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In a world where airbrushed beauty ads don’t result in the majority of people – and especially women – blinking twice, we must ask ourselves: have we forgotten what women really look like?

As news broke that Jennifer Aniston’s marriage to Justin Theroux was over and Aniston’s pictures were splashed across the media, there is one issue no one is talking about… and it’s not whether Aniston and Brad Pitt will somehow hook-up once again and live happily ever after. It’s this: Aniston does not look like a relatable 49-year-old woman.

 

Widening our gaze…

 

It’s obvious that if there is one thing that older actresses in Hollywood such as Nicole Kidman, Salma Hayek, Sandra Bullock and Jane Seymour (we could go on forever) all have in common, it’s this: they all look much younger than they actually are. So while it’s great that older women have a presence on-screen, they’re clearly expected to look about a decade or so younger anyway.

Even when age isn’t the main focus, people clearly have an issue with female expression in our natural form when you consider the reaction to Swedish model, Arvida Byström, appearing with unshaven legs in an advertising campaign for Adidas in October 2017. Online abuse and even threats of rape followed – while women’s body hair is typically an inflammatory and even divisive issue, we can all agree that such a reaction is abysmal and completely out of line.

Closer to home, apparently, the Aussie TV industry won’t even cast a woman aged 40 or more according to renowned actor, Michael Caton. Even when we move away from acting altogether, there are well documented cases of talented and highly experienced women in the media, such as journalist Tracey Spicer, being worn down with taunts such as “you’re too old…” Last time we checked when we flicked on the news across all channels, there are no such issues for older, grey-haired male anchors who are often given the opportunity and luxury to retain their jobs until they’re ‘ready’ to move on. If you watch any news programs in Australia, regardless of the time, with the exception of SBS, it’s clear we’re in dire need of diversity on our screens.

 

The real concerns come back…

 

To how what we’re absorbing and consuming on a daily basis, often without much thought, is impacting the typical woman. Those who are unlikely to have access to expensive beauty treatments or professional make-up artists or graphic designers using Photoshop to achieve a level of ‘perfection’ that is frankly, impossible. Even though we are seeing some companies take a very public stand in regards to Photoshopping models, it is a rarity at this stage, which leaves many women grappling with self-esteem issues, perhaps even unknowingly.

Take Dove’s Global Beauty and Confidence report, conducted in 2016 – although perhaps dated now, it highlights a massive issue. Only 1 in 5 Aussie women said they have high body self-esteem, which leads them to opting out of everyday activities. Engaging with friends and family, getting out of the house and so on… these basic activities become harder for women with body confidence issues and it’s time to ask the relevant questions of those in high places who are the gatekeepers of content in mainstream media and the public gaze more generally. We can all agree that women generally have enough challenges to face without having to add self-esteem and confidence into the mix.

Thankfully, we are now seeing people with a high profile such as singers, Alicia Keys and Adele, agreeing to be photographed without make-up and showing the world their natural selves. Here’s the thing:

 

It takes just one second to improve your body image. How?

 

It’s simpler than you may think. When you choose not to click on or consume material that makes you feel inadequate in some way, you’re making a choice. When you don’t look at the glossy magazines as you queue in the supermarket, you’re making a choice. When you stop clicking on emails with subject headlines that read, ‘xx anti-ageing secrets,’ you’re making a choice. A one second choice that improves your today and someone else’s tomorrow. Reality is, business is driven by our habits – we have the power to choose what we consume and purchase. When we don’t take the bait, business can’t survive unless it changes its tune.

Contrary to popular belief, the power is in our hands. As we’ve said before and will continue to reiterate, as consumers, the media exists for and because of us and by coming together as one, we can drive change. So the next time you’re searching for juicy content to read, choose the publications celebrating female achievement and leadership within our community, as opposed to others that focus solely on aesthetics or are highly critical. The more we question what’s being presented to us as ‘the norm’ and vote with our ability of choice – to consume or pro-actively turn our backs on what surrounds us – the closer we get to accurate depictions of women in the public

Sarah Cannata

Founding editor at This Woman Can
Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can and is the author of the picture book, Willow Willpower. She's a self-confessed introvert who believes quality storytelling can change the world.
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