and ain't i a woman?: Virtually perfect?

Issue 

and ain't i a woman?

Virtually perfect?

Reading about Webbie Tookay, the new "internet model", engineered to eradicate the need for "real" women to model clothes on the internet, I recalled a cartoon I saw many years ago when I was first noticing, and becoming outraged about, the portrayal of women in the media.

The cartoon was titled "The Perfect Woman", and it depicted a voluptuous woman — I can't remember if she was naked or scantily clad — who had, instead of a head, a drinks tray on which rested a freshly poured, inviting looking beer.

Displaying clothing on a mannequin rather than a real live person is nothing new. Stylised pictures of impossibly perfect women modelling clothes are nothing new. Even real live "super-models", while a relatively new phenomenon, have been with us for several years now.

So what is different about a virtual reality model on the internet?

The difference is in the way this model is marketed. Elite Model Management, the company which devised and designed Tookay for her launch in July, is promoting her as if she were a real woman, only "better". The advantages of Tookay over a live model are many, the company claims: no studio, no make-up artist, no hairstylist, no manager, no lawyers and no boyfriend.

Elite spokesperson Miguel Avalos says Tookay will even have a personality: "She will have her own opinions ... she will be a conscious person." But don't get any ideas about individuality. Avalos says, "[Tookay] will conform to the type of personality the client wants".

John Casablancas, Elite's chief executive, was even more blunt. "Like most men, I wanted a woman who would be physical perfection without the mental and verbal grief", he said. "[Tookay is] the ultimate perfect woman, and she never talks back."

This guy must have real problems relating to women.

That this misogynist crap has, on the whole, been taken and reported seriously (there were just a few send-ups in the opinion sections of establishment papers), is a worrying indicator of how far the backlash against feminism has come in the last decade. Of the half dozen or so articles I have seen on the topic of Tookay, only one, by a male writer, has been really critical of the overt message being presented by Elite Model Management.

PictureStephen Romei, the Australian newspaper's New York correspondent, wrote about the negative impact on women and girls of the quest for an impossible body shape. Replying to Casablancas' assertion that Tookay is the perfect woman who never talks back, Romei says: "That's a woman no girl should grow up to be".

I have the solution to Casablancas' personal quest for the perfect female — an ideal match for him, physically and intellectually. She's long, lean, beautiful, athletic, requires a bit of grooming, but never complains or talks back. Her name is Shelty and she's running at 16-1 at the greyhound raceway.

By Margaret Allum