As far as I can tell, mainstream women’s magazines (Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Glamour, etc.)* exist solely to convince you what a woman is “supposed to look like” and then provide you with the tips and tricks to look that way too. They airbrush the women to the extent that they look like paper dolls, make you feel terrible for not looking (impossibly) flawless like the women in the pictures, and then try to sell products, beauty routines, and workouts that will fix your flaws. Sometimes, these magazines and the “beauty” products advertised in them even invent new ways to make you hate your body! For instance, you know that area of skin that connects your arms to your body? Yeah, you’re armpit? Well everyone from Vera Wang to Dove Deodorant want you to know that it’s ugly, but cheer up because now there’s surgery and special products to make it look “pretty.” See: Obsessing About The New “It” Body Part Is The Pits and Finally, A Cure For Your “Ugly Underarms”
A few years back, Jezebel posted an image revealing the extensive airbrushing that Redbook performed on Faith Hill for the cover of their magazine. They shaved about 10 pounds off of her, made her arm look freakishly long and skinny, edited out her “back fat,” and apparently removed the hunch in her back. I understand removing a blemish or shadow here and there, but what is the point of photoshopping to this extent? Are these simply cases of scissor happy photo editors, or do these magazines actually want to promote an image of beauty that the average woman could never achieve?
Airbrushing in magazines is no secret, and an article from 2008 highlights the rampant use of airbrushing in women’s magazines. But in 2011 women and young girls are still being bombarded with computer-manipulated images that make us feel awful when we compare our bodies to the bodies in magazines.
You’ve been duped: Britney Spears allowed this unretouched photo to be released to show how much airbrushing actually occurs:
Also, check out The Five Great Lies of Women’s Magazines to find out how mainstream women’s magazines have basically brainwashed women into obsessing over celebrity beauty and unattainable perfection.
But magazines aren’t the only medium making women feel that our bodies are inadequate. Equally disturbing is the availability of skin lightening creams (commonly sold in predominately black neighborhoods), the new trend of labiaplasty (NSFW, but a seriously eye-opening video), and products to lighten your labia and nipples (NSFW). Seriously? WTF. Aging men with erectile dysfunction are still marketed in Viagra commercials as sexy and distinguished, but older women are being told that no one will want to have sex with them unless their lady parts look like those of a 20 year old (white) girl? What is society’s obsession with telling women how gross our bodies are? Even worse, some of these products are advertised as being created by women, which I guess is supposed to make it ok.
Images of impossible perfection are being marketed to girls at a young age through toys and dolls like Mattel’s Barbie. A few years ago, student Galia Slayen created a life size Barbie for her school’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week to show the absurdness of the doll’s proportions. Also check out the history of The Body Shop’s Ruby, the “anti-Barbie.”
No wonder the plastic surgery industry is so successful and girls/women have such terrible body image problems. Before we only had to be concerned about eating disorders (which are still devastatingly common), but now we are being told that our boobs, butt, thighs, vagina, stomach, face, back, armpits, elbows, nose, and neck are all hideous too! I consider the things mentioned in this post to all be part of the larger war on women. They help society to constantly degrade female sexuality and diversity in body parts and serve (often in a subliminal manner) to undermine women and reduce their worth to their appearances.
P.S. Sorry for all the Jezebel links. They’re just awesome and provide some great commentary on women’s issues. So I guess I’m not sorry!
*It’s not to say that these magazines don’t sometimes have good editorials and a hard working staff, because they do. I’m just pointing out the large role these magazines play in promoting unobtainable bodies.