magazine. And that’s before retouching.
Wardrobe was similar, in that they asked me what I normally wear and even let me keep on the jeans and shoes I wore to the shoot. Hair: same deal. Honestly, as far as photo shoots go, it seemed like the most feminist any one shoot could possibly get. They totally listened to us and respected what made us feel comfortable. Our poses were simple and totally respectable (no stripper poles or gyrating for the feminists, it seems).
Which leads me to wonder: if this wasn’t a feminist photo shoot, what is? I think this also applies to the article – I know at least that my blurb represented my conversation with the reporter incredibly well, and everybody else’s seemed to sum up what they believe in and the work they’re doing. Of course, as Courtney at feministing noted, “The women in the picture are not only predominantly white, but seem painstakingly smoothed out, glossed up, and able-bodied, overwhelmingly thin, cis-gendered and every other ‘normal’ that the stylists could possibly muster from this otherwise rowdy and sharp-penned group of writers, thinkers, and activists. That’s not a picture I would connect with my generation of feminists. At all. Too much glamour and gentility, not enough guts and diversity.”
And of course, I agree that the selection could have been more diverse…generally it always can be. But at what point would it be tokenism? Honestly, I think all of the women featured are doing really great work and really believe in this cause. I was happy that a magazine like More - although it admittedly isn’t Glamour or Marie Claire (that truly would blow me over) – was willing to do a feature on feminists at all!
Obviously, I’m biased, and no, of course we should never “settle.” But at the same time, I’d hate to dwell on what I see as a few negative aspects of an overall great thing: feminism IS in the mainstream media at this moment! And really, the fact that an article on feminism, featuring real, live women, took the place of what easily could have been a fashion spread featuring emaciated models, is something to celebrate.
Read other posts about: beauty, beauty standards, body image, Diversity, Feminism, feminism and diversity, feminist photo shoot, feministing, Glee, Jane Lynch, Jessica Valenti, media, media and feminism, More magazine, photo shoot, retouching, Shelby Knox, teenage feminism, the fbomb
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