Endangered Species

// 28 February 2011

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endangered species ad.jpg

Endangered Species is an international summit set up by Susie Orbach to challenge women’s and girls’ hatred of their bodies. On Friday it hits London, where a wide range of organisations and women determined to “save future generations of girls from the misery that turns women against their own bodies” will meet to “make people understand how and why this is an emergency, to show them how they can do something about it, and to inspire them to embrace change”.

I think the organisers are quite right to term this situation an emergency. When women and girls see our bodies as a deeply flawed obstacle to our participation in society, to our worth as human beings, and spend so much time, energy, money and headspace trying to correct these perceived flaws – flaws which are very purposefully manufactured by industries reliant on women’s self-hatred for their ever-inscreasing profits – we are in no position to continue the fight for full equality and freedom.

Constant individualised conflict with your own body and girlie solidarity over diet tips and cake guilt do not a revolution make. Women and girls need self confidence and a sense of our own inate worth to keep moving forward, not to mention the ability to face the world without having to don feminine disguise first. We need to stop hating, stop buying into the lies, stop playing the game. It doesn’t matter what your body looks like – it’s what you do with/in it that counts.

Comments From You

Cath // Posted 28 February 2011 at 10:49 pm

Well done Susie and keep up the good work. I run a program for young women trying to discuss body image issues in a constructive and inclusive way but breaking through the cultural assumptions about how women are “supposed” to feel and think about their bodies. Getting them to look at objectified images of women and see the way they impact their self image is really difficult in a world where these images are everywhere.

I applaud all advocates, celebrities, media and public figures who tackle this issue with the enthusiasm, action and aggression that it deserves.

Korner // Posted 28 February 2011 at 11:14 pm

“Women and girls need self confidence and a sense of our own inate worth to keep moving forward, not to mention the ability to face the world without having to don feminine disguise first.”

Depressing and i feel we’ve ALREADY lost a generation of women to the beauty industry complex. Even men i know admit this.

This is how I increasingly feel day in day out. i’m more ‘accepted’ in lectures, walking to the shops if i’m very overly dolled up. I know on so many levels it’s wrong. I don’t blame men, because a lot of men would still like us dressed in tin foil! I blame the beauty industry ’empowerfulising’ our self-hatred and having no fucking moral standing about it.

Mind you women are the tools of just about every bit of propaganda at the moment. The women who choose to react by spending £70 every week at topshop to be individualised and all girl-power get it so wrong it’s hilarious.

With this pressure I have a lot less money in my bank.. how much do you reckon women spend of their income on clothes and accessories, compared to men?? So we have even less money for expensive house deposits for our first house. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of girls and women spend 2 thirds of their income on appearance over anything else and saving. Obviously this has many ramifications. We devote all our earnings to pleasing men; more of us opting to become dependent on them for the earnings they use for living.

Renee Martin // Posted 1 March 2011 at 3:18 pm

I think that this is a valid point but I must once again ask why a White baby girl was chosen. I think it is problematic that whenever there is a discussion about the issues that women face the default image that goes with this is a White face, thus constructing women of colour as un-women. I am tired of seeing Whiteness as representative of womanhood.

Korner // Posted 1 March 2011 at 9:03 pm

I think the baby is white because there’s only one.. if there were 2 i think it would be racist to not include a baby of colour.

It’s not racist to have a white person in a picture.

Laura // Posted 2 March 2011 at 1:12 pm

I disagree, Korner. The use of a white baby could be read as another example of white being viewed as default/the norm and advertisers assuming white is representative of everyone whereas any other ethnicity means the product/idea being advertised is for “ethnic minorities” only. That may or may not be the case in this instance, but I think Renee is right to expect this kind of event to use images that also challenge the whiteness of mainstream beauty norms.

sweetviolet // Posted 2 March 2011 at 11:26 pm

I can’t help but think that if they had used a baby of another ethnicity, especially a black baby, it might have been problematic because of the ‘endangered species’ title. Black women especially are often shown with animal characteristics in advertising and such, referring to people as animals is a common dehumanising method. Using any baby other than a white one would risk playing into a racist trope.

Naturally, the solution would be to come up with a different title. I’m not comfortable with it anyway, it always seems counter-productive to refer to women as a separate species like this. I agree with Renee that an event about body acceptance shouldn’t be reinforcing white as the default.

That said, I’m glad that body hatred is being addressed in such an urgent way. I can’t help but think the people who dismiss it as unimportant often don’t understand the crippling effect it can have on sufferers, and consequently the huge cost to us as a society (socially and financially).

Megan // Posted 3 March 2011 at 6:32 pm

Perhaps such an evil as the little racism (stemming from big racism) is one price paid for attention — it is so that white is considered the default, norm. Ergo when seeking to communicate a message, especially one about women, it might be that they thought it best to gain small power by using a white baby.

Using a baby of another colour might have added a subtext.

And there are a lot of white people in North America (I assume it’s US). It’s not necessarily synonymous with exclusion (although it is because of the frequency, of course, yet generalizing anything is a hazard and there may be guilt and innocent at the same time without complete failure in attempting progressiveness.)

Rachel H-G // Posted 4 March 2011 at 3:22 pm

The baby picture is a stock photograph, probably. I suspect that it was chosen more for the perspective and the pose than for ethnicity. The photo library probably has more pictures of white babies to choose from.

I like this campaign. It is simple, and there is something so sad and affecting about it.

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