The Media, Volume 2

No one does or should really look like this.

You may remember my earlier post about photoshopping in the media. Well, I’m here to talk about it again because I’m getting to a serious point of frustration with the way the media attacks women for their bodies. It’s EVERYWHERE. And even though we, as women, are starting to unite and expose this terrible behavior, I worry that it isn’t doing any good.

We’re all getting up on our soap boxes and saying it’s wrong… but it isn’t changing. And behind closed doors, I have a sinking suspicion that here we all are, pinching at this or that imaginary fat roll, courting self loathing and more serious issues like anorexia and bulimia. I know I’m a culprit. While watching TV, or looking through magazines, I’ll say out loud “That girl looks terrible–she’s way too thin.” But the next time I pass the mirror, it seems like I’ve suddenly gained 10 pounds. Every time I start to feel happy about my body, it only takes one photo of some malnourished, photoshopped model to make me second guess my appearance.

Here’s the thing, though. I am beautiful. All 160 pounds of me. Every inch of the hips I slide into a size 10 every morning is beautiful, exactly the way I’m supposed to look. What I fail to understand about the media is why they’re so determined to encourage normally-sized women like myself to feel terrible about the way we look. Why are we continuing to encourage women to kill themselves trying to be, as Lady Gaga puts it “model thin.”

And speaking of Lady Gaga, did you know that she was criticized for being “overweight” when she first became famous? This clearly led to the weight loss that is slightly startling when you see her in videos like “Born This Way.” The thing is, Lady Gaga has ALWAYS been thin. Not just healthy. But actually THIN. And yet, according to the people who strive to control our opinions, she’s fat.

And the CLEARLY healthy Olympic athletes we’re watching compete this summer? You best believe the media is fat shaming them, too. OLYMPIC ATHLETES. It’s reaching a critical point here.

This is the original image. No face-just a body.  

Maybe I’m just angry. It’s an issue that’s currently a little too close to home, both with my own struggles of guilt and self loathing over the 10 pounds I gained two years ago (TWO YEARS AGO, and I’m not able to let it go) and with the struggles of some close friends. But these people don’t seem to understand they’re contributing in a major way to the deaths and hospitalizations of women all over the country. Women who could go on to do great things… if they don’t spend the rest of their lives in and out of hospitals being fed through a tube.

I challenge you to find a woman who feels good about her body. Any woman. Pick the skinniest girl you can find. I bet she’ll say something like “Yeah, but my arms are so huge.” Or “But have you seen my thighs?” She’s comparing herself to impossible standards of beauty, to women who are not only probably very sick and need help themselves, but are also coated in makeup and touched up using photoshop.

It’s making us sick. And I’m not sure how to fix it. I thought for a moment about boycotting any products advertised by sickly looking models… but what would I wear? What would I eat? Where could I go? It’s EVERYWHERE.

Gorgeous AND healthy.

I WAS pleased to notice the emails I’ve been getting from American Eagle lately, which featured pictures of the beautiful Shay Mitchell (one of the stars of Pretty Little Liars) who is not only gorgeous but very HEALTHY. The way a beautiful young woman SHOULD look. And while just as many of the models featured on their site are insanely thin, even this one campaign move makes me feel just a little grain of hope that maybe, just maybe, some notice is being taken of the ridiculousness of the media, most especially clothing advertising.

But it’s not enough. It NEEDS to stop. And I think it starts with us, ladies. Each and every one of us. Stop joining in on the fat shaming. Olympic athletes? They’re not fat. And saying they are isn’t going to make you feel any better in the long run. I’m not saying to shame skinny girls either–some girls are just naturally thinner than others. I think it’s time to embrace all the different, wonderful shapes and sizes we women come in and stop letting the media (and each other) try to hold us back by telling us we’re fat, when we have so much more to offer the world than just our pant sizes.


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.