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Attention t.v. shows, chick flicks, and magazines: stop pitting women against women!

WOREITBESTThe other day my friend and I were flipping through a recent Cosmopolitan magazine, and I was shocked by the comments coming out of my mouth:

“She’s so skinny!”
“Ew, what is she wearing?!”
“Her eyes look weird!”

With these exclamations, I was actually morphing into the person I despise–the person I imagine beauty magazines make you become: she who judges other women.

Magazines seem to always pit woman against woman, or at least encourage it. “Who Wore it Best?” articles in some publications call on readers to vote on which woman celebrity looks better in identical outfits.

BESTWORSTOther magazines regularly ask readers to vote thumbs up or down on a celeb’s look—like, “Are these stripes flattering on Kim?” and “Does Eva Look Hot or Boring?”.

Around Oscar season, some magazines completely dedicate issues to Best and Worst Dressed lists, where we scrutinize the dresses and accessories famous women have worn.

It doesn’t stop with magazines. Reality shows, soap operas, romantic comedies–even kids’ movies (think the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen franchise)–often idealize competition between women, usually over men.

In shows like The Bachelor, Gossip Girl, and The Hills, there always seems to be an immediate enemy inherent in any other woman–often over a prospective boyfriend.

The Bachelor popularized reality shows in which many women compete against each other for one man
The Bachelor popularized reality shows in which many women compete against each other for one man's attention

Thanks to About-Face, I—and perhaps you as well—have become more conscious of beauty magazine Photoshopping, the ways advertisements objectify women, and portrayals of women on TV. I have learned to resist these universal practices.

But as my friend and I were scrutinizing the obviously-airbrushed Cosmo cover model, I was appalled by the other comments coming out of my mouth: hateful comments about the actress herself.

What was first a critique of the model’s impossibly clear under-eye area and unnatural waistline (thank you, Photoshop) became critiques of her eyebrows, her hair, and even what she said in her interview.

We should not only strive to resist becoming influenced by media messages, but resist becoming the women who judge one another, who compete with one another, who rip on one another’s hairstyles and career choices, and who compete for the opposite sex.

And sure, maybe certain actresses themselves share different values than we, and perhaps the women on The Bachelor DO need to chill out with all the competition over one guy.

But that still doesn’t permit us to pass nasty judgment about anybody. Because what starts as a simple vote on who looks better can easily translate into real life. And who wants to become that woman?


5 thoughts on “Attention t.v. shows, chick flicks, and magazines: stop pitting women against women!

  1. I agree. But just to defend the Olsen twins for a moment, since I have younger sisters who loved their movies – the movies never pit the sisters against each other over a boy. Instead, it’s usually about sibling rivarly, which as the oldest of four girls, I can appreciate.

    I think critiquing the media is essential, but I also think it’s important to not go too far, or at least make sure what we are accusing/observing is in fact entirely correct. Sibling issues are very relevant and not gender specific – look at the shows of today with Hannah Montana, The Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly and some others. (brother-sister relationships)

    It almost makes me think that there’s something more endemic at hand – that if two female characters are in any way ambitious, different, or want similar things, we assume they are being portrayed in competition in a negative light – as idealized competition. Today’s media world is all about idealized competition – Survivor changed everything, and I would argue that show *didn’t* objectify women or highlight the competition between the women anymore than the men. (I am only speaking for the first season here.) For every “Bachelor” there’s a “Bachelorette”, for “The Hills” there was “Bromance”.

    The real question to ask, I think, is why the shows that do show women in competition almost always get higher rating than those with men in competition with each other.

    (But go you for recognizing your response to Cosmo and actively trying to change it!)

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