The Feminists: Our First Modeling Gig

About three weeks ago, Belland forwarded us a little e-mail that indicated that The Feminists would be participating in our first magazine photo shoot. Surprisingly, this shoot had nothing to do with music, it was about fashion. Supposedly rock and roll fashion, but fashion nonetheless.
The next day, as I was blissfully ensconced in a calm bubble of serenity, reading a fresh new book and halfway through a cup of coffee the size of my head, “my” stylist called me to discuss the upcoming shoot. Of all the sentences that I never thought I would write, eh? Well, she just wanted to know my size and “what kind of look” I had in mind.
I consider myself to be a relatively well-rounded individual with thoughtful opinions on a lot of topics. It was at this moment that I realized that my expertise is non-existent in certain areas. For starters, I don’t know what size I am. “Uh, I don’t really know what you mean,” I whispered, trying not to disturb the other coffee drinkers. I guess I’m not tremendously confident in my looks or my body so I kind of avoid thinking about that stuff.
If you, like me, have a small frame and a flat tummy you also have straight hips, (no curve), and a tiny little booty (no curve) and tiny little breasts (no curve). I’m just saying, skinny gals in their natural state don’t really have the womanly attributes that are considered desirable and attractive. The skinny women that get breast implants, they’re the ones that make problems for everyone. Their bodies are unnatural, as in not found in nature. I believe this type of disclaimer should be included in any and all instances where these unnatural bodies are displayed, like the warnings on cigarettes. Warning: This body is surgically and digitally altered. Prolonged gazing will destroy your self-esteem. Do not attempt this body at home.
I think most men understand that women’s bodies are often not presented to them in their natural state. Apparently this fact matters very little to many of them, and a lot of women take this indifference as approval and encouragement to keep dieting, exercising, grooming, maintaining. You gotta maintain. Maintenance is the key, and that’s where the exhaustion comes in. But really, women could get away with doing a lot less to themselves in the name of beauty guys frequently don’t notice most of the stuff we do anyway. Only other women masterfully ensnared by the fashion and beauty industry are checking to see if all the “rules” are being followed.
I also think there are a lot of decent guys who prefer a woman’s natural beauty but don’t know how say this without getting into serious trouble. Many women are irrationally oversensitive about comments regarding their appearance, and with good reason. Appearance is still a woman’s main social currency, even after a hundred years of feminism. It’s hard to explain to a guy how much appearance matters because it’s not an issue for him. You can see beautifully put-together women hand in hand with scruffy guys in sweatpants all the time. Men can be overweight, balding, have bad skin, gray hair, wear unflattering clothes and can still command respect, make lots of money, and rise like a phoenix in practically any career field AND they don’t have to invest any time/effort/money into looking good. Can you imagine in your wildest dreams a fat woman with bad skin, coke-bottle glasses, and unflattering clothes who wears no make-up being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Or Prime Minister?
Consider how physically attractive our last two Prime Ministers were. Obviously, men are valued for what they DO, not how they LOOK. And just as obviously, women are required to maintain a much higher standard of physical appearance to have even a chance at respect and career advancement. Sadly, there are no rules, fashion or otherwise, that women can follow to ensure they will receive fair treatment on the job. Discrimination is based on emotion, not logic. Women will never be able to conquer workplace discrimination by working hard and looking good. At the end of the day, they’re still women and that’s the only thing that sexist decision-makers notice when it comes time to promote or give raises.
It is pretty amazing how productive and professional so many women are – working full time jobs, organizing social calendars, raising children, managing relationships, the work of nurturing a whole civilization, essentially – all this while spending thousands of hours and dollars to maintain their appearance. Maybe we haven’t come such a long way, baby. It seems extra cruel that women are encouraged and expected to look perfectly (unnaturally) beautiful while keeping society functioning. And for what? Equal pay? Half of the seats in all levels of government? Oh right, we don’t have those things yet. But at least we’re damn good looking second class citizens. And maybe all that shopping will distract us from wanting the things that really matter.
I was kind of thinking that it might be difficult for me to have fun at this photo shoot, and I was starting to get nervous that I might launch into a feminist tirade in front of the wrong people. Look out, boys. Steer clear of the stick-like figure glowering in the corner.
So we all gamefully trooped into this photographer’s Yaletown studio where another band was finishing up their session. Someone from the magazine greeted us and offered us some wine. There was loud music playing. It was a live/work sort of space with like a loading dock back window that was opened, facing in the alley. There was a makeup artist and a hairstylist, a photographers assistant, and the fashion stylist I had spoken to earlier.
I was hustled into makeup right away. It was a wonderful experience to have someone else do my makeup. To have someone else make all those decisions, and know they’re getting paid to make me look good…sheer luxury. I was in the mood for anything (Ha! Just wash it off later! Why not!). I was hoping to be unrecognizable to myself at the end of it.
It took a really long time (it felt like) for me to look presentable enough to photograph, which kind of made me think “oh, gosh. I must have been hideous when I walked in here.” But I’ll tell ya something. All of the flaws that I can’t stop myself from focusing on every day were gone. It was pretty weird to see a vastly more perfect-looking version of me in the mirror wearing the most trendy, outlandish clothes.
Upon being positioned under the lights, I immediately broke out into a sweat. It was so bright that I had a really hard time keeping my eyes open. Lord, it was hot. Like being in a dry sauna. Mike and I were photographed together. I was ungraceful and awkward. Everything about it just seemed so unnatural. Try to keep absolutely still under hot, blinding lights sometime. And look relaxed. Keep your face blank. I could feel the thick layer of makeup on my face start to melt and slide around.
I couldn’t see anything beyond the lights. I wondered if there was anything beyond the lights anymore, or if I was being punished indefinitely for all of my past fashion transgressions under the harsh light of interrogation . Everyone was telling me to relax. I am always stunned when people say that to me. If I could relax, I would. But I’m a sensitive little flower. Sometimes I become tense in response to being placed in a tense environment. I like quiet, solitude, reality. I knew I was a fish out of water the second I walked into the studio.
Then Ferdy and Keith had their shots together, and finally the group shots. I had to stand on a chair, crouch down sideways on one leg, and look relaxed. The guys looked smashing, and I hope there will be some usable pictures of us. But we won’t know until next month, when the June/July issue of Ion magazine comes out.
It took a long hot shower to get my hair and face back to their naked normal state. I emerged with a newfound respect for fashion models. Their job is really a lot harder than it looks. I thought it was very strange to be someones canvas, a three dimensional coat hanger for some opulently expensive clothing. I had never before experienced the emptiness of being a mere object – to be dressed and painted and covered with various materials, posed and bent and moved into something that a photographer wanted to capture. To me it looked like a still life photography project that used some very inexperienced (quivering) mannequins to get the job done.
At least the whole experience was worth it just to watch the guys squirm through getting their makeup and hair done. I’ve been giggling about that for days.