(check out About-Face and Jean Kilbourne's site for more negative advertising)
My undergraduate honors thesis examined body image satisfaction and thin-ideal internalization in relation to feminist identity. I hypothesized that feminists, or women with a stronger feminist consciousness, would be more satisfied with their bodies and would internalize thin-ideals less than women who did not relate to feminism. Some of my findings were inline with that: as feminist self-identification increased, body dissatisfaction decreased. Thin-ideal told a more complicated story. I measured two aspects of thin-ideal: awareness and internalization and found that although awareness of the thin-ideal was impacted by feminist identification, internalization of the thin-ideal was not. What this told me is that raising feminist identification in general may not be enough and although feminist identification raises awareness of negative stereotypes about women, it may not protect women from internalizing these stereotypes. Basically, social messages, images, stereotypes, advertising, etc. may effect us way more than we consciously know and realize.
Feminism taught me the importance of maintaining a critical eye. Whether i was looking through fashion magazines, watching TV, or going about my daily business, applying the feminist tradition of not accepting things as they were totally changed my life (and annoyed lots and lots of people).
Dealing with my own stuff surrounding food I quickly became empowered by feminist theories of "normalcy" and beauty. I also finally understood that a woman's value is not defined by how she looks or how much she weighs. I'm not saying that feminism will cure an eating disorder, if i could prove that i'd be rich and lots of girls wouldn't be starving themselves. What i am saying is that feminism allows women to embrace themselves and their bodies, as they are, and recognize that their value, importance, and position in the world should not be a direct result of how they look. Also, i quickly realized the amount of time, money, and energy women spend on looking a certain way. The conspiracy theorist in me was convinced that this "standard of beauty" for women was nothing more than a way to keep women in their place and far away from equality. As long as there are impossible standards of beauty women will never be equal.
Moving on to what this post was supposed to be about: Madonna. I used to be all about Madonna. I recently had an incredibly interesting intergenerational conversation with an older feminist about Madonna's legacy and influence on women's sexuality. I think Madonna has done some amazing things for the women's movement (intentionally or just as career moves) especially surrounding women's power, sexuality, and freedom. These arguably progressive and positive influences on women's bodies and sense of self have undoubtedly left a mark in music, popculture, and society in general. In fact, Courtney (who ya'll know i love) featured Madonna today on her "Thank You Thursdays" column.
Needless to say, it left me a bit disappointed in Madonna... I won't go on a tangent about the social responsibility celebrities should take for the younger generation that is looking up to them, but for real, come on! Cele/bitchy calculated the caloric intake for some of Madonna's meals that appear in the article. Here is an example of a day in the life of Madonna's diet:
Breakfast: 1 cup Kashi cereal, with ½ cup plain—or vanilla—nonfat rice milk [262 calories]
Lunch: 2 hardboiled eggs with ½ cup each of baby carrots and cherry tomatoes [194 calories]
Dinner: 3 to 5 oz grilled sea bass with ½ cup steamed spinach [240 calories]
[Total: 696 calories]
Combine that with 2 hours of exercise and you have a really unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle that no one would be able to maintain longer than one week. Madonna has a huge influence in both music and pop culture. It scares me to death that girls will be reading that article and replicating Madonna's extreme diet.