Thursday, December 3, 2020

Modeling: The men grow up, but how about the women?

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Body Image, Featured, Media Literacy

This guest post provided by Dr. Dana from orig published 11/2010

According to Guy Trebay in the NYT “Boys to Men ” change is afoot in the modeling industry, at least for the men.  Apparently, the boyish waif has been replaced by a more traditional version of masculinity—one that resembles the Marlboro man.  Desirable male models are now older, more muscular, and more weathered.  Long live the Wild West—the rugged cowboy is back.

The article quotes Sam Shahid, creative director of Shahid & Company, as saying,

“In tough times, people want a strong man.” Jim Nelson, editor of GQ, explained that the public wants to see that men “do work, do labor, we still make things.”

In other words, the young, androgynous meterosexual has been fired, and his well- seasoned, much older cousin—who seems to be a farmhand from Nebraska—has, inexplicably, arrived in New York for a modeling shoot.

Are we really in need of a father figure?  Do we clamor for daddy during these tough economic times?

What about mommy?

I haven’t seen a parallel phenomenon in the female world of modeling.  I haven’t seen wise, older women grace the covers of Vogue or Bazaar.  The success of magazines like O and More, which are geared toward the slightly older set (i.e., those who have a driver’s license and possibly even a child), indicates that women are eager to read content relevant to their lives.  But rarely—even in these magazines—do they see themselves reflected in images.

Unfortunately, we still seem to suffer from the entrenched idea that men are expected to provide financial security, whereas women are expected to provide visual diversion.  Women are still considered eye candy, so female models remain young, nubile, and passive in their stance.  “Come get me; I’m yours, I’m available, and I have no will of my own.”

As evidence, here is how Vogue positions its story about Anne Hathaway, the actress featured on the November ’10 cover:  “Poised between girldom and full-fledged womanhood, Anne Hathaway talks to Adam Green about growing up, learning to trust, and taking on her most challenging role yet.”

You can see that she is quoted as saying, “I’m too trusting.”  In other words, young and naïve; somewhat dependent, perhaps.  Maybe she’s had her heart broken.  Ho, hum.

Matt Norklun, the model on Vogue’s cover, isn’t too trusting.  He’s not submissive or coy.  And if there’s any talk of hearts, he’ll be the one doing the breaking.  He’s ‘bout to saddle up and git back to the ranch.  After he does a shot of whiskey and puts his cigarette out.  On his arm.



2 Responses to “Modeling: The men grow up, but how about the women?”
  1. Ashley says:

    Interesting take on roles of men and women in modeling. To be honest, in real life, I find the typical rough and rugged “macho man” type highly annoying, because there’s all I ever see in my every day life: Men trying to prove himself to be the biggest, baddest, strongest, most powerful King of the castle while he cuts down smaller metrosexuals as weak and wimpy. Ugh. However in modeling, the metros are more of the norm.

    Also, in women, you have a good point that they tend to take on a traditional role in modeling: Young, naive, prey…theirs for the taking, who will do whatever men want them to do. It’s kind of upsetting to me, especially as a model myself…it makes me want to BE that older wiser woman, with a brain and pleasing men are not top priority. How do you think women could better portray that image in their modeling work?

    • Great question, Ashley. Having never been a model, I don’t have any real life experience to draw from. But, I wonder how much control models have during shoots. For example, can you (or other models) pose in ways that make you feel strong and powerful? Another way models might make a difference is by eating well and taking care of themselves.

      It is a complex and multifaceted issue, and people at all different levels contribute to the way that women are depicted in ads–the designers who create clothes, the photographers who capture images, the models who wear the clothes, and ultimately the public who buys them. We often hear about the male gaze, meaning that it is through men’s eyes that women are depicted in the media. Although there are likely more women photographers than in the past, there still might not be enough.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts, since you’ve been in the industry first hand! (I’m the author of the post, in case that isn’t clear!)

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