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Cleavage-clad Jennifer Lawrence on Glamour cover is not what we’re “hunger”ing for

Date: March 20, 2012 | Posted By: Stacey

The cover of Glamour’s April issue features Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who portrays the Hunger Games‘ heroine Katniss Everdeen, in a bosom-bearing one piece outfit. In the book, Katniss is a symbol of strength, but this photo subdues that strength with a side dish of sexy.

Is it not enough to be a strong female, that we must sexualize Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen?

The upcoming movie adaptation of the first installment of the behemoth book trilogy, The Hunger Games, is set to open this week. While the Glamour piece is obviously showcasing the actress (not the character), the prop she’s holding (a bow) blurs the line.

The central plot of the novel involves a futuristic nation, Panem, where the government creates an annual, reality show-esque game involving two individuals under 18, randomly selected from each of the nation’s 12 districts, to complete in a fantastical death match where only one victor comes home alive.

I’m only on the second book, but I have yet to come across a description of an outfit resembling the one featured in this picture. Sure this feature is giving us Jennifer Lawrence and the article is about her, but, really, Glamour? We could see this in a men’s magazine, many of which notoriously disarm powerful women with some element of sexualization.

I was drawn to The Hunger Games because of the heroine. Katniss was resourceful, and lauded for her strength and skill, not for her beauty or body. There was little emphasis appearance. In fact, the book makes a point to say that thinness is equated with poverty, as many of the geographic sectors do not have easy access to food. Katniss hunts, using her archery acumen to provide for her family, until her little sister’s name is drawn during the annual “reaping.” Katniss offers herself up in her sister’s place.

The only references made to “beautifying” are related to the prep work she must undergo prior to her public appearances, where the aim is to make a splash in the memories of viewers. The author describes these beauty regimens as painful, not glamorous; a process of being scrubbed and plucked after which she is fitted into outrageous outfits conjured up by her innovative stylist, Cinna.

The prospect of a movie adaptation with a young, female protagonist (and a female producer too!) whose success came from determination and courage thrilled me. Here was a strong, positive paradigm for young women. However, photos like that on Glamour‘s cover are reductive, given the otherwise positive role.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen: Embodying strength and skill.

The series falls into the Young Adult genre, so undoubtedly, millions of girls will be looking to emulate this actress. This shot is objectifying; when a young girl sees a photo like this, it reinforces the fusing of self-worth to appearance, a connection to a specific standard of beauty and attractiveness that is unconsciously strengthened through repetition. The pervasiveness of media messages and how many we are exposed to from birth makes this deeply disturbing. It contributes to the sexualizing of females and supports the normalizing of self-rejection.

There is also a clear double standard at work: It is not enough to simply be a strong female — you must also be sexy in a very specific way.

I guess I just didn’t expect such an obvious and gratuitous representation from the mag that touts itself as honoring beauty outside the box of one-size-fits-all. This photo brushes dangerously close to a Maxim-style cover. So, Glamour thinks it’s not okay for Katniss/Jennifer Lawrence (yes, I do realize they are not the same) to simply be bad-ass and not breast-bearing. Because not fetishizing or objectifying her might make her power too potent, right? Oh the horror! Not cool, Glamour; not cool at all.

-Heather




What Do You Think?

7 Responses to Cleavage-clad Jennifer Lawrence on Glamour cover is not what we’re “hunger”ing for

  1. Ashley on 03-20-2012

    You make some pretty strong points here. Wherever there is a female heroine, 9 times out of 10 she has to be sexy as well as a badass. Then I wonder why this is. I wonder if the movie still photo were the cover, would Glamour be selling as many copies? This idea of having normal looking females on covers and all through magazines has been tested, and doesn't seem to sell as much versus issues featuring sexy, glamorously dolled up people. Then I wonder why that is. Is it just social structuring that we subliminally want to buy a magazine with sex appeal rather than people who look more like every day folk, stemming from the fashion and beauty industry or media, or was it created somehow by society? In other words, chicken or egg?
    • Heather on 03-23-2012

      Thanks for encouraging me to further explore the origin of these desires. I think alot of it has to do with the way we are socialized and have unconsciously digest definitions – visually and conceptually of what it means to be attractive, successful, etc. that are inherent in gender roles since we were born. It does bother me, though that even women's magazines could be so reductive to their own kind by splashing photoshopped perfection on covers and in spreads and push products that encourage us to "be our best self" as though the matter we are organically working with is inherently flawed. Unfortunately, we do still live in a patriarchal society which is why I think that the work About-face does is so important to encourage media literacy and spreading the message that we should not take media messages at face value, but that they are something that need to be critically constructed and brought into honest dialogue, especially among young women.
  2. Lilly on 03-21-2012

    I completely agree, the Glamour cover is in really poor taste. I'm sick of women being presented as nothing more than eye candy. Why can't our society grow up?
  3. Anjeli Shah on 03-21-2012

    I completely agree. Great article!
  4. Maggie on 03-21-2012

    I agree with many of your points here. However, while male heroes may not be sexualized as overtly, it seems to me that physical attractiveness is a quality mandated for strong male protagonists as well. And to play the devil's advocate here, couldn't one view the idea that women can be powerful AND sexy as a positive message?
    • Heather on 03-23-2012

      You're right, unfortunately, aside from niche roles, physical attractiveness is usually a mandate for many blockbuster Hollywood roles - male and female alike.
      I do agree with you and absolutely think that one can be BOTH sexy and powerful, but the trouble is that our culture has created a very limited, idealized standard of sexy that is often synonymous with objectification. More often than not bodies (male AND female) are offered up as objects to strive to be, attract, etc. Also, sexy, to me, is an individual definition and is diverse and nuanced depending on a person’s preferences. Unfortunately our mainstream media feeds us a steady diet of a one-size-fits all characterization which does not encourage variety.
  5. Heather on 03-23-2012

    Thank you! I hope you continue to read and add your voice on these important matters.