Photoshopping in the Media, Or Why Pretty Much All Girls Think They’re Fat

Hello internet people! Long time no see. I can’t really make any valid excuses for my lack of posting except a lack of things that I wanted to say. I’ve spent the past few days revising my short story for workshop and playing a slightly alarming amount of Bloons Tower Defense 4 and otherwise being generally useless. But then, last night while watching the Dark Knight with a couple of my friends, I stumbled upon an issue I’d like to address, which brings us to the title of this blog post: Photoshopping in the media.

As a girl, I can safely admit that I’ve leafed through quite a few magazines in my day. And like most girls, I did this with a rapidly increasing amount of self loathing as model after model flipped before my eyes in all of their glossy, sun-kissed glory. There they were, all thin thighs,flat stomachs, and generous busts, impossibly thin for their alleged heights of 5’10”. Not a blemish on their skin and not a single stretch mark on their cleavage. In comparison, it’s impossible not to come to the conclusion that I am the most hideous person who has ever lived. And then food is my enemy and I vow never to eat chocolate again and to spend all my life on the treadmill until I can look that perfect, too.

Except there’s a problem. While it can certainly be said that the modeling industry pushes plenty of women to extremes that are as unhealthy as being 5’10” and only weighing 110 pounds, none of those girls look the way they’re portrayed in magazines and on online photographs. Not a single one. Their thighs are NOT that thin and their boobs are NOT that big. There is this little magical tool called photoshop, and THAT is where these girls are getting their apparent “perfection.”

A friend of mine related this comparison to me: If athletes aren’t allowed to use steroids, why are models photoshopped? That’s certainly an interesting question. The strange thing is, even with the knowledge that they are going to be photoshopped, models are often subjected to such pressures that they contract rampant eating disorders and resort to all kinds of alarming techniques to stay thin. Why? So that they can fit some twisted conception of beauty that has somehow made its way into the media and thereby popular culture. But it doesn’t stop with the models–we’re all seeing these “women” (who, by the time the editing is done with, hardly qualify as human on the page) and, like it or not, we’re all comparing ourselves to them.

Most women hate at least something about their bodies. When we all get together, we say things like “I wish my hips weren’t so huge,” or “My arms are so flabby” or “I just wish I could go down a size.” Why do we feel this way about ourselves? Because every day we’re assaulted with these totally unrealistic images of photoshopped models and celebrities. The ironic thing is, NO ONE looks like these women. These women don’t even look like these women.

It’s really a poisonous environment, when you think about it. It isn’t healthy for the women who are getting photoshopped or the women who are seeing these images in their daily lives. The fact that women are all shapes and sizes and that the right weight for one woman might not be the right weight for another is completely ignored. “You’re so skinny,” is the highest level of compliment a girl can receive. Never mind that being “skinny” isn’t necessarily the right body type for some of us–like, say, when you’re five foot eight and have incredibly generous hips.

I can’t tell you why this exists. I can tell you I’ve read articles in defense of the photoshopping, with clothing retailers claiming they only want to showcase their clothes as well as possible. Here’s a novel idea–showcase the clothes on the sort of women who will actually be WEARING them. I happen to think I look great in my size 10 jeans, but I didn’t buy them because of how they look on the size 00 models. I bought them because they look good on ME. Size 10 and all. So what’s wrong with advertising them that way?

Here’s what I propose. I propose no more photoshopping. I propose we all stop with the body hate. Stop hating our thighs because they touch, our stomachs because they’re not concave, our arms because they’re a little flabby, and on and on. Stop hating on other women. Sure, it’s great to be healthy, work out and keep in shape. But the thing about keeping in shape is that you’re not keeping in the shape of that model over there. You’re keeping in YOUR best shape. Exactly as you should be. Nobody’s perfect. Not even the “perfect” women we’re confronted with every day. So why should these fake images even exist? What good is it doing anyone? Because, let’s be honest. Women are going to buy clothes anyway. Wouldn’t it be better for all of us if the pictures in the magazines and advertisements actually reflected what those clothes would actually look like on US? I certainly think so.