Iconography: WTF, Glamour?
While we have long been able to count on the folks at Glamour magazine to tell us things like, "What He's Thinking When You're Naked" or "How to Dress 10 Pounds Thinner" (two of today's most emailed articles), it appears that they would now like us to rely on them for feminist inspiration. However, I found the "American Icons" photo spread in this issue to be less inspiring than it was confusing and disappointing.
To start things off, I in no way wish to hate on the idea of looking to women of the past for inspiration. Clearly all of us here at Bitch are major fans of that idea. And many of the women selected by Glamour to be in the spread (Mary Tyler Moore, Althea Gibson, etc.) are quite amazing and have done many a kick-ass thing over the past 70 years to inspire women everywhere. I appreciate that the people at Glamour were, in their own way, trying to laud the achievements of these "icons." However, the way in which they chose to do it falls a bit short in my opinion. Let's discuss.
As mentioned previously, the spread contains twelve photographs of current young hotties dressed up as iconic women of the past (although the inclusion of Alicia Keys as Michelle Obama makes the whole thing a little too recent-feeling). I think the main issue I take with the spread itself is that its purported goal is to inspire us that we can "do anything" by recalling great achievements made by women of the past, yet instead of publishing photographs of the actual women, Glamour chose to enlist actors with upcoming projects to promote to portray the icons. Not to mention the fact that nearly every woman chosen to model in the spread is much younger, thinner, and more conventionally attractive than her historical counterpart. Why couldn't we be inspired by a photo of the actual Amelia Earhart instead of a photo of Hayden Panettiere (star of "Bring It On 3: All Or Nothing") dressed like her?
Although I would like to post each image and discuss, I fear that you might not want to read my thoughts on all twelve of them. Instead, I am just going to discuss a few here and you can view the rest of them here. Let's begin, shall we?
Alexis Bledel as Rosie the Riveter:
Suggested inspiration: "Strength is beautiful"
Actual inspiration: "Alexis Bledel is making me feel old and fat. And I am the same age as her."
According to Glamour, Rosie the Riveter was included in this spread because her biceps inspired women in the U.S. to "step out of the kitchen and into the factory." All Alexis Bledel's biceps are inspiring me to do in this photo is to skip dinner tonight. Plus, Rosie the Riveter is a fictional character. Couldn't this space have been given to an actual woman? And speaking of fictional characters...
Emma Stone as Carrie Bradshaw:
Suggested inspiration: Be "feminine and feminist at the same time"
Actual inspiration: "Find the nearest Sex and the City box set and smash it into a million pieces. How's that for feminine and feminist?"
Can't we ever have a discussion of inspirational women in a mass media publication without a mention of Carrie Bradshaw and "Sex and the City"? Of all of the accomplishments made by women over the past seven decades, Glamour has decided to laud the achievements of a materialistic, irritating, fictional character. At least have Emma Stone play Candace Bushnell (an actual person) if you think that an "obsessed fashionista" deserves a place among the greatest American icons. Ugh. Moving on to a more positive portrayal...
America Ferrera as Dolores Huerta:
Suggested inspiration: View your voice as being "as powerful as any man's"
Actual inspiration: "Continue to have a crush on America Ferrera. Go on strike."
Okay, I am not a total cynic. I like this photo, and I think Dolores Huerta is a great woman to feature in an "American Icons" retrospective. I am, however, a bit tired of seeing America Ferrera used like a "get out of jail free" card by publications like Glamour. I can just imagine that anyone who complains to Glamour that this spread promotes an unhealthy beauty ideal or excludes women of color will have Ferrera thrown in their face as an example to the contrary. Look, she is normal-sized (kind of)! Look, she's Latina! Maybe I am way off base here, but I just don't think this photo makes the rest of the spread a good idea. Case in point...
Odette Yustman, Spencer Grammer, and Rumer Willis as the Women of Woodstock:
Suggested inspiration: "Goodbye white gloves, hello jeans!"
Actual inspiration: "Do not give a naked infant to Rumer Willis."
First of all, what do they even mean by the "Women of Woodstock"? Do they mean women who attended Woodstock? Women who performed there? Women who live in the city of Woodstock? The whole thing feels like a vague excuse to include a photo that emulates the "flower child" aesthetic without doing any actual research into the names and stories of women who were achieving great things during that time period. Also, it makes me laugh that these "hippies, with their spirit of protest" are being portrayed by the stars of "Rogue's Gallery," "Greek," and "Sorority Row," respectively. Take that, mainstream culture!
Alright, enough of my snarkiness. Clearly I am annoyed by this photo spread, but as always, I want to hear from you. (I would also like to once again encourage you to view the slideshow and will entice you by mentioning that it includes a photo of Lindsay Lohan dressed as Madonna.) What do you think of "American Icons"? Am I way off base by thinking that its attempts at inspiration fall a little flat? Are you inspired by these images? Why or why not?
Also, are there women you think should have been included in this spread that weren't? Which women have been included that maybe shouldn't have been? Do you agree with Glamour's decision to use young actresses to portray inspirational women from history? Am I just a cranky old lady before my time who wants "those darned kids" to stop appropriating feminist icons in order to promote their mediocre films and albums?Comment away!
(Oh, and thanks to our Twitter followers for the head's up on this piece. As the "Women of Woodstock" might say, keep on tweetin'!)
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