Thursday, April 22, 2010

This scares me


While I applaud the effort anyone puts into a handmade envelope, I've been mulling over these two for a while. I've got a few big philosophical things to say about them, first and foremost that I find them deeply, deeply disturbing.

I grant you I don't have a TV. I don't follow or worship celebrity. I am blissfully ignorant of pop culture, and I don't think you could stuff a fashion magazine down my throat if you tried. I am deliberately distant from this crap, and such deliberate distancing was crucial to my personal process of healing and rebuilding my own body image. (In my youth, I was NOT so distant from such advertising culture.) There is a reason I find this blather appalling, and this pretty much sums it up.

No wonder our women, especially young girls, have serious body image issues (and eating disorders and cutting disorders and everything else that goes along with self-hate) when they're barraged with this crap... and then internalize it as their standard of beauty.


So here we have the emaciated warrior. I will confess I like the woman warrior aspect of it, but good lord, this waif hasn't the muscle to heft a spear! She is skin and bones, people! I look at this skeletal frame and wonder if she actually has enough body fat for her body to function hormonally. If I saw a young woman like this, I would be concerned about an eating disorder. This is so skinny it repulses me, and it repulses me further that women see this starved image and aspire to look like that.


Now, creepfest #2. I can't see enough of this one's body to know whether she's got a healthier figure or not, but let's deconstruct that eye makeup. Good lord, this woman looks beaten. She looks happy to be beaten. You have to turn this envelope over to see the rest of the ad, but...


...look! She's kinda sorta chained up! WTF?? Chained and beaten? And this is sexy? What, exactly, is this ad selling? (I'm not even sure- clothes? perfume? a submissive woman?)

I'm not a prude, people, and I love me some good pin-ups. There is a big difference between showing powerful, sexy women and objectifying women and starving them. I'm sure we can argue the finer points of this, and I imagine this blog post will generate some interesting comments... but I just have to go on record by saying that images like this creep me out. I have a very, very different standard of beauty. [Edit: Please keep your comments polite. Mean-spirited comments will not be published.]

Oh, and by the way... is well worth a visit any time, but especially after reading this post.


  1. Mh, I have to say the second one doesn't look beaten to me, and chains are a very common fantasy so I don't see anything bad in that image. (Well, maybe the model has a very ugly face and they made her teeth shine too much with Photoshop!!)
    The first woman looks really like a (very thin) man. Curves are love, curves are what makes us women... and it's sad, actually, that we always try to hide them.

  2. It's been bothering me that people who make envelopes seem to just make them out of whatever they have available without really thinking about what they're doing, so thank you for bringing this up. I saw once a kind of disturbing image of a gruesome vampire on an envelope, then saw it was for me! It was a little off-putting, honestly. It made me wonder a) why I was having a reaction to it and b) what the creator thought of it. So thanks for bringing up this topic.

    I admit I hate pictures of model people anyway and so when I looked at the first envelope I just zoomed in on the cool font for the address.

    Versace? bleh. I stay away from magazines and celebrities too.

    All right - I'm sure I could say a lot more on the subject if I weren't somewhat sick, but I'll let the other comments roll in for me to read and appreciate. (yay subscribe to comments!)

  3. The first image doesn't bother me so much because some people really are naturally thin and it is impossible to know if this woman is sickly, or naturally thin. A warrior woman might be quite thin ... the female body doesn't seem to need as much bulk as the male body to be strong.

    The chained woman bothers me only in that it is an ad for fashion. There are people who enjoy bondage and the marks of bondage. I am not one of them, but I know people who are intelligent and independent who like bondage. I've never seen physical marks on those people, but that is probably intentional. What bothers me most about the Versace image is that it implies being chained to fashion to the point of physical harm. It is an accurate portrayal of fashion, but I doubt those who are chained to it realize the irony.

    If I got a letter in either of these envelopes, I'd look to see if there is a political statement of any sort about body image in the letter. If not, my response would certainly include one. I like letters that evoke a passionate response.

    And I am also someone who doesn't give a damn about fashion and after working 17 years teaching dance, have had more than enough exposure to young women with eating disorders ... and not all of them are thin.

    And I am also someone who has committed postal faux pas and didn't realize it until after the letter has been sent. Sometimes the rational me doesn't kick in until after the letter has been sent. I am human, and I make mistakes. Lots of them. But I usually only make them once. Especially when I realize I've done so, or if someone calls me out.

  4. Im sorry but Im with Ilona on this one totally . I have to agree with everything she said . Im deeply distrubed by these as well and I will leave it at that .

  5. As a mother with a pre-teen daughter, I couldn't agree more. I HATE images like these, that focus on a certain standard of beauty, focusing on this crazy, unrealistic notion of "beautiful" and "sexy." I do my best to give her images of strong, powerful women, but the beauty industry has its fingers in everything and the images have a profound impact on young girls. I shouldn't have to try so hard to counteract all the awful things in the world, billboards, tv commercials, tv SHOWS, print ads, internet ads, omg they're everywhere. Aside from keeping her locked in a closet, I just can't shield her.

  6. I agree completely with you here as well. Everytime I walk by a rack of magazines and see models similar to these on the covers, I am horrified at what some people will consider beautiful, as well as saddened for both the young girls viewing these images as well as for the models themselves. In many cases, the photos have been altered so that what we see does not even represent what the person truly looks like. If I had received envelopes like these in my mailbox, I would have been disturbed as well, and have wondered what the person was thinking who sent them, and if they truly realized the message they were sending by choosing these images.

  7. Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments. Heather, I appreciate you pointing out the ubiquitous practice of photo re-touching; I'd even forgotten about that part! Almost all the fashion photos out there are retouched in some way.

    Conversely, as one of the senders said above - it was as simple as she just liked the colors.

  8. Have you seen the as-is and retouched pictures of Britney Spears that have been going around the internet this week? She has fabulously muscled legs in the untouched photos (I'd imagine from all the dancing and training she does for her concert tours), and they shaved them down to look like she has twigs to walk about on.

  9. Sorry that my envelope disturbed so many. Since some wondered what I was thinking when I made it, I judged the picture artistically, meaning by its layout, composition, color, and creative merits without giving any thought to the size of the woman's body parts.

    Interesting in a photo of a woman warrior so many thought only about her weight. Different view points are great and I have found this discussion enlightening.

  10. The reference to cutting made me pause. My daughter knew several girls during her high school years who were 'cutters' and NONE of them ever opened a fashion magazine. The issue of 'cutting' has lots of orgins and a fashion magazine can't take all of the blame. These girls had emotional/mental issues that weren't manifested by a fashion spread. I never understood that fashion magazines could cause anorexia/bulimia/cutting etc. I think the source is closer to home/internal than a magazine.

  11. Actually I should have added that the four girls my daughter knew, are all gay. Their issues dealt more with acceptance with who they are from their family than a magazine supposedly glorifying the thin female ideal. I'm not a magazine devotee but I do think they (the magazines) need to get less blame for the ills of the female population. I give us (women) more credit for being stronger than giving in to 'fashion'. But then maybe, that's just me.

  12. Lisa, I unfortunately know far too many young women who cut. You are right that it cannot be blamed on a magazine, and the sources can be many, and it has little or nothing to do with sexual orientation... but the majority of them I know of do love celebrity/fashion magazines. That could be skewed, though, because the majority of young women I know in general love celebrity/fashion magazines.

  13. This would only be appropriate if being sent to someone with like interests in fashion, model photos, etc. Not knowing the like/dislikes of the recipient, this was totally inappropriate.

  14. This would only be acceptable if the recipient was of like interests in model photos and fashion. Sending something like this to a person you don't personally know is totally inappropriate.

  15. Oops, Sorry....sent the same comment twice. Thought it didn't work the first time.

  16. Are lexio514 and Peggy the same person? Eery similarity in those comments. Anyway, I don't find the sending of the envelopes totally inappropriate, and I hope I haven't in any way squelched the senders' creativity - just a little feminist image deconstruction is all. But to play devil's advocate, I do support letter-writers (and other forms of creative output) to express themselves based on their own interests as well as those of the recipient.

  17. Comments work - they just require approval. There should be a little message after you submit (albeit in small text) that says something like "comments will be visible after blog owner approval."

  18. As one of the envelope senders stated above -- different viewpoints ARE great.

    However, I still find it vexing to read so many harsh judgments regarding the artistic integrity of the senders, or the propriety behind sending images to strangers/correspondents/pen pals. I know that people can be harsh and judgmental when it comes to personal appearances, but mail appearances? Really?

    I don't find anything offensive about these envelopes, and I applaud the senders for their recycling efforts. I also applaud you, Missive Maven, for your even-handed presentation of why you found these images disturbing.

    And as the sister of a very thin woman, and friend to another extremely thin woman, I believe that thin also can mean strong, powerful woman. You have to be strong to put up with strangers making rude comments about your appearance (eat a sandwich, you're anorexic & disgusting, etc.) without knowing you, at all.

  19. I'm not making light of all the serious comments previously made, but for the pic of pole-holding woman, all I saw was a "joan of ark meets survivor" kind of thing. The other woman, I just thought she sort of looked like a young Madonna, that's as far as my brain went with it.

    As for being inappropriate, I have to disagree. This blog contains a wide open invitation to "write me a letter". A cursory viewing of past posts shows all sorts of envelope art.
    I feel the sender, Cari, joined in the spirit of the blog by genuinely expressing her artistic individuality as many others before her have done.