Interview: Women In The world Talk ( Cara Delevingne )
Cara Delevingne: The new “it” girl of fashion, known for her brows and her beauty. I, along with thousands, thought her the same as every other model; some skinny girl used and abused by the fashion industry, to sell us things we don’t need, and to promote an image unattainable to most. However, I found her talk in “Women In The World” both enlightening and surprising. Cara discusses her own mental health issues and her belief that society needs to treat mental illness in the same manner as a physical illness. One of the main points of Cara’s discussion was that, when some one is told repeatedly that they are not tall enough, not skinny enough, not smart enough, that this equates to them not being ‘good enough’ as a person. That we, as women and girls, need to aim higher in our views of ourselves and what we can achieve. I thought that these points were spoken about with passion and insight also coincided with my own views of how women can indeed do far more than we are shown to by media portrayals, making an interesting presentation and Cara has the makings of a new role model for all the right reasons.
Cara’s point about women and girls needing ‘to aim higher’ rings very true to me; in her own words “ just dream bigger, go for president, just keep going up, become an astronaut.” Statistics show that until ages of 11-13, girls love science and maths just as much as the boys, and have dreams to pursue careers like medicine and space travel. However, the percentage of girls following these science-based subjects continues to drop as girls grow older, with only about 30% of young girls (11-15 years) wanting careers based from stem subjects. The girls’ aspirations change from becoming a doctor to modelling, becoming a professional ‘youtuber’, chasing the Hollywood movie-star life or trying to break into the music industry. These are not not bad careers, and if you love to sing and act and design clothes, then I believe you should go for it. However, the staggering number of girls trying to look like models and developing eating disorders has risen, particularly as a result of the ‘media-consuming’ younger generations. Images presented to us, the youth, give distorted images of bodies and how we should view ourselves; leaving detrimental effects to mental and physical health when these are taken to the extremes in the form of anorexia or bulimia to achieve such goals. Cara’s comments, such as this “we witness these extreme experiences which happen to women; suppression among other things. But really that happens everyday, we’re just used to it. In the workplace, relationships,” focuses on the imbalance in work for women and men in industries, and how this affects the amount of young women heading into these types of work. This allowed me to better understand the way media shapes our perspective of how representation of women in the media really does affect the decisions of younger girls.
Cara talks about how society continues to feed girls and boys the image of the Perfect Woman; she has a job and a family, while still holding onto a youthful beauty. She is clever, well read and funny. Boys are fed the ideal that a successful man has a good career, is a good looking partner (with six-pack and muscle definition), an involved father, while being sporty and clever, who keeps his attractiveness as he ages. In Cara’s own words, “we are told that if we are beautiful, if we are skinny, if we’re successful or famous that if everybody loves us…then we will be happy.” Even in the movie industry the majority of directors, producers and screenwriters are male. As for actresses, they expect to have a nude or semi-nude scene, they don’t have many inspiring leading roles and in general, their costume design is simply created for sex appeal. An example of this can be found in ‘superhero movies’. Superheroes such as Batman and Superman have tight fitting outfits that would be practical for all the stunts and fighting they have to do; but when we look at Superwoman, who does all the same stunts, she wears a leotard with no practical breast support , a full face of makeup and doesn’t even have her long hair tied back. Honestly, what girl with long hair tries to fight crime with her hair down? These kinds of images are what we are showing children. The heroic muscular man and the pretty petite girl, doing the same job but portrayed in a very different manner. These kinds of images and the general depiction of women in the media, demonstrates the inequality of women in the workplace. I believe that something needs to change. Girls and women need role models such as Helen Clark, Aung San Suu Kyi, Marie Curie, Malala Yousafzai and Cara Delevingne. These women lead by example excelling in their fields of work as humanitarians, politicians, Writers and chemists. Inspiring girls to aim higher than the superficial level of making money based on a fake face and body.
Another point in Cara Delevingne’s talk that I found incredibly important, is that we are constantly told we are not good enough. From 2010 to 2016, we have seen an upward trend in youth suicide and suicide attempts. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of teen suicide in the world. People turn to self-harm and suicide for many reasons, but it can linked to low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can manifest itself in many ways, but most often in emotional pain. Leading to a lot of youth to take this internal pain and turn it into external physical pain as a coping mechanism. This issue with low self esteem can be deeply affected by society’s underlying expectations and messages that are sub-consciously promoted by family and friends, and almost subliminally by the media. As I have previously stated, the media pushes a very specific image, or mould, that very few of us fit, causing people to believe that they and the people around them, should fit into that mould also. In present day society more and more girls and young women are developing mental illnesses such as eating disorders, and more and more boys and young men are committing suicide. Cara talks about her own struggle with self -harm and depression saying, “ At that point, all I wanted was for someone to stop me… and no one did”. This is the sad reality of a lot of cases. People want to talk, to be listened to without judgement; youth especially, need us (parents, friends, media etc.) to tell them they are good enough. Also, in Cara’s words, “mental illnesses and depression are nothing to be ashamed of,” – this is true as well. I think mental illness should have the exact same treatment as physical ailments; it’s something most people can’t control and help should be sought from a health provider. Just like physical illnesses, we need the people around us to give open support and help until we are better: whether they just empathise, are the ones who call for help, or who they are there just to listen to help you get everything off your chest. To finish off her point on mental illness, Cara says, “ it’s about finding people around you who have your best interest at heart,” . I agree wholeheartedly: Why live a life, acquaintances with everybody, but good friends with none? The message I took from Cara here was, to surround yourself with people who will love and support you through thick and thin, people who have your best interests at heart.
In conclusion, I found this talk by Cara Delevingne incredibly interesting and enlightening on more than a few topics. She surprised me with her openness and her obvious desire for a better future for the next generation of women. I especially liked Cara’s points on mental health stigmas, and inequality, as an issue that many women continue to fight for today: I was so glad to see someone with such a vastly large platform as Cara does, using it to promote a healthier view of women and using her representation where it matters. I agree that girls should not grow up ashamed of their bodies from societal expectations, and girls should be able to ‘reach for the stars’ with no restrictions from themselves or society-imposed ideals.