So accustomed are we to being presented with faux images of beauty in the media, that often we forget to challenge the things that we might not necessarily agree with. We choose to feign ignorance instead of opposing the rules prescribed to us by society, but why do we do this? The root of the problem stems from the misconceptions about beauty that are fed to us on a daily basis by the media - we are so blindsided by representations of what makes a body acceptable or desirable, what kind of skin type you need to be recognised and what kind of hair you need in order to be noticed. Often, the ideal image presented in magazines, advertising and on television are of tall, slim, white (but tanned) women, with shining manes of hair and westernised features. But where these women reside on their glossy pages, not all is as it seems. I'm sure that most of us can cultivate the awareness to realise when an image has been retouched or photoshopped, particularly where the media is concerned. After all, no-one's stomach is that flat, no-one's skin is that flawless and no-one's eyes can be that bright, surely? But whilst we know that a lot of these images aren't accurate in their representations of the people they include on their pages, that doesn't stop us from comparing ourselves to the 'ideal' that is being offered to us.
Photoshop and retouching has long been a cause for concern and the media needs to acknowledge that there is a real issue alive and kicking that needs to be addressed. For unless celebrities make a photoshop faux pas as we've seen with Beyoncé's misshapen thighs, or the many blunders that the Kardashian's have made, the alteration of images often falls under the radar and we are expected to accept these women and their preened-to-perfection bodies without question.
I'm not ignorant to the suggestion that in the celebrity-world there is a high demand to look the best and to compete, but these celebrities could do so much more to combat the beauty misconceptions that they are, whether indirectly or inadvertently, supporting. They need to make it known to everyday women who are idealising them and putting them on pedestals because of their perceived perfection, that it isn't real. That this ideology they are perpetuating is false - and the media could do more to support this.
Such is the nature of this appearance-obsessed culture that we live in, that if you, your body, your hair, your skin and your eyebrows aren't "on fleek" then you are side-lined and belittled in favour of someone who is closer to the physical ideal - but the effect of this on self-esteem can be detrimental. With young men and women in an often precarious position where the relationship with their bodies is concerned, they are vulnerable and impressionable to the popular images presented to them, and it is saddening to learn that the biggest cause of bullying is appearance based. Young people compete to be the best and strive for physical perfection, but when they are presented with unrealistic beauty images and find that they can't ever meet the faux perfection of celebrities, the effect on their self-esteem can be destructive.
Magazines use photoshop and alter images to maintain a quintessential goal for men and women to adhere to, but those who are represented in the media have a luxury that is out of reach to the rest of us. They are able to eliminate their blemishes, they can change the shape and size of their waists, their thighs and their faces, they can smooth down their hair, they can create an unachievable level of beauty. When celebrities are in a position of influence, they need to recognise that people are looking to them for inspiration and up to them with admiration; they have a level of responsibility which sadly, many are failing to live up to - but some celebrities are getting it right.
Actress Kate Winslet is taking a stand against unrealistic beauty retouching in the ad industry. Not only has she spoken out publicly about shunning the practice, she has also employed a "no retouching" clause in her modeling contract with cosmetics company L'Oréal. This public display of challenging the media and the way that she has been presented in ad campaigns and magazines is refreshing and is something that many other celebrities could learn from. More could be done to disclose that images in magazines and elsewhere in the media are not representative of real people, if photoshop has been used then people need to be aware of that - if not, then a collapse of self-confidence is imminent. If an image has been photoshopped to within an inch of its life, then there should be a disclaimer somewhere on the image to reinforce the fact that it has been altered, rather than reinforcing the beauty ideals that society has set out for us.
If you want to make a stand against the photoshopping of images in the media, then please click here to sign my petition.
This article was originally posted on Fran Hayden's blog, here.