Recently our CEO Jim Tierney invited me to start a Podcast for Digital Anarchy. I have a journalism background and at first, the idea did not sound too bad: it would actually be awesome to take the time to chat with industry folks in a regular basis and be paid for it. The challenge began when he said I would do a video podcast, interviewing all these awesome people on camera.
It may sound silly to some people, but the idea of watching myself on camera terrifies me. Believe it or not, to this day I have not watched a video interview I gave at NAB last April. I have only listened to it, and noticing my accent in each answer was enough to make me skip the image part. Since that day Jim invited me to start the “videocast”, I have been trying to understand my fear of being on camera and my relationship with my own image. As a media professional, why can’t I look at myself on the screen? Digging into that question brought unexpected answers and the need to talk about a problem every woman faces at least once in their lives, if not all the time: beauty standards.
Being skinny has always been a prerequisite to be beautiful in my culture. It is difficult, painful, and traumatizing to grow up in Brazil as a not-so-skinny girl. If you are overweight it means you are also sedentary, unhealthy and unattractive by proxy. And believe me, you do not need to have much fat to be considered overweight in Brazil. My curly hair also did not help. Although I am from Salvador, which has the biggest African descendance in Brazil, curly hair was not a thing until very recently. I grew up straightening my hair with chemicals and only stopped doing that 4 years ago. It is hard to admit and think back, but looking at my graduation pictures from 10 years ago, looking at the popular girls at school, I realized I was just trying to belong.
I always knew most of my insecurities came from the dissatisfaction with the way a look, but I also learned very early on that not feeling pretty does not mean I am not pretty. What it means is that society sets unachievable beauty standards for women and that I must fight that daily if I want to be productive and help to minimize the harm our industry has caused to women. This was enough to deal with my own insecurity and keep me going. What I didn’t realize is that it wasn’t enough to solve the problem.
Every day the media reminds you of what it means to be beautiful to society: tall, skinny, and mostly white. Blacks, Latinas, middle-eastern are now accepted. They just need to be skinny. It’s an old and well-known problem, and although a lot of women are freeing themselves from it, most of us still compare ourselves to this woman we see on TV sometimes. In my case, I started to notice that those intangible standards can impact not only my eating and exercising habits; what I wear and how I wear the clothes I buy; but it can influence my behavior and stop me from growing professionally if I don’t face it.
What can we can do to minimize the harm our industry has already caused to women is clear to me: we must stand up and fight for inclusion, equal rights, full access to every job position available in the industry. We must include all body types in commercials, magazines, TV shows. We must have women featuring not only as personal assistant AI voices, but also coding and training the AI technology. However, for those who are already aware of this or working on solving the big picture, I ask: what can we do to do not only free other women but truly free ourselves and stop shaming our own images silently? I don’t fully know the answer, but I will start with producing, editing and hosting the Digital Anarchy podcast. It will be incredibly difficult, but I can’t wait to discuss media-making with you all. Stay tuned! More info coming up soon.
Carla Prates, Transcriptive/Digital Anarchy firstname.lastname@example.org