Natural versus airbrushed

Illustration by BARBARA KOLB


To most people, perception is reality. Unfortunately, the perception of what women should look like has led to a reality in which women battle eating disorders and depression in order to fit a mold generated by modeling agencies, ads and other media outlets. Nearly every woman in America suffers from a poor self-image, and if asked, could state multiple things she would change about her appearance.

What has happened over the last hundred years that has made these women so unsure of themselves? This question can be simply answered by the images suggested by magazines and advertisements. With these images, women are portrayed to be perfect, with bodies so unattainable we are left with an unreasonable ideal as to what females “should” look like.

What makes these images so fictional? These images are of real human beings, so why is it so impossible to look just like them? Photoshop and image alterations explain nearly 100 percent of these seemingly perfect women. In response to the detrimental reactions these pictures create, magazines and advertisement agencies should not be allowed to alter the images of their models.

Women in the 21st century have been exposed to a multitude of lies from the advertisement industry. After careful thought and consideration, I discovered my own self-esteem issues to partially stem from flipping through magazines and watching commercials containing women that have flawless, air-brushed skin, an impossibly tiny waist and a body so perfect it can only be obtained by adjustment of the original image.

Not only do these images affect the women who view them, but they are also damaging to the self-worth of the models themselves. These women typically have the most difficult time dealing with eating disorders and low self-esteem. The advertisement industry has created dangerous competition for the modeling world. A woman whose image has been modified by a photo editor can be left with feeling not good enough to truly be herself. This woman can clearly see the changes made to her own body and face, and sometimes these changes can be so drastic she can barely see the similarities between the image and the real woman.

Advertisement agencies may argue that the modifications made to these images are not nearly as influential as I’m claiming them to be. But how can they explain the drastic increase in eating disorders and depression among young women over the past 50 years?

According to the Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “anorexia is now the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.” In addition, the ANAD stated “the body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5 percent of American females, and 69 percent of girls admit that magazine pictures influenc[e] their idea of a perfect body shape.”

To think these images do not affect their viewers is a flat-out lie.

So, what can we as women do to help each other see the reality of what bombards us every single day? It would be easy to suggest we turn away from images that put us down, but that isn’t realistic considering the number of advertisements Americans are exposed to every day. We have nothing left to do but program ourselves to see through the façade of the portrayed women in these advertisements, and remember we are beautiful in our own ways.

So, to all women, forget what the media illustrates as perfection. Forget the images of the seductive perfume model with a tiny waist, and remember instead the words of Audrey Hepburn: “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others. For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

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