Flipping through a high-fashion magazine (in my case the ever so glamorous Glamour), with a little bit of a media literacy lens, you automatically expect to see images of unrealistic looking women with unattainably smooth, flawless skin, silky, bouncy hair, and an absolutely “perfect body”. (I say that in quotation marks because there are millions of ways to define the “perfect body” and it really doesn’t exist, surprise.)
I was comfortably reading my morning Glamour (yes, it’s a guilty pleasure) ooh-ing and ahhh-ing at the beautiful clothes, shoes, bags, cool new makeup, etc (the usual materialistic items), working hard to disregard the little voice in my head that was telling me “I have to look like that model, I’ll never look like that model…” (This was going on a loop in my mind, like some sort of cruel punishment for being human.) Then I stumbled upon an ad; the brunette woman’s head in close-up, covering the whole right-hand page. I immediately noticed that there was something wrong with her; she had two different colored eyes. Then I looked more closely, started reading the headline “You can change your style. Why not your eye color?” I was shocked for a moment.
Of course I’m used to seeing all the innovative new ways that advertisers are coming up with to help women “look better, more youthful, different”. I have also always known that there were contact lenses that change eye color, but in my mind those were always for scary Halloween costumes.
So, this ad scared me. For several reasons.
One, why oh why do women now have to worry about changing their eye color? Aren’t there enough insecurities to change and get hung up on, for a lifetime? Now we have to worry about “What if my eye color is not right? What if they don’t like my eyes? What if my eye color is ugly?” That is ridiculous. If this ad was for cool new Halloween contact lenses, or something medical, it would be okay. But all the writing says, “Sofia enhanced her eye color with sterling gray” and “Brightens, Transforms, Defines.” This is just another ad that is inciting women to change something else about themselves.
The second thing that scared me was this: the brunette woman, very beautiful, flawless, symmetrical, had a line drawn down the middle of her face. One eye, the brown one, was labeled “Before. ”The other eye, the “sterling gray” eye, was labeled “After.” There are many stereotypes, jokes, articles, even possible scientific evidence about the “attractiveness” of being blonde with blue eyes. But this ad completely transforms that. It is saying that women with brown eyes should want to change their eye color. They should want blue, or something else, but not brown!
Reflecting upon this ad, I realize there really is nothing that society, advertisers, “innovators” won’t come up with to sell, to profit. They look for potential targets; women. Then they seek out potential insecurities, and then they bite. By showing ads like these, even if people don’t stop and reflect on it like I did (out of pure shock and frustration), they will subconsciously remember, memorize, and over time, with repeated exposure, will start to believe. To believe that they have the wrong eye color, that they have the wrong hair texture, that they have the wrong sized waist.
We, as a society and as media consumers, have to recognize that this is harmful, and that it is not real. We have to recognize that changing our eye color by wearing different contact lenses (although cool for Halloween) will not provide us with more happiness, confidence, self-esteem. It will only make us succumb to the infinite ways the media and advertisers control our image.
Kinga was born in Hungary and has lived in the Bay Area since age 10. She is a currently in college studying Political Science and Communications. She is an actress and also spends much of her free time writing.