Image via Tumblr user sadburro.
This one goes out to our readers far and wide, far- and near-sighted. Raise your glasses if you’ve ever been called, “four-eyes,” “geek,” or “brainiac,” or, if you’ve ever been told that your eyewear makes you look smart or studious. When you’re wearing those very things that help you to see, how do you feel that others see you?
In honor of Geek Week, this edition of Vintage Sexism explores some classic and modern notions about what wearing glasses says about a woman.
Image via TeenAngster.
Let’s focus in on the “Glamor Glasses” article above. An actual line from it states, “…many women who have to wear glasses feel just as self-conscious as men who have scars.” You don’t have to take too hard of a look at a few of these old ads and clippings to see the messages in plain sight.
According to this black-and-white Harlequin ad, you’d better be sure your glasses don’t make you look ‘owlish,’ bookish,’ or ‘just plain dull.’ Meanwhile, the Newnes Home Management article above it reassures you that if you must wear glasses, don’t feel ashamed. Both suggest a view that if you’re stuck with less than perfect vision, you’re going to need some help to look and feel like a perfect ten.
Images via Modern Mechanix.
The article “Men Do Make Passes At Girls Who Wear Glasses” insinuates that as long as your frames are fetching, you’ve got a better shot at being noticed (in a good way). That’s a little different than what some of the others are saying, but it’s still delivering some serious self-conscious vibes. And over time, in film and television, as well as in both print and commercial advertising, media has really made a spectacle of the bespectacled. Attention is often drawn to a female character’s glasses, yet the character herself is often completely overlooked — that is, until she sheds them. There’s that overdone, magical movie moment when the nerdy girl unpins her hair and removes her glasses and voila! She’s suddenly a stunner. Remember She’s All That? Excellent example:
That’s nothing new, though! Even screen sirens like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford played unglamorous ‘ugly ducklings’ who underwent such transformations in the classic films Now, Voyager and Humoresque. They had to lose that one part of themselves to reach an awakening and learn to be who they really are. For further reading about this, check out Mary Ann Doane’s essay, “Film and the Masquerade: Theorising the Female Spectator.”
All these portrayals imply that wearing glasses can make you look or feel nerdy, unnoticeable, or at the very least, self-conscious. Do you believe this attitude still exists today? How do you feel about it, personally?
Me? I’m rather fond of my frames, and I’d eagerly sport any of the vintage styles shown in these ads! What do you think?