There's a debate going in the comments section of my post Dangerous Curves earlier this month over who, if anybody, is responsible for the obsession with thinness in media images of women. Is it men? Women? Gay men? All of the above? Some of the above?
Of course, it's not just thinness which is at issue but also the computer enhancement and airbrushing of photos that make models and celebrities look younger, thinner, flawless. By now you've probably already seen this viral video ''Evolution'' documenting the process from boring to billboard-worthy. And that's without cosmetic surgery!
Turns out that so many models are so thin that magazines which promote fitness actually have to airbrush muscle definition on some of their cover girls!
As this opinion piece by Sheri Graydon, a former president of Media Watch and now a director of Media Action/Action Media, points out, there's an increasingly popular trend among the celeb tabs to show the stars barefaced, without the benefit of stylists, lighting and photo doctoring. The irony is, even though websites doing the same are all over the Internet -- and always trashing women by the way, as if men don't get Photoshopped -- this pretense and the pressure to look the same never goes away.
|ILLUSTRATION BY PATRICK CORRIGAN|
Here's Graydon on recent moves in the U.K. to put a little more truth in beauty, accompanied by a brilliant take on the Mona Lisa by The Star's Patrick Corrigan:
It should be an old story. Women's groups have been protesting unattainable beauty standards for decades. Here in Canada, Media Watch spent more than 25 years conducting research, delivering educational seminars, meeting with regulators and mobilizing consumers around the need for more responsible media portrayals.
Despite such activism, and greater public awareness, some aspects of the situation have gotten worse, not better. Magazine cover stories sensationalize celebrity crimes against body image every week; reality TV shows regularly invent new ways to exploit women's insecurities; and the digital distortion of Photo-shopped images fuels exponential growth in cosmetic surgery procedures, despite the health risks attached to many.
So the move by British magazine publishers to explore the development of an ethics code on retouching is long overdue. Why shouldn't magazines be held to the same ethical standards that newspapers follow? Consumers have a right to expect authenticity from the photos they disseminate. If we can't trust that the images we're looking at reflect reality, why should we credit the words that appear alongside them with any greater truth?
An even more compelling case can be made for the images that appear in ads. When cosmetic companies claim that their lotions and creams will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite, it's reasonable to expect that the photographs purporting to illustrate such results have not been altered. How is "truth in advertising" served when models promoting dietary aides and foundation makeup have achieved their slim silhouettes and flawless complexions with the help of an airbrush artist?
Which is a good point. If automobile manufacturers advertised that their cars could float or fly and not deliver, there would be repercussions. But flip through a typical fashion magazine's ad pages and you'll find dozens and dozens of pitches for products that not only don't work, but don't even work for problems that really don't even exist.
All of which keeps women, whose self-esteem is under constant assault, enslaved to cosmetics counters and wasting time, money and energy in a never-ending quest to be pretty. Imagine if all those resources were redirected into their studies, careers, or sports or hobbies.
Speaking for myself as a natural curly-haired girl who grew up in a time when the long straight "London look'' hair was in style, if things were different, I might have grown up to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon had I not wasted so much time trying to tame the frizz.
Even now I struggle...even with the invention of flat-irons, blowdryers, and all sorts of straightening lotions and potions.
Oh, and speaking of struggle, I am down exactly 20 pounds as of Saturday. That's with three-four walks daily with Jericho, about 15 minutes each plus three small meals and three small snacks daily. It even includes a few lapses while on vacation in the Caribbean and various social occasions, including a staggering Passover Seder on Saturday.
Now to face the challenge of Greek Easter at home with the family in Montreal.
See you next week.