Sunday, May 31, 2009

What Not to Wear: Blossom Faces the 360 Mirror

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image Mayim Bialik is the former child star of the 80’s show “Blossom.” Mayim was often the most sensible and mature character portrayed on that sitcom. At the time that “Blossom” was on the air, Bialik stood out in that she was not what society deems to be classically beautiful and was not overly fixated on her appearance or boys.

When “Blossom” ended, Bialik did not become another child star disaster. She pursued an undergraduate degree in neuroscience, Hebrew and Jewish Studies at UCLA. When we consider the fact that so many child stars like Corey Haim and Todd Bridges end up with either serious addiction problems or legal issues, the fact that Mayim was able to avoid the traditional traps paints a picture of a woman who is true to herself and does not base her self-esteem on the opinions of others.

Today she is the mother of two and has a PhD in neuroscience, and yet when Clinton Kelly from TLC’s What Not To Wear had to sum her up, she was reduced to “all quirk and no cute.” In the eyes of Stacey London and Clinton Kelley, she had totally “let herself go” because her priorities have been education and raising her family. In a world in which appearance is deemed most important for women, Mayim’s achievements are devalued.

Though What Not to Wear has had male participants, I have yet to see a male neuroscientist or professional told that his fashion choices would negatively impact his career. Fathers are never told to be conscious of their appearance when they wear an old pair of jeans or a t-shirt that has seen better days to play at the park with their kids, and yet a mother whose shoes do not match her purse has apparently stopped caring about herself. Nothing sexist about the disparity in the commentary at all, is there?

As Mayim roamed from fitting room to fitting room, her biggest concern was that she was not going to “feel like herself,” whereas Clinton felt that it was far more imperative for her “to find something figure friendly”. If clothing is supposed to be a reflection of who we are and functional for the lives that we lead, why were Mayim’s concerns so easily cast aside? Oops! Silly me, “real women” are meant to spend their lives attempting to be pretty as a peach and any diversion is an abdication of duty. If her appearance is not about pleasing herself, clearly it is to satisfy the male gaze

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