Last week, an ad featuring Jennifer Love Hewitt ran in several publications. The Hollywood Reporter ran an untouched version of the ad. Entertainment Weekly treated her to a digital breast reduction. (You can see the photos side by side later in this article.) If their goal was to make her look more modest, they didn’t. Her cup size may have shrunk to a size B, but they treated her black—is it a spaghetti strap nightie—to some shrinking as well.
No, Entertainment Weekly did not arrive at modesty, but I do think they had a final destination. Whether they did it intentionally or not, they fed into a trend that alarms me as I keep my pulse on the beauty standards of Western culture: a titillating fascination with the teenage body. From advertisements that illuminate a Catholic school girl fetish to college girl’s budgeting for regular Brazillian waxes, I see women doing almost anything to look younger. Most saddening, is that little girls do almost anything to look older.
While some girls begin to grow breast buds at the age of 8, most won’t begin until they’re about 12 or 13. That means that while a few of us are fully developed by age 18, the vast majority may not have filled out entirely until we are as old as 28. So, why am I getting letters from mothers of ten-year-olds whose daughter’s feel the pressure to wear padded bras? Why are sixteen-year-olds getting breast implants as birthday gifts? And why is there a rise in the percentage of older woman having breast reductions? Our society has an unhealthy fascination with the barely budding female body.
Gone are the days when a woman’s body—matured so that her womb is rounded and her breasts are full—is celebrated. While you might find such a body in Renaissance art or even in the 1950’s iconic photos of Marilyn Monroe, you’ll not find it in today’s cultural mediums. (Monroe was almost thirty when she was a the height of her beauty icon status.) Instead, what we celebrate today is an obsession with the body of teenaged girls. And that’s where I think Entertainment Weekly landed with their obscene alterations. What do you think?
I’m writing this as a rant. A cathartic raging against our ability as women to enjoy the beauty of each stage of life. Oh, that a gangling, flat-chested eleven-year-old could be celebrated for her freckles, pig-tails, and infectious giggles. That a teenager could enjoy the budding of her body without the self-conscious awareness that the world is oogling her, expecting her to be sexual. And that a thirty-year old could embrace her curves and the fullness of a body that has born and can create life.
This blog is for the girls out there—aged eight to eighty—who are fed up with a myth of beauty that gives us only a few years to celebrate. Today, I modestly celebrate the fact that the belly behind this laptop has given life to two amazing human beings. What are you celebrating?