All My Single Ladies

The single women portrayed in pop culture are not reality, but rather exist in a dream world.  Like Sex and the City, these professional single women ‘have it all’ yet are consumed with their looks and are dependent on male attention and pleasure for happiness.  Now that women in their twenties are entering their professional careers in singledom, it only makes sense that the media should match.  The media has not caught up with the new direction of women’s independence. Who, then, are the real single women?

As I was flipping through the glossy pages of Cosmo magazine, I couldn’t help but notice the glowing, perfect pictures of girls modeling bikinis. Their flawless tanned skin, glossy beach hair, and cellulose-less legs were almost laughable to me.  The Photoshopped girls in the pictures resemble Barbie—cold, hard, and fake.  Now I do not mean to discredit these models and the hard work that went into reaching their skinny physique, but I find it hard to believe that they do not have so much as a blemish somewhere on their body or an ounce of fat to speak of.  What good is the newfound independence for women if it is only deemed valuable if it comes in Barbie packaging?  
Fortunately, Julia Bluhm, a 14-year-old middle school girl, has led a campaign againstSeventeen magazine to leave the body shapes of the models alone and to use Photoshop only for blemishes, stray hair, or a peeking bra strap.  The petition she created calling out the magazine’s over-use of Photoshop went viral and was signed by over 84,000 people.  This week, Teen Vogue is in the line of fire.  Time will tell if they too will join on the peer pressure bandwagon to reduce Photoshop and airbrushing.
Television, like magazines, also creates a fantasy picture of single women.  As author Rebecca Traister cleverly remarks, Sex and the City is not a show about single women, but rather about white gay men.  Sex and the City paints this picturesque ideal of being a single woman in New York, yet Carrie, for example, is very materialistic.  She is interested in consuming sex, clothes, jewelry, shoes, all while living off a salary as a weekly columnist.  This is hardly the reality of a single woman in New York.  Although there is some progress with shows such as Girls and New Girl that bring to light the awkwardness of reality, they do not go far enough.  They are homogeneous in painting a picture of white privileged women whose biggest struggles include not having the right shoes to wear.
I want to see more magazines that feature women succeeding in non-traditional job sectors, such as science, technology, mathematics, and engineering.  I want to watch more shows whose characters portray real women, and not just the pigeonholed lens of rich, white skinny women who somehow have it all.  In seeing women with more diverse life experiences in the media, we can finally find the real independent single women.

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