Ladybeard is the brainchild of a group of Cambridge students who are aiming to tackle the way women are depicted in the media head on, by ‘fighting fire with fire’. It’s first issue ‘The Body Issue’, addresses the way that we, as consumers, are being marketed. We buy products to define ourselves, buying into an image of what we should wear and the way we should look. The issue strips down this behaviour to explore the way that the media affects our relationships with ourselves.
The student magazine gives those who are misrepresented a voice, looking at the 2D representation of sexuality, race and gender in our society. The allusion towards beauty as being attained by slim, white straight women penetrates Western culture, and tells us that this is the only way to be attractive. But what about the rest of us? Ladybeard calls for change by acknowledging that certain women are not prevalent in the media or are represented in a purely one-dimensional way. Black women are objectified as overtly sexual beings and their place in the beauty industry is held by light-skinned, waif-like women, just as lesbians are presented as being butch and transsexuals are presented as unfeminine. These narrow portrayals of large proportions of the female population is damaging because it tells us that they are imperfect. It tells us that these traits cannot be beautiful.
But really, what is beauty? ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is a phrase reiterated by mothers to their self-conscious daughters. Truly beauty is culturally and historically subjective. It is lifestyle. In the renaissance it was beautiful to be pale and plump because this showed that you were wealthy enough to eat well and not go out to work. In Mauritania, where a fat wife is a symbol of a man’s wealth, young girls are sent to fat camps where they are force-fed up to 16,000 calories a day. Ever since Coco Chanel returned from the Cote d’Azur in 1920 with a tan, tanning became fashionable because it suggested that you could afford to go on holidays, just as in light of an obesity epidemic, thinness was deemed attractive because it suggested you could eat well. What is culturally attractive is therefore only deemed attractive by the lifestyle it represents. Marketing companies feed into this because it is an association that already exists in our minds. Beauty equals health and wealth.
These kind of body anxieties are the focus point of Ladybeard’s mission. The magazine doesn’t solely focus upon woman; it voices concerns for male image pressure. The magazine features a series of evocative interviews with students at Cambridge where they discuss male anorexia, the male ideal and the motivations and pressures to work out. Regardless of gender, there are expectations placed on us in terms of the way that we look and behave, forcing us to feel insufficient to encourage us to invest into an unrealistic lifestyle.