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A Double Bind & Photos for Women in Minsk

March 29, 2013 — main1ain
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O14-23 March 2013, Minsk hosted the photo exhibition «The Art of Being Natural» by Ella Milaya and Tatiana Tikhomirova. The authors said that they had created the series of pictures to speak out against the canons of modern glamour. They advocated for the natural beauty, so the invitees for photo shoots — successful Belarusian women were photographed without strong make-up.


The photo project «The Natural Beauty»

At least it was claimed so, although the video from the shooting clearly shows that majority of the models have rouge on cheeks, as well as some toner, eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara for eyelashes.

The video from the photo shoots «The Natural Beauty»: The result is black-and-white photos of women on white background. The color gamma conveys the mood of lightness and purity, which is probably intended to embody precisely the naturalness of female beauty. The heroines whom we see on the pictures are mostly representatives of the Belarusian show business: singers and TV anchorwomen, as well as businesswomen.

«Unfortunately, today more and more young girls are falling back upon the plastic surgery and hide their youth and freshness under tons of make-up. trying to follow the glossy standards of beauty imposed by society present in the media and advertising», said the project producer Ella Milaya.

Curiously, while campaigning for naturalness and against glamorous canons of beauty, the authors of the project themselves strictly stick to the same glamorous canons. Among the invited models there are no elder women, no plump ones — nobody outside the standard. You cannot see there anyone with piercings in eyebrows, with wrinkles or a Roman nose. Besides, most of the photos were blocked out, what allows to hide the possile shortcomings of the skin and make the face more expressive. The models — every one of them — are young, elastic, and, no doubt, beautiful, but that does not go beyond all the same «glamour canons». 

There is no challenge to the glamour. But here we have another impossible patriarchal challenge to women in post-Soviet society. The project seems to say both «be natural without any ruses», but still «be perfectly beautiful and young».

This message fits perfectly into the double bind theory developed in the 50′s by the multidisciplinary scientist Gregory Bateson. It describes the instructions which are mutually exclusive and belong to different levels of communication: for example, the words express love, and a parallel non-verbal behavior expresses hatred. Orally one may convey a certain message, but, for example, his or her facial expressions and gestures may tell something totally different. Taken together, the message sounds as «I order you to ignore my orders». A victim, which is subjected to a double bind message, feels uncomfortable, and tries to follow both instructions, or ignore one of them, but in any case it’s a failure. So Belarusian women dwell in a schizophrenic situation year after year.

It is particularly difficult for women who have established themselves and are successful and active. Trying to get public approval, Belarusian female representatives of IT-sphere compete in bikini in beauty contests [become the pride of the intellectual field — show your perfect body], Belarusian female writers are photographed for semi-erotic calendars to become visible in literature [prove that you are interesting to read — show your perfect body], Belarusian businesswomen are coming to the «natural» photo shoot  with thoroughly makeuped faces and are originally selected by appearance, and later retouched.

In the photos from the opening of the exhibition «The Art of Being Natural» we can see that many of the project participants came to the opening with a make-up of different intensity and coiffures requiring professional styling and hair dyes. Thus, they denied their declared independence from an artificial beauty at least for themselves. However, at the same time the women are just trying to meet the controversial public demand and, of course, fail. It is not designed by them. The double-bind method is a great way to get anyone to doubt themselves, and that means, for example, to move the trade, buying new cosmetics or resorting to plastic surgery at more and more young age. The Minsk photo project «The Art of Being Natural» has become another slave of the same «standards of glamour», against which it has been claimed. «The Art of Looking Natural» would be more correct name.

Jeanna Kroemer for EASTBOOK

Translated by MA


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