In Defense of Duckface

According to Urban Dictionary, duckface is “the face made if you push your lips together in a combination of a pout and a pucker, giving the impression [that] you have larger cheekbones and bigger lips.”
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are the most notorious celebrity duckface posers, but if you have any youngish female (or sometimes male) friends on Facebook or MySpace, then you’ve undoubtedly been introduced to this infamous facial expression. You may even be guilty of posing like this yourself (Don’t worry, I won’t tell … as long as you promise to stop).

What makes a duckface stand out is that it looks so contrived – it’s an exaggerated sexy face, which just ends up looking decidedly unsexy. A duckface pose is often captured in a self-shot cellphone photo at an angle from above, head slightly turned and cocked to the side, and eyes half-closed in a seductive squint. Many times it’s accompanied by cleavage, a peace sign(?), and other duckfaced friends.
I considered posting a photo of myself here to demonstrate duckface, but I had to delete it because I’m just too vain to immortalize myself in a photo that way. My goal isn’t to make fun of duckface though – that’s already been done in several places:  on here, and over here, and even in a song.

When I first saw these, I admit that I found them amusing. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw duckface as a response to a culture that pressures women and girls to constantly look sexy through never-ending examples of what “sexy” is supposed to look like. Full, pouty lips like those belonging to Angelina Jolie are beauty must-haves. If we weren’t born with those, we can buy beauty products that claim to plump up our pouts with the tingling sensation of menthol. We can learn makeup tips like using a neutral lipliner just outside our natural liplines and dabbing a touch of highlighter at the center of our bottom lips. We can apply shimmering lipgloss that ends up sticking to our hair in the wind. If we’re really serious about it, we can get lip injections that offer the duckface look without the daily upkeep.
Or we can just strike a pose.
I find it sad that girls as young as 11 years old would try to capture this look, as someone I know recently did. However, I remember being around 13 or so, posing in the bathroom mirror, mimicking the models in the magazines myself. They were the examples of what women were supposed to look like, and I wanted to look like them.
When you really think about it, the aim of a duckface pose is to achieve that alluring and glamorous pout that appears throughout the media, to look like one has those kissable lips that every lip product or cosmetic injection claims to provide. Duckface is simply an unsophisticated and exaggerated attempt to look like this:

Only a select few have either the genes or the money to pay for the cosmetic procedures, makeup artists, stylists, lighting experts, and photo retouchers to transform them into the “right kind” of sexy. It seems kind of unfair – we’re expected to emulate the ads, but then we’re mocked for trying.
Somehow, duckface doesn’t seem so funny after all.
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