Yesterday I had internet connection issues. So I turned the TV on just for fun. We do not have cable anymore, so I had my whooping five local channels that work with our antenna to go with. I ended up with daytime talk shows and was shocked once more by the things I saw.
As an explanation, let me say that I usually don’t watch television. I find the things that interest me on the internet and watch them there. The only exception right now is Downton Abbey on PBS. I tune in for that.
As I am consuming content that is specifically to my liking, I am consciously and subconsciously filtering out things that the average person is exposed to on a daily basis. I am in my comfortable nerd bubble, sharing the same interests with the people around me.
Watching TV reminded me once more how far away my normal is from mass media normal.
First I saw a show where the host was made up like a Mariah Carrey look alike with twice the boob size. She was wearing a minidress, high heels and a good pound of make-up. Because of the dress, she could only sit in the most stilted, awkward way. She did not have one wrinkle and was talking about female movie stars in every other sentence.
One segment of the show had another woman that showed the host an array of beauty products. Things like firming cream and spray tan, hair spray and nail polish. All these product were praised and connected with the celebrities who endorsed them or used them. The message clearly being, if you only use this product, you can be just like that celebrity.
I don’t want to be like a celebrity. I want to be like me. I also had a hard time swallowing all that fake happy.
The next show had also a female host. She was more on the reasonable side, but as she stood there, wedged into her too tight high heels, I could see how uncomfortable she was. She was doing a topic oriented show and the topic I caught was plastic surgery.
First, they had two horror story guests, who overdid plastic surgery. Those were treated as lovable bad examples with a warning to young girls, not to go that route. Then another guest was telling her story of doing plastic surgery in another country and almost dying from it. The message here was: Don’t go cheap.
At the end of the show, a plastic surgeon showed with actual patients a job well done. He advertised his work for a good five minutes. Not once did a discussion come up about positive body image without artificial “enhancements”. The whole emphasis on looks alone was enough to make my blood boil.
I did the only reasonable thing I could do. I turned the TV off.
But then I thought about what I had seen and all the messages that were brought across, both within the shows and within the commercial blocks that interrupted them. These shows were aimed at a primarily female audience. And the audience got told over and over again, that if you don’t do certain things with your appearance, if you don’t buy this, that, and the other, we will judge you and you will be found lacking. You need to be a certain weight, you need to have your face looking a certain way, your clothes need to be fashionable and don’t you dare have one hair anywhere else than on your head.
Women get that bashed into their heads day in and day out. They get used to these messages and they judge other women by these standards after a while.
Now here I am in my jeans, sneakers and nerd T-shirt. I am not a thin as I should be. I am not wearing make-up on most days and I have wrinkles all over. This is my normal and I don’t give a rodent’s behind about what other people think. But watching TV showed me once again, how far away I am from mainstream normal; how much I do get judged; and under how much pressure a lot of women are, who do take these things seriously.