Thursday, April 21, 2011

Photoshop doesn't kill self esteem, Art Directors do

Oh, the vindication!

While I often blog about sexism in media, I am of two minds when it comes to Photoshopped models. While they do represent impossible body images, I have argued that the solution is not to regulate photo manipulation (as some demand) but to educate young consumers to view commercial pictures as if they were illustrations. My point is that before PS, airbrushing and especially illustration also presented unrealistic body ideals. It is, quite simply, nothing new.

Lo an behold, my blogger friends at Sociological Images, people with true feminist cred, post:

"Today we bemoan photoshopping, and here we have pre-photoshop examples of the kind of free-reign that artists had in idealizing their subject."

So, here's proof, for the contrarian in me, that unrealistic physical portrayals of women in media is nothing new. (The whole "Marilyn was a size 14" thing has been pretty much debunked.) But cold comfort for women to know that we're still manipulating the same physical stereotypes of a the much more sexist age of our grandparents.

See more at Buzzfeed.


  1. "As I tentatively tried to coerce my way into the Some Like It Hot dress, Valerie Nelson, the woman charged with caring for the pieces in the Jersey exhibition, talked me through Monroe’s body shape. Monroe was 5ft 5in (I’m an inch shorter); just over eight stone (I’m ¾ of a stone heavier); she had a respectable BMI of 21 (don’t ask). She had an incredibly narrow back and rib cage but big boobs, so if she were to pop into Rigby & Peller for a bra fitting today she would probably be a 30E."

    I'm so glad I have no idea what this means.

  2. The difference between photoshopping and this kind of idealized illustration though, is that these illustrations don't pass for the real thing. Although I'm sure in their time, many women internalized these images as ideals to strive for, it's a lot easier to look at something critically when you can look and say 'well, then again, that's not real.. that's an illustration.'

    The excessive photoshopping is insidious because with the exception of some profound photo-shop fuckups, they pass as real people.. for years we've been raised under the idea that 'Photos don't lie'.

    Well yes. Yes they do.