Media Monday: Airbrush Away

TEPF Volunteer

A long-standing issue has been that the models we see in magazines are not representative of what most women look like.  Yet, because the multimedia environment bombards us with these images we begin to think that they are the norm and something is wrong with us if we don’t look like that.  Women’s body images take a hit as a result.

But to further exacerbate this warped reality of what women ‘should’ and do look like, airbrushing and digital enhancement takes these images of models even further down the unattainable road by altering the image.  Often skin is smoothed, thighs are thinned, breasts are enlarged, waists are made smaller, among other modifications.  It is ironic that they are airbrushing a person who was hired for modeling because she represents the ‘ideal’ of what advertisers want, yet apparently is not adequate enough without being digitally enhanced.  What message does that send to us?
What benefit is there for a woman to look at this image that is unrealistic to achieve without extensive digital alteration?  There aren’t any that I’m aware of, and instead the likely result is that the viewer will feel bad about themselves because they don’t measure up to what is being displayed as the ‘desired’ or ‘ideal’ look.
Christy Turlington was airbrushed in a 2011 Maybelline makeup print ad that was supposed to show what the makeup product can do for your skin.  The airbrushing is unnatural looking and excessive, and the ad implies that this professional model’s own skin is not good enough as is. Britain banned the ad citing unrealistic advertising.  It was also brought to light that the company had even enhanced her ‘untouched’, pre-makeup skin that is shown in the ad.
I also think the extensive airbrushing is an insult to the model as well.  The digital enhancements made to Britney Spears’ image in the Candies brand print ad in 2011 conveys that she is not ‘good enough’ naturally.  For all of her young fans, what does this say to them when the woman they look up to “required” photo editing to appear in an ad in a magazine?
I would love to see digital enhancement of images of women’s bodies in magazines go away.  Wouldn’t it be great to see images that we can identify with in a magazine?  If a magazine is being targeted towards women shouldn’t its contents reflect the women they are targeting?  I think advertisers need to realize that this is what women want and it could actually benefit the advertisers to make these changes that they seem resistant to make.  If a girl saw a model she could identify with in a magazine wearing a product on a body that is more similar to her own, she may be more inclined to purchase the item because it seems accessible and realistic for her to wear.  It’s a win-win for women’s body images and the advertisers.