Skip

Girl Culture - The Photography of Lauren Greenfield
December 20, 2002 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Girl Culture, the photography of Lauren Greenfield explores the relationship that women and girls have with their bodies. Sometimes to positive effects, and sometimes to negative effects, but always intensely self-aware, as a guy I found myself often wondering how much of this was contrived for cheap effect. There is an underlying current of honesty in it though that makes it very effective.
posted by willnot (25 comments total)

 
Be sure to check out the Zonezeor Photo Essay/slide show of some of the images. I was particularly moved by This One (embedded 1 meg QT file on page). It seems so threatening, which I suppose is the point. It reminds me how glad I am that I'm not a woman.
posted by willnot at 7:28 AM on December 20, 2002


Agh! My post is on the same subject!

Jinx and/or MindPiss!
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:38 AM on December 20, 2002


Britney's a role model. She's fashionable, and she has movements that I like. Madonna, Britney, Christina Aguilera, Destiny's Child: They're role models 'cause they like action and movement so much.

What will it take to get them to admire Condoleeza or Hillary or Carly Fiorina instead? In all fairness the quote above is from a 6 year old girl but it's never too early to steer youngsters in the direction of positive role models. If a young girl admires an achiever as opposed to a looker isn't she more likely to grow up critical of her own brain than her own body?
posted by vito90 at 7:45 AM on December 20, 2002


Perhaps it's simply because I'm a guy, but I find the one girl's "aspiration" to be a stripper utterly, hopelessly sad. It made me wonder what her parents might be like - and infinitely glad, for the umpteenth time just today, that we had a little boy and not a little girl
posted by kgasmart at 7:46 AM on December 20, 2002


The photo essay is at once powerful and pathetic. It is interesting to me, at least, that there seems to be an entire culture of lost girls/young women out there without a shred of self respect, self-awareness or even the remotest sense of irony. Very troubling.
posted by psmealey at 7:46 AM on December 20, 2002


I dunno, I was kind of disappointed in the superficiality of a lot of the photos, especially the prom/may queen shots. Very few had the photojournalistic quality of the one photo you mentioned, though the 15 year old girl in the dressing room and the girl being weighed backwards were both pretty haunting.

And I was really disappointed in the way the "strong" women were photographed. The portrait of the track star/exotic dancer and the photo of the Stanford women's swim team kind of left me cold. The photos were either sticky-sweet Seventeen magazine poses or horrific Surviving Ophelia scenarios. Where's the in-between that most girls are living every day?
posted by junkbox at 7:52 AM on December 20, 2002


Exactly junkbox - that's what I meant when I questioned how much of it was contrived for cheap effect. The most interesting thing - to me at least is that I found myself prepared to accept that it is a reality for a number of women. I don't know if that's because the media has told me that is the case (regardless of what is actually the case), or if it's because it is real and the media is just accurately reflecting that reality.
posted by willnot at 7:57 AM on December 20, 2002


Junkbox-

That's what I thought when I looked at this.... I live in a small town, so perhaps our values and ways of looking at things are different, but.... I thought the girls all seemed a bit off-center from what I see every day in my own hometown.

By the way, Wren, what happened to GardyLoo?
posted by bradth27 at 8:01 AM on December 20, 2002


I found myself often wondering how much of this was contrived for cheap effect.

Greenfield's inarticulate responses in her interview with NPR yesterday suggest this is just a clumsy attempt to spice up her portfolio of work for mass-market rags with a little radical chic.

Not to say that there aren't a few inadvertantly powerful images here, however.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2002


That's exactly the message I took from it, ryanshepard. She came across as rather shallow and the answers, pretty cliched.
posted by ph00dz at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2002


I have a very close friend who met and was photographed by Lauren Greenfield while attending an eating disorder clinic. She was on numerous "emotional stabilizer"-type drugs, obviously had some real self-esteem issues, but was 18 and signed a form making the photograph property of Lauren Greenfield.

This same friend happened to pick up the book in a bookstore and saw herself, or the shell of herself that she was five years ago. She was never contacted at all, had no interview to accompany her picture, just her first name, and was quite shocked. Lauren Greenfield told her, back in 1997, that she was taking the pictures for an article in Time Magazine. Now a very "unflattering" picture of her is on a national tour, and she has to deal with the fact that strangers on the street may recognize her as "that anorexic girl."

That is simply unethical, no matter how you slice it. As much as I'd like to say that Greenfield is working for a good cause, it is obvious to me that her career is more important than the lives of the women she is supposedly helping. Shameful.
posted by zekinskia at 8:53 AM on December 20, 2002


I guess the way Greenfield treats women is another aspect of girl culture or all culture.

Even if she is not very ethical or sensitive, her work is very interesting.

psmealey is right about girls and lack of self-esteem. No matter which how well-off or poor, how intelligent girls are, many girls have serious issues with self-esteem.
posted by azileretsis at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2002


As a parent of two girls, I was nothing but depressed with this. Neither of them has issues like those girls, but I realize it's going to be a constant battle to keep them that way.
posted by tommasz at 9:59 AM on December 20, 2002


This kind of superficial extremes-only photo essay only serves to propogate the stereotypical view that all women are neurotic, insecure, appearance-obsessed vanity gluttons.

The women I hang out with would probably get very angry at Ms. Greenfield if they were to see this.
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:26 AM on December 20, 2002


...one self-described Southern Belle...prizes her "Southern-girl standards" above (almost) everything else. "I would rather be dumb than a slut," she announces, "but I would rather be a slut than be fat or ugly."

My inner Southern Belle is sobbing.

But I agree with Fabulon7, et al--this is not representative.
posted by hippugeek at 11:44 AM on December 20, 2002


If a young girl admires an achiever as opposed to a looker isn't she more likely to grow up critical of her own brain than her own body?

Maybe. Why is that desirable? IQ and looks are both accidents of DNA. Both can by improved upon if you feel like putting effort into it. What's your point here? Leave the freaking kids alone — being told that they are too incompetent to pick their own role models isn't going to do anything for their self-esteem either.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2002


Britney, Christina Aguilera, Destiny's Child: They're role models 'cause they like action and movement so much.... My mom won't let me wear what I want, 'cause she's a mom and she's bossy. I really like belly shirts. She doesn't like that they show our body.... I really want to be seven better than six, 'cause I look like a seven-year-old. I really want to be a teenager. Now. Really fast.

I heard the story on NPR and Googled forthwith--with the typical caveats one has in regards to an NPR puff piece. As to the merits of the work, or how representative it is of girl culture, I can't say, but that quote above gave me pause.

As to whether this work is indicative of a trend or just selected extreme examples in support of moral ax grinding, I don't know. Her spring break exhibitionism pictures are troubling, though they're nothing to the sort sold by the pornmeisters. I can't imagine how any father could stomach looking at those. You didn't see or hear of that sort of thing in the 60s or 70s--but is it really that common now or the extreme exception? Every one has a digital camcorder now and anything that happens in public, chances are it's caught on tape or pixels.

posted by y2karl at 12:34 PM on December 20, 2002


And I was really disappointed in the way the "strong" women were photographed. The portrait of the track star/exotic dancer and the photo of the Stanford women's swim team kind of left me cold.

hmm... I really liked the swim team photo - something about the way they were photographed together as a team seems quite effective, and unlike the cliche track-star-with-medals photo, it does show that women can be strong and still be attractive.

This said, I thought many of the other photos were very false, emotion-wise. Especially the one of the three goth girls hugging... I mean, talk about staged.

The other thing I noticed is that there aren't any women in these photographs that challenge female gender roles - everyone is fashionable or fashion-seeking in one way or another. Couldn't she find at least one angry tomboy, or are we an endangered species these days?
posted by vorfeed at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2002


signed a form making the photograph property of Lauren Greenfield.

zenzinskia -- It's called a release form and gives Greenfield the right to do whatever she wants with the image ad infinitum. I understand your friend probably had no idea what was going to happen with the image, but then she never should have signed the release. If Greenfield truly misrepresented herself (or perhaps your friend remembers wrong?) then she has legal recourse, I would imagine.
posted by archimago at 1:22 PM on December 20, 2002


strong woman role models...blah blah blah...something something feminist..blah blah blah..whoa...boobies!!
my day has been made..
posted by car_bomb at 2:30 PM on December 20, 2002


If only people would realise the best way to live life is to not care what other people might think. Most of the time, they aren't thinking it, and the rest of the time, why should you care? There's enough problems for you to deal with without creating new ones...images suck, look how you want to look rather than how you think other people want to look. But why am I telling you guys this? I'm sure the average MeFier knows it already...
posted by Orange Goblin at 3:28 PM on December 20, 2002


From Fabulon7: This kind of superficial extremes-only photo essay only serves to propogate the stereotypical view that all women are neurotic, insecure, appearance-obsessed vanity gluttons.

The women I hang out with would probably get very angry at Ms. Greenfield if they were to see this.


I'd have to say the opposite. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles (San Fernando Valley) and the girls in these photos seemed very familiar and common place to me... a lot like the sort of girls I grew up around and went to school with. One of them, the "overweight" girl huddled in her room surrounded by posters of her favorite band even reminded me of myself at that age. I can see how these images may come off as superficial and extreme, but keep in mind that such superficial extremes have become the norm in many areas. What is disturbing about it is that despite how contrived and pathetic some of it seems, a lot of it is just a mirror of reality, which makes it that much more pathetic.
posted by RoseovSharon at 4:27 PM on December 20, 2002


I saw this exhibit in person at my local museum a few months ago, and I must say I like it better as an online exhibit -- reading the text, listening to the voices, and considering the whole package is something I was more willing to do at home than in a crowded museum gallery.

In both instances, however, I came away with the opinion that Greenfield quickly hit on a few stereotypes - the goth girl, the athlete, the bitchy blonde clique - and called it a day. Not to take away from what is there, but with more effort I think she could have yielded a fairly thorough snapshot of current female aesthetic, be it good or bad.
posted by boomchicka at 8:52 PM on December 20, 2002


They call this culture?

I have nothing more to say.
posted by azazello at 11:42 PM on December 20, 2002


a female’s appearance is the primary expression of her worth

Hogwash!

Let's not skirt around it: Women, and their influence and civilizing effect on men, create and maintain not only culture and family, but also by default: society.
posted by hama7 at 6:43 AM on December 21, 2002


« Older 1000 Miles in 1000 Hours   |   Ana By Choice Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post