Constructing Feminine Form for Masculine Sake.
Does it make sense to say that sex is at the heart of identity today? The answer is surely yes, and more so than ever before. (Gauntlett, 2008). Introduction. Consider the cover of the December 2011 edition of FHM (Fig. 1). It portrays a constructed ideal of female attractiveness. Aimed at the male market it conveys the attributes of female form deemed attractive to men. Has this identity been constructed by women or imposed upon by men? Butler (1999) suggests ‘the female body is marked within masculinist discourse’ , and women have not had the freedom to create their own identity, ‘women with the ostensibly sexualized features of their bodies and, hence, a refusal to grant freedom and autonomy to women as it is purportedly enjoyed by men’ (Butler, 1999). Macdonald (1995) notes that this enforced construction is neither a new concept nor just present in magazines aimed at a male audience: The body has historically been much more integral to the formation of identity for women than for men. If women had defined for themselves the ideals of their bodily shape or decoration, this would not be problematic. It is the denial of this right in the western cultural representation, in medical practice and in the multi-billion dollar pornography, fashion and cosmetic industries, that has granted women only squatter’s rights to their own bodies. However for the purpose of this essay we will concentrate on the feminine identity constructed in men’s lifestyle magazines and identify from where this was created.
Why we enjoy beauty. ‘It is suggested that what makes one thing beautiful and another less so is our psychological attraction, probably unconscious, to some quality in the former that is absent from the latter, combined of course with equally-implicit cultural biases.’
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