I think we could safely say that when any woman steps into a
dressing room to try on clothing, her inner dialogue is not exactly
complimentary. Am I just speaking
for myself, or do we tend to get fairly self-critical, and focus on the
negative, vs. the positive, when left to the mercy of that mirror and brutal
Last week, I was on a panel discussion for an art show
entitled: ‘Power and Burden of Beauty’ by Rachel Hovnanian. Part of this installation involves a
dressing room that you enter.
Inside the dressing room is a collection of white bathing suits with
different sizes attached to them, and a fun house mirror. A running tape is filled with comments
like: “My thighs are so fat”, and
“I shouldn’t have eaten that”; the usual comments, right, that if not voiced
out loud, can be such rote, that all the women I have seen emerging from this
space, have the same wry smile on their faces.
Not that I am at all immune either, but I often think of
that statement by Erica Jong:
“You’re not fat, you’re just living in the wrong country.”
Every country though, in the world has their own brand of
beauty and it is no less punishing than here in North America. Think of the bound feet in China, the
elongated necks in Africa, outstretched lips, there is never a shortage in the
ways a culture finds a body part to focus on.
With the fashion industry and the media playing such a major
role here, we are subjected to an idealization of thin; size 0. (Although I am sure there is size
inflation; a current size 0 is without a doubt the old 4, even 6. When I go to Montreal to try on
clothing, I am a full 3 sizes larger than in the U.S.) So while we may be horrified by other
cultures and what women do to be beautiful, we perhaps lose a little
perspective of the ways we torture ourselves. The array of options are increasing; from obsessional diet and exercise, to the knife,
injectables, lipo; it goes on and on.
What’s a girl to do?
Particularly given that the images that we see are not changing
significantly tomorrow. How do we
at least raise the level of awareness, to understand our context, and the
impact on us?
Rachel Hovnanian does this quite successfully in her show.
She helps us to recognize our negative ‘self talk’, and she has begun a
Let’s ‘out’ this body hatred and body shame that seems to be
such a significant tape loop in women’s minds.
Visit this exhibit:
It is at the Jason McCoy satellite space from Oct. 30-Nov. 7th,
520 West 20th St., and continues Nov. 10-Dec. 22nd, 41
E.57th St. at the Jason McCoy Gallery.
Follow Donna Fish on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Donna Fish