(this was originally posted in January 2014)
The interwebs has been all up in arms lately about the shocking discovery of - get ready for it - airbrushing and photoshopping of models in advertisements. Based on the amount of traction these exposés are getting, I find myself thinking, Really people? We knew this, right? I mean, Glamour Shots has been around since your 80s high bangs and I know you knew people who had their elementary school photos retouched. So, let’s not act surprised that professional companies with mucho moola and much to sell use it too.
Truth? The photoshopping of models is not the injustice being played out on women. Our plight is not our search for a healthier body image, as much as these companies and their fancy new “real” campaigns are leading us to believe. And the answer to our empowerment as women does not rest in whether or not Prada has upped their weight limit in a pair of jeans.
The point here is that rooted underneath all the ads and all the Dove-like campaigns for representing “real” women is the true injustice: The continued objectification of women. Period.
We need to think past these supposedly more empowered ad campaigns with well-crafted words and pretty images showing women with [minor] bellies and peer instead into the board rooms where men in fancy suits sit around with young, hungry marketing interns relaying the latest buying trends of women. I guarantee those marketing geniuses are saying: Women are REALLY tending to “like” the facebook pages exposing the airbrushing of models and the articles sharing outrage about the lack of diversity in shapes/sizes.
And then they sit around some more and come up with brilliant schemes based on the following question/answers:
How do we capitalize on this trend? How do we get women to buy more by tapping into this outrage and this insecurity? We make them feel like we are on their side. We create an atmosphere that our brand’s “big why” is about their positive self-image. We side ourselves with the underdogs and make people feel like they are doing something personal and rebellious by buying our stuff. People will align themselves no matter the price (which we will raise, of course) in order to buy into our atmosphere of care, rebellion, wellness, diversity, feminism, and real deal sexy.
That is what they are saying, folks. I guarantee they are not saying: Hey, let’s make young girls and grown women feel like actual human beings who don’t need to buy shit in order to feel good about themselves.
Nope. Your outrage is being hijacked. And your offense is misplaced.
Does it make you feel better to know these girls have not been photoshopped?
“Time to think real. Time to get real. No supermodels. No retouching. Because ... The Real You is Sexy.”
Cough. Blech. Ok. Take a step back. Let’s peer back into that board room. They’ve discovered this clever little new tagline of theirs and how they’re gonna blast it. And now, guess what? They have to choose the models, which they claim are not "super". Whatevvvvvvvah. Anyway, so, they either have an audition or they ask big time agencies for their “plus size” model catalogue. And then they sort through their options deciding which model best represents a “real” chick, but also still looks hot without any effort at all and as perfect as possible with as little editing as possible. But, “real,” you know. Wink, wink.
If you ask me, I’d rather take the photoshopped images than these. Because now we’ve got young women - AND MEN - looking at these images thinking that these girls are real and unphotoshopped and what they should be looking like without any help from technology. At least before we could say to ourselves and each other, "Well, this is obviously totally edited and photoshopped.” Even though the ads were ridiculous and alarming, we all kind of knew - or at least were learning - that what we were viewing was more fantasy, good lighting, and freaky modelism than anything else.
But now, dang. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty unreal ass. I mean, good for her. But, I’d put her in the 1%. (Just because she’s got some tush doesn’t mean it’s more real, ahem)
And then there’s our outpouring of love and support for the uber popular actress Miss Jennifer Lawrence and her outspoken support of girls eating as much as they want and not being dumb/hungry. I’ll say first that I appreciate her candor and find her incredibly alluring and charming, but I’ll also say this: J Law (as they call her) can say that all she wants, but the reality is that the only reason people are asking her is because she is not a size 2 (more like a 2.5). It’s not like she is leading the conversations about it. The press is asking her. And asking her constantly. Which brings me back to the original point: Objectification. They aren’t asking her because she is a consummate scholar on the subject. They are asking her because she is NOT A SIZE TWO and, gasp, how has she survived the terror that is Hollywood for being such a object of unwant?
I mean, does it make you feel better that J Law eats a lot?
Objectified. Objectified. Objectified. Young girls are still getting the message that we are 1) Objects to be desired; 2) Objects to be adorned; 3) Objects to be unaffected by pleasure/pain; and 4) Objects to be altered.
Ok, now for the end of the rant. The shiny possibility part:
Someone told me recently that my body told a story and that any love found for/about/within my body is love for my story.
Take a minute and let that steep. Let it sink in. Think about your little girls. Your sons. Think about what it would be like if we were more focused on the value of our story and more proud of how our body not only walked through it day by day, but illustrated it as well. What risks we have taken today. What sort of exertion we placed on our bodies. How we tackled the odds. Our hurts or losses or gains or healings. Our failures and our successes. The things we have learned. The ways we dream. How we never give up. How we fall asleep each night. What soothes our fears. The whos, the whats, the whys, the hows of each of us.
My body holds my story - my entire story. From my conception to this very moment. My fingers remember pulling the fragile, glassy wings off of cicadas during that summer when they landed in droves on our porch. My back still carries the paddles that sliced through the water when I used kayak in the freezing Potomac River at the break of dawn in middle school. My body knows I'm a Wyckoff because I have Celiac Disease and because my hands get red at the end of the day just like my twin brother and how my forehead is more like a fivehead. The first pair of pointe shoes I ever wore is still etched into my toes. And my everything knows exactly of how it swelled to the demands of pregnancy and softened to the needs of infants. My body tells of illnesses and stress, injuries and triumphs, strength and resilience, grit and grace, courage and weakness. Every scar or snag or crease or bend is a part of it. Along with that, my body - when I'm tuned in - is a perfect compass for what is best for me. My body knows. It protects my story. It wants my story to unfold in the best way possible. It's programmed for survival. It's programmed to be attuned to what is best for me. I honor that.
I’ll believe a company means what it says about it’s brand being feminist when it starts representing the “real” story behind the girl in the photo. Or when an actress is approached for her actual work and not first for how she made it despite being a size 2.5. Or when our female public figures aren’t encapsulated by a J.Crew ad.
Our bodies are living, gorgeous representations of that story. In essence, yes, our bodies are objects, but they house our wills and our spirits. So, if we’re to be really evolved feminists about this whole thing, we’ll stop wasting our energy (and feeding the engine of objectification) by being outraged about photoshopping and we’ll turn instead to learning about the world around us and how our story blends into the fold ...
And we’ll certainly spend more time figuring out exactly what our body needs to carry our story with strength.