Photoshopping the way to “perfection”

August 4, 2011 in Fashion, Self-Health, Social Responsibility by LydiaD

            Ralph Lauren ad, 2009 via Psychology Today

Airbrushing. False advertising. Negative body image. The Barbie Effect. We are all too familiar with the links between these concepts, and have all heard how the modeling and advertising industries are mostly to blame for the rise in eating disorders in youth.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), there is a connection. The AMA recently released a statement bashing the use of photo editing, citing the above Ralph Lauren ad for whittling down a model’s waist so much, her head was bigger!

Why are airbrushed photos the defining standard of beauty, particularly for Western society? Why isn’t beauty based on what each individual defines as beauty?

Beauty and body are very big deals to us. We look at our bodies and the bodies of others every day, and attach a standard of beauty that is based mostly on what we are told beauty is. Actresses, models, singers, and socialites are at the top of this standard, and you have to wonder why that is.

Why are people who have loads of money and spend hours and hours getting themselves primped, sprayed, and pulled, tugged into place, plastered with layers upon layers of makeup and creams and lotions that most women cannot afford, responsible for how we see ourselves? And even after all that, they are still “fixed” with Photoshop. The standard is unachievable for those of us who have jobs, spouses, children, school, etc.

Heidi Montag before and after via the NY Daily News

Like Heidi Montag (she was all over the news for having 10 surgeries in one day). Montag stated that she wanted to look like a Barbie, and she paid for her wish. This is, of course, an extreme case.

I remember when researchers discovered that Barbie's measurements were not realistic. You think? If I had Barbie’s shoulders and breast and barely-there hips and waist, I would tip over! Everyone would! How does she support herself? Well, she is plastic.

You can’t turn on the television or read a magazine without hearing the “Be confident” and “Be yourself” message getting thrown around. But it is being spread by the same industry and people who make us feel less then confident!

As a confident woman, I find this conflicting and confusing, because though I am happy on a day to day basis with who I am, what I look like, and what I wear, the Photoshop message is everywhere. It’s so powerful that it can shake the strong foundations that are in all of us. Thankfully, the AMA is taking a step to correct the contradictions. 

Women should be celebrated in all forms, shapes, sizes, races, and structures. When I turned 18, I lost the boyish, skinny figure I’d had all my life and became a curvy woman. It may be more difficult to find clothes, but looking like a woman will never go out of style. Even men  prefer realistic women! The University of Texas conducted a study to show that.

The message that should be drilled in all of our heads is that when we look in the mirror, we should be happy with what we see. So don’t throw out your TV’s or magazines with “fake” women in and on them just yet…whatever body type, we are all gorgeous!



Lydia Dowell is a student at Western Kentucky University, where she works in the campus  IT department. She is also involved in student groups, including Student Identity Outreach (an LGBTQ organization) and Women’s Studies.

Lydia blogs about style, shopping and credit card debt, life, pop culture, and LGBTQ issues– not necessarily in that order– at Proofreading? What’s That?.