Monday, 21 March 2011

I'm old. Modesty has become a good idea.

There's stuff I'm not looking forward to in England. Like a stinking mouldy green cellar and a car repair bill. Stuff like that.

There's also stuff of culture I'm not looking forward to. Like, the way young women are portrayed on TV, in newspapers and ads, print to film, wall to ceiling.

Do I sound old? I am, too. I'm also surrounded by a different culture in Hong Kong, China. Sex, drugs, rock and roll - they're not really used to sell me shampoo. On the streets, around town, there are fewer images to model women against - I don't see routine images of half-naked girls, celebration of anorexic female skeletons, suggestive photographs of female body parts, or drug-chic photography. The Asians are more modest. Public rule-breaking is not a good idea. There are limits on how much flesh you should show.

The shopping malls are, of course, where you find this particular brand of western output. (Looking at these images dropped into a pool of Asia, should I be surprised that some people in this culture and across the sub-continent have the idea that Western women have loose morals and easy virtues?)

One ad, in particular, deserves a Gritty spray can. There's one enormous image that my daughters must pass on their route through the shopping mall. We cannot choose but to walk by a huge, dead-eyed woman, looking hanged by the neck, photographed for an enormous head and a tiny, flattened out body. She connotes spaced out, unalive, pre-pubescent doll. Worth it, apparently, to flog us a patterned frock.

Is it like this in England? I'll console myself. I'll tell myself that the stream of women you can see in the newspapers and scrolling as if for choice down my monitor - beachwear-dressed, falling out of nightclubs, half-clothed, drugged out, drunk - are part of a long tradition. Jordan is merely the televised version of the bawdy Gill postcard and I am the clapped out wife with a handbag and headscarf.

But it's not much consolation. I'm still worried. That in moving from Asian to Western, one of the things my daughters will see is the presentation of what it is to be female. Beachwear-dressed, falling out of nightclubs, half-clothed, drugged out, drunk; suggesting sex, the promise, before, after, because it can better sell an ice cream, a car, a shampoo. Are these images everywhere - bus stops, newspapers, magazines, film, TV? How can I choose not to see, and to have my daughters growing up without this representation of their kind?


sharon said...

I know I wouldn't be keen to be the mother of girls these days.

Difficult to resolve the yes, you should be able to wear what you want, go where you want and do what you want when those are the resulting images. Media manipulation and big business have a lot to answer for in my book. Girls need to know that they have a far greater value than their surface appearance. This obsession with media-inspired 'model' perfection is a pernicious influence.

Alison said...

Thought of your post when Su tweeted this story
Botox for 8 year olds. :(

luella lottsworth said...

i have 2 girls and they hear my opinions about this portrayal of females as available porn stars and they understand why i rant and agree with me...if your girls are half as strong as you, they won't buy into it either, they have seen you stand against what doesn't sit well with you and they will adopt that ethos themselves...we can't remove all these images but we can educate and hope x