Enter a Google search for "retouched models", or "Photoshop fails", and you’ll find hundreds of before and after photos of beautiful celebrities and models, made even more "perfect" at the hands of Photoshop. These days, it's pretty much common knowledge that most of the photos we see in magazines, ads, and even store websites have been retouched. But recently, people have become aware of just how much is being retouched.
Recently, the American superstore, Target, has been, well… targeted, for using poorly retouched photos on their website. The photos in question were used to show juniors bikinis, which are aimed at “younger and teenage” girls. The bikini-clad teenage models in question have had inches shaved from their inner thighs to produce the ‘gap’, popular with supermodels and anorexics. It's also obvious from the photos that their arms and waists have been thinned down. The mistake was pretty clear, but it left us wondering... Are all of their teenage models photoshopped? Do teenage girls, already notoriously self conscious and insecure about their bodies, really need to be shown unobtainable images of what they should look like?
The photos of the altered leopard print bikini and blue bikini have been removed from the Target website, replaced by new photos. If the editing didn't accidentally create an obvious square cut-out that shouldn't be there, we might not even know these photos were edited. A teen girl looking to buy a bikini might assume this model's legs were naturally this thin and smooth.
Eating disorders are some of the deadliest mental illnesses a person can have. Teenage girls are especially susceptible to them. And yet, there is constant pressure to be unrealistically thin. Tabloids are always showing us pictures of celebrities in bikinis, telling us how disgusting they look in real life, because of a fold of skin on their stomach, or a few lumps of cellulite on their thighs. And then a few months later, pictures of that same celebrity labeled as "too thin". It's enough to make anyone question their sanity!
Most women have struggled with their body image at some point in their lives. Even the most confident of us have insecurities about how we look. We are constantly presented with ads for diets, for makeup, for creams that will erase imperfections from our skin. We send the message that beauty is the most important thing from such a young age, that it actually becomes a part of our internal dialogue about ourselves, and a part of our judgement of other women. No wonder so many young women develop eating disorders, or that the beauty is a billion pound industry.
We all love a sexy picture of a beautiful woman. But guess what? Realistic woman are sexy too! Thin women are sexy. Large women are sexy. A blemish or a wrinkle on someone's skin doesn't make them any less sexy. Some companies are even starting to catch on, and are using real women and models without retouching them in Photoshop. (Ed’s note: Dove are fantastic pioneers of this, with their Campaign for Real Beauty.) In our eyes, these woman are just as beautiful and sexy as the over airbrushed, altered images we see.
The more we recognise these kinds of images as fake, the less damaging the message becomes. Then the more we can promote the real message about beauty, which is that we all have beauty, and that beauty is not our only value as women, or the most important aspect of ourselves. Our imperfections make us unique, not damaged, and our value is not measured by the distance between our thighs.