Body Image: If We Knew the Truth

I saw this article on shine.yahoo.com this morning and felt compelled to write a little something about body image.

We all know that airbrushing is rampant in the media. Every picture we see is touched up to the point where the men and women in them look more like marble statues than human beings. Flawless complexions, ridiculously trimmed bodies with well-defined six-packs, perfect lighting and not an ounce of cellulite to be seen; these pictures set an impossibly high bar for what we should view as beautiful.

I had listened to a podcast recently by the lovely ladies of Stuff Mom Never Told You at howstuffworks.com a few weeks ago regarding this very subject called “Does airbrushing damage body image”. They reported that on the whole airbrushing doesn’t affect our mentality regarding our bodies, because we know that every picture we view in the media is altered; that even young children know this to be a fact and therefore we don’t let it take a toll on how we view ourselves. I am sure that in some ways that is a true statement, but I will put it to you that if every picture told you just how much it had been manipulated you would be shocked at the results and that the beauty industry would be forced to finally make sweeping changes in how it sells beauty.

Just take a look at the picture from the shine article.

According to the article “From left to right we have Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, plus-size model Crystal Renn, and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl Brooklyn Decker.” Just take a look at these women. How in the hell is Crystal Renn, who is a size 12, referred to as a plus size model? Even the author of the article has a bone to pick with that label. And though, Miss Ambrosio does have visible muscle tone and definition she looks completely emaciated standing next to Miss Renn and Miss Decker. In all of the pictures in those Victoria’s Secret catalogs I receive at home, yes I admit I do buy their products from time to time, she has always looked so healthy, even if a bit on the skinny side. Here is a photo on the sun.com for a comparison. In this photo, however, I just want to feed her. As for the other two ladies, they look amazing, but I guarantee you that they will be slimmed down in the photos for the magazine. Why? They look great. If this photo was the one that was used instead of the overly airbrushed non-sense that I assure you will be chosen women would be shocked by the fashion industries definition of beauty.

Here is the deal I am not knocking Miss Ambrosio. I am sure that she maintains a vigorous exercise schedule and possibly even has a personal nutritionist that counts her every calorie. I am not implying that she does not eat or has an eating disorder. I am saying that in comparison with the other two ladies in the picture, no credit was attributed on the article and I am not intending any copyright infringement btw, she looks almost fragile.

What would happen if the pictures of models that are used to get us to buy clothing, cars and other goods weren’t retouched in any way? What if we saw every rib bone protrusion, every skeletal shoulder-blade and jutting hip bone? Would we still find that beautiful? Would we still buy those products? I certainly wouldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong ladies, I have gone a-retouching every once in a while on personal photos, but usually the maximum amount of touch up is a pimple removal with the old magic wand and possibly a contrast or color bump to fix the overall “look” of a photo. I haven’t ever gone in and taken inches off of my waist, or my arms, or legs, no matter how much I would love to some days, because then it wouldn’t be a picture of me anymore. I’d have a beautiful picture of a flawless person, who doesn’t exist. What would be the point of having that photo?

My point, yes I do have one, is that until we stop allowing the media and fashion industry to lie to us, we will not grow past this mad obsession with being flawless and until we stop pursuing that impossible goal we won’t be able to truly accept ourselves for who we really are, imperfections and all. How do you like that run on sentence? Pretty cringe-worthy huh?

My fitness goal is to get healthy, not to get skinny. I want to be able to live a long and independent life even if it comes with a little cellulite on my thighs. I can accept that I won’t ever look like that model on the cover of Maxim and take comfort in the fact that the model doesn’t either. Lets get comfortable with us first and if that means that you need to cut the cheesecake out of your diet and pick up a dumbbell instead, so be it, but if it means that you need to stop the obsessive calorie counting and dieting, do it. Come on ladies. Its time to get healthy and stop letting these imaginary people set us up for failure! Who’s with me?

If you want to get an idea of how much Photoshop is carried out on celebrity photos check out this page at theberry.com.

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12 thoughts on “Body Image: If We Knew the Truth

  1. IWell written article. I’m totally with you on this! But what can we do? The media is the media and they will keep doing crap like this to women’s images (and men’s) as long as we keep buying their stuff.

    • It’s true that we all feel powerless in the face of a international industry, but if we start by letting the companies we buy from know that we don’t like what we see they will start changing the way they promote their products. When a company or corporation gets positive feed back about a campaign they are more likely to use the same tools in their next campaign. Images like this are a great way to start a dialogue and once that happens, positive changes can be made.

  2. My favourite line is when you said “…I just want to feed her” haha. I completely agree with you though, I think the two women just look so much healthier than the VS model. And if you’re an athlete, you will have much more substance to you than any model I’ve ever seen. It’s ridiculous how unrealistically images are portrayed, especially women. I’m sure men’s photos are also altered, but probably not to slim them down.

      • Still, I think the emphasis on appearance is stronger as a whole on women and men. Most guys I know don’t give a boatload about something like skincare, whereas women are habitually pressed to “start young” to keep skin looking “younger for longer”.

      • Very true. We are much more harsh with women than we are with men. I got my BF’s POV last night when I showed him my post and he said we women do it to ourselves. He said men are a lot more forgiving as far as flaws go and that we are the ones that place all of that pressure on ourselves to be perfect. I told him that there are men who are overly critical with women and their looks and then he said, “Those types of guys are d-bags. Why would you (women) care what they think?” So true. I had to give him a big hug for that one.

      • He’s not the only one. The good guys 1) understand that women are human too; 2) love our “flaws” despite us naming them so; and 3) would not degrade women based on appearance because they know they’re probably not so hot themselves. One of my boyfriend’s coworkers was talking about how the girls he dated had to have certain qualities (read: measurements). My boyfriend told me that every other guy there called him shallow.

        Sometimes I feel that women may be more critical of the appearance of other women than men are – which would also explain why magazines geared toward women still have picture-perfect models.

      • We women can be our own worst enemies. It’s pretty sad. Probably why it is very difficult to make female friends. I am always worried about girlfriends that are two-faced. Most of my guy friends are much more what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I like to know where I stand with people. πŸ˜€

      • I’m exactly the same! I grew up on the football field with the boys instead of on the pavement chatting about Ashton Kutcher with the girls (whom I didn’t even know at the time). I like that guys say what they mean and don’t take other word personally. It’s nice to be able to be open and honest with each other. I have met a few girls who are like that, but they’re rare finds!

  3. Pingback: Girlfriends? « cjackplay

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