Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why I Hate "What Not To Wear"

If you've never seen the TLC show "What Not To Wear," count yourself lucky. It's a cruel show that stereotypes women and promotes judging us based on our appearance. I'm not trying to pretend we live in a world where how people look doesn't matter. But I believe it shouldn't be that important, and it certainly shouldn't be all important for women and only passably important for men.

The premise of WNTW is that women who are "ugly and unfashionable" (on the show, the two are always equated) are transformed, becoming "beautiful, put-together and self-confident" (once again, it seems you can't be one without the others). In the process, the hosts make fun of her old wardrobe, throwing most of it out, and ridicule her shopping choices until she conforms to their dictated "rules of good shopping."


While Stacy & Clinton, the hosts, claim that they tailor their advice uniquely to each woman, I've seen enough episodes of the show to know what a lie that it. They strip the victim of her personality and remake her in the image they like, with all new, often died hair and a professional make-up job. Regardless of whether a woman ever wore heels or make-up, she is by the show's end. Unique advice? Not a chance.

At this point, you might be wondering why I even watch the show if I hate it so much. I don't, not anymore, but half my family still does, and I used to watch it sometimes with them, until it made me so boilingly angry we fought about it. They claimed the show "helps women with low self-confidence." All I could see was an outpouring of the same negatives messages I got from them day in and day out. 

To be honest though, they did have a point. The show features women with huge personal issues who by the end are excited about their transformations. But correlation does not equal causation : just because the show only features women with low self esteem who don't follow fashion, doesn't mean that not following fashion causes low self-esteem. Nice try.

It drives me nuts that WNTW picks women with problems much bigger than their wardrobe, and pretends it can all be fixed by conforming to "the right look". The show
presents fashionable dress as a black and white issue: if you dress like we want you to, you're wonderful. Otherwise, you're obviously hiding deep-seated fears, low self-esteem and/or other tragic personal issues. That's the ONLY explanation possible. While I agree that for some women, a "sloppy" wardrobe might be a symptom of a deeper problems, it's certainly not the cause, and changing how they dress won't change their lives without a lot of work in other areas. 


I want to meet the women who decline to go on the show, the ones who have confidence in themselves without hiding behind their clothes and make-up. I want to meet the strong women, the women who make their own choices, regardless of fashion's dictates. These women might have issues, but they know better than to think high heels and a new haircut will solve them. These women don't exist in WNTW's world.

If I was nominated to be on WNTW, I would be tempted to participate, to show them that not all women who dress differently will break down and admit they always wanted to be "pretty". But in the end, I would refuse to be on the show - I've spent too long acquiring the clothes I have to let anyone throw it all out.

I kind of always thought I was the only one who hated WNTW so strongly. Then last week I googled "I hate what not to wear" and realized I was far from alone. Here's an article about a successful woman who had all her accomplishments denigrated on the show. The comments form an interesting discussion of the issue: http://globalcomment.com/2009/what-not-to-wear-blossom-faces-the-360-mirror/

Coincidentally, within the last week I also found a great quote on Twitter, from @CoyoteSings : 
When your "truth" is applied to someone else, it is no longer the truth. It becomes an "opinion," what you think.
The message found in every episode of "What Not To Wear" is that every woman's "true, confident and successful self" is a carbon copy of the media's image of a perfect woman. That's bullshit. "What Not To Wear" would be a lot less painful to watch if they stopped presenting their opinion as the truth.


(If anyone's actually following my blog, they'll have noticed it's Tuesday, not Monday, when I'm posting this. All I can say is Oops! I was in exams and under the weather and I didn't realize it was Monday until after midnight. Sorry!)

38 comments:

  1. I completely agree. Truth!

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  2. So do I. Maybe some of us here like the rocker chic look, and the office look is not appropriate in every industry, especially when you're a tattoo artist, an edgy hairstylist, and a hardcore rock/punk/heavy metal star. Shit the pair are a nightmare!!! They can take their stereotypical attitudes, unwanted negative criticism and opinions, coercion and compliance, and cloning and shove it!!!!! They seem like the kind of fashionistas recommended by psychiatrists!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment... it's nice to not be alone in getting very worked up about this!

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    2. You sound unstylish as fuck.

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    3. And you sound ignorant as a pile of crap. Please learn to distinguish between nouns, verbs, and adjectives before criticizing other people.

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  3. Your entirely welcome. I feel the same way too. It's relieving to know that we have others who feel the same we do. I also wanted to add that this show is ridiculous and noneducational to those who expect to learn real important things in life when watching the TLC channel.

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  4. If you want to get really angry, look up the episode on Youtube with the woman named "Beryl", who has a totally awesome style that they completely ruin. She looks like a department store mannequin by the end.

    I feel like people of their age (and affluence)should really stop giving fashion advice to individual, stylish young women.

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    1. I know the episode you're referring to, and that "awesome style" consisted of men's t shirts covered in barbecue stains and "ventilated" pants. And who, like quite a few of the women who were on the show, suffered from self-esteem issues left over from her teenage years that made her hide behind clothes she didn't actually like because they were nondescript and non-attention-grabbing. I'm kind of wondering if you actually watched the episode, actually, because it really doesn't sound like you did.

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    2. Excuse me? Are you implying that one has to be young to have a sense of style? I beg to differ, my friend. Maybe one reason why mostly younger people end up on that show is because they haven't the self confidence or maturity to have developed any style of their own. And what on earth does their "affluence" (do you even know what that means?) have to do with anything? Some of the tackiest outfits I have ever seen were riding the backs of young, rich people-money does not equate taste. And neither does age.

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    3. most of the people go on the show looking very fashionable when they leave boring they look drab and unattractive

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    4. You're so funny... until I got to the end of your comment I realized you're being serious. So angry and hurt inside. Maybe one day you'll figure it out.

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    5. They made her look like a cheap anime hooker by the end. What's wrong with her natural hair color?

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  5. aah, I hate it so much too!

    especially this one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuP89bbebMA

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  6. I googled the exact same thing "I hate what not to wear" and your blog was the first to pop up. I was doubly disturbed by the article you linked too about Mayim Bialik's experience on the show. She is amazing as Penny and an amazing would as herself, in real life. Let's celebrating her awesome accomplishments instead of her wardrobe!

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  7. I was googling too because of my growing hatred for WNTW and found this blog ;-) Did you notice that they always use the same model of clothes ? And the way they dress those women is totally unpractical for everyday life.

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  8. I just googled "I hate what not to wear" as well. I think we need to start a show that is called "how not to conform" or "how to be an individual" or even "how not to seem like a raging elitist" and then film the two hosts in their shallow, pathetic lives. Pretend they're going to film yet another demeaning show, but then they get ambushed and see how they feel. TLC used to be a decent channel :(

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  9. You obviously don't understand the point of the show. Its about making someones inner beauty shine through and raising their self-esteem. Its about showing women that even though they have kids a job and a husband that they can still take time for themselves and not set themselves and their needs at the bottom of their radar. But most importantly its about helping woman learn how to love themselves. It doesn't mean that if you're not "society's definition of pretty" then you hate yourself. It means that when you do something for yourself that makes you look good and make you happy then you feel good about yourself. Everyone is beautiful no matter what but its what you do with that that makes you gorgeous.

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    1. That's BS. I already love who I am, and I refuse to change my own personal style for others just because it is "not" fashionable or makes me look younger than I am. I don't care for the crap they want women to wear. If I couldn't be myself, now that WOULD make me unhappy!

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    2. I completely agree. It seems to me many of these people have not watched the show enough to understand the intention behind it.

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    3. I completely agree. Stacey and Clinton help people to find their own style while looking polished and appropriate for their careers/lifestyles. It seems to me many people here have not watched this show enough to realize the intention behind it. The hosts work very hard to make people feel comfortable and find things that they like, while helping them to dress for their body and complete their look.

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    4. I would like to say that WNTW helps you become self-confident and THE PERSON PICKS TO BE ON THERE. If you don't like it, don't write it.

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  10. I disagree. I think this show helps women not only feel more confident, but find styles they like more. Not enough people tell these women they can look good without completely hiding their bodies.

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  11. It's got kind of that "it girl" I want to hate it title, but after watching the show I think it's so much more. So much of it is about telling these women to pay attention to their own personal style and not to conform! It's about helping women dress to embrace their body type and embrace their beauty. So many of these women go into the show with such a low idea of their self-esteem, and choose to blend in and try to disappear. The idea is to take control of their image so that the personal barriers break down.


    If you ever watch the show, Stacy and Clinton are constantly saying that they want these women to feel happy and beautiful as they are. They will state that they don't want to take away any happiness from people who do feel self-confident but not "stylish." They do criticize the clothing, and I can see why that can be offensive to people! But they never criticize the woman. They just try to empower women to see how their physical appearance may be hindering their awesome personalities and life skills.

    Anyways, I think one thing to keep in mind is that the whole thing does get sprung upon the individual--but it is completely voluntary. They definitely don't have to get a makeover!

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    1. You literally just said all the things I was thinking. Lol.

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  12. The point of the show is not to "fix" your problems with fashion. I agree that a lot of the styles they present to women are similar. The idea is to teach women to project to others that they have self-respect and should therefore be respected by others. If you walk around looking like a slob, people are going to think you're a slob, whether you are or not. If you dress over-provacatively, people will be staring at your body and think you want that kind of attention. If you dress to blend in, you blend in. It's very simple, and whether you like it or not the fact is that the way you dress determines how others view you and it's a reflection of how you view yourself. Yes, it's somewhat unfair, but that's the truth. You may not agree with me, and that's fine.

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  13. I hate it because they just want all of us to conform to the fashion at the moment. I want my daughter to group up to be an individual and when she watches a show like this, I cringe.

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    1. conform or be excluded is what I got from the show I don't like it glad its cancelled

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  14. Like you said we live in a world where looks do matter to a certain degree. I feel like Stacy and Clinton teach people how to dress their bodies no matter the body type. They teach self respect and how to dress for the job (or love life) you want, not the one you have. It's juvenile to think you can dress like like freak, slut or slob and not be treated like one. And they also say your personality should shine through. Which is important. People should notice you more than your clothes. What's so wrong with that?

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    1. Nothing. But I don't like the way they do it. It is very disrespectful to laugh at another person's tastes or opinions simply because they are different from yours. I wish they would merely,explain why said article of clothing does 't suit, and dispense with the eye rolling, gestures, and head shaking. And I wouldn't let Nick Arrojo within ten feet of my hair....he is a terrible stylist who only seems to know two or three different cuts, and is so hung up on his own ego, he doesn't bother thinking about his client's lifestyle and whether or not his concept is going to work for them....remember the poor realtor who ended up with Raggedy Ann red hair? Shameful!

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  15. You say you want to "meet the women who decline to go on the show, the ones who have confidence in themselves without hiding behind their clothes and make-up"; well there's only ever been one person to say no to being on the show, ever. Also no one on the show is saying if you have bad fashion sense you must have low self-esteem; remember it's the participants family and friends who nominate them to be on the show. While I respect your views and don't totally disagree; I feel generally the show can be quite helpful especially to woman who don't feel they deserve to spend time on themselves and get to be a part of the experience.

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  16. "The show presents fashionable dress as a black and white issue: if you dress like we want you to, you're wonderful. Otherwise, you're obviously hiding deep-seated fears, low self-esteem and/or other tragic personal issues."

    THIS SO MUCH. WNTW loves to take alternative fashion styles and say that people who wear them are hiding deep personal issues. It's a ridiculous assumption. I know plenty of Lolitas, Rivetheads, Cyber Goths, Punks, Psychobillies, and Goths who are well balanced happy people who derive joy from dressing how they please. I've notice when an alternative person is on the show they'll say things like, "Do you want to be seen by people as the beautiful girl or the weird girl?". They pound it into their heads that they should dress to control how people think of you. It burns me up to no end.

    My family has continuously told me that they would love to put me on that show. I find it to be ridiculously rude. Of course, I'd never go on that show and they damn well know it. What really irritates me is that I'm very respectful of their right to dress how they please. I could scoff at them and call them "preppy close minded clones with no imagination". I could try and make them wear victorian gothic clothes, granny boots, and petticoats. But, I won't because I respect that they don't like the things I do. I never receive the same respect in return. So, WNTW is only projecting how most of society feels about outward appearances. Which is sad because some of the most dangerous serial killers were well dressed, good looking, and charismatic.

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    1. I agree with your comment the most, I respect others choice to wear what ever they please, but when i had blue a pink hair, my family would ask "when are you going to dye it normal again?" "how can you go out looking so weird? " I felt as if what i was wearing made me happy, I wasnt prancing around naked so i wasnt hurting anyone, and i actually got lots of compliments on it, many children would come up shy and giggling and say "I like your hair its so colorful and pretty" and run away giggling like i was a real like princess. Shows like this in return would say "but thats not normal and you must clearly be mentaly messed up or hurt in some way! None the less i digress. You . I agree with you.

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  17. I think it's great that you have your own opinion and I'm not saying that you should and I'm not knocking your opinion. Now I would like everyone to do the same to my opinion. This show teaches girls how to dress in a away that is appropriate to their age and teach them how to dress in a way that will make them feel great. And to the Baryl episode comment Baryls outfits were hiding herself so she wouldn't get hurt. She felt pretty after the show she even said so. There is my opinion.

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  18. This is a stupid. Your opinion sucks and it's a good thing they helped peep who were being an eye sore society .

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