Everyday individuals are exposed to approximately 5,000 advertisements. Picture this: you’re standing in line to buy your groceries and you look to your right at the magazine stand, filled with 30 or so magazine covers with “perfect” looking girls on them stating “how to lose weight” or “how to get the perfect body.” Now picture your daughter, a young girl looking at these photos not knowing that they are extremely photoshopped. What does she think? She looks up to these celebrities on the magazines, and these pictures alter her perception of what she should look like and give her a false reality.
FACT: The National Institute of Health estimates 5,000 people a year are affected with an eating disorder.
FACT: Approximately 1,000 people each year die from an eating disorder
FACT: 90% of individuals with an eating disorder are young girls from the ages of 12 to 25.
So why do we allow the media to expose us to such images that destroy young girls self-esteem and alter their perceptions so greatly, that it could lead to an eating disorder? Why is the media so fixated on perfection, and an unattainable beauty that even the models and celebrities on these covers cannot attain without the use of photoshop?
Take for example teen star Demi Lovato, a 19-year-old celebrity with thousands of young girls that idolize and look up to her. Demi recently got out of rehab for eating disorders and self harming. Throughout her journey and even now, Demi has been extremely vocal about her disorder and an advocate to help teen girls with the same issues. You would think that with Demi’s cover story about her battle with anorexia that the magazine wouldn’t photoshop her right..as it’s unethical. However, as you can see Cosmopolitan decided that even a girl with an eating disorder is still eligible for photoshop. This is just one of the billions of cases where the media will stop at nothing to strive for that unattainable and unrealistic beauty. The media clearly does not care about the images that they are portraying and the perceptions of young girls they are altering and influencing. It’s a scary thought to think that the media has such a strong impact on how we think and feel about ourselves especially when it concerns our looks and what is acceptable in society.
These unrealistic standards of what women’s body types should look like are increasingly getting worse. Decades ago women with full-figured bodies were embraced and loved, and being extremely thin—which is what women strive for now as the ideal body, was not what anyone wanted. Fast forward to now, and it is the COMPLETE opposite. “THIN” is what everyone wants, and there is no emphasis placed on being healthy and fit, the emphasis is put on the number that shows up on the scale. Even the diet magazines, are all extremely photoshopped..so with all this chaos of messages stating that we should be thin, tall, and tan to be beautiful and happy, where are the realistic messages? Where are the messages in the media that talk to young girls about being healthy? And that the number on your scale doesn’t define who you are as a person? What about telling young girls that who you are is perfect right now?
It’s Time to take a Stand
As girls are looking to these magazines, they’re constantly comparing themselves wondering why their body looks nothing like what they are seeing. With the constant comparison to the girls in the magazine covers comes a lack of confidence and decrease in self-esteem.
We need to increase awareness to young girls about how extremely distorted these images are, so that when they look at these images they will not fixate on what they do not have. They will realize it is completely fake, and unrealistic. Luckily, one girl and her friends did take a stand. Julia Bluhm wrote to Seventeen Magazine, asking why there are no girls on the cover that look like her or her friends. Seventeen Magazine was responsive to her letter, and went as far as meeting with her. Julia is an eighth grader who first hand is seeing the effects that photoshopping in the media has on her friends and classmates. Though Seventeen Magazine met with her and agreed to hear her opinions and listen to her demands of eliminating the use of photoshop on their covers, the magazine did not adhere to those demands.
How could Seventeen Magazine agree to stop photoshopping their images when they are in this world where beauty is all that matters? If they do not perfect the images on their covers, the magazine will not sell. It seems as though this issue is a never-ending one. We want the digital altering of images to stop because it has such an impact on us yet, we are buying into what the media is telling us. If we truly want to take a stand we need to stop listening to what the media is telling us about their perceptions of beauty, and start listening to our own and what personally makes us happy. They can sell these images all they want, but we do not have to buy into them.
The media is at huge fault for providing us with unrealistic expectations and setting unattainable standards regarding beauty. But individually we are all at fault for listening to them and trying to live up to these expectations that they are setting for us. So where does it end? The media will not stop photo shopping these images, and individuals clearly are not going to stop buying the magazines and listening to what the media has to say about beauty.
For starters celebrities that are on these covers and advertisements need to take a stand and not allow the magazines to digitally alter these photos. The celebrities on these covers are the trend setters; they need to realize that what they are doing is having a huge effect on young girls. Once they start taking a stand against this issue, a realization will occur that these images the magazines are selling are extremely unrealistic.
Before and After
Britney Spears along with other celebrities have chosen to somewhat take a stand, and release the before and after pictures of themselves on photo shoots. As you can see in Britney’s photo she has been extremely remodeled; skinnier legs, smaller bum, no cellulite, the list goes on..she was basically dropped down a dress size. The fact that celebrities are releasing these photos into the media to show how much photoshop is changing them is great however it’s not a big enough step.
Celebrities need to go one step further and say enough’s enough with digitally altering images. They need to only release the before photo’s and not have the after photos even occur. Once celebrities say no to digitally altering images, the magazines will not have any images to produce, which means they will have no choice but to use the un-photoshopped image of the celebrities.
Though this is a real extremist point/step to take, one that seems extremely farfetched, something like this NEEDS to happen and soon. These before images need to become public knowledge and teens everywhere need to see that celebrities are just like them, and you are perfect the way you are. Once the media starts changing the way they glorify beauty and perfection, teens will then understand that they do not need to be a size 0 just to be happy.
Realistically..Will this ever happen?
Beauty and sex sells. In magazines and advertisements you would never see someone who is “average” looking promoting something, you are surrounded with images of perfection..thanks to photoshop. Though these images are nothing close to reality, they are certainly not going away anytime soon.
We are so fixated on perfection and beauty that we allow the media to influence and alter our perceptions on what beauty truly is. We allow the media to dictate and set these standards for what is socially acceptable regarding our looks.
From young girls to women we are constantly looking and comparing ourselves, not just to images in the media but with each other. We are always looking at the newest diets, and trying to perfect ourselves to what the images we see in the media.
Until we decide to take control and block out what the media has to say about their standards of beauty, this cycle is never-ending. We need to decide where this cycle stops, and when these standards and fixation on perfection is diminished. We need to focus on empowering young girls and women of all ages that who they are currently, is beautiful. Until people realize that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and what the media says about their perception of beauty isn’t true, the cycle of digitally altered images will never stop.
Beacham, Charles. “Teens ask Seventeen Magazine: â€œWhere are the girls like me?â€ – NY Daily News.” Daily News America – Breaking national news, video, and photos – Homepage – NY Daily News. N.p., 2 May 2012. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. <http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/teens-seventeen-magazine-girls-article-1.1071386>.
“Eating Disorders – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis – Condition Factsheets – Body & Health.” Site Map – Body & Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. <http://bodyandhealth.canada.com/condition_info_details.asp?disease_id=48>.
“Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds | BEAUTY REDEFINED.” Beauty Redefined|Promoting Healthy Body Image & Rejecting Media Beauty Ideals. N.p., 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Jan. 2013. <http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshopping-altering-images-and-our-minds/>.