Julie Burchill On Why She Likes Looking At Airbrushed Ads

29/07/2011 11:30 | Updated 22 May 2015

I like women's magazines - from the downmarket show-and-yell type to the upmarket permanent-blow-dry kind. On holiday I can get through a proper book a day, but at home, on the couch, with the salted caramels and Frasier re-runs on the comedy channel, the English summer dripping down outside, a magazine is what I like.

I particularly like the cosmetic ads. I like looking at them and knowing that they're lying, and that after a certain age only surgery will make anyone look younger. I like knowing I'm fat, married and past-it, and no longer part of the cut-and-thrust identity parade of the singles market, vying to be chosen by someone I'm going to waste my prettiest years on before splitting up with them and having to do it all a decade later, only fatter and sadder next time. Above all I like the airbrushing. Looking at the photos of Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts, it's enormously levelling to discover that even such legendary beauties do not live up to the fantastical standards of the beauty industry. And believe it, industry is what it is, despite all the you're-worth-it whispering of all the pampering and empowerment to be found in a tub of face cream. It's freeing, in the way that STYLED WITH LASH INSERTS mascara ads make you understand completely that there's no point whatsoever in buying this product. So what's not to like?

Well, apparently some unspeakably wet females - who are so sensitive that they would probably feel under attack anywhere outside of a Care Bears factory - have their self-esteem damaged by seeing photos of super-pretty women, according to the Lib-Dem MP Jo Swinson. Her complaints have led the Advertising Standards Authority to ban L'Oreal print ads featuring both Roberts and Turlington looking like versions of Casper the Ghost were he to become a tranny and go mental with the make-up.

This is cretinous hysteria for two reasons. A) It is ludicrous to compare yourself to professional beauties, who work day and night at maintaining their looks, and anyone who does deserves to have low self-esteem, because they're half-witted. B) Now that we are told that all ads are real, there will actually be more opportunity for women who enjoy feeling sorry for themselves to do so. No more will the she-wuss be able to dismiss a woman better-looking than her by thinking 'Ah, it's all done with smoke and mirrors, what should I care!' NOW she'll have it rubbed in her face that THERE REALLY ARE MILLIONS OF WOMEN WHO LOOK BETTER THAN HER, NATURALLY! And she can have a good old boo-hoo about that. 'NOW you've got something to cry about!' as ruffled mums used to say when they cuffed a whiny child.

Women in this country face a whole raft of problems, some of them old, some of them new - forced marriage, honour killings, genital mutilation. And what do Lib-Dem female MPs seem to spend most of their time getting their knix in a twist about? Body image as seen through the playpen prism of women's magazines! But when there are young girls being deprived of their clitorises every day of the week, it seems monumentally silly to get in a state over Julia Roberts missing crow's feet. Let alone a bunch of limp bitches AWOL self-esteem.


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