Looking at Cindy Crawford
Cindy Crawford’s Body
There’s been a picture of Cindy Crawford doing the rounds recently, she is wearing her undies, a hat and a fur coat. Unless you’ve been living in a hole, you’ll have noticed there are quite a lot of pictures of semi-naked women around in magazines and online, but the reason this one got more attention was because she was showing a ‘lived in’, un-airbrushed body.
As she is a wealthy, powerful woman who’s made her living as a model, her body is expensively honed and gorgeous. This is not the body of your average mother of two.
“Hoorah for ordinary bodies!” went the cry. “How brave of her to show what a 40-year-old belly looks like without photoshopping!”
Tina Fey said she feels about Photoshop is the same as feel feels about abortion:
“It’s terrible and outrageous and it should never happen- unless I need it in which case everyone be cool”.
But I think Cindy might be protesting her comfort with her body a bit too much; why should she even need to prove that she feels OK with herself by taking off her clothes for the camera again? She’s Cindy Crawford for goodness sake, if she doesn’t feel good in her skin now, what hope does any of us have?
Now my friend tells me to stop being grumpy and lighten up, that we like looking at beautiful women and women like being looked at. But at heart I am still a feminist, I am more interested to hear what women think, feel, do and create, than what they look like. So there’s no picture of Cindy Crawford here, I’ll leave you to google that one.
Caitlin Moran, when she was explaining Rhianana on MTV to her daughter reports
“I told my girls, ‘Look at Rihanna: she’s one of the biggest pop stars in he world. She’s really famous, really powerful, really rich. Yet in every single video she can only wear pants. Poor Rihanna! We’ll know when she’s properly powerful and successful when we see her in a lovely cardigan”.
Personally I’d be more interested in seeing Cindy in a nice cardigan telling us what she thinks about the glass ceiling or the childhood leukemia research that she raises money for.
My clients’ bodies
In my working life, I see a lot of women’s bodies. Imagine I have a massage client on my table. If I objectified her body I would be buying into the system that has caused her to keep herself small and her spirit dimmed in the first place. I certainly wouldn’t be able to give her a good treatment. When I work with my clients, I witness the heroic struggle that has been made to express her life’s purpose, while being restricted and limited in what she can do and be in the structure of our society.
The struggle to balance family life with her creative spirit, to manage the harsh demands of corporate work with the needs of her own internal cycles can be seen and felt in the tissues of her womb and shoulders. It’s being present to and witnessing these conflicts and dynamics that start the healing process.
My daughter’s body
I have a 9-year-old daughter on the cusp of puberty and I fear for her. I want her to be valued for what she does, what she thinks and creates, not by what she looks like. I want her to value her body for what is does for her, not for looking a particular way.
The Avalanche of images of women, from gossip mags to the mainstream press are filled with judgments about what is good or bad, too much or too thin. Knicker shots, cellulite shots, post baby shots and post breakup shots are everywhere.
We absorb by osmosis this belief that what we look like defines our value. Good enough, not good enough?
And meanwhile the cosmetic industry makes millions of pounds on the back of our insecurities with products that introduce chemicals to the most delicate skin on our bodies. These chemicals muck up our hormonal balance, which has implications for early menarche, fertility, PMT and menopausal issues.
Every woman can identify with the toxic internalised judgments about her body that have kept her small, at least for some period of her life. Women still, even in this age of freedom, feel less confident than men, when performing neither better nor worse. How much of that is because of the daily grind of put downs, and insecurity implicit in the sidebar of shame?
This girl can.
You may have noticed the ads on bus stops, a beautiful girl in boxing gear, which says ‘underneath the gloves there’s a beautiful manicure’. Though they’re slightly trite and patronising (don’t be afraid to look sweaty girls), I love that Sport England are putting some energy and cash into redressing the balance between judging a girl by what her body looks like and what her body can do.
As Uma says, this ignores the fact that women’s bodies do some amazing magic tricks like growing new humans and bleeding themselves into new life every month, but hey. That’s obviously too much for the bus stop posters.
I want to look
I want to look at women who have lived, really lived and survived. Women who wear their life’s experience on their skin with pride. A woman whose spirit shines out in a way that bb cream just doesn’t touch.
So this International Women’s Day, instead of re-printing the image of Cindy, I have used here the images of the women who inspire me.
Because they are truly beautiful, just like you and me.