“Yet again we’ve seen another body image blunder pushed into the spotlight with Minister for Youth Kate Ellis donning tight-fitting leather clothes and dominatrix-style eight-inch heels in a bid to improve the esteem of Australian women.”
Even with my rudimentary knowledge of fashion, I know that “leather is back” and the connection between S&M and those shoes in mainstream fashion is long gone. But here’s the thing: I think people should be able to wear whatever they like, as long as it’s vaguely situation-appropriate (no undie-flashing skirts in the office, thankyouverymuch). Even though I personally believe leggings are not pants, if you want to wear them as pants, then all power to you. So, to me, it doesn’t matter what Kate Ellis is wearing in a fashion shoot, as long as she’s wearing something.
“It shouldn’t surprise anyone when Grazia quotes Jennifer Aniston, “looking good is the best revenge!” But what is Ellis doing supporting this tokenistic stunt? Having recommended, through her National Advisory Board, that a diverse range of body sizes and shapes should be portrayed in magazines, it is rather odd to then engage in a photoshoot that upholds current beauty standards and allowing images of oneself that are most likely airbrushed. Perhaps she just wants to look glamorous in a fashion shoot but needs to cover it in tokenistic body image/self-esteem jargon?”
To me, the airbrushing issue is the only one Ellis needs to be honest about. I’d suggest the editor-in-chief Alison Veness-McGourty needs to be honest about airbrushing in her magazine, but we all know I’m more likely to grow a third breast before that ever happens. So, like marie claire editor Jackie Frank before her (the Jennifer Hawkins shoot), the person in charge slinks quietly in the background, happily letting someone else cop the grief.
“Perhaps most frustrating is that young, smart high-profile women are routinely subjected to sexualised scrutiny, regardless of their profession. Natasha Stott-Despoja, Stephanie Rice, Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Gabriella Cilmi – who recently stripped to “prove” she’s “all grown up” – the list is endless.
One of the functions of sexualising powerful women is that they become less threatening. Their abilities fade into the background while all that is focused on is whether they are ‘hot-or-not’.”
This is a different issue. I don’t agree that Ellis has been sexualised in this shoot, because that implies that, as a 32-year-old, she shouldn’t be sexy. If she’d posed for Zoo or Ralph, that would be different. But this is a fashion shoot to accompany a story in a women’s fashion mag. I’m only going on the photos published online, but there are no crotch-shots, no orgasm-face, so it’s hardly sexualised. But her point about sexualising powerful women is a good one.
When I first saw this story reported, I thought ‘good on her’. Anything that gets more people interested in politics should be encouraged. And no, I’m not suggesting that she’s using her looks to get people interested – it’s about taking politics out of the dry news setting and reaching people who aren’t normally interested.
But one thing that shits me in all of this is this idea that ‘women are their own worst enemies’. It’s simply a convenient way of putting the blame solely on women. It isn’t women running these publishing houses, and it certainly isn’t women running the advertising industry. And those who say ‘women still buy these magazines even though the ads are all airbrushed’ is, quite frankly, an idiot. Who buys magazines for the ads?
“There are no easy solutions to our current plague of body image problems. At the same time, none of us should have to put up with faux attempts to put things right. Grazia is merely giving the appearance of wanting to empower women. Ellis’ participation only upholds existing beauty standards while catering to the sexual fantasies of men.
Given that girls and women are already taught that their worth is measured by how sexually desirable they are, having our Youth Minister reiterate that message just trivialises an issue she seems to care deeply about.”
As Turner says, there are no easy answers. And while they can be easily dismissed as stunts, putting Sarah Murdoch and Jennifer Hawkins on magazine covers, unairbrushed, is actually a pretty good start. It’s about baby steps. You can’t change an entire industry overnight, you have to take everyone with you. So, an unairbrushed model today, then a size 10 model tomorrow, and who knows, one day the plus-sized models may even get to wear clothes in fashion mags, rather than being half-nude all the time. And while we push for less airbrushing and different body types, we have to keep in mind that models will always be photogenic. That’s their job.
Funnily enough, Turner includes a quote from our old friend “mick of brisbane”:
“She is the sexiest politician I have ever seen!!! I wonder if she would do a photo shoot for Penthouse? With all funds raised going to the community of course!!! I think she could pull off a centrefold with ease!!!”