This is a guest post by Laurie and Debbie. Debbie Notkin is a body image activist, a feminist science fiction advocate, and a publishing professional. She is chair of the motherboard of the Tiptree Award and will be one of the two guests of honor at the next WisCon in May 2012. Laurie is a photographer whose photos make up the books Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes (edited and text by Debbie Notkin) and Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes (edited by Debbie Notkin, text by Debbie Notkin and Richard F. Dutcher). Her photographs have been exhibited in many cities, including New York, Tokyo, Kyoto, Toronto, Boston, London, Shanghai and San Francisco. Her solo exhibition “Meditations on the Body” at the National Museum of Art in Osaka featured 100 photographs. Her most recent project is Women of Japan, clothed portraits of women from many cultures and backgrounds. Laurie and Debbie blog together at Body Impolitic, talking about body image, photography, art and related issues. This post originally appeared on Body Impolitic.
For a show set in Miami in 1959, the director and casting director are discovering that women who haven’t had breast augmentations are hard to find.
Producers discovered many women of South Florida have been surgically enhanced beyond anything natural to the late 1950s. “I’ve actually had better luck finding synchronized swimming groups than I did finding real boobs,” said Bill Marinella, local extras casting director
For Magic City (a Starz network show set in 1959), … Marinella had to look out for a long list of period-inaccurate body features: implants in breasts, yes, but also lips and butts; tattoos; shaved chests and waxed bikini areas, too-skinny females and too-ripped men.
“We need girls with the big hips and the curves. And down here, everybody is so fit,” he said. “It’s like tiny little waist and big boobs, pardon the French. But we have to be really careful about how we go about the casting process. It’s a huge challenge.
I’m almost certainly expecting too much of a simple entertainment article, but this story is deeply lacking in context. The journalist, Kenny Malone, doesn’t quite grapple with whether or not this represents a problem (other than for the powers behind Magic City). He doesn’t leave us feeling that widespread breast augmentations are either a good or a bad thing. He quotes Marinello as saying “everybody is so fit,” which seems to be about small hips and no curves.
Reading the article, you get the feeling that (other than breast augmentations), women’s bodies have magically morphed from one shape to another, as if advertising and other tools of social control are not factors, as if the fashions in women’s bodies transform the actual bodies in some mysterious, unexplained way. There’s no sense that women diet and sweat and toil to make these physical changes in our own bodies, no sense that women cry into their our pillows at night if we can’t make our bodies fit whatever happens to be the norm in the decade we live in, a norm that is generally not made by women. Also, of course, Malone has no understanding of the way the fashion in women’s bodies gets smaller when women’s political/social strength gets more visible.
Even the plastic surgery that is the focus of the article seems to happen without much volition or conscious choice. If over 300,000 American women had breast augmentation in 2011 (that’s about one percent of the entire U.S. population, about 2% of all women), this may be correct. A lot of breast augmentation may be happening “because everybody’s doing it,” or because “it’s next on the list.” Nonetheless, trends like this don’t happen in a vacuum–why is everybody doing it? What’s the pressure on everybody to do it? What is it costing them, and what are they not able to afford or do because of it. One glaring omission in the article is any quotation at all from a woman who has had the surgery.
Malone objectifies women in such a matter-of-fact, unaware way that it’s easy to miss, but if you read the article with any care, you’ll see that absolutely the only interesting thing about women in Miami is whether or not they’ve had breast augmentation, and whether or not they’d be less likely to have had it in Los Angeles.
Every pair of living breasts I’ve ever known has been attached to a real human being, who has pressures on them and reasons to do what they do. I’m starving for newspaper articles which take this into account. What’s more, I think more articles which did take this into account would be real ammunition against the war on women which we see played out in the U.S. halls of power.
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