girls on film

There seem to be several popular genres of photos that teenage girls find suitable for posting on Facebook.  There’s the provocative self-portrait:  head tilted slightly upward towards iPhone or webcam, challenging the camera with a dramatic “who meeeeee?” expression, pursed lips (now commonly referred to as “duckface”), with optional cleavage, bare belly (common amongst those with navel piercing) and/or upside down peace fingers.  Also popular is the posed standing shot: alone or in a group, hand on hip, buttocks thrust backwards, staring into camera with theatrical smile, often outfitted in bikinis or formal attire with harlot-y footwear (though my sixteen-year-old daughter Bella, bless her tall heart, was recently photographed in her evening dress accompanied by a pair of fake Uggs).

I have quite a few teen Facebook friends (a source of ongoing annoyance to Bella, as probably will be this blog post) and I am struck again and again by the homogeneity and sheer number of these images on their profiles.  It can be difficult to catch teen girls on camera being natural and unaware because they are hardly EVER natural or unaware if there happens to be a person with a camera nearby, and these days, there is ALWAYS a person with a camera nearby.  I alternate between feeling admiration for how confident and bold some of these images are, and feeling disturbed by the blend of blatant sexuality and total indifference to the associated struggles women face.

Of course when selecting photos for my own Facebook profile, I also prefer to post those that I feel enhance my appearance.  Let’s face it, like my daughter and her cohorts, I am up against the possibility of my high school football hero, or someone I once dated scrutinizing my pics (even if they themselves are now pushing fifty). Paradoxically, as a woman in my mid-forties I feel more accomplished, smarter and sexier than ever before, and yet at every turn I am reminded to be more frantic about grey hair, wrinkles, cellulite, spots, blotches, poorly shaped eyebrows, stretch marks, saggy skin, stray hairs, etcetera.  I am constantly bombarded with reminders of the “importance” of looking young and thin.  I know it’s garbage but nonetheless on some level it plagues and exhausts me.

Meanwhile, my daughter and her teen galpals sit squarely in the middle of the media’s golden age of female beauty, not a wrinkle or dimple in sight, yet they are still tweaking and primping and posing to the nth degree.

In the yoga milieu, one commonly hears such statements as “looking good is the fruit of the practice, not the goal”.  This is a nice sentiment,  but even the most secure and evolved of us strive to look good in our Calvins (insert 2012 jean equivalent here).  I was thinking about this last night while toiling away with some kettlebells in my functional movement class. In some part of my mind I equate healthiness and feeling good with the impossible standards of beauty that the sixteen-year-olds are emulating.  To compound the problem, because of my work in a primary care clinic, I am intimately acquainted with the kinds of health issues that plague older people and how they manifest in the physical body.

I guess in the final analysis, I am torn. I hope my daughter and her friends will feel free to adorn their beautiful selves in whatever way they wish, and to display it as boldly as they like.  As my sister said to me this summer while gazing upon my daughter in her tiny little short-shorts, “she should enjoy wearing those while she can”.  On the other hand, the preoccupation with hypersexual, unblemished, idealized female imagery makes me very uncomfortable.  Like all honest women, I know too well the pitfalls of being pressured to measure up to an unrealistic and unachievable standard of female beauty.  I’d like to believe that there is progress being made by my daughter’s generation, but the images make me wonder.

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4 thoughts on “girls on film

  1. Chris, I have also seen these shots and feel the same mix of feelings. I am amazed at the camera-readiness of these girls and wonder how on earth they manage to know so well how to strike the most flattering hand on hip, head tilt poses at their ages. That level of self-awareness without the deeper emotional awareness freaks me out — with my three girls growing older every day. I’m thinking all the time about how to affirm their beauty and strutting confidence without tilting the scales to a preoccupation with externals. Thanks for the good food for thought.

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