Friday, January 29, 2010

The Princess Phenomenon

With the recent release of Disney's latest princess fairy-tale, The Princess and the Frog, there's been much talk about the appropriateness of princesses as role models for young girls (and many women).

Guest blogger Tanya Williams talks about the princess phenomenon and why she wants to live happily ever after...

Why do we want to be princesses?

What is it about being a princess that attracts girls (both young and old)?

The official definition of a princess is:

A woman member of a royal family other than the monarch, especially a daughter of a monarch.
1. A woman who is a ruler of a principality.
2. A woman who is a hereditary ruler; a queen.
3. A noblewoman of varying status or rank.
4. The wife of a prince.
5. A woman regarded as having the status or qualities of a princess.

Princesses are known for being feminine, empowered, respectful and confident. Of course, we all want to aspire to be this.

As women do we want to be princesses to escape our reality?

If only we could escape to a fairytale world when the going gets tough. In this world that is so pretty and glamorous they are the heroines who live the perfect life in the perfect world.

Being a princess means being special and living happily ever after with our Prince Charming. There is nothing wrong with this fantasy as long as it doesn’t become obsessive.

I want to be a princess and believe there is nothing wrong with it. I am an educated, corporate chic who has a great lifestyle and her own prince charming. To me being a princess is just about being made to feel special. I think it’s normal to want more; afterall we do live in a materialistic world driven by celebs and fame. It’s not wrong to want to feel empowered and loved and to share our lives with a special person.

But somehow, the princess phenomenon has become way more loaded in recent years. These days, that message begins practically at birth with everything from princess baby shirts and "her royal highness" bibs to princess-themed photo albums and picture frames for baby girls.

By the time those girls are toddlers, many are drawn to the princess dresses, glittery crowns and even makeup. Barbie has many princess-oriented items, and then of course, there's the undisputed leader in all things princess: The Walt Disney Co.

For many women, being a princess takes us back to our childhood. Those feelings of being loved, protected and knowing that one day our Prince Charming will rescue us so we can live happily ever after.

Do we want to be rescued? That’s an anti-feminist statement but is there some truth to this viewpoint or is it an easy way out?

We are spending lots of time and money seeking out scenarios wherein life is fantastic and magical. One such venue is Manhattan's New World of Disney store. This megastore provides girls and their mothers a space where they can spend "quality" time together while learning to be "princesses." Like a finishing school for girls, this store provides opportunities for girls to learn how to be princesses by "sipping tea" and by receiving tutoring "on the four qualities every princess possesses: intelligence, grace, thoughtfulness, and honesty." All this can be purchased at the "low" price of $80, and the cost of a crown is a veritable "bargain" at about $24 a pop, depending on the type you choose.

Mmm, not convinced that spending $80 to spend time with a loved one, is sending the right message?

Do we, as women, really want to be "fairy princesses"? Or do we just want everything that is associated with being a princess?

I think it is a little of both. And given the world as it stands today, who can blame us for wanting to escape (even if for a few minutes).

Whatever you think about being a princess, I believe as women we CAN have our cake and our tiara too!

Tanya Williams is the Chief Executive Officer of Princess Chic, an online shoe boutique, and self-confessed shoe addict. She has almost a decade of experience in advertising and media.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blemish free babies...

Much has been said in the media of late about the airbrushed models and celebrities frequenting the covers of women's magazines.

As a result, there's been a backlash of sorts, with many glossies boasting of their current use of unretouched images.

While still gorgeous, expertly lit, perfectly posed and stunningly groomed, this recent trend has been a positive step forward for the representation of...dare I say it... real women.

But while women are speaking loud, their message crystal clear - the airbrushing phenomenon is not limited to we ladies.

Take a look at the cover of any men's lifestyle magazine... I dare say those six-packs have had some assistance, along with the remarkably even skin tone and perhaps a couple of other, shall we say, attributes.

It seems the modern bloke must also live up to a false ideal, comparing themselves to the incredibly sculptured bodies of the new male model.

But perhaps a little more concerning was a comment made by my husband, a graphic designer by trade, as I flicked through a parenting magazine recently.

"That baby has been Photoshopped to within an inch of its life," said horrified husband.

You mean the sparkling blue eyes upon crystal clear whites, the lack of red cheeks and completely blemish free complexion may not be natural?

And here I was thinking these were simply the minimum requirements if bub was going to take out a baby modeling contest.

Is there anything more gorgeous than a baby?

It's become a strange old world if these beautiful little beings require touch-ups to warrant a cover-shot.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Let's stop sending each other on guilt trips...

Recently in the UK, controversial billboards which read "Career Women Make Bad Mothers" were withdrawn by the Outdoor Advertising Association.

The billboards, which were part of an OAA campaign designed to promote the effectiveness of billboard advertising, unsurprisingly caused an outcry from working mothers.

According to a UK mother's network, working women were left feeling anger, disappointment, even despair.

Feelings undoubtably due to the guilt most mothers are made to feel at some stage in their life - usually by other mothers, and often by those who aren't yet mothers.

The stay-at-home-mum versus working-mother debate has been an issue of contention for some time now, with each group judging the other as somehow inferior.

Stay-at-home mums are not ambitious, working mums are selfish - or so they say.

I am extremely fortunate to be able to work from home, but have learnt the hard way, that motherhood issues are not simply black and white.

I do admit though, to having pre-set opinions and ideas prior to becoming a mum, only to fall victim of the judgement of others after having my son.

I was going to stay home with my baby and I was going to breast feed.

It was the breast feeding idea that didn't quite go to plan. In the end I only breast fed my baby for a short time, before switching to the dreaded bottle.

To address what most are usually thinking at this point - no I did not find it too painful (although it was very much so) and simply give up.

It wasn't all about technique either - the midwives confirmed this - despite the resulting damage.

I did, however, end up with severe and recurring mastitis.

And yes, I am aware that continuing to breast feed is the best way to cure mastitis.

Which is exactly what I did. However in my particular case, continuing to feed and continuous antibiotics did not improve the condition.

It got worse, my son was not getting enough milk and I ended up in hospital - away from my new baby - for days.

And it was on doctor's advice (*gasp) that I gave up breast feeding - with complete agreement from the midwife (*bigger gasp) treating my mastitis.

I was wracked with guilt, despite weeks of intense physical pain.

And I've lost count of the number of women who have informed me, upon hearing my son was being bottle fed, that they had mastitis/pain/difficulties, but they persevered "and it DOES get easier".

They don't know my story - and I don't always share it - but that's just it. We don't know each other's situation so why do we judge?

I choose to stay home with my son, but I don't feel superior to those who work full-time, nor should they feel superior to me.

And these are just two of the many issues we regularly judge each other on.

There's dummies, home-made vs commercial baby food, controlled crying, routine vs demand feeding, childcare, use of babysitters, how long we keep bub in our room - the list goes on.

We're all entitled to an opinion, but that doesn't mean we have to turn up our nose to those who choose a different path.

The majority of mothers are simply doing the best they can, to provide the best lives for their little bundles of joy.

Let's support each other instead of sending each other on never ending guilt trips.

As they say, there isn't a handbook and as long as we're doing our best, that's the best we can do.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

She may be hot, but she's still real...

Fashion magazine Marie Claire has caused a stir by putting an attractive lingerie model on the front of it's February issue.

On the surface, there's nothing new about this concept - gorgeous models have graced glossy covers for decades.

But this time, former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins has posed nude for a series of photographs, which reportedly have not been retouched.

These images supposedly depict the "real" Jennifer Hawkins and will help raise funds for eating disorders support group the Butterfly Foundation

But instead of applause, Marie Claire has received a string of complaints.

Many say Hawkins is no role model for body image and the photographs do nothing to improve the self-esteem of Australian women.

They say she is simply "genetically blessed" with an unobtainable body.

No doubt she's a natural beauty, but there's also no denying the fact that she is a real person - hot body included.

Admittedly Marie Claire could have gone a step further by removing lighting, using a less flattering pose, banning make-up and of course using a curvier model.

But then where do you draw the line?

It is a fashion magazine after all and what the image does show is that even hot, is human.

The trouble with image retouching and air-brushing is that is projects a truly unattainable image of unreal people, which can understandably contribute to extreme eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

Even those who do reach the media-celebrated size 8 or 10 are left feeling their boobs are too small, their backside too big, too much cellulite, not enough tone...

There is nothing real about an air-brushed image.

Jennifer Hawkin's photographs, while indeed proving she's naturally gorgeous, at least show a realistic backside-to-boob ratio and naturally uneven skin-tones.

She may look good, but that is what she looks like.

So while some say Marie Claire could have taken their natural approach further, taking away the air-brush is a step in the right direction.

Gorgeous models on magazine covers is nothing new - I say well done to Marie Claire for at least keeping it real.

About Me

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Nicole is an Australian journalist, presenter and communications consultant. She spent several years as a News Limited journalist, writing for a variety of local newspapers and magazines. Following this, Nicole was a reporter and presenter with the Nine Network, filing stories for Brisbane magazine program Extra, lifestyle show Weekend Extra and National Nine News. She is now a freelance journalist, writing for a variety of publications. Her special interests are features, lifestyle, current affairs, women, parenting/family and health. Nicole is also a public relations and communications consultant.
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