The tricky thing about body image advocacy is how to effectively fix the issues that bother and torment millions of women worldwide. Let’s convince Mattel to make a new Barbie, Disney to make more proportionate cartoon characters and Cosmo and other magazines to stop Photoshopping the models on their covers. Seems easy, right? How many likes on Facebook or names on a petition will it take to make a change?
It’s not going to happen. All of these companies are businesses, and the goal of most businesses is to make money. It would take a dramatic decrease in sales for any of these companies to even consider making a change–a decrease that is unapparent from stock prices over the last five years, which show a steady increase for Mattel and Disney. Moreover, I’m not sure if these changes are necessary or will even help improve female self esteem.
If you were to ask a magazine company to stop Photoshopping their models, their first response would be, “No,” or more politely, “What’s in it for us?” And then, “What, do you want us to stop doing their hair and makeup, too?” Where is the line of acceptable touchups for photos–is makeup and coloring okay, but slimming the models not? Ultimately, we as consumers want women we can aspire to be like.
As much as we can poke at Photoshopping, we have been choosing magazines based in part off it for our whole lives. If every woman in the country stopped buying these magazines, it would make a statement, but I don’t think that’ll happen. Many women are aware of the Photoshopping but shrug it off and buy the magazines anyway.
American Eagle’s Aerie line is embracing the No Photoshop with a campaign called Aerie Real, which commenters say is “a step in the right direction.” That’s just it—it’s a step, yet the models featured in these ads have minor “flaws” which would be Photoshopped in the first place.
For those who really do want to get away from it, new magazine Verily boasts that it does not Photoshop or enhance its models, some of which are everyday women recruited via social media. Verily will be successful by satisfying a niche market of women who want magazines of real women, but it’s unlikely that mainstream magazines will follow suit.
We aren’t bad people for favoring attractiveness. It’s human nature. We saw it in the first televised presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. Those who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won, but those who saw it on their televisions thought the opposite: Kennedy looked well-groomed and confident, while Nixon, who refused a makeup artist, appeared unkempt, underweight, and haggard–and this affected the way people felt about the debate itself.
The solution to our problems of negative influences on body image and self esteem is not to shield the eyes of children and adults alike, to allow them to remain naive as to the benefits of being an attractive person in today’s society–because even if it’s not portrayed on the cover of our magazines and in our cartoons, it’s portrayed in real life. But those of us who weren’t born destined for a size 0 figure can still win in this world if we stop fighting for the wrong things.
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