So real it’s fake

12 Mar 2008

By The Record

By Sylvia Defendi
When author of the magazine-style research paper, ‘Faking It,’ Selena Ewing, found out Maxim magazine’s top-voted model was Aki Ross, star of the Sci Fi movie Final Fantasy, she was shocked.

Southern Cross Bioethics Centre research officer Selena Ewing addresses the Get Real forum at Government House. Photo: Anthony Barich


Not because Ross wasn’t gorgeous or flawless, but because she never made demands and was completely made of pixels.
A digitally created character, Ross ‘stared’ in the popular games of the same name before hitting the big-screen in 2001.
Speaking at the Perth Get Real! Forum on March 7, Ewing said the bizarre occurrence exemplified the very real pressure on women and girls to be thinner, prettier and sexier…everything but themselves.
And Ewing was quick to note that it was not just men’s magazines, like Maxim, that consistently put the pressure on.
“I’m not convinced that glossy magazines are empowering for women – in fact in many ways, I’m pretty worried about them,” she said.
These worrying findings are detailed in the appropriately named ‘Faking It’ report, which uses the glossy allure of an average women’s magazine to present worrying findings of low self-esteem, constant surveillance and depression associated with the need for physical perfection.
“Women need to know that how thin, beautiful and sexy they are is not a measure of their value. And that they don’t exist solely to be looked at and judged,” Ewing said that night.
However both advertisements and article topics in most women’s and men’s magazines often perpetuate the objectification of women and young girls.
“They portray sex as a young woman’s main currency, requiring women to make excuses for why they may not want sex.
“In fact, not wanting sex is so unusual, according to pop culture, that it’s either a personal insult to the man in question, or it’s evidence that the young woman is prudish or dysfunctional,” Ewing said.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Ewing, who said young women who were particularly ashamed of their bodies could at times even interpret the worst of sexual advances as flattering.
Considering almost every magazine’s existence is tied up in advertising, it is not surprising to find a very real need to make women feel they are in need of beautifying products.
To those who have known of the dangers of over-sexualisation and objectification but may feel too prudish and old-fashioned to challenge such notions, Ewing offered a message of resilience that night.
“The weight of scientific evidence is on your side. There are academics thinking and writing in support of your concerns, and they are available to you.
“There are also a vast numbers of people supporting your ideals and values,” she said, encouraging all who are opposed to the sexual objectification of women and girls to stand up for the cause.
For more information on the Faking It report, contact Women’s Forum Australia on: 0448 597 114 or visit: