Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Bridesmaids and Olympic Athletes: Living in a Skin-Deep World

Laurie and Debbie say:

The New York Times is discussing a new trend in bridesmaid gifts: for bridesmaids as young-looking and beautiful as your dreams, you, the lovely blushing bride, can easily provide everything from tit jobs to Botox:

“Giving them something for themselves — as opposed to something that they’ll never wear again — is more meaningful.”

Some brides pick up the tab for their attendants, replacing the pillbox inscribed with the wedding date with a well-earned squirt between the eyes. In other cases, bridesmaids — who may quietly seethe about unflattering dresses — are surprisingly willing to pay for cosmetic enhancements.

Becky Lee, 39, a Manhattan photographer, declined when a friend asked her — and five other attendants — to have their breasts enhanced. “We’re all Asian and didn’t have a whole lot of cleavage, and she found a doctor in L.A. who was willing to do four for the price of two,” said Ms. Lee, who wore a push-up bra instead.

Most of the tone of the article is about how brides view this as a gracious gift, or at least a welcome opportunity, but the selfish “my wedding is all about me” story seeps through both in Becky Lee’s quotation above and in this little anecdote:

A bride asked her attendants to get professionally spray-tanned for a Hawaiian-theme reception.
Alas, two women were claustrophobic and couldn’t bear standing in a tanning capsule. “They asked the bride if they could use regular tanning cream from a salon,” [the wedding planner] said. The bride refused; she wanted everyone to be the same shade. The women ultimately declined to be bridesmaids. “Friendships of 20-plus years gone over a spray tan?”

In a completely different context, U.S. Olympic softball star Jennie Finch appeared on Fox News. No sooner had she walked off screen than co-host Jon Scott described her value as an Olympic athlete:

“A great representative: blond, blue-eyed, and extremely talented.”

Pardon us for being naive, but we thought her talent was the point, not her hair and eyes. Apparently an equally talented player of Greek, or Jewish, or Asian, or African heritage wouldn’t be such a great representative. We also thought that the friendships were the point for bridesmaids.

At least three things are going on here. First, always, racism. In this case, it’s disturbingly close to the Aryan-ideal, master-race kind of racism that wants young blond blue-eyed Olympic athletes. With the bridesmaids, it’s a somewhat more contemporary “Western ideal of beauty.” Tough to attain if you’re Asian, but clearly some people think it’s worth the effort.

Second, always, money. If and when she goes pro, Jennie Finch will get a lot more commercial opportunities than a woman of color on her team would. Remember Kristi Yamaguchi, who won America’s heart, but not the endorsements? “People like Kristi Yamaguchi don’t represent, at least with marketers, the wholesome all-American image,” as one Asian-American marketer is quoted as saying on Wikipedia. And no one gets rich encouraging brides to choose the women they love as bridesmaids and tell them how beautiful they are without changing anything.

Third, as the Times article reminds us in the headlines, we’re living in a skin-deep world. How you look–and by extension how your bridesmaids, your family, and your sports stars look–is more important than what you can do, what you have done, and what you might do: in sports, in weddings, in job interviews, walking down the street. Unless, of course, you want a joyful wedding–or a good life.

This is why this post is so important. The overwhelming message is “tell women what they should look like” but belledame222 has a better idea:

Have other women’s backs.

“Well, I think she looks great. And even if I didn’t, so the hell what? What the hell business is it of yours? Who asked you? (if one wishes to be combative) You’re no spring onion yourself. And besides, what does this have to do with (her experience of assault/her leadership ability/her position on campaign finance reform/the brilliant novel she wrote/her research in nuclear physics/anything else)? No, I said: it’s not cute and I’m not amused, and I won’t hear this.” Read the whole post.

Lynn Kendall pointed us to the bridesmaid article.

10 Responses to “Bridesmaids and Olympic Athletes: Living in a Skin-Deep World”

  1. dana Says:

    Wow. I’m kind of shocked that that Jon Scott remarked about Finch’s looks. Well, actually, maybe not. Disgusted is more like it.

    BTW, it was so great to meet you at BlogHerCon this year. :)

  2. stefanie Says:

    So this one bride wants everyone to be “the same shade?” What is she doing, buying throw pillows to coordinate with her slip covers? This is a perfect example of treating people as “things” – modifiable, commodifiable, ultimately disposable.

  3. Twistie Says:

    Both these stories appalled me to the core.

    When I got married, I not only didn’t demand my bridesmaids get cosmetic surgery or get injections of any sort, I didn’t even care how they wore their hair or what shoes they chose. Okay, I did tell them to wear flats, but we were out in the woods. Heels would have been a huge pain and most of them wore flats most of the time anyway.

    And while I’m Whitey McWhiterson, I’d buy nearly anything with Kristie Yamaguchi’s face on the box just because she’s awesome.

    On the weekends, I write for Manolo for the Brides, and I was going to do the surgery/botox story, but my esteemed collegue, Never teh Bride, beat me to the punch with every bit of appallment I could have mustered. We may write about having pretty weddings, but we think that brides, bridesmaids, moms, sisters and all the rest are plenty good enough to show up in the photo album just because they’re family and friends.

  4. Ashley Says:

    I just feel like I should say that I adore Kristi Yamaguchi. I did when I was a kid and she was an Olympian, and to this day I can’t see her name without getting warm fuzzies.

    I’m also a professional wedding planner in the midwest, and I want to say that I have NEVER, even once, seen a bride choose her maids because of their attractiveness, or make ridiculous demands of them. Most don’t even go so far as to demand any specific makeup.

    Though I have to admit that I did for one of my bridesmaids, but she was just chronically bad at choosing make up and it always looked terrible on her (wrong colors for her tone, etc.). So we did hers, and she’s getting better.

  5. JeanC Says:

    I’ve watched a few episodes of Bridezilla and am amazed at the brides who are so picky about how their bridesmaids look. I thought the whole point was friends and family celebrating a wonderful moment, not the minute details. Hate to tell those brides, there really isn’t the perfect wedding, at least in the details. They are completely missing the point and alienating good friends over nothing.

  6. yellowhammer Says:

    I’m beginning to feel like its a major political statement to go about with no make-up and untanned skin, natural breasts and a large body.

    I used to just think it was how I was comfortable.

  7. Lizzie Says:

    I can’t get too excited about that bridesmaid article. I think this is a case of, once again, the New York Times hearing of a couple of instances of something and rushing to label it a trend. I’m sure such brides exist but I’m confidant that they’re unusual (and so did several New Yorkers I know, the kind of people who did have big weddings with bridesmaids in coordinated dresses.)

    The Fox News thing is terrible, though.

  8. Laurie Says:

    Lizzie,

    I hope you’re right but this quote from the times article makes me think otherwise.

    “Five years ago, plastic surgeons, dermatologists and tooth-whitening centers “were virtually absent” from bridal expos, said William F. Heaton III, the president of the Great Bridal Expo Group, which produces events in 40 cities nationwide. “Now we’re getting a half dozen phone calls a week.”

    This year alone, American Laser Centers, a chain, has participated in 830 bridal shows, said Amanda McInnes, a marketing director. “

  9. janet Says:

    I’m with Lizzie. I think the NYT bridesmaid story is a bogus trend story based on a few anecdotes and the marketing savvy of people to *want* it to be a trend. Sure, the cosmetic surgeons, etc., are going to bridal expos, but that’s probably because the economy is bad (and has been for quite a while) and they’re looking for new ways to market their services.

    The very fact that people are trying to promote this type of thing is disgusting, but pretty much par for the course for the wedding-industrial complex.

  10. Lizzie Says:

    I agree with Janet completely. And sure, the cosmetic surgeons may get a few new customers at bridal expos. But a trend? No.

with FeedBurner

Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

Blog Stats

There are currently 1,225 posts and 3,867 comments, contained within categories.



Themes: