We all know that most photos of models are photoshopped. From taking in that bit of thigh or arm “fat” to taking off every “blemish” from freckles to zits, photoshopping is a widespread practice for those in the marketing business. After all, we wouldn’t want makeup to be shown on a face with a zit, or bras and swimsuits to be modeled on someone with real-sized body parts, now would we?
Actually, lots of people would want that, both because it would be better to see clothes on someone your size before purchasing them from a catalogue or internet site, but also because it would help our body image tremendously. Sure, most people logically know that images are photoshopped, but that knowledge doesn’t necessarily help when it comes to body image. According to the Miss Representation Campaign, 3 out of 4 girls report feeling depressed, guilty and shameful after spending just three minutes looking through a fashion magazine. Eating disorders are still on the rise in America and in other countries, as well. And just think about the relief we all felt when we finally saw some real women posing without photoshop just a few years ago.
Thankfully, Debenhams, a department store in the UK that has used disabled, older and plus sized models in their marketing campaigns in the past, is taking action. They have banned the use of photoshop on pictures of their lingerie models. According to Ms. Magazine:
Debenhams hopes that other retail brands will follow suit, recognizing an ethical duty to promote realistic images but also acknowledging the economic benefits of reducing the use of digital image editing. In the wake of the whole Abercrombie & Fitch debacle, it may be worth trying to spread the message across the pond to U.S. brands as well.
Perhaps it is not surprising that this initiative is coming out of the UK considering that, in 2010, equalities minister Lynne Featherstone tried to ban retouching and the use of underweight models. In 2009, a member of the French parliament proposed that images that had been retouched would have to contain a warning label stating they had been altered. Not much came of these discussions, but there is a need for them to continue; and, as Debenhams shows, there is a need for direct action.
With all of the conversations going on across the world, why hasn’t America caught up? We, in the land of the fad diets and the home of the size 000 (I wish I was kidding), have a definite need to discuss photoshopping and the damaging effects it has on our youth. In 2011, the American Medical Association denounced the use of photoshopping in American media and followed France’s lead in asking for digitally manipulated photos to carry warning labels, which was a step in the right direction, but not much came of it. So what has happened since then? Unfortunately, not much.
In a perfect world, all companies would feel a moral obligation to follow Debenhams’ lead and stop the retouching of models. However, we can’t trust that companies will follow their lead. There needs to be some kind of legislation banning the use of digital retouching, and it needs to happen fast, before we lose anyone else to an eating disorder.
Photo Credit: Jezebel, from Debenhams