« Texas Cheer Moms | Main | The Bachelor Rome: A Fairy Tale Come True »

What Not to Wear

The BBC’s reality show “What Not To Wear? constructs a reality in which there is only one correct way for women to look. The show enforces this construct by humiliating contestants who do not look “correct.? If Alessandra Stanley’s argument that "humiliation is the unifying principle behind a successful reality show" is correct, then “What Not To Wear? can consider itself a truly successful reality program.
The entire point of “What Not To Wear? is to humiliate women into modifying their appearance according to a normative standard, all under the guise of “helping? them. In the episode I watched, the hosts, Trinny and Susannah, “madeover? two women. The first woman entered the show wearing bright clothes and a fake ponytail. The program began with the hosts telling her that the reason she wasn’t getting hours at work was that her co-workers were probably embarrassed to have her working reception. Then the woman watched a tape of her husband making fun of and laughing at her appearance. This constitutes humiliation under Avishai Margalit's definition, in which humiliation consists of treating people as "merely things, tools, animals, subhumans, or inferior humans". When Trinny and Susannah sat this woman down and had her taped watching a video of her husband laughing at her they were definitely treating her as an inferior human. Then the hosts gave the woman a two minute demonstration on what she “should? wear – the colors, the shapes, the lengths, which bits of skin to cover, and which to show. Then she was sent off to shop alone. The next day the hosts came to review the woman’s purchases. They humiliated her blatantly, making fun of her new clothes in a variety of colorful ways, including comparing an outfit to a “gaudy toy at the funfair.? This humiliation is intentional on the part of the show. Even if the intentions of giving women a set of rules to govern her appearance are benign, telling these rules to her in two minutes and then expecting her to understand and act on them immediately is setting her up for failure.
The hosts then chose an outfit for her, replacing her usual pinks and reds with blacks and blues, and covering up all of her skin, much of which was exposed when she entered the show. She hated the outfit, and told the hosts that. They told her that they were right, that she had to trust them, because they understood what women should wear, and she didn’t. This is another example of the hosts treating the contestant as inferior, and thus humiliating her. This is also an example of why the humiliation of this woman is considered socially acceptable. The show and the hosts portray the humiliation of this woman as “helping? her to stop humiliating herself by dressing how she wants. They act as if they are enabling this woman to leave the margins and enter mainstream society, which most viewers consider constructive. The truth is that “What Not to Wear? further marginalizes contestants by covering up their difference, stifling their individuality, and forcing them into the mold that mainstream society pushes on all women. Marginalization and humiliation are not the only ways in which “What Not to Wear? abuses women. Even if Schick’s argument is correct, and people can be humiliated without losing self-respect if they behave according to their “ideal standard?, it does not apply to contestants on “What Not to Wear?. The first woman was forced to change her ideal standards to match the standards of the hosts. This was displayed blatantly twice on the show. When looking at a pair of pants that she liked, but did not follow the “rules?, the woman asked the camera, “should I be good or shouldn’t I?? This displays a lack of self–respect, as she acknowledged in this comment that her sense of style differed from that of the hosts, and also that their opinions were “good? and hers were not. Later on the show, the woman said of a new outfit that the hosts had chosen for her, and she didn’t like, “Once I get used to it, I’ll be able to carry it off better.? Under Schick’s definition, this woman has then surrendered her self-respect by not behaving according to her ideals, as well as being humiliated by the hosts, making “What Not To Wear? the ultimate degrading experience.
Myra Mendible argues that the content of reality shows “reflects the underlying logic of our social order.? I would argue that this content reinforces and perpetuates this logic as well. These arguments make “What Not to Wear? even more disturbing. Not only does this show humiliate the contestants into changing their appearance to fit a normative standard, but it reflects the social construct that women in society at large must look a certain way or else be humiliated. Why can’t there be more than one socially acceptable way for a woman to look?

Comments

Just a wee point. The Brits (like the Americans) simply LOVE humiliating. Not content with mere violence, they have to include an element of humiliation. Hence Abu Graib and reality shows. After nearly 30 years of observing & studying the British & American psyches, I have concluded that perhaps is the dominant protestant element in the collective psychology that produces this lethat combination of sado-masochism. Other cultures are as fond as violence as the next but only the Anglo-Saxon heritage seems to get a hard on out of rubbing someone else's nose in shit.

I don't know if the original author has seen the US version on TLC (I have not seen the BBC version), but I think it is actually very empowering for women. Angeline Andersen states above that the hosts humiliate guests who don't look "correct." In all actuality, the goal of the show is to allow the subject to see that they can actually look good in certain clothes, which in turn, make them feel good. There are a lot of shows where it is obvious that the woman is not taking care of herself, and at the end of the show, the woman feels good about herself. Their standard for what is and what isn't "correct" is by no means universal. It changes from person to person. So, there is "more than one socially acceptable way for a woman to look," but they are trying to help these women see that they don't have to wear ugly clothes...they actually can dress well, no matter their figure. And, as I stated above, the women actually end up feeling good about themselves and fashion. They realize that fashion is not just for supermodels...it is for anyone.

I propose --
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra
biagra [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra]biagra[/url]

Do you hear about
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra
biagra [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra]biagra[/url]

Do you hear about
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra
biagra [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra]biagra[/url]

Do you hear about
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra
biagra [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra]biagra[/url]

Great stuff!!!
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra
biagra [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra]biagra[/url]

Great stuff!!!
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra
biagra [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/admin/search/google?keywords=site%3Aforumlivre.com%20biagra]biagra[/url]

Aw, this was a really good quality post. In theory I'd like to write like this too - taking time and actual effort to make a fantastic post... but what can I say... I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain some thing performed.

In this awesome pattern of things you actually secure a B- for effort and hard work. Exactly where you confused me personally was first on your particulars. As people say, the devil is in the details... And it could not be more accurate at this point. Having said that, let me reveal to you what did deliver the results. Your authoring can be incredibly engaging which is possibly the reason why I am taking an effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, even though I can see the leaps in reasoning you make, I am definitely not confident of how you appear to connect your details which make the actual conclusion. For right now I shall subscribe to your position but wish in the near future you actually connect the facts better.