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Sex and Beauty

Posted on Aug 3, 2009 | 10 comments

I shot this advertisement on the corner of via Nazionale and via Mazzarino. It’s for a Japanese electronics company with the tagline “The seduction of technology.” I don’t know about you ladies, but I always erotically hug by television screen while dressed in evening wear. The model is so semi-porn star that I had to take a photo and it got me thinking about something that’s always bothered me about Italian culture. That’s the culture of beauty and sex and how especially for women, it’s seen as a viable means to get ahead. Now I’m not going all American Puritan on you, I am not ultra-conservative, but I think when you have a place where becoming a ass shaking television showgirl (known as a velina) has a solid launching pad to a career in news, politics, etc. something just isn’t right. A lot of this is getting international press now because of the scandal Berlusconi created by nominating several veline to the European Parliament even though they have no credentials. Simply put, everywhere you go you are confronted with Italy’s obsession with beauty. In some ways it’s amazing—no people walking around in sweat pants, everyone always putting in an effort to look put together. And in other ways it makes me sad to see all the women, young and old with pulled back tight skin, giant balloon lips, and five inches of makeup. There seems to be the message that if you are beautiful, you will succeed. For a woman, if you are intelligent, but not “beautiful” it seem like it’s ten times harder to get ahead. I think this is something that happens a bit in the US as well, but here is really taken to another level. Is it any wonder that eating disorders among women are a huge problem here? It makes me happy I grew up in a place where yes, we see models in magazines and there is pressure to be “beautiful” and “thin” but it’s not the pinnacle of our culture and one thing that makes me worried about ever having a family here would be “what if I have a daughter?” Would I want her to grow up in a place where so much pressure is based on appearance?

Italians, what do you think about the role of women and beauty? Is it just a normal part of life or has it become exaggerated?

10 Comments

  1. Wow, Jessica, that ad verges on soft-porn! It's a great discussion point – we have some TV shows and ads that are pretty sexy here in the States, but a billboard is more public. I would be interested in what Italian women think of that ad.
    Ciao!
    Elaine

  2. Here in the States there would be an uproar over a billboard like that and it would be taken down. Its hard to change the cultural mindset over there especially when Silvio seems to be getting away with his escapades

  3. What really hit me about Rome is that it still is, after all the centuries, a city of and for men and part of that is having women as their beautiful foils nothing me.

    I think this sort of thing exists in most cultures, even those who prize true intellect and character in women( btw, I have always loved the French term "Une jolie-laide")because in advertising most believe sex sells – it would be interesting to see their sales charts before and then after that ad…sigh

  4. That's Valeria Marini in the photo, who became famous for nothing more than her curves and her powerful boyfriends…because she has no other talent! I think this whole veline story is pitiful. I can't tell you how many times I have been "complimented" recently with the phrase "you look great, you could be a velina!" As if that were the pinnacle of "great"! Please…

    However, in Italy it's not only women who are under this pressure to "appear." Men also want to have the perfect body, the perfect clothes, hair and accessories. It's a culture that puts great emphasis on external appearance, and, I would say this is not only a trend of this generation. Even my 85-year-old mother-in-law has always judged people by how they look, first and foremost.

  5. Very interesting. I saw that women's show on TV and asked a friend about her as I see that ad everywhere. She used to be married to Cecchi Gori.

    You find more plastic surgery here than back home? Maybe it's because I moved here from L.A. but I was saying to a friend how relieved I was to live here because there is less pressure on women to look a certain way.

    I think it harder for women in America who are not attractive to succeed as well. Men can look all kinds of crazy…not the women. Look how much smack was said about Hillary when Bill first ran for President. The woman is brilliant and all people wanted to talk about was her cankles and headbands.

    Of course if you are a TV weather/show girl it's different but none of my Italian female friends 30s/40s have had Botox, breasts implants, face lifts, brow lifts or eye jobs, where as the majority of my L.A. friends have.

    Among my Italian friends that pulled back skin, balloon lips look is considered tacky.

    Maybe the attraction to beauty here is more blatant however, I doubt anyone would be talking about Sarah Palin if she were unattractive. She had no business being on a national ticket.

  6. This is quite a photo and you provided us with an inside look at part of "Italian culture."

  7. Jessica as you might have discovered living here since a while, our nation spends more money for useless things than for culture (or research)!

    I don't know why we could survive with the lowest salaries in europe and the highest rents/services costs in europe!

    Unfortunately, A LOT of brilliant young people are forced to go abroad because after 5-6 years of studying hard for a degree they ends with a 1000€/month salary lousy job.

    But the most sad thing is that A LOT of mothers simply push their daughters to be a "velina" or whatever because it is the only way to earn money in this country for a young!

    Sad thing is that even if there are a lot of people thinking "the right way", we are ruled by a bunch of idiots (that are supported/voted by a bunch of idiots!): the "Berlusconism" is only possible because SB represents the average italian mentality!

    I am surprised that A LOT of women, instead of being offended and kick Berlusconi's a*s because of his behaviour, really LOVE him! 🙁

    Sorry for the long story! 😀

  8. I'm loving everyone's comments. As I said, I know it exists in the US, but hey Hilary ran for president didn't she? And I know that Palin was mainly booked on looks, but isn't something that people look down on her for?

    Saretta – Thanks for pointing out who she is. I figured she was someone famous but I don't follow who everyone is. You are totally right about the importance of the "bella figura" but I still think it's a whole other level with women.

    NYC – Haha, I knew you would say the surgery here is low, but I've got to think that's because you come from LA. Living in Boston I never ever noticed it so much. My friends don't have surgery either but if I spent one afternoon at my neighborhood bar in Monti I could probably pick out a good 30 to 35% with surgery of some sort. Sad.

    Stefano – Yes, these things are unfortunately a whole other set of problems that wrap into this. I chose to leave my country but it makes me sad to see smart people who would like to be here be forced to leave because they have no prospects. And don't even get me started on Berlusconi…..

  9. I'm loving everyone's comments. As I said, I know it exists in the US, but hey Hilary ran for president didn't she? And I know that Palin was mainly booked on looks, but isn't something that people look down on her for?

    Saretta – Thanks for pointing out who she is. I figured she was someone famous but I don't follow who everyone is. You are totally right about the importance of the "bella figura" but I still think it's a whole other level with women.

    NYC – Haha, I knew you would say the surgery here is low, but I've got to think that's because you come from LA. Living in Boston I never ever noticed it so much. My friends don't have surgery either but if I spent one afternoon at my neighborhood bar in Monti I could probably pick out a good 30 to 35% with surgery of some sort. Sad.

    Stefano – Yes, these things are unfortunately a whole other set of problems that wrap into this. I chose to leave my country but it makes me sad to see smart people who would like to be here be forced to leave because they have no prospects. And don't even get me started on Berlusconi…..

  10. Arresting image to be sure. Bravo!

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