The curious 'empowerment' of the muffin top
Tyra Banks does her thing for self-empowerment.
I feel a number of things when I look at Tyra Banks' back fat — but empowerment isn’t one of them.
The former supermodel and creator of the Next Top Model reality-TV franchise recently tweeted a photo of her midriff to her 7.2 million followers instructing them to ‘Check the juicy muffintop on my back!’, with the hashtag ‘#PerfectIsBoring’.
I’ll pause for a moment while you check out Tyra’s game-changing and self-sacrificing stance against the fashion and beauty industries. Be sure to have a magnifying glass handy.
You can see the offending skin at the left of the picture. You just need to look past the #PerfectLighting, the #PerfectSoftLens, the #PerfectAngle, the #PerfectHairAndMake-Up and the #PerfectModel pose in the photo.
Even though a little piece of me dies inside every time a woman feels the need to show her flesh to prove she has self-esteem, if Tyra gets off on tweeting photos of her body, then far be it from me to stop her. I will bite my tongue as all her fans call her ‘fierce’ and squeal as excitedly as a Top Model contestant making it through elimination.
But let’s not pretend that this is brave or pioneering. Let’s not kid ourselves that she’s performing some noble community service or championing the positive body image cause.
Posting an extremely flattering photo of yourself and then pointing out your ‘flaws’ is nothing more than narcissism dressed up as feminism.
Despite Tyra’s claim that ‘I think I was put on this earth to instill self-esteem in young girls,’ and the ‘you go, girl!’ praise Tyra has received from the Huffington Post and countless fashion and celebrity blogs, the only ego being boosted here is Tyra’s — and sadly it’s at the expense of other women.
Photos of faux-flawed, genetically-blessed beauties are even more damaging to the fragile body images of women and girls than the airbrushed, stretched and digitally enhanced images of perfection. On an intellectual level at least, many women know that most images of celebrities and models are not real.
We know that it’s an artificial standard of beauty that nobody can achieve, even the subject of the photo. But when celebrities pull stunts like this they are setting a ‘real’ standard of beauty that is equally unattainable for most women.
If this is what imperfect looks like then the rest of us must be hideous.
Tyra Banks isn’t the only offender when it comes to counterproductive celebrations of body ‘flaws’. Closer to home, Deborah Hutton similarly gave Australian women an unrealistic ‘real’ ideal earlier this year when her professionally-shot and airbrushed naked photo was published on the front cover of The Australian Women’s Weekly.
Like Tyra, Deborah tried to pretend that the whole thing was a strike for feminism, saying, "I fear there is too much emphasis on how thin women ought to be and not enough on health and the acceptance of who we are, with all our imperfections."
If a digitally-enhanced photo of Deborah Hutton is what an imperfect 50 year old is supposed to look like then we’re all screwed. But more importantly, if Hutton was really serious about shifting the focus from women’s thinness to their health and acceptance then maybe she should have kept her clothes on. Perhaps then the conversation could have been about what women do, think and say rather than, yet again, about how they look.
#PerfectIsBoring-style stunts make everybody else who isn’t as genetically blessed feel #Perfectly rubbish about themselves.